Leadership & Tunnel Vision

I'm amazed at how easy it is to get "negative" tunnel vision as a leader. I've observed it in other leaders in the past. I've seen pastors get so down on little details that they are blind to all of the incredible ways God is blessing their ministry. When you're looking in on these situations from the outside, it's like "wake up, quit being a baby and see all the amazing things God is doing!"

But I found myself having to say those words to myself today. I've allowed myself to get so stressed over a bunch of small details that I lost sight of how much God is blessing our work here at Living Hope Church. I found myself allowing my stress to depress me today. Tonight, though, I made the decision that I wasn't going to be that guy! I will not allow myself to become the princess focused  on the pea under her stack of mattresses.

God is doing too many great things here for me to allow Satan to convince me otherwise. So Satan, I've got three words for you --- GO TO HELL!

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus

This one stood out to me today:

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

I hope to be able to speak with such confidence and assurance at the end of my life, too. I want everyone I leave behind to have no doubts about the life I've lived and where I'm going!


Acts 23-28

I love the book of Acts so much! It's really exciting to me. I'd love to write a novelization of it someday.

In chapter 23, Paul has been arrested and beaten by the Jewish officials in Jerusalem. There have been attempts on his life and lies hurled against him. I'm quite confidant that he sent up a prayer or two asking for his name to be cleared and to be released. In verse 11, Jesus sends him encouragement, but I doubt it was the encouragement he was hoping for.

Acts 23:11 (ESV)
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."

Get this: Jesus appears to Paul and informs him that he wants to use him in Rome the same way he's using him in Jerusalem! Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire! I believe sometimes the hard times we go through in life are not so we can see God deliver us, but so that God can use our difficult circumstances to deliver others. Sometimes our valleys are God's mountains!

Big LHC News!

We made a big announcement in church today. Starting the weekend after Easter, we will be adding a Saturday night worship gathering. It will be fundamentally identical to the Sunday morning gathering, but might get a little different atmosphere.

This is a big step for our church. We knew we were needing to start an additional worship service and my first thought was to start a 2nd Sunday morning service because it was the move that would require the least amount of change and stretch us the least. As I began praying about this more, I started feeling God impress on me that maybe he didn't want us to choose the option that would stretch us the least. Maybe he wanted us to take the road that required the most faith. So Saturday night it is!

While this will be a big adjustment for our church and especially our volunteer staff, I believe that we'll look back on this decision as a catalyst for major transformation in our church. I can't wait to see what God has planned through all of this!

So starting Saturday, April 18 at 7pm, Living Hope Church in Dixon, CA will offer another worship option.  SWEET!


Acts 17-22

Paul is a big, bad superhero! His singular focus to speak the truth to anyone and everyone who will hear it (and many who won't) blows me away.

Acts 21:13 (ESV)
Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Free Books

One of the things I do occasionally on this blog is review books for Multnomah and Thomas Nelson. Often they send me extra copies to give away to people who read the blog. I have several new books that I'll be giving away over the next few weeks, so check back here often. (There's currently a set of 4 books that no one has snagged a few posts below this one!) All you have to do is be the first one to comment on that particular post. Make sure to include your email address so I can get shipping info from you. I only ship within the United States. Good luck!


Medical Tourism

Check out this fascinating story on CNN about how many people are starting to travel to India for major surgeries. They can do it for less than a tenth of the cost and cater to your every whim. This just shows how broke our health care system is!

Acts 11-16

I love the book of Acts so much! It's inspiring and exciting and makes me so grateful for these incredible trail-blazers whom we owe so much. I hope I can someday have half the boldness of the apostle Paul! He's amazing. Bold in his faith. Bold with authorities. Bold with confrontation.

I love in Acts 13 when Paul is reaching out to the Greeks that he indicates that their original target was the Jews. But when they rejected the gospel, they started focusing on those who weren't rejecting it. It's a great reminder that we shouldn't let OUR plans get in the way of GOD'S plans!

Acts 13:46 (ESV)
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we are turning to the Gentiles."

The Love Library!

I'm embarrassed to say that this review was supposed to be posted last month, but I didn't get around to it. So here it is -- better late than never.

Waterbrook/Multnomah Books asked me to review this collection of "love-focused" books. I shouldn't have put them off, because they are all excellent resources.

I Do Again by Cheryl & Jeff Scruggs tells the story of a Dallas couple who went through ten disappointing years of marriage followed by seven painful years of divorce and were then reconciled into a beautiful, healthy, Christ-centered marriage. This is an incredible story of how it's never too late for God to heal what's broken. The Scruggs' story is gut-wrenching, powerful, hopeful, and miraculous. They also recommend many great resources for healing. Good stuff! $10.99 @ CBD.

For Couples Only is a little box set of two separate books - For Men Only by Shaunti & Jeff Feldham and For Women Only by Shaunti Feldham. These little books are practical and insightful. They follow a pattern of pointing out what your spouse is saying/doing, what it actually means, and finally how you should respond. These are good little field guides/instruction manuals to understanding your spouse. Also good stuff! $13.99 @ CBD.

The Love as a Way of Life Devotional by Gary Chapman & Elisa Stanford is a 90-day devotional guide intended to help you start living a life of giving/receiving love. This is not necessarily a couples resource. It's just a tool to help you understand God's love for you and your role of loving others by teaching you patience, forgiveness, courtesy, humility, generosity and honesty. It looks great and I think Jamie and I will go through it together after Easter. $10.99 @ CBD.

All four of these books are great and the good news is that the kind folks at Waterbrook/Multnomah have given me an extra set to give away. Same as always -- the first person to leave a comment on this post will receive all four books! (include your email address) (U.S. shipping only)

What Facebook Can Do For Churches

I love Facebook! I gave it up for Lent so I've been seriously missing it. I even hear from Jamie that they changed FB while I've been away so I'll have to relearn some things. I love the connectivity. I love the control. I love it all! If you're a church leader, Facebook is a tremendous tool. Here are two things that you should be taking advantage of.

Set up a church group.
You can set up a church group for people to join. This is another form of staying connected and communicating information quickly. It's fun for the Facebookers in your church and a valuable tool for you. Build up a FB tribe!

Advertise on Facebook.
I just started doing this recently and its probably the best advertising move I've made. Whenever anyone sees a profile page, there is a row of 3-4 ads on the right-hand side. What many people don't realize is that these ads are customized to the user. Advertisers can target age groups, regions, people with particular interests, etc...

I set up a Living Hope ad and tested it for 5 days. I set it up to pay per click (i.e. - when people click on our ad, I pay around $0.35 and it takes them to our church website). I also set up a $1.75 daily spending limit. My ad targeted ages 16+ in Dixon, Vacaville, and Davis, CA.

In 5 days time, my ad was posted 33,000 times, 14 people checked out our website, and I only spent $4.27.  In my experience that's about the most cost-effective advertising around. We spent $250 on a shared TV ad recently that ran for 2 months and got nothing. We have spent hundreds of dollars on yellow pages ads in the past and got very little return. But for a little over $4, several people in our community checked out our website and know more about us.

Leaders, this is a great tool worth checking out. You control who you target. You control how much you want to spend. Good stuff!


Acts 7-10

I really loved reading about Paul's conversion and Peter opening up the gospel to the Gentiles. Powerful stuff! I love the question Peter asks here when Cornelius's crew come to Jesus.

Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit  just as we have?” And he  commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.


Angels & Demons

I read this book Friday on my day off. This was the first fiction book I've read in a while. It was so good I finished it all in one day. I seriously couldn't put it down!

Angels & Demons is a Dan Brown book. Brown also wrote The Da Vinci Code which is the sequel to A&D. This is a much, much better book than Da Vinci Code (even though it was pretty good...just completely ridiculous). The action literally starts on page 1 and doesn't let up until the end. I really enjoy Brown's writing style. He writes in short scenes. Chapters are usually only a few pages long and always leave you wanting more. You can literally see the movie playing in your head while you're reading.

It really focuses on the issue of religion vs. science and most of the action centers around the Vatican. It's intriguing, suspenseful, intelligent, and everything else you want in a good murder mystery.

I'll be using this book in my Summer Reading Strikes Back sermon series to explore whether or not faith and science can coexist. I highly recommend this book, but it does have some pretty graphic violence.


Luke 17-21

Luke 21:27-28 (ESV)
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Lots of talk in today's reading about being watchful and ready -- not being caught unprepared. I love the imperative to "straighten up and raise your heads"!

Summer Reading Strikes Back!

Last summer I preached a series called Summer Reading where I used 4 popular books to preach on some different themes. I had so much fun with that last year that I decided to bring it back again in July. The series will be called Summer Reading Strikes Back! (It was either that or Summer Reading 2: Electric Boogaloo.) I'm getting excited about this one already. I wanted to give you Living Hopers a heads-up about this in case you wanted to start reading ahead.

The four books we'll be covering are:
  • Angels & Demons by Dan Brown - This is a great novel that will give us a chance to talk about faith and science. This movie is releasing in May and the book's by the same author who wrote The Da Vinci Code.
  • Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson - Probably my favorite book I read last year. We'll be using this one to discuss the Holy Spirit.
  • The Shack by William Young - This is an extremely popular and somewhat contraversial book. We could go in several different directions with this so I'm still undecided on the specific topic.
  • Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss - We'll use this classic to talk about God's will for our lives.


Luke 8-11

Great reading today! Seemed like the overarching theme was preparing and sending the disciples. Two passages stuck out to me -- for different reasons.

Luke 9:2 (ESV)
...and he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal.

As I read that I thought, we do a lot of proclaiming the Kingdom, but I wonder how much healing we do? I'm confidant that our proclaiming would be more effective if we were more concerned with helping individuals heal.

This next passage stuck out because it's so stinkin' funny. Jesus is letting the Pharisees have it by telling them in several different ways, "Woe to you..." because of your hypocrisy. There are lawyers present also and one speaks up. Jesus' response is priceless!

Luke 11:45-46 (ESV)
One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also." And he said, "Woe to you lawyers also!..."

I think Jesus missed the sensitivity training day in seminary!


Dan Kimball

I had the privilege of sitting in a seminar for pastors yesterday at William Jessup University with Dan Kimball as the guest speaker. I really love what Dan has contributed to the church conversation over the last 10 years.

He first came into the spotlight with his books The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship. He was one of the first guys to start using the "emerging" terminology and it really resonated with me. He and others like him were able to put to paper the thoughts that I was having trouble articulating about the direction the church needed to go to really engage our society.

Dan also wrote They Like Jesus, But Not the Church, which is one of my favorite books of the last few years. I love his heart for reaching "the unreachable." He gives us guidance on how to interact with people in a way that is both true to our calling and sensitive to their feelings/backgrounds. The thing I love most about him is that he challenges us to make adjustments to our methods without adjusting our theology. Most of the guys who have currently hijacked the emerging/emergent conversation have inadvertently become elitist theologians who claim we need to change our theology or risk becoming irrelevant. It's sad, because I believe there is much more conversation to be had in the "emerging/postmodern" realm, but the very people who were trying to champion that conversation have squashed much of it.

I really love Dan's church, Vintage Faith in Santa Cruz, too. We visited there in the fall and had a great experience. Very cool, very hip, but most importantly they are effectively reaching a community that is difficult to reach.

But my favorite thing about Dan is definitely the hair! Long live rockabilly music and the pompadour!

(Oh, and big thanks to WJU for regularly hosting these types of events for Sacramento area pastors -- and for free. You guys are awesome!)

Luke 4-7

We can learn a lot from this observation the Pharisees make to Jesus. What they meant as shame toward Christ-followers, we should wear as a badge of honor. Unfortunately, many of us live our faith as if Jesus is not present. The Christian faith should be a joyful life, not a somber religion.

Luke 5:33 (ESV)
And they said to him, "The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink."

Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity

Scot McKnight recommended this little 102-page book on his blog so I decided to check it out. Enough is written by Adam Hamilton, a pastor in the Kansas City area. I really liked this book. It's a call to get back to simpler lifestyles, embrace a lifestyle of gratitude and giving, and live Biblically financially. This book is so good, I'm seriously considering making it available at church. It challenged me, convicted me, and made me desire to embrace these changes more fully.

One little gem that I'm going to try to memorize is Hamilton's Contentment Prayer:
Lord, help me to be grateful for
what I have, to remember that
I don't need most of what I want,
and that joy is found in simplicity
and generosity.

The book also includes 3 little key tags with the Contentment Prayer printed on it so you can keep it in front of you while shopping and such. Enough is worth checking out!


Purple Cow

I am growing to love Seth Godin more and more. He's a marketing guru with a widely-read blog. He's written several best-sellers, including a book I reviewed not to long ago, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, which I loved. I finally got around to reading his most popular book, Purple Cow. I completely understand why it's so popular. It's a tremendous little book!

The basic concept is that if you're driving through the country-side and see thousands of cows, eventually you don't even notice their presence. But if while driving you see a purple cow...well, that's worth stopping for. In other words, to thrive in today's world, it's not enough to be good, you need to be remarkable!

Purple Cow really got me to thinking about what sets our church apart from any other church in town. Is there something about us that is remarkable enough to make people stop and notice? I know skeptics will say, "Jesus' gospel message is pretty remarkable. That should be enough." But I will risk being called a heretic and say, that's not necessarily true.

I think churches have done a masterful job over the last howevermany years of taking the the truly remarkable 'good news' and transforming it into the boring news. Few are surprised by this message, because few churches are passionate about it. The sad (and exciting) news is that a 'purple cow' in the church world is a church that is actually Christ-like. So what are some counter-church-cultural ways we can be Jesus to our communities that would make them do a double-take? It's got me thinking...

The purple cow principle is so true, too. While Jamie and I were in Scotland, we spent a lot of time driving through the 
countryside. It was beautiful and I guarantee you we saw at least a million sheep during our week there. At first it was quaint, but by the end of the week it was hardly worth noticing. However halfway through the trip I spotted something out of the corner of my eye that made me pull over and take pictures. Pink sheep! We asked several people during the week and showed them the picture, but nobody could give us a good reason. Maybe I should knock-off Godin's idea and write a church version called Pink Sheep! Hmm...

Luke 1-3

Luke 2:19 (ESV)
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

I love this verse because 1:1-4 tells us that Luke writes his gospel as a believer who didn't have a first-hand experience with Jesus -- he writes from eye-witness interviews. I believe he was able to write 2:19 because he sat down with Mary and she told him her story. What an incredible meeting that must have been!



A new TV series premiered on NBC Sunday night called Kings. I've seen the promos for several weeks but didn't know anything about it. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I found out Kings is a 21st century retelling of the Biblical story of King Saul and soon-to-be King David. I was intrigued. I didn't get it on the DVR in time but I watched the two-hour premiere at NBC.com this evening.

I can tell you my first impression is mostly positive. They really do a great job of making this very dramatic story compelling and thoroughly modern. Ian McShane plays King Silas, the king of Gilboa. The hero, David Shepherd, is a young soldier/mechanic/musician. The first episode tells the story of David standing up to the army of Gath and their massive "Goliath" tanks in an attempt to rescue two POWs, one of who ends up being the king's son, Jack.

The one disappointing aspect was an implication that Silas's son, Jack, is a closet homosexual. It'll be interesting to see where the writers go with this, considering the close friendship between David and Jonathon in the Bible.

There are major spiritual themes in Kings. One of my favorite characters is the spiritual leader Rev. Samuels. He does a great job playing the prophet and mouthpiece of God. Issues of God's will, courage, envy, humility, pride, and all the other great themes present in the Biblical story are there.

I can't wait to see how this show continues to unfold. It probably won't be suitable for all ages all the time. Even if they stuck to the Biblical details, there are some mature things that happen in the Biblical story.

Romans 9-16

Romans 15:1-2 (ESV)
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

I wonder how many of us consider it an obligation to help less mature Christ-followers become more mature? Who are you investing in? Who are you letting invest into you?

Tube (over the) Top

I was thinking this morning about how much TV I watch currently. I added it up and I currently watch 21 different shows per week (most 1 hr shows). Those are the regular ones that I DVR. That's not including the incidental ones that I watch if bored or shows like Dr. Phil and Oprah that I get sucked into because Jamie's watching.

That seemed pretty excessive to me, so I decided to trim it down to 7 shows per week. I'm challenging Jamie and the kids to do the same, but not forcing the issue. This will hopefully add 12-14 hours to my week that I could spend doing more productive things. Time with the family, church folk, time exercising, reading, strategizing, devotional time, cooking, cleaning, repairing, going to bed earlier,... It's exciting to think about all the extra available time!

So here's my list of shows that I'm keeping for now:
  • Lost
  • Heroes
  • American Idol
  • The Biggest Loser
  • Kings
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • The Office
And here's my list of shows that are getting the axe for now. Some of these were hard because I really like most of them:
  • Celebrity Apprentice
  • Life on Mars
  • Survivor
  • Globe Trekker
  • Rick Steves Europe
  • Austin City Limits
  • Medium
  • Law & Order
  • Hell's Kitchen
  • Supernanny
  • Shatner's Raw Nerve
  • Howie Do It
  • House
  • The Simpsons
Some of my favorites I'll probably get to catch in re-runs during the summer when a few of my keepers are finished for the season.


Classical Fixation

My music tastes are pretty diverse. I really like just about all types of music. I tend to go through phases where I listen to one genre more than the others. Recently I've been craving classical music. I'm finding it to be very good brain food while I'm working. For whatever reason, it doesn't distract me and I believe actually increases my creative energy. The problem is I don't have a ton of classical music to choose from.

Last night on iTunes I downloaded Beethoven: The Complete Symphony Collection by the London Symphony Orchestra & Josef Krips. It's awesome! It has Symphonies 1-9 and is about 5 1/2 hours of music. The best part is that it was only $9.99. Talk about a steal! Check it out if you're ever in the mood for that sort of thing.

Romans 1-8

Man, Paul is one smart dude! Romans is honestly one of the most brilliant documents ever written. It's so complex, though. Each phrase is packed with meaning. It cracks me up that in 6:19 he informs us that "I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations." I'm going to start using that line when I preach! LOL!!!

This is the passage that hit me (probably because it really compliments what we discussed in yesterday's sermon).

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

What a great weekend! Here are the highlights.
  • Friday night Isaiah and I went to see Race to Witch Mountain. It was actually a good movie. A great family movie. No questionable content at all. This is a good one to take your kids to. I really enjoyed the extra time with my favorite son!
  • Saturday we watched Mollie and Isaiah play their basketball games. They did well. I love that atmosphere of being around all these parents who are so proud of their kids. I don't know of very many things that build a sense of community quite as well.
  • Saturday night we had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Oh my... I ate some serious food! Had the shepherd's pie and the blueberry white chocolate swirl cheesecake. Not on the diet, but if you're going to have a cheat day, do it right!
  • We had an amazing worship service today! Probably the most powerful service since I've been here. God really moved! If you missed it, make sure to check out the podcast and I'll post the Faith Story video on Youtube soon, too.
  • I'm just in awe of how God orchestrates events together to perform the miraculous. I love it when we get to be a part of it! All I can say is I can't wait to see what God has planned for our India Mission Team.
  • Lunch with the Martins, dinner with the Taylors, and LifeGroup at the Suttons. I love my Living Hope family!
  • I'm so proud of my wife and all my kids. They're amazing and they deserve better than me.


2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Question. When was the last time you viewed yourself as God's righteousness? If this is how God views you, what's keeping you from it?

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (ESV)
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

Question. Are you living wide open or are you restricting yourself?


1 Corinthians 10-16 + "40"

Man, Paul is one smart dude. Seriously, he could have been a ferocious professor of philosophy. Smart dudes make my head hurt sometimes, though. It may be a bit odd, but the passage that really stuck out to me was 10:1-4. Not because it rocked my world or anything, but because it is a rare poetic moment among Paul's mostly-intellectual writing style. It's actually kind of beautiful the way he sums up the story of Israel making their way to the promised land and connects it all to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV)
For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
Also, I wanted to share this powerful little video I found on Marko's blog yesterday. It's 40 illustrations that represent Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It reminded me a bit of what many of us are going through with our various Lenten exercises (too a lesser degree most likely). Just remember, if during this time of sacrifice and extra time spent with God, you feel moments of joy, clarity, and peace mixed with moments of exhaustion, weakness, and temptation -- you're in GOOD company!


Unleash, Session 2

Alright, it's noon-thirty and I'm settled in and ready for the second main session of Unleash 2009. This morning was amazing! What an incredible start to my day!
  • I like Newspring's worship leader. He's a DUDE! (like our dude, Rob) I get tired of seeing male worship leaders with tight jeans, eyeliner, and hair like my wife's.
  • Good music! Perry just took the stage.
  • We can't forget why we do what we do -- his name is Jesus!
  • (There are currently 900 other online attendees.)
  • If you want your church to reach its maximum potential, you've got to have a leader or leadership that's on fire for Christ.
  • The last thing the church needs is men and women dropping out of ministry.
  • How to stay in the game:
  • 1) Who is with me?
  • Ex. 33:12 - Moses wants to know who's with him.
  • Usually the relationship between the sr. pastor and the staff is normally strained.
  • You can't expect people to buy into you until you buy into them.
  • Does your church know that you're "there"?
  • How do you get people to buy into a vision? Tell'em hell can't get me out of this church.
  • Staff members, you're pastor carries a weight on him that you can never imagine.
  • Everyone is depending on the pastor not to screw it up. ...to stay faithful, to not fall, etc...
  • Your pastor needs to know that you've got his back -- that you're standing with him.
  • 2) Am I pleasing you? (God)
  • (Man, Noble is funny!)
  • Ex. 33:13 - If you are pleased with me, teach me...
  • We can't expect the Spirit of God to lead us publicly if we're not yielded to him privately.
  • Pastors, if God told you today that you have one sermon left to preach, what would you preach? Preach everyone like it's your last.
  • Are you a prophet or a protitute?
  • Church work is when you please people; ministry is when you please God.
  • --Do I understand that ministry is received, not acheived?
  • --Am I placing limits on me that God hasn't placed on me?
  • God most often puts his most powerful gifts in his weakest vessels.
  • Don't you dare limit yourself, when the unlimited power of God lives inside of you!
  • 3) Can we see you?
  • When was the last time you were desperate for God to show up?
  • Do you want attendance or repentance?
  • It's not a bad thing when people leave your church.
  • People try to "close the back door" to the church. The church is a body. When you close a body's back door... (laughter)
  • 4) What's next?
  • We're still asking him what's next. Because we don't want to build a monument, we want to be a part of a movement.
  • There's nothing awesome about Newspring except the presence of God. You take him away -- we suck, and so do you.
Great talk! I'm so glad I got to hear this today. Thanks, Newspring!

1 Corinthians 1-9

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I always tell our leaders that you can't lead people where you are not willing to go yourself. These verses are a sobering reminder of that. It's a big part of my work to be in the Word, studying and preparing lessons. But one of the biggest temptations for me is to let that be enough. I've learned that I also have to be in the Word for myself. I need to be personally engaging God and listening to the Word he has for ME. Not just reading to see what Word he has for everyone else. I'm also learning the value of disciplining all areas of my life. Not so I can be so holy, but so God's voice becomes louder than any other urges or cravings I might have. I'm not there yet, but I'm on my way...

Unleash, Session 1

It's currently 6:00 am and I'm up watching a live feed of Newspring Church's UNLEASH 2009 conference. I love Perry Noble's heart for the lost and for investing in church leaders. Newspring is an exciting ministry in South Carolina. Perry announced the other day that they would be streaming live the 2 general sessions. For those of you who know me, you know I'm not typically an early morning person, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to learn from a leader I respect so much. So here I sit, wiping the sleep boogers out of my eyes ready to be inspired. I thought I'd blog the highlights. (By the way, if you're interested, they'll be streaming live the 2nd general session at 3:30 pm EST at http://www.newspring.cc/unleash/2009/.)
  • Kicking everything off with some incredible worship. Turns out if you're up this early, this isn't a bad way to start the day.
  • Band just played Newsboys song, "In Wonder". Awesome song!
  • Perry just took the stage.
  • 2 Kings 7
  • I believe in the church today there's been a major breakdown in communication between the church and Jesus.
  • Instead of trying to build His church, we're asking Him to build our church.
  • 3 questions for the church we need to wrestle with:
  • 1) Are we willing to embrace change?
  • The gospel doesn't change, but the church has to.
  • God always picks people who are falling apart to do his best work. (re: lepers in 2 Kings 7)
  • I believe every church in America is one or two changes away from doubling in size.
  • You will never be comfortable hearing the voice of God, if you're not comfortable with change.
  • Everybody here can look at another church and call the change they need to make, but can you call it for your own church?
  • Some churches need to die. Change or die.
  • If what's going on in your church is manageable, God's not there. You can't manage a movement of God.
  • Don't ever let the money drive the decision. Let the voice of God drive the decision. If it's God's will, it's God's bill.
  • Churches, we've got to get out of the business of competing with one another, and start completing one another.
  • 2) Are we willing to work?
  • If you want change in your church, you've got to do more than pray about it.
  • Investigate the obvious. Is there anything in your church going on that if you weren't on staff, you wouldn't be excited about? Are you manufacturing energy for anything in your church?
  • Ignore the jackass. Don't let difficult people distract you from casting the vision.
  • When a move of God is happening and people are getting saved, who would criticize that - God or Satan?
  • 3) Are we serious about reaching the world?
  • 4 terms overplayed in today's church: contemporary, blended, missional, emergent (Perry gives great definitions of each. Funny stuff.)
  • If numbers aren't important, then why are they all over the book of Acts?
  • The church for years has just been cruising around, but they've got so much power under the hood, that if they would just stomp it, they'd be amazed at what God could do.
Perry is such a great communicator. Funny, funny dude! He talks too fast for me to type all the jokes, though. Glad I got up early! Thanks for making this available to all of us who couldn't make the trek to S.C., Perry!


TED Video: Wearable Tech

Ok, this is one of the COOLEST things I've ever seen!

Matthew 25-28

Check this out.

Matthew 27:51-54 (ESV)
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

A little piece of information that I've never thought too much about before -- when Jesus died, even the DEAD got up to testify that this was the Son of God! Between the miracles, the crowds, the crucifixion, the darkness, the empty tomb, the earthquakes, torn temple curtain, dead folks walking around, Jesus appearing and disappearing, not to mention all the "Acts 2" stuff -- that would have been a crazy couple of months to have witnessed!

Submission is Beautiful

I have seen several beautiful examples of submission recently. Especially among different Living Hopers. I can't think of another quality that demonstrates spiritual maturity and love for our Savior more than submission.

When you submit your dreams to God and embrace God's dreams for your life...you're BEAUTIFUL!

When you submit to God by choosing joy/trust/contentment in truly challenging economic times...you're BEAUTIFUL!

When you submit to God's Word by reading AND applying it...you're BEAUTIFUL!

When you embrace God's design and submit to leaders or parents or husbands or God himself...you're BEAUTIFUL!

When you go counter-cultural and choose submission instead of self-promotion...you're TRULY BEAUTIFUL!

When you submit even when you have the power/position to dominate...you're JESUS!


Introducing Jesus

I saw this on Joe Wilson's blog today. Awesome! Comedian Steve Harvey introduces Jesus to a stadium crowd.

Matthew 19-24

Matthew 24:42 (ESV)
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

What a reminder! We don't think about this as much as the old-timers used to think about it, but we should. We need to stay spiritually alert and focused on Jesus. How sad would it be if Jesus returned to find us in a state of wandering away from him!

Also, my friend Liz sent me this great quote about Bible reading yesterday:
"By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet."
-Thomas Merton


Matthew 13-18

This little parable jumped out at me today.

Matthew 13:51-52 (ESV)
"Have you understood all these things?" They said to him, "Yes." And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is old and what is new."

I think this parable has many layers of meaning. The old and new treasures are the old prophecies being fulfilled in the new revelation of Jesus. I think they are also an indication that Jesus came to save the old guard (the Jews) and welcome in a new chosen people (the world). I also think it's a subtle reminder to us that there is great value both in old traditions and in new methodology.

Matthew 8-12

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I love this passage. I wonder if I too can become gentle and lowly in heart?


Matthew 1-7

Here's a good one!

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)
Pray then like this:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Philemon & Ephesians

I'm enjoying this exercise of reading through the New Testament during Lent so much! Here's a couple of verses that stuck with me today.

Philemon 6 (ESV) - emphasis mine
...and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) - emphasis mine
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


U2: No Line on the Horizon

I downloaded U2's latest album yesterday, No Line on the Horizon. I'm consistently blown away by this band. They are, hands-down, the greatest band of the last 25 years. This new release is truly great and definitely worth your money.

I'm also so impressed that album after album, Bono expresses his faith in many of the songs that he writes. You may not agree with all of his theology, but here is an individual that is truly trying to let his faith guide him to make a difference in the world and to use his fame to get it done. My favorite song so far on this album is called Magnificent. It's amazing! Here are the lyrics and their performance of it last night on Letterman.

I was born
I was born to be with you
In this space and time
After that and ever after I haven't had a clue
Only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise... 
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify the Magnificent
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

Philippians & Colossians

Good reading today. I especially enjoyed Philippians. I think Philippians is like the Casablanca of the New Testament. Casablanca has so many classic movie lines that people say all the time and most don't even realize they came from that movie. Philippians is like that. It's chock full of classic memory verses or verses you've seen on t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, or heard preached dozens of times. Here are a couple that stuck with me today.

Philippians 3:20 (ESV)
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,...

Colossians 4:5-6 (ESV)
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let you speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.


Blog Envy

Okay...I have a serious case of blog envy! I just read this post on Guy Kawasaki's blog. The people at Audi dropped off the keys to their newest sports car and left it with him for a week to test drive and then review on his blog.

Are you kidding me?!

I thought I was cool because a couple of publishers send me free books to review, but now a whole new bar has been set!  For anyone who might be interested, just for the record, these are just a few of the things I'm open to testing and reviewing on my blog:
  • cars
  • motorcycles
  • boats
  • luxury hotels
  • cruises
  • video game consoles
  • computers
  • anything Apple makes
  • restaurants
  • vacation homes
  • cameras
  • Super Bowl tickets
  • new child discipline methods
  • pretty much anything else...
I'm just here to help.


Oh, man! I wish I would have read this little epistle everyday while I was growing up. I hate legalism so much and, unfortunately, it set me back years in my faith development. Several verses stuck out to me and one theme.

Galatians 2:4-5 (ESV)
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in -- who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery -- to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Galatians 4:6-7 (ESV)
And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

When we allow others to force legalism on us, we give up our freedom in Christ and offer ourselves up to be slaves. How stupid is that?! Follow God's Word and don't let anyone else add to it. Live free!


1 & 2 Thessalonians + 1 Year

Wow! Is there a more encouraging passage in the Bible? Paul loves the Thessalonian church so much. This is the passage that stuck with me:

2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,...

This is my prayer for Living Hope Church! That God's Word would speed ahead of us and begin to turn up the soil of people's hearts so that when our time for planting seeds comes, they are ready to hear the message. I love knowing that often God goes ahead of us and prepares the way! Awesome!
On a side note, this last Sunday marked one year of service at Living Hope Church for our family. LHC, I can't tell you all how proud I am to be your pastor. To serve with a church that really "gets it" is incredible! Personally, the last year was the most fulfilling of my life. We have always tried to follow God's lead in and out of various ministries, but for the first time ever, I feel completely in the center of God's will. Thank you all for being patient with me, for loving on my family, for all your encouraging words, for getting behind our leadership and inviting your friends/family along for the ride, and for being a truly authentic body of believers who live their faith in good times and in bad, in valleys and victories, and in a way that I believe makes our Father proud. I love you all and I look forward to many, many more years of Kingdom-building with you here in Dixon and around the world.

1 down, 30+ to go!