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Friday, December 12, 2008

Broken and Beautiful


As I stepped into the coffee shop, the sound I heard was as loud as it was distinct. It was someone crying. As I looked around at the patrons, most were simply ignoring the din, occasionally stealing a glance toward the source of the pitiful crying. On closer observation, I noticed a young woman leaning over a chair, gently seeking to bring comfort to the one who was so distraught for some unknown reason. The one being comforted was unable to form the words to communicate his displeasure at life so the pitiful wailing continued.

I enjoy watching people. When I go to a restaurant, coffee shop or some other public place I try to position myself in a place that gives me the best opportunity to observe the people who come and go. I enjoy people-watching because we are all so fascinating! I often smile at people’s uniqueness and idiosyncrasies because it makes me happy to remember that each person I see is created in the image of God and – like the snowflakes we will see in the coming months – each one is unique, created like no other.

But at times I become saddened as I watch the people around me. Back to the coffee shop… I settled myself at a table to read and soon two young men and a young woman in their 20’s came in. The tall man wore his white, oversized ball cap low on his head such that it covered his ears and shaded his eyes. The other man was animated and jumpy, like his tall friend. They all looked a little strung out. Their conversation was laced with the occasional swear word with no sense there was anything wrong with loudly using the colorful language in a public arena. The young woman had her hair pulled back in a ponytail, more introverted and quiet than her companions. The three got their drinks and then went and sat on the curb at the base of the bell tower, drank their coffee and rolled their own cigarettes, sharing their papers and tobacco pouch. As I sat watching them through the window, the young woman in particular caught my imagination. I began to wonder what her dreams of life were as a ten year old little girl and if they included where she now appeared to be in life? I had to believe they did not.

What I have noticed in watching people is some of us reveal our lostness and our chains more clearly than others. As I sit and watch others, I can only imagine the blindness and prisons people are experiencing. But God does not have to guess. He is painfully aware. The Bible reminds us… “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

It is Christmas again. This year, because of the struggling economy, it has been harder to hide the brokenness of our world behind the decorations and pretty paper surrounding gifts. But it is ultimately the brokenness we try to hide that is the reason behind this season. As God looked at our hearts he saw the great need for a savior. So, as he often does, he moved in surprising and unexpected ways to provide the greatest gift. God gave a hint of this surprising gift through his prophet Isaiah. It was the prophet’s words Jesus used to let the world know he was the fulfillment of the promise made long before.
"“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”" (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)
The one crying so loudly that I saw when I entered the coffee shop eventually was calmed by the gentle words and touches of the young woman caring for him. She wiped the drool hanging from his lips with the ready towel hanging on the front of his shirt. She then wheeled the wheel chair the twenty-something young man was strapped into out of the coffee shop, followed by his friend – a forty-something man with Down’s Syndrome.

The vision of Cold Springs Community Church is “Growing transformed lives through experiencing the love, truth, presence and people of Jesus.” We carry that vision out by sharing the gift of Jesus with anyone willing to receive him. We still believe he sets people free from captivity, heals blindness, frees the oppressed. We still believe there is good news for each and every person created in God’s image, whether their brokenness is visible or not.

We make a difference in a world desperately in need of Good News. This Christmas I challenge you to see the beauty and brokenness of those around you and, because we are both broken and beautiful, be bold in sharing the Good News that Jesus still sets people free. There’s nothing that can make a Christmas more merry than that!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

M&M's


I like chocolate. A lot. But I’m not the only one. After a recent trip I had one of those dump-truck size bags of M&M’s from Costco left over so I poured them all in a bowl that sat on the coffee table in my office. They’re gone now. But soon I will hear about it because I have staff meetings in that office – and people eat M&M’s. I have Leadership Board meetings in there – and Dan Blair REALLY eats M&M’s. The Sunday morning prayer groups meet in there – and it is never too early in the morning to eat chocolate, I’ve discovered. And I’m in that office. And I eat M&M’s (but not as much as Dan).

Having that bowl of M&M’s sitting there makes it awfully easy to just “reach out and touch one.” And, like the popular potato chip commercial of days gone by, “you can’t just eat one.” The maker of M&M’s knows this. They like that it is true.

The good news for me is at least on a monthly basis I can find an article on the internet or in the newspaper that links a health benefit to eating chocolate. I know, I know – they are mostly talking about dark chocolate but if the dark is good, cousin “Milk” has got to be good, too. Right? Right!? That is the good news.

The bad news is that spinning dial on that flat contraption made of metal and springs in my bathroom, commonly referred to as a scale. The bad news literally outweighs the good news.

I’ve been spending some reading time in the book of Proverbs in the Bible lately. I try to go back there pretty regularly, especially the first nine chapters. Those nine chapters set the stage for the next 22 chapters of one-liners that can become so memorable. A few days ago I was reading chapters four and five and my mind keeps going back to the words found there.
"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." (Proverbs 4:25-27, NIV)
It’s the fundamental rule of riding a motorcycle that the writer speaks of here. The rule is this: “You go where you look.

You don’t want to hit that dead skunk in the middle of your lane? Don’t stare at it. You want to make the sharp turn even though you feel like you are going too fast? Look through the turn to where you want to be – not where you don’t want to be. Many, many, many novice (and not so novice) motorcycle riders have neglected this rule to their own peril and detriment.

The words that follow in chapter five are a father’s instruction to his son on how to stay morally and sexually pure and they are a repeat of “You go where you look.” He is telling his son not to go near the house of the woman who will seek to entice him into ruin.
"Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel," (Proverbs 5:8-9, NIV)
Now the really cool thing about this is that this wise father doesn’t just stop at telling his son to stay away, he gives his son the right thing to look at because “You go where you look.” What is a young guy to look toward? His wife.
"Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well."
"Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." (Proverbs 5:15,18-19, ESV)
There it is – the biblical command to be intoxicated…with love! The NASB version of the Bible says to be “exhilarated,” the NIV version translates it as “captivated.” It is wise to look at what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. (see Philippians 4:8) Not only is it wise, it is intoxicating and exhilarating.

Here is the good news. For every thing that threatens to capture your exhilaration and lead you down paths of destruction, God has created something that is even better, that is even more exhilarating and satisfying. Your job? Ask God to reveal it and then start looking at it. It is where you will go. Allow yourself to be captivated by what could be when you embrace God’s best.

I’m not done eating chocolate – remember, it has proven health benefits. I’m just going to eat the right chocolate – in the right amounts.

Oh, and all you guys and gals who meet in my office – BYOC. The dump truck is empty (thanks Dan) and will stay that way!
"He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death." (Proverbs 11:19, NASB95)

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Disobedient"


I had an interesting (and brief) conversation Sunday morning between church services with someone. He approached me and asked this question (my paraphrase): "What would you call someone who has accepted Jesus in his life, prays, reads his bible, is a good person but doesn't have anything to do with the church?"

Without hesitation, I said "Disobedient."

The church gets a bad wrap - especially lately. But you know what? It wasn't our idea, it was God's idea. Throughout history the church has taken many different forms but without exception its form has looked like a local group of gathered people who believe in Jesus Christ that share God's Word, engage in community, share the ordinances (communion and baptism), pray, worship and serve others. (Acts 2:42ff is a descriptive example of the early church.) The local church is THE strategy God chose in this time to advance his Kingdom on the earth. Hugely flawed, prone to adopting fads, led by broken, messed up people scarred by sin - yet described as the bride of Christ. God's idea.

What do you think? Was my answer off base? Can you live an obedient Christian life apart from being connected to a church?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back At It


My friend Jerry (to the right) says he needs me to write to keep him encouraged. Jerry - you need to get some more friends!

Well, it is encouraging to know that at least one person is still checking in, so, if for no one else, here are blog entries for you, Jer. (check out Jerry's website: www.jerryminer.com. Very gifted comedian!)


For quite a while I have been thinking about Romans 8. As I have read it, begun to memorize it, spent time meditating on it, I'm increasingly impressed with the depth of Paul's words and the potential for significant freedom for those who understand them and live according to them.

I'm going to spend a while slowly walking through the chapter and sharing some of my thoughts. It would be great to hear your thoughts too. Conversations are always more fun than monologues.

To talk about Romans 8, because Paul starts with a "therefore," we have to deal with what the "therefore" is there for. My thoughts:

"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:21-25, NIV)


There is a battle that is going on constantly and it is the battle between the spiritual man, the one who is a slave to the law of God, and the carnal man, who is a slave to the law of sin. Temptation and the challenge of evil are not things that are simply “out there” in the world, they are “right here” in me. That is what makes the struggle of sin so frustrating. I can’t blame others for my disobedience as if I am forced to comply with the temptations of the world. I can only blame the evil that is within me.

When struggling with sin and it overcomes me, I feel the weight of Paul’s words, “What a wretched man I am!” Who has not wallowed in this sentiment who has eaten from the trough of the slop of sin? It seemed like a good thing at the time, didn’t it? That anger outburst – surely they deserved it. That second look – fearfully and wonderfully made, why shouldn’t I? Sharing the juicy tidbit – I just wanted them to be prayed for. The extra piece of dessert – sure hate to see things go to waste. Just one more drink - because it is there.

There is no doubt that there is a battle, is there? The mistake is where we think the battle begins. The battle doesn’t begin from the outside, it begins on the inside. “…waging war against the law of my mind…” The mind is the battlefield for the soul. As a man thinks, so he goes. And the battle lines were drawn up by the presence of sin. It is not unique to one, it is common to all.
The good news is this, God has not left us alone to fight the battle. Jesus is on our side. More than that, he has secured victory. “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave his life up for me.” The slavery in my mind to the law of God is more powerful than the slavery in my body to the law of sin. I may want to sin, I may choose to sin, I may set myself up in such a way that I believe I have no other choice than to sin but the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells me I do not have to sin.

The key? Renewing my mind. The truth of Romans 8.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ten Years


Ten years. 120 months. 520 weeks. 3,653 days (3 leap years). 87,672 hours. 5,260,320 minutes. Ten years.

This year is not a year where I look back over just the last year of ministry but over the last 10 years of ministry. It was 10 years ago in June that I began my ministry here as Lead Pastor. Let’s see…what was going on 10 years ago…

• January 1 - Smoking is banned in all California bars and restaurants.
• January 25 - Super Bowl XXXII: The Denver Broncos become the first AFC team in 14 years to win the Super Bowl, as they defeat the Green Bay Packers, 31-24.
• June 14 - The Chicago Bulls win their 6th NBA title in 8 years when they beat the Utah Jazz, 87-86 in Game Six. This is also Michael Jordan's last game as a Bull, clinching the game in the final seconds on a fadeaway jumper.
• June 25 - Microsoft releases Windows 98 (First Edition).
• November 3 - Jesse Ventura, former professional wrestler, is elected Governor of Minnesota.

There were a few other notable events like the President of the United States being under investigation for moral misconduct, Apples iMac was introduced, John Glenn got another chance at being in space.

When I came to Cold Springs Church it was called First Baptist Church and there was a small and faithful group of people who were pretty tired after a lot of years of conflict and building. As a 36 year-old I didn’t know a lot but I was determined to bring a lot of energy to the party! And God was faithful and wise, even when I lacked one or the other.

One of the encouraging things over the last 10 years was the privilege of baptizing 216 people during that time. There is nothing that more clearly illustrates the purpose and vision of the church than baptism – the transformation of lives so that they publicly declare their faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ!

Some of the other encouraging things: Finalizing the second longest open building permit in Placerville by finishing our facilities. Growing from 100 people to 500 and seeing over 850 people impacted this last Easter. Seeing an increase in faith as we have given away more money and resources to local, national and international efforts of sharing Jesus Christ.

The last ten years have been a journey to embrace our mission of living for the people who are not here yet and reaching people for Jesus while working hard at discipling those at Cold Springs Church to be passionate followers of Jesus.

God has blessed us with an enduring sense of unity over the last ten years as we have gone through tremendous change. We have had 9 worship leaders and four youth pastors over that time. We have gone from traditional worship to blended to multiple services with contemporary and traditional worship styles. We have tried new types of services and stopped ministries that were no longer effective. We have moved the adult Sunday School class at least five times in order to make more room for ministering to our children. Some of the changes have gone smoothly, some have been painful. But the vision of Growing Transformed Lives has stayed at the center and we have held unbendingly to that mandate.

The greatest danger as you read through the reports in our Annual Ministry Report is to get a feeling that “this is good enough.” Although I am grateful for all that God has done in the past, I know he isn’t a God of the past, he is a God of the future. My reflections of the past make me long for so much more because I don’t think we have come close to reaching our full potential in Christ as a church.

One of the things I realized was a significant focus of our church over the last 25 years has been securing, developing and improving our ministry campus. We have spent a tremendous amount of time, energy, money and focus on our facilities. It has given us an awesome tool with which to reach our community. But it is just that – a tool.

Now we need to unleash our resources, energy and passion upon our community and world. What would it take to make a lasting impact on 3% of the people around us - that is 2700 people? What would that do for our community? How can we make Jesus so evident and so important in our community that they don’t just put up with us, they invite us to sit at the table of decisions because we are such a critical part of the community? What will it take to unleash God’s Spirit in our community of faith that the people who come on our campus are overwhelmed with a sense of the love and power of God? What will it take to awaken each and every person at CSCC to embrace their divine calling and live not just for the rewards of a successful life but rather for the eternal rewards of a significant life? What would it look like to live a life of faith as a church, not trying to protect the progress of the past but embracing the hope of the future? What difference would it make to partner with other churches to plant churches that plant churches? How significant of an impact would it be to see the Ethiopian Graduate School of Evangelism resourced to train multiple more leaders to reach Africa for Christ and push back the rising tide of Islam?

These are some of the questions that my soul wrestles with as I reflect on the future. Our best days are not in the past, they are in the future. Just as the past has been a story of change so that we could find and embrace the opportunities, the story of the future will require the same. When I get to heaven, I don’t want Jesus to say, “Hey David, pretty good first ten years but what was the deal with coasting the rest of the way?” I want to hear “Well done good and faithful servant!” I am committed to living my life and leading in ministry such that we hear those words from Jesus! My invitation to you is to join me. My prayer is we will all look back and say “This was the year God began to move at CSCC in ways I never could have imagined!”

Wouldn’t that be awesome.

For the glory of God,

David Cooke
Lead Pastor

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

A couple of years ago, as I was reading my Bible (I can’t remember exactly what) I was struck with a thought that I wrote down on a post-it note.

We exist to give our lives away that others might know the depth of God’s love.

I still have the post-it note and it is still stuck in my Bible. When I see it, it gives me pause and makes me consider how my life lines up with that insight.

I am regularly amazed at the patience, grace and forbearance of God. It is clear that he loves us tremendously. The greatest act of love was the death of his son on the cross. That act of love opened a whole new life of forgiveness and freedom that was unknown since the Garden of Eden. But God doesn’t force himself upon us. He doesn’t demand that we receive his love. He doesn’t require that we live in his grace or that we recognize him for who he is.

Likewise, when we become followers of Jesus, God’s patience, grace and forbearance continue even when we don’t trust him fully with our lives and our possessions. God does not force us to give, but he calls us to a life of giving.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church he concludes with the challenge to “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” What was the work of the Lord? Spreading the good news of Jesus, caring for each other, loving the poor and helpless, feeding the hungry, sharing their resources, teaching truth, exercising their spiritual gifts in community with others - to name a few.

Really, I think it is safe to say that whatever we do, done for the glory of God, is the work of the Lord.


"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17, NIV)

Our greatest acts of faith come in the form of giving. Giving always requires something from us or of us. Inherent in the act of giving is a level of self-sacrifice that looks to the needs of others above ourself. Unfortunately, we often see this as painful but God wants us to see it as joyful!
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)
As Jesus grabs hold of our heart we come to see that we don’t live for ourselves, we live to give. In giving, we find blessing. In giving, others see the reality of Jesus. In us giving our lives away, others see the depth of God’s love.


Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Does It Matter?

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give



"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

There are three ways you can view the church. You can view it as a gas station, a hotel or a home.

A lot of people view church as a gas station. You see, a gas station is a place you go to get something you need. You may not like that you need it and you may not like the price that you have to pay but, through what people have taught you and perhaps from personal experience, you are convinced that a car without fuel is pretty worthless. When you go to the gas station, you use your credit card at the pump, you may nod to the person next to you getting gas but you really aren’t interested in relationship. Relationship only happens when you can’t get the pump to work and you have to talk to the attendant or you buy a little caffeine and sugar hit. It is all about getting what you need as fast as you can and you don’t return unless you have to.

Other people view church as a hotel. The hotel is a place to stay for a bit to get the needed rest to get to someplace else. Hotels are mostly about value and comfort – finding the right mix of the two. The relationship is a little higher because you are talking to the desk clerk to get checked in, you might make some small talk to the other people at the continental breakfast bar but once you are rested and fed, off you go to your next place.

God views the church as a home. A home is a place where you belong. You don’t visit, you don’t pass through, it isn’t just about getting what you want or need. A home is where you give and where you get, it is where you are funny and grumpy, orderly and messy, happy and sad and your family loves you just the same because they are committed to you. A home is where you grow up in size and grow up in character. A home is a place where people love you too much to let you stay the same so they encourage, challenge, rebuke, teach and discipline you so that you can reach that wonderful potential that you may not see but they do. A home is a place you sometimes feel like running away from because it is filled with messy, smelly, occasionally obnoxious imperfect people that hurt you. But they are family so you stay and work it out.

God never intended His church to be seen as a commodity – something to be selfishly used. He intended His church to be a Spirit empowered, relationship driven, passion filled group of imperfect people striving to encourage each other to be more like Jesus.

Here is something that is absolutely true – the longer we stay away from the church, the easier it is to stay away from the church. We eventually convince ourselves that they don’t need us and we don’t need them.

But the Bible is clear – we need each other. We need to be connected in regular, committed relationship with others that goes beyond the surface. It is one of the most difficult things we do in our journey of faith in Jesus Christ – finding authentic relationship with others. It starts with engaging in regular corporate worship, teaching and celebration of the sacraments of communion and baptism. It moves to engagement in growth, learning and relationship through small group connection and matures when we serve in community with each other.

What does it matter? It is the difference between a living, growing, deep abiding faith in God versus a self-serving religious experience that puts myself as the object of worship instead of God.

It matters a lot. Keep connected.

Peace,

David

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:12-13, NIV)


" The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ."



"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many."



"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed ..." (1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 27-28, NIV)


Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Growing Up

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5, NIV)

You probably already know that I like my electronic toys but one of the best inventions to come around is the digital camera. Talk about instant gratification! On my computer I have over 7,000 pictures that go back to 2003. Sometimes, when I am looking for a certain picture I will scroll through the thumbnail size pics and it is like watching my kids evolve right before my eyes. Being with them each day, I tend not to notice the subtle changes but when I look at them over time, I am amazed at how they are changing.

When we look at all the things that God has created and designed to grow, unless you are a fly, growth takes time. If you are a fly, your whole life is going to be experienced in 15 to 30 days, as long as you don’t meet a fly-swatter! For the rest of us, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth takes place over years and we often have a hard time seeing the changes.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, God expects us to grow up. Accepting Jesus in our life to save us and lead us is just the beginning of being the person God created us to be. To be that person, we must intentionally engage in the activities that contribute to growth.

Through the centuries of people following God, there have been developed a number of practices to facilitate spiritual growth. They are commonly referred to as Spiritual Disciplines but I like to think of them as Spiritual Habits. At the core of these habits are a few essentials that foster having a growing spiritual life. All followers of Christ are called to consistently and regularly practice, at a bare minimum, a life of worship, Bible reading, prayer, and reflection in community with others. Of course, the spiritual life is like all else, doing the minimum may maintain where you’re at but it rarely moves you beyond that!

Growth as a Christian is ultimately about one thing - we would more and more abide in Jesus so that we are transformed. When we grow we are becoming more like Jesus in the way we think, the way we talk and the way we act. So the goal of growth is not that we would just know more but that we would be more.

Author and Professor Dr. Dallas Willard says it this way:

“The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life--and, specifically, in the following of Christ--is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the "old man" and putting on the new, "renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us..." (Col. 3:10)” (Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul)


Spiritual growth should be seen in the same light of why we bother to eat food each day. Most meals are not gourmet affairs – peanut butter and honey sandwiches aren’t very sophisticated! But as we eat healthily each day it provides fuel for our bodies so we can meet the challenges of the day. The daily feeding of our souls through practicing spiritual habits brings the growth that will make us disciples of Jesus. Jesus described that as living life to the full. As a Christian, that is what we should long for most.

"In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so." (Hebrews 5:12-6:3, NIV)



NEXT: The Importance of Connection

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

Monday, April 28, 2008

An Invitation To See God

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

A couple of years ago my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The three kids worked together to pull the event off. My part was the invitations. OK, OK – it wasn’t my part, it was my wife Pam’s part. (I can’t even draw a straight line!) Well, my wonderful wife had a ball putting her creative powers to work designing and hand-making the invitations to the party. They were really great and when people got them, she received lots of compliments.

When I receive an invitation, I have rarely found it to be a negative thing. We receive invitations to weddings, to birthday parties, to baby showers and a host of other activities. An invitation is an opportunity to celebrate something good. Because of this, most people are open to receiving an invitation.

Last week I wrote about CSCC’s commitment to live out BBCBalanced Biblical Christianity. As we live out BBC through the vision of CSCC of “Growing transformed lives through experiencing the truth, presence and people of Jesus” the idea of invitation is a critical element.

Each and every day most of us have interaction with other people. Whether we interact with many or few, our mission from Jesus is the same: make disciples. (see Matthew 28:18-20) Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Corinthians –

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NIV)

Let me put it this way, the purpose of each of our lives is to invite others to see the glory of God. The way we do that is manifold. It depends on the person God puts in our path and the situation we find ourselves in.

Today I stopped to help a couple of ladies get their overheated car going. My parting comment was “I’ll pray for you that it all works out.” In the brief interaction I had with one of the women, it was apparent the broken down car was the least of her problems. I prayed that God would reveal His glory to this woman and her daughter. There was no time to present the Four Spiritual Laws, to invite them to CSCC, to even pray over their car. It was just one sentence that I pray sticks in her harried heart to nudge her closer to Jesus.

God puts people in our path every day that are so consumed with their problems that they can’t see God. You are there for a reason and that is to invite them to see life differently. A part of inviting others to see the glory of God is inviting them to be around people who are seeking God. Inviting people to your small group, a church activity, a worship service is all part of being an inviting person.

An invitation to see the glory of God is about as good as it gets. Don’t be ashamed or afraid. Go as far as the Holy Spirit leads you – no more, no less – as you invite others to see God’s glory. You might even see more of his glory too when you do!

With you in the journey,

David

PS – Do you have any “invitation stories?” Please tell me your story!

NEXT WEEK: How We Grow

Grow – Invite – Connect – Give

Some More Thoughts on Forgiveness

Last Sunday Pam and I spoke on forgiveness. It is always a challenging one for me because it is a great opportunity for the Holy Spirit to tap me up side the head with the holy 2X4 about how far I have to go in this area.

One of the things I had insight into was actually a synthesis of the speakers from the marriage conference we hosted Saturday and the things Pam and I talked about. Dr. Henry Cloud, in a bit of a throw-away statement, mentioned that research has been done on people’s “self-talk.” Self-talk is the internal conversation we have going on in our heads. Everyone has their conversations – it only gets scary when you actually see someone who isn’t there and begin talking to them! Back on point – Cloud said that research has shown that 70% of people have negative self-talk. Seven out of ten people you meet during the day are complaining to themselves most of the day! And they probably are complaining to themselves about YOU!

When it comes to forgiveness, how we talk to ourselves makes all the difference. It is really difficult (read: IMPOSSIBLE) to forgive someone you are constantly complaining about in your mind. If we have trained our mind to constantly be negative we also will find ourselves much more easily offended. And face it – negative people are more offensive to others.

Alright – here is another synthesis. Gary Smalley was talking on Saturday about his book “Change Your Mind, Change Your Life.” I’ve read most of it and I was really challenged. The bottom line of Smalley’s book is we need to soak our minds in God’s truth by engaging in M&M – memorization and meditation.

Go back to the self-talk and forgiveness stuff. When we put God’s truth in our brain and constantly slosh it around between our ears, we change the way we think. When we change the way we think, we change the way we feel because emotions ALWAYS follow our thoughts. I have to be honest with you – I believe what I just said in the former sentence but I don’t like it. It puts too much responsibility on me. I want to be able to blame pretty much anything/anyone other than me for how I feel. I want my kids and my wife to be responsible for my happiness. Then I have someone to blame…other than myself.

So here is some counsel for you. If you struggle with being able to forgive, start memorizing some verses. Here are a couple of good ones to start:

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13, NIV)


"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV)

I’m working on these myself. My goal isn’t to just memorize them but for them to transform my thinking (see Romans 12:1-2). To that end I have been working on memorizing the 8th chapter of Romans. Anyone want to join me?

With you in the journey.
dc

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Living BBC

The Church is changing. It is sort of like the Oldsmobile commercial from a few years back that said “This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.” It was meant to communicate that the new Oldsmobile wasn’t stodgy and conservative like the one you used to know. This new Oldsmobile is attractive, fun and modern.

When it comes to the Church (big C – in particular the American Church) we are in a major shift about how people see and experience church (little c – local gatherings of Jesus followers). In many ways it can be summed up this way: Over the last 25 years there was a huge emphasis in the church on “Come and see!” Everyone was encouraged to come to a building to be taught, entertained, sung to, sung with, etc. Willowcreek Church (Bill Hybels) and Saddleback Church (Rick Warren) were the leaders of this movement that made a huge positive shift in how we do church and experience church.

The shift that is happening now is no longer “Come and see” but rather “Go and be.” There is a growing recognition that the Church is supposed to be a gathering of people being equipped to be sent out to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus to a needy world.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)

A long time ago when I was in seminary studying to be a pastor, one of the great voices of Christianity of our time, Dr. John Stott, came and spoke at my school. I still remember the essence of his message. He challenged us to live out BBC. Dr. Stott, being from England, clarified that we weren’t to live out the British Broadcasting Corporation, rather we were to live out Balanced Biblical Christianity.

At Cold Springs Church, it is our intent to lead people toward BBC. We want to avoid the extremes in times of change like we find ourselves now, swinging wildly from “Come and see” to “Go and be.” I am convinced that BBC is about having both.

Let me remind you of the vision statement for CSCC: Growing transformed lives through experiencing the truth, presence and people of Jesus. We are deeply committed to long-term life change through faith in Jesus and we are convinced it happens when we experience truth (the Bible), presence (the Holy Spirit), and people (followers of Jesus).

Over the next few weeks I want to share with you how we see we can live out this Balanced Biblical Christianity so the vision of CSCC is fulfilled in us and through us. I will be sharing with you what it means to Invite, Give, Grow and Connect and how that has the potential to change your world!

Yes, we are in times of change. The Church has always been in a time of change as it has sought to live out the un-changing message and mission of Jesus Christ. But God doesn’t change, the Bible doesn’t change, the Gospel doesn’t change and Jesus NEVER changes. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8, ESV)

The mission of the Church and our church is to communicate this unchanging message to an ever changing world. I am committed to leading Cold Springs Church to do that the best we possibly can.

Blessings,

David


Next: What it means to be an “Inviting” person.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Trusting God In Uncertain Times

If you listen to the radio, read a newspaper or watch the news, not a day goes by that you don’t hear how bad the economy is getting. One trip to the gas station or the grocery store can make it so we feel the pain personally.
For quite awhile we have been living in very blessed economic times. That house we bought just seemed to keep increasing in value, everybody wanted us to borrow their money to live the life we always dreamed of. But no more; things have changed in the world around us – as they always do.

So, what does it mean to trust God when times are tough?

There is a little book in the Old Testament that carries a big message. Habakkuk was a prophet of God. He was someone God called to speak to his people during difficult times to help them remember that although things are difficult, God is faithful.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments." (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV)

The words to the song Habakkuk composed are a reminder that the greatest reality in the world is the faithfulness of God. “The Sovereign Lord is my strength…” is what Habakkuk invites us to sing about. God is over all things and he knows the details of the world economy and of my personal challenges. And he cares deeply for each of us, longing to strengthen us so we see his faithfulness and he receives glory.

Here are some things I have found are important to practice in times of challenge:
Stay close to Jesus. Time in prayer and reading the Bible keep me grounded in what is ultimately true. Talking to Jesus reminds me that he is always with me, no matter what.
Stay in relationship. Friendships with other followers of Jesus are a great source of support and prayer. True friends will both comfort us and challenge us to be stronger in our faith.
• Stay the course. Someone once said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has revealed in the light.” As you manage your resources, get a plan and follow the plan. For me, it has long been the 10-10-80 plan: 10% to God, 10% to me (savings), 80% to everyone else.
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:7-8, NIV)
• Stay focused. As followers of Jesus, we live for eternal things and we invest in eternal things. The health of the US economy is not a measure of the faithfulness of God! Nor is it a determining factor whether we generously invest in the things that are most important to God: people and the expansion of his Kingdom.
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33, NIV)
• Stay tuned. I hate to admit it, but most of the important and life-changing things I have learned have happened when life was the hardest. We think God abandons us in our pain but he is close to us during these times and teaching us valuable lessons. Are you listening?
"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Honestly, I think this is a great time to be the church. We have the most valuable, life-changing gift that anyone could ever receive. Now, more than ever, people’s eyes are being opened to the fact that the world has handed them an empty box wrapped in pretty paper. Jesus saves people and he changes their now and their forever. It is that gift Cold Springs Community Church is committed to continuously offering to as many as possible.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

When Ugly Is Made Beautiful

You probably already know this Sunday is Easter. It comes around every year about this time, which is the good thing and the bad thing about Easter. The good thing is that it is a regular reminder of the amazing, unfathomable grace of God. It is a good thing that we would be so important to Him that Jesus would die for us. It is a good thing because it is a chance to be shaken out of our day-to-day preoccupations with bills and schedules and shopping and meals and…and…and… It is a good thing that Easter comes around each year about this time.

It is a bad thing that Easter comes around each year about this time. It is bad because we get used to it. We get used to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection so that we no longer marvel at the grace of God. We get used to the story so that we are no longer shocked by the savagery of the story but instead replace it with warm, fuzzy bunnies and scrumptious chocolate. It is bad because it becomes more about the pageantry of Easter rather than the power of Easter.
One of the things I have long marveled over is Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Ephesus when he reminds them that the “incomparably great power” of God that is at work in followers of Jesus is the same power used to raise Jesus from the dead. The power at work in me (and you) is resurrection power.

Having faced some difficult things in my own life lately, I’m glad Easter has come around about this time of year. I really don’t need a bunny right now, I need incredible hope that comes from realizing that out of horrendous events God showed his indescribable power to make ugly beautiful.

That’s a pretty good description of Easter. Ugly made beautiful. And the overwhelming thing is God is waiting to make ugly beautiful over and over again in our lives each day as we live in resurrection power.

Join us Easter morning to remember this power that makes ugly beautiful, old new, dirty clean, broken whole, hopeless hopeful, dead living.

And my prayer for you? That for you, Easter is a good thing.

Hopeful,

David

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Question for You - Please Respond

Hey - I'm going to do a teaching series on having a connected, meaningful marriage and family.  The series will start after Easter and I need some feedback about what it is that you are interested in hearing a Biblical perspective regarding marriage and family.  Pam is going to teach with me so you will get the guys and gals perspective.  Here are some of the issues that are on the radar:
  • communication
  • finances
  • sex
  • what guys need
  • what women need
  • the seasons of a marriage
  • the seasons of a family
  • growing together spiritually
  • roles
  • leaving baggage behind
What other things are you interested in being addressed?  What things are most relevant to you?

Just so you know, you can respond to this as "anonymous" and I won't have any idea who you are, if you so desire.  Comments are monitored by me before they are posted, as well.

Let me know what you think.

Too Lazy 4 Prayer

I didn't want to get up this morning to pray.  I really, really didn't feel like.  I hadn't slept well the previous two nights and I was sleeping really good when Jeremy Riddle started serenading me from my iPod alarm clock.  I have to be honest, I hit the snooze button.  And then I hit the off button.  So I gave myself an extra 30 minutes of horizontal time and 30 minutes less of face time with God.
In case you get the idea that I am a total slacker, I DID get up and spent some time with God, reading the Bible and journaling.  This amazing thing happened when I did - I discovered God was still waiting for me and was ready to speak to me when I finally took some time to listen.  I really like that about God.  He doesn't give up on me.  He is ready to meet me.
About nine times the Bible says something like this:  
"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." (Joel 2:13, NIV)   You get the idea that this is an important part of God's character that he wants us to understand.  Pay attention to these words:  gracious, compassionate, long-suffering, extravagantly loving.  Why wouldn't I want to spend time with someone like that?
When I finally got up and spent my more limited time with God, I was reminded again why I make the effort and saddened that I didn't make a better effort this morning.  It was good to be with God.
I think much of prayer is about two simple things:  First, what is my time to pray.  What time of day, what day of the week and how long am I going to pray.  Second, where am I going to spend my time of prayer.  What is the place that is conducive to me speaking to and hearing from God?  I know my time (5:10 AM) and I know my place (the desk in my bedroom).  I neglect them to my peril and to God's dismay.
Have you found your place and your time?  God's waiting for you.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Value of Mirrors

Looked in a mirror lately? Probably so. We have this habit of doing it pretty much every morning to start off our day. Even if we don't intend to, when we walk by a mirror we glance over to see how everything is looking. At restaurants you see ladies whip out their little compact mirrors to check for green stuff hanging from their teeth and that the lipstick is OK. Guys stare at their visages while they wash their hands at the sink, mostly thinking to themselves "Man, is my wife/girlfriend lucky to be hanging out with someone as handsome as me!"

Some mornings I get up, look in the mirror and groan. I think "Dude, you got to lay off the chocolate and start moving around a little more. There is more of you to love but it ain't pretty." Other mornings I look in that mirror and think "Hey...looking good this morning! What a beautiful day!" (Yeah, so, I'm vain. As if you aren't too.)

But what about this scenario. You go through your day, just like any other day and then you see that reflection in the mirror and you say to yourself "Yikes! How many people have I been around today and nobody bothered to tell me that I have this very unfashionable rooster tail sticking out of my hair!" You really don't look all that good but nobody told you. Or you stay away from the mirror so long that you have forgotten who you are and, perhaps you are pleasantly surprised when reminded.

OK - here's the point. Mirrors remind us who we are, what we look like, what is good, what is bad. Mirrors don't lie, they just reflect reality. Mirrors are pretty important.

Here is the Spiritual Point: Being with other followers of Jesus where we are worshipping and learning together (commonly referred to as "Church") is our spiritual mirror. When we participate in community we get reminded about the good, bad and ugly in our lives. We get reminded of just how important we are to God and his tremendous love for us. We get reminded of how, in Christ, we are new people and not controlled by our passions but by God's Holy Spirit. We are also reminded of the blemishes and imperfections that need the touch of God in our lives. We get convicted of our sin (yeah, no one likes the word but it is reality) and hopefully, we get motivated to pursue God more fully.

The sad reality of not looking in a mirror is that we can get pretty ugly pretty fast and not even realize it. When we stay away from church we lose our awareness of reality. Just because we don't like what we see is no reason to not look in the mirror. In fact, it is all the more reason to stare intently in that mirror and ask the God who loves you so deeply to bring the needed change to make you beautiful.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Importance of Little Things

Last week a big storm came through the Northwest.  A lot of people lost power, trees fell down, people ran into each other in their cars, snow made driving difficult and, for some, impossible.  The thing that really contributed to making life difficult was the wind.  Air moving with velocity can cause problems.  You can't even see it but you see its impact.

The wind played havoc with CSCC's Sunday services.  It blew over a satellite dish that knocked over the propane pipe that leads to the church.  The pipe broke and $1500 worth of gas dissipated though the air.  No gas, no heat.  No heat, people get cold.  People get cold, they get cranky.

It got me thinking about how little things can make a big difference in our lives.  We have an expectation that things will stay the way we like them or, at the least, the way that we have gotten used to.  But then little things happen and it throws us off our game.

Too often we overlook the little things as insignificant events in our life.  We should instead view them as the training grounds of faith.  The little things are not irritants, they are opportunities to turn our face toward God and pay attention.  I must confess, I find it much easier to get irritated than I do to intentionally listen to God.

If I believe the Bible, I'm compelled to believe that God is in the little things, they matter, I matter and the fingerprint of God can be seen in these little things.  

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will..."

Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians.  It was a reminder of God's purpose in our salvation but it is also a reminder that God has a purpose, it can't be thwarted and the little things are important.  

Pay attention to the little things.