Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Is Christ in the Christian Home?

When you’re thinking about selling your home, a real estate agent helps you get your home ready for people to look at. It’s all about the presentation, isn’t it?!

So your agent walks through your home with you, and tells you, “This has to go, this can stay, move this over here, paint these walls, get rid of the cat box (ugh!), take down these pictures and these family photos,” etc.

It’s all about “curb appeal” inside the house, in every room, making it possible for potential buyers to see themselves living in your home. (And of course, now they will take a video tour of your home online before they ever get in the car.)

Many, if not most, existing homes are sold this way—with your furniture in the home … but not too much! Or maybe some of your furniture isn’t up to snuff, so you rent or buy new furniture to increase the appeal of your home.

But it’s all about the impression that is created—from the time people drive up to the house (which they say is a time many people will decide “this is it” before they ever walk in the door), to the walk onto the front porch, through the front door and then into each room of the home.

It’s all about the walk-through.

But they don’t really see “your” home, do they? They see a sanitized, idealized, made for TV, made for “creating-the-best-possible-impression” house.

What would people see if they walked through your home right now…maybe they’re not interested in buying your home.  Maybe they’re interested in “buying” or checking out your family values, your core beliefs … in other words, what glues your family together (or maybe what pulls your family apart?).

What will they see in your home?

Will they discover in you a family with Christian values and Christ’s love running deep in your relationships—your interactions—with one another? And just what would that look like?

Room by room, what would they see, if they observed your mealtime together (maybe on the couch in front of the TV rather than in the dining room – or maybe you have a TV right there in the kitchen and it’s on during every meal?).

What will they learn about your family:
  • as they look at the appointments calendar hanging in your kitchen;
  • or the computer’s history over the past few weeks; 
  • the magazines in the bathroom
  • the music or talk radio you're listening to;
  • the pictures and magnets adorning your refrigerator door;
  • and just what is in that fridge?
If they could listen to your conversations with your spouse, your children … what you say about your next door neighbors … would they hear Christ’s love reflected in those conversations (or bickering, complaining, yelling…)?

For the month of August, we’re going to take a walk through the Christian home – room by room – and ask the question, “Is Christ here?”

Is there compelling evidence that yours is a “Christian home”?

How can your family begin to live out the love of Christ with authenticity and integrity behind those closed doors? And when company stops by?

See you this Sunday at 9:00 or 10:30!

Stay connected,

Pastor Mike

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Most Important Father in the Bible?

For those of you who didn't make it to worship this past Sunday (Father's Day), I gave my thoughts on who is the most important father in the Bible. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

I would put forward the claim to you that Joseph is the most important father in the Bible, because he is the father of Jesus. I would nominate him for “Father of the Year” – even “Father of the Millennium”!

And get this; Joseph is not even Jesus’ biological father!

And yet ... he is STILL the most important father in the Bible … you see, men, being a dad isn’t about biology ... there’s that idiot in Kentucky that has impregnated a number of women and he has 30 children by these different women, but I would not call him a father; he’s a sperm donor (how do I say that tactfully? I guess I just did – I could say a lot worse!). Joseph is an example of fatherhood that is needed today - he does what fathers do - he's the real deal!

That should be encouraging to many of you who are being dads in blended families, or with adopted kids - or if you're wondering if you have what it takes because your dad wasn't always there, or didn't always get it right. The fact is, guys, being a real dad takes more than biology – it takes a commitment to be there and do the job! Remember that saying - "half the battle is just showing up"? It's true!

Let's learn more as we look at how Joseph acts as the father of Jesus.

Joseph is described by Matthew as “a righteous man” – what does that mean? To find out we have to look at what Joseph does.

“Righteous” is a lost word today - by that I mean we seldom use it, and we're not sure what it means. But it’s a good word – Jesus himself uses it when he asks John the Baptist to baptize him. He says for John to do it so that they can “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Based on Jesus' use of the word here, I would suggest that it means "to do the will of God."

One side note: we always think of Matthew 1:18-25 as "the Christmas story" … but the early church didn’t celebrate Christmas as we do today, so this text would have meant something different for them. Matthew has a reason for including this information here beyond giving us a reason for a big winter holiday. I would suggest to you that Matthew writes about Joseph as an example of "righteousness" - faithful discipleship.

So even before the birth of Jesus, we have an example of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ ... by Jesus' own earthly father, no less!

Men, this is what we are called to be as disciples of our Lord.

Joseph listens to God and he does what God says to do—to the letter. When the angel of the Lord tells Joseph in a dream to take Mary as his wife, and to name the child Jesus, he does it. (Mt. 1:20-21, 24-25). Later, when the angel tells Joseph to take Mary and the child to Egypt to protect them from Herod, again, he does it (Mt. 2:13-15). Then, when the angel of the Lord again tells Joseph it is safe to return home, he takes Mary and the child back to Israel, and upon further instructions from the angel, they go to the out-of-the-way town of Nazareth to live (Mt. 2:19-23).

Here's the main point Matthew is making:

Joseph—and other righteous men (like the Magi)—do what God says to do. And they do it:
Ø      even though it’s embarrassing - think of Joseph's reputation with his friends!
Ø      even though it’s dangerous – Magi disobey Herod, putting themselves in danger (Mt. 2:12);
Ø      even though it’s costly – traveling to Egypt and living there indefinitely;
Ø      even though it sometimes results in “downward mobility” – moving to Nazareth, which was considered "the other side of the tracks."

Joseph keeps his family safe from Herod (Mt. 2:13-18). Again, this is costly, both in financial terms, and in social terms, for Joseph personally.

Dad, we’re called to protect our families. Even though it may cost us a great deal.

It's what real men do - they sacrifice.

Men, you're never more manly or masculine than when you sacrifice for others. Jesus was the most masculine man who ever lived, because he sacrificed himself on the cross for you and me ... he didn't hold anything back.

I wonder where he learned that? Maybe from his earthly father, Joseph, who sacrificed so much to give Jesus everything he needed when he was growing up?

Definitely - like father, like son.

What kind of example are you setting for the next generation, Dad?

Stay connected,

Pastor Mike

Friday, May 18, 2012

Money Truths Can Teach Us About Spiritual Truths

One of the wonders of God’s creation is that there is much logic and order in the universe. There is cause and effect—we understand that when certain things happen (cause), they will have a predictable, expected outcome (effect). This is true in nature (science), and it is true in relationships (ask psychologists and sociologists). It is also true in the financial or economic realm, and even in the spiritual realm.

While we might question this, if we think about it, it makes sense.

The same God who created this orderly universe has created us as spiritual beings, and there is an order to the spiritual life God offers. Jesus said things like, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8.31-32).

That has been my experience over and over: when I continue to study God’s Word, and follow it (apply it to my daily life), then the truth God reveals to me sets me free—it empowers me—to live with integrity and faithfulness as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Many truths are “transferable.” This means they don’t just apply to nature or to finance, but also to relationships—our relationships with each other (social), and our relationship with God (spiritual).

For example, Jesus talks about investing: he tells the parable about a master entrusting some of his wealth to several servants. The ones who invested his wealth and multiplied it were commended; but that servant who buried the wealth in the ground and gained nothing was severely admonished.

This is also true of our spiritual life. If we invest what God has given us—through prayer, through worship, through scripture study, through serving—we will multiply our spiritual life; we will grow. If we never make the effort in any of these areas, we stagnate and die spiritually; we’re of no use to God and his kingdom.

How are you investing what God has entrusted to you? Join us for worship this Sunday and learn more about investing what God has entrusted to you—your treasure, your time, and your talents—for things that really matter.

Because cause and effect are a reality in every area of life. You reap what you sow.

Stay connected!

Pastor Mike McInnis

Friday, February 24, 2012

Observing Lent with ‘Lin-tentionality’

Jeremy Lin with the New York Knicks

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian observation of Lent.

So what’s Lent got to do with rising basketball star Jeremy Lin?

As Lin has become more well-known in recent weeks, his Christian faith has also become the topic of articles and conversations around the office and around the world.

He may be more soft-spoken than Tim Tebow, but he’s no less firm in giving glory to God and seeing his talent as God-given. He has said that someday he may pursue becoming a pastor; for now, he is involved in programs for the less fortunate, and he volunteers time to underprivileged children.

Rising stars like Lin don’t happen over night. He’s had a long bumpy road to arrive at his current place of prominence on the Knicks’ squad. When he graduated from high school, no big college team would recruit him, including his own neighborhood school, Stanford, so he went to Harvard.
He didn’t get picked in the NBA draft out of college.
He’s done his time on the  NBA D-league (Development League). 
He’s been on the bench. 
A lot.
But he sees all of this as part of God’s plan to develop his character, to help him keep his priorities right.

Lin’s strong Christian faith did not happened overnight, either. He was raised by Christian parents who made sure he was in church every Sunday (no matter how late the basketball games got over on Saturday night!). He led Bible studies for the Asian American Christian Fellowship at Harvard. Lin sees everything through the perspective of his Christian faith and God’s involvement in his life.

And now, when the cameras are on him, when the pressure is on, Lin doesn’t shrink back from speaking honestly about his faith. Because he’s done the necessary preparation through discipline…just like in the sport of basketball.

Lent give us all the chance to make a fresh start. Fasting during Lent and practicing some spiritual disciplines will help you take your faith to the next level. Then, when you suddenly find yourself in the limelight, or when the pressure of temptation is on, you’ll be ready to faithfully stand for what you believe in.

You may not ever think you have as large or impressive a platform as a Jeremy Lin, or a Tim Tebow, but your witness matters to those closest to you. They’re watching.
Will you be ready?
Will you be faithful?
Only if you’ve put in the time and done the hard work necessary to grow.

Lent is the perfect time to become more intentional – or is that ‘Lin’-tentional? – about your faith!

Stay connected,
Pastor Mike

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a registered REPUBLICAN

And when you tell hardcore leftist Democrats this, it drives them NUTS!!!

But it's the truth.

In the south in the 1940's, '50's and '60's, it was white DEMOCRATS who did not want to integrate schools or abolish the "separate but equal" policies that kept blacks "in their place."

You can read more here, in the newsletter of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA):

There is some great history at that link, if you're brave enough to learn the facts, not some "reimagined history" that is so often disseminated these days!

Stay Connected,

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving for what we have—and what we will have

One of my most memorable experiences in ministry happened a few years ago when I was visiting one of our members in a care facility in midtown Omaha.

While there, I learned that the pastor of the church I attended in high school was also a resident there. His name is Rev. Paul Andre, and he had served at that church for over a dozen years, through many ministry ups and downs (which I can relate to, all these years later!)

Paul was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, it was advanced, and yet he seemed to be in good spirits and was glad to see me. We visited briefly, and finally I asked Paul if he had a favorite scripture he would like me to read.

Without hesitation he said, “Isaiah 35”. That seemed like an odd choice; it wasn’t a passage I could immediately call to mind. But I found it in the Bible he had there, and as I read it aloud for both of us, I understood why it meant so much to him in his present circumstances.

Take a few moments to read it; I think you’ll understand as well:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
     the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, 
     and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
     the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord
     the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
     and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
     “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
     He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
     He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
     and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
     and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
     and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
     and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
     the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
     and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
     but it shall be for God’s people;
     no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
     but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, 
     and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
     they shall obtain joy and gladness,
     and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

By the time I finished reading, I was holding back tears. Paul knew the reality of his situation; this nursing home would be his last earthly dwelling place.

But Paul knew a greater reality—a future hope: the Good News, the promise of Isaiah 35 and many similar Biblical texts, that The Day is coming when

“the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
     and come to Zion with singing,
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
     they shall obtain joy and gladness,
     and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

If you’re finding it difficult to be thankful during this holiday season because your life today isn’t everything you’d hoped for—well, you’re not alone. Grief, sorrow, loss—these find all of us sooner or later.

But God gives us much grace—and a reason to give thanks even when life becomes hard and heavy. God points ahead to what we will someday have, his gift of eternal life; the healing of our hearts and the healing of the nations.

The person who believes this and rests in this hope by faith is able to give thanks. Thanksgiving for new life in Christ right now, and for what you will receive on that Day when the amazing images of Isaiah 35 become your inheritance and your experience.

I went to Pastor Paul’s funeral a few weeks later. It was held in that church he had served so tirelessly and faithfully all those years. Because of his faith—trusting in a God who is ever faithful—it was a joyful celebration and remembrance of his life serving God’s people.

And I left after the lunch in the church basement, smiling inside because I knew that Isaiah 35 had become Paul’s new reality. He had joined “the redeemed” who “come to Zion” (God’s eternal presence) with singing, finally obtaining the “joy and gladness” of Isaiah’s beautiful song!

May you know God’s goodness this Thanksgiving season, no matter what your circumstances,

Stay Connected

Pastor Mike

Friday, September 9, 2011

STEADFAST VALUES … in a drifting world …

This weekend is the anniversary of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The events of that day live on so vividly in our memories that it’s hard to believe we are at the ten year anniversary of the worst attack ever to take place on American soil.

A number of memorial events are taking place this weekend in memory of those who died and to honor those who sacrificed much on that day, serving bravely during the crisis. Our government and the news media are warning about elevated dangers of attacks on this anniversary date of what we have all come to know as “9-11”.

Our world is still dangerous.

As I said, we all have vivid memories of what happened on that day, and we remember how we spent that day and the days following, as our world and nation were forever changed. And yet how easy it was for us as a nation to drift away from the reality of what happened on that day, and the need to not forget, but to remember and keep alert to the constant dangers of terrorism.

This is an excellent reminder of the tendency we have to drift in our personal lives, forgetting that the world is full of dangers and temptations that would lead us away from those things we say we believe in and value most: loyalty, respect, honesty, integrity, kindness, faith and love. It doesn’t take long for our lives to be overcome with other values; selfishness, greed, pleasure, ingratitude, crass consumerism, false pride and narcissism.

Drift is NATURAL…it is human nature.

It’s what happens when we’re out in our boat on the culture’s river; the current will naturally move us along, and if we’re not keeping our eyes on important landmarks, we’ve soon drifted far from where we know we should be. We naturally drift into dangerous waters.

This Sunday I’m going to be talking about VALUES.

We’re going to remember “9-11” and the values that have made this nation great. But we also need to check ourselves for drift … drift in those values that we say are most important, and yet the world around us keeps distracting us and causing us to “forget”.

What does God have to say about VALUES and DRIFT?

We will look to God’s Word to honestly assess where we’re at, and to discern what it will take to pass on those foundational values to our children and grandchildren. Their future depends on how well they hold steadfast the values and beliefs that we all claim are most important.

I hope you will be there this Sunday. To remember and to honor.
And to revive – and recommit to – those values we hold most dear.

See you Sunday at 9:00 or 10:44 worship.

Stay Connected,

Pastor Mike