Thursday, September 20, 2012

Announcement This Sunday on Land Purchase Recommendation

I remember sitting in our living room about five or six years ago. A few of us were dreaming about what a church could become. I don’t know if any of us fully believed these dreams would come true, but we dreamed anyway. We simply dreamed about a church that thought and acted like Jesus.

The Land at Sunset

We searched the Scriptures and discovered Jesus had a special place in his heart for children. We determined from our beginning children would be our priority. Last week I stood in front of the congregation with dozens of adult mentors and presented Bibles to thirty-five third graders. The dream is coming true. 

We learned that Jesus spent much of his time serving people. One of us said that we look most like Jesus when we serve. We dreamt of ways we could love and serve our community and the world. Last month we cancelled our morning worship experiences at Millard West and sent hundreds of men, women, and children into the community to worship God by serving people. It was God’s people being the church and was one of the great days in our short history. The dream is coming true. 

We looked at the early church in the book of Acts and observed that small groups and Christian community was at the center of their lives. We read how Jesus surrounded himself with others. We dreamed of hundreds of small groups that meet in people’s homes: learning, growing, praying, playing, laughing, crying, sharing, and caring. Dozens of small groups kicked-off last week. New friendships will be formed. People will grow in their relationship with God. The dream is coming true. 

An important announcement will be made this morning about more dreams and visions. After two years of prayer, examining thirty-five properties, negotiating with land owners, and some more praying—the Leadership Team and the Land and Building Team is ready to present a property to be evaluated by the congregation. Over the next few weeks, the congregation will have the opportunity to continue to learn, ask questions, and provide feedback to our Leadership Team and our Land and Building Team. 

The purchase of land was not something we dreamed about in the living room that night. The purchase of land is, in small part, because of necessity. The school does require us to have an exit strategy and we know of no other alternatives big enough for us to worship within miles of Millard West. The purchase of land is mostly about dreams and vision. We dream of a place where children can be developed, mentored, and coached. A place where middle and high school students want to come and hang out. A place where we can give food and clothing to those in need. A place for recovery and support groups and Christ-centered counseling. A place that the community feels welcomed and embraced. Simply, this will be a place where people throughout the metro area will worship God, connect with each other, and serve our city and the world. 

The best is yet to come… 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

My First Bible

I can think of very few things I have owned for thirty years. The clothes of my childhood don’t quite fit anymore. The footballs, bicycles, video games – they have all be thrown away or donated or are in the back of one of the closets at my mom’s house. I do have a monkey that is older thirty years. He is quite handsome, but well worn. Tall and slender. Stuffed with women’s nylons. I guess men don’t wear nylons, so the word “women’s” is a bit redundant. The monkey is in David’s room now.

I still remember the day I got my Bible. There was eight or nine of us. We were confirmed together. We graduated together. We have gathered two more times in the church: for the funerals of two boys who got their Bibles that day. Never were the words of the Bible more important than they were on those two days. The eight of nine of us were all dressed up in our Sunday best, which was most likely khaki pants, a white shirt, and a tie for the boys and some kind of long dress for the girls. We nervously stood in front of the small congregation and were presented our Bible. We were encouraged to read it and bring it with us to Sunday school and worship. 

The Bible got put away for about ten years or so. It was always available, but seldom used. This Bible travelled with me when I left my little town in northwest Iowa as a socially awkward eighteen year old and attended college at Drake University. I didn’t believe in God at the time, but taking the Bible to college seemed like the right thing to do. The Bible has lived in such places as Spencer, Iowa; Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Lexington, Kentucky. 

I remember one time I travelled to Malaysia and Indonesia. We gave hundreds of Bibles, written in their language, to young adults hungry for God’s Word. They opened them with the same wide-eyed optimism that a child opens his or her first present on Christmas morning. 

This morning I’ll give away about thirty-five Bibles to our third grade students. I was looking at the Bibles the other day. They are a little more colorful and well illustrated than mine. They have sections to explain things and help apply God’s Word to our lives. But the words remain the same. 

I’ll probably say something like this on Sunday morning: Find a few minutes to read this book everyday. Read it on the days when you think you need it the least and read it on the days when you need it the most. Read it with your family a couple times a week and talk for a few minutes about what it means. If you don’t understand everything, that’s okay. Sometimes I don’t either. But keep reading. It is the best way to hear God’s voice and is the single most important thing that will help you think and act like God. And thirty years from now, you’ll still have it. 

The best is yet to come… 


Friday, September 7, 2012

40 Days in the Word

It’s a book. It’s words either mean everything or they mean nothing at all. It’s the bestselling book of our time. It’s the best selling book of all time. Never has a book been more criticized. Never has a book been more quoted. Never has a book been more turned to in a time of need. It’s part biography and history. Letters and prophecy that are simultaneously compelling and challenging. There is nothing quite like the poetry found in this book and the prose is just as brilliant. And then there is the Gospel or what the Greeks called εὐαγγέλιον. It simply means good news.

The book is, of course, the Bible. Søren Keirkegaard wrote: “When you read God's Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’” And he is correct. 

The woman sits next to her two children on a chair on the cemetery lawn. Five feet in front of them is a casket with two dozen roses on top. The pastor opens the Bible and turns to Psalm 23 and begins to read: “…and even through I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me.” The words mean everything or they mean nothing.

The man has hit rock bottom. His collection of poor choices have overwhelmed him. He has nowhere to turn. He remembers a story from his childhood. After thumbing through the index in a dusty Bible, he turns to Luke 15 and reads about a fellow prodigal who returns home and experiences the love of his father not because of what he has done, but because of who he is. Grace is the only thing he got from the story which is just as well because it was the only thing he really needed at the time. The words mean everything or they mean nothing.

During the next six weeks we will explore the Bible. 

How to learn it 
How to love it 
How to live it 

In my own faith journey, I know this about the Bible: God is always there for me. I open the Bible, read it, and something happens. Peace, comfort, challenge, hope, grace. Something happens. I also know I don’t regret a single moment I have spent reading God’s Word. And I know, from experience, my life makes the most sense and has the most joy when I live my life according to God’s Word. No exceptions. 

I invite you to join me as we spend the next 40 days learning how to read the Bible, investigating God’s Word, and experiencing what it means to apply biblical principles to our lives: as individuals, as families, and as a church. 

The best is yet to come…