Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Water's Edge

Here is next Sunday's column, a little early. I'm leading a camp for kids this week and had a little time this morning.

Last Sunday night, a woman in our membership class, H2O, asked me where we got our name, The Water’s Edge. I was grateful she asked the question because, in the busyness of life and ministry, I need a reminder of why we exist.

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

As chapter 4 continues, Jesus taught and challenged the people gathered at The Water’s Edge. Next, he sent the people out into their community to live out his teachings. Finally, he calmed the storm in the lives 

The vision is to be a Mark 4 community. It begins with Jesus and his teachings. The dream is to have an overflowing group of people gathering weekly at The Water’s Edge to hear the teachings of Jesus. Community is experienced. We share our lives together. We laugh and pray and learn together. The teachings are relevant to our lives and they challenge us. When applied to our lives, the teachings make us better. Then we are sent out into the world and because we are getting better the world will be better. And, for those times when the world doesn’t make sense or our lives don’t quite make sense, Jesus calmed the storm. He offers peace when the world is not able to.

I left worship Sunday morning excited about how this vision is becoming a reality. People came early and stayed late. We ate together and shared with each other. We watched all the elementary kids singing songs about God’s love for them and their love for God. I don’t know if it’s possible to convince me of a more beautiful thing. Then we heard stories from high school students about how they served the elderly and the poor. That is beautiful too. We heard the teachings of Jesus that we are to be influencers in our communities. We prayed for one of our own who is having a mass removed from her brain this week. People stood in line and signed a card for her. I delivered that card to her this morning. Her eyes welled up. I could sense Jesus was calming a storm. And then the gathered people were sent into the community to love others, to offer hope, and to invite others to follow Jesus.

The dream for The Water’s Edge is that we experience community because life is best lived in the presence of others. The dream is that we are challenged when we need to be challenged and that we are comforted when we need to be comforted. The dream is God changes our world and the world one live at a time. I have enjoyed and I look forward to taking this journey with you.

The best is yet to come…


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Colossians: Bible Reading Plan

This week’s Bible reading plan is to read the book of Colossians. In about five to ten minutes per day, you can read through the entire New Testament in one year. If you didn’t start on January 1st, start today and set a goal to make it through the book of Colossians this week. Stay consistent and make focused Bible reading a daily habit. 

Read the selected veres each day. 

Spend some time in prayer reflecting on how God spoke to you through the reading. 

Read the study guide for the day to dig a little deeper into a few selected verses. 

Respond to the questions and prayer guides as you apply the biblical teachings to your life. 

By the end of this week we will have read through Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 1 Thessalonians, James, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John.

Sunday, July 24th – Colossians 1:1 to 1:14

Paul opens by stating he is praying for the Colossians. Note what he prays for them: knowledge of God’s will, spiritual wisdom and understanding, living a fruitful life, growth as they learn to know God better, strength, endurance, patience, joy, and a grateful heart. When you pray for others, how do you pray? Think of a person you can pray for in the next few days. Use Paul’s model to pray for them.

Monday, July 25th – Colossians 1:15 to 1:29

Reread verse 22: “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Many of us don’t see ourselves as holy or blameless. And by ourselves, we are not. But God has reconciled us to himself, making us holy and blameless. Write down some of your past shortcomings and sins on a sheet of paper. Throw away the sheet of paper. Look at a new, blank sheet of paper. Take God up on a fresh start.

Tuesday, July 26th – Colossians 2:1 to 2:10

Reread verses 6 and 7: “Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him.” Accepting Christ is the first step. Following Christ is the next step and is simultaneously challenging and rewarding. Make a commitment to growing your roots down deep. Commit to daily Bible readings, consistent prayer, regular worship, growing with others in a small group, and serving others.

Wednesday, July 27th – Colossians 2:11 to 2:23

Reread verse 13: “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.” Paul continues his discourse about forgiveness. He talks about moving from death to life and from sin to grace. Consider Paul’s words: God made you alive. Think about some areas in your life where you would like to move from death to life or from sin to grace. Pray for God to help you take the first step in this journey and for the perseverance to keep taking the next step.

Thursday, July 28th – Colossians 3:1 to 3:11

Paul writes of a better way. He urges the Colossians to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. Paul specifically writes about sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed, worshiping the things of this world, anger, malicious behavior, slander, dirty language, and lying. Look at this list of self-destructive behaviors. None of these add value to your life or the lives of others. Pray for the ability to break free from the power of these sins and to be set-free for a new life.

Friday, July 29th – Colossians 3:12 to 3:25

Reread verse 23: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Paul challenges us to see others as a child of God and act toward others as a child a God. Pray this prayer throughout the next few days: “Lord, help me see others through your eyes. Help me too treat others like I would treat you.”

Saturday, July 30th – Colossians 4:1 to 4:6

Reread verse 6: “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive.” The words we speak are powerful. We have all been hurt deeply by words. And we have all been encouraged by words. Challenge yourself today to you encouraging and loving words.

Sunday, July 31st – Colossians 4:7 to 4:18

Reread verse 17: “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.” This was part of Paul’s final instructions to the Colossians. It is a reminder to us as well. God gives us all a ministry. Pray for the strength, wisdom, passion, and teammates to carry out the ministry God gave you! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I prayed this prayer this morning and want to share it with you.

I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may
appear bigger.

I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quitting or Continuing

Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. -Josh Billings

Life will bring troubles and trials, failures and frustrations, defeats and doubts. The great accomplishment in life is not avoiding setbacks or scrapes, but getting up every time we are knocked down. Significance in life doesn’t always go to the smartest or the fastest or the most creative, but to determined people who resolve to bounce back. 

The world can tell us that trying is foolish. Or that quitting is the best option. Hope whispers: “Give it another try.” Hope knows something the world doesn’t: Overcoming obstacles and defeating difficulties is simultaneously rewarding and life-giving. 

Each of us can overcome, persevere, and persist. We can say something like: “I give up” or “I gave it my best shot”. Or we can say something like: “I may not be there yet, but I’m a whole lot closer than I was yesterday.” Nothing great has ever been attained by those who have given up at adversity’s first appearance. Greatness is reserved only for those who have sweated, sacrificed, suffered, and stuck to it. Think about this: the mighty oak tree was at one time a little acorn.

Problems and trials in life aren’t God’s fault. Most likely they are your fault, the fault of another, bad luck, or a combination of the three. But God will use life’s problems to strengthen us and glorify Him. 

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. –Romans 5:3-5

Problems and trials develop endurance, strength, character, and hope. Problems and trials can provide both human and Divine resources prosperity simply can’t develop. 

Think of the problems and trials you are currently facing in life. The little ones and the big ones. Maybe it’s money. Or a relationship or two. Or a dream that hasn’t come true. Or weight that needs to be lost. Or a project that needs to be finished. You have two choices: To be overcome or to overcome. To do the easy thing or the right thing. To quit or to continue. 

Pray for God to help. Seek the assistance of others. Think of the long-term good rather than short-term convenience. And remember the postage stamp: stick to it and you will eventually get there. And nothing quite exists in life like getting there. 

The best is yet to come… 


Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence and Freedom

Independence Day. What we are celebrating? Why do we celebrate it? And where does God fit in all this? 

If your family is anything like mine, you will get the kids in the neighborhood parade, have the in-laws over for some BBQ, go swimming, hang out until it gets dark, and sit with the dog during the fireworks trying to convince her that the world is not coming to an end. Not much reflecting on why we get the day off.

I love history. Especially early American history. The passion of the people for independence and freedom is inspiring: 

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! -Patrick Henry 

I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country. -Nathan Hale 

We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin 

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. -George Washington 

Independence and freedom are not the same. Independence means, for better or worse, we get to make the rules. The mistakes we get to live with are generally our own. Pre-Independence, the problem was taxation without representation. A few hundred years later, we still have taxes—gas taxes, income taxes, estate taxes, property taxes, sales taxes—to name a few. But instead of a king in London making the rules, a majority of citizens have decided such taxes are for the common good. Independence isn’t always perfect, but it sure beats the alternative. 

Freedom is different. Someone can be independent, but not free. The young adult may live by herself and be independent of her parents, but she is not necessarily free. She probably has some sort of debt, a boss, a landlord, and / or demanding friends. She makes her own choices, but has obligations and habits that strongly determine the choices she makes. She is independent, but is she really free? As a country, we may make our own rules, but because of things like debt and nuclear weapons, we are not totally free.

There is another sort of independence and freedom that matters ultimately and it is another sort altogether. It isn’t represented by a flag, but by a cross and a cup. The flag represents freedom to worship the King who embodied the cross and the cup. At the end of the day the flag doesn’t offer the freedoms matter the most: forgiveness, hope, courage, faith, peace, joy, and salvation. A person can live in an independent democracy and suffer a personal life of oppression while another can live under a dictatorship and experience personal freedom: not because of the flag, but because of the cross and the cup. 

This weekend, be grateful for independence and embrace freedom. 

The best it yet to come…