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Archive for October 2007

Midnight Madness

After this Sunday’s message, there has been ton’s of affirmation to me about abandoning my former plans for a message and listening to God. And I don’t think it is just because the original message was about money :)!

Pastor Wendell commented in a meeting this morning that ‘evangelicals are yearning for a spiritual experience – so hearing their pastor speak of wrestling with God increases their confidence of God being at work in our midst.’ What a great observation! It can feel cold if church becomes highly repetitive. It can feel like ‘man’s ideas’ if a church is well-programmed and highly relevant. The kind of spontanaity combined with the announcement of a late-night wrestling match with God is somehow comforting that God is at work.

It does raise the issue, though. How do we hear from God? How do we know if it is God? How far in advance can God speak? God speaks in many ways – through his Word, through community, and through personal interaction. This week was a dramatic example of discomfort and hearing a clear message from God in a very personal way. But God can speak in a lot of different time frames. Sometimes it is four days in advance. Sometimes, it is months in advance. Sometimes it is immediately before the message. Sometimes God speaks 50 years in advance.

God has a vision for this world…for human interactions, for messages, for churches, for businesses, for campsites, and for families. Sometimes he grabs your gut in a sponaneous moment, but you know what I find? Most often it is through a long obedience in the same direction. People who hear from God are listening to him all the time. Some will hear from God in a moment and know it is his voice, then spend the rest of their lives obeying that voice heard in that moment. God is alive and at work within every person who will allow him to speak to them. He speaks to kids, older people, business men, and stay at home moms. He is truly alive and at work. Will you listen to him? He will let you on the inside track of his plans for this world and his plans for you.

On another note…but tangentally related. People have inquired about how this compares to other weeks. Is it normal to hear from God about a message, or is this unique? Really, it is not a huge amount different from a regular week…just this time it was a totally different subject. Normally, we plan message series 10-12 weeks in advance, listening to God for broad themes a long time out, then getting more specific as time gets closer. We are constantly going to God’s Word for guidance and submitting our process to a community of people who design services in conjunction with listening to God. As for my part, I spend many hours every week in preparation and prayer. Good exegesis of the text, topical studies across the Bible, stories that illustrate well and gaining a deeper sense of ‘what is at stake?’ Hopefully, by Thursday, a pretty good message has been written. But you can find me nearly every Saturday night working through my message, praying through the sanctuary/gym and looking for modifications from God. Probably 1/3 of my message, on average, changes every Saturday night! Most of it is God leading me to cut stuff..

Some weeks, there has been a dramatic change on Sunday morning or the middle of the night Saturday. But usually, it is close enough to the initial theme, or set of verses that God led us to originally that nobody ever knows there were any changes. Since it is still ‘on theme’ I rarely speak of it on Sunday. Interestingly, this Sunday, many people seemed to be grateful to hear a bit about that process!

Anyway, for those who are interested about the spiritual side of message prep, there you go!

Reality Check

Well, it happened. It hit me while sitting in my office on Wednesday, October 3rd. It meaning, “Steve, what are you doing! You know nothing about multi-sites! You shouldn’t of taken this new position. There are so many people who are FAR more qualified than you to do this.”

“It” went on like that for most of the morning. Not voices in my head but my mind slowly spiraling downward focusing on my feelings of inadequacy and inabilities. To be honest, it scared me.

I’m so glad God is omniscient and omnipresent. With God all-knowing and ever-present, He was able to speak to me. Not immediately, but eventually, through unique means.

Friday morning, October 5th, found me reading out of my Daily Light, which is a compilation of morning and evening readings with verses focused around a specific theme.

The morning reading took my breath away. The first verse was from Psalm 50.15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” The next verse was Psalm 42.11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Later on was Psalm 103.2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

Obviously I was stunned and so very thankful. Those verses were perfect for me.

Question… Are you feeling really, really inadequate? I encourage you to look to God and let Him speak to you.

Later this month I had a good friend and fellow staff member tell me I was perfect for being a campus pastor. I said really? Why? She answered, “You love God with all your heart and you don’t know quite what to do or what you are doing.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Here during this month God spoke to me through His word and through a friend of mine. I encourage you to be honest with God and ask Him to not only speak to you in various ways but that you also will hear what He has to say.

On the Journey,
Steve

Whites have a choice

I so appreciated my time last week at Salem Baptist Church in the pulpit swap with the Rev. Selwyn Q Bacchus. Thanks for all the kind people there who hosted and helped me and my family. Thanks for an exuberant experience of worship! Salem Baptist knows how to ‘make a joyful noise.’ You guys rock!

For me it was an educational experience in crossing cultures. I showed up and did not know the ‘rules’. I came too early. I didn’t know where to stand or sit. I said some of the wrong things during my message (In nervousness “Thanks for inviting me to Selwyn Baptist Church…). Later, everybody stood up for the scripture reading. This was fine, but I did not know the right phrase to end and have them sit. So I just tried a random one that works in some churches “This is the Word of the Lord.” To which presbyterians and others would know to respond “Thanks be to God.” Unfortunately, when I looked up, it was the only time Salem was silent the whole day. Gulp….so I resorted to “You may be seated.” I looked over at the other pastor and asked “Did I do it right?” Laughter erupted.

Now I tell all of this because I was treated with lots of love and respect – even when I was messing up. People laughed and rolled with the punches. I had a GREAT cross-cultural experience.

But I chose to be there. I decided to go to North O and do a church service. I choose to go to North O frequently. Sometimes to have meetings, to take my kids roller skating, to serve people in the community. But I always choose to go. If I wanted to avoid it, I could live my whole life in Southwest Omaha and never interact with people different from me.

Selwyn taught me something in one of our meetings. He, and other minorities, don’t have the ability to choose whether to interact with majority culutre. They have to walk into uncomfortable situations and learn to navigate uncharted waters. This is partly why so many blacks, Hispanics, Asians etc. have great cross-cultural skills. They live in two worlds because they HAVE TO. It is necessary for survival.

Here are a couple of encouragements for my white friends out there. 1) Get into a place where you are the minority. Mess up, be uncomfortable, learn how it feels. It will increase your level of compassion and grace. 2) When people of other cultures – be it from the other side of Omaha or the other side of the world – come across your path…at work…at social events, at church… be the first to extend a hand. Build a friendship. Give a wide margin for grace. Be quick to include and quick to laugh. Remember we have a choice. Choose to engage.

It's happening

Thanks to the scads of people who have given great feedback on last Sunday’s message. You know what is the best kind of feedback a pastor can hear? It is when someone says ‘here is how your message is changing my life.’ So many of you have told me how you are taking steps in these arenas:

  • Bringing junk into the light
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Breaking through spiritual barriers

Way to go! I am so glad that you are making progress in Christ and living the way that followers of Jesus should live. Keep it up and we’ll become more and more of the kind of community God wants us to be.

Porn is just a click away

The porn industry has changed dramatically since I was a kid. It used to be that you had to order a subscription, walk into a store or ‘happen’ across a stash in your friend’s Dad’s closet to see these images. Today it is all different. Millions of images and videos are just a click away. Anybody with a computer and an iternet connection can find pictures of all kinds of women, men, and all kinds of craziness.

Because of this dramatic change, we face a challenge of unprecendented proportions in our generation. Men and women both battle this epidemic. If the statistics I have seen are true, 50% of men and 20% of women who go to church…are users of porn on a regular basis. Many of them are addicted.

We have got to get on top of this issue. We need to figure out how to adress the use of pornography itself as well as it’s implications for our sexuality. But in addition to that, we need to figure out the underlying causes that drive us toward this behavior. We need healing in the deepest part of our being. We need to have authentic and deep community so that we don’t feel the drive to utilize the cheap substitute of what we find online.

Not only that, we need to figure out how to help friends, brothers and sisters to live the ‘life to the full that’ Jesus promised so that the luster of lust is diminished. It may be your struggle. But if not, I guarantee it is the struggle of many who are close to you. This is why I’d encourage the guys in our church to come for the forum this weekend:

“Living a pure life in a porn-driven society” Jonathan Daugherty, founder and director of Be Broken Ministries, and a regional presenter for Every Man’s Battle workshops, will address this issue and provide practical advice for men of all ages. (This conference is recommended for men age 16 and older) .

For information, contact: Phil Human / 938.1531 / philh@cccomaha.org.

A little taste

I got a little taste of what it will be like in the New City (Rev. 22) today. Wow!

I spent the morning at Salem Baptist Church, the largest primarily black church in Omaha. What a beautiful experience! I got to sit up front the whole service in Salem style, letting the exuberant vibes of the choir wash over my neck, making the hairs stand up on end. I got to watch the powerful worship of the people. I got to hear the chorus of “Amens” rise up again and again as those in attendance just could not wait to express their faith and hope.

Then I got to teach. It was just an average message, but lifted up by the encouragement of the congregation, it got wings and flew! God was present in strong ways.

You know, it makes me look forward to the day when there will be the tree of life, giving healing to all the nations. It reminds me that there will be a day when there is no more division, no more wars, no more racism, no more hatred, no more economic disparity. There is coming a time when men and women, rich and poor, people of every color of the rainbow, every tongue, tribe and nation will gather around the river of life, beneath the throne of God. There will be no more barriers and God will get his due.

This is the dream…and I can’t wait.

Eloi, Eloi

Mark, I am new to CCC and my wife and I love your teaching/preaching style and have really enjoyed your presentations. Here is my question: Why did Jesus say “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt 27:46 Thanks so much for your work. Cheers and God Bless JJ

Thanks for the great question J.J! You know, this is a critical moment in world history. Jesus cried this out while he was dying on the cross. Later in the Bible it explains this about Jesus. “He who had no sin became sin for us so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus did not just pay for sin…he became sin…. This is a deep thought.

This all happened in the moment that he hung on the cross. You see, for all time Jesus and the Father had a perfect, unblemished relationship and line of communication. When Jesus ‘became sin’, that line was junked up by our sin. God had to metaphorically turn his face from Jesus while Jesus paid the price for our wrongdoing. Youch.

The most painful part of Jesus’ torture and death was this moment. The physical pain cannot compare to this spiritual sense of loss of relationship with the father.

Of course the best news is that Jesus rose from the dead, restoring his relationship to the Father and paving the way for us to connect with him. Our sin was transferred to Jesus in those moments on the cross so that we “might become the righteousness of God.” How cool is that?