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


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… 


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…


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.

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.


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… 


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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Waterfall

I needed to get away. We all have those days. I left my cell phone in my car. Email would have to wait for another day. So would this column, this week’s sermon, advance planning, pastoral care, leadership, and administration. 

Go away by yourself to a desolate place and rest a while. –Mark 6:31 

I laced up some old trail running shoes. The leftover mud on the shoes was a few months old. Long shorts and an old t-shirt were the clothes for the morning. I filled my water bottle mostly with ice and a little water. The ice would melt soon enough. I got in my dirty black car and drove to the park. A sports radio show was on. I turned it off. Somehow two guys overanalyzing the hows and whys of Nebraska’s quarterback throwing too many interceptions just didn’t really matter to me. 

It was a beautiful morning. The morning sun reflecting off the yellow and red leaves were God’s canvas. Monet and Van Gogh and Audubon on their best day never came close to this. The fallen leaves covered the crusty dirt trail. They also covered the tree roots and rocks. I shared the forest with a few deer and a group of wild turkeys. They were seeking food for their stomachs. I was seeking food for my soul.

Photo by Tim Wright

After about 90 minutes of running the ice was melted and the water in the bottle was gone. A few scrapes existed on my right wrist and right knee from an encounter with a tree root. The shirt was sweaty in the upper back. I opened the door of the dirty car, removed my Bible and journal, and walked down a steep hill to a bench overlooking a small waterfall. 

I opened the Bible. I read Psalm 42. No particular reason. It is just where I landed. I wrote part of the text in my own words: 

When I am sad or stressed or tired or tense, I remember you. 
The depths of my heart call to depths of your heart. 
The waterfall makes smooth the jagged rock.
Each day God showers His love on my imperfect heart and changes it. 

There is something about a waterfall. It overcomes obstacles with brawn and beauty. It is simultaneously peaceful and powerful. It is as delightful as it is determined. It takes a coarse rock and over time makes it as smooth as silk. Maybe the ordinary waterfall is so exceptional because it is like God: peaceful, powerful, beautiful, different, and transforming. 

The sight and then the sound of the waterfall faded in the distance. I walked up the hill to the dirty black car. And I remembered God’s words to Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” –Exodus 33:14 

The best is yet to come…