Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Ways to Have a Miserable 2012

1. Don’t plan. Just roll with the punches. Be reactive and not proactive. Don’t make a list of things you want to get done, places you want to go, people you want to connect with, and goals you want to accomplish. Just remember, when you fail to plan then you are planning to fail. 

2. Do as much as you can by yourself. Don’t enlist the help of others. Don’t seek the advice of others. Misery loves company, but it most likely happens alone.


3. Neglect your most important relationships. Seek intimacy in inappropriate ways. Don’t trust others. Be afraid of being hurt. Gossip about others to feel good about yourself. Talk more and listen less. Demand your own way. Nitpick. Demand others be who you want them to be rather than their true selves. Believe kindness is overrated. Don’t be patient with others. Demand perfection. Carry grudges and don’t forgive others. Make others pay for their mistakes. 

4. Stay busy. Don’t schedule downtime. Stay plugged into technology at all times. Be connected a little bit to everything and everybody so that you aren’t really connected to anything or anybody. Say “yes” to so many average things so that you don’t have the time or energy to say “yes” to the best things. 

5. Don’t deal with your past. Carry all burdens of your past mistakes. Realize it’s not likely you are going to change. Don’t forgive yourself. Let your history define your future. 

6. Don’t take any risks. Be afraid of falling. Be afraid of failing. Play it safe. Don’t explore. Don’t chase dreams. Don’t be vulnerable or authentic with others: the chance of being hurt a little bit far outweighs the benefit of loving someone and being loved by someone. 

7. Quit when times get tough. Throw in the towel the first time you take a punch to the stomach. Raise the white flag when the battle is not going your way. Accept the easy life and don’t strive for the good life. 


8. Place a lot of stock in what other people think about you. Try to impress others. Base your self-worth on what you think others perceive about you. 

9. Don’t give anything to anybody. Hoard your holdings. Stockpile your savings. You have earned what you have. Keep it. Be stingy with your time and energy too. Believe you can get far greater blessings in life doing what you want to do rather than helping a child or a hurting person.

10. Don’t worry about your character and integrity. Let things slide. Take a few shortcuts if it’s what you need to do. Cover up your shortcomings with image management. Do the easy thing and not the right thing. Don’t care who you are when nobody is looking. 

11. Let yourself go physically. Eat whatever. Stop exercising. Get stressed out. Don’t sleep much. 

12. Don’t focus too much on your relationship with God. You will have plenty of time to do that in the future. 

The worst is yet to come… 

Craig

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

God is with Us

The automatic piano in the hospital lobby plays and replays the old Christmas songs until their effect is like a child practicing a violin for the first time. Companies have Christmas parties that are like class reunions: people either really like them or really dislike them. People spend money they don’t have buying gifts people don’t need or even want. Fruitcake, lights hanging from roofs, Christmas movies, and Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town all make their annual appearance. But despite culture’s efforts, we haven’t ruined Christmas.


John is the most succinct of the biblical writers when it comes to his account about Christmas. He simply says the Word became flesh. Theologians call it incarnation. Luke gives a few more details. Mary gives birth. It wasn’t easy for her. She and Joseph couldn’t afford the Embassy Suites and the Motel 6 was booked, so they found a barn. The local pharmacy was out of epidurals and the midwife was on vacation for the holidays, so Mary and Joseph were pretty much on their own. The birth wasn’t as peaceful as most nativity sets indicate. The blood, the pain, the fears, and the tears—they were all present. They had to be. But out of Mary’s agony came a fragile baby and the world hasn’t been the same since. 

A worn out Mary looked into the eyes of the baby. She didn’t notice the blue or green or brown eyes. Instead she saw the Light of the World. The wiggly baby she held in her tired arms was the Resurrection and the Life. She fed from her breast the One who one day would defeat and destroy death. She experienced Christmas like nobody else ever has: God coming to be with us

It was dark outside that night. They couldn’t find a plug-in for the incubator, so Joseph built a fire to keep the baby warm. A warm flicker of light defeated the cold darkness of the world. It was a sign of things to come. 

The baby became a boy and the boy became a man. At the end of his life the tears, the fears, the pain, and the blood made their return and the world was about to change again. He rested in a wooden manger as a baby. Decades later he hung on a wooded cross as a man. His agony became our life. 

It’s a gift. In Latin it’s gratia. In Greek it’s charis. In English we simply call it grace. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. It is available to all of us no matter how good or how bad we are and thank God for that! We can either accept it or not accept it. If we don’t, nothing else really matters. If we do, nothing else really matters either. Because now and in the end, there is nothing quite like the promise of God’s presence: God is with us. That is what Christmas and life is all about. 

Merry Christmas, 

Craig

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Give Us Your Peace

A prayer for God's peace in our lives.
To be prayed at The Water's Edge this Sunday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving Up On Perfect

Sunday's sermon on giving up on perfect. We looked at three lessons from Mary:

1. Life will be bought, but life can also be great.

2. Nobody chooses your joy except you.
3. When in doubt what to do, take the next step.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Leadership Development

In this series of columns, we are looking at the difference between a take-off and a launch for The Water’s Edge, beginning on January 1st, 2012, as we become a United Methodist Church separate from Faith-Westwood. The first two columns were on areas we have thrived in and are going to even do greater things in the future: missions and ministry to children and students. Serving hurting and marginalized people and loving and developing children and students was Jesus’ priority and will continue to be our priority as well. The third column discussed the vision to be and be known as a kind and generous congregation while simultaneously resourcing the vision God gives us. The next column was on the importance and priority of small groups. Last week we looked at our “invest and invite” strategy. Jesus spent most of his life doing two things: investing in the lives of others and inviting them to follow him. This week we will look at leadership and discipleship development.


Jesus developed twelve leaders. They weren’t rabbis. They were ordinary people. Fisherman, tax collectors, and tradesmen. They followed him and became his disciples. Jesus changed their world. After Jesus changed their world, the disciples changed the world. 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. –Margaret Mead 

Part of our vision is to change lives so that we can influence and transform the world. We will spend significant time and energy investing in our development as leaders and disciples so that our lives will be changed and so that we are equipped to transform the world. 

We have two initiatives in the near future to develop leaders and disciples. The first of these is a leadership retreat on February 3rd and 4th. If you are on an administrative team, lead a small group, lead a serving team / ministry, or are feeling led to become a leader in any area at The Water’s Edge I want to encourage you to attend this retreat. We will worship, pray, learn, grow, develop, and have fun together. 

The second initiative is called “Twenty.” From January to August, we are going to intentionally disciple and develop twenty people who are new or fairly new to The Water’s Edge. We will learn about, experience, and be encouraged in the following areas: Discipleship, small groups, giving, vision, serving, inviting, and leading. I am so excited for this new ministry. If you are interested in joining us for this ministry…email me at craig@watersedgeomaha.com. 

I know God has gifted many of you to lead. My prayer is that you will use these skills to help The Water’s Edge connect people to God, to connect people to each other, and to serve our community and the world. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Friday, December 2, 2011

Invest and Invite

Week 5 in a series of 7 Columns

In this series of columns, we are looking at the difference between a take-off and a launch for The Water’s Edge, beginning on January 1st, 2012, as we become a United Methodist Church separate from Faith-Westwood. The first two columns were on areas we have thrived in and are going to even do greater things in the future: missions and ministry to children and students. Serving hurting and marginalized people and loving and developing children and students was Jesus’ priority and will continue to be our priority as well. The third column discussed the vision to be and be known as a kind and generous congregation while simultaneously resourcing the vision God gives us. Last week’s column was about small groups. This week we look at our “invest and invite” strategy. Jesus spent most of his life doing two things: investing in the lives of others and inviting them to follow him.


Investing in people begins with a heart for people. Jesus loved all and had great compassion. We have to care or the “invest and invite” strategy doesn’t work. As we seek God’s heart and mind, it becomes more natural and easier to focus our lives on others and connect with them so that they know we care. Investing is simply building meaningful relationships with people who naturally fall within our circles—neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends, etc... A disciple does the same thing Jesus did: Invest ourselves in others by giving our time, energy, compassion, and love. Let me encourage you—just be a friend with no strings attached. Be like Jesus: invest time and energy befriending hurting people, people going through transitions, and people not active in a church. Know these friendships are not an accident. Who are you investing in?

Friendships open doors to invite people to serve, connect, grow, or worship with you. Make an invitation after you have earned the right to be heard and when inviting is the loving thing to do. “No” or “not yet” will be common responses to an invitation. “Yes” will be a common response as well. Either way, continue being their friend and praying for them! You are most likely their most common connection to God!

A long time ago, a girl I had a crush on, invited me to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. I went, but to be honest I was more interested in her than I was in Jesus. I don’t have a clue what happened to her, but I am forever grateful because her invitation changed my life!

Last week, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, over 700 adults and children worshipped and learned and experienced God at The Water’s Edge. Although some exceptions exist, most of us are at The Water’s Edge because somebody invited us. The crowd that gathered around Jesus 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 We believe the teachings of Jesus changed the world, so we invest and invite.

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Monday, November 28, 2011

Waiting. Hoping.

Waiting. Hoping. This prayer was inspired by the worship services at 
The Water's Edge on November 27th, 2011.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Groups

Week four in a series of seven columns 

In this series of columns, we are looking at the difference between a take-off and a launch for The Water’s Edge, beginning on January 1st, 2012, as we become a United Methodist Church separate from Faith-Westwood. The first two columns have been on areas we have thrived in and are going to even do greater things in the future: missions and ministry to children and students. Serving hurting and marginalized people and loving and developing children and students was Jesus’ priority and will continue to be our priority as well. The third column discussed the vision to be and be known as a kind and generous congregation while simultaneously resourcing the vision God gives us. For today’s column, I go back to the beginning.


It was in a basement. Amber and I invited dozens of people from the community and from Faith-Westwood. Of the fifty or so people we invited, sixteen showed up. I was the oldest person in the room. We went around and introduced ourselves. Most of the people didn’t know each other and they surely didn’t know what they were getting into. Ninety minutes later we left and we were a small group. During the next few months we become friends, we prayed together, we applied the Bible to our lives, we learned from each other, we played together, we supported each other, and we looked forward to our weekly meetings. 

One couple moved to Louisiana to go to graduate school. Another couple moved to Missouri for a job promotion. Another couple felt called to ministry and are now serving together at another United Methodist Church here in Omaha. The rest of us are leaders at The Water’s Edge. 

The idea of a small group goes back to Jesus. He knew a better option existed to living alone: living in community with others. He had the 12 disciples. They weren’t the pick of the litter, but Jesus wasn’t too picky. And then he had Mary and Martha. They weren’t good enough for other men, but they were good enough for him. The early church followed the example of Jesus.

The early believers met in the Temple and also in people’s homes. (Acts 2:46) Church was worshipping in the Temple and meeting as a smaller group in people’s houses. One wasn’t considered more important than the other. Both were essential. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in 18th century England knew this as well. The foundation of early Methodism was small groups. Small groups would meet weekly and then a bunch of small groups would meet together when a preacher was available—usually monthly. 

Today, at The Water’s Edge, we have about two dozen groups of various shapes and sizes. These groups include hundreds of people. Friends have been made, discipleship has been deepened, and people have been cared for. Small groups are who we have been, who we are, and who we will be. I encourage you to join a small group! You’ll be glad you did. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Friday, November 18, 2011

Generosity and Kindness

Week three in a series of seven columns 

In this series of columns, we are looking at the difference between a take-off and a launch for The Water’s Edge, beginning on January 1st, 2012, as we become a United Methodist Church separate from Faith-Westwood. The first two columns have been on areas we have thrived in and are going to even do greater things in the future: missions and ministry to children and students. Serving hurting and marginalized people and loving and developing children and students was Jesus’ priority and will continue to be our priority as well. 

Today we look at resourcing our future of living out the Gospel together while simultaneously looking at one word that can transform our lives: generosity.


Jesus said more about money than any other subject. When it comes to a person’s real nature, money is of the utmost importance. Throughout Scripture and life, an intimate correlation exists between our character and how we handle money. 

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also. –Matthew 6:21 

Giving does something in us that only giving can do: it transforms us into kind and generous people. Would you rather be known as “giver” or as a “consumer”? Being a giver means our priorities are in order. True giving is not a responsibility, but a privilege. True giving is more than an act of obedience. It is an act of faith. It is trusting that God can do more in our lives with 90% of our resources than we can do with 100% of our resources. 

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 

Giving does not come naturally for most of us. The concept of generosity seems to be in direct conflict with the concept of self-preservation. However, it is not possible to become a fully committed follower of Jesus without becoming a fully developed steward of the resources we have been blessed with. Good things that cannot be calculated or quantified are set in motion in our lives and in our finances when we give. But we have to give in order to experience God’s blessings that exist only for those who give. 

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. –Luke 6:38 

The dream is to become a church that is known for its kindness and generosity. The dream is to be a church consisting of people who are on the journey to becoming kind and generous people. People who trust that as we fund God’s vision – reaching unreached people, serving poor and hurting people, and loving and developing children – God will provide and bless us beyond what we ever could imagine. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Monday, November 14, 2011

Create in Me a Thankful Heart

Thanksgiving is a national holiday. The day before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are two of the busiest travel days of the year. It usually involves eating thousands of calories: turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries, some kind of corn, and pumpkin pie are usually on the menu. The Lions and the Cowboys always seem to be playing in a football game. And the newspaper is huge. Dozens of color advertisements are inserted between the sports and the business sections advertising 80% off things we don't need if we shop between midnight and four in the morning. Somehow I think we are missing the point of Thanksgiving.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18

Last week I wrote this prayer early one morning. I want to encourage you to pray it regularly - especially in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. It would be great to pray together as a family. A thankful heart is a cure to jealousy, greed, envy, selfishness, and taking people and things for granted. A thankful heart also can connect us to God in ways we haven't been connected to God before.


Dear God, 

Create in me a thankful heart. 
Develop in me a grateful mind. 
Give me an appreciative spirit. 

I confess feelings of jealously toward the actions of others. 
I confess feelings of envy toward the possessions, attributes, and skills of others. 
I confess feelings of greed that have caused ungratefulness in my life. 
Create in me a thankful heart. 

I have focused on what I don’t have rather than what I do have. 
I have taken for granted many of your blessings. 
I have wanted more than I have needed. 
Create in me a thankful heart. 

For your fellowship 
For my family 
For my friends 
I give you thanks. 

For a warm bed to sleep and good food to eat 
For clean water to drink and a clear mind to think 
For comfortable clothes to wear and a life to share 
I give you thanks. 

For your grace for my mistakes 
For your power when I am weak 
For your love when I am alone 
I give you thanks. 

For your presence and promise in times of grief and trials 
For your hope and light in days of despair and darkness 
For creating the unique person I am 
I give you thanks. 

For laughter and smiles and hugs and most tears 
For the ability to embrace and to be embraced 
For recovery, restoration, repair, and reconciliation 
I give you thanks. 

Give me an appreciative spirit. 
Develop in me a grateful mind. 
Create in me a thankful heart. 

Amen.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Students and Children

The Water’s Edge Launch, Part 2 

Last week we started looking at the difference between a take-off and a launch for The Water’s Edge, beginning on January 1st, 2012, as we become a United Methodist Church separate from Faith-Westwood. Last week I wrote about what a launch looks like in the area of missions, serving, and outreach to our world, country, and city. 

This week we will look the people with a special place in the heart of Jesus and a special place in our hearts: children and students.

Kids serving runners this spring


One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. –Mark 10:13-16 

The above passage talks about the importance of children to Jesus. I’m a parent of two boys, ages 10 and 4. I know how important our children are to us and I know how important your children are to you. For those who don’t have children or for those whose children are adults—I know you see the value of outstanding and excellent children’s and student ministries to the church, to our culture, and most importantly to the children and students. 

Eight years from now, Benjamin will be a freshman in college. One of my dreams for him is that he will leave The Water’s Edge and be a Christian leader at his college and for the rest of his days. That is one of my prayers for all children and students at The Water’s Edge. I have confidence that a solid foundation will be laid in his life through incredible staff people who lead caring and committed men and women in service to our children and students and to children and students in the community as well. 

We already have well over one-hundred volunteers serving in children and student ministries. And we are going to need a whole lot more. One of the biggest challenges we have had in 2011 is managing the explosive growth in our children’s area (a great challenge to have!). I want to challenge all of us to serve and invest some way in these essential areas of ministry that are so important to God and so important to so many of us. I promise I will lead by example. I promise I will do my best in helping raise other people’s children and I know you will do your best in helping us raise our children. 

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Friday, November 4, 2011

Launch

Scene 1

I flew in a private airplane a few years ago. The take off from the Millard Airport was gentle. Even peaceful. It was cool flying over our house and seeing southwest Omaha from above.


Scene 2 

Benjamin and I sat next to each other and tightly held hands. We were at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the Space Shuttle Launch Simulator. A loud sound blasted and we were thrown back into our seats as the shuttle went from zero to 100 mph in three seconds kept accelerating until we reached 17,500 mph.


A quote I want you to think about

Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon. 

Scene 3

It’s January 1st, 2012. The Water’s Edge becomes a church that day. Eight days earlier we celebrated the birth of a baby who changed the world. On New Year’s Day we celebrate the birth of church that will change the world of our people and the people we serve and love. January 1st is a Sunday. It is not the day we take-off. It is the day we launch. Not shooting for the sky, but for the moon. We probably won’t set an attendance record on January 1st, but then again Joseph, Mary, and Jesus didn’t have a lot of company either and they did pretty well.

Over the next two months I will describe what a launch looks like in all areas of our church. 

The first area is missions

God is leading every one of us to serve somewhere and somebody in our world, country, and / or city next year and in all subsequent years. We look most like Jesus when we are serving—especially when we are serving the marginalized. Fans of Jesus support those who serve. Fans of Jesus think serving is a good idea. Followers serve and encourage others to serve alongside them. Period. Next year we are going to serve people outside the church and The Water’s Edge is going to encourage you and resource you so that you are successful. 

We will do a few things well rather than doing a lot of things not very well. We will serve with focus and clarity. Opportunities will exist to serve the poor, the hurting, and the young—internationally, nationally, and right here in Omaha. 

The Water’s Edge will be defined by kindness and generosity. We will be known as unselfish servants. We will live out the Gospel: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others. –Matthew 20:28 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Monday, October 31, 2011

Igniting the Ordinary

Listen to yesterday's sermon: Igniting the Ordinary.

Listen to the first sermon in the series, Sun Stand Still. 

Read the text of Moses and the Burning Bush from Exodus 3.

Buy Steven Furtick's book: Sun Stand Still.

Below are some notes from the sermon: Igniting the Ordinary.


Pray Big Prayers

A primary purpose of prayer is to align your life with God’s will

Jesus prayed:

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth. (Matthew 6:10)

Examples of Sun Stand Still prayers
  • Healthier relationships 
  • Financial provision 
  • Career aspirations 
  • Spiritual breakthroughs
  • Emotional healing 
  • Loved ones who are far from God 
  • Standing strong against temptation 
  • Achieving life goals 
  • Finding and embracing God’s purpose for your life 
  • Ministry resources 
Develop a Big Vision 

When we ask God to do something big, we set our sights on something specific.

A biblical vision is God’s preferred picture of your future. 

God wants to accomplish something through you. 

Don’t limit your dreams because you are limiting your life.
Don’t limit God’s power because you are limiting your life. 

The opposite of a big vision is survival mode. 

God can do the Improbable / Impossible 

Impossible / improbable is what ever seems impossible / improbable to you. 

Impossible / improbably means success for you is dependent on God.

Impossibilities / improbabilities don’t exist with God.

The opposite of improbable / impossible is ordinary. 

Living with Audacity

Not cockiness or arrogance 

Biblical audacity approaches God with confidence and believes in God for the impossible / improbable 

Jesus said in Mark 9:23 Anything is possible if a person believes.

Audacity is rooted in the Gospel and powered by the Holy Spirit 

Audacity is not an activity. 
Audacity is an approach.

Not what you do. 
It’s how you do it. 

Audacity is you daring to relate to God on a new level. 

The opposite of audacity: complacency 

Have and Audacious Faith

Faith 

Hebrews 11:6 says we can’t please God without it 
Ephesians 2:8 says we can’t be saved without it 

Audacious faith is an attitude or a set of actions that are deeply rooted in the conviction that all things are possible with God. 

The opposite of audacious faith: passive belief 

Expect a Move of God 

A move from God isn’t necessarily a scientific phenomenon from a scientific perspective. 

A move of God is the way God’s power infuses the lives of ordinary followers to produce results that serve humanity and glorify God. 

The results can be brilliant or subtle. 

God desires to move in our lives. 

Sun Stand Still Prayer 

Based on your big vision 
Activated by audacious faith, 
Will mark you life by the miraculous, 
Empower you to achieve the impossible, 
And put you in the middle of a move of God. 

Ignite the Ordinary

Objection #1 

Audacious faith comes naturally to a pastor and I get to devote all my time to things like faith and prayer and reading the Bible.
  • I’m a 16 year old and audacious faith really isn’t all that cool. 
  • I’m a 26 year old and my career is very demanding right now. I don’t have time.
  • I’m a 36 year old and my kids are my priority. 
  • I’m a 56 year old and I’m enjoying a slower pace of life. 
  • To the 16 year old – There is nothing cooler than audacious faith. 
  • To the 26 year old – God wants to help you focus and prioritize so you have time to live abundantly. 
  • To the 36 year old – The most important lesson you can teach your kids and the most important blessing you can give them is the gift of being an example of audacious faith. 
  • To the 56 year old – Your greatest blessing in life doesn’t come from recreation or relaxation, but from fulfillment and function 
Objection #2 

Nothing remarkable ever happens to me. My prayers are rarely and randomly answered. No agenda in my life is important enough for God’s attention. 

They ache of the ordinary is so common that we take sedatives: technology, substances, activity – to numb the pain instead of seeking treatment for the condition. 

Here is what I know: God wants to stir up your spirit, pour out his presence, reveal his glory in your life, family, school, business, and community. 

God is willing to burn brightly in the life of anybody who is willing to be set on fire.

Extraordinary moves of God start with simple acts of obedience 

If God lives in you then you have the potential for audacious faith

Joshua knew this. 

His mentor Moses experienced some extraordinary stuff 

Yet it all began with a simple act of obedience 

It started in Exodus 3 

If you are thinking you are ordinary and average and God’s work is best done through somebody else…then this one is for you. 

The setting is a desert – I wonder how many of us are there? 
Moses is tending sheep – He is not a spiritual leader 
He is an employee of his father-in-law 
A bush catches on fire 
Moses walks over to check things out 

We might think that when God is about to do something great in us or through us—that this move will start with a bang or at least a thump. But more often it won’t so stop waiting around for the obvious and pay more attention to the subtle clues and a quiet voice. 

God is challenging you to make a difference 

It will usually begin in a small way 
A flaming bush that only you will notice 

Take off your shoes – draw close – receive your assignment

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Community, Balance, and Significance

Some of us have occupations with busy seasons. Accountants have the spring. As the snow melts and the days get longer, the tax returns pile up. Teachers know the drill. August is a busy time getting everything organized. Retail workers have the holidays. Nurses have the flu season. Kids, activities, school, work, household management—most of us experience the busy season at least once in a while. 

Tuesday started at 5:45 a.m. It ended fourteen hours later at 7:45 p.m. I didn’t work the entire fourteen hours, but it was a long day. I arrived home and did my best to leave budgets, sermons, to-do lists, staff evaluations, and email at the office. The boys didn’t need a pastor. They needed a dad. 

An hour or so later I found myself in bed with the boys. Benjamin was on one side and David was on the other. The light beside the bed dimly lit the room as I read a book and then told a story. The boys feel asleep and I stayed a few minutes. I thought about busyness and balance and purpose and passion. I came up with three things we long for in this messy, hectic, overfunctioning, stressful world.


Community – God didn’t create us to be alone. Then God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.” –Genesis 2:18 Being alone has nothing to do with being in the presence of others. A person can be in the physical presence of others and be completely isolated. Anxiety and activity can make us feel lonely. Make time for companions who add value to your life. 

BalanceEcclesiastes 3:1-8 gives God’s vision for balance in life: For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. Balance is God’s idea. Many of us are out of balance and this lifestyle is taking a toll on us relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Say “no” to some things, both good and not-so-good, so you can say “yes” to balance. 

Significance – Success is the message of the world. Significance is the message of the Gospel. Success is attaining and achieving. Significance is empowering others to attain and achieve. Success doesn’t last a lifetime. Significance can last many lifetimes. We are wired to help others and without significance, we are missing out on an integral part of life. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others. -Matthew 20:28 

In our lives I pray, and I invite you to join me in praying, for community, balance, and significance. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Friday, October 21, 2011

Birth, Dreams, and Land

If you have been around a while, you know that The Water’s Edge and Faith-Westwood will become separate United Methodist churches on January 1st, 2012. This is a good thing. It’s not a split, but a multiplication. It’s not like a couple breaking up, but a family giving birth.


As a pastor at Faith-Westwood, I will be saying goodbye to many people in the next few months. I don’t look forward to that. There are lots of people I care about deeply. Although I will still live in the same city, I won’t be their pastor anymore. I look forward to leading The Water’s Edge full-time. The Water’s Edge is an amazing, young congregation because it is comprised of generous, remarkable, and dedicated people. I know that our best days are in front of us.

This week I will be meeting with a group of people to take a first steps in developing a strategic, long-term vision for The Water’s Edge. Part of the vision will be similar to what we are already doing: more small groups, exceptional kid’s ministry, serving each other, feeding Omaha, and challenging people to grow closer to God and each other.

Some of the vision will be new. I know God wants us to have a men’s small group every morning of the week. We are on are way. I know God wants The Water’s Edge to reach out to students in middle schools and high schools in West Omaha. God has placed it on my heart to develop a recovery ministry to minister to hundreds of people battling various addictions. I can’t imagine a vision that doesn’t include deepening your relationship with God and with others. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. –Matthew 22:37-39



Part of our long-term vision also involves the purchase of land. At the present time, we are working with commercial real estate agents to acquire land within a few miles of the high school. With our current population of adults and children and future projections based on growth during our first five years, we will eventually outgrow the facilities at Millard West High School. Our own facility will also allow us to serve our community more effectively than leased space. We have in front of us an opportunity to build a new kind of church: one that offers us a place to worship, grow, and relate, while simultaneously loving and serving our community. We will do things in West Omaha that need to be done that nobody else is doing.

These are big dreams and bigger dreams are on the way. Thankfully we have a bigger God who makes all things possible. I’m so excited to see what God is going to do through us and in us as we are take this journey together.

The best is yet to come…

Craig

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wesley's Covenant Prayer for Today

In 1755, John Wesley first prayed what would later be known as his Covenant Prayer. This prayer was formally published in 1780. Here is the prayer:


I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
     exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
     thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,
     let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

The prayer is simultaneously powerful and beautiful. Consider praying it regularly.

A few weeks ago I put the Ten Commandments into modern culture and language. A reader requested I do this with Wesley's Covenant Prayer. Here it is:


I was once mine. From this point forward, I am yours. 
Make clear my purposes in life. 
Place me among my loved ones and expand my heart to love all. 
Help me to think the things you want me to think, 
     say the things you want me to say, 
     and do the things you want me to do, 
          even if it means I am belittled, ignored, or criticized.
Give me people to encourage, serve, and love.
Give me times of peace and rest so I can love and be loved by you.
Let me be a light to a dark world so people can see you working in me.
Make me humble and remind me that everything I have is because of you.
Thank you for times of happiness and prosperity

     they are a gift. 
Thank you for your presence and promise in days of sadness and hardship
     I emerge stronger and wiser. 
Let me discover and embrace your will for my life.
With joy and in fullness, 

     I give my possessions, my time, and my energy 
     to you and to your purposes. 
Almighty, holy, and blessed God: 
     Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 

     you are my true love and I am yours.

And so it is.
Let the covenant I am making here on earth be acceptable and pleasing to you.

Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sun Stand Still

On Sunday, October 23rd, we are starting a new sermon series at The Water's Edge: Sun Stand Still. I invite you to join us!

It never happened before. It hasn’t happened since. Apologists use science and history to prove it. Skeptics say it’s silly. Some scholars argue it’s a metaphor with incredible meaning. It was the day the sun stood still.

Moses led his people to Mount Pisgah. He could see the land promised to his ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But he could take them no further. His tired muscles and broken bones died on the mountain looking at the finish line of a race he had been running for forty years. He smelled, tasted, and saw victory. But he never experienced it.


Moses was a tough act to follow. Andrew Johnson, Roger Moore, Frank Solich all know what it must have been like for Joshua. One followed Abraham Lincoln as President; one followed Sean Connery as James Bond; and one followed Tom Osborne as football coach. All of them were more than capable. But none of them could be the one thing they were expected to be: their predecessor. The only thing Joshua had going for him was God selected him. And that was more than enough.

Joshua was unsure of himself. Even if he could lead the people across the river to the land flowing with milk and honey, the current residents weren’t going to give up their landlord status and become tenants without a fight. Joshua had just finished an ultramarathon and he had five mixed martial arts fighters standing in line waiting for a piece of him. God sounded like a broken record when told Joshua to be strong and courageous. And Joshua listened. Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel.

He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. –Joshua 10:12-13

It was a day that changed Joshua’s world. Joshua’s back was against the wall. Hope was a mere flicker of light through a dense fog in a distance. He had come so far but had so far to go. But then he remembered the words of God: be strong and courageous. He prayed a prayer the size of his faith. A prayer that only God could answer: “Let the sun stand still.” And the minute he spoke those words the sun stopped dead in its tracks. The enemy didn’t have a chance. 

And it was a day that can your world as well. Our mistakes become regrets. The debris of life gathers like rainwater in a puddle. We have hurt others and ourselves. Or maybe we are tired of average or adequate and our dreams are bigger than are available resources. It’s time to pray a prayer that only God can answer. A prayer like Joshua’s. Sun stand still. Save me I’m lost. Get me out of this mess. Help me forgive. Use me to change lives. Make my dreams come true. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Monday, October 10, 2011

Living the Ten Commandments Today

From my sermon yesterday...

1. Give me the primary place in your heart. Don’t let things like money or stuff or power or control or people take my place. 

2. Worship me and not my creation. I’m much more dependable than the things of the world.


3. Keep your promises: the promises you make to me, the promises you make to others, and the promises you make to yourself. Broken promises lead to broken lives.

4. Rest once in a while. Do you really want to spend your life as tired and stressed and burdened? I created the world and the things in it for you to enjoy. Take me up on this offer.

5. Early in your life, listen to your parents. They aren’t perfect, but they are most likely doing their best to raise you. Later in life, do your best to take care of your parents. When you couldn’t take care of yourself, they were there for you. Now it’s your turn.

6. Don’t kill people. Don’t kill their dreams, their relationships, or their well-being. Spend your life building people up and not tearing them down.


7. Don’t mess around with your marriage vows or anybody else’s. 

8. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. You will hurt somebody else and the thing you take probably won’t have much value to you anyway. 

9. Don’t tell lies about others. Don’t gossip either. It is hurtful for the person you are gossiping about, the other person will most likely find what you said which will hurt or end your relationship with that person, and it makes you appear insensitive and untrustworthy. 

10. Don’t be jealous of others. It’s tough to be in a good relationship with somebody you are jealous of and it makes you a whole lot less grateful for what you have.