I'm talking about hope on Sunday as we begin WE Christmas. Check out the daily devotional guide at www.wechristmas.com. Here are a few thoughts on hope.
Thanksgiving is late this year. As late as it could possibly be. And until last week the weather was wonderful. It just doesn’t seem like the season of Advent and Christmas is beginning. I haven’t heard a Christmas song yet on the radio. Although that is not too surprising since I usually listen to sports talk radio or NPR.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Holy Night. I’m not skilled enough to sing it well, or any other Christmas song for that matter, but listening to somebody sing O Holy Night well is a real blessing. Part of the song 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. Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
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.
My grandpa Adolf was a gardener. Not so much roses or hostas or tulips. Tomatoes and peppers and sweet corn and radishes and potatoes were his thing. I was his helper. I loved doing it: digging, planting, watering, and especially harvesting.
Potatoes were my favorite. We cut them up and put them in a brown bag for a few days. We planted them when the snow melted. On the fourth of July we harvested the first batch of baby potatoes. Grandpa took the shovel and dug them up. I got on my hands and knees and like a kid on Christmas Eve, I carefully pulled up each potato and separated them from the roots and the dirt. I washed them and delivered them to the kitchen where grandma boiled the tender potatoes with sausage and onions. It was wonderful bordering on sacred.
Little did I know grandpa wasn’t teaching me about gardening. He was teaching me about life. He did a lot of that. I’m still a gardener. Church folk call people like me a church planter. This week before thanksgiving, one of the things I am most grateful for is the hundreds of other gardeners who invest so much of themselves in this plot we call The Water’s Edge.
You will always harvest what you plant. –Galatians 6:7
You have planted prayers, time, creativity, and energy in our young congregation. You know about the words commitment and sacrifice as you have financially resourced and continue to resource this garden. The harvest is friendships and forgiveness. Faith and freedom. Grace and Gospel. Hope and healing. Laughter and love.
Our garden is growing. Last November on Sundays we had 600 people per week. This November, that total is 750 people—an increase of 25%. A bigger garden creates a bigger harvest and also requires more planting. We can all make a difference. To exceed our budget goals for 2014, I challenge you to do one of two things:
1. If you are already giving generously to The Water’s Edge, I encourage you to increase your giving by 10% to 15% (for example, if you gave $5,000 in 2013 your gift in 2014 would be between $5,500 and $5,750). You already know the joy and blessing that comes from giving and the satisfaction from supporting an organization that is making a difference in people’s lives.
2. If you are fairly new or haven’t started regular giving to The Water’s Edge, I encourage you to become a faithful giver. To plant seeds and believe that God will multiply your gift and do great things in you and through you. Challenge yourself. Sacrifice. Commit to moving toward a tithe.
When WE do these two things, WE will not only fund our current ministry needs, WE will be planting seeds to fund a future harvest.
Toured the new NorthStar Foundation building this afternoon. They are hoping to be finished in April or May. Great people working with boys in North Omaha and making a difference one life at a time. Check out the high ropes also on the property. The good folks at Outward Bound would be happy to help you.
Gym / commons area with bleachers and two full-sized basketball courts
Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble. -Andrew Murray
I loved math as a kid. I get excited when the boys have math homework. Addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. Someday it will be skew lines, scattergrams, square roots, and stem and leaf plots—I love them all. Multiplication is my favorite. It is more exciting than addition. Its simplicity is beautiful. And watching multiplication happen is even more beautiful.
Jesus talked about multiplication and even demonstrated it. Peter asked Jesus if we should forgive offending parties up to seven times. It seemed like a legitimate question. Seven was a number of completion and totality. Jesus responded and said seven times wasn’t nearly enough and seven times seventy would be a good start. He used multiplication to teach about grace.
The disciples had a lot of mouths to feed and not a lot of resources to do it. They took some scraps to Jesus. He multiplied fives loaves of bread and the disciples fed the masses. He used multiplication to demonstrate God’s provision.
God is still in the business of multiplication. He takes our little and makes it a lot.
WE have experienced multiplication in the last six years. One small group is now thirty-five small groups. People are experiencing God’s grace, making new friends, and serving our city. Multiplication is a beautiful thing. A dozen or so kids during our first few Sundays at Russell Middle School was multiplied to 181 kids last Sunday morning and evening. Children are learning and getting excited about Jesus, being mentored by loving adults, and making Christian friends. As beautiful as beautiful gets!
I believe these two things:
1. The local church is the hope of the world.
2. The best investment we ever make is in people.
As a congregation you have consistently and abundantly shown generosity. God has blessed your gifts and used them in multiplication. You have invested in people by supporting the organization—the Church—that God has chosen and is using to transform the world.
WE started as a group of young adults wanting to start a worship experience and a network of small groups. Last fall WE purchased 23 acres of land that from this point forward will be a sacred place in our city where people of all ages and walks of life can come for Christ’s hope, healing, and salvation.
I continue to pray for us as WE practice generosity both now and in the future. And I continue to be in awe of God and His multiplication. Together, WE are on the ground floor of something great that is only going to get better. The first six years were incredible. I don’t want them to pass by quickly, but I can’t wait to see what He does in the next six years.
WE are having a church-wide celebration lunch after the 10:30 worship service at Millard West this Sunday. November is a month of thanksgiving, gratitude, generosity, and celebration – so we are starting it by sharing a meal together. You are invited!
Children singing at a 10:30 worship experience
It’s been a very good year for The Water’s Edge. I don’t really know where to start. I guess I’ll start where The Water’s Edge started. With a small group. We have 35 of them now including over 350 people. People sharing, learning, growing, praying, laughing, and serving together. Connecting to each other. Connecting to God. It’s what people did in the New Testament so we do it too. We have come a long way from the original group meeting a few blocks south of 173rd and Harrison Streets.
And kids. It’s always been about the kids. And there has never been a time when we have had more kids than we do today. On Sunday morning and Wednesday nights dozens of adult volunteers lead and mentor hundreds of children—babies through high school seniors. It’s a snapshot of heaven on earth. Jesus says when we love young people we are loving him.
We loved, served, and gave to our community and world like never before. We bought a van for Release Ministry. We collected over 12,000 pounds of food for hungry people in Omaha. We cancelled worship one Sunday and gave over 1,200 hours of service to our community. We sent over 125 people all of the county and the world on 5 mission trips. Twelve of those servants are in Uganda right now. Jesus said when we serve the least we are serving him.
We started new ministries in 2013. We now have both a men’s and women’s ministry. Both have big dreams for a bright future. Our leadership development academy, WE Lead, has 45 participants who are being equipped to be future servant leaders. And we launched a new worship experience, WE at Night, to reach more people. It is going to be exciting to see what God is going to do with all these new ministries.
I am excited about November. We give thanks to God and thanks for people who make a difference in our lives. In worship we are going to be looking at making a difference. Making a difference in the lives of each other. Making a difference to our children. Making a difference in our community and world. And having God make a difference in our lives. We will look at what it’s like to trust fully in God, put Him first, and reflect His generosity.