I use a garden hose on a regular basis. I use it to water the plants, sprinkle the lawn, wash my cars, and to do just about anything else that requires transferring water from my well to someplace else. The other day I needed to wash my car so I took the hose off the hose reel attached to my house and dragged it fifty feet to where my car was parked. I set down the hose and walked back to the valve to turn it on. Then I walked back to the end of the hose near the car expecting water to be gushing out. The problem was, there was no water coming out even though the valve was on. I looked at the hose and followed it back to the valve with my eyes. That was when I noticed the hose had four kinks in it. So I had to go back and straighten out all four kinks in order for the water to freely flow out of the nozzle. As soon as I straightened the first kink, the water rushed through the hose to the second. So I straightened that kink and it rushed to a third kink. And once I straightened that kink the water came gushing out of the end.
In a spiritual sense, God uses us like a hose to bring life (the water) wherever we go. The Holy Spirit flows through us to bring Jesus and when we bring Jesus, He brings life. But sin is like a kink in the hose. Lies are like a kink in the hose. Anger is a kink in the hose. Foul and abusive language is a kink in the hose. Bitterness, rage, slander and other sin are all kinks in the hose. When you have kinks, you stop the Holy Spirit from flowing through you and bringing life to others.
God wants us to examine our lives so that we can remove the kinks and he can use us. Right now the Holy Spirit might be revealing a few kinks that you need to deal with. I want to encourage you to deal with them. Don’t put it off, don’t pretend they are not there. Deal with them and watch how God will not only work through you but in you. If your marriage is struggling, maybe you have a relational kink that needs to be worked out. Feel far from God? Maybe you have a kink of doubt or self-will that needs to be worked out. Feel angry all the time or resentful toward someone? You have a kink in the hose and until you forgive them the Holy Spirit will be limited in what He can do through you. And if someone is parked on your hose, you will need to work through a process to get them off. I’m not saying get rid of the car, but you might need to move it.
The Apostle Paul instructs us how to remove the kinks writing: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
The good news is that once you look for the kinks in your hose, you will see them and can deal with them. You might not be able to remove all the kinks right now, but you can start today. Pick one kink and work it out. Then when you sense God pushing up against another one, work it out. God wants the Holy Spirit to flow through you. There is nothing in this world that I want more than to see the Holy Spirit flowing through you, watering others, helping them to grow closer to Christ. As a church we want to raise the spiritual climate of our community and this will happen more quickly if we get the kinks out in our individual spiritual lives so we can let God’s love flow through us.
What is the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer?
A thermometer tells you the temperature.
A thermostat moves it.
God has not called Freshwater to reflect the spiritual temperature of our community. He commissions us to change it and we are going to have to put on the full armor of God in order to do this. Freshwater isn’t just a church, we are a movement. I believe that God has given us a fresh vision to “Raise the spiritual climate of our community.” We want to move the spiritual needle in eight significant areas. This is where we envision Freshwater moving the needle.
1. Lower the divorce rate by 5% in five years.
Here are some current statistics:
61% of adults are married
14% of adults are widowed/divorced
27% of married couples have a child from someone other than who they are currently married to.
Roughly half of the households in our community are comprised of some sort of non-traditional family unit. Freshwater is a safe place whether you are married, single, single again, or have a blended family. We know that if we can help families, we can lower divorce and if we help lower the number of divorces then we are lowing the amount of pain people feel because divorce hurts. It hurts moms and dads, kids and friends. We see ourselves as a church that helps families no matter what their family structure looks like. Let’s fight for this and move the divorce needle down and the joy needle up.
2. Lower personal debt by 50% in five years.
Debt is one of the biggest causes of conflict in marriage and for individuals. Here are some statistics for you on today’s average debt:
$ 15,675.00 average credit card debt
$ 172,341 average mortgage debt
$ 27,865 average auto loan debt
$ 48,591 average student loan debt
The average person/family spends $6,658 every year on interest or 9% of their income.
Household income has grown by 26% in the past 12 years, but the cost of living has gone up 29% in that time period. (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/, accessed 11/11/16)
If we can help people lower their debt it will help lighten their burden. Living with a ton of debt causes many emotional, physical, and spiritual problems. When we finished college I was paying on 4 student loans and making a house payment on a shoestring income. It was tough. Now I have kids and kids are expensive. Just think how much better your life would be if your debt load was cut in half? It would be awesome, so let’s fight for this and move the debt needle down.
3. Positively impact and assist over 300 people struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges. Last year in Carver county alone there were 633 reported suicide attempts. This breaks my heart. Substance abuse and mental health issues are often talked about behind closed doors. Not anymore. Freshwater is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for saints, we want to move the mental health needle and help people so they will feel healthier and more joyful. This is worth fighting for.
4. See 1,000 people make the decision to follow Christ in the next five years.
In the last year we know of about 150 people who made first time decisions to follow Christ through Freshwater. I see a church that reaches even more people for the glory of God. Salvations move the needle and in order to see them we need to be an open and inviting church. We need to talk about Jesus with others to move the salvation needle.
5. See 80% of Freshwater people connected with others in a group.
Groups provide accountability and care. This will move the needle because when you are in a healthy group you can be yourself and help others to do the same.
6. Plant five new churches in five years.
We want to see 5 new sister churches planted throughout the metro area. I’m not talking about necessarily adding more campuses, I’m talking about launching church planters out to plant churches.
7. Celebrate with over 2,000 people at all of our worship services in five years.
If we help lower the divorce rate, help lower personal debt, help people struggling with mental health issues and addictions, and if we share Jesus, our church will grow. If everyone takes responsibility to invite at least one other person and help them connect with Christ, Freshwater will grow. Let’s move the growth needle by helping people connect with Christ and a healthy church.
8. Build and move into a new facility within five years that meets our needs and leverages our existing facilities. As this vision comes to reality, our current facilities are not going to be enough. The initial vision includes turning the St. Boni campus over to the Freshwater Learning Center so they can expand. The vision also includes leveraging the Waconia campus to be used even more for children, students, and community outreach so they can expand. Then we will build one new facility for weekend services and offices that will help lower our operating costs and streamline our staff. We don’t have a location yet or a site plan, just a dream to help transform lives.
So what can you do now? First, you can pray. Pray that God will use Freshwater to raise the spiritual climate of the community. Pray with passion and transparency. Second, if you are struggling in any of the areas mentioned, reach out for help. We have many resources to help you or someone you love but can’t help unless we know. It’s time to get real and be transparent. Trust me, you are not the only one who has some rough areas. Reach out for help, it’s worth it. Third, take a step of faith and help someone you know who is struggling. Help another married couple or a friend who went through a painful divorce or is on the verge of one. Walk alongside a friend who is battling an addiction or mental health challenge, just do something. Fourth, Pray that God will provide our next location and the finances to build it. We do not have a location yet, but we do believe God will provide the right place for us at the right time.
This is a God-sized, needle-moving, worthy-of-fighting-for vision. We don’t have all the specifics dialed in yet, but we do have a vision and a direction. I believe that this is what we are called to do and it’s going to take an army of committed believers to get the job done. We want to build better lives, we want to plant life, we want to reach people for Christ, connect them with other Christians, help the growing to serve others and honor God with their life. We want to see this happen in our time and I believe with all of my heart that we can and we will. Let’s do this!
When we lived in our other home on the East side of St. Boni, I would work late into the night fixing cars in the garage. Kathi and the kids would be sleeping so I would go in through the side door, down six steps and walk straight over to the sink to wash the grease and oil off my hands.
I have walked through my basement door and upstairs a thousand times so I didn’t bother turning on the light after I washed my hands. I knew where the freezer was and the doorway and the stairs so I just headed in that direction. In total darkness I walked right past the freezer without a hitch. I turned the corner and walked right through the doorway without even bumping the sides. I turned again and started walking and wham! I kicked something in full stride and screamed out in pain, using words that are probably not appropriate to say right here, as I reached for the light switch.
While I danced up and down holding my toe, I realized that someone had pushed an antique wood and metal suit case we use as a coffee table right in my path. This was the case that I kicked with my foot in the dark breaking my second toe. I could have completely avoided breaking my toe if I would have turned on the light to lead me on my journey from the basement to the bedroom. It’s always better to walk in the light.
The bible talks about being in the light and walking in the light and living in the light dozens and dozens of times contrasting it with being in the dark. Usually light is symbolic of positive spiritual traits and characteristics and darkness - negative and evil.
In the Psalms, light is the symbol for Salvation. “The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 It is also symbolic for Life (Psalm 36:9), Righteousness (Psalm 37:6), Truth (Psalm 43:3), and The Word of God “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105. Jesus even claims to be the light of the world saying: “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.
While darkness symbolizes wickedness “The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.” Proverbs 4:19, Ignorance (Psalm 82:5), and evil “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” Isaiah 5:20.
There is no doubt that being in the light and walking in the light and with the light is good. When Paul wrote the letter we have in the bible known as Ephesians, the Jewish believer in particular understood the significance of living in the light. They knew it was good. The gentiles figured it out quick too. I’m sure one of them broke a toe trying to walk in from the barn late one night. They got it.
If living in the light is so important and beneficial, then how do we do it? How do we live in the light? Ephesians 4:17-5:14 explain how to live in the light writing: “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Ephesians 4:21-24
Paul says to put on the new nature, created to be like God or to be in harmony with God, truly righteous and holy. Once a person becomes a believer and starts to walk in the light they need to stop walking in darkness. What does this mean? It means now that you know the truth, apply it to your life. Let me give you a couple of examples: If you get married you should not still date your old girlfriend or boyfriend. If you do, you are going to be in trouble with your spouse. If you go to weight watchers you should not end each session with a trip to the all you can eat buffet.
And if you are a new creation in Christ, you should not do the sinful things you used to do. Sinful things - like being selfish, blowing up on people in rage, abusing alcohol. Like treating people like dirt. When I became a Christian I had to replace my entire music library because what I used to listen to was not what I should listen to. I used to listen to music that glorified sex, drugs, and violence. I also had to throw away a whole bunch of movies that were not good. But once I became a Christian I didn’t want to glorify those things and give money to those who glorify them by purchasing their music.
Paul instructs believers to let the Holy Spirit renew their thoughts and attitudes. The biblical word for spiritual progress is sanctification. Progress happens by intention when we dwell on God’s word and figure out how to live it out in our life. You renew your mind by filling it full of good things. If you want to be more spiritual consume more of God’s word and hang around other godly people. You are a new creation in Christ so get rid of the things that remind you of your old way of life. Change the tune. Stop doing what you used to do that was sinful and start acting godly and pursuing a holy life. Because you and I are human, we will never be perfect, but we should be making progress.
Sometimes I carry a lot of weight. Not physical weight like one would carry a load of groceries or a little extra weight around my waist line, but weight that stems from excessive worry, perceived fear, unnerving anxiety, and relational stress. This is the weight that is much heavier than a couple sacks of groceries and much more difficult to put down. These are the weights that steal your joy and take the fun out of life because they are exhausting to carry for any period of time.
The good news is that you don’t have to carry the weight alone. God wants to help you, he is standing next to you with strong arms and the willingness to carry more than what you are giving him right now. In the same way that you would hand heavy sacks of groceries to a helper, you can hand your heavy worries, fears, anxieties, and relational stresses to God. 1 Peter tell us how to do this. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
This verse reveals three steps that must be taken in order to have God help you carry the heavy burdens on your heart. First, Peter tells us to humble ourselves before God. This means we must admit to God that we need his help. God isn’t standing idle just watching you struggle. He wants to help, you just need to ask Him. When my daughter, Sara, was six, she wanted to carry her own hockey bag into the ice arena. The bag full of her skates, gear, tape, uniform, and everything else was about the same size as her and a little heavier. I opened the back of the van and she picked up the bag placing the strap over her shoulder. Then she grabbed her stick and started to walk into the area. Within twenty feet I could tell she was really struggling to carry the bag. I asked her if she needed help and she said “No, I can carry it.” Then she started to wobble with each step and the bag began to sway. Ten feet in front of the door she dropped the bag and asked for help. Immediately I picked up the bag and carried it to the locker room for her. I was willing and able to help her carry it the whole time, but she was unwilling to let me. When it comes to asking God for help, know that he is willing and able to help you, you just need to ask him.
The second step is to hand the weight to Him. Peter tells us to “cast all your anxiety on him.” The same goes for your fears, worries, relational stress, and any other weight you are carrying around in your heart. In prayer ask him to remove the worry you are carrying around in your heart. Ask him to carry your fears, ask him to lift the weight of anxiety and relational stress. Telling God about the weight is one thing, actually handing it over to him is another. I knew my daughter was struggling to carry her hockey bag but she wanted to impress her friends and her mother and prove she could do it all by herself. The truth is that Sara had nothing to prove to me. I love her whether or not she could carry her bag. I love her because she is my daughter and I am her father and I want to help her, I find joy in helping her. God finds joy in helping you as well. He is near you right now, so humble yourself and ask him to help you carry the weight. God has mighty hands and they are available to help you unload at any given time.
The third step is to trust God. Believe that God is strong enough to handle even your heaviest weight. Peter tells us that God will lift you up in due time. Sara had to set her bag down and let go of the straps for me to pick it up. She had to trust that I would pick the bag up and carry it for her to where she needed to be. In reality she had no idea which locker room to go to, but I did. I knew she was in locker room two and I even knew where it was since I had been there many times before. Sara had to trust that I was willing and able to carry her bag and she had to believe that I knew where I was going. In the same way, you need to trust God to carry your weight and believe that he will lead you to where you need to be. Once we arrived at the locker room I set Sara’s bag back down for her so she could put on her equipment. God will not set the weight back on your heart because you don’t need it anymore. Let him remove it for good by continuing to trust him every step of every day.
Jesus says: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:31-34.
Every time you feel like you are carrying extra weight, repeat the three steps. Humble yourself, hand off the weight, and trust God to carry it for you. Life is better when you carry less weight.
I was five years old the first time I tried to ice skate. My parents had to help me put my feet into a brand new used pair of skates that had two blades on each foot. The skates had double blades in order to stabilize your feet, at least that was the theory. After mom tied the laces my dad held me up as I leaned on my stick. He pushed me a little and I glided three feet before falling down. Dad helped me up again and this time he helped me to push off a little bit and I went four feet before falling down. My dad told me that I had a tough time at first, but by the end of the day I actually enjoyed skating. A week later, after several more hours on the ice, dad bought me a set of hockey skates and we went skating again. A few hours later I could go back and forth and even hit the puck with my stick every once in a while. Once I learned how to skate I started playing hockey on a team and have played ever since. I went from a beginner to a seasoned skater in baby steps. When it comes to becoming a generous person with our money, we also take baby steps.
The first step is the beginner step. Beginners give a few bucks to God’s work every now and then. They give a few dollars in cash when they have it and think they have enough for themselves. But since giving isn’t a priority they don’t give much assuming others will give more.
The second step is the learner step. Learners have gained the knowledge that God wants believers to give a portion of their money back to Him to be used to help other people. They are not quite convinced that they should give much, but they have heard or seen bible passages that talk about the significance of giving and they are willing to give a little more to see what happens.
The third step is the core step. The person who has taken the core step understands biblical generosity. They have seen God use their resources to help other people meeting physical and spiritual needs and it brings them joy. They understand that tithing is a biblical principle and that God calls them to give at least 10% of their income back to him as a way to say “thanks for blessing me.” They enjoy seeing God use the resources they gave for His glory and giving becomes part of their routine.
The fourth step is the kingdom step. People who take this step have seen God use them in powerful ways and they want to see him do more through them. They give more than 10% of their income away to kingdom priorities like church building programs, local and global missionary efforts, and anonymously helping individuals who have needs. To them, giving is a lifestyle and they would never give it up because they have been blessed by God for being faithful.
Where are you in this mix? Have you taken the next step toward kingdom generosity? I want to challenge you to take the next step because I want you to experience God blessing you more. I thought it was awesome to skate five feet but the real joy came when I played hockey on a real team.
I still play hockey and enjoy it now more than ever. In the same way, you might enjoy giving a few bucks away to a great cause but the real joy comes from being on God’s team. Being on God’s team means watching Him move through the resources you gave. God wants you on His team and he wants to bless you for trusting Him with your finances. Are you willing to take the next step today?