Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating Harmony

Psalm 133:1
“How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live together in harmony!”

In thinking about being in tune with God and others, I realize that I have to practice my part if the song is to be beautiful and harmonious. In the end, none of us are soloists but are part of a beautiful choir singing the new song of life in Jesus. Working on my part is important if the song is to be in harmony with others.

Just acknowledging the ideal of harmony with others is a big step. To be aware of its importance and understanding my relationship to others is key-to be in tune with Jesus so I can be in tune with others. Making harmony a priority is the biggest step anyone can take. To consciously set out to create harmony as a personal life goal is huge.

Cultivating the habit of noticing and paying attention to others helps create harmony. Self-centered people destroy the harmony of any environment. Unless everyone in that group wants to tune themselves to the selfish one. When I notice others in detail I am better positioned to understand them and what is happening around them. “Paying” attention is critical. The word pay is interesting to me because I find that real focused attention to others is costly. It many times comes at a price-usually to my own ego or selfish desires.

Learning to listen more deeply is one of my personal goals for the coming year. Empathic listening and “feeling with” people as they speak does much to harmonize relationships. The deliberate investment of my heart in others is what I’m talking about. To create harmony and live in unity is to give Joy to the world and I believe it puts a smile on the face of Jesus.

Romans 15:5-6 (NLT) 5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other—each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuned to Middle "C"

“…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” Phil 2:2

I remember when I was a little kid (back in the 70’s) a commercial would play at Christmas time where people from all over the world came together to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”. There they are from Africa, Europe, Asia, and North & South America holding candles and harmoniously coming together in unity. What is this that has done what so many have failed to achieve. What is this that has broken down the walls of division and hatred and created such Joy? COKE! Yes its coke the “real thing”.

Harmony is a beautiful thing when it is achieved. I have a lot of experience trying to make it. In music, some of my most enjoyable moments have been in performances where I and others found our parts and perfectly harmonized to make something beautiful. I have also been in other moments where we made something altogether different and, well let’s just say, less than pleasant. If you think about it, your experience will bear this out-good harmony in music always produces a smile while bad harmony will almost always educe a frown (unless you politely fight it).

Life is like that as well. There are times when I find “my part” in relationship with others and harmonize to create something beautiful.

When we moved to Las Vegas, we loaded our piano on a moving truck and drove across the county. The 1000 miles of starts, stops, bumps, and climate change took a toll on the instrument. It had to be tuned. The first thing the man who tuned it needed to do was find “middle C”. From the orientation of middle C the rest of the keys find there correct sound. Then the piano can make beautiful music for all to enjoy.

We are told in the book of Philippians to “have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. Apart from finding middle C (Christ) and tuning myself to Him, I will experience an unpleasant lack of harmony in life. In music there are major and minor chords that can be played. Apart from Christ people major on the minor. Pettiness, selfishness, pride, and rivalry win the day. Jesus teaches us how to major on the majors and in humility find ways of coming together to do beautiful things. We can bring Joy to the world as we “esteem others as better” and “look to the interests of others”. Our homes and places of employment can be transformed into harmonious environments of cooperation, effectiveness and great joy as we find “middle C” and adjust our hearts to him. Keeping Him at the center helps us to sing our part.

Jesus truly can teach us all to sing in perfect harmony. He is the real thing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stubborn about my Joy!

“But whether or not their motives are pure, the fact remains that the message about Christ is being preached, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” Phil. 1:18

When I look around in my life, I can see many things. My field of vision is broad, but my focus is narrow. I choose what to focus on. Yes there are plenty of things to distract my view and some times even obstruct it. But I can always reposition myself and fix my gaze where I choose.

In reading Philippians today I noticed the maintaining Joy is often a choice of focus. Paul had a focus on preaching Christ and making Him known. He could look around and focus on a lot of things. Many of them going in what most would think was a negative direction. But he disciplined his thought life and chose to see the best thing-Christ was being preached.

Paul seemed a little stubborn at times. You can follow his story and see where that was a negative trait at times. But you can also learn something very valuable from his stubborness. I am learning that I have to be stubborn about my joy. I cannot let circumstances, pettiness of others, or uncertainty about the future to steal from me my joy. I can stubbornly choose to focus on Jesus and the good things He provides in the now. I can count my blessing or rehearse my dissappointments. The choice is mine.

So today I choose to have Joy. AND I will continue to choose Joy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My source of Joy

The other night I was watching an interview on Lary King with Winona Judd. She was talking about her current victory over depression which led her to alcoholism. She said something that I may never forget: "Now days when I start to reach for a drink, instead I reach for relationships." She went on to explain that healthy, loving relationships was what she always needed and did not have. Now her happiness is found in love with other key people that she allows into her life.

I have found this to be true as well. Joy for me is found in relationship to others who I am exploring what it means to give and recieve true love. Nothing matters more than relationships. Those who devalue relationships lose out on much of life's joy. Paul recognized this in his letter to some of his friends. They had a "special place in his heart" and were a constant source of joy in his memory bank. He could simply think of them and experience joy. Listen to the message paraphrase:

"It's not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. 8 He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!" Phil. 1:7-8 (MSG)

Jesus taught us that the secret to joy was loving each other the way that He loved us. To lay down our lives for each other and serve one another in love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:11-14 (NIV)

My joy is ultimately found when I listen to Jesus who leads me to live an others-centered life giving myself away in loving relationships with those He loves. I am glad that Jesus is showing me this again. My joy is expanding as I obey Him in this. Like Winona, I too am reaching for relationships.

May the Joy of Jesus be in you today and may your joy be full!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Do Justice...

Today is a great opportunity to make this world a better place. No matter where we go today as we walk with Jesus, we can humble ourselves under His mighty hand and He will grace us with strength to make a difference in other's lives.

Look around yourself. Do you see them? Do you see those who are hurting? Do you see the ugly, unpopular, under priveledged who suffer. Go to them, encourage them, pray for them. Be the life of Jesus and spead justice in an unjust world.

To love mercy is a major driving force in bringing heaven to earth. Mercy means to see people from two vantage points: 1. You must see through God's eyes. What do He see when He looks at a person? What does He feel? What insight does He have about the why and how of thier suffering? 2. You must see through the other person's eyes. How do they feel? What is it like to be them?

To walk humbly with Jesus is to realize that I am no better than anyone, and deserve no better (I don't want what I deserve) than those who may be suffering around me. To wash the feet of those in need is at the heart of what it means to walk humbly with God. Prideful people do not understand God's heart for the injustice in our world. In humility God lifts us up and shows us His perspective and empowers us with His grace to change things for good.

Isaiah 42:1-4 (NIV) 1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Do you really love me?

Once a woman went to her husband and said, “Honey, do you love me”? He said, “Of course I do.” She walked away with the same lack of assurance as she came. Why do you think she asked?

Probably because the love was only verbalized not actualized.

If I ask you, “Do you love God?” What will you say? If you are like me you will say, “of course I do”. Let’s examine what the Bible says about true love for God:

We show our love for Jesus and God by obedience.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (John 14:21)

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

Love or non-love for Jesus is reflected in our obedience to Jesus' teachings.

Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23, 24)

Love for God is reflected by our actions, not our words or emotions (which both can be a lie). Our actions do not lie. When we obey, we say, “I love You” according to God. Also when we obey, God reveals more of Himself to us. He “comes to us” and “makes His home with us”. What a priveledge for the one who obeys. What an honor to know and be close to God!

Some might say what does that mean-to be close to God? I know what that has meant for me but I cannot know what that means for you. Obey Him and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God is slow

When I was a little boy I was one of the fastest kids in my school. I loved racing other kids on the playground. Often, I could outrun them. When we try to "outrun" from God it is comforting to know that he is slow. Jonah discovered the God was slow.

Ex 34:6
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

Nu 14:18
18 'The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.

Ne 9:17
17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

Ps 86:15
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Ps 103:8
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Ps 145:8
8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

Joel 2:13
13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Jnh 4:2
2 He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Na 1:3
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

When I try to run from obedience to God, He will always catch me but thankfully he is slow to be angry with me. I love You Father!

First Time Obedience?

The other day I went to pick up my little boy from preschool and I asked his teacher how he was doing. She said, “Sam needs to work on first time obedience”. I told her that we would help him in that area immediately. As I drove away from the school firmly telling Sam about the error of his ways a gentle nudge came my way. “You need to work on your first time obedience too Chris”.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:” Jonah 3:1 (NIV)

How many times does it take for you to obey God’s voice? Are you a first timer? 2nd? 3rd? 4th? 5th?

I am fascinated by God’s parenting approach. I can get pretty hot after asking my son several times to respond and does not. But isn’t it interesting that when God comes to Jonah a second time He does not remind him of his previous failure, He make no mention of being rescued from death, nor does He make sure Jonah remembers his vow. In fact, there is no hint of anything but grace as God reinstates Jonah to his mission. He does not even warn him of the consequences if he tries to run again. It would be a gross understatement to say that God is patient and gracious.

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; Psalms 103:8-13 (NIV)

Does this make me more passionate about God or less? Does seeing God like this inspire reverence and loving obedience? OR do I despise the riches of His goodness?

4 Don't you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? 5 But no, you won't listen. So you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin. For there is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world, 6 will judge all people according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and practice evil deeds. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on sinning—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. Romans 2:4-11 (NLT)

I am thankful that God does not always spank when I don’t obey the first time. I need grace not to take Him for granted. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments”. May we love Him with our obedience. May we have grace to even obey the first time!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Does God hear your prayers?

“2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2 (NIV)

Do you ever wonder if God is listening to you? Are there times when He listens and times when He doesn’t? If so, why?

“14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)

Alright, so “if” we pray according to His will He hears, so how do I know His will? Without getting into all the ways different people discern God’s voice or will in their lives, I just want to say that if anyone sincerely desires to know God’s will, God can and will show them. And He will show us in a way we can be clear about it. Someone might say I have been asking God about this or that and He has not replied. It could be that Jesus’ brother has counsel for us:

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” James 4:3

Sometimes we are not really seeking His will but trying to get Him in on ours. Instead of thy kingdom come, thy will be done, it is my kingdom, my will. If we really want to know what He wants, we will know because He will show us. How He does that is always up to Him. But make no mistake, He can get that done.

Jonah, in the depths of God’s loving discipline, cried out to God and God heard him. What happened? Could it be that Jonah had a change of heart? Of course, you might say, who wouldn’t? This is exactly what I mean though. The other day I was talking to a friend as he confessed that it seemed like when he really hears from God is when he gets desperate. I have come to believe that my heart condition is a major key to an audience with God. Another one of God’s prophets wrote:

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

These words are written to people who were anything but wholehearted. So God designed a season of captivity to get their hearts recalibrated. God knows when we are serious. He also knows when we are half-hearted and distracted by the world and its desires. Jonah had the pull of the idolatrous city of Tarshish and all its trappings on his heart. He turned away from God to his own way. It happens to all of us from time to time.

Could it be that only the heart that is pure or sincere in a matter gets God’s attention? Could it be that God sometimes lovingly creates those conditions for us if we will not? Maybe to get an audience with God, you have to be somewhat passionate about it. Maybe He has to be first in our lives after all. It is no coincidence that as soon as Jonah starts talking about making sacrifices and repaying vows the fish spits him up on the beach with a whole new course setting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Resistance is Futile!

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile." -- The Borg, Star Trek, The First Contact

I grew up loving Star Trek (The original one of course). In the Next Generation the Borg were introduced. No one escaped the Borg. They assimilated everything into their “collective”. Resistance was futile.

Jonah 1:17-2:1 (NIV) 17 But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God.

After Jonah’s stubborn disobedience he finally learns that resistance is futile. God has chosen Jonah for a specific mission. He had designed Jonah’s destiny and was not going to be thwarted by his disobedient heart. He causes a great storm and prepares a great fish to bring Jonah to his knees in submission to His will.

I take great comfort in this story. There is a little Jonah in me. I thank God for His determined purpose in our lives. He begins a good work in us, pursues us, and disciplines us until he completes us. He knows how to get us back on track no matter what. He brings correction and fulfills his divine plan to use Jonah to show compassion on the wicked city of Nineveh. I believe that this story is replayed again and again in the lives of God’s children.

Tell me, what should we fear most, God’s loving discipline, or him just moving on and using someone else? I don’t want to be left to my rebellious ways. I want to be thrown into the violent ocean of God’s loving discipline. I am thankful that there is no place to run from Him as His child. I am praying for a listening ear and an obedient heart.

8 The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control." 10 Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. 11 So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! Ps. 32:8-11 (NLT)

Obey His will with joy today or get ready for a deep sea adventure with God! Resistance is futile!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I did it my way!

"But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD." Jonah 1:3

Frank Sinatra 1968
And now, the end is here

And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full

I traveled each and ev'ry highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way
I've loved, I've laughed and cried

I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,"Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way"
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!

We have been talking about Jonah and how God spoke to him. He told Jonah exactly what He wanted him to do. God wanted to use him to reach out to a wicked people group. But Jonah had absolutely no desire to go to Ninevah and speak to people that he greatly feared and hated. In his mind, Jonah had legitimate reasons for not wanting to
preach to the Ninevites.

When God does speak, He will often ask us to do things we don’t want to do. To the degree that we trust God is the degree that we obey God. We must be convinced that He is wise beyond our comprehension and that His way is ultimately best even if we cannot see it in the present.

Jonah like Frank had ideas doing something completely different. Do you have something that you know God has said to you that you just don’t want to do? Do you believe if you obeyed Him your life would be worse? Jonah did. And I guess Frank did too. At the heart of being a Christian is the issue of will. Whose way are we going to go? My way or God’s way. This is why we are called followers of Jesus. He has a good and perfect will that he wants executed in the earth. That is the will of His Father. Our responsibility is to surrender our will to Him each day and let His voice guide us. Or I can do it my way. My choice.

I gotta go for now. I have two things to do that I don’t want to do.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Can you here me now?

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." Jonah 1:1

In reading Jonah this morning, I find it interesting that the “word of the Lord came to Jonah”. These simple words contain one of God’s most intriguing mysteries. The fact that God does personally speak to people. I wonder how God actually spoke to Jonah. Was it in a dream, a vision, a strange circumstance, or does someone tell him? Is there a voice from heaven that only Jonah hears? Does he have a gut feeling that he just can’t shake?

When you think about it, this is a fundamental question for someone who believes in a “personal” God. How does this God let people that He loves know what He wants?

I hear people say with such certainty things like “God told me” or “I heard God’s voice”. I sometimes wonder about such bold assertions. But it really doesn’t matter what I think about what others feel they have heard from God. The Bible is filled with accounts of, well, let’s just call them “interesting people” coming up with strange stories of how God spoke to them. Often the people around them thought they were weird, if not out of their minds. Yet they ended up being right about hearing from God.

There are specific things that God wants to see happen. He will speak to us and invite us into His will. Our privilege is to discern His voice and join Him. It is then that we find our place in His story. Jonah’s place was to save the lives of thousands and thousands.

So how does God speak to us? In many different ways.

1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. Hebrews 1:1 (NLT)

If you talk to ten people you will get as many different answers. I like that. I like that God is both mysterious and personal. Ask any parent who has more than one child and they will tell you that it takes different approaches to communicate effectively to their children-what works with one does not with another. Good parents who love their children and want to provide wise guidance will learn their child’s language and get through to them. Parents can also be very creative in the way that they “cast vision” for their children and enjoy the relational process.

God knows your language and He speaks it fluently. I believe that He enjoys communication with us. But often He is mysterious. We must allow for this fact and let Him speak to us how He sees fit. Whether or not we are listening is another discussion entirely. Suffice it to say that if we want to hear, God knows how to “get through” to us. Those who do not, well, I don’t know about what happens for them. I guess they go it alone.

Does God have something He wants to say to you? Or me? Are we listening? Is there something he wants us to do? Is there someone He wants us to save?

Current Musings from the book of Jonah

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Toxic Shame

Almost everybody has something they are ashamed of. Something in our past that we would rather just forget about and move on. Something that we hope no one else ever finds out. Some have made peace with their secret past. They have moved on. They experienced a healthy sense of shame that led them to a realization that dishonor and dishonorable behavior was unacceptable. They have been honest with God (and others) and confessed and turned from it. They have healed/are healing from the damage. Others have not.

There are many who live with a toxic sense of shame. They feel more than guilt. They don’t just feel bad about what they did, they are what they did. Toxic shame, the shame that poisons us, is experienced as the all pervasive sense that I am flawed and defective as a human being. In his book, The Road Less Traveled Scott Peck explains, “Toxic shame is a state of being, a core identity. Toxic shame gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing and falling short as a human being. Toxic shame is a rupture of the self with the self”.

Toxic shame is like internal bleeding. “Exposure to oneself lies at the heart of toxic shame” says Peck. “A shameful person will guard against exposing his inner self to others.” He will live with a sense he is a failure to himself. His identity is now intrinsically connected with past failure. He has’nt just a guilty conscience for a particular failure, he is a failure. He has not let himself and others down, he feels he is a let-down.

Erik Erikson writes,

"Once internalized, toxic shame is functionally autonomous, which means that it can be triggered internally without any attending stimulus. One can imagine a situation and feel deep shame. One can be alone and trigger a shaming spiral through internal self- talk. The more one experiences shame, the more one is ashamed and the beat goes on.
It is this dead-end quality of shame that makes it so hopeless. The possibility for repair seems foreclosed if one is essentially flawed as a human being. Add to that the self-generating quality of shame, and one can see the devastating, soul-murdering power of neurotic shame.
The reader can begin to see how dramatic it was for me to discover the dynamics of shame. By being aware of the dynamics of shame, by naming it, we gain some power over it."

Do you have a healthy sense of shame? Do you have a strong desire not to dishonor yourself and those you love (especially God)? Or has something much more toxic been diabolically set up in your life? There is hope in Jesus Christ. If you don’t like the person you have become you can be made new.

2 Cor. 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Join us this weekend at NCC as we find a hope-filled new identity in Christ. Hear the final message in the “My Secret” series and discover how to be free from shame and receive new energy in life!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sexual Healing

Porn revenue is larger than all the revenues for ABC, NBC, and CBS combined.
90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed porn online.
33% of visitors to adult web sites are women.
Adult bookstores outnumber McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. by a margin of at least 3-1.
Up to 37% of men and 22% of women admit to having affairs.
About 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in some marriage
Conservative infidelity statistics estimate that "60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair at some point in their life”.

18 Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Or don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (NLT)

Our bodies where created by God with certain strong drives and powerful desires. Sex is one of them. The problem is that many do not know the truth about sexual sin. While God created sex and declares it holy, Satan lowers his crosshairs directly at this blessed gift. He seeks to steal its purity, kill its joy, and destroy its purpose.

Our bodies are for God. He cleary states that He wants to inhabit us as His temple. He wants to fill us with His presence and satisfy our spiritual desires. He gives men and women marriage as a healthy way to enjoy sexs and to be satisfied. By doing this he protects us from emotional and physical harm. As we follow His Spirit’s leading in us we are fulfilled, but Satan knows how to wound us. He understands how to introduce experiences (usually when we are young and innocent) that will scar us for life. Some of these sexual secrets have been huting our relationships.

There is a greater desire that leads to healing and wholeness in our lives. The sexual brokenness of our secret past does not have to define our future. We can be free. WE CAN BE LOVED. After all, isn’t that what this is all about anyway? Surrender your God created body to the one who loves you so much that He died to show you His love.

Join us this weekend for “Sexual Secrets” and learn how to be free. Invite a friend.

My Chemical Romance

Statistics show that 7 in 10 Americans are either addicted themselves, or have a close family member who is addicted to a destructive habit. When asked they report the addiction negatively affecting them in one of at least three ways: Physical illness, financial hardship, or emotional trauma.
How does a person become addicted? Here is some of my research
Typically it happens like this:
A person takes a drug of abuse, be it marijuana or cocaine or even alcohol, activating the same brain circuits as do behaviors linked to survival, such as eating, bonding and sex. The drug causes a surge in levels of a brain chemical called dopamine, which results in feelings of pleasure. The brain remembers this pleasure and wants it repeated.

Just as food is linked to survival in day-to-day living, substances begin to take on the same significance for the addict. The need to obtain and use becomes more important than any other need, including truly vital behaviors like eating. The addict no longer seeks the substance for pleasure, but for relieving distress.

Eventually, the drive to seek and use is all that matters, despite devastating consequences.
Finally, control and choice and everything that once held value in a person's life, such as family, job and community, are lost to the disease of addiction. Like a young person blinded by an infatuation, a stormy chemical romance ensues and eventually destroys that person’s life.

Join us this weekend for a powerful message entitled “My Chemical Romance”.
If you are struggling or know someone who is, then you will find hope at New Community this weekend. There is a Way to freedom!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who are you really?

My three year old son now closes doors so as to not be seen in certain activities. The other night he closed the door to his room and climbed up and got into a drawer that had lotions and powders and such. In his newly achieved privacy he began to empty it all out on the carpet. After several moments of unusual silence, I went upstairs to look in on him. Our next few moments were instructional for both of us.

What do you do behind the closed doors of your life? That is a powerful question isn’t it? Who are you when no one is looking? The truth is there is never a time when “no one” is looking.

Proverbs 15:3
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

The eyes of God are always there. Like one of those paintings of someone’s face, no matter where you walk in the room the eyes follow you. I guess that could be a little scary for some. If you are in honest pursuit of good character it can be a joy that God is watching over you. But if you are running in the shadows this truth can be quite disturbing.

A different question is who are you when no people are looking? What secrets are you holding in that you hope nobody will ever know? What’s the stuff you’ve tried to stuff way down deep but still seems to linger somewhere right under your skin? Secrets-we all have them. Or do they have us?

Right now I am in the process of asking this probing question of myself. Who am I really? Who am I when no one is looking? Are there parts of my life that I still don’t want you to know about? Honestly, the answer is yes. I am taking action to change this. I want every area of my life to say that I truly follow Christ. Not most areas-every area.

Secrets can make us sick. Like mold and fungus that flourishes in low light, secrets have a way of spreading darkness throughout our hearts. The answer is light. We have to allow light to come into our lives. We have to choose to walk out of the shadows and into His marvelous light! The liar will tell you that you are safer in the shadows. He will attempt to scare you with thoughts of judgment and rejection. Don’t believe him. It is safer in the light. Let Jesus shine into your life today. Walk with Him in the light! Tell someone you can trust and shed light. Many are taking steps toward freedom. They are confessing sins to God and to the appropriate people. They are finding forgiveness & healing in a community of acceptance. Join us for the rest of this month as we lighten up the atmosphere a bit.

1 John 1:5-7 (NLT)

5 This is the message he has given us to announce to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Check your eye sight

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matt. 6:19-24

Jesus taught that money leads the heart. Our treasure indicates the direction of our heart. If I want my heart to be in a certain place, all I need do is invest in that place. Do you like where your heart is? Would you rather it be somewhere else? If so, put your money there and your heart will follow.

Be careful though. The human eye can be drawn to dark places. The lust of the eye has brought darkness into many a life. We need an eye examination now an then to see how healthy our sight is. When you look at the world what do you see? Do you see more and more for yourself? Do you see the possibilities of contribution to the Kingdom of God? What do you see?

The eye is the window to the soul. Look full into the face of Jesus today and let the brightness of His life shine into you. Let Him flood your heart with light. Let Him be your one and only Master.
Current Topic: "Mind Your Own Business"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

just click

Have you ever just clicked with someone? I mean you really connected at a heart level with them. You wanted the same things. You thought similar thoughts. You anticipated each others moves and worked in harmony with them. It is a rare thing but it is exactly what Jesus and His Father had. And it is His goal for the church.

"The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me." John 17:21-23 (MSG)

The last great prayer that Jesus’ followers heard Him pray was this one. His great desire for us was and is to know the joy and power of unity-to be one in heart and mind. Unity is a beautiful to see when it emerges. When people lay aside individualism as a primary concern and seek to unify around a cause amazing things happen. For those of us who profess Christ as Lord, we have our cause, or I should say, our Person. We centralize around Jesus and His teachings. Those who truly know Him are swept up into His love for the hurting and the lost. They live to know Christ. And so that others might know Christ.

Last weekend we observed, “Holy Communion”. As I looked over the congregation, my desire was that we would make the kingdom of God our primary concern. That we would awaken to know and follow Jesus “together”. That we would become “one in heart and mind”. My prayer is that we would reach out to the hurting and the lost of this would and touch them with the love of God.

This is my prayer:

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.” Phil. 2:1-2

Hopefully, with God’s help, and for Christ’s sake, we can find a way to click.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

was eve a 36c?

The crown of it all, the last stroke of God's brush on the canvas of creation if you will, was woman. God looked around at all He had done and said, "Good, good, and very good!" Then he looked at Adam's aloneness and said, "Not good." So He had one more "good" thing. Perhaps His most amazing work of art yet-woman. And reading the Genesis account Adam seems very pleased when introduced to her.

I've been thinking-was Eve a 36C? I mean, was she a "brick house"? Did she look like Jessica Biel, Paris Hilton, or I have heard some men's personal favorite, Halle Berry. Assuming that God's first woman was beautiful, what would have been the definition? Would it have been the color of her skin, the curves in her shape, or maybe her long flowing blonde hair? (By the way, where did I get that hair idea?)

I am not going to sit here today and write that there is no way to appreciate physical beauty in a woman. There is, BUT if God's definition of beauty were like most, then many woman would be shut out and categorized as unattractive or even ugly. Indeed most women are shut out by what we have allowed today (even in our churches) to be accepted as cultural norms in how we percieve females to be beautiful. What if, in God's wisdom, He created Eve 4 ft. 5 inches and she weighed a healthy 175 pounds? Her hair of course was purple for that is the color of majesty and royalty. Her skin being bleach white and pure as the driven snow. What would you think of that image?

Image is our key word here isn't it? God created them "in His Image". What does God's image look like then? Specifically what does the feminine aspect of God's image look like? Let me just say that whatever it looks like, it is beautiful. Very beautiful! And EVERY woman can reflect that same beauty.

"What matters is not your outer appearance-the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes- 4 but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. 5 The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way" 1 Peter 3:3-5

Of course most women will never accept this to the point that they have peace when it comes to their own physical appearance. My questions are, "What is the role of the church or Christian men? What are we saying to all our beautiful women? How are we a part of the solution for them? How do we teach in such a way that there can be a collective renewing of all our minds?" Just thinking.

beauty in ugly

_ug·ly (ug'le) adj., -li·er, -li·est.
1. Displeasing to the eye; unsightly.

Recently my son and I went to someone's house and met several people whom we have never met before. After being there for a few moments, a young woman looked at Sam and said, "Your son has a pretty face". I looked at her and did not know whether to thank her or slap her. My son is not PRETTY!

Men & women are obsessed with looking good-and looking good to each other. No one wants to be ugly. It is interesting to type in the word ugly and search the internet. Ugly people web-sites, ugly people forums, ugliness defined, ugliness demonstrated, etc. Even more interesting was listening to men this past week talk about what they found attractive in a woman and what they did not. I don't think I would want to be present when a group of women discussed ugliness in men-could be painful.

My question today is what does God see when He looks at you and me? Or does God even look "at" people. Does He see ugly and pretty or anything like that? The answer is yes, He most certainly does. We can learn how God views men and women and what he sees by looking at Jesus. What and how He saw people is profound. He definitely saw ugly and He often saw beauty and he called it how He saw it. Come this weekend as we continue the series "Men & Women".
We will discover the beauty in ugly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fully Vested

After working for the Clark County School District for 5 years, my wife was fully vested in their retirement benefits. Do you have any plans made for your retirement?

19 "Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or-worse!- stolen by burglars. 20 Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21 It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Matt. 6:19-21 (MSG)

Jesus spoke more about money than he did Heaven & Hell combined. It is probably because He knew how much time we spend making it, worrying about it, and letting it control our lives. As we think about our eternal futures Jesus gives us some very sound financial advice. "Stockpile treasure in heaven". I like that! Jesus knows and understands our desire to acquire wealth. He does not tell us that the desire is sinful, rather He harnessses it and gives it proper direction. He says invest in Heaven. Heaven's dividends far outweigh any earthly stock you could invest money in.

"And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life". Matt. 19:29

How do you invest in Heaven? You invest in people who are going there. It is that simple. Our Father's highest concern is His lost children. He wants them to come to Him. The cause (sake) of Christ is the single most important project in all of history. Our main mission while here on this present earth is to use every resource available to us to bring people back to God through spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Michelle and I have learned that when we give to the Lord we are actually investing. When we invest we remain connected to the investment and fully expect a return. We have been investing financially in people for years. We continue to find ways to invest. We do this with excitement knowing that one day we will "reap what we have sown". We are fully vested in eternity!

Are you properly planning for your future? Are you stockpiling wealth? Make sure you send plenty to heaven by giving faithfully to the cause of Jesus Christ. Get fully vested in Heaven!

Promotion for you

Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. 23 Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, 24 confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. 25 The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work. Col. 3:22-25 (MSG)

May today be a day that you "get to" go to work and not "have to"--even if you don't particularly enjoy your current job. May you labor with this truth in mind: No matter what my job is now, if I do it faithfully unto the Lord, He will promote and reward me in eternity. God will give us our dream job!

" `Yes,' the king replied, `but to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away. Luke 19:26 (NLT)

Do your very best work knowing that God is watching and appreciates your effort. May all who work around you be able see your ethic and glorify your Father in heaven.

Father, help us to be found faithful with the work we have to do. Thank you that we live in a country where work is available and opportunities abound. Give us strength to do a good job and bring honor to your name. Help us to set our hearts upon the day when you will say, "Well done".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dream Job!

Did you wake up and “have to” go to work this morning? Did you almost dread the thought of another 8-10 hours of your life spent doing something you don’t necessarily want to do at a place you may not really like?

In the new heaven and on the new earth people will finally be totally free to use their unique gifts and talents to honor God by endlessly building community and creating culture that glorifies God. Only then will we truly reflect His image and declare His goodness through untold diversities of gifts, talents and abilities that are in no way hindered by the curse. For thousands of years sin has thwarted the full expression of God glorifying work.

In heaven we will “get to” do work, not “have to”. In that time, we will know work to be an honor and a privilege instead of drudgery. Each new day will be an adventure as we “get to” do things as God’s servants that give full voice to what was always in our hearts but was suppressed by the curse of sin. Dancers dance like never before. Artists create like never before. Engineers design and build like no other time. Innovation and creativity will go to entirely new heights. Brokenness, sin, insecurity, and fear all gone.

With nothing to hold back expression, learning, development, and progress, resurrected people will be free to cooperate on projects and synergize to glorify God and create beauty at unprecedented levels. We can only imagine it now. The possibilities boggle the mind! What a day that will be! Luke 19 tells us that those who are faithful with the opportunities they have now, whatever they may be, will be rewarded and promoted in the next life. Finally, my dream job!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Heaven's Awful Alternative

"He will come with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don't know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power 10 when he comes to receive glory and praise from his holy people. And you will be among those praising him on that day, for you believed what we testified about him." 2 Thes. 1:7-10

Scripture is filled with references concerning heaven's awful alternative-hell. In fact, Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. He refers to it as a literal, physical place. Jesus says that unbelievers "will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and nashing of teeth" (Matt 8:12).

In one place he says that in hell people will suffer horribly, be fully conscious, retain memory and desire, long for relief, and live forever without hope. Some have speculated that we will experience the diminishing of our very personhod. C. S. Lewis said, "I have met no people who fully disbelieved in hell and also had a life-giving belief in heaven." Is it possible to fully appreciate heaven apart from understanding hell? Could this be why Jesus spoke so descriptively about it?

If I were honest, (I guess I'm about to be) I would admit that I have sometimes avoided the subject of hell in my teaching ministry. I have been afraid of what people would think or do in response to such a hard truth. Would they perceive God as unloving or unkind? Would they be offended and not come back to church? My faulty reasoning has been challenged of late. I am now coming to realize that it is not unloving or unkind to speak of hell any more than it is to speak of heaven.

We must love people enough to tell them the truth- there are two eternal destinations. The scriptures are clear that many will end up in hell, separated from the Lord forever. These people are your neighbors, coworkers, and family members. This awful truth should break our hearts and lead us to share the message of Christ's love and forgiveness to as many people as possible. I would never suggest that hell be at the center of of our Gospel conversation, but to omit it or minimize it does not serve the mission of the kingdom well.

It does us good to remember that our Lord desired for us to be eternally with Him in Heaven so much that He died a terrible death and went to hell in our place. May we never forget the incredible wrath and separation that Jesus experienced so that we and others would never have to. To downplay hell is to downplay the amazing truth of the cross and what Jesus achieved for us there. To actually think about hell has produced a much needed perspective and caused me to be grateful afresh for my gift of eternal life in Jesus.

Current series: "If I die before I wake"This weekend's message: "Hell No!".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Invest wisely

"After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is our proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy." I Thes. 2:19-20

My wife and I have come to view our lives as an investment. We fully believe that every act of service- every kind word spoken-every financial sacrifice made is an opportunity to secure even more joy in eternity. Each time that we reach out to touch another in Jesus' name we put a little more hope in the tank. This eternal hope fuels our lives and sustains us in times of discouragement. It keeps us focused on what is most important.

Just as a wise man that started investing young in life approaches retirement with a growing sense of anticipation, the more we invest in eternity, the more excited we become about heaven. The wise man looks and begins to see that his portfolio is good and will provide a wonderful life in retirement. He begins to daydream about all he will do with what he has stored up. His thoughts about his future are hopeful. Jesus encourages us to think about our future in similar, yet at the same time, very different ways.

"Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. 20 Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don't destroy and thieves don't break in and steal. 21 Your heart will be where your treasure is." Matt. 6:19-21

My heart is set on eternity and so I invest in it during time. I am investing in people. People and the difference we make in their lives will be a source of continual joy for us. And what is more is that God will reward us generously for everything we do in His name. "I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." Mark 9:41

It is our priveledge and our joy to invest our lives in the people of NCC! Invest wisely in your eternity today. Touch others in Jesus' name! One day you will be filled with the joy and reward that is found in Jesus Christ.

Current series: "If I Die before I wake"

This weekend is message: "Hell No!".

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Love In Heaven

“We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10 But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. 11 When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12 We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” I Cor. 13:9-12 (MSG)

In my attempt to envision what it will be like in heaven, scripture provides a window of imagination for the eyes of my heart. Even though all I can dream of or say now is incomplete, that does not keep me from drawing certain conclusions that, though they are not fully developed, are none the less true.

Corinthians thirteen is often referred to as the “love chapter” and rightly so. What many may not realize is that this is also a teaching about life in heaven. It says our relationships here on present earth are like babies trying to love each other. Babies though innocent, are ignorant and selfish. They will not truly learn to love until much later as they mature into adulthood. We are in many ways like babies trying to love. Even the most mature of relationships here in this life are only infant-like at best. There is so much that we just do not know about each other’s needs. Our ignorance of real love sabotages us right and left. What’s more, our sinful natures make relationships the greatest challenge we face in life. The curse clouds our vision so we cannot currently see our way to the fulfilling relationships our hearts were made for.

One day in heaven, there will be no more curse. The fog will finally lift and Love will be clear. The lenses of selfishness will be forever gone. We will know Him and He will know us-like we have never been known before. We will forever be in the presence of Love. We will forever experience unhindered Love. I believe the beauty of heaven will not be primarily found in the amazing landscapes, but in the faces of resurrected beings who finally know how to give and receive love. Relationships with spouses, family, and friends will transcend all that we currently understand. Our hearts will forever be filled with the only thing that really satisfies or matters-Love. Just think of it!

“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13

Current series: "If I Die before I wake"

This weekend is message: “Will I Be With Those I Love?”.

Coming Messages:

*Hell No!

*Finally, my dream job!

"Heaven-the church's best kept secret"

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God's deep secrets.” I Cor. 2:9-10

My wife, little boy, and I go to a restraunt in Vegas that is connnected to a casino. The restraunt is not really there to make money but to serve the customers who gamble in the casino (where the real money is). What many do not know is they have this patio that is perfect for breakfast. AND there is a starbucks right next to the patio! The breakfast plates are big enough for the three of us to share. Nobody is ever really there at breakfast so Sam can run around and play on the patio while shell and I relax and linger long over breakfast. It is one of the best kept secrets in Vegas. Where is it? I’m not tellin”.

Did you know that Heaven is also one of the best kept secrets? But it is the church that's not telling. While heaven is mentioned often, it is rarely discussed. It is even even more seldom described. Why? I do not know. Maybe Satan has a strategy to keep us from knowing the amazing wonders so we will anchor ourselves in the pleasures of sin here rather than longing for the mind-blowing experiences that God hasplanned and prepared for us in the new heaven and new earth.

“Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy;” Is. 60:5

Did you hear that? Heaven will make our faces radiant and our hearts swell and throb with Joy. I can’t wait! I will be everything we have ever desired and much, much more!

In our new Easter series, “If I Die Before I Wake” we take a provacative look at your next life. It has been the best kept secrets but I’m tellin’.

This weekend is message one: “Heaven-the church’s best kept secret”.

Come hear things you may have never heard before.

Let the anticipation begin in your heart.

Other topics include:

*Will I be with those I love?

*Hell No!

*Finally, my dream job!

Unleash the power!

“Remind the people to be ready to do whatever is good” Titus 3:1 (NIV) “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Titus 3:8 (NIV)

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good and not live unproductive lives.” Titus 3:14 (NIV)

Unleash the power of God's goodness upon the earth. Go about doing good for the rest of your life. Do good to someone even now.

Live beyond yourself!Have a great day today.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"The Power of Doing Good"

Living Beyong Myself Series Finale this weekend!

Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.--Margaret Mead

Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you have no power—together we have the power to change the world. Most significant changes in the world start slowly, at a single time and place, with a single action. One man, one woman, one single child stands up and commits to creating a better world. Their courage inspires others, who begin to stand up themselves, and then momentum gives rise to a powerful wave of good. You can be that person.
--The Better World Handbook

Achieve a new status

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave” Phil. 2:6-7

How do you see yourself? Do you think of yourself as equal to, or even better than others? If you do, chances are you are not very happy. Why? Because you were designed to contribute to the well-being of others-only then will you be at peace. If you serve, you bear the image of the one who created you. If you do not, you are doomed to a disfunctional existance of seeking to fulfill yourself in a myriad of empty pursuits.

Yes. Today is a day you can “cling to the advantages” of life lived for yourself. YOU can seek to align things for your comfort-for YOUR benefit. YOU can do just about anything YOU want. Or you can deside that you are here for something more. You can decide that your life is best lived when offered to others. You can grab the servant’s towel and seek to make life better for someone else. This is the way, the truth, and the life. You can transcend. You can escape. You can give. You can achieve a new status of greatness-SERVANT OF ALL.

“I tell you the truth, a servant is not greater than his master. A messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.” -Jesus (John 13:16-17)

Live beyond yourself!

see a new world

Escape American Idolatry

Many do not have a sense of their worth. They make no real contribution. Our culture exalts the latest entertainer to the highest place and barely notices those in society who make real investments in the lives of others. Our young people grow up scripted in “American Idolatry” and thus blinded to a whole world of real contribution and significance.
I find it fascinating that God would create us in such a way that the only true path to greatness is found not with microphone in hand and camera in face, but in humble service to others. I am in awe of the wisdom of God who designs us in such a way that personal fulfillment cannot be achieved by selfish means. For those who have eyes to see, a whole new world of possibility opens up to them. Looking beyond self and into the need of another, they view what many cannot or will not see-a golden opportunity.
Once Jesus followers argued among themselves about who would become the greatest in His emerging new Kingdom. Jesus took a towel and, adorned like a slave, washed each one of their feet. Then He asked a question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” He told them that they did not get it then, but they certainly would later. He then said something that has been my meditation for the last several days, “Happy are you if you do it.”
Happy? Washing stinking feet? That status is reserved for slaves. Ah status-there it is, isn’t it? Our “American Idol”, image-driven, pleasure seeking culture does not even have eyes to see the real Jesus much less hear His upside down teaching on true greatness found in service. How will we look? Will we be recognized? No microphone? No cameras? Many will help others but only under certain terms- usually ones favorable or convenient to self.
Our world is miserable because we have lost our point of reference. Our compass does not point to true north. Jesus invites us to see a new world. Not a world viewed as full of problems, but with opportunities. A new world of real reward and fulfillment. This incredible world can only be viewed through the eyes of a Servant.

Come this weekend to New Community and see a new world.

see a new world

Escape American Idolatry

Many do not have a sense of their worth. They make no real contribution. Our culture exalts the latest entertainer to the highest place and barely notices those in society who make real investments in the lives of others. Our young people grow up scripted in “American Idolatry” and thus blinded to a whole world of real contribution and significance.
I find it fascinating that God would create us in such a way that the only true path to greatness is found not with microphone in hand and camera in face, but in humble service to others. I am in awe of the wisdom of God who designs us in such a way that personal fulfillment cannot be achieved by selfish means. For those who have eyes to see, a whole new world of possibility opens up to them. Looking beyond self and into the need of another, they view what many cannot or will not see-a golden opportunity.
Once Jesus followers argued among themselves about who would become the greatest in His emerging new Kingdom. Jesus took a towel and, adorned like a slave, washed each one of their feet. Then He asked a question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” He told them that they did not get it then, but they certainly would later. He then said something that has been my meditation for the last several days, “Happy are you if you do it.”
Happy? Washing stinking feet? That status is reserved for slaves. Ah status-there it is, isn’t it? Our “American Idol”, image-driven, pleasure seeking culture does not even have eyes to see the real Jesus much less hear His upside down teaching on true greatness found in service. How will we look? Will we be recognized? No microphone? No cameras? Many will help others but only under certain terms- usually ones favorable or convenient to self.
Our world is miserable because we have lost our point of reference. Our compass does not point to true north. Jesus invites us to see a new world. Not a world viewed as full of problems, but with opportunities. A new world of real reward and fulfillment. This incredible world can only be viewed through the eyes of a Servant.

Come this weekend to New Community and see a new world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

my new career as a super model

Right now I have a window of opportunity. It is a brief one I know but it is an opportunity none the less. My son thinks that I am the greatest man on earth (even though Superman is now giving me a run for my money). Little Sam is learning at an alarming rate. He watches my every move. He repeats my words. Surely it won’t be long before he discovers the well kept family secret that Dad is not perfect. While it lasts, I plan on enjoying this season.

It is settling in on me now that he learns for more from what I am doing than what I am saying. I wonder if this changes when he gets older and has a better command of the English language? Will he do what I say? Or will he do what I do? Only if they match!

It is no coincidence that Jesus called His disciples to “be with Him”. He knew that the way we learn is primarily through modeling. He showed them and then they reproduced what they saw. The same is true with parenting. They will grow up to be what they see far more often than what we say. What our children take into life from us will be caught more than taught.

Have you ever said something like, “I’m never going to be like my dad/mom!” only later in life to have an epiphony that in many ways you are just like them? And the more you fight it the more you reproduce it. This has been quite sobering for me.

So I am now begining my new career as a “super model”. Look out Superman! Dad is going to try and give you a run for your money. I may not outrun speeding bullets or leap over tall buildings but I can show him Christlike character as I work to develop it. I can let him see the right way to treat a woman as I grow in love and respect for his mother. I can demonstrate for him a positive, hard-working attitude that refuses to quit when life gets tough. I can make church a fun place that he won’t abandon when he grows up. Yes it is up to me to be what I want to see in Him.

Join my wife Michelle and me this weekend for a unique learning experience called “Things are caught not taught”.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

the danger of following christ

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.” Phil. 3:10

One of the key characteristics of a dangerous church-one that poses a threat to the kingdom of darkness is that its members suffer for it. At the very center of what it means to be a follower of Christ is the inevitability of suffering for His name’s sake. Jesus was clear to his disciples that the world would not feel any better about them than they felt about Him. He warned them that they would suffer for the authentic expression of their faith. He told them to personally embrace the cross on a daily basis. Anyway you look at it, the cross means pain.

I have experienced suffering. Granted, some of it has been because of my own stupid choices (Ok, a lot of it!). But other times I have endured through very difficult seasons for no other reason than my heart to obey and follow the teachings of Jesus. Let there be no mistake, the road to becoming like Christ has many challenging moments. These times must be met with resolve to honor Christ, or we will become discouraged or even bitter about our hardship.

Paul once said, “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am completing what remains of Christ's sufferings for his body, the church.” Col. 1:24

He realized that the Kingdom of God moves forward against much opposition. The powers of darkness have many resources available to push back against the unstoppable force of the church. It is through “much tribulation” that the church of Jesus takes ground for the Kingdom of God. It may be a wife who endures in a difficult marriage or a man who suffers at the hands of cruel coworkers or a student that is ridiculed by fellow students for his faith. Sometimes we endure through stressful seasons in our private life all the while continuing to volunteer service in our church. We could go on and on.

Simply put, as Jesus’ followers we must be prepared to suffer if we truly intend to advance the Kingdom of God. We must not be surprised and remember that God gives special reward and honor to those who willingly endure underneath it.

"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world." I Pet. 4:12-13

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Its not safe

It is nice and safe to be in an environment where keeping me happy & entertained is the priority. Where there is no controversy and everyone remains very cautious. Where there is no confrontation, no one challenging, no one calling for change or even sacrifice. This is the environment of the average American church.

The church was born into a world of suffering and evil and given a dangerous mission: To overcome evil; to fight injustice; to defend the cause of the oppressed; to enter into the suffering of this world and bring hope to the hopeless.

Jesus told Peter that the mission would be to charge the gates of hell, set free that which is bound and bind that which holds it. This is a dangerous mission. It is not safe to attack Satan’s territory. Jesus’ church is a dangerous church.

Taking on this mission leads to a disturbing discovery-there is a covert enemy behind all of the evil. This enemy often leaves well enough alone as long as no real threat is posed. He too is on a mission of stealing and killing and destroying. The church of the “weekend show” warrants little of his attention. It is not dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.

In its beginning (Acts), the church prayed for boldness, took risks, stood firm against evil religious & political systems and gave rise to an unselfish community with a consuming focus to put the Kingdom of God first. I do not believe that what they had in mind meant simply going to meetings-if that where true we would have never heard of them. The church today is fast becoming like going to a pep rally with no real game the next day. I am concerned we have lost sight of our mission.

Recently the question was posed to me, “If your church were to close its doors, would it matter to anyone besides those currently attending?” The question bothered me. Would the surrounding community even notice?

Come hear the series “Dangerous Church”
Begins this weekend!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love yourself

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT) “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Ever had love end on you? Have you ever had someone say, “I just can’t do this anymore?” Have you ever been that person? I know that I have been tempted to quit on people that God wanted me to continue to love. Sometimes I have quit.

How do we make our love go the distance? How can we arrive at the end of our lives having not given up but hopefully endured through every circumstance?

I cannot love my neighbor as myself if I don’t love myself. If I do not take care of myself physically so as to be strong and healthy I will find it exremely difficult to love others. What happens to your relationships when you're run down? Little issues become big problems when you're tired. You're more cranky, defensive, critical when you're physically unfit. I believe that in many relationships love would clearly resurface by simply getting into better shape. Things like rest, real food (that actually has nutrients in it), and moderate exercise could dramatically change the way one feels and impact the way one loves.

What about my emotions? How do you know when you need physical recharging? Your stomach growls -- it's time to eat. Your eyelids get heavy -- it's time to sleep. We often overlook the signs and symbols that say our emotional tank is on empty. We often tend to ignore it more than eating and sleeping. Jesus often withdrew for times of solitude when he was drained emotionally. Time all alone can serve us well. Away from people, phone, TV--just silence. Some form of recreation can recharge emotions as well. Something you truly enjoy. Playing is for adults too you know (healthy ones anyway). Laughter is medicine for strapped emotions. Do you have people in your life to laugh with? Fun people who can help you not take everything so seriously? Believe it or not, God made you to laugh. It is a way to stay healthy, alive, and strong. Love is greatly enhanced when emotions are recharged.

Ongoing spiritual renewal is perhaps most vital. Allowing God access into my spirit brings insight and truth moments that make the difference in love. God shows us things about ourselves that are hindering love. He shows us the other people in our lives from His perspective, re-energizing our ability to love them. He softens a hard heart toward one who has offended when we are fed up and ready to quit. In short, God’s Spirit produces the vital fruit of the Spirit that makes lasting love possible. Good ole’ Bible reading and prayer is what the doctor orders. Without it, love will not go the distance in many, many relationships. But a spirit empowered by a word from God can bring some series love to the table.

You need to love yourself in order to love others. Do yourself a favor. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually so that you can make love go the distance.

Too weak to love

Having taken on this project of planting and pastoring New Community Church, I have found out that love can be exhausting. It takes tremendous energy to keep on loving. Yet real love is lasting love. It is durable, strong and not easily abandoned.

Considering that half of all marriages end in divorce and countless friendships are discarded as quickly as yesterday’s clothes. The question is why? For many the answer is there is simply not enough strength. They do not have enough physical, emotional, and spiritual gas in the tank to make it through the difficult seasons of real love. Their landscape is littered with debris of relationships that have crashed and burned because they didn't know how to refuel their love so it could last.

One of the most loving things you can do for others is take care of yourself. That’s right. Take care of you! In order to make your love go the distance you have to be strong-and strong in every way.

Your physical condition has an impact on your ability to love. Tired, stressed people often fall short. When my physical body is out of shape or undernurished, I lack energy for those I need to love. When my emotional batteries are drained, I can be short and unloving or even detatched. When my spirit is empty and unrenewed, I can become self-focused and unloving. It takes God’s help to make love go the distance. There are too many challenges along love’s journey. God’s Spirit can infuse our spirit with power to press through barriers between us and the finish line.

Someone once told me, “It is not how you start, but how you finish”. I believe this now more than ever. I want finish love’s race having developed the strength to keep on loving those along my path until I get to the end.

Are you losing your strength? Do you want to know how to increase your energy reserves? Would you like to be able to respond to the needs of others with more vitality than you currently have? Attend NCC this weekend and hear the message, “Developing a love that lasts”.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Redefining Love

When it comes to love, you get a lot of opinions. Frankly, the whole concept has become quite blurry.

What is real love? And is there a difference between that and the heart-pounding adrenaline rush you feel when you see...? You know the person I'm talking about. It’s that hot guy playing basketball at the gym. Or the amazing girl who makes eye contact as she passes by. The friend of a friend of a friend-maybe a best friend. It's that person we keep track of when he or she is in the same room, whose comments and actions we analyze to no end.

What about feelings? Love certainly involves feeling doesn’t it? I mean, I remember when I met my wife Michelle, Bam! I was in a world of emotions and feelings. How do I manage these wonderful gifts called emotions? Are they friends or enemies? How do they play into this thing called love?

And sex-what about sex? Love involves sex right? The entertainment industry tells us that whenever two people hook up in pop culture, they have sex. What does this mean to the possibility and the growth of love?

The Bible says that God is Love. What does He have to say? Are there answers to these questions that cut through all the blur and confusion?

Join me this weekend at New Community Church as we bring the blur of love back into focus and celebrate together clarity from God's viewpoint.