Thursday, September 25, 2014

Forgiveness

The young woman is starting her last year of college. She is going to make the most of it. She has her tickets for the home football games. Her and her friends have a spring break trip planned to Florida. She and her three roommates went out tonight. They had so much fun. Her first class is at 8:00 tomorrow morning. It’s 2:15 in the morning. She can’t sleep.

Sunrise over Lake Zorinsky this morning. It's a new day. Yesterday is gone.

On the other side of the city is a man. 2:15 in the morning is a time he is all too familiar with. He steps out on the front porch for some fresh air. The air is cool, but heavy. The only sounds are the locusts and a delivery truck making the rounds a few blocks away. His wife is sleeping. He walks back inside and looks at an old family picture. His heart turns heavier than the humid Nebraska air.

Heavy is the way the young woman would describe her heart. Her parents were divorced when she was very young. It was okay. She had a good relationship with each parent and they even seemed to get along with each other. Then one day, her mom started dating a man. They eventually got married. The young woman acted happy for her mom, but it was an act. As an eleven year old, she sensed the man was trouble. And she was right. The man was verbally abusive to the mom and then to her. He moved out a week after her graduation. She wishes he had never moved in. He left a path of devastation: shattered dreams, emotional scars, and seven wasted years. The man lives in Louisiana now and has moved on, but it’s 2:15 and the girl isn’t sleeping. 

The man puts the picture down. A tear flows down his cheek. He sees his 16 year-old boy with a big smile on his face. The boy is 35 now. He has a couple kids of his own. The man hasn’t seen any of them for about five years. Well, he actually has watched a few soccer games from afar. He would give anything to give that granddaughter a hug after she scored that goal. He wouldn’t mind giving his son a hug either—just like the old days—but that isn’t going to happen. A fight over money took place and the two stubborn men haven’t spoken since.

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. –Ephesians 4:32

As the deer pants for streams of water, my soul longs for You, O God. -Psalm 42:1
Forgiveness is God's idea. And it's a good idea.

The young woman and the man live in the same city and a different world, but they desperately need the same thing: forgiveness. Not for the sake of the offending party, but for their sake. Forgiveness, at its core, is an act of self-interest. Not forgiving allows the offending party to continue to hurt the offended. Forgiving allows the heart to heal. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or letting off the hook. Forgiving means to letting go of the past and its pesky travelling companions: anger, anxiety, and bitterness. Forgiveness is God’s idea for God’s children. And it’s a choice God gives us: we can remember and resent or we can forgive and live. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yesterday's Sunrise

Taken from 204th and F Streets at sunrise with an iPhone.
I only edited the contrast a bit on the road to make it less visible.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Little Bit About a Few Things

Lot Party Review

As I pulled up to the property on Sunday morning, I was a bit overwhelmed. I saw all the cars, the tents, the games, and the people. I thought of the commitment and sacrifice of hundreds of individuals and families to purchase this land. I dreamed that one day this will be an amazing church campus that serves as a beacon of light to Southwest Omaha and beyond. And I remembered how far we have come in such a short time.


The day got better. Hanging out with friends. Meeting new people. Doing about a dozen baptisms. Sitting in the dunk tank seeing the excitement of the children. I was one of the last ones to leave.

The day was a microcosm of who we are and who we are becoming. 

o People who genuinely love and care for and enjoy each other.
o Dedicated servants who go more than the extra mile.
o A safe place for kids to grow and families to develop.
o Open and inviting and welcoming to our neighbors and community.
o Imperfect men and women worshipping and learning from a perfect God.

Our Lot Party was such a great day—we’ll have to do it again sometime! Until then, I invite you to walk around the property. Spend some time praying. For yourself, for others, for the world, and for our church. 

Third-Grade Bibles

Today is a special day. We do it once a year. All our third graders, I think we have about 35 of them this year, will be getting their Bibles and beginning an eight month program on how to use them. I’m grateful for all the adults who will be investing their time and energy in these students!

Invite

Almost all of our growth over the years has been because of personal invitations. Friends inviting friends. Inviting is very easy for some. For others inviting is not very easy at all. Regardless, I encourage you to pray about who you can invite over the next few months. Offer to pick them up and sit with them. You can be part of somebody’s testimony.

Comparison

Today I’m talking about comparison. Comparing ourselves to others has been around since the beginning of time. But it’s not usually helpful and we won’t experience freedom in life until we stop doing it. If you don’t hear anything else this morning regarding comparison, hear this: Don’t compare yourself to who you perceive others are today. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

The best it yet to come…

Craig






Monday, September 15, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A New Kind of Farm

Sunday's Column…today

This place was once a farm. The John Deere tractor plowed the rich soil in the spring. A few days later the same tractor pulled a different attachment that drilled seeds an inch into the ground. In the early days the farmer would have manually walked the field and pulled the weeds. Or at least hired a few kids to do it. In more recent years the seeds were engineered to withstand a little Roundup, so the tractor gets some more work with a different attachment.



Some farmers are religious. Some aren’t. But they all pray. They have no other choice. Their hopes and dreams are as fragile as a butterfly’s wing. All their chips are on the table and they don’t know what hand they will be dealt. The right amount of rain at the right time means abundance. Too much rain, too little rain, big hail, and high winds are all disaster.

In the fall the corn and the beans were harvested. The farmer feeds the world. A twenty-three acre plot of land in eastern Nebraska can feed a lot of people for a long time.

I remember sitting across the table from some real estate professionals, an attorney, a couple of engineers, and the representatives of the bank who owned the property. They were talking about things my schooling in theology and languages and philosophy didn’t train me to understand. Thankfully, I was surrounded by some of our people who understood these things and then some. A light clicked on in my head much brighter than the overhead lights in the crowded conference room. 

It is still going to be a farm. The fertile ground is now holy ground. More feeding and better feeding is going to happen than ever before. The meal won’t be corn and beans, but the bread of life and the living water. Children will be loved, developed, and mentored. Parents will be supported. People will discover purpose and passion. Friendships will be forged. Relationships will be restored. The lonely will be embraced. The addict will find recovery. The overwhelmed will get some rest. The sinner will receive forgiveness. The scoundrel and the saint and all those in between will be equipped for service. Words of grace will be spoken. Prayers will be prayed. Songs will be sung. Baptisms and weddings will happen. Communion will be served. It’s all a feast fit for a king. And we’ve collected more than 100,000 pounds of food over the last few years running this operation out of an office condo and rented schools. No reason we can’t have a food pantry with corn and beans and other healthy stuff for hungry people. And maybe some clothes and anything else God wants us to share with our community.

Weather permitting, today is our first worship service on this property. We are going to baptize many people. We are going to welcome our guests. We are going to eat together, hear God’s Word, love our kids, pray, and connect with one another. It’s what we do and it is what we are going to do. 

Your faithfulness and God’s abundance have provided this property. I hope all of us take a little time this morning to pray and dream. We have had some great days, but our best days are in front of us.

In Christ,

Craig

Monday, September 8, 2014

Freeway: An Invitation to Slow Down

The first message in the series: Freeway. Freedom begins with an invitation to slow down, let blurry eyes see, and let a loving God speak to us.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Day in Pictures

Pre-Game

Halftime

The Arsenal won 8 - 1. Benjamin scored a goal, but it didn't count because he
used his hands. Would have been a great play in volleyball.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Declutter and Focus

Simple: Free of complications and clutter 

Simplifying means eliminating the unnecessary and urgent so we can focus on the necessary and enjoy the important. Many of us can’t focus on the necessary and enjoy the important because our lives are simply too complicated. Eliminate clutter. Eliminate it in your garage, your closet, your office, and your kitchen. And eliminate it in your finances, your relationships, your minds, and your spirituality.


Complicated: Containing intricately combined or involved parts. 
Clutter: A confused or disordered state or collection.

Complicated and cluttered lives prevent us from doing the necessary and enjoying the important. We can choose complicated and cluttered or we can choose to de-complicate and de-clutter so that we can spend our time, energy, and resources doing the things we want to do with the people we want to do them with. 

De-complicating and de-cluttering is simple, but not easy. It means discovering and indentifying what and who is most important and then eliminating everything else. The simple part is discovering and identifying. The not easy part is eliminating.

Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” –Jesus in Matthew 5:37 

Jesus was aware of the power of saying “no”. His aim in life was not to please people. His aim in life was loving God and loving people. 

Saying “no” is essential to eliminating complication and clutter. Saying “yes” to the unimportant and unnecessary is essentially saying “no” to the important. The best has become cluttered and complicated by the average, the mediocre, and even the good. All of us need to say “no” to various habits, things, and people: Maybe it’s television, anger, consumerism, smart phones, over-committing our time and energy, lust, social media, co-dependent relationships, unhealthy relationships, gadgets, materialism, selfishness, unresolved conflict, debt, image management, unfulfilled dreams, addictions, regrets, failures, unforgiveness, guilt, and low self-esteem.

“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” -Sören Kierkegaard 

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. –Jesus in Matthew 6:33 

Complications and clutter can also prevent us from experiencing or more fully experiencing God’s grace. We believe the constant barrage of messages the world sends us about happiness rather than trusting in God’s provision of joy. We confuse idle busyness with God’s purposes and eternal significance. We strive to be self-sufficient instead of dependent upon God. We seek God’s creation instead of God Himself. 

De-complicate. De-clutter. Focus. Enjoy. Relate. Live. Love. 

By de-complicating and de-cluttering, the best is yet to come… 

Craig