New Living Hope Website

Check out Living Hope Church's new website. It's not complete yet, but it's getting there. You can learn about our church, read the church blog, shop in the church bookstore, and much more. Soon you'll be access podcasts of my sermons and send e-vites.

You can also link to it on the sidebar of my blog at the LHC logo.


Crazy Love

One of my favorite preachers is Francis Chan from Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA. I first heard Francis at Catalyst last fall and was blown away. His sermon had me weeping and when he was done his message received a standing ovation that lasted about 5 minutes or so.

Crazy Love is Francis's first book and it's well worth the read. What I love about him and this book is that he calls Christians to apply God's Word to their lives - unfiltered. This is so hard because whether we realize it or not, we have a tendancy to filter everything we read in the Bible. We say, "Yes, I know Jesus says to live like this, but how do I apply that to my life as an upper-middle class American Christian?" or "...how does Jesus teaching fit into my theology?" One of the things I've really been trying to do lately is remove the filters and interpret and follow God's Word for what it says - not for how it can fit into my existing lifestyle. Crazy Love definitely helped me in that direction. This is another book that isn't always comfortable to read, but is extremely valuable.
Somebody commented to me the other day on the amount of books I've been reviewing since I started here at Living Hope. I haven't been spending more work hours reading necessarily. I've actually been trying to discipline myself to read when I'm bored or when nothing I love is on TV. My normal pattern is to channel surf until something catches my attention and then spend evening hours watching shows I'm really not that interested in. I'm trying to watch only shows I TiVo so I watch less TV and spend more time reading. I'm also trying to discipline myself into reading the books I buy. I've always read quite a bit. But it's not uncommon for me to have 20-30 books on the shelf unread. I'm trying to bring that down. Plus, I really love reading!


The Starbucks Experience

You know I'm a sucker for a good leadership book. But this is one of those that stands out. I would easily put this book up there in the same sphere as Good to Great. As a church leader, I found almost every principle in this book valuable.

The Starbucks Experience is all about going beyond a great product and giving your customers an excellent experience. Joseph Michelli was given unfettered access to the Starbucks organization for about 2 years and his book shares 5 principles that he learned from the company.

1) Make it Your Own - Organizations benefit when all the members understand the DNA of the organization and look for ways to help make the organization succeed. Starbucks teaches all their partners the 5 Ways of Being - be welcoming, be genuine, be considerate, be knowledgeable, and be involved.

2) Everything Matters - God is in the details. The details make all the difference in keeping people. Details in atmosphere. Details in personality. The Starbucks purpose statement is not to serve a great cup of coffee (which they do), it is "To provide an uplifting experience that enriches people's daily lives." I love that!

3) Surprise & Delight - People love the prize in the Cracker Jacks. How can our church surprise people with something extra? As a pastor, this is where hospital visits and other personal touches are invaluable. I'm surpised how many times people are blown away that I would take time to swing by the hospital and visit with them and pray for them. The extra mile is always worth it!

4) Embrace Resistance - Don't run from criticism. Often times facing criticism and responding positively can turn a critic into a customer. Don't take it personally - be willing to learn from it.

5) Leave Your Mark - Leave your community and world a better place than you entered it.

This book really got me to thinking about my church. We serve up the basics pretty well. But when someone walks into our church for the first time, do they leave having had an incredible experience? Do they feel better, or at least feel like they met with God? Did they feel valued and cared for? Did their kids have a great time and can't wait to return? Were we friendly and helpful and sensitive to the fact that they don't know how we do things? How do we go the extra mile?

The Starbucks Experience is definitely going to shape my thinking for the near future. This may be the best non-church leadership book for churches in a long time. I can't recommend this book highly enough!

Joseph Michelli left a comment when I mentioned this book a few days ago (which was very cool). Joseph, if you end up reading this post, would you mind sharing some ways that come to your mind that churches can apply the principles from your book? (By the way, when I told my son that you left a comment, he turned to his friend and said, "Yeah, my Dad's a world-famous blogger." Thanks for helping me be "world-famous" in the eyes of my boy!)


California Wildfires

Pretty much our whole state is covered in smoke right now. I heard there are close to 1,000 wildfires burning in CA currently. It's a mess. We haven't seen a clear sky in a few days because of all the smoke. It's really bad today. It's pretty low-hanging and looks like a dirty fog. Not healthy at all. Here's a satellite pic.

Eat This, Not That

I picked up a good little book a couple of weeks ago called Eat This, Not That by David Zinczenco. This is not a diet or health book. It's a book about better choices. As you can see by the cover, it's not necessarily saying the Big Mac is health food, but that it's a better choice than the Whopper with cheese.

It's a full color book that is somewhat enjoyable to flip through. Here's a couple of facts I gleaned:
  • By far, the healthiest fast food chain is Chick-Fil-A. Not one sandwich on the menu is over 500 calories. (The closest Chick-Fil-A to Dixon is at the Fairfield Mall.)
  • The worst burger is Carl's Jr. Double Six Dollar Burger. 1,520 calories & 111g of fat. Ouch!
  • As far as freshness goes, In-N-Out is the best choice. "They do not own a freezer, microwave, or heat lamp. They peel and cut fries from whole potatoes on site. And they butcher, grind, and ship all their own beef." (If you don't live on the west coast and don't know what an In-N-Out is - it sucks to be you!)
  • Ordering your Starbucks drinks with non-fat milk makes a big difference in your fat consumption.

The book lets you know the best and worst meals at 60 fast-food and chain restaurants. It also gives you best and worst choices inside each individual restaurant. I really liked the Holidays and Special Occasions section, too. Did you know the best eating choice at the ballpark is usually the hot dog? Or at holiday dinners, it's always better to choose the beef over the ham? Or if you need an ice cream fix, it pays to go for the Skinny Cow brand ice cream treats? (Skinny Cow rocks, by the way!)

Anyway, I thought this was a great little guide to real life food. Stuff we actually eat and buy in the restaurants and supermarkets.

The One I Couldn't Shake - 6/26

I read the Song of Solomon this morning (so I'm all hot and bothered!). I'm doing my devotional reading in The Message this year. This was one of those passages that Peterson just blew me away in the way he rendered it. It was truly beautiful. Here's a few verses that stuck with me.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (MSG)
Hang my locket around your neck,
wear my ring on your finger.
Love is invincible facing danger and death.
Passion laughs at the terrors of hell.
The fire of love stops at nothing --
it sweeps everything before it.
Flood waters can't drown love,
torrents of rain can't put it out.
Love can't be bought, love can't be sold --
it's not to be found in the marketplace.


The One I Couldn't Shake - 6/25

This Psalm reminds me how much the believer who is a do-er of the Word holds an advantage over the rest of the world.

Psalm 119:97-104 (ESV)
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.


A Terrible Prayer

We've been doing a small study on spiritual disciplines this summer called The NextStep Course. It's been really good I think (if you're an LHCer you should give it a try). Last night we discussed prayer and I really enjoyed the discussion. It's amazing to me how simple God made it for us to communicate with him, but still we all struggle with prayer (for many different reasons).

This morning I was in the garage looking for something in the stack of boxes we still haven't unpacked and I found a book that I love. It's kind of a coffee table book of essays, poetry, and photos about prayer called Ragamuffin Prayers. I was flipping through it and found something that Michael Yaconelli wrote (former president of Youth Specialties, great author, passed away several years ago). It's called "A Terrible Prayer". It so echoed our discussion last night, so I thought I'd pass it on.

A Terrible Prayer

I have always been terrible at praying.
I forget.
My mind wanders.
I fall asleep.
I don't pray enough.
I don't understand what prayer is
Or what prayer does.

If prayer were school...
I would flunk praying.

But prayer isn't school.
It is mystery.

Maybe the mystery is...
Jesus loves terrible prayers.
When I can't think of anything to say, He says what I can't say.
When I talk too much, He cherishes my too-many words.
When I fall asleep, He holds me in His lap and caresses my weary soul.
When I am overwhelmed with guilt at my inconsistent, inadequate praying
He whispers, "Your name is always on My lips."

I am filled with gratitude, my soul overflows with thankfulness and I...
I...find myself saying over and over again, "Thank You."
Praying the mystery.


The Green Apron Book

Have you ever heard of The Green Apron Book? It's a small booklet that most Starbucks baristas carry in their apron. It outlines the values, purpose, mission, and guiding principles of the Starbucks organization. It only takes about 5 minutes to read, but it packs a powerful punch.

What's the Starbucks purpose? To provide an uplifting experience that enriches people's daily lives.

What are the basic instructions to all Starbucks store employees? 1) BE WELCOMING. Offer everyone a sense of belonging. 2) BE GENUINE. Connect, discover, respond. 3) BE KNOWLEDGEABLE. Love what you do. Share it with others. 4) BE CONSIDERATE. Take care of yourself, each other, and your environment. 5) BE INVOLVED. In the store, in the company, in your community.

I'm also in the process of reading The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A. Michelli. As I'm reading both these books, it occurs to me why many churches are in decline. Because we have Starbucks! Starbucks tries to be everything to your community that your church used to be. They attempt to offer a sense of community, belonging, caring people, civic responsibility, genuine relationships, and enriching experiences. They basically offer everything but Jesus (which is the one thing in the church's favor).

I'm not criticizing Starbucks or saying they are the church's competition. I am saying the church could actually learn a bit from Starbucks. If churches put as much effort into making people feel welcome and known as does Starbucks, our retention rate would be 100X better. I'm actually considering using The Green Apron Book as a tool in Living Hope's greeter/welcome team training. There's so much of it that translates over into church life.

Check out The Starbucks Experience. So far it's great! I'll review it once I've finished it. And if you want to get a copy of The Green Apron Book...well, it can't be purchased. But your local barista will be happy to give you a copy if you ask for one!


The NIV Application Commentary - Acts

I don't normally review commentaries because I don't normally read them in great detail. While commentaries are useful tools, they are generally written in a rather sterile style.

I recently finished a 10-week sermon series on the first seven chapters of Acts that I called Revolution. I consulted a few different commentaries, but The NIV Application Commentary - Acts by Ajith Fernando was far and away the best. It's hard to put into words how much I enjoyed reading this commentary. Not only was it useful in my sermon preparation, there were several days that I received great insight personally from it. The section on Acts 6:1-7 is worth the price of the book all by itself.

If you're not familiar with this set of commentaries, it follows a very reader friendly format in all of its treatments. Each passage of Scripture is dealt with in three ways: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. The Original Meaning section obviously deals with what the particular passage meant in its original historical context. Bridging Contexts helps the reader apply the historical context to our contemporary world. Finally, Contemporary Significance really allows the author to put his personal touch on the rendering of the passage. Fernando did this expertly by weaving in stories of personal experience in the mission field. (He is the National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. But he's no hack - Th.M. and D.D. from Asbury Theological Seminary and Fuller Seminary and chairman of the academic affairs committee for Colombo Theological Seminary.)

Every week I would begin preparing my sermon with a pre-conceived idea of the direction I thought I would go. Inevitably, Fernando's commentary would reveal layers of meaning that I originally overlooked and knew needed to be addressed. I highly recommend this commentary. I have a few other volumes from this set and will eventually try to complete the set. I just can't say enough about The NIV Application Commentaries.

The TWO I Couldn't Shake - 6/18

All right, there were two verses that really stuck with me today.

2 Samuel 24:10a (MSG)
But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics.
David falls into the temptation of performing a census. The sin here is not that he counted people. The sin is the reason he counted. Evidently, he wanted to know how big and strong his kingdom was. It was a subtle shift from faith in God to faith in numbers. God, protect me from pride and weak faith. When I count your people let my motives be pure.

2 Samuel 24:24 (MSG)
But the king said to Araunah, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer GOD, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice."
God is punishing Israel for David's census. David is advised to offer a burnt offering to God. He goes to purchase a piece of property where the sacrifice will take place, the owner offers to give it to the king instead. But David won't have any part of it. I love that David insists that his sacrifices are costly to him. I hope our sacrifices are truly sacrifices and not just leftovers or chump change.

Isla's 1!

I had such a great Father's Day weekend! In addition to the hike with Mollie and Isaiah, little Isla started walking all over the house, she had her first birthday, and we did her dedication at church Sunday morning. The birthday party was a blast. It was Sesame Street themed (one of Isla's two favorite shows). She even had an Elmo bounce house in the backyard. For her dedication, I asked close family friend, Michael Ent, to take over so I could just be Daddy instead of Daddy and pastor. Michael was our worship pastor while we were at the Bay Hills Church in El Sobrante, CA. He did awesome. I loved the words he chose - he really made it a special day. Here are some pics:

Isla walking

Isla enjoying her new birthday rocking horse

Isla digging into her very own personal birthday cake

Michael Ent with Isla during her dedication ceremony


Hiking the Rubicon

I had a great Sabbath day yesterday. Used it to take Mollie and Isaiah up into the Sierras hiking. We hiked along the Rubicon River near Georgetown. The hike is about 2 miles uphill along the mountain ridge followed by about a half mile downhill to the river. The boulders in the river form a great natural swimming hole and we had fun cooling off (the water was ice cold). We then hiked about a quarter mile up a side stream to another great location with an awesome three-tiered waterfall. The whole area is absolutely stunning. It was hard hiking in the river though. The river bed is nothing but large moss-covered stones so it was hard to get good footing. We all had our share of spills and turned ankles.

I had the kids bring their Bibles and we spent some time in the Word together. We read one of my favorite passages - Job 28. It was a really sweet time together and we had the whole wilderness to ourselves. I love creating memories with my kids!


Pray for My Dad

I got news a little while ago that my Dad had a heart attack several hours ago. He was on his way to a job site and felt symptoms and decided to change directions and go to the hospital. He had the heart attack at the hospital and they operated pretty quickly. Turns out it wasn't a blockage, but a blood clot. They did an angioplasty and put another stint in (he had an angioplasty about 12 years ago). The doctor said that if he hadn't come to the hospital as soon as he did, he most likely would have died from the blood clot. He's doing fine now.

This is one of disadvantages of living long distances from family. My Mom is obviously upset and I'd like to be with them both, but since he's OK it's hard to justify the expensive plane tickets. However, I thank God for Jamie and the kids, and my Living Hope family to lean on.

God is good - All the time!


Necessities or Entitlements

There's a great article today on Yahoo! Finance about possible ways you can save money in our current recession by eliminating the "new necessities". They list 12 things that many people have come to view as life's necessities and what you could save by eliminating or scaling back. Here they are:

Daily Latte
The notion of giving up your daily latte and getting rich has become a cliché for a reason: A barista-made latte costs roughly 100 times what a homebrewed cup of Joe does. Would you pay $1,000 for a pizza? Get real. Brew your own and save $25 a week, or $1,300 a year.

Cable TV
Bruce Springsteen described cable TV succinctly in his song "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)." But even if you can't imagine living without C-SPAN, you can save by dropping premium cable while holding onto basic service. Dropping premium channels should save you about $25 to $30 a month, or $300 to $360 a year. If you're more ambitious, you can save a bundle by dropping premium and basic service. Basic service often runs about $30 to $35 a month, or $360 to $420 a year. So if you drop cable entirely, you'll save $55 to $65 a month, or $660 to $780 annually.

Standard manicures average $10 to $15 at nail shops and $20 to $25 at spas and salons. Standard pedicures run $15 to $25 (nail shops) and $35 to $40 (spas and salons). Acrylic nails run $25 to $35 (nail shops) and $35 to $45 (spas and salons). If you only skipped one of each per month, you would save $50 to $110 a month, or $600 to $1,200 a year. Just doing your own weekly manicure will save you $520 to $1,300 annually.

What, give up Botox? Don't frown. Those treatments -- typically scheduled every three months -- cost on average between $300 and $1,200 per visit. Let nature take its course and save $1,200 to $4,800 a year.

Bottled Water
Some people consider bottled water a necessity, even though the perfect low-cost alternative is available from any faucet in their home. "Bottled water drives me crazy," Hunt says. "There are so many studies that show that tap water is better for our kids because it has fluoride and it's not stripped of all the minerals." Drink tap water and pocket the $25 to $40 monthly fee for bottled water delivery, based on online averages.

Second Car
Hands down, a second car is the highest-ticket "new necessity" in America today. It's so prevalent that Yeager is doing his book promotion tour by bike just to point up the sheer absurdity of our one-person, one-car paradigm. Hunt, who routinely leased a new car every three years for 22 years until her finances crashed and burned, tried carpooling with her husband 10 years ago and never bought another car. "I said, 'You know what? Oprah has a driver,'" she says. "That was such a wakeup call to me, because a car had become a necessity of life." Not only does she not miss the car payment, maintenance, license, registration, insurance fees and outlay for gas ("We save at least $1,000 a month," she estimates), but there's that domino effect: She no longer zooms off to the mall to shop at the hint of a sale.

Cell Phone
Those TV ads that feature parents distraught over their family's cell phone bill may qualify as truth in advertising for once. "This drives me crazy," Hunt says. "I'm sorry, a 4-year-old does not need a cell phone. I think even a family with teenagers could get by with one or two prepaid phones that they pass around." You can save $40 to $60 per month on average, or $480 to $720 per year, for every cell phone you eliminate. A prepaid plan used sparingly will save you money over a contract plan.

Lawn Service
Here's the rationalization for a lawn service: My time is worth more than I'm paying them to cut my grass. Heck, it's actually a savings! Well, yes -- if you were mowing your lawn during business hours instead of at night or on the weekend with the rest of us. The average cost for weekly mowing, hedge trimming and leaf blowing is $65 to $90. It's hardly a savings to shell out $260 to $360 a month, is it? Mow your own and save the dough. If you do enough lawn and garden work, you may even save the $35 to $40 you shell out each month for your fitness club membership.

Where would retailers be if we only bought clothes we need? "I'm not a fashion-conscious guy, but I've observed that clothes, even the cheapest clothes, last forever," Yeager says. "When was the last time you truly wore something out?" While we're not suggesting you dress in rags -- or worse, go without clothes altogether -- satisfying your wardrobe jones with a measure of frugality can save a bundle. "I think most Americans could easily go for one year without buying any new clothes," Yeager says.

Private School
Give up private school? Are you crazy?! "A lot of parents almost feel that they are abusing their children if they don't send them to private school," Hunt says. "I don't agree with that." Instead, Hunt believes parents can save a bundle -- and provide their children with a top-notch education -- by sticking with public schools. "I'm a huge proponent of public school," she says. "I think some private schools are actually inferior because sometimes their instructors don't have to be credentialed." Oh, did we mention that you're already paying for public school anyway? Go public and save anywhere from $8,000 to $35,000 per year, according to the Boarding School Review Web site.

Childhood Parties
If you don't have kids, you probably can't appreciate how out-of-control children's birthday parties have become. "Every kid has to have a bouncy house for their birthday," says Hunt, who lives in Southern California. "It's not enough to have just a cake; you have to have a meal. And now you have to invite the parents." Hunt adds that such celebrations no longer are restricted to "big" birthdays, but occur every year. "And they celebrate graduations, from preschool, for kindergarten, for elementary, junior high," she says. "When they get to be teens, the whole group has to go somewhere. By the time you graduate high school, now you go to Aruba." Young parents, you've been warned.

Pet grooming/Walking
The cost of grooming your dog averages $30 to $50 for small breeds, $50 to $70 for midsize breeds and $70 to $90 for large breeds. A pet walker on average runs $15 to $27 per walk. To save money, invest in a $25 set of electric clippers and learn online about how to groom your pet. You'll pay for the razor with the first haircut. And wouldn't a daily walk do you both some good?

All right everybody - be honest. How many of those 12 things are in your budget right now? It's 4 for me.


Visuals in Worship

I really enjoy worship that engages all the senses. From a visual standpoint, the church has a lot of options. However, I've never been a huge fan of lots of concert lighting in a worship service. I think it can be distracting and I don't think we need to compete with U2 or Coldplay when we worship. I'm all about giving God our best, but...

However, I saw this on Travis Penn's blog and loved it. It's a website called VisualWorshiper. It's a way of completely transforming your worship space using projectors. I think it lends itself to worship better than flashing lights and smoke machines. Anyway, I really like it and it would be cool to see Living Hope try some things like this someday!


Jesus For President

I first became aware of Shane Claiborne last fall at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. In a sea of young professional ministry leaders, Shane definitely stood out. He looks like an odd mix of hippy, rastafarian, and hillbilly. But when this young, odd-looking guy spoke, he spoke with authority. Not "I'm-in-charge" authority, but "voice-in-the-wilderness" authority.

However, I went into reading Jesus For President with more than a little skepticism. While I agree with much of what I've heard Shane teach, his views on politics and government are a little too far to the left for my personal tastes, and the title of the book made me believe it was going to be contraversial.

I was completely right and completely wrong all at the same time. Jesus For President IS DEFINITELY contraversial, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. This is not a book about politics as much as it is a lesson on what "the Kingdom" Jesus talks so much about is all about. As Christians, our call is not to be a member of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or the Green Party - but to the Jesus Party. Our allegiance is not to a nation or a government - but to a Kingdom and its King.

Here's two of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • As our brother and fellow activist Tony Campolo puts it, "Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream with cow manure. It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream."

  • It's easy to have political views--that's what politicians do. But it's much harder to embody a political alternative--that's what saints do. The greater challenge is right living, not merely right thinking. In Jesus we meet not a presentation of ideas or a new political platform but an invitation to join up, to become part of a movement, of a people that embodies good news. Political embodiment means that we become the change that we want in the world, not just lobby politicians to change things for us.
For me, about 90% of this book was personally-stretching, thought-provoking reading. Claiborne truly is a modern day prophet. The OT prophets were radical individuals that used radical methods to teach a radical message (i.e. - preaching naked, marrying a prostitute, cooking with feces). Shane definitely fits this mold. He calls Christians to question the culture and government we are so immersed in and embrace the Kingdom we are called to. This is a hard book to read because such commitment to the Gospel requires massive amounts of lifestyle change. But sometimes that kind of change is necessary.

The other 10% of the book, I'll chalk up to Shane's personal opinions, many of which I disagree with. For instance, his pacifistic views call for Christian soldiers to draft-dodge and even go AWOL to keep the peace. I don't think he could be more wrong. I believe there is room for Christian soldiers in Jesus' kingdom. Shane is also very anti-war in ALL cases. Unfortunately, I don't think things are always so simple. I believe there are instances when it's necessary for governments to use force. However, it should be the last possible resort.

That said, this is a book that I would recommend. You can't help but feel your thinking begin to line up closer with Kingdom values as you read it. (Shane is going to be speaking at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on July 11th. I hope to be able to go hear him.)


The One I Couldn't Shake - 6/3

One of my favorite examples of grace in the Bible is the story of Mephibosheth (love that name). King David is sitting around one day thinking of his best friend Jonathan who was killed in battle with King Saul. David asks one of his servants if there is anyone left in Jonathan's family that he could show some kindness to. The servant tells him of Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was dropped as a baby and was permanently crippled. He and his caretaker were not living well. David summons them and gives back all of Saul's land to Mephibosheth and insists that Mephibosheth eat at the King's table as long as he lives. David takes an outcast and makes him part of the family. It's really a beautifual example of the grace of God.

I've never paid any attention to one of the last things we hear about Mephibosheth. David's son, Absolam, is in the process of overthrowing the kingdom and David has to run for his life. He's just vacated the palace when this exchange happens:

2 Samuel 16:1-4 (MSG)
Shortly after David passed the crest of the hill, Mephibosheth's steward Ziba met him with a string of pack animals, saddled and loaded with a hundred loaves of bread, a hundred raisin cakes, a hundred baskets of fresh fruit, and a skin of wine.
The king said to Ziba, "What's all this?"
"The donkeys," said Ziba, "are for the king's household to ride, the bread and the fruit are for the servants to eat, and the wine is for drinking, especially for those overcome with fatigue in the wilderness."
The king said, "And where is your master's grandson?" (referring to Mephibosheth)
"He stayed in Jerusalem," said Ziba, "He said, 'This is the day Israel is going to restore my grandfather's kingdom to me.'"
"Everything that belonged to Mephibosheth," said the king, "is now yours."
Ziba said, "How can I ever thank you? I'll be forever in your debt, my master and king; may you always look on me with such kindness!"

This is amazing to me! Mephibosheth never understood the grace of the king. He totally took it for granted and jumped at the first opportunity to seize power. His pride and greed cost him everything. All that had been gifted to him was taken away.

God, I hope I never take your grace for granted. Thank you for loving me when I'm unlovable. Thank you making me part of your family when I probably don't fit in very well. Thank you for giving me the Kingdom when all I deserve is my crutches.

Get Out the Kleenex

Two things I ran across this morning on Chris Elrod's blog that blew me away:

The first is Chris's latest post. Chris is the pastor of Compass Point Church. He and his wife recently went through a miscarriage. His perspective on this is mind-blowing. Read his thoughts he wrote today about it here - http://pastorelrod.wordpress.com/2008/06/03/14-days-of-fatherhood/

The second was a video he posted that Perry Noble did at NewSpring Church for Mother's Day. Here it is.


My Daily Blog Fix

I read a lot of blogs, but currently there are only 5 that I read every single day. I read these daily for two reasons: 1) they post daily, and 2) I get some benefit from them. Here they are in no particular order.

Mark Batterson's Evotional Blog - Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in DC and the author of In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day and the soon-to-be-released Wild Goose Chase. I don't know of another single person with as much optimism as Mark. I tend toward the "glass half empty" side so I intentionally try to surround myself with optimistic people like Mark to help balance me out.

Mark Oestreicher's Blog - Marko's blog is the first blog I started frequenting and the reason I wanted to start blogging myself. Marko is the president of Youth Specialties. His blog is a lot of fun to read. Lots of humor, great articles about youth culture, and tons of links to meaningless stuff like web games and off the wall items. He also does a great job of critiquing church culture, reviewing books (he reads 10X more than I do, and I feel like I read quite a bit), and being transparent about his own struggles with his faith.

Seth Godin's Blog - Seth Godin is a marketing guru and has written several best-selling books like Purple Cow, The Dip, and Meatball Sundae. His blog is one of the most-read blogs in the entire world (I think it's in the top 10, definitely in the top 20). While I'm not a big fan of "church marketing" trends, I like Seth's blog because it challenges me to consider how our community perceives our church. He writes from a business perspective, not church, but much of it applies just the same.

Craig Groeschel's Swerve Blog - Craig is the pastor of LifeChurch.tv and author of Chazown. LifeChurch is a multi-site church that does a lot of innovative ministry. I like Craig's blog for a couple of reasons. He tends to post in themes. Usually he'll pick a weekly theme and post on that theme 4 or 5 times. His blog is also geared primarily to church leaders. He shares a lot of his own experience and insight into the nuts and bolts of church life.

Perry Noble's Blog - Perry is the pastor of NewSpring Church. He is a fireball of a preacher and has a big, sarcastic sense of humor (so I identify with him alot). He's also a blogging machine. He recently attended Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Summit and blogged on each of Rick's messages in detail. He must be a wicked-fast typist because reading those posts felt like I was actually hearing the majority of the message. Anyway, Perry offers a lot of spiritual insight and church leadership insight on his blog. I just started reading this one a few weeks ago and I'm really enjoying it.