Thursday, November 29, 2012

O Holy Night - Hope

This morning we start a new sermon series as we use five Christmas Carols as launching pads to explore the biblical truth about Christmas: what Christmas means for the world and what it means for us. 

The first carol is “O Holy Night.” It’s a song we would rather hear being sung than trying to sing it ourselves. It takes a good singer to sing the song well. But when it’s sung well, no other carol is quite like it. The song is originally a French poem (Minuit, Chr├ętiens – Midnight, Christians) put to music by another Frenchman. A decade later, the song is about 150 years old, it was translated into English.

Part of the English version goes like this: 

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 

In this short verse, we discover a truth about humanity and a truth about God.

The truth about humanity is that we live in a weary world. Watch the news or observe the world. You’ll understand what I am talking about. People are tired, worn-out, and discouraged. Emotionally, financially, physically, relationally, and spiritually – it is difficult to be healthy and whole in all areas of life. Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes life is really tough. 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

The truth about God is that God’s hope is as real as the sun that becomes visible when the new day starts and the night vanishes. 

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. –Psalm 39:7 

Hope means something like this: In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, we stand on holy and sacred ground because Jesus once walked among us and still does. Hope means God knows us and out of our weariness God rescues us so that we can become the person God created us to become. Hope means that our pain and mourning and confusion will be overcome by God’s grace, healing, and salvation. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13 

Culture teaches us that the holidays are about parties and presents and lights. All these are good. But at the core of Christmas, better things exist. And the first of these is hope. 

I look forward to discovering, embracing, and living out the rest of God’s gifts with you during this season of Advent and Christmas. 

The best is yet to come… 


Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Fry a Turkey

Benjamin and David give extensive, step-by-step instructions on how to fry a turkey.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has arrived. The turkey is in the oven. The pumpkin pies are ready to be eaten. The cranberry and oranges are being ground together. 
The boys at Silver Dollar City last night

Some people are planning shopping trips. Many are travelling and taking vacations. Amber, Benjamin, David and I are on a little trip. I take a moment to pause and think about the things I am thankful for. 

1. Nick Baker – He is the guy speaking for me this week which means I get a week off. A time my family and a time of rest. People regularly ask me when he is going to speak again. Sunday is the day. The Water’s Edge couldn’t be in better hands! 

2. For the seasons of the year: apples and pumpkins and piles of leaves in the fall; snowmen and crisp air in the winter; tulips and green grass and warmer temperatures in the spring; and sweating and swimming in the summer. 

3. The Bible. God has a way of speaking to me every time I read it. Comforting me when I’m afflicted and afflicting me when I am comfortable. 

4. That I live in a country where I can vote. 

5. For the teachers who teach my two sons. The teachers make the boy’s lives better. 

6. For the basic physical necessities in life: food to eat, a house to live, and clothes to wear. Although the clothes don’t seem to fit as well as they used to.

7. Amber. She should actually be at the top and Nick Baker should be buried here in the middle. 

8. Benjamin and David. Playing jokes on each other, watching them grow, loving them, being loved by them. The whole father – son idea God came up with is a splendid idea. 

9. To live in a country with abundant resources: power and fresh water are a dream for many people in the world. 

10. Being able to run without pain again and being able to walk without pain the day after I run. 

11. That I’m saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8) 

12. That I serve a church with the greatest people I have ever known: People who are examples of giving, serving, forgiving, and loving. 

13. For my small group. It is an eclectic group of men and women who laugh, learn, and pray together. 

14. For a big, goofy Newfoundland dog Georgia who has been part of our family for twelve years. 

15. That God is with me and I have no reason to fear the present or the future. (Isaiah 43:5) 

16. The trails at Platte River State Park, dirt, mud, hills, deer, wild turkey, my Brooks Cascadia 7s, re-creation, and Sabbath. 

17. Prayer. Forgiveness. Good friends. Hope. Laughter. Grace. A place in God’s Kingdom. That I am loved by God. (John 15:13) 

Happy Thanksgiving! 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fourteen Thousand Words

From my run at the lake this morning. The fog and the sun made it a photographer's dream.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Best Fried Chicken Ever

Lambert's has the best fried chicken I have ever eaten.
The chicken and dumpling soup, candied yams, rolls,
fried potatoes, applesauce, and fried okra were all good too.

David standing up on the booth requesting a throwed roll.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

WE Commit - Sermon

Today's sermon wrapped up the WE imagine sermon series and the WE imagine campaign! The church has such dedicated and wonderful people!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Saturday with David

David and I spent the day together watching football. It was a perfect day for it and almost a perfect day.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Omaha at Dawn

I was running on F Street about 6:30 this morning. I turned around at 204th Street and saw this. Had to stop and take a picture.

Omaha at Dawn

Thursday, November 15, 2012

WE Commit - Column

Commitment. It’s about as misunderstood as often as it is misspelled. Many are afraid of commitment. Others deduct commitment limits choices and therefore limits life. And others are afraid of failing—so we think that not committing reduces our chances of failing. 

Commitment isn’t the opposite of freedom. Commitment is the beginning of freedom. Freedom isn’t the ability to choose between many things or people or situations. That is chaos. And chaos isn’t freedom.

The sun setting over The Water's Edge property at 195th and Harrison

Freedom is simply the ability to truly be oneself. Nothing more and nothing less. And that is where commitment comes in. Jesus says that true freedom is achieved when we are committed to God, to others, and have an appropriate level of commitment to ourselves. 

The Water’s Edge is about commitment. We exist to help people commit to God. We exist to connect people to each other and allow people to commit to one another: families, friendships, small groups, and teams. We exist to commit to helping each other raise our children together. And we exist to commit to helping the hurting, poor, marginalized, and oppressed—right here in Omaha and all over the world. 

WE decided, from day one, WE weren’t going to just be consumers of a religious product, but participants in the Kingdom of God. Religion isn’t just part of our lives; Christianity is the relationship which drives all other areas of our lives. The Water’s Edge isn’t about what God can do for us; The Water’s Edge is about what God does in us and through us. 

Today is the last day of our WE imagine Capital Campaign. It’s been a journey. I have served churches much of my adult life. I have been blessed to serve with committed people in all these congregations. However, the WE imagine Leadership Team, specifically, and the church leadership, in general, have redefined and set a new standard of excellence for demonstrating what it means to be committed to God, each other, and the community. The time, the effort, the prayers, the sacrifice, the commitment—they all inspire the pastor. To date, 47 families have committed over $800,000 toward the purchase of land. That is over $17,000 per family! That is also commitment. Reaching our $1,200,000 goal to own the 23.3 acres of land on Harrison Street and the Ministry Center at 180th and Center and to be completely debt free in three years isn’t going to be easy. But nothing in life worthwhile is ever easy. People are going to have to give at levels we haven’t given before. But the people of The Water’s Edge have risen, responded, met, and surpassed every challenge and obstacle WE have ever faced. This challenge will be no different. 

Tomorrow is also the first day of the rest of our lives together. WE will keep loving and serving God, each other, our city, and the world. WE will follow wherever God leads us as WE remain committed to God, each other, and the world. 

The best it yet to come… 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WE Commit - Commitment Sunday

Dear Church Family, 

We had an incredible celebration yesterday during and after worship. We had over 700 people present! We have come a long way in a short time! 
Sunday, December 11th, at The Water's Edge

The children singing, the recognition of those who served the church by constructing and finishing the ministry center, the video testimonies of what the church means in people’s lives, and the worship music made yesterday a memorable day. So did the lunch, the children’s activities, and magic show! If you weren’t able be at church yesterday, I hope you will watch the video of the worship experience or look at the pictures online. 

One of the high points of the morning came when we announced that $803,962 has been pledged so far from 47 households for our WE imagine campaign. That is a three-year pledge of over $17,000 per household! The congregation cheered loudly at this good news and they should have. These families have sacrificed and led by example. We are off to a great start! 

Our Challenge Goal for the WE imagine Campaign is $1,200,000. This will pay for the 23.3 acres at 198th and Harrison Street and associated costs. It will also fully pay off our new Ministry Center. If we reach our goal, we will be totally debt free in three years and will be ready to begin building a church campus that will serve God, our people, and our community for generations to come.

Many in our congregatiton have not been asked to give financially up to this point in the WE imagine Campaign. That changes as of right now. The Challenge Goal is reachable, but achieving this goal is going to take additional sacrifice from the remainder of our families. For us to achieve our goal, most households will need to give at levels they haven’t previously given. That is where you come in. 

We have included a pledge card in this mailing. We want all households who call The Water’s Edge their church home to participate in the WE imagine Campaign. At the end of the worship experience, this Sunday, November 18th, we will encourage everyone to bring their commitment cards forward during communion and place them in the offering baskets. If you are unable to worship with us this Sunday, you can use the return envelope to mail in your pledge card. Calls will begin on Monday, November 26th, to those who haven’t turned in their pledge cards. It is important to note that the pledge you will be making is a three-year pledge over and above your current support to the church budget. 

In our short history, the people of The Water’s Edge have demonstrated the resolve and the ability to rise up and collectively respond to every challenge the church has faced. No obstacle has been too big. Your vision, imagination, grace, commitment, and generosity inspire me. I ask you to pray during the next few days. I also encourage you to make a financial sacrifice and help lead the church as we resource God’s vision together.

The best is yet to come… 

Craig Finnestad

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WE Celebrate - Worship

About as beautiful as beautiful gets.

AJ, the band, and the kids leading worship

Monday, November 12, 2012

WE Celebrate - Sermon

WE celebrated all God has done and is doing at The Water's Edge and took some time to dream about the future. WE also got an update on the WE imagine Campaign. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

WE Celebrate - Column

Some call it a celebration. Others may call it a feast. The word party can be used as well. It’s people gathering together and doing something enjoyable to mark a significant event or a happy day. Graduations are celebrations. So are birthdays and anniversaries. Weddings are too.

Today we celebrate. We celebrate God’s presence, God’s power, and God’s promise. We aren’t celebrating that life is perfect. We are celebrating the One who is. The One who cheers and smiles when times are going good. The One who helps in times of need. The One who holds in times of despair.

The Water’s Edge has lots to celebrate. Five years ago we were a small ministry meeting in a middle school lunchroom. Things have changed. Last week we had over 650 people worshipping, connecting, learning, and growing. During the last five years we have fed thousands of people in Omaha; sent hundreds of people across the country and the world to serve poor and hurting people; and given tens of thousands of dollars to missionaries with whom we partner. 

Each Sunday morning we invest in the lives of children. We have the best children’s ministry around. Our volunteers are very dedicated and creative people! Our middle and high school youth ministry is larger today than the group of people who worshipped at Russell Middle School five years ago. We are spiritually investing in our students! 

This fall we had over two dozen adult small groups. Men and women laughing, praying, sharing, eating, learning, and serving together. Existing friendships are being strengthened and new friendships are being formed. 

This past week we moved into our new ministry center. This wonderful building was made possible by our congregation’s generosity and the labor of many of our people. A few weeks ago we unanimously agreed to purchase over 23 acres of land at 198th and Harrison Streets. Next week we will commit to funding our property. 

I have a feeling in early December, when we announce the results of the WE imagine Campaign, we will be celebrating again. As a congregation, The Water’s Edge has risen up and taken on every challenge we have ever faced. I have no reason to believe the future will be any different. Partly because I know you. You are committed, generous, passionate, and growing. And partly because I know God. His provision always accompanies His vision. His will does not take us where His grace will not sustain us. 

So today we celebrate God and what He is doing in us and through us. We celebrate relationships that are healing and helpful. We celebrate children and youth who are growing and developing. We celebrate the opportunity to serve and love others—just like Jesus served others and just like God loves us. And we celebrate the unlimited possibilities of our future and cling on to the promise that the best is yet to come. 

In Christ, 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Once in a Lifetime

David fell asleep during tonight's bath.
He must have been exhausted, relaxed, or both!

Monday, November 5, 2012

WE Give - Sermon

A sermon on living a generous life.

2 Corinthians 9

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gratitude and Hope

I sit at my desk and see a reflection of myself in the glass of my bookcase. It’s a pretty dim reflection. Which is just as well. My five year old son David says I look like a hot dog when I wear the shirt I am wearing. 

The books behind the glass have absorbed the reflection for years. The books are no longer on the shelves; they are in boxes. Books on theology and Latin and communication theory. Most of them are in boxes now and will be there for quite some time. The shelves are dusty. My waste basket is full. A picture of my grandpa Adolf, Amber, and me remains on my desk. It is my favorite picture and will always be. Pictures of two boys share the wall space and four college and graduate school diplomas. They will be taken down whenever I have a few free moments. Today isn’t looking very good.

A few of the books needing to be moved

I have been in this office for over seven years. Some of my best friends work down the hall. I walked through the worship center the other day. I remembered the dozens of weddings and funerals. As I look at the door to my office I see hundreds of faces of loving men, women, and children who have stopped in for a visit. Most because they wanted to. Some because they had no where else to go. In a few days I’ll turn in my keys. I’ll drive out of the parking lot for the last time and look into the rearview mirror with feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving. 

I’ll drive to another parking lot about five miles to the west and through the windshield will see our new ministry center. Again my thoughts will be thoughts of gratitude and thanksgiving. For a new church that has the vision and resources to purchase such a building. For the men, women, and children who volunteered hundreds of hours to turn this dream into a reality. For being part of the blessed beginnings of something much bigger than any of us and all of us. For hope and possibilities that are a gift from God. 

The ministry center will be a work in progress for a few weeks. Boxes to be unpacked. Furniture to be delivered. Pictures to be hung. Networks, copiers, office supplies, etc… In the chaos of moving, worship will still be planned, meetings will still happen, and columns will still be written. WE will successfully complete our WE imagine capital campaign, WE will have three Christmas Eve worship experiences and welcome hundreds from the community, and 2013 will be our best year yet! Order, rhythm, balance, and harmony will emerge from the disarray and commotion. 

Life is a lot like this, you know. We have a choice to look in the rear view mirror or through the windshield. Every once in a while we have to look and see what is behind us: we learn from those who have taught us and we learn from our mistakes. But too much looking in the rearview mirror makes it impossible to arrive at our destination. 

Remembering the past with gratitude and moving forward with hope,