Adopt a Terrorist

I love this website - Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer. It's a site with a directory of known terrorists or supporters of terrorists. You can browse through the directory and "adopt" a particular terrorist to pray for. If we truly believe in the power of prayer and the vastness of God's grace, then it shouldn't be a stretch to believe that some of these lost sheep will come to faith in Jesus Christ if we continually ask God for it. Do you have the love and the guts to adopt a terrorist?



I'm excited about the new sermon series I'm starting this next week. It's a 3-week series called "CONNECT". We'll be discussing how important we all are to each other. I always say that Christianity is not a solo sport - it's a team sport that requires individual discipline. The series will go like this:

Week 1 - Your People-Shaped Hole (Genesis 1-2). There's a void in your life that even God will not fill.
Week 2 - A Cord of Three Strands (Ecclesiastes 4). We are stronger together than we are alone.
Week 3 - The Church That Prays Together... (1 Thessalonians 5). The power of a praying church.

We're using this series in conjunction with the launch of our small groups. This is something that has been severely lacking at Living Hope. I think we have a pretty strong Sunday Worship Gathering (although there's still tons of room for improvement), but we have a gaping hole in the area of connecting with each other on a more intimate level.

I love small groups. I love the interaction. I love doing life together with a handful of families. I love the encouragement and hard questions that come out in small groups. I hope that over the next couple of years Living Hope goes through a major metamorphosis in this area. It's my hope that we get to a point that people eventually view small groups as the primary/core meeting of our church and our Worship Gathering as a place where they can worship in a larger setting and get their spiritual batteries recharged.

I can't wait to see what God does with and through small groups at Living Hope!


Toy Box Leadership

One of my favorite topics is leadership. I can't read enough about it. Reading books about leadership charges me up and motivates me to take uncomfortable steps toward becoming a better leader. Last night I finished reading another good one.

Toy Box Leadership is by Ron Hunter Jr. and Michael E Waddell and is published by Thomas Nelson. This is another book that was sent to me to review and Ron is a friend of mine. I mention that only to say that Ron has personally invested in me as a leader in the past. He has been an incredible encouragement to me (probably more than he'll ever know). He's not just writing leadership, he's living it!

The basic premise of Toy Box Leadership is that of the object lesson. Ron and Michael take 10 classic toys and use them to teach truly great lessons in leadership. I love this on a lot of different levels. First, I really dig object lessons. I don't think anything else better helps a lesson stick with me. Also, even though it wasn't overly intentional, I felt like this was a book that was equipping me to teach leadership at the same time it was teaching leadership to me.

Many leadership books that are released today take one singular leadership lesson and a build an entire book around that one premise. Toy Box Leadership offers a great overview of leadership with themes ranging from relationships to creativity to endurance. In that sense, TBL is right up there with some of John Maxwell's best books. My personal favorites were the chapters on vision (Slinky Dog - Pull, Then Be Patient), communication (Mr. Potato Head - The Right Face for the Right Place), and efficiency (Rocking Horse - All Show and No Go). It's also worth mentioning that this is a book that actually gets better as you move through it. Another annoying trait of many leadership books is after they've stated their big idea, it's pretty much all downhill from there. I liked that the more I read TBL, the more I wanted to read it.

This is definitely a book I'll be referring back to in the future as I pass leadership lessons on to others. Go get it - it's worth your time!


Wild Goose Chase

If you read this blog very often, you know that one of my favorite books I read last year was In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. Mark's follow-up to In a Pit is called Wild Goose Chase and it hits the stores on August 19. However, I was privileged to be selected to participate in the Wild Goose Chase Blog Tour so Multnomah Books sent me an advance copy to review.

Before I get into the content of the book, let me say this: Mark Batterson may not be the greatest writer I've ever read, but he is hands down the most inspirational and motivational writer I have ever read!

Wild Goose Chase is very much in the same vein as In a Pit in that it's about learning to trust God, face your fears, and and follow Him with wreckless abandon. But as much as I enjoyed In a Pit, I believe I enjoyed Wild Goose Chase even more.

The premise behind the title is the fact that Celtic Christians had a peculiar name for the Holy Spirit - 'the Wild Goose'. So the book is really about chasing after the Spirit. For me the central theme, and one of the most thought-provoking quotes, of the book is when Batterson recalls a family trip to the zoo:

"At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals."

Batterson then spends the rest of the book discussing six "cages" that we need to learn to break out of - the cages of responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure, and fear.

I don't know if I've ever encountered another person with a greater sense of spiritual adventure, or a greater optimism that is based on faith in who God is, than I've seen in Mark Batterson. Reading his books and listening to him speak makes me want to be a better man, a better pastor, and he makes me want to pursue God like Indiana Jones pursuing treasure!

Most of us have a natural tendency to regularly lose sight of who God is and what He can accomplish through us. Wild Goose Chase reminds us that "Faith is not logical. It's not illogical either. Faith is theological. It does not ignore reality; it just adds God to the equation." I can't recommend Wild Goose Chase highly enough. It's a shot of adrenaline in your heart.

Wild Goose Chase releases on August 19, but the publisher gave me a 2nd copy of the book to give away on my blog. So I'll mail a free copy to the first person (in the U.S.) who leaves a comment on this post!



I've Got Olympic Fever

It's true. I'm totally obsessed with the Olympics right now. It started last Friday night with the opening ceremony. If you missed it, you missed one of the most incredible live spectacles I've ever seen. Over 15,000 live performers. The artistry and precision of thousands synchronized in movement together was jaw-dropping.

I'm loving the whole Beijing setting, too. The venues look spectacular and the Chinese people have done a great job hosting so far. I REALLY wish I could be there!

But I'm really impressed with our athletes this year. The 4x100 IM Swimming Relay 2 nights ago was one of the greatest moments in sports history in my opinion. The way our guys were able to come from so far behind and win it only by .08th of second. I have that moment saved on the DVR and I've watched it at least a dozen times. Michael Phelps' reaction is priceless. And last night our men's gymnasts were incredible, too.

Anyway, I'm loving it and I'm glad there's still a couple of weeks of competition left. I think the Olympics is kind of like a "chick flick" for guys. You can't help but get emotional.


Great Gift

I was given a great gift today. One of my beloved Living Hopers does these great carvings out of bone. L.C. was at my house several weeks ago for a Bible study and we were discussing prayer. I discussed the rise in popularity of "prayer labyrinths" and that the handful of times I've participated in a labyrinth I found it very helpful and a great way to help focus your prayer and help you pray for a longer period of time. Well, L.C.'s gears started turning and he made me this great labyrinth pendant that I totally love. Thanks, L.C.!


Big Give Pics

Giving out backpacks.

The kids were thrilled to get haircuts.

Happy to receive a new Bible.

Isaiah loved his facepainting.

It was great meeting many people in our community.


LHC's Big Give

This was a big weekend for Living Hope Church. We held our first annual Back-to-School Big Give on Sunday. We wanted to plan an event that was all about serving our community, so we planned this event where we would give away new backpacks full of school supplies, free back-to-school haircuts, free food, free photos/fingerprinting for the kids, and lots of other fun things (inflatable games, facepainting, cartoons on the big screen, great door prizes, etc...). This being our first year, we really had no idea what to expect. We guessed and planned to give away around 220 backpacks.

Confession time: Everyone around me was really optimistic about this event - except me. I had this nagging fear that we would pour all this work into it and 3 people would show up. After all, we didn't have a big budget for it, we don't have a church building so many Dixon-ites don't even know we exist. The only real advertising we did for it was putting up flyers around town the week before, 1 ad in the Friday newspaper, and Dixon Family Services helped us mail out flyers to a few hundred families that they had in their case files. I started to feel bad that everyone around me was optimistic except me, so I just committed it to prayer.

The Big Give was Sunday from 3-5pm and when we opened the doors (of the elementary school where we meet) to let people in there were already 100 people standing in line. Our best estimate is that about 500 people showed up and had a great time. When all is said and done, we will have given away almost 300 backpacks. The room was packed with people and I believe they were really having fun as a family.

At least 75% of the people there were Hispanic. Dixon's population is around 35% Hispanic, so we printed all of our flyers in Spanish and English. At the event we had translators on hand to help out and it was really beautiful - a true multi-cultural outreach - a mini-mission trip for our church.

I couldn't be prouder of LHC! I still believe God has God-sized things in store for us!