Friday, March 26, 2010

April Bible Reading Plan

April's Bible reading plan focuses on the Book of Genesis. The next 30 days will allow us to investigate God's Word and put into practice some biblical principles in major areas of our lives. I encourage you to use the SOAP method of reading the Bible found at the bottom of the page.


April 1 – John 13 (Maundy Thursday)
April 2 – Luke 22 (The Last Supper)
April 3 – Luke 23 (The Death of Jesus)
April 4 – Luke 24 (Easter Sunday)
April 5 – Genesis 1
April 6 – Genesis 2
April 7 – Genesis 3
April 8 – Genesis 4 (April 11th Sermon)
April 9 – Genesis 5
April 10 – Genesis 6
April 11 – Genesis 7
April 12 – Genesis 8
April 13 – Genesis 9 (April 18th Sermon)
April 14 – Genesis 10
April 15 – Genesis 11
April 16 – Genesis 12
April 17 – Genesis 13
April 18 – Genesis 14
April 19 – Genesis 15
April 20 – Genesis 16
April 21 – Genesis 17
April 22 – Genesis 18
April 23 – Genesis 19
April 24 – Genesis 20
April 25 – Genesis 21 (April 25th Sermon)
April 26 – Genesis 22
April 27 – Genesis 23
April 28 – Genesis 24
April 29 – Genesis 25
April 30 – Genesis 26

Complete the "S" by reading the scripture. Don't just skim through it, but really think about what it means. Imagine what the people involved were experiencing. Write down a verse or two that really stood out to you in your journal.

Complete the "O" by writing down observations about the scripture you just read. You may want to write your own summary of the passage, but more importantly, think about what God has to say to you through this part of his word.

Complete the "A" by writing down how this Bible passage applies to you right now, in your daily life. For example, in the parable about the prodigal son, which character do you identify with most: the loving and merciful father, the son who squanders his life and then repents or the resentful older brother? Do you see similar situations in your life right now? How can you respond in the way Jesus taught?

Complete the "P" by writing down a prayer. This is a personal message from you to God, so don't worry about getting the perfect words down. Just make it honest and heartfelt. Remember that God always listens, and already knows your needs. He just wants to hear from you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Palm Sunday

Jesus enters Jerusalem. It wasn’t like when the President enters a city. There were no motorcades. No security. No road closures. No television cameras. No great big masses of people. Just a guy on a colt with some of his friends walking beside him. But it was a moment of triumph for Jesus.

It reminds me of the story of Terry Fox. He was a twenty-one year old with cancer. With one leg amputated, he touched his foot in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland and began running across Canada toward the Pacific Ocean. His goal was to run a marathon a day and raise twenty-four million dollars: one dollar for each person in Canada. The crowds that greeted him were sparse. By the time he got to Thunder Bay, he had run over 3,000 miles in 143 days. He also had developed lung cancer and could no longer continue. The last dozen or so of his marathons were run with cancer—two tumors—one the size of a golf ball in one lung and the other was the size of a lemon in the other lung. He died shortly after he stopped running and today is one of Canada’s greatest national heroes. At the time he had finished running, he had raised less than two million dollars – about seven percent of his goal. Today over 500 million dollars has been raised in his name. In September, 2010, the 30th Annual Terry Fox Run will take place with millions of people participating from over 80 countries.





With Jesus, a few people kind of understood what was going on. Others supported him because they loved him. Others were there because they had nothing better to do. As he entered Jerusalem, he cried because of the lack of peace in God’s holy city. He died with a broken heart shortly after he entered Jerusalem.

And the world hasn’t been the same ever since. His work today includes billions of people of most every tribe and tongue. People discover daily that:

  • His tears bring peace to our lives.
  • His brokenness brings us wholeness.
  • His emptiness gives us fullness.
  • His grace conquers our sin.
  • His power is greater than our weakness.
  • His courage covers our fear.
  • His heart becomes our heart and his love becomes our love.

With all these and more—our world will never be the same again. With Jesus, we will be able to do more and to become more than we could ever imagine. Just as Jesus entered the great city of Jerusalem, I invite you to allow Jesus to enter your life.

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vision and Commitment

Listen to this morning's sermon.

It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it. -Sören Kierkegaard

No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, for they're always there. -Norman Vincent Peale

I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can't find anybody who can tell me what they want. –Mark Twain

Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” –Nehmiah 2:1-5

Prayers

The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him. -William McGill

What we usually pray to God is not that His will be done, but that He approve ours. -Helga Bergold Gross

Presence

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. -Acts 2:46

Gifts

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. -Winston Churchill

The people of Israel responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced. -2 Chronicles 31:5

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. -2 Corinthians 9:7

Service

Small things done in great love will change the world.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. –Matthew 20:28

Witness

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. –Acts 1:8

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eight Days that Changed the World Forever

  1. March 15th, 44 BC – Julius Ceasar was assassinated
  2. December 25th, 800 - Charlemagne unified most of Europe under his rule
  3. October 12th, 1492 – Christopher Columbus discovers the New World
  4. October 31st, 1517 – Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation
  5. July 4th, 1776 – The signing of the Declaration of Independence
  6. June 19th, 1815 – Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo
  7. August 6th and 9th, 1945 – United States drops an atomic bomb on Japan
  8. July 20th, 1969 – Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon.

The above eight days are some of the most significant days in human history. For the next eight days, we will look at the eight days that changed the world forever. Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was crucified and buried. And he rose from the dead. Because of these eight days, the world will never be the same again. God saved the world through Jesus Christ and God is wanting to save your world as well.

March 28th – Palm Sunday: Jesus Enters Jerusalem. Jesus Enters Your World.

April 1st – Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper. Friendship with Jesus. 6:30 @ Faith-Westwood. Craig Finnestad speaking.

April 2nd – Good Friday: The Death of Jesus. Forgiven by Jesus. 6:30 @ Faith-Westwood. Chad Schuchmann speaking.

April 4th – Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of Jesus. New Life for You! Services at 9:00 and 10:30.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Week in Pictures

Getting ready for worship

Career Day at School - Attorney

Superhero Day at School - Batman

You should have seen him five minutes before this picture was taken

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Giving Our Lives to God

Here is Sunday's Column:

For the last month we have looked at God’s love and grace for us. No matter how bad we have been, God forgives us. No matter how much bitterness and resentment we carry, God invites us to drop our burdens and embrace Him.

We can respond to God’s love and grace in many ways. Some ignore God’s offer. But God keeps offering. Others offer their thanks. Nothing wrong with a little thankfulness for a God who heals and saves. That is a good start.

The disciple doesn’t ignore and is more than thankful. The disciple offers his or her life to God as a response to God’s grace and love. As United Methodists, we respond in five ways. And it’s in these five responses I want to challenge us to grow in the coming year.

Prayers – I want us to pray for our church, our city, the oppressed, the world, our family, and ourselves. Prayer is talking and listening to God. It helps us to communicate with the Holy and lays the foundation to become the person God wants us to become.

Presence – I want us to worship and participate in our small groups whenever possible. Think about missing all your meals for an entire month. Our bodies would become malnourished. Likewise, missing community with God and others can leave our souls (and a lot of other areas of life) malnourished.

Gifts – Giving of our resources does two things. First, it resources God’s vision through the local church. Second, it shows the priority that we give God in our lives. Jesus pretty much says the same thing: “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:21

Service – Since long before we launched The Water’s Edge, I have been telling people to serve inside and outside The Water’s Edge. Inside I encourage people to serve once a month in a ministry area. The reason I want people to serve is not because work needs to be done. The reason is because we most look like Jesus when we serve.

Witness – A witness is simply a person who tells a story of what they have seen or experienced. As Christians, we tell the story of Jesus. The simplest way of doing this is to invite somebody to worship with you. You can become part of somebody’s testimony!

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things. –Mark 4:1-2

The Water’s Edge is where the people come to hear the teachings of Jesus. People are equipped and inspired to do what Jesus came to do: to seek, to serve, and to save. And giving our lives to God will allow us to partner with God and do for others what He does for us. I can’t wait to see what God does among us this year.

In Christ,

Craig

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Prodigal God: The Rest of the Story

Here is my sermon from Sunday. Listen here.

I concluded our series, The Prodigal God, with the message: The Rest of the Story. The ending to the parable is left unfinished in the Bible. All of us, younger sons and older sons, get to determine our own ending. We get to choose whether we accept God’s forgiveness. We have the choice to forgive or not forgive others. And we have the choice if we want to be at the feast with the Father. I provided two endings to the story and to our lives: one that is tragic and one that is filled with grace.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vision and Commitment Sunday

Next Sunday, we will be making our yearly financial pledge to support what God is doing through the local church. Giving from the Christian worldview has very little to do with financial resources. It is a matter of priorities, stewardship, and discipleship. As Christians in the United Methodist tradition we promise to give God and the local church our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.

We have had a great last 12 months.

  • Compared to last year at this time our Frog Pond has grown 48%.
  • Compared to last year at this time our adult worship participation has grown about 25%.
  • We have over 250 volunteers that make our Sunday morning worship and kid’s teams. That is a dramatic increase from the previous year.
  • We have added three staff people—a kid’s team leader (Nancy Christensen); an assimilation, small groups, and connection’s team leader (Jill Schumacher); and an administrator (Staci Campbell). These new positions will help us connect people to The Water’s Edge, to each other, and to God.
  • We will be adding a new worship experience at 9:00 starting in September. This move will give us room to grow and allow us to reach new people. It also provides people new opportunities to serve, grow, and connect.
  • We have supported relief efforts in Haiti, missionaries in Africa, and hungry people in Omaha.


When people I meet ask me what I do, I tell them I am a pastor. When asked what church I serve, I am so proud to tell them I am affiliated with you!

Weekly, I hear stories of how God is changing people’s lives, healing hurts, and giving hope. God is doing something special at The Water’s Edge, in the lives of the people at The Water’s Edge, and in the lives of outsiders because of the ministries of The Water’s Edge. As you read this, I hope and I pray that you feel more connected to God and more connected to others because of our ministry. I hope and pray that you are both giving your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness and that you are receiving the grace, love, and power of God and community with others. I pray that God is both blessing you and using you as a blessing.

I am excited about what God is going to do next year in the life of our church as we surrendered to God and love God and others. The next year will not be about us, but about Jesus as we will be transfixed by God’s story and God’s heart for our city. We will plant seeds, peddle hope, take risks, dream dreams, and give grace. We will strengthen the weak, embrace the outcast, empower the poor. We will partner with God and with each other in seeking, serving, and saving the lost.

Our mission field is big and our vision is even bigger. I encourage you to pray this coming week about how you are going to help resource what God is doing with us and among us.

In Christ,

Craig

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

If I'd

From my friend Jennifer...

If I'd never felt so empty,
then how could You have filled me?
If I'd never felt so fretful,
then how could You have stilled me?
If I'd never crashed to pieces,
how could You make me whole?
If I'd never been a sinner,
Who'd need to save this soul?

Because I've cried myself to sleep,
I know Your warm embrace.
Because I know the sting of sin,
I've felt extravagance of grace.
Because I've sailed on stormy seas,
I know it's You who stilled them.
Because I've walked on broken streets,
I know that You rebuilt them.
Because I've smelled the stench of death,
I know Your sweet perfume.
Because I know the cross of Christ,
I know the empty tomb.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nora Jones

Amber and I saw her at the Orpheum last night. Incredible.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Strategic Air and Space Museum

Benjamin and I spent the night at the SAC Museum last night. We had a great time. It was amazing to see how technology has changed so quickly. The size of some of the planes was amazing as well. We learned a lot and had fun.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Jesus and the Use of Humor

Because humor is often not associated with seriousness, a possibility exists that humor can be overlooked in the life and teachings of Jesus (Drakeford 27). A second obstacle is that the Gospels stress the tragedy of the crucifixion (Trueblood 19). No humor exists in the crucifixion, a major theme of the Gospels. Because humor is absent in such a significant event, it is possibility that the absence of humor can be associated with the rest of the Gospel. A third obstacle is the failure of logic. Since Jesus wept and displayed sadness, a person could possibly assume that sadness necessitates a rejection of humor. Because Christ wept does not mean that he did not laugh. Differing personality qualities often complement each other and are not necessarily mutually exclusive (Trueblood 21).

Jesus Christ's expression of joy and use of humor is often taken too lightly and even rejected. Many non-Christians have a dreary view of Jesus Christ. Nietzsche writes of Christ, "Would that he had remained in the wilderness and far from the good and just! Perhaps he would have learned to live and to love the earth—and laughter too" (109). Some in the Church also share the view that Jesus was always serious. Elton Trueblood writes about the humor of Jesus being overlooked:

The widespread failure to recognize and to appreciate the humor of Christ is one of the most amazing aspects of the era named for Him. Anyone who reads the Synoptic Gospels with a relative freedom from presuppositions might be expected to see that Christ laughed, and that He expected others to laugh, but our capacity to miss this aspect of His life is phenomenal. We are so sure that He was always deadly serious that we often twist His words in order to try to make them conform to our preconceived mold. A misguided piety has made us fear that acceptance of His obvious wit and humor would somehow be mildly blasphemous or sacrilegious. (15)

The Gospels are serious, but seriousness does not exclude the expression of joy or the use of humor.

A better understanding of life, self, and God can be attained when a person is able to recognize humor in the Bible. Trueblood notes that new possibilities in understanding and applying the teachings of Jesus exist when the reader can understand the Jesus was not always dead serious (96). Jesus looked at his disciples and the multitudes, a group of people who needed grace, and said, "God blesses you who weep now, for the time will come when you will laugh with joy" (Luke 6:21, NIV). Jesus knew that the end is not weeping, the end is laughter. Buechner writes of the humor of Jesus, "Nobody claims there's a chuckle on every page, but laughter's what the whole Bible is really about" (Peculiar Treasures 173). History's great comedy is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early Greek Orthodox Church, the day after Easter the people gathered to tell jokes and funny stories. They did this to celebrate the practical joke that God played on Satan. Satan thought that he conquered the world, but on the third day the tomb was empty and Christ had risen (Demaray Laughter, Joy, and Healing 35; Hyers And God Created Laughter 25). The comedy of the Bible, specifically the story of Jesus Christ, is found in the fact that liberation and laughter come through God's victory in Jesus Christ (Oden 405-6).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Humor in the Hebrew Scriptures

Humor, as noted above, is a worldwide experience, and it has been established in other writings of the Ancient Near East. Humor is also found in ancient Israelite literature including the Hebrew Scriptures (Meltzer 326-8). Humor is not the opposite of seriousness; humor is not the opposite of despair (Hyers 51). Viewing humor not as a contradiction to seriousness is helpful in gaining a better perspective of the possible uses of sacred humor (Danbom 668-72).

The God of Isaac (Yishaq) which is translated as "laughter" is the God of Israel. Conrad Hyers writes:

The history of Israel begins—if it does not sound too impious—with a joke, a divine joke. The laughter of Abraham and Sarah at this joke was not so much a laughter of unbelief as of disbelief, as when we say "You can't be serious" or "You've got to be kidding." Yet it was a laughter that became the laughter of faith. Abraham and Sarah would be less inclined in the future to declare the impossible. And their laughter, in turn, would become the laughter of faith and hope for generations to follow. (10)

God gave laughter to Sarah. Sarah declared, "God has brought me laughter! All who hear about this will laugh with me" (Gen. 21:5, NLT). Sarah had stopped dreaming that she and Abraham would have a baby, but the Lord was gracious to Sarah and did for Sarah "exactly what he had promised" (Gen. 21:1, NLT). God later told Moses that "I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exod. 3:6, NLT). It turns out to the Hebrew reader that Laughter (Isaac) is the father of Israel (Jacob).


Humor and laughter is found in the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is also found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The author of Ecclesiastes writes that there is "a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance" (Eccles. 3:4, NLT). Much of life is tragic and this is evident in the Hebrew Scriptures. But earthly calamity is replaced by grace. Donald Demaray writes of the Ecclesiastes text, "The sequence is significant. There is winter before spring, grief prior to joy, death before resurrection" (Laughter, Joy, and Healing 35).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Three Years Ago

The Water's Edge Three Years Ago
Russell Middle School


Benjamin and David Three Years Ago
Benjamin's Room

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coming this Fall

September 12th we will be adding a 9:00 worship experience to our 10:30 worship experience. It is exciting times!

The kid’s ministry during the first two months of 2010 has seen a 48% increase in participation over the same time period in 2009. We have even had over 100 kids a few times! Nancy Christensen has been serving as our leader in this area for the last year and a half. Because of the increase in her workload and responsibility, Nancy joined our staff in November. As a pastor and as a father of two boys, I’m so grateful for her leadership and I’m so thankful for the many adults and middle and high school students who serve in this important ministry. If you have suggestions, questions, or want to serve in some way—Nancy would love to hear from you. You can find her on Sunday mornings or email her at nancy@watersedgeomaha.com.

In addition to starting a new worship experience, we will be starting new small groups in the fall as well. Obviously our worship attendance and volunteerism has grown significantly in the past couple of years. Our small group participation has also increased, but not at the same rate as our worship and volunteerism. Jill Schumacher joined our staff a few weeks ago to coordinate our small group ministry, volunteer ministry, and guest follow-up ministry. She has been one of our volunteer coordinators and has done a wonderful job in that role for the past year. We are looking for people who are willing to host and / or lead a small group. It’s pretty simple, it’s a great way to serve, and it’s an excellent way to make friends. I also want to encourage you to pray about joining a small group in the fall. If you have suggestions, questions, or want to host, lead, or join a group—Jill would love to hear from you. You can find her on Sunday mornings or email her at jill@watersedgeomaha.com.

Our biggest strength as a congregation is our volunteers. Last week in worship, we made a low key ask for a few more volunteers in a few areas where a little more help is needed. We had a dozen new people volunteer! We have hundreds of people who volunteer at least once a month in everything from playing music, serving donuts, setting up chairs, teaching children, welcoming guests, doing announcements, running the sound and media, etc… With a new worship experience, this fall we will have many more opportunities to serve. Serving is a great way to meet people, have fun, be part of a team, and grow closer to God. If you are not serving and want to, simply express your interest on your registration card or send Nancy (for the kid’s team) or Jill (for all other teams) an email.

I’m so excited where God is going to take us in the future and I’m equally excited to see what God is going to do in and through your life as well!

In Christ,

Craig

Monday, March 1, 2010

Introduction to Humor in the Bible

The purpose of this is to set an introduction for interpreting humor in the Bible:

Before attempting to interpret humor from the Bible, it is helpful to break down humorous discourse into three groupings: universal humor, culture-based humor, and linguistic-based humor (Schmitz 89). Universal humor is the most basic form of humor and is not dependent on culture or language. An example of universal humor is: “Last week I went fishing and all I got was a sunburn, poison ivy, and mosquito bites” (Schmitz 96). No understanding of the original culture or language is required to appreciate this type of humor. Certain elements of humor such as irony, exaggeration, repetition, and incongruity are nearly universal. These four components are humorous in today's culture and were most probably humorous during the biblical era (Greenstein 330-3; Culpepper 333; Whedbee 8-9).


Humor has a strong cultural component (Nietiing 168) which is much different from the universal humor described above. Humor in North America is much different than humor in Southeast Asia. Humor in the Midwest is much different than humor in the Deep South. Garrison Keillor relates to a much different audience than Jeff Foxworthy, but both are two of America’s most beloved humorists. It is quite possible, even probable, that today's reader, regardless of culture, will miss humor when it is encountered in the Bible. It is also quite possible, even probable, that today's reader, regardless of culture, will find humor in the Bible when the author did not intend for the passage to be humorous. Culture-based humor is not universal because the listener must have an understanding of the culture to comprehend the humor. An example of cultural-based humor is: “This year for Father’s Day I got a special gift in the mail: the bill for Mother’s Day” (Fechtner 104). To understand this type of humor the listener must have an understanding of American culture. This joke would be lost in the cultures where these days are not celebrated, in cultures where credit is not extended, or in the cultures where Father’s Day does not directly follow Mother’s Day.

Linguistic-based humor is also not universal because the listener must have an understanding of the original language to comprehend to humor. An example of linguistic-based humor is: “How does a dog stop a VCR? He presses the paws button” (Schmitz 101). The non-English speaking listener would most likely have a difficult time understanding this humor. In no other language does the word for a dog’s foot sound similar to the button of a VCR that stops the tape. To further complicate things, in the future people will not know what a VCR is because that language has become obsolete. A second example: “Americans won’t allow the importation of Canadian beef, and now some Canadians have a beef with Americans who import Canadian drugs” (Danbom 668). The word “beef” used in the above sentence is slang, something that is very difficult to translate for a non-English speaking person.

A short study of the above-mentioned groupings gives the modern-day Western reader a clue that extracting humor from the Bible based on the original contexts and languages can prove to be a difficult task. Humor can get lost in translation (Hall 3-4 and Bell 384). Communication between cultures, languages, and different time periods has a probability for misunderstanding (Norrick 389-90). A possibility exists that the biblical interpreter will miss some of the humor in the Bible because of the linguistic and cultural differences—even if the interpreter is a student of biblical languages and biblical culture. It is also plausible that the biblical interpreter may find something humorous in the Bible that was not meant to be humorous in its original context. Another caveat exists. Much of the Bible is from an oral tradition (Kelber 30-4 and Avery-Peck 34-7). Today’s Bible is a written document. It is one thing to read Garrison Keillor’s humor in a book; it is a totally different experience to hear him on the radio. The following sections of the dissertation the investigate humor in the Hebrew Scriptures and humor in the New Testament. This section seeks to examine humor in the Bible as faithfully as possible given the limitations of cultural and linguistic humor and given the difference between oral and written communication.