Learning to Seek First the Kingdom Everywhere

Pond in Back Yard
Pond in Back Yard

I’ve been living in this phrase, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” found in various places in scripture, trying to determine it’s sway and meaning for me personally. Ever since I wrote this post about my idea of what 2013 would look like, I’ve been asking myself the question, how… and where? It’s easier to look at my back yard and see the fog rising off the pond at sunrise and say, there He is, but seeking the kingdom above all else requires looking in those places of darkness where he is the only light that shines, and it’s not nearly as bright as it is above.

Realistically I’ve been walking down this path of making, what seemed like, several small and moderate lifestyle changes, really for years now. Over time of course they are more significant than perhaps they seem in the moment of the decision. In fact, collectively, they clear a path to allow more of God in and less of those things that distract and tend to pull us in the opposite direction. I still love reading about the drastic and dramatic though, like Paul Miller’s story, Paul Miller returns to the internet after a year away, where he took an entire year fast from the Internet only to find his demons (my words) followed him offline. The more I live in this phrase Jesus spoke the more I’m finding what I once thought was dramatic and impossible is now possible, and dramatic only to those who have ears but refuse to hear.

Right now I’m pouring over Jeff Shinabarger’s new book, More or Less, and I can’t wait to do a full review on this book. His book basically tries to answer the question, “What is enough?” For some reason it keeps reminding me of this scene from Wall Street when Bud Fox asks Gordon Gekko “how much is enough?” a question we get confronted with every day. Jeff has taken this to a new level, and is at the same time helping me understand new ways to “seek first the kingdom,” some of which I’m looking forward to sharing when I finish his book.

Learning Discipleship Through the Eyes of Jesus

Cornerstone Church Staff Discussing Discipleship at 3DM
Cornerstone Church Staff Discussing Discipleship at 3DM

I spent this week with some of our staff at a conference in Atlanta. The past few days for me added to or confirmed with me part of an ongoing study I have about “what is the church?” I last posted about it here: What is the Church? 10 Things the Bible Says About the Church, but this week was focused on discipleship.

This group (3DM) we started to explore months ago doesn’t have a new program, or some new secret way to make disciples, they walked through how Jesus did this. That means this was really more like a workshop than a conference, and there wasn’t a step-by-step process by those Type-A’s can take away and say “this is how you do it.” That’s what made this different than the host of Christian conferences we all love to attend.

I’m not actually sure how to completely process everything presented to us over the last three days. It was a great starting point to learning how to create disciples, not how to create the church. If there was a quote for church staff and leaders that stuck with me, it was this.

Make disciples and it will build and create the church. Build a church and you aren’t necessarily creating disciples.

This is completely backwards from what our American church is. Our consumerist church of the 21st century is certainly a place where we can go on Sunday’s to consume a church product, but is it a place we create disciples as Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28? It turns church on its head because it is a scary place for church staff, and a freeing place for followers of Christ. I have heard it said countless times that church is not a building it is the people, but that’s a hard thing to live out when we place so much emphasis on doing church in that traditional church building.

That’s the raw unfiltered understanding of the last few days, it’s not anything ground breaking, but creating disciples is what we are called to do, building the church building is a place where we believers gather to worship on Sunday, not the place where we evangelize the unchurched.

A Look Inside My Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day Brings Opportunity for Christians

Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day
Crowds at Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 at Tiger Town Shopping Center in Auburn
This is the last Chick-Fil-A pro marriage homosexual theological chicken eating post, promise… I think… maybe. This above photo was the scene at our local Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 today around 2:45-3:00pm(!), and what an awesome scene it was. There were lines of cars wrapped around the building, out into The Home Depot parking lot, and out into the streets. There was even a line at McDonald’s across the street to get over to the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, now that’s funny. From last word, the Chick-Fil-A in Prattville had to close after they sold out of chicken, and it’s possible ours will too. I love my Chick-Fil-A, and that’s how it feels to me, it’s not “the” Chick-Fil-A, it’s my store. I know people who work at this store, they have the best customer service hands down of any fast food restaurant in town ten-fold, and they have great food.

I have had many conversations with people about this “event” today, for lack of a better word, and it’s all across the board. Some Christians were saying don’t eat chicken today because of this and that, some were saying if you don’t eat chicken today you’re not a “Christian” and so on. From the reasonable to the absurd.

My question here, is, now what.

To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to become Christ-like. We the church body obviously have a huge reserve of people, many of which I think have been sitting on the sidelines, until eat chicken day came along. When we read the book of James we see the example Jesus’ brother gave us, to be people of action, and not just on Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, but 365 days out of the year, or 366 days this year. So where are we chicken eating people the other 364 days of the year? I mean here in Auburn, we Chick-Fil-A loving chicken eating people are pretty much the overwhelming majority, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to eat there again today. Don’t get me wrong, today was definitely about eating chicken, and that was what we good chicken loving Bible Believers should have done today. But what about tomorrow? How do we show the love of Christ, and support uncompromising values and truths of Scripture the rest of the week?

You probably tracking with me so far, but here’s the kickers. Ever since today was dubbed Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, we social people (that’s all of us) have been throwing around opinions faster than the news can actually absorb them. Today was a great example of the reason churches should embrace social media, learn it’s power, and use it to point people back to Jesus as the Messiah. While the outpouring of support for Chick-Fil-A seems phenomenal all around the country, it does give the church body a great opportunity to reach out to gay people, to show them the love of Christ.

Scripture has example after example of Jesus eating with “sinners” like tax collector and prostitutes, perhaps we should be sitting down with gay people in our cities and talking to them about Christ as well?

Many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, and when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

…and Jesus responds by saying these are the people I came here to save (Matthew 9:10-13).

It’s a fine line we walk today. If we are going to make a point to go talk to homosexuals about Christ why not our next door neighbor? The homosexual groups see some Christians as hate mongers, hypocritical people who don’t follow what Christ teaches, and we see them as a people living in perpetual sin. There are absolute truths in Scripture that should not and can not be compromised. But there are ways to follow in Jesus’ footsteps without compromising what we believe. Perhaps this is done by sitting down and having a meal with someone you disagree with on such a fundamental level that the only way to agree is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work?

I don’t know what today means for tomorrow. Come Friday when the homosexual “kiss-in” is supposed to happen, we may see the reverse of today. When that happens the only thing we may have accomplished will be to really irritate PETA for devouring so much chicken in one week, which is ok by me. If we come out today to buy chicken for ourselves, why aren’t we Christians going to come out Friday to buy lunch for some kissing couple?

There must be something learned by all this. There are theological truths to be learned here. There are opportunities to teach being handed to pastors on a silver platter. And there are opportunities to talk to people who do not know the love of Christ, and the salvation that comes with trusting in the Messiah. Would Jesus have eaten a chicken sandwich today, or would he sit down and eat with homosexuals on Friday, or both? Scripture seems to indicate both, but it matters because this is not life or death, this is eternal life and eternal death.

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Intentional and Consistent Time in God's Word :: Friday Feet

Friday Feet with the Word

Normall for my Friday Feet posts, which I know has been a while, I like to take a shot of what I was doing out and about during the day. After being outside for about 30 minutes in this heat I realized I wasn’t going back out again. Something that has been on my mind is this notion of being intentional about spending time in God’s word.

I use to get sick of hearing pastors tell me I should be reading the Bible, that is until I actually started reading it for all it’s worth, then I totally understood what in the world they were talking about. The Christian life, our daily walk, must have some component of daily strengthening in our relationship with Christ.

If praying is God’s way for us to talk to him, God’s word is His way of talking to us. How would our relationship with our spouse or children be if we listened to them as often as we listened to God through reading his Word?

Yesterday it hit me when I read this tweet by D.L. Moody (and The Resurgence). Then after that, still yesterday, I received a video from a friend of mine who basically said everything I was already thinking, so I stole his title and wrote my thoughts down as I tend to do.

While the conclusion Moody was probably making in the tweet may be true, the reality of 1% of men reading the Bible is… alarming, tragic, pathetic, pitiful, ridiculous, or whatever other adjectives you want to use here for us men.

It just made me wonder how can we truly lead our families without being grounded in God’s instruction? This isn’t a condemnation of everyone else, I have struggled with this for years. Every day I pray I have an overwhelming desire to spend time in God’s word.

There is no better time than today, right now, and it has never been easier in the history of the world to read God’s word. We have more access to the Bible and read it less than probably any generation before us. If you are busy, like most of us are, YouVersion’s selection of reading plans is outstanding. As far as online, web, mobile, and Internet resources that give you countless ways to read the bible, YouVersion has no match.

This morning, right before I took the photo above, I finished the Psalms in 31 Days YouVersion plan, which I have read a few times this year. Since going to work for the church in 2008 I had never had a more difficult time trying to stay grounded in God’s word, until I went through a spiritual disciplines study in one of my seminary classes in 2009-2010. Since then, I have been very intentional about spending time in God’s word every day (with a break on a specific routine in Saturday).

This was not something that was a light switch event, it took time, it took effort, and it was far easier to let it slide a day or two here or there, but now it has become routine, and when I miss a day, I really long for that time back. It’s no longer a dreaded, oh now I have to read, it’s a desire that makes me look forward to this time every day. I truly believe this desire to read came from my prayer for God to give me that desire, so prayer to read is important as well.

I am personally a canonical reader, I have a specific personal reading plan to read through the entire Bible each year, and this year I finished that in June, so I decided to just start over. I do this using three different reading plans on YouVersion, one for the entire bible called the Canonical Plan, one for the NT called New Thru 30, and one for Psalms I listed above. I do not use the time frame on the plan, just the order to keep me on track, but there are hundreds of plans to chose from. Trust me, there is one that fits within your schedule. If you don’t want to use YouVersion, there are countless other resources available, just pick one, and create a habit around it.

Anyway, there you have it, I wholeheartedly agree with those pastors who say daily reading of God’s word is important, very important. After all, your wife probably expects you to listen to her today, right? And God is supposed to be ahead of everything. There is no more important time in the day than the time we spend in God’s word. It affects everything else we do throughout the day and into the evening, even if it’s just a short time amount of time at first, it adds up over time.

It may not seem like it at first, but being intentional and consistently spending time in God’s word will strengthen your relationship with Christ, but also with your family, your spouse, your coworkers, and those who still haven’t heard the Good News.

What Casting Vision at Cornerstone Church Looks Like

Do you want to know what casting vision looks like at Cornerstone Church in Auburn? Then you will need to be here either at 8:30, 10:00, or 11:30, this Sunday to hear the details. This Sunday is a break from our current in-motion sermon series “Counterfeit Gods” to address how our church is moving forward with a vision on specifically how to reach the unreached people in our local community. Cornerstone has done this for years, and specifically in a missional sense, we have done this in Buloba Uganda. But I love when a church says we can’t just sit and do nothing, because doing nothing is specifically not what we are called by God to do. It just happens to be my church saying that. But this Sunday Rusty will cast a vision for the church’s future outreach in a very missional way. Last night (photos above) was the final meeting with the Executive Council, volunteers, lay leaders and staff members before Rusty goes into specific detail from the platform. So if you are interested in where the people of Cornerstone Church are headed, be at 2123 Hamilton Road in Auburn on Sunday, or at least pick up the podcast on Monday.

Cornerstone has always tried to have a positive impact on our local community and that’s exciting. The exciting part about this moving ahead from where we are as a church right now is not seeing programs or membership grow, the exciting part is being able to see people grow in Christ, mature as disciples, then reach out to new people. This is the church. To see God’s work taking place in people’s lives through the Gospel message. It’s about a mission. It’s about people.

Are Counterfeit Gods Giving Me the Most Self Worth?

Last Sunday we started a series at Cornerstone called Counterfeit Gods, somewhat based on the book by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters, in a way of examining our lives to see exactly what we put in front of God, to look at the idols we worship, other than or in addition to, God Himself. Often when we think of idols today we think about bowing down to the golden calf of the old testament, not something we do today, but our idols abound everywhere in 2011. When I started taking a closer look at this it becomes obvious that one man’s idol is another man’s gift, so to speak. Anything can be an idol. Even if it’s something inherently good, if it takes priority over the Lord, it’s out of it’s proper place.

What Makes Me Feel the Most Self Worth?

This question was on a list of ten questions we were asked to look at over the week, and this one, number six in line, was the one that poked a hole through my heart. To go along with the “self-worth” question, a series of questions was posed, like; “What am I the most proud of in my life?” and “Early on in a relationship, what do I want to make sure that people know about me?”

I have spent many years of my life trying to eliminate things within my own house that preside all over our culture, but this “self-worth” question is different than looking at something like materialism. For me, it seems like it would be easier to see if Apple has a stranglehold on your life than if your wife is more important to me than God, or if my work in ministry or photography is more important than God. The “who we are” questions that make us individuals and not clones is a fine line between obsession, knowledge, and proper place.

It’s those things in life, which drive our personality, it’s part of who we are as individuals, it’s what makes us unique among each other. Other people have skills and talents I can’t even imagine having, but I also have unique abilities, gifts from God, that I can use for His glory or my own selfishness. Reading Ephesians 2:8-10 yesterday reminded me that those gifts were not something self-made, but given to me. Apart from God there is nothing I posses, no ability I have, that is or was my own doing.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

On a more personal note, the answer I gave to these questions in my own journal is this entry below.

On a surface level I would have to say my job, my photography, or my blog gives me my most earthly self worth but that isn’t it, it is the praise of man that goes along with those things that shames me in being proud. Lord I ask that you help me succeed in glorifying your kingdom in the gifts you have given me while not boasting in my own abilities. I can take a great image of a dogwood flower but I can’t make the flower bloom. I can use the tools given me but I can’t create the life that appears in my images.

What I am known for and what I want to be known for are two totally different things still. This is exactly what Michael Hyatt goes over in his free eBook, Creating a Life Plan. What do I want to be known for is for being an honest, upright, and faithful man of God who turned to God in every aspect of life, more and more as I mature in life and age until the day the Lord calls me home. I want to be the best husband I can possibly be, and then the earthly things that come along with being a successful photographer or having a significant impact on people with my career in ministry, however long the Lord chooses that to be.

What am I actually known for? I don’t even want to ask, but it’s the gap between what I am today and the above paragraph where the work resides.

Our Life of Multitasking and Skimming in Search of Productivity

Maybe its photography over the past 20 years that has made me over sensitive to our cultural demands for productivity, which in turn has given way to our two worst developed habits in search of better productivity, multi-tasking and skimming text. I am probably the worst at putting aside distractions but photography is one of those art forms that takes time, sometimes, a lot of time, and has helped me immensely over the years. Photography takes time just sitting there doing nothing, waiting, waiting on the right moment (hunters will appreciate this too). This one shot of the bird above took me at least an hour to capture last night, and it wasn’t a multitasking hour, it was a setup and wait hour, something almost unheard of anymore outside of photography, hunting, and maybe a few other tasks like actual Christian meditation or prayer.

I am trying to walk (not run) my way through Tim Challies new book, “The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion” where he talks about these very issues. In one section on learning to live without distractions (because we live in a world of constant and continuous distractions) Challies points out that when we turn to the bible we see very little demand for constant productivity, especially in ways we measure today. What we do see is a constant effort by Jesus to slow the pace of life, making time for meditation, prayer, and communion with the Father and His friends. Challies puts it like this:

What is unique in our time is that skimming has now become the dominant form of reading… The danger for Christians is apparent. If we grow so accustomed to skimming words, to passing quickly over texts, we will eventually impose this practice on the words of God… The danger today, in an era of skimming and fragmentation, is that we will fragment the Bible into small bits and have no time or ability to craft unity from the parts.

Being Productive is Not Our Higher Calling in Life

Productivity is one of those things that came out of our big factories decades ago, something that has never diminished, and has only gotten more and more intense as the years go by. Brought on by an insatiable need for being productive (in anything) we multitask and skim. In fact, if you have actually read this far, you are a rare breed among readers today. Most of us just skim text, especially text on the Internet, in approximately 2-3 seconds, and then move on.

According to Challies research, when we “multitask” we really aren’t multitasking as much as we are just jumping from task to task, paying little attention to either. In fact his research showed that it takes us 50% longer to complete each task than if we had done the one task and then moved on, and when we have completed each task the overall quality was greatly reduced as well. It forces us to give partial attention to the task or person right in front of us.

We Can No Longer Give People Our Full Attention

One of the most annoying traits I run across today is that very few people are actually capable of giving me their full attention. I rarely have a conversation with someone without them constantly looking at their cell phone, checking their email, sending text messages, or whatever. Face to face may be more rare today, but even when we do give someone our time, we don’t get but a part of that person in return. I will often just stop talking and wait for them to finish what they are doing, but many times the person won’t notice at all (something Deborah has done to me for years as well).

The point to all this is that, at least in part, is that we as Christians are in a faith that requires us to learn. And one of God’s biggest chosen methods is text, completed paragraphs of thought, made into full letters and books. Thoughts that flow from one book to another and are all connected from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible isn’t full of bullet points, it’s full of completed thoughts. The more we multitask, the more we demand productivity, the less ability we have to sit and read full blocks of text.

It’s like a drug. The less we sit in one place working on one single task, whether that’s reading, photography, or work, without regards to productivity, the less we can. Over two years ago I wrote a blog post called The Internet is The Church’s New Drug of Choice and it’s quite fascinating to see how much father down the road of distraction, multitasking, and skimming text, we have come in only two years.

Thoughts About the Constant Search for Productivity

Because I know for a fact that almost no one is going to read the above 775 words, I give you the bulleted version. In case you didn’t guess by now, I am far less concerned with the productivity factor in life than I am in developing a history of quality. I personally want to be able to do a few things well, never a lot of things in a mediocre fashion.

Photography has been one of those grounding things for me, because it takes time to perfect. There are no shortcuts to learning how to be a good photographer, it takes time no matter what equipment you buy (even if it’s a cell phone). As the time I spent shooting went down in 2009 and 2010 I had forgotten the value of time spent doing just one task at a time, until I got to this point. Since then I have taken more shots (spent more time) in the first 4 months of 2011 than I did all last year, and it’s a good reminder that productivity isn’t the most important thing in life.

  • Productivity is not what we are called to achieve in life
  • Multitasking is just doing several things at once, poorly
  • Multitasking leads us to ignore people standing in front of us
  • Skimming leads us away from thinking and ultimately knowledge
  • Skimming text is detrimental to our ability to read completed thoughts
  • The bible rarely calls us to hurry up and be more productive
  • The bible is not a book we can skim, we have to actually read it
  • There is a difference between taking your time and being lazy
  • The more we live a distracted life the more we need it
  • Embrace tasks that can only be done by themselves

There you have it, my ten bullet point thoughts from this post. Better stop now, 1,138 words is certainly WAY longer than any successful blog post is supposed to be, next time I’ll try to shoot for the standard 250 words… but don’t count on it.

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

After months of looking at “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt, i finally decided i had to go ahead and read this book. Having read and studied several books and/or articles that discuss the concepts and failings of what we call the “American Dream”, I already had my own opinion about the topic, but still think it’s a worthy topic today. Radical ended up not really being focused so much on the American Dream as it was to focus away from the concept.

Whether we acknowledge it or not we are probably influenced by this concept in one way or another, and much of the time it tends to be a self-focused concept, how do I maximize my 401k, get that house, car, computer, whatever. Radical attempted to remove that self-focused concept and replace it with a global evangelistic focus that Jesus calls for in Matthew 28.

The book is a compilation of a sermon series given by the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Dr. David Platt, after he returned from several international missional type trips a few years ago. i have read a few other reviews that have also suggested listening to the complete sermon series in addition to reading the book. Many have said it takes the book even deeper, so eventually I hope to listen to those as well. After a longer introduction period of a few chapters, Platt goes through seven truths, which are the premise for the text and lead to Platt’s conclusion, and eventually to his call to action. The truth statements come from this evaluating proclamation…

If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.

The Seven Truth’s of Radical:

  • TRUTH 1 : All People Have Knowledge of God
  • TRUTH 2 : All People Reject God
  • TRUTH 3 : All People are Guilty Before God
  • TRUTH 4 : All People are Condemned for Rejecting God
  • TRUTH 5 : God Has Made a Way of Salvation For the Lost
  • TRUTH 6 : People Cannot Come to God Apart From Faith in Christ
  • TRUTH 7 : Christ Commands the Church to Make the Gospel Known to All Peoples

With each explained in detail, Radical proceeds into the final call to action with, what I read as the ultimate conclusion of the text.

…that means there is only one potential breakdown in this progression [of truths] —when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples

This leads into Platt’s call to action. A one year plan, in five steps (or points), that intend to bring the believer into closer alignment to the truths in the Gospel message instead of continuing on a path towards the elusive American Dream.

Concluding Critique About Radical

For those with an evangelical background Radical will be a hard but familiar call to constantly evaluate our lives against the truths of the Gospel. Not only does it cause us to examine our lives more closely but it gives specific, tangible examples (or points) which are easy to evaluate, like reading the bible completely in one year (either you did or you didn’t).

Some may see this as works, or a process or program, but I don’t believe that is Platt’s message to believers at all. The Gospel is a call to live a radical life unlike that of the world, and Radical confirms this. It isn’t about a program to do this or that, it is about a life changed, and living a lifestyle for God not for self.

For those with a more liberal theology, or those who view some sermons as annoying guilt trips, Radical will probably be seen more as another radical pastor calling on people to give up all their worldly possessions, give them to the “poor” and go somewhere overseas to spread Christianity (which actually is in the bible too, but no doubt some will find it annoying to say the least). While they will appreciate the social consciousness aspect to Radical’s call, some will see it as an “evils of riches” guilt trip.

It is not a book that is going to answer all the questions, but it will stretch the believer into thinking beyond ourselves and the small boxes we tent to live in, especially here in the United States. Some questions that came to mind were:

  • How much is enough?
  • What can we live without for the sake of the Gospel?
  • Where do we spend our time and is it worth our time?
  • What do we see in ourselves when examining our life against scripture?
  • What will we do with the five action items in Radical?

It is always interesting to see if a book stands the test of time. One way I look at the effectiveness of a book is how well does the author make their arguments, and will the book survive the initial pop culture publication. In other words, does the author make convincing enough arguments to make the book either (1) entertaining, (2) does it make you change or examine the way you think, or (3) does it even change your actions and how you live. In short, does the book shape you in some way or form.

Since I rarely read books for their entertainment value, I hope for one of the latter points, and that is where Radical lands. It made me think, it changed the way I do a few things, and it caused me to take a hard look at my long term calling. I would highly recommend Radical to anyone who has a teachable spirit and is willing to take a new look at old ways of doing Christianity beyond Sunday morning.

5 Reasons Why I Love My Job at Cornerstone Church

Cornerstone Church

I haven’t posted consistently here since November because every time I went to write something, words didn’t suffice. This week, and the past several weeks, have been so unbelievable that I really can’t describe my feelings into coherent words yet (see Deb’s blog post in brief). The ups and downs of life that have occurred is something I have never faced before, and I don’t really know where to start, other than to say we have a great God, worthy of every ounce of praise we can muster.

As a way to just get myself started unpacking the events of the last few months I thought I would start with my job at Cornerstone and go from there. I’m well into my third year (see I Have Now Joined the Ranks of Church IT), and starting in 2011 I moved into a slightly different role, one that I am really looking forward to in the year ahead. It has been quite an adventure, something I would never trade if I had to do it all over again, and this past week was a big exclamation point on that statement.

Thinking over the reasons why I love my job I started realizing there were 100’s, so in a nut shell, here are five off the top.

1. It Combines My Life Passion and My Career A “life passion” is probably inadequate to describe my faith. Being a Christian isn’t about being passionate about something, like I love Auburn football, or love to eat, it is who I am. Being able to go to work every day and play a small part in something big is huge to me, but it’s more than that, it’s the combination of the 100’s of reasons I love working for the Church.

This is a catch all reason. Everything about my faith is played out each day, for better or worse, and I have the honor of being supported by the members of Cornerstone. The support that I receive in my life, especially over the last few months, transcends a “job” and has become a way of life.

2. The People I Work With are Unbelievable I can’t say enough about the staff at Cornerstone. In the almost 25 years I have spent in the work force so far, I have never worked with a greater collective group of people than those staff and those who lead the church than at Cornerstone.  I could write a post about each of them and how much they mean to me individually, and as a group.

3. Cornerstone’s Vision and Direction This is something the staff and leaders talk about all the time. Where is God leading this church, and how can we best follow His direction. Much of what goes on at Cornerstone Church comes from the statement Leading People To Know and Serve Jesus, and our jobs, whatever that job is, should ultimately work towards that goal, and I love that.

4. Margin, Prayer, and Study, are Expected Finding time to live the life we are called to live out as Christians can be hard. We get so busy with work and everything else that is life, but as a Christian we are called to live out our faith Monday through Saturday too. At Cornerstone, the leaders expect us to live out a life of faith that is taught in scripture, and I love that about my job.

5. The Willingness to Learn and Adjust An amazing quality of Cornerstone Church is the willingness of the leaders to listen, learn, try something new, fail if needed, then adjust and try again. This is no small thing at all, and few businesses, let alone churches, can stop that train once it gets rolling, or try something new to try to make a difference in someone’s life.

That’s my top 5. If you’re in the Auburn area please come by on Sunday morning (or during the week), we would love to meet you.

Concern, Timing, and the Attitude of Nehemiah

Sunday, we started a new eight week look at the book of Nehemiah.   A few years ago I completed a class study (about 4 months long) just on the book of Nehemiah, scripture by scripture.  Prior to that class I really had no idea who this man was or what he did. After the class I had such inspiration for how God had used Nehemiah and what he, through God, was able to accomplish for the people of Israel, that it has stuck with me ever since. Now, years later, I have certainly not rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, but I am still influenced each day by that study.

Now, I almost get to look at this series with fresh eyes and a new understanding of what God can do, with any of us, who have a passion and/or burden for the Lord and His work.  To get the series started, Rusty put out three points about Nehemiah and I thought I would share them here, starting with Chapter 1, verse 4.

Nehemiah Had Deep Concern

After hearing from his brother about the condition of Jerusalem, scripture says Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed.  Obviously over great concern for the state of the people of Israel, Nehemiah’s first step was to seek God.  Although he was a great man of physical action, this wasn’t his first step, it was to seek out God, and show his genuine concern for what had happened.

Frequently the first thing we want to do when we see an injustice or something of concern is jump in with everything we have.  As the Israelites had seen many times before, without God, much of what we do can be pointless, even if we are passionate about the issue at hand. When the Israelites refused to take the land, which God had promised to Abraham’s descendants, God punished them, not allowing them to take the land at that time.

They decided they were just going to go ahead and go anyway after being admonished by Moses, but then it was too late. In Deuteronomy 1:40-45 Moses recounts what happened. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.” (v. 42)

The Timing Was Deliberate

As with the example above, the phrase “timing is everything” is not just an empty saying, in many cases, it really is everything.  Nehemiah didn’t just rush head first into a plan of action, he waiting on God’s timing.  The text says he waited “for some days”, for God’s timing.  It turns out Nehemiah waited about 4 months before putting God’s plan into action.

Often when we wait for God, we find God.  God is in the waiting.  Our 21st century culture knows almost nothing about waiting for anything anymore.  We are just about as instant a society as one could be now, so waiting on God’s timing is hard.  Do we not generally think our timing is God’s timing instead of the other way around today?  Many times, I know at least in my own walk, I often can only see what was God’s timing through the lens of history.

Looking back it is easier for me to see when the timing was purely my own and when what I deemed to be doing nothing, was actually waiting for God’s own timing.  Psalm 27:14 says “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord .”  A tall order for us today, but one Nehemiah did before he went on to build a wall, and renew the spiritual life of a broken nation of Israel.

Nehemiah had a Deferential Attitude

Perhaps one thing that made Nehemiah such a great tool for God was his attitude.  He was the greatest coach of all time, and it eventually translated into the people he lead to build the wall.  1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  I love that verse.  We are not restricted in doing things for the glory of God on Sunday mornings, it says, “whatever” we do.

Nehemiah’s attitude was a game changer, he made the small picture big, the little things, huge, many times just with his attitude towards the work at hand, for the glory of God.  When we are in the midst of the struggle, we cannot always see the whole picture, but God can.  John Piper explains it in his classic book Desiring God that God can look through a wide angle lens or a narrow lens.  He can see both our own seemingly small struggles, and yet see the entire picture and how it turns out in the end, we often can’t, but we can have the attitude of Nehemiah.

I am looking forward to the next 7 weeks to see what God has in store for Nehemiah, and His local church here in Auburn.