Newbridge Blog

Where Earth Meets The Sky

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I love airplanes. I always have. From a young age, I surrounded myself with them- voraciously consuming aviation books and magazines, building models, going to airshows and museums, building models, and hanging literally dozens of posters and hand-drawn pictures of them on the walls of my bedroom. I’ll never forget my first flight- a helicopter ride at our local airport in my small town. I was nervous, but breathlessly excited. I still remember the ground receding below us as the helicopter engine throttled to full, the landing skids leapt from the tarmac, and the sleek aluminum embraced the sky.

There’s an irony about flying machines though, and it’s this: As much as the skies contain all the mystery, majesty, and allure when it comes to flying, at the end of it, the thing that really matters when it comes to any airplane is the earth below- the ability of the plane to get off of it, take you somewhere useful, and land safely at the destination. An airplane that failed at any of these things would be useless, cast to the scrap heap, a failure regardless of the wonders to be experienced with it up in the air.

When you and I fly, we want to be on an airplane that stands an excellent chance of getting us to the destination. The same is true with faith. One of the great challenges of any faith or belief system- Christianity included- is that it’s often of limited usefulness here on the ground. It’s great up in the clouds- when life is good, when we’re in church services singing songs or listening to a message that makes us feel good, when everything makes sense. But too often, faith fails to either get off the ground with us, or to land us in the right place where our journey takes us, and in one piece! We look at the world, the news headlines, and the challenges and complexity of our lives, and wonder how the platitudes we hear on Sunday morning inside the church walls could have any meaningful bearing on all of that.

This summer at Newbridge, we’re going to explore a kind of faith that is like a good airplane- a faith that WORKS. A faith that exists where earth meets the sky. We’ll be journeying together through the book of James, one of the most plain-spoken and practical parts of the Bible. We’ll be exploring and learning to put into practice a faith that’s not only useful at 35,000 feet when the horizon is clear, but one that gets us off the ground, navigates through the storms, bumps, and winds of life, and lands with us in the right places in one piece, and full of hope. We’d love for you to join us on the journey!

Posted by Michael Hoddy with
Tags: faith, james, works

Play The Tape

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We’re in a new sermon series at Newbridge Church called Intersections. It’s about the idea that our lives are stories. Any good story is filled with turning points, and these turning points are encounters, circumstances, things that happened, decisions, beginnings and endings of relationships, moves, personal losses and gains, big earthquake events, and small mundane choices. If I ask you to tell me “your” story, the way you tell it will be based around some of those turning points- the good ones AND the not-so-good ones.

So Intersections is about how we can, with wisdom, do a better job with turning points- both the decisions we make and the circumstances that happen- and allow God to write a better story in our lives for our good and His glory.

One of the interesting things about stories is that “better” doesn’t always mean “easier,” “simpler,” “richer,” or “more successful.” In fact, some of the best stories and movies you and I love are about a character persevering in the face of incredible odds, and sometimes not even overcoming them. Many if not most of the Academy Award winners or nominees for Best Picture in the past several years- movies such as American Sniper and 12 Years A Slave, and older beloved films such as Cast Away and The Help reflect this theme. Good stories are not always easy, and some of the best ones are filled with suffering and difficulty.

This leads us into a conundrum when it comes to God. Many of us- me included- find it easy to say that we are “blessed” and have “God’s favor” when it seems all is right in the world and the sun is shining down on us. We should certainly be thankful and very aware of the richness that’s in our lives, but we have to be careful about equating “God’s blessing” or “God’s favor” and our personal, material, financial, and relational success. Sometimes, those very things actually have wasting effects on our souls- we end up becoming smaller people as a result with our fixation on them. John Pavlovitz writes a great blog about this where he concludes that our favorable experiences are not the same thing as God’s favor. 

This week in Part 2 of Intersections, we’re going to look at the Old Testament story of Joseph in Egypt in the Book of Genesis. Many of us know the end of the story with Joseph ruling in Egypt and reconciling with his brothers, but there’s an interesting middle section to the story where Joseph makes decisions in God’s direction that actually cost him dearly and land him- an innocent man- in prison for two years. Before he does this, he plays the tape of where God has brought him from, confident in God’s ability to write a better story in the future with his life even if it costs him dearly.

One of the key details of the passage in Genesis where Joseph is in prison highlights that “the Lord was with him” in prison. It’s such an important detail that it gets repeated again a verse later. God had favor on Joseph and was with him even though things actually got worse for him. It never wavered.

We learn something important here: The proof of God’s presence in your life does not equal the pleasantness of your circumstances. God’s presence is not the level of "blessing" in your life or the absence of suffering. In fact, you might have to lean into making decisions toward God that lead you AWAY from comfort  to experience real blessing that lasts, and to write a better story. It begs some big questions that fly in the face of our comfort-oriented and amenity-addicted culture.

Where in your life might you be mistaking the difficulty of your circumstances or the level of your suffering for the absence of God’s favor, blessing, and presence?

 How might God be trying to write a better, Academy Award-worthy story with your struggle rather than with your success? Can you trust him to write that story, even if it’s not the one you would write?

Want to hear more about this? You should come check out Newbridge and join us on Sunday mornings at 10 AM!

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