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The City Blog

Dreams and Excuses
Feb 06, 2017
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Let’s be honest… you and I, we’ll probably never be the best at anything. Some people never try to be the best or even really good at something. Some people just don’t care.

But I care.

Some people seem to just be satisfied with average. Even less than average.

Some people don’t want to dream big or go far or achieve much.

But I do. I really do.

And sometimes I get a little envious of others' success. Ok, I get flat out jealous. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. But I just have to admit, I do. I have to work on that and guard against it.

But I just want to connect with those who want to dream big and go far and achieve much. I think this drive is from God. God sets it in the heart of people to have ambition. It’s like He set a fire inside of some people and that fire won’t go out until that vision is achieved.

I think God does this in me. He gives me a vision of a preferred future and sometimes it’s like it consumes me. It’s like it possesses me. I go for it. I work hard.

I remember when we started our first buildout as a church. We were renting space at a high school for years. It was fun at the beginning, all the setting up and tearing down. All the super early mornings and really late nights prepping equipment so a hundred people could come and experience God in our church was exciting. I loved it. And it was worth it. But after a while I have to admit it became pure good ole’ fashioned work.

WHAT CAME NEXT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

We rented our first permanent space. It was a 35,000 square foot, old, run- down abandoned grocery store. I remember me and my dear friend, Mr. Ken Bussell, walking into that space. There were no walls, just dreams. And man did we dream.

I remember asking Ken if he had a napkin. We found a napkin and on It we started drawing lines that would eventually define the space that would become our first real auditorium and lobby, our first kids area and Journey Store. We even drew in a little cafe—all on the napkin.

Once that dream caught fire in us we knew we had to build it and believed God was telling us to. We prayed and told God we would try but we knew we needed His help. So we asked Him for help. We asked Him to do something that we knew we couldn’t.

Then God seem to tell me something. I said Ken, I think we can build this whole building out in 90 days. I don’t know if I was trying to convince myself or if I was trying to convince Ken. I thought people would come and sacrifice and believe God for great things. If we could get hundreds of people to volunteer like crazy we could do it in 90 days. We had no money. None. It took everything we had just to secure the lease. We took out personal loans for the build out. So we needed the volunteers. We trusted God for them.

Well, we moved the tools in on Halloween night. I remember that. Got to work the next day. Bummer is, we didn’t make the 90 day dream. It took us 111 days from the day we moved in to the day we had our first Experience in that building.

Did you read that right? 111 days to totally remodel 35,000 square feet with a bunch of volunteers. I remember that time. I was obsessed with the dream. I felt it was from God. (Looking back I have many regrets about the sacrifice my family made but that’s for another blog.) I remember being so driven that nothing else mattered.

So if you dream, what’s holding you back? If God is calling you to something, what are you waiting for? Recently we talked at MetroCITYchurch.tv about how church is the huddle. It’s where we group together and get the game plan going. But it is not the game! We are called to get out of the huddle and into the game.

What are you telling yourself that is keeping you away from God’s best for you?

I saw a list of excuses pastors give why they and their churches are kept from God’s best. It inspired me to come up with my own short list of what I hear people say over and over that keeps them from getting into the game:

“I just don’t have what it takes.”

“It’s somebody’s else’s job. It’s not my responsibility.”

“I’m not a leader.”

“It takes money.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young.”

“I’m depressed.”

“I just don’t know what to do to get started.”

“I may not succeed.”

“I get jealous of others.”

“I don’t have an education.”

“I want everyone to like me.”

“I need to understand everything before we begin.”

“I’ve tried before, and I failed.”

“I don’t need a mentor.”

“Porn isn’t that bad.”

“That definitely won’t work here.”

“It’s my fault.”

“It’s not my fault.”

“I stopped caring a long time ago.”

“I can’t…”

A second century pastor once said, “Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight and let us get a vision of the true God.”

Now read that again.

And again.

Until you see a big God you will never see a big dream in your life come true. Trust God. Believe God. Follow God. Obey God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

You and me, we may never be the best at anything but isn’t it fun to think God’s dream for us is bigger than our dreams for us?

Thanks for Reading, Pastor Jeremy

The City Blog

A Way in the Wilderness
Jan 23, 2017
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It was one of those kinds of days at work today. Metro is moving to a new online database, Elvanto, and I HAVE to learn this for the teams I serve. But teaching myself how to do something is not in my wheelhouse. Databases aren't in my wheelhouse either. Did I mention I had a bunch of (self-inflicted) pressure to get it done and a lot of voices inside my head reminding me how bad I am at this stuff? Five hours later I left with little more than I started with, headed home and got into bed. It was 6 p.m.

I'm going to tell you a secret about me. When I feel defeated, I look at pictures of alpacas on the internet. Some may ask why, but I ask why not? Have you ever seen an alpaca? They are quirky and happy and funny and everything an online database is not. The pictures helped some but I decided to move to my second self-soothing technique, which is watching Tiny House tours. I love to imagine a little tiny house on a beautiful lake where the alpacas run free and databases don't exist. I'm incredibly self-evolved with my coping skills, I know.

Basically I was doing everything short of housework (I wasn't that desperate) to avoid my next task: writing this blog post. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I was coeditor of my high school paper and a journalism major for a time in college. Most of my jobs have included writing and when I became a stay at home mom, I wrote a blog that was a highlight of my days during a sleepless, tough season of mothering.

But then...but then I abandoned the writing I loved so much. We left our church of sixteen years and the subsequent grief from the loss of relationships, coupled with the need to "put ourselves out there" every Sunday looking for a new church home just wearied me. I felt vulnerable and unable to take risks that made my writing anything.

And so I let a big part of myself wither.

Fast forward four years later and Pastor Jeremy mentioned the new church blog and how I might want to write on it. But although my heart leapt at the idea, I've been stuck hard in the mud of self-doubt. Uncertainty. Condemnation. The same voices I listened to when trying to learn the database and couldn’t, the same voice when I'm wanting to speak up at a meeting but am unsure, the same voice when I want to reach out to my husband after a fight.

Lara Casey says it like this: "We falsely believe we have to do it all, have it all, be an expert, be better than someone else, be the best, have it all together....and if we aren't, we hesitate. We don't move forward, we don't send it, say it, do it, surrender. We just sit in the lies."

Yes. That.

But friends, that's not the life I want to live and it's certainly not what I want to model for our three girls. I want to live a life of courage, of saying and doing and WRITING hard things that are true and good. I want to take risks in my writing because maybe I will connect with you and together we can feel less alone and say yes to all that God has in store for us.

So here it is. As Lara Casey says, "It's okay to grow slow and it's okay to be average". This year I'm going to push myself to write out of a place of security and love even if it comes out creaky. I'm turning away the lies and even the alpacas to lift my face to His. He says there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), He says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), He tells me I'm more than a conqueror through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). And this, this especially: Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19). That is what our loving Father says about us and that is TRUTH.

Will you join me in this? Do one small thing this week that may look small to the world but is a leap of faith for you. Take a risk to listen to His voice and do that hard thing. For me, it's going to be "pressing send" at the end of this. What will it be for you? Tell me about it so I can pray for you and encourage you.

The City Blog

The Reason for the Season and Everything Else
Jan 10, 2017
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The Reason for the Season…and Everything Else.

“Why?” 

For some reason I have been feeling a little discontent and restless and confused about several things in my life lately, so I have been doing some soul-searching.  For me, this mostly means asking myself the question: “Why?”  Why am I doing this?  Why am I not doing that?  Why did that happen?  Why should I?  Why shouldn’t I?  I have found that the answer to the question “Why?” can tell me more about myself, other people and things that happen in my life than almost anything else.  As I reflect on some things I have said and done over the past couple of months, both good and bad, I am trying to honestly answer the question “Why?” 

Answering the question “Why?” will reveal who I really am and what is deep inside my heart.  Jesus once said: “Out of the abundance of the heart…the good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35).  Only the answer to the question “Why?” from the depths of my heart can reveal whether something in my life is good or bad, right or wrong, meaningful or wasteful.

The “Why” of the heart is what really matters, but we must be careful because the “Why” is not always obvious to the eye.  Jesus once addressed a group of people who looked good on the outside, but he knew their hearts.  “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” (Matthew 15:8-9).

So I am asking myself: What, or who, really has my heart?  What, or who, is my “Why,” because the “Why” makes all the difference.  Two people can come to church, but because of the “Why,” one is pleasing to God and the other is not.  Two people can feed the homeless, but because of the “Why,” one is sinning and the other is not.  Two people can do the same job, but because of the “Why,” one is good and one is evil.  If you think that is overstated, consider Romans 14:23: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

If I want my “Why” to be pleasing to God in all that I say and do, then I must match my “Why” with His.  The Scriptures teach that God himself has a “Why” that defines his goodness…and also defines ours.  Jesus expressed it at the end of his longest prayer to His Father in the Bible: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).  In other words, God’s “Why” is that He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.

God created the heavens and the earth because He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.  God created men and women in His own image because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God made a plan to forgive our sins because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God sent Jesus to be our Savior and only hope because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God raised Jesus from the dead because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will work all things together for good to make us like Jesus because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will send Jesus back one day to put an end to all sin, sickness, suffering and death because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will give us eternal life with Him in heaven forever because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  And God will express His wrath toward all who reject Jesus, because He loves Jesus above all else and wants us to love Him above else too – so much so that He will remove every obstacle and hindrance to the full enjoyment of both His and our love for Him forever.  God’s love for Jesus is His “Why” underneath all other reasons…for EVERYTHING!

Around Christmas, many people talk about the “Reason for the Season.” Well, Jesus made clear that the “Reason for the Season,” and for everything else, is that God is a Father who has a Son that He loves, and He wants us to love Him too.  This is good news indeed!

I want my “Why” to match God’s “Why.”  I have a suspicion that if I could learn to live with this focus, I would stop feeling so discontent and restless and confused.  I think it would help me react better, be more patient and forgiving with my family and friends, and find more joy and fulfillment in my relationships and work.  Will you join me on this journey into the One Great “Why”?  Why or why not?

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” ( Colossians 3:17).

Embracing Jesus as the Reason for the Season…and for everything else…

Pastor Greg

The City Blog

Moment Living
Dec 28, 2016
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It always strikes me with mixed emotions when I hear people say, ‘Just live for the moment.’ I agree.  We should live ‘IN THE MOMENT’.  I know I have trouble with that.  Being THERE when I’m there.  The stupid cell phone seems to call my name. Ha, as I just wrote those words the little ‘ding’ went off again and I’m going to stop right now and check who it was.

I’m back.  It wasn’t terribly important.

But it’s true.  You have to live IN THE MOMENT.  But living FOR THE MOMENT is different.

It seems to me that a lot of people seem to live from event to event or moment to moment.  They have a very short view of life and maybe even no view of eternity.  This strikes me as, well, short sighted.  (Pun intended.)  And not only short sighted but stupid. 

As Paul David Tripp writes in New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, "There is no doubt about it—the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. 

It challenges you to think deeply about your life and your life after your life. For Christian people, the Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn’t give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are."

So many live in the moment thinking the moment will last forever but it’s just a snapshot.  Forgetting first it’s snapped and then it’s shot.  In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. This is true.  Remember those I-PODS you really needed then you didn’t need because they came out with this thing called an I-PHONE. 

Trip says it this way: "We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because all that we do is meant to have connection to the God of beginnings and endings, by whom and for whom we were created."

Stop living for the moment.  Remember that you were created for eternity.  Now is important but later is longer.  Be in the moment but live for later. Live for eternity.

This is hard.

Really hard. Because there are these moment that everything seems to hinge on.  Will you get that big job?  Will you get the girl?  Will the baby be healthy? Will the Lions actually make the playoffs?  And then there are moments that you wonder if you’ll even make it through.  Your world is teetering.  And it seems like nothing else will ever matter. 

But later does matter. And as Andy Stanley says, later is longer.

"It’s hard to live with eternity in view. Life does shrink to the moment again and again. There are moments when it seems that the most important thing in life is getting through this traffic, winning this argument, or satisfying this sexual desire. There are moments when our happiness and contentment shrink to getting those new shoes or to the steak that is just ten minutes away."

"It’s in moments like this that later doesn’t seem to matter and GOD IS LOST and eternity shrinks.  We lose our direction." We lose our momentum.  And we lose our memory.  Our memory of what really matters. Later does matter and later is longer.

Jesus had a remarkable way of reminding us of this.  He once said, ‘What does it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your soul?  (Mark 8:36).  WOW.  That’s a gut check.  He reminds of the sheer magnitude of eternal thinking when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).

That’s hard.  Everything I seem to do is about laying up my treasure for the here and now.  I hate this about me.  Why do we put so much value in the now stuff?  I really don’t want to make now more important than later because later really is longer. 

How about you?

The City Blog

My World is Spinning
Dec 15, 2016
9

That’s the way I feel right now.  My world is spinning out of control.  Not the kind that is unmanageable or sinful, it’s just that change does that.  It makes my world spin.

Everyone deals with change. Coping with change is hard.

Your elderly mother is put into a nursing facility, leaving your dad alone at home. 

You've just moved to a new city with your family. You're happy for a new job, new opportunity.

Your wife misses her parents and your children are having trouble in their new school.

Maybe it’s a new baby or changing health or a trusted friend is moving away.

Change is inevitable. We can’t avoid it.  Some of it is for the good and some of it is not so good. I’m having trouble figuring out if I like change.

My kids are getting older and they have their own lives.  They have their own minds. Their own dreams.  I’m not so sure I like that. 

People I work and serve with have their own vision of what God is calling them to…and it’s different than my vision for what God is calling them to.  Go figure…

Maybe you’re like me and you’re still surprised at how much life changes and how often…and how hard it is.  It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does.  And what’s weird is how much it hurts sometimes.  I think it’s because you get comfortable.  Maybe it’s because you think you’re through something or over something and it’s going to finally get easy for a minute.

But it never does because life is always change. 

I’ve been told a time or two when things weren’t going my way to ‘just to deal with it.’  That’s tough for me.  I want to control things.  Honestly, not sure if this is wrong to say, but I want things to go my way and sometimes it makes me mad when they don't and sometimes it makes me sad.

I don’t want to say it, but what I’m dealing with right now is just making me sad.  Really sad.

But God is teaching me a few things.  Things that I probably should have learned before I was 46 years old, but I’m finally learning them now whether I like it or not.

CHANGE IS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE.

You have to keep CHANGE in PERSPECTIVE.

There is an ebb and flow to life that brings natural changes with it - I have to remember this.  It was King Solomon that said there was a "time" for everything under the sun.  In other words…everything changes.  (I think somebody wrote a song about that once…)  In his book called Ecclesiastes (Ch. 3), Solomon talks about the seasons and changes of life.

Birth and Death.
Beginnings and Endings.
War and Peace.
Searching and Giving Up.
Building and Tearing Down. 

This is all change, and coping with life changes is never easy.  We get nervous and depressed because we think the change we face will change everything, when in reality only a part of our lives will be different.

We think the change is too fast, when the real problem is that maybe we're just slow in accepting the inevitable. Or we think the change is for the worse when we have no idea of what good might be just around the corner.

I heard a college professor once say, ‘Change is less unsettling when we can see the big picture and not just the small universe of our own lives.’

My aunt gave me a picture to hang on my wall when I was just a kid.  I looked at it every night.  It wasn’t really a picture.  It was just a bible verse hand-painted on a little canvas type of thing.  To be honest, it wasn’t really nice and looked kind of cheap.  But I think it changed my life.  Or at least shaped my life.  It read:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."  
- Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Most changes work out in the long run. Well, they don’t just work out.  God has a way of working in our changes if we trust Him.  I need to remember that. 

It's easy to believe this while times are stable and predictable. It's when we find ourselves in the eye of the storm that this promise is difficult to believe. But think of it, is anything too difficult for God? Do changes confuse God or make it any more difficult for Him to care for us?


But He said, I will never leave you or forsake you. That’s what Jesus told me.  And He tells you this too.  Keeping this in mind changes the change.  It makes change a little more bearable. It lowers the fear and panic that comes with change. 

I don’t know what’s come your way but it’s probably been no easier than what’s come my way. Maybe you’ve heard the word CANCER spoken to you.  Or maybe the phrase, ‘We’re eliminating your position.’ Or maybe it’s a friend that seems to be moving out of your life or wife or a husband that’s leaving for good. Maybe a dream is just slowly fading away.

Maybe you’ve got happy change going on.  If that’s you, honestly, I’m happy for you. But maybe you’ve got the kind of sad change coming.  Can I just tell you that I feel for you.  I break with you. I get it because this is where I’m at right now.  I’m worried and not liking some things that I don’t think I can stop even if I try.

But let me just speak a word to you.  One word…

TRUST.

Trust God.  Trust His goodness. Trust His Word.  Trust His Spirit and leadership and comfort.  Trust Him and He will make your path straight. 

I love that!  TRUST GOD and HE’LL STRAIGHTEN OUT THE MESS.  He’ll make your path straight. 

Different people react to "change" in different ways. So here it is for me…

Accept the fact that changes in life are natural and inevitable. Don't be surprised or hurt or panicked because change is normal.

Try to keep the changes in your life in proper perspective. Don't overreact or overestimate the impact of changes you face.

Put your trust in God. God is aware of every change and circumstance, we need to trust Him with the outcome of the changes in our lives.

Whatever we need, He will provide.  Whatever we lose, He will restore in His own way. Of course there is one final change we all should look forward to as Christians and that is the change we will undergo when Jesus returns.

"Our mortal bodies will be transformed (changed) into glorious ones in order to dwell in heaven with God forever."(no more change!)
- 1 Thess. 4:17

I’m trying to trust Him.  Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

Until ALL Hear,

Pastor Jeremy

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