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Man among men


American statisticians report that the majority of men say they believe in God and call themselves Christians, but fewer than one in four attend church on a given Sunday. When men look for spiritual sustenance, they go to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage or the corner bar. They watch their heroes on the racetrack or at the stadium. Church is one of the last places men look for God.

This was not so in the first century church. The church was a magnet to men, a place where bold leadership and strong action were the norm. Men were irresistibly drawn to Jesus because He was the model men could aspire to be like, a model of what it is to be a man and to be spiritual.
The tendency of the modern church is to feminize Jesus – to make him meek and mild. We imagine Him skipping along the shores of Capernaum with His twelve buddies all in perfect lockstep, picking Galilean daises and learning to “be nice.” We like Jesus to be safe and tame, because then He does not mess with our worlds. “Tame Jesus” does not ask anything, expect anything or inspire anything. We like our religion with padded pews, fake ferns and pious platitudes that only inspire polite golf claps. The religious pews of today are not reflective of the passion of Jesus.

Jesus was a man on a mission. Leaving the throne of Heaven, He stepped onto the footstool of earth. When He got here, He was anything but nice. He tossed tables in the temple. He sharply confronted the authorities. He called people names. His favorite targets were people who were comfortably religious. At the same time, Jesus was a champion for the outcast, the marginalized, the prostitute. He called His disciples to the highest standards of commitment and ethics and He corrected them when they got out of line. He was courageous about His calling to the point of His own death. At any point Jesus could have called it all off and commanded the angel army to come to His rescue, but He never copped out. He knew that His mission required beatings and suffering and death. So He just took it like a man. And the church has never been the same.

Like Jesus did, it is time for the church to rise up. It is time for men to model their lives after the ultimate man. Starting April 11, CCC’s message series will teach about the life of Jesus and appeal to men. Don’t miss a week of it. Bring every man you know who has been utterly uninspired by standard religion. Your life will never be the same, and neither will theirs.

Better Than Happy!


“The Epistle of Joy” – that is what Philippians has been known as – at least in intellectual, academic circles. People who speak to normal audiences might call it “The Joy Box”, “Better than Happy”, “The Ultimate Thank-You”, or “Paul is rockin’, when he should be bummin’.” Here’s why:
Philippians is really a long “Thank-You” letter to a church that Paul has huge affection for. Some time before Philippians was written, there was a famine in Jerusalem and the Macedonian churches (i.e. Philippi) stepped up to be the big givers. Their deep poverty overflowed in radical generosity. (2 Cor. 8-9) So, Paul is writing a letter that is cheerleading them in their faith.
At the time, Paul is in prison – technically under house arrest – in Rome. You might think he would be depressed, sad, or overwhelmed, but he is actually stoked about his situation. He is waiting to appear before Caesar, whom he will certainly witness to for Christ. (Just like he did with Herod in Acts 26) In the mean time, he is witnessing to the entire palace guard and everyone else he can get close to about Jesus and many are coming to faith. He is discipling Christians and sending them off to missionary Journeys on his behalf.
Because of all this, the tone of the letter is Joy. Some have found the theme verse to be “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again rejoice!” (4:4). The book is filled with reasons to rejoice. These include: your salvation, grace, partnership in the gospel, spread of the gospel, the work of God in you, life after death, the mission of God, the wonder of God’s family, the humility of Christ, the example and care of Timothy and Epaphroditus, an Anxiety free life, contentment, the strength of God, a transformed mind, and of course, the amazing gift that the Philippians gave.
In this short, 2-1/2 page book, the words ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ are mentioned 14 times! Paul rejoices, prays with joy, commands joy, and seems to rejoice over…everything.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, it is because we are launching a new series. On the backside of “Conquering your Fears” is “Living you Joy”. We can be “Better than Happy” and Phillipians will teach us how. Bring a friend for the beginning February 28!

Husker/Creighton Athletes at CCC



On January 24, we’ll be joined by some great athletes at our CCC services. Not only are they great athletes, but they will be a great inspiration to live out your faith as well!

Josh Dotzler is a former Creighton All-Star. Wearing the #12 on his jersey, he regularly led the team in assists and steals. His maturity and stability carried the team in tough situations and in finishing games with a win. Josh was raised in North Omaha in a godly family with 13 siblings. After finishing his time at Creighton, he put away his jersey and began investing in his old neighborhood as a pastor. Despite the challenges of violence and poverty, Pastor Josh consistently invests in a youth-driven church called “The Bridge” at the corner of 30th and Lake.

Roy Helu Jr. is a Junior at the University of Nebraska, where he is earning fame as an outstanding halfback. With over 1100 yards on 220 carries, his season has been nothing short of outstanding. Roy would tell you that his life has turned around in major ways in the past three years since leaving his past in a violent city in California. He has come into a relationship with Christ and is as passionate about growing in his faith as he is about football.

Each of these young athletes/men-of-God will be sharing with us on January 24 in our Old Mill services. Sarpy will show the DVD on January 31. They will be a part of our “Fear” series – with a message on “Fear of Violence.”

Get out a kleenex

This post was written by a single Mom from last week on the day of the big snowfall. The writing of it is superb. The theology profound, and the content stirs the soul. Check it out. (copied with permission.)

Dear Mark,

As I write this and reflect, the falling snow has hushed our busyness. Even the roads are quiet. The captivating white displays the expected Christmas attire associated with this holiday season. Yet as lovely and nostalgic as the winter wonderland is, it has little relevance to my Christmas contemplation. For on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent – and the birthday of my middle son – Christmas came.

Just as Love became flesh and dwelt among us, so Love was amazingly demonstrated through the unconditional generosity of those who responded to your alternate “message” at the 9a Access this past Sunday. As one of the overwhelmed single moms who participated as a recipient, it seemed that the world’s adaptation of Christmas – malls, obligatory lists, Santa, and anxiety – became remote and obscure as worshippers came forward to give: giving warm embraces, encouraging words, and money, expecting only that we receive their love. Teenagers came up simply to hug me; a woman walked directly to me and told me I was so beautiful, as if she knew I had struggled significantly this past year to recapture my true beauty in Christ. The year also shared financial strain, and as each person pressed money into my hand, God again was telling me to trust Him as the intimate Husband, Lover, Friend and Counselor He had become to me. Indeed, Sunday – in part – represented a culmination of my year’s spiritual journey, affirmed in love by the body of CCC. For me, Sunday was a mysterious miracle, much like the first Christmas. Angels and dreams and a pregnant virgin. Gentile wise men kneeling before a Jewish child. An elderly couple having a baby, and lowly shepherds exalted before a King. And love being poured upon a handful of single mothers in Access. My awe and gratitude as I stood in tears in front of the service is easily likened to the wonderment I experience as I ponder the birth of Jesus.

When we arrived home, I called my sons into my bedroom, and re retold the story of what had occurred. As I dumped the money out on my bed, their eyes became moon pies of astonishment. It then struck me that the intended theme of your message – leaving a legacy – had been more powerfully conveyed to my family than perhaps your original script would have accomplished. Sunday provided my sons with a new legacy: I told them that today we celebrate Christmas, that today we would memorialize what happened at CCC – Love came down to us. I explained that we would retell this story on the first Sunday of Advent every year, and that they would tell their children the story of how a very real and present God demonstrated His love through His children, in whom resides the true meaning of Christmas.

The snow outside continues sketching a Christmas card illustration. But the memory of the 12/6/09 Access has painted an authentic and life-changing portrayal of what Christmas truly is. And I whisper in quiet gratitude with Mary:

“And my soul exalts the Lord. And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of his bondslave. For behold, from this time on, the generations of my sons will see His blessing (the legacy!). For the might one has done great things for me. Holy is His name…He has filled the hungry with good things. He has given help to His servant”.

Gratefully,

Lisa Curry

Single Mom's Appreciation


Dear Mark,

First I want to apologize for not writing and sending this sooner. But to be honest, I have been thinking a lot about what you did for the single mothers at church last Sunday and I just couldn’t figure out the right words to tell you how much I appreciate and admire what you did. I was one of the single moms who went up to the front. The things that you said to us were so thoughtful and true. We all have a story and while our stories are different, they are also similar. But one thing is for sure, our focus is and always will be our children. I heard one of the single moms who was standing by me say that she had just prayed the night before about how she was going to be able to provide gifts for her children at Christmas. What you did was amazing and a “Thank you” isn’t enough and that is why I have been struggling with the words to show you what an impression you made on everyone in church that day.

My boys and I are new to Christ Community. We started coming to CCC in May 2009. On our very first visit, it felt like “home”. It was awesome how quick I knew that we were in the right place. I completed the PreMembership class and met several people from CCC who I continue to be good friends with. I was then invited to participate in the Point of Hope group for single moms. That has been such a wonderful experience. I can’t say enough about the family I feel apart of at CCC. I am excited about how much I have grown spiritually in the last 7 months.

While I would like to give you a lot of credit for last Sunday, I cannot close this without mentioning the members of the audience that morning. The generosity that they showed is overwhelming. I made it a point to hug each and every person that came to support me. I hugged them and told them “Thank You” and I hope they know how much they changed my life.

I wanted to send you a picture of my boys so that you had a face to put with your message that day.

Please feel free to post this email and/or the pictures where ever you would like. And again, Thank you!

Kelly Randels

One single Mom

Here is a note from one of the Moms that was blessed on Sunday. She gave permission to share it with you all!

Hi Mark – my name is Heidi and I am one of the single Moms from the 9:00AM Access service this morning. First of all, I came to church this morning needing something and boy did I get it! What I needed was confirmation from God that I am doing a good job keeping it all together…for my 8 year old son, Nicholas; for my 5 year old triplet nieces (who I am fostering while my brother and his wife get their acts together); and for me… What I got today was unconditional love, support, encouragement and money from complete strangers. I have never felt so moved in my life – well maybe when my son was born. 🙂 I wish I knew the name of every person who came forward this morning so I could thank them and hug them one more time.

Something happened this morning with the chain of events. There was a reason that I came to church praying for peace, strength and guidance in my life; a reason your message changed; a reason that the Sunday school teacher brought Nick down to Access to me saying he wasn’t feeling well so he could witness the kindness of complete strangers; a reason that I had the courage to acknowledge to the entire congregation that I am a single Mom and walk to the front of the group this morning. What you did this morning touched me more than you will ever know and I wanted to let you know that – I will never forget today.

Census Anger?

In the message on 2 Samuel 24 “A sacrifice that costs nothing”, I mentioned that I would blog about the difficult Bible question: “Why was God so mad about the census?” Wasn’t David simply counting people? Well, today, I am trying something new…a video blog. The answer to that question can be found in the video below!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7903960&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Angry at Census? from CCC Omaha on Vimeo.

Hearing from God

Are you trying to make a hard decision? Trying to discern what God might have for you in your life? Trying to live for him, willing to do anything, but wanting to hear from God to know just what to do? Yesterday, I talked about hearing from God. It was a contrast of Saul’s spiritual deafness with David’s keen hearing – primarily from 1 Samuel 23 (who ever studies that?) Saul engaged in a downward spiral of deafness – from anointed man of God, to tone deafness, to hard of hearing to stone-deaf. What was the difference between his life and David’s in terms of their engagement with God? Here is a bullet-point review for those who were there.If you were not there, you may want to catch the full version at http://vimeo.com/6820617.

How to go Spiritually deaf (like Saul)
1) Disobey God – I Sam 13 & 15
2) Cut off Godly influence – 1 Sam 22
3) Don’t even ask God – 1 Sam 23
4) Confuse allies with enemies – 1 Sam 23 and Ephesians 4:30-31
5) Spiritualize Circumstances to your advantage 1 Sam 23
6) Mess with the dark side – 1 Sam 28

How to Hear God (like David)
1) Have a relationship with God – 1 Samuel 16- 2 Samuel (whole book)
2) Cultivate a rich Biblical literacy – Psalm 119, Psalms written by David
3) Seek Godly counsel – 1 Samuel 23: 3 and 16
4) Obey what you know – Bible and Promptings – 1 Samuel 23
5) Practice, Practice, Practice – Throughout 1 and 2 Samuel

A life of hearing from God is way, way better than one where we ask God to justify or bless our plans. He wants us to be integrated with his life and plans for this world. It is not always the safest way. It is never the easiest way. It is a life of risk and danger and adventure. But it is good because God is in control – why not take some time to step away from the computer and listen to him now?

Coming Soon…David!

This summer, I have been making a special study of the life of David. We’ll be exploring his life, his impact and what we can learn about relating to God from the perspective of a renaissance man in an all-church series called ‘Where’s God When…”.

I always knew of David’s extraoridinary giftedness. He is in a unique group of thinkers/leaders that makes him unparalleled in history. Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Beethoven, Napoleon, Tiger Woods…all rolled into one. That’s David. Military hero, amazing king, brilliant politician, poet, musician…David did them all and in the top levels of execution.

What struck me this time going through the life of David was just how gritty he was. David was in desperate straits at many junctures in his life. He was a survivor. He spent a decade running from Saul with a renegade band of miscreants, murderers and misfits. He was sometimes found alone against the world. Once, he even sought refuge with a Philistine ruler in Gath. When things were not going well, he faked being crazy just to avoid being killed. He spent months/years in a cave of Judah called Adullam. He one time killed two hundred Philistines and cut off their foreskins just to impress Saul, and pay the bride price for Saul’s daughter Michal. Imagine the scene of delivering that bride-price to the king!

David exhibited political savvy that is hard to fathom. He once tricked a Philistine king into believing him to be an ally…and even marched toward battle with this king. David had low military moments…like when his wives and family were kidnapped from Ziklag and all the city was burned. He had massive moments of victory, like when he captured the city of Jebus – unconquored for centuries.

Beyond all this, he made covenants with God that were fulfilled in his time, and in the ultimate King – Jesus who was yet to come. Most famously, he was known as a man after God’s heart.

Do you get the idea that David was more than just a shepherd boy with five smooth stones?

Prepare to meet David at a whole new level. The series – messages, small groups and devotionals – will begin on August 23. If you are someone who is growing in your faith and you want to make the most of this series, I would recommend spending the next two weeks doing an overview of the life of David. Crack open the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Read the broad timeline of David’s life. If you read 20 minutes a day, you’ll easily read through both books…maybe twice.

We’ll do deep dives into episodes of David’s life, but an overview will give you the full context for study. You can look forward to recieving the David devotional guide, notes pages, maps, lineages, timelines and group studies on Sunday, August 23. See you then!