I am so thankful.
  • For my family that means the world to me.  I can't believe I've been blessed with such a beautiful and gifted wife, 3 kids that amaze me and crack me up, and a pup that exerts more energy in 5 seconds than I will in a lifetime.
  • For my extended family scattered all over the country.  I miss you all and look forward to seeing you after Christmas!
  • For my church family.  We're praising together, praying together, in the trenches together, and building His beautiful Kingdom together.  I love you all!
  • For friends near and far.  Some we've experienced life together with. Some we have the internet as our only connection.  I truly enjoy the company of all my friends.
  • For stuff.  I've got so much freakin' stuff that I don't deserve.
  • For my calling. I pray my commitment to my Holy Father who called me will always outweigh all the jerks, frustrations, pride, and whatever else that tries to discourage me from my service to Him.
  • For the smell of turkey and dressing wafting through my house right now.  Awesome!


Generation WE

I saw this video today on the CataBlog. Check it out.

Generation WE: The Movement Begins... from Generation We on Vimeo.

Living Hope, in case you're wondering, THIS IS OUR MISSION FIELD.  This is who we are going to be constantly targeting as a church.  This is not only the largest demographic in the US, it's the largest unchurched demographic in the US.  To ignore these young adults and those coming behind them is to be short-sighted and selfish.  It would be the signing of the death certificate of the future of the church in America.  Programming/preaching to meet the needs of Generation WE is not just a church growth tactic, it is the heart of God - to seek and save the lost.

Put aside the message of the video temporarily and SEE the faces.  If a good-sized portion of our church doesn't look like this, then we're failing.



Mollie and I had a Daddy/Daughter date night last night.  She wanted to see Twilight, so that's what we did.  It was pretty good in a teen angst sort of way.  Even though it's a vampire story, it's much more of a teen romance than a horror film.  The whole film looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad.  Lots of beautiful, skinny, pale, frowning teens.  Teens I'm sure will love this movie. Adults will be OK with it.  One annoying thing was watching it with a bunch giggling fans of the books (which Mollie and I hadn't read). They kept laughing at all these things that weren't funny at all.  It was obvious they were in the know about things that we weren't.  Even Mollie said she got annoyed by it.

One kind of cool aspect of this film is that in a weird sort of way the story promotes abstinence.  A human girl falls in love with the vampire boy.  Because of his "blood-thirst" they have to be very careful about how close they get.  Interesting little side-theme.


LHC: Rams Playoff Update

To all Living Hopers:

The judge has ruled on the ineligible player issue that was holding up the playoffs.  Placer will play Oakdale this Friday (11/28).  Dixon will play the winner of that game on the following Friday (12/5) at Dixon at 7:30 pm.

Here's the deal.  I want to see a big ol' Living Hope dogpound at the game on 12/5!  So break out your coats, gloves, blankets - make signs - bring noisemakers.  Let's have a big show of support for our boys.  Let 'em know Living Hope is proud of them!!!  (If they win this game, they play in the Div IV Championship Game.)


Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Wow! Another great weekend.
  • Friday I got to play a round of golf with my friend Roger.  We couldn't have had a more beautiful day - 65 degrees, slight breeze, clear skies...AWESOME!  If only my game would have been as beautiful.  Shot a 110...ouch!
  • Friday night did the team chaplain thing for the Dixon Rams football team at the first round of playoff play.  Coach Winslow gave me my very own staff jacket with my name and "Team Chaplain" embroidered on it.  Very cool!  The team won their game. Now they're headed to the second round...can't wait!
  • Saturday was a very restful day. I needed it. Thoroughly enjoyed watching my OU Sooners lay the smack down on Texas Tech.
  • Great service at church today.  We talked about what to do when you're stressed, depressed, or experiencing burnout.  It seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people.
  • I enjoyed our LifeGroup tonight, too.  We going through one of the Ray Vanderlaan video series - That the World May Know.  His stuff is so great...very insightful and challenging.
  • I'm really looking forward to a big ol' Thanksgiving feast Thursday.  My wife throws down on the holidays.  Looking forward to having friends over to the house.
  • Also can't wait to start advent next Sunday.  Emmanuel...God is HERE!!!


The 41% Nobody Cares About

I read a startling statistic yesterday. 41% of all adults in the United States are single (unmarried). 41%!!! Does that surprise anyone else? The reason this hit me so hard is that the vast majority of churches are doing nothing to address the needs of 41% of the adult population. Almost everything we do in terms of preaching and programming is targeted toward young families. One might argue, "Well almost all the adults in my church are 'family' adults. That's why we program/preach that way." But the truth is you attract what you're programming/preaching toward. If we want to attract this 41% of the population, then we need to adjust our approach. I'm not suggesting we swing so far to the other side that we alienate families.  However, pastors, do your sermons at least contain occasional points or challenges directed at singles? Have you started small groups meant for singles or young adults?

If we found out that 41% of teens were skateboarders, we'd build ramps next week.  If we discovered that 41% of kids loved pirates, we'd have our children's workers sporting eye patches soon.  If we found out that 41% of adults were going crazy for brussel sprouts, we'd add them to our donut table.

Do you care about 41% of the population? If so what are you doing to prove it?


Sin Boldly (FOR FREE!)

Here's another great freebee.  This book is getting a lot of great buzz right now.  It's called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace by Cathleen Falsani.  You can download the audio book here for free on the Zondervan website (for a limited time).  This book currently has nothing but 5-star reviews on Amazon.  I'll be listening to it soon.  If you take a listen, let me know what you think of it.



Freedom in an Empty Inbox

I do a lot of communication through email.  My email inbox tends to double as a "to-do list".  If someone approaches me at church with an idea or task, I always tell them to shoot me an email because it's the only way I won't forget.  When my inbox is cluttered, my life tends to feel a little cluttered.  This is just one of my nastiest demons rearing his ugly head in my life - his name is Procrastination.

I don't know if any of you struggle with procrastination, but it's a constant battle for me.  I tend to run in cycles.  I'll be super-organized and on top of things for a while.  Then I end up putting off one or two tasks that I'm less than excited about. Then a few tasks snowball into several.  I get stressed and overwhelmed.  Then I get motivated, tackle all my less-than-exciting tasks, and enter back into the peace of organization.

I bought a "leadership-type" book 4 years ago called Eat That Frog.  It's a book about overcoming procrastination.  I keep putting off reading it.  I think I'll start it today...later.

Today my inbox is empty.  Today is a good day.


Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Another fun weekend!
  • Friday night I drove to Sacramento with Isaiah to see our Dixon Rams open up a can on Foothill.  Dixon starts the playoffs next Friday night and has home field advantage.  Awesome!  I love having a small role in this team as team chaplain.  Great team, great coaches!
  • Watched Baby Mama Friday night.  Not really that funny.  If you've seen the commercials, you've seen all the funniest bits.
  • Got up early Saturday to drive Mollie to her tennis lesson.  I love that she's learning and enjoying tennis.  She's cute with her pink racket!
  • Saw some 007 with Isaiah Saturday afternoon. I love that boy so much!
  • Isla entertained the family Saturday evening by baby-talking quite loudly and spinning in circles until she got dizzy and fell down...for 30 minutes straight!  She also heard Isaiah doing his imitation of Gordon Ramsey and walked around the room saying "Beep, beep, beep, beep..."  She's a hoot!
  • Church was great Sunday morning!  Rob and the worship team knocked it out of the park.  They seriously sound better and better every week.  Big highlight: one of our teens, Dakota, did some serious shredding on the electric guitar.
  • Phil Lockwood preached today and did a great job, too.  He preached from Mark 2 where the paralyzed man is lowered through the roof and Jesus heals him.  Phil reminded us that sometimes we're on the sickbed and sometimes we're the ones holding the ropes for other people.  Good stuff!
  • Lunch Sunday with the Suttons at Bud's.  Great company and a great BLT!
  • I love Living Hope Church so much!  I can't wait for Advent.  This year we're turning our advent into and ADVENTure!


Quantum of Solace

I took Isaiah and one of his friends to see the new James Bond movie today. Quantum of Solace picks up right where Casino Royale left off.  I think I may have enjoyed this movie a little more than the last one.  But only because this one had a bit more action in it (because CR had that long stretch of poker play).  They're both great movies.  I think Daniel Craig makes a great James Bond.  Go see it if you like that sort of thing (if not, I'm sure you'll enjoy High School Musical 3 or some other lame movie).  ;-)


Don't Take Your Kids to Nebraska

This story is unbelievable!  I just saw this on CNN.  Nebraska has a new 'safe haven' law that was designed for people to drop off unwanted newborns at area hospitals without fear of legal recourse.  So far, no infants have been dropped off and the majority have been kids over 10.  People are literally coming in from across the country to dump their teens in Nebraska.  You can't tell me our nation doesn't have a sickness.

Giving Poll

Please participate in the new poll located at the top of the sidebar to the right.  I'm curious how (or if) the economy is affecting your personal giving at your local church.  Your response is completely anonymous so be truthful.  Poll is open for 1 week.  (By the way, Living Hope's giving has seen a decent increase in the past 2 months.  But that's because Living Hopers ROCK!)

I was somewhat surprised at the results of the previous poll about creation.  Almost 1/3 of the responding Christians stated that they believed God used evolution in His creative process.  I bet that's a significant increase from even 10 years ago.  (Of course there's nothing scientific about my little blog poll, but still...)


Extreme "Temple" Makeover

In the interest of continuing this theme of changes to our family, I'll share some news I received a couple of weeks ago.  I got a call from my doctor's office informing me that I'm diabetic.  I was not expecting that one.  My triglycerides are quite high as well, so I've started a new regimen of drugs, diet, and exercise.  I've been losing some weight since we moved to Dixon (about 11 lbs. so far), but it's just been slow-going from minor diet changes.  Time to get serious! 

This news honestly had me down a bit, but I'm grateful I've found out before too much damage was done and there's still time to reverse this trend in my health.  I want to be around for a many more years for my family, my church, and just to see some personal goals come to fruition.  Pray for me that this news will be the kick-in-the-pants that I needed to get back on track.  I believe it's important to have some level of discipline in all areas of your life.  Taking care of "my temple" is the one area of my life that I have definitely been undisciplined and, honestly, sinful.  Hopefully this marks the end of that chapter of my life!



Jamie and I recently made the decision to start homeschooling Mollie and Isaiah. We have always been big supporters of public schools and have always had good experiences.  However, this year we've noticed a change in our kids and were not satisfied that the learning environments they were in were best for them.  There were issues academically and emotionally that had us concerned, so we felt it was time to circle the wagons and take a more hands-on approach. So far we're pleased with the results and Jamie is doing a great job teaching the kids.

I know many people choose home school or private schools for different reasons.  Some want to protect their children from negative influences. Some want to expose their children to a strong Christian education. Some just have no faith in the public school system.  For us, it was an academic decision.  We hope someday in the future our children will re-enter the public school system, but for now we all believe this is the best decision for them.

The reason I love public schools so much, is that they are one of the biggest domestic mission fields. I've always been proud of my kids for understanding that, too.  Everywhere we've lived (including here in Dixon) our kids have brought unchurched friends (and their parents) into our churches.  We've always tried to let our kids know that they have an important role in my calling as a pastor.  When God sends me to a church, He is also sending our family to a city that He wants us ALL to reach.

Pray for our family as we make this transition.


Thinking Outside the Church

I love Living Hope Church! One of the biggest reasons I love our church is because we have a true sense that Living Hope is people...not buildings.  Of course, it's easy to feel that way when you're a church without a building.  But even still, we're very healthy that way.

However, there are big disadvantages to not having a building - especially in Dixon.  Honestly, we're really under-developed for a town of 18,000.  As such, we are EXTREMELY limited in options of places to meet here in town.  We currently meet in the multi-purpose room of an elementary school.  We are limited to one extra classroom for KidzChurch and as of the last few weeks, our nursery is on the stage of the multi-purpose room behind a heavy curtain.  We're down to one decent option of a different place to hold services (at another elementary school).

So I've been trying lately to "thing outside the box" or "church" in this case.  What are some worship gathering locations that I might be overlooking?  Our town doesn't have a movie theater, a YMCA, or a big community center.  We don't even have a big bar or dance hall!  I'm concerned about what happens if all our options within the school district become exhausted.  There are not a lot of other large spaces in town.

I write this because I'm wondering if anybody out in the blogosphere has heard of any other "non-traditional" locations for churches to meet.  I'm open to anything (except the inflatable church pictured above). Let me hear your ideas!


Phone Pics...Finally

I finally got a USB cable for my cell phone.  So here are some of the pics I've been collecting over the last several months that were stuck on my phone.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Great weekend! God is SO good!
  • Friday night I got to go pray with the Dixon Rams football team and watch them crush West Campus.  There's a good chance our boys are headed to the play-offs!
  • Saturday we took a family trip to the Fairfield Mall.  While we were there we got word that one of our Living Hope families was going in for a sort of emergency C-section. So we headed to Sacramento to the UC Davis Medical Center and got to welcome a new Living Hoper into the world!  His name is Nolan and he weighs about 3 lbs.  All things considered he's in good health, but say a quick prayer for him anyway.  I don't think I'll ever be able to pray over a newborn and not get teary.  I love being a pastor!
  • Today's worship service was great.  We had 137 for attendance (a great number for us!) and I really enjoyed preaching about the importance of the Text in our lives.  We see so many new faces every week. It's exciting times right now!


The Nightmare Before Christmas, 3-D

For Isaiah's birthday he just wanted to invite some friends out for dinner and a movie.  He wanted to go see Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D.  So that's what we did.

I have loved this movie for years.  I believe it was released in the early 90s and the animation was ground-breaking at the time, and still is in my opinion.  It's dark and creepy, funny, the music is GREAT...it's just an all-around great movie.  I've always regretted never seeing it on the big screen, though. So I was really excited about Isaiah's pick.

I wasn't disappointed.  I've seen this movie probably a hundred times, but it was like I was watching something completely different.  I think part of it was the big screen experience, but the 3-D changed everything!  The 3-D was really incredible.  The movie had so much depth.  I will say that it wasn't the greatest 3-D I've ever seen.  Today's 3-D IMAX experiences are truly a thing to behold.  The images literally come out of the screen and feel like they're right at your neck.  The 3-D in Nightmare never really jumped off the screen. Instead it felt more like looking through a window.  But it was beautiful nonetheless.  There was even depth to the lines and creases on the character's faces.  It was great!  Check it out if you get the chance.


What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?

Oh my...this is SOOO good! Obviously there are breakdowns in the analogy, but I love this!

The American Heresy - Prosperity Gospel, Part 2

I want to discuss the flip side of this issue now. What should be your attitude/actions if you DO have wealth, nice things, great opportunities, and/or good health?

If you have been so blessed, many Christians' natural response is guilt. I don't believe this needs to be the case. If God has blessed you beyond what you deserve, you don't need to live in guilt. But I believe you do need to live with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The answer to your question of "Why has God blessed me so much?" is "So that you can bless others."

The verse I quoted in the last post that spoke of the godliness that comes from contentment, is one of the truest marks of a mature Christian. Can you be content? I encourage everyone to have a tough conversation with their spouses or family members and ask "At what standard of living can we be content?" I'm not going to tell you the answer to that question, but I want to encourage you to come to a decision and stick with it. What size of house can we be content with? What type of car can I be content to drive? What amount of money can I be content to live off of?

When you come to the answers to these questions, something incredible can happen! If you make a conscious choice to live at that standard, you set yourself up for greater giving. When promotions and raises or higher paying jobs come your way, instead of increasing your standard of living, you are able to increase your standard of giving. It's not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to be rich and not live with an awareness of why God has blessed you.

How many of you living on a meager wage have thought, "If I was making as much as so-and-so, I'd be living on easy street and there's no way I would complain about my finances the way they do. They don't know how good they have it."? But I guarantee you somebody somewhere is thinking the same thing about you! This is what happens when we don't seek contentment and raise our standard of living with every promotion/raise. It's the sickness of the American Dream - enough is NEVER enough.

I want to encourage you to let go of the American Dream and start dreaming the Kingdom Dream! The Kingdom Dream is a dream of God's people not living in financial bondage, content in the sufficiency of Jesus instead of the sufficiency of stuff, and giving from the overflow of God's blessings.

We are literally blessed among the nations. Don't squander it. Don't allow greed and covetousness to overcome you and warp your view of how blessed you are. Go make as much money as you possibly can, and give away as much money as you possibly can!


Acapella Star Wars/John Williams Tribute

This is absolutely incredible.  And this guy has far too much time on his hands.

The American Heresy - Prosperity Gospel

I want to address something that I've been getting a lot of questions about recently. Does God want me to be rich or have nice things?

The New Testament writers spend a great deal of time addressing the heresy of legalism and gnosticism because those were the primary heresies of their day. Incidentally they were heresies that arose within the church.  The big heresy that today's American church needs to teach against and guard itself against is "prosperity gospel".  A heresy that has also arisen from within the American church.

Prosperity gospel teaches that it is God's will for you to have wealth and to bless you with all the desires of your heart.  God desires for us to be happy.  Big houses, nice cars, promotions, trips, and other such things will make us happy.  Therefore, God's will is for us to have all those things. All we need to do is have faith that God will bless us materialistically, name those things or list those things we desire, focus our prayers and positive affirmations on those things, and wait for God to give them to us. They proof-text and use verses such as Deuteronomy 8:18, Malachi 3:10, John 10:10, and 3 John 2-4 to support their claims.

This all sounds really good and fires us up to claim God's "promises" for ourselves and get in on some of the "available wealth" that we can have if only "our faith is strong enough" or we "want it bad enough".  There's just a couple of problems I have with this line of thought.

1) The USA is not the only country with Christians on the planet.  There are Christians all over our world (many with much stronger faith than we'll ever have) who live in places where the whole concept of prosperity gospel is completely and utterly ridiculous.  There are completely sold-out disciples of Jesus Christ that live in an environment of poverty where the most prosperity they could possibly hope for is "give us this day our daily bread".  They could claim blessings and write lists until their pens ran out of ink and most likely will still die never having owned a car, slept in a comfortable bed, lived in a house with air conditioning, made more money in a year than we make in a week, vacationed in Europe, or even had the luxury of indoor plumbing.  My point is this false "gospel" can only be a reality in the U.S. or a few other developed countries.  So if it is not a gospel for everyone, then it is no gospel at all.

2) I've read the rest of the Bible. Does God bless some with wealth and cool experiences? Sure. He also curses some with wealth and cool experiences. To read the Bible and come to a belief that prosperity theology is accurate is to only read the parts of the Bible that tickle your ears and your greed. Try these verses on for size:
  • 1 Timothy 6:3-10(ESV) - If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (emphasis mine)
  • And check out these passages: Matthew 6:19-24, Luke 16:13, Luke 18:22-25, 1 John 2:15, Matthew 19:21
3) This kind of teaching turns God into some kind of genie in a bottle.  Prosperity gospel is so "me-centered", but the Bible is clear that we are to be "God-centered".  It's not about us, not even a little bit. The purpose of our lives is to GLORIFY GOD! Prosperity theology says just the opposite; that the purpose of a relationship with God is for Him to bless us.  This is wrong and honestly, just sick. If you're serving God to see what you can get out of Him, you have to be one of the most self-centered, ungrateful, disgusting people to ever walk the planet. Seriously! Think about it - God sent his only, beloved, special Son to this planet for the primary purpose of dying a horrific, painful, humiliating death. He did this because He loves you so much that He didn't want you to have to go through that punishment.  Through that ultimate, incomprehensible act of love He has erased your sin record and taken the penalty of that sin upon Himself.  But He didn't stop there! He sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of us so that we can be guided to righteousness and feel His presence and love. But He didn't stop there either! He is currently preparing an eternal home for us where we WILL experience eternal prosperity and truly live in His presence!  ...and some of us have the attitude of "Well, that's great and all, but really God, I need to be driving a HUMMER."  Give me a freakin' break!!!

Properity gospel is not just mis-leading and inaccurate...it's disgusting and evil.

(to be continued tomorrow...)


I Choose Gratitude

I choose gratitude!

I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to take part in the process of choosing my nation's and community's leaders today instead of having a war-mongering dictator thrust upon me.

I'm so grateful that the democratic process is alive and well...whatever the outcome.

I'm so grateful that my children are growing up in a country where an African-American (or anyone else) can achieve the highest office in our land.

I'm so grateful for those who have sacrificed to secure the rights I have in this country.

I'm so grateful that even in a tough economy we are still blessed beyond what we deserve.

I'm so grateful that I was able to have a prayer meeting in my home tonight without fear of soldiers/police busting down my door and arresting me (or worse).

I'm so grateful that our new president says he has placed his faith in Jesus Christ and I commit to praying daily that the Holy Spirit will guide his policies, decisions, and future spiritual growth.

I'm so grateful that I did not hear the phrase "hanging chad" even once tonight.


Guide our new leaders. Surround them with capable advisors and people who will point them toward You. Use our new leaders to bring your Kingdom into its fullness. Father, if it is in Your will continue to provide the religious freedom we enjoy in this country. But if You would be greater glorified by us losing that freedom then Your will be done. Father, I pray especially for President Obama - protect him, guide him, use him, and draw him closer to You. I pledge my allegiance to You as my King and to Your Kingdom. In Jesus name...Amen.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

I'm really looking forward to seeing this new film.  I think it could be a great tool in teaching young people about good/evil, the horrors and complexity of war, and probably a dozen other moral/ethical issues.



How about some more FREE stuff? Check out NoiseTrade! Lots of Indie albums (many Christian). There are two download options. You can either choose to pay whatever you want or tell 5 friends about NT and download for free. There are some really good artists on there. I loved the one below!

Free Starbucks for Voting

Don't know if you've seen this, but you know how I love free stuff...

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

This has been one of the most difficult but rewarding and blessed weekends in recent memory.  I'll choose to focus on the highlights here:
  • Trick-or-treating with Isla was a hoot.  She dressed like Elmo.  It was cute watching her walk up to the doors and say "Teet!"  She did fine until Jamie let her taste a piece of chocolate.  Then she didn't want to knock on any more doors - she just wanted to eat.
  • This was the first wet weekend of the rainy season.  I was totally digging listening to the rain.
  • We took a 24 hour mini-vacation this weekend and drove to Santa Cruz.  Even though it was rainy, we stayed in a great hotel right on the beach.  Our room had the most incredible view of the ocean (which Isla informed us about 100 times was "cool").  Saturday night Jamie and I spent a little time in the hot tub outside in the rain.  We were nice and toasty from the neck down, but our heads were pelted with rain.  It was nice, though.
  • We watched three movies this weekend.  I Am Legend, Kung Fu Panda, and The Happening.  I really enjoyed them all.
  • Sunday morning we were excited to worship at the Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz.  Vintage Faith is Dan Kimball's church.  Dan wrote The Emerging Church and They Like Jesus But Not the Church.  He wasn't there but the service was great.  VFC is a very interesting, cool, and eclectic community.  I love the way they really have their finger on the pulse of Santa Cruz. It was also great showing up to church and not worrying about having to make anything happen.  But I'm ready to get back to it!