Sunday, September 26, 2010

Making Lasting and Meaningful Change

Here is my sermon from Sunday. You can listen here.
Own the Past. Don’t Let the Past Own You.
Philippians 3:5-14
I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.
Paul had a past. Like a lot of other people I know.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
  • We can be owned by our past or our past can own us.
  • We can be losers or learners.
  • We can be failures or futurists.
Bad Can Become Better. Good Can Become Great. Death Can Become Resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
For us to have change in our life…we have to have areas die.
John 15:1-5
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
Look at unproductive areas
Look at areas that aren’t as productive as you want
The Day God Kept Repeating Himself
Joshua 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.
God was about to make Joshua great and Joshua was scared. He liked comfortable. He didn’t know if he was ready for great.
I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you—from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
Afraid and discouraged – Change is needed but activity is more comfortable
Strong and Courageous – Do the right thing instead of the easy thing

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Little Bit About A Lot of Things

Our new 9:00 service

Our new 9:00 service is off and running. We are off to a good start. We had 110 people our first week and 70 people our second week. These are small beginnings that remind me of the small beginnings when we launched our first worship service at Russell Middle School four years ago. We have had a number of new people and new families worship with us in the last two weeks. I’m grateful for the volunteers and staff who worked so hard to start this service and am excited to see where God takes us with this new opportunity.


I have been praying more than usual. I believe the activity of God in our life is directly related to the amount of prayer in our lives. Among other things, I pray for the development of our church, the people in our church, and prayer requests that are submitted to me. Each week, after our worship experience is over, prayer partners in green shirts are in the back of the commons area, behind the worship food and beverage area, to pray for you. They are trained to listen to you, to keep confidentiality, and to offer simple prayers. I also invite you to join me in praying daily for our church and others in our church.


Many of you have asked about the Grotto I talked about last week in my sermon. It is in a small town about 3.5 hours northeast of Omaha. Visit it on the Internet at


Since before The Water’s Edge even started, I have been encouraging people to invite their friends, co-workers, and relatives to worship with us. Most of our growth has happened because of personal invitations. Inviting others is a great way share your faith and partner with Christ in building God’s kingdom. We have cards at the connections table you can give to people to invite them to our worship services. Pray about who you are going to invite to worship with us in the near future.

Fall Weather

The weather this time of year is my favorite. Until spring rolls around.


Our worship services are now available on video on the Internet. Check out our website and Facebook page to watch our services online.

In Christ,


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Picking Up the Broken Pieces

Listen to this morning's message. Here is the study guide:

1. Stop Before You Start
Brokenness is NOT going to be put back together from busyness. Endless activity will not heal us.
Be still, and know that I am God! –Psalm 46:10
  • Go to Him with our burdens…he will give us rest.
  • God is the Great Physician and the Great Counselor
  • When we are in God’s presence, we put ourselves in a situation where God can care for us
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” –Mark 6:31
You are not going to get to where you are going unless you know where you are.
Step 1: Sit down in the immediate future and take a snapshot of your life. Be honest. Reflect. Evaluate. Ask:
  • What is my current situation?
  • What are my challenges?
  • What are my strengths?
2. Commit not to Quit
Only one thing guarantees failure: quitting.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. –Romans 5:3-5
Step 2: Commit to yourself that your current chapter is going to end well - whether it is a chapter you have chosen or a chapter that was chosen for you.
3. Get a Pair of Glasses (and wear them!)
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. –Joel 2:28-29
Our abilities and current situations are not what will limit our future. The biggest limitation to our future is our lack of vision.
Step 3: Write down two options.
Option 1 - Write down a few paragraphs about what your life will be like in five years if you make no changes to your current life.
Option 2 - Write down the best case scenario of what you want your life to look like in five years. Consider what pieces you need to pick up to get there. Consider what changes you need to make to make this vision come true.
4. Start with One of the Broken Pieces
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Corinthians 5:17
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. –Mark Twain
Step 4: Pick one piece today. Two options:
Option 1 - Pick up a piece you know you can put back together. Get a win and move on to the next piece.
Option 2 - Pick up a piece that has to be put back together. This may be the biggest and most difficult piece, but no other piece matters until this piece is whole.
5. Putting Puzzles Together Together
Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. –Vince Lombardi
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. –Proverbs 27:7
Step 5: Get a friend to commit to taking to journey with you. You shouldn't take this journey alone.
6. Celebrate Your Wholeness
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. –Cicero
Step 6: Write a list of ten or twenty things you are thankful for. Revisit this list. Develop an attitude of gratefulness. Don't sweep the broken pieces under the rug, but don't be so consumed with dysfunction that you miss the many blessings in your life.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Returning Home

My family and I make a yearly trip to the world’s largest county fair—the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. I was a pastor in Spencer for three years. Grace United Methodist Church was the first church I served out of seminary. Amber and I lived there from 2000 to 2003. Benjamin joined us in 2001.

We stay thirty-five miles away in Laurens, a small farming community where I grew up. The little Main Street and thousand or so residents provide a stark contrast to Dallas, Texas where I spent the first part of the week coaching some church planters and where Amber, Benjamin and I lived from 2003 to 2005.

But northwest Iowa is home. I spend the first eighteen years of my life and three years as an adult there. As we drove from Omaha up the western part Iowa, the sights and smells became more familiar. Miles and miles of golden soybeans covered some of the most fertile soil in the world. The green combines were busy working harvesting corn that stands ten feet tall. We stopped at an apple orchard. The boys picked some of the best apples a person could eat. The orchard wasn’t staffed. We paid on the honor system. We later walked into the one hundred and twenty-five year old house I grew up in. I was immediately taken back to the seasons of my youth.

A few hours later I laced up my trail running shoes and took a short drive to Kindlespire Park. It is where I trained as a high school runner and during the summers in college. The long and windy hills still meandered through the forest that borders the Little Sioux River. Deer, wild turkey, pheasant, and squirrels looked at me with bewilderment, just like their ancestors did. The river crossings were the same. The dirt trail was covered in acorns. It is still a slice of heaven carved in the prairie. After an hour of sweating and stumbling through the woods, I realized I had returned home.

Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. –Malachi 3:7

We all have a common home. It’s not in Nebraska or Iowa. It’s in God’s Kingdom. A time existed when God was so present in our lives. Life as we understood it made so much sense. We loved God and we loved people.

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! –Revelation 2:4-5

God urges us to return home to Him. And God promises us that He will return to us. We will feel His presence, life will begin to make sense again, and we can freely love and be loved. That is our true home.

The best is yet to come…


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Opening and Closing All The Right Doors

Listen to this morning's sermon. Here are the notes and some questions for individual and group reflection:

The Door of Prayer

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. -Matthew 6:5-6

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. –Soren Kierkegaard

What is a struggle you have in your prayer life?

How are you going to make prayer a more active part of your life?

What do you think about the statement that the primary function of prayer is not to influence God but to influence the one who prays?

The Door Only You Can Open

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. -Revelation 3:20

Opening the door and allowing Jesus into our lives gives us a loving, lifetime friendship with Jesus and community with God.

What does it mean to let Jesus in and share a meal with him?

What parts of our life is it easy to let Jesus in to?

What parts of our life is it not so easy to let Jesus in to?

The Door of Dysfunction

A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. –Proverbs 14:1

There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow. –Dorothea Brande

What are some doors of dysfunction that people need to close?

Why is it so difficult to close doors of dysfunction?

What has worked for you in the past on closing the doors of dysfunction?

The Door of Freedom

A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! -Acts 16:22-26

True freedom is not based on external surroundings. True freedom is a status of the soul.

Why do you think Paul and Silas were singing in prison?

What does it mean to be free?

What prisons do we find ourselves in?

Two Good Doors. Two Good Choices.

When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him. -2 Corinthians 2:12-13

Some of life’s most important decisions as you enter into the next chapter of your life will not be between right and wrong. Often, the most important choices we make are between two non-evil options. So we must choose between right and righter.

How do you choose between right and righter?

Do you ever look back and wonder if you made the “righter” decision?


What is something you have learned from today’s lessons?

What is a practice or an idea from your life that you will seek to start or restart as you move into the next chapter of your life?

What is a door in your life you would like to close?

What is a door in your life you would like to see open?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Next Chapter Bible Reading Plan

Read through passages of Scripture that will help you in the next chapter of your life. The Sundays are in bold and coincide with the Scripture for that day’s sermon.

Sept. 12 - Opening + Closing All the Right Doors - Romans 12:1-13
Sept. 13 - The Door of Prayer - Matthew 6:5-13
Sept. 14 - The Door of Dysfunction - Proverbs 14
Sept. 15 - The Door of Freedom - Acts 16:19-34
Sept. 16 - Two Good Doors - 2 Cor. 2:12-13
Sept. 17 - The Door Only You Can Open - Rev. 3:14-22
Sept. 18 - The Door to Loving Others - Ephesians 3:14-20

Sept. 19 - Picking Up the Broken Pieces - Job 1:1-22
Sept. 20 - Broken and Battered - Job 2:1-13
Sept. 21 - Beyond Brokenness - Job 10:1-22
Sept. 22 - My Redeemer Lives - Job 19:1-29
Sept. 23 - People Can Help - Job 37:1-24
Sept. 24 - God Can Help More - Job 38:1-41
Sept. 25 - Brokenness Restored - Job 42:1-17

Sept. 26 - Making Changes in My Life - Colossians 2:6-7
Sept. 27 - Obedience - Luke 6:46-49
Sept. 28 - Temptation - Matthew 4:1-11
Sept. 29 - Forgiveness - 1 John 1:8-10
Sept. 30 - Persistence - 1 Cor. 9:24-27
Oct. 1 - Purity - Psalm 119:1-20
Oct. 2 - Becoming Like Christ - Colossians 3:1-11

Oct. 3 - Seeing Ourselves Through God’s Eyes - Genesis 2:1-25
Oct. 4 - God’s Love - Romans 8:31-39
Oct. 5 - God’s Grace - Romans 5:18-21
Oct. 6 - God’s Power - Acts 1:6-8
Oct. 7 - God Wants Our Friendship - John 15:9-17
Oct. 8 - God Sees Our Potential - 1 Samuel 9:21-27
Oct. 9 - God Helps Us - Philippians 2:12-18

Oct. 10 - One Life - John 10:1-10

The next four weeks will allow us to investigate God's Word and put into practice some biblical principles in major areas of our lives. You are encouraged you to use the following SOAP method of reading the Bible.

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.

Friday, September 10, 2010


I love to read and learn about explorers. Sea explorers. Space explorers. Mountain explorers. Growing up in the Midwest, Lewis and Clark are my favorites. Amber and the boys had to drag me out of the Museum of Westward Expansion during a recent trip to St. Louis. Explorers expand new boundaries. They take risks hoping the reward is even greater. Explorers are people who change the world or die trying. On my desk I have a quote from Scottish Missionary, David Livingstone: “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

Four years ago this weekend, Faith-Westwood did some exploring. A few dozen of us prepared to launch a new ministry: The Water's Edge. On September 10, 2006 we met at Russell Middle School not knowing what to expect. We had lots of rain, lots of guests, and began our exploration together. This morning we are exploring again. I have no idea how this morning will turn out, but I’m looking forward to more people serving together, getting connecting to each other, and growing closer to God.

Today is also a morning when we start a five-week study about exploring what the next stage of our lives look like. As I have planned, studied, and prayed; I’m more excited about this series than any series I’ve done before.

To our guests and people who have started worshipping with us recently: I really hope that you will join this exploration with us. I hope that our church becomes your church and that you move from being our guest, to becoming our friend, to becoming our family.

To our volunteers: Just when things were getting pretty comfortable, we are going exploring again. I’ve said it before and will say it again many times: The Water’s Edge would simply not be possible without you. Many of you are taking on additional responsibilities as we go exploring. I don’t know of a church anywhere that has volunteers who are as dedicated as our volunteers. If you are not currently volunteering and would like to begin serving, as of this morning, we have plenty of opportunities for you.

One more thing. I like a clean house. Clean, organized, clutter-free is what I prefer. With a nine-year old boy, a three-year old boy, and a one-hundred and fifty pound dog; our house isn’t always clean, organized, or clutter-free. I have discovered in life that I would rather have a party and clean up the mess than have no party at all. I’ll take the two boys and the dog ten times out of ten. I know over the next few weeks we will have a little messiness to clean up as we transition to two worship services. Thanks for your patience and your help! Being willing to clean up a little messiness simply means that we are prepared to go anywhere, as long as it is forward.

I’m looking forward to exploring and moving forward with you.

The best is yet to come…


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Comedy Sunday 6: Jokes and Holy Words

Listen to this morning's sermon. Thanks for Brad Krebs and Nick Baker for helping me with the comedy. That is Benjamin reading the Bible verse.


Repentance doesn't mean regretting or feeling bad about something. Metanoia, the Greek word for repentance, means turning 180 degrees. It means completely changing the way we feel, think, and act. It means turning away from greed, despair, sin, self-righteousness, and hate and turning toward compassion, hope, service, grace, and love.

Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”

Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” –Luke 5:27-32

Repentance means moving from:
  • Hate to love
  • Selfishness to service
  • Control to cooperation
  • From sin to grace


Compassion is not being content yourself until there is contentment for others.

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"

Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.

"Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. –Matthew 20:29-34

Be compassionate if you want contentment. If you want contentment for others, be compassion.


This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 188:24

In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all. –Frederick Buechner

Unless we realize how precious and sacred today is, chances are that our lives will be full of regretting, busying, and dreaming – and not living.

We need reminders that today is holy, sacred, and precious. I pray this is your reminder.


Pride is seeing ourselves as better than others. True humility is simply seeing ourselves as God sees us.

Humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us

And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” -1 Peter 5:5

Friday, September 3, 2010

Turning Four

I have a son who is almost four. David is learning new words all the time. He loves to go on walks at night and learn about the world. He doesn’t sit for too long. His imagination is vivid. He loves silly songs. He doesn’t like being alone. He is a lot different now than he was about four years ago! In four years he will be a lot like our nine year old son, Benjamin.

Sometimes I want to hit the pause button. I don’t want the boys to lose their soft skin or their innocence or their playfulness. I look at pictures from their past and at times I even want to hit the rewind button. But I can’t push those buttons and even if I could, I wouldn’t because I would delay or even prevent the boys from becoming the person God has created them to be.

Next Sunday, The Water’s Edge turns four. We are a lot different now than we were four years ago. There are a lot more of us (we have more children on Sunday mornings than we had total people four years ago). We have added three staff people. We have hundreds of great volunteers who make this ministry happen. We have one of the best Sunday morning kid’s ministries around. We collect tons and tons of food for hungry people right here in Omaha.

At times I want to hit the pause button. I don’t want us to lose some of the things that make us so unique. I think about the past and even want to hit the rewind button occasionally. But I can’t and even if I could, I wouldn’t because I would delay or even prevent The Water’s Edge from becoming the congregation God has created us to be.

Benjamin has gone through four pairs of soccer cleats in four seasons. His foot keeps growing. Because of growth in our first year, we moved from Russell Middle School to Millard West High School. Next week, beginning September 12th, we will be getting a new pair of cleats: a 9:00 worship service will be added to our existing 10:30 worship service. Here is what you need to know.

  1. Both worship services will be very similar in form and content to our current 10:30 worship service.
  2. The kid’s ministry at 10:30 will remain the same.
  3. The kid’s ministry at 9:00 will only be available for birth through pre-school. We hope to develop a Sunday school for older children in the near future.
  4. We are expecting a much bigger crowd of people at the 10:30 services. If you are trying to decide which service to attend, especially if you don’t have elementary aged children, give the 9:00 service a try!
  5. We will have time and space for breakfast, snacks, and relationship building between services. Stay late and come early!
  6. We will be adding adult classes on Sunday morning. A 10:30 class will start on September 12th. We will be starting other classes soon!

I'm looking forward to starting the next chapter of our life together as a congregation and together as individuals next Sunday on our fourth birthday!

The best is yet to come…