Thursday, March 27, 2008

Update about Brian

I have been getting so many requests to read this email that I sent out to our prayer team on Tuesday- that I decided to just post it and direct people to the blog - God is so gracious.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hey everyone,

Thanks for praying. Just got back from Brian's not long ago - he was sleeping. I tried to wake him several times and he wouldn't wake up. So I sat - as I often do when he's sleeping - and prayed next to him on his bed. I read some cards that were hanging on his wall that he received recently from friends and family at Easter. And prayed some more.

After 15 minutes or so, I tried to wake him again and he wouldn't really even stir. So I asked God what He wanted me to do - I know there is not much time left for Brian. Could I possibly just leave without talking with him one more time about the Lord.

God seemed to prompt me to just talk - so I did. Brian got the un-edited advanced preview of my sermon for this Sunday. The story of the prodigal son (or should I say - the story of the Loving Father). The son ran away - left his father, disgraced his father, sinned against his father - but in the end decided to come home - and ask for forgiveness. The father received him with a compassion and grace that didn't make much sense. After telling him the story (with much greater detail of course) Brian still hadn't opened his eyes.

I leaned in and said 'Bro - we've talked about this a lot before - but I want to ask you again before I go today - are you ready yet to receive this forgiveness from a God who loves you beyond words.'

He gave me a vigorous nod.

He was finally ready.

He reached his hand over to mine - and holding his hand I prayed that God would extend mercy and grace to this prodigal who finally decided to come home. With full assurance I invited God to pour peace and love and forgiveness into his inner man. I prayed that in however many days remain for Brian that he would live them with vigor and passion for his new found savior. And I prayed that his two little boys might some day find the same gift of salvation that he received today.

I asked him if he had prayed with me and he gave another vigorous nod. I talked to him a bit more knowing that he was listening. I sat for a while and then before I left - I reminded him to tell his boys again today how much their daddy loves them.

I have been emotionally wrecked all afternoon. I had to pull over several times on the way home. God is so gracious.

  1. His concern for each individual sinner is so huge. I'm convinced that He delayed Brian's passing to allow him to have a criminal on the cross kind of salvation experience.
  2. His faithfulness to the 26 years of ongoing prayers from a loving mother is amazing.
  3. Our works have so little to do with God's gift of salvation.
  4. The nod of a head was a massive step of faith for this resistant soul - and it was all God needed.
  5. The party in heaven that commenced today played out in my mind as I pulled away from their house. There is a big banner over the seat of honor at the party that has Brian's name on it- the celebration is for him today.

I wanted to update you because I know you were praying. Thank you for that. I love the God that we serve.

If you have kids - hug them extra tight when you see them next - or send them a card or email if they live far away. Pretty soon two little boys are going to be trying to figure their way through life without their dad...I can't conceive of it.

Thanks for your prayers.

Good Friday Pics

I mentioned that I would try to get some Good Friday pics going. Danielle has posted some really cool pictures of both the service and the Journey to the Cross rooms here.

We're getting so much feedback on this year's experience. Here is a quote from an email I received yesterday... "I wanted to send a note to all of you to thank you for the awesome Good Friday Services. Growing up as a Catholic (in a religious home) we always went to services during Easter Week. I have never had the privilege to be part of such meaningful experiences. The Journey to the Cross truly touched my heart. It was perfect for a wide spectrum of ages...I know it made an impression on our 10 year old son. I am so glad we came back for the Communion Service....the teleconference video was amazing! So much to think about!"

Speaking of that Louie Giglio video - 8 copies will be available in our bookstore this weekend (somewhere between $16-$18 for the DVD) We will be also ordering more for those who pre-pay that will be available for the next weekend.

Is A "Quiet Time" Biblical

I do my best to spend consistent time with God each day. But have had a series of encounters with people who have made "quiet time" a determiner of how good or bad their day turns out to be. Like it's some kind of magic fairy dust that we sprinkle on ourselves in the morning to assure that our day goes right. I have had angst in my spirit about this kind of approach in the past and for a while and it actually turned me off to the concept of quiet time because I found myself rebelling against the "magic jesus" approach that I was seeing in many christians. Isn't a moment by moment, hour by hour, living of the Christian faith far more important than 20 sleepy minutes in the morning trying to convince oneself that this is a good thing? I recently ran across Bill Hull's blog where he addressed this topic. I thought he brought an interesting approach to the table. I've included the entire post below.

By Bill Hull - Posted on February 27th, 2008

One of the first expectations put on me as a new Christian was the " Quiet Time." Most of us know it as a designated period of time each day when we meet with God. I can't forget the many bromides offered up in defense of the "Quiet Time." One of the most memorable was, " The first day you skip your time you will know it, the second day your close friends will know it and the third day everyone will know it." This seems to indicate that a structured time with God each day is required for good behavior and attitude- And if you skip it, there is immediate slippage in attitude and conduct.

I was taught that being in my prayer closet early and often would pay off, it would change me, in fact, I shouldn't leave the Lord until He had spoken to me. I heard stories about Martin Luther who said something like, " I have so much work today that I must get up early and spend three hours in prayer-" Or those great Saints who would meet with God and tears would stain the pages of their bibles or notes. My question is this; if the "Quiet Time" is so crucial and the pay off is so big, and missing it is so disastrous , why do so many people struggle with it? What I mean is, if the results were so dramatic and immediate, wouldn't people make sure they never missed? It would be like taking a medication that would immediately make you feel good and if you stopped, would make you feel terrible. It would make sense that I would take the medication religiously.

It is my opinion that spending time with God doesn't usually pay immediate dividends for good or ill, but over a long period of time the habits of prayer, bible reading, listening to God and meditation do change us. Here is my take, so many people struggle with spending a structured time with God because they try to do it alone. And it was never meant to be an exclusively solitary activity. The first key to learning how to spend time with God is to do it with others in community. The solitary dimension of spending time with God then is helped by a communal energy. The second key is to think of spending time with God as a way of life. Jesus asked to come into out lives and spend time with us, Revelation 3:20. There are times when we pray, fast, listen, and wait on Him with others, sometimes it is alone, most of the time it is when we are living our ordinary lives. It is interacting with associates, walking the dog, weeding the garden, listening to music or during exercise. It is a continual conversation and sense of His presence.

Yes, there are days when we invest chunks of time in some formal procedure, that is essential. But to live under the stressful yoke of the daily "Quiet Time," no thanks, not even God told me to do that.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Musings Big and Small

  • Sorry it's been a while since I've posted - Easter week rocked my world.
  • Speaking of Easter - this weekend's Services at Grace were awesome. We had over 1100 people out. The spirit at all three services was great - and a good number of people at each service came down at the end and did some serious spiritual business at the foot of the cross. I love our church.
  • Pastor Brian absolutely crushed a couple of tunes that he wrote for this weekend. He Is Our God was an awesome start to the service and definitely an album-worthy worship song. He also wrote a new chorus to the old song Were You There that has been stuck in my head since Saturday night.
  • My heart was melted seeing my 3 year old Ayden in her Easter dress this year. So cute.
  • I haven't been as exhausted as I was this weekend in a long time. I'm not a nap guy. Never have been. If I do take a nap I can pretty much count on not sleeping at all that night. But I came home Sunday after services and took an hour-long nap. Then while everyone was watching extreme home makeover I nodded off for another 20 minutes, and still went to sleep at about 11 PM and slept all night. I was dead.
  • Good Friday was amazing. It reminded me again what a privilege it is that I get to work with the most creative people I know. Danielle and Dave, Brian and Rachel, Michelle, Bill and Kathy, AJ, Roberto, and Angelique. The Journey to the Cross experience was breathtaking guys, it made God proud. Hopefully Danielle or Rachel will post some pics sometime soon :)
  • Best estimates are that we had over 400 people come through the Journey to the Cross. Some spent 20 minutes going through all the way up to the one person that spent 2 1/2 hours. It was incredibly meaningful. Most were moved to tears at some point.
  • Louie Giglio ripped our faces off with the talk at the Good Friday service. We bought a bunch of copies of the DVD and they'll be available at the bookstore - hopefully this weekend.
  • I'm getting pumped for my Essential Jesus sermon series that starts this weekend. It's been a while since I've had a three week run at a series. This weekend is called
    Jesus on Rebellion, Forgiveness, and Jealousy (Luke 15:11-32)
  • My kids experienced two easter egg hunts this year - at each grandparent's house. The plastic eggs are filled with either candy or coin. I walked in on Caleb selling his chocolate eggs to his cousins for more of the coin. It is obvious which has more value to him. He was getting a quarter per egg. I tried to get him to give it back but the cousins insisted that he keep it because they valued the candy far more. Ahhh - capitalism at it's finest.
  • I'm looking forward to seeing Brian (my friend who's dying of cancer) some more this week - the business of last week made my contact with him sporadic at best. I'm praying that God has worked in his heart during the long and quiet moments of last week.
  • I'm working with 4 individuals - each of whom is launching a new ministry at Grace in the coming weeks. I'll dedicate an entire post to those ministry launches when the time is right.
  • We cancelled our cable TV completely this week. We were getting the most basic of channels anyway. We decided to just be done with it. We still get the channels that we cancelled - but we're awaiting the day that they all shut off and we're back to reading more and watching our faves online.
  • Chase is scary- the kid quotes whatever he sees on the tube the first time he sees it. He watched some movie the other day - then just yesterday came into the living room and announced "I'm the kid with the sweatshirt...and all the obvious questions..." I don't even know what that means - and I'm not sure I want to know. What I do know is that's not a line he would come up with on his own.
  • We're having our big ServErie think tank meeting this Saturday -I absolutely cannot wait. Our pre-launch team has been working for months to prepare for this moment. I was overwhelmed by the response last weekend. I made one verbal appeal on one weekend - we were hoping for between 20-25 participants. 62 people signed up!!! This is going to get good.
  • We're introducing the worship song "God of this City" to the congregation this weekend. I'm pumped about it. That song wrecked me for a week when I first heard it. It's really simple but it inspires me to do big things for God. You can listen to sample here.
  • Al is out of town for two weeks... when the cat's away...

Well - there is all kinds of other stuff going on right now - but I'll spare you ALL the details. I'm psyched for another week of service to the Almighty One.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good Friday is Going to Be Awesome

Listen, if you get a chance to come out on Good Friday it is going to be an amazing experience. I absolutely love the team that we have at Grace that puts together creative, spiritually charged, God-honoring experiences. This may be the most ambitious one we've ever tried to pull off. But it's going to be stunning.

The Journey to the Cross during the day is going to take your breath away. I'm not going to give it all away, but it starts in the Upper Room at the last supper where you will come in to a room with original paintings by a Grace artist that tries to capture the mood of the disciples, a triclinium table will be set where you can recline at the seat of the disciple that you most relate to. You will go from there into the Garden of Gethsemane where a kind of haunting scene awaits. It will be a room of solitude and intense prayer as we try to get our minds around the anguish of Christ in the Garden. Then on to the most ambitious room - the trial before Pilate and the mob. I'm not going to give anything about this room away, but it's going to be amazing. And then a journey down the hallway to the cross. With insults and jeers, a taste of vinegar, and then the stark reality of the cross.

The video meditation room will be going throughout the day as well in the worship center - it will begin on the 1/2 hour. It is an adaptation of the video that we used last year that our team edited. It's intense.

The experience runs from 12-9 pm and is self guided for most of that time. It will be group guided the hour before (6-7) and the hour after (8-9) our 7:oo service. Speaking of that - we also have a communion service at 7 pm in the commons that is going to be very meaningful. We will worship together, Karis will be singing, we will share the bread and juice and ponder the cross.

This whole experience would be great for individuals and families to do. It would also be very appropriate to invite guests to. Hope to see you there - I'll be at the info center for most of the day greeting people as they arrive. Here is Danielle's Guidebook cover - she's totally amazing at this stuff...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why Do Guys Like Fire So Much?

We just got done having small group tonight. It was a fascinating study. We're going through Galatians - and tonight we were in Galatians 2. We talked about the deadly affects of hypocrisy in the church and studied the big confrontation between Paul and Peter. Galatians 2 is fascinating in light of Acts 10 and Acts 15. The first big church fight was over hypocrisy. How ironic - since it is still the main issue that causes people to not be interested in church. USA Today reported that the same percentage of Americans (72%) who believe in God also believe that the church is full of hypocrites. Check out the article.

But I digress. As we were getting the house ready for small group tonight, as is my custom, I got a fire going in the fireplace. I love fire. I think most guys do. I've been around many a campfire in my day and just the atmosphere of a fire can both embolden men and melt them into blubbering idiots. It has a magical affect. I can see it in my boys - from a very early age - guys are completely fascinated by fire. How many female arsonists have you ever heard of? Thought so.

I wonder what it is? Maybe we have a survivalist, primordial, pre-societal manly instinct somewhere deep inside us that gets us in touch with something deep inside when we see fire. A zombie-like mixture of respect and curiosity takes over us. In a way it's like watching a life force. Building a fire is even better - taking a small flame and crafting a pile of paper and wood in such a way that the flame progresses through the layers into a raging, self-sustaining inferno. I can watch a fire for hours.

More than some male instinct though- I think fire has a lot of spiritual analogy. Watching it is like watching a microcosm of the Christian life. Starting with a spark, building to that instant inferno when the kindling and conditions are just right, leveling out into a steady burn, threatening extinction when wood isn't added or stoking isn't properly applied. There are also scriptural references to fire...
  • God is described as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29)
  • Fire is the end that awaits this earth and everything in it (2 Peter 3:10)
  • Peter's betrayal and ultimately his renewal occured next to a charcoal fire (John 21:9)
  • Paul encourages Timothy to treat his ministry like a flame that needs fanned (2 Timothy 1:6)

And there are many more - we have a lot to learn from fire. I'm going to be done now and go sit next to my fireplace with Kim and enjoy the rest of the night...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

People Read the Old Testament Wrong (Part 2)

You can see part 1 of this post here. The basic premise is that the Old Testament should be read as a historical narrative. The stories of real people in real time living real lives (sounds like the tag line for a cheesy contemporary church). People whom God has interacted with and used over the span of their lifetime.

The second story I want to highlight is the story of SAMUEL. You can check out his deal in the book of 1 Samuel. In his adult life, as high priest and judge, Samuel had the amazing privilege of anointing the first and second kings of Israel. After an all night prayer session, he had to deliver this message to Saul (Israel's first king), "You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!" Then he went on an incognito mission to find the next king.

Seven candidates were offered forth who completely looked the part. But God continued to whisper to him, 'that's not the one, that's not the one...' Then he finally heard from God when a somewhat unlikely candidate stood before him named David (1 Sam 16). He chose the one who would ultimately provide the bloodline through which the messiah to enter the world (no pressure). The whisperings and promptings of God are a very powerful thing. Samuel made one of the biggest decisions in the history of Israel based on a whisper from God... That's heavy stuff. How confident are you about acting on the promptings of God? Where did Samuel learn this sensitivity? Ahhh - the rest of the story - the Old Testament as narrative.

Samuel the baby was born to a woman named Hannah. The woman that we reference often when we do baby dedications because she dedicated her child, Samuel, to the Lord and gave him back to God at the Temple. There he grew up under the care of a priest named Eli. The story is in 1 Samuel 3. During the quiet hours, in the dark of night, in the overwhelming Temple chambers, little Samuel would hear a voice. He ran into Eli's bedroom thinking that Eli was calling. Finally Eli told Samuel that it was the voice of God. At a young age, Samuel learned what God's voice sounded like - that familiar timbre - the gentle inward prompting - that became familiar as he grew older. And as an old man, it was the same voice that rang in his head when the young man David stepped in front of him that said, "HE'S THE ONE!"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Football Party

So we had the team over for a party tonight at our house. It was very cool. They goofed around - we had pizza - watched video of our games. It was a fabulous ending to a very fun season. The team ended up at 6-2 and second place in the league. It was a great study in teamwork, doing the little things right, and how good a team can be if everyone just does their job. Caleb is my son. He's #4 in the following pictures. #4 was my number and my dad's number. Caleb was pumped to carry on the family tradition. He also really enjoys any comparisons with the recently retired Brett Favre (also #4). Thought you'd enjoy some pics.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Time Management

I'm always looking for new ways to work more efficiently. With such a wide variety of responsibities, I constantly have to force myself to keep the main thing the main thing. My current projects include:
  • Preparing ServErie launch to the church
  • Good Friday planning and implementation
  • Implementing Woship evaluation process
  • Planning 3-5 Church goals for 2008-09
  • Planning Volunteer Appreciation event
  • Wrapping up work on issue with the Elders
  • Prep presentation re: additional facility costs
  • Visit Brian
  • Teach pre-marriage class
  • Prepare 3 week sermon series in April
  • Launch new Baptism process
  • Prep 5 week Bible Study course on Galatians in April
  • Organize the "Re-Energizing the Core" event

So I'm always on the lookout for lessons in efficiency. This article on 50 Tricks to Get Things Done Faster, Better, and More Easily was pretty good.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


This week has just been very heavy for me. There are 4-5 people issues that are weighty. Some are church related, and some personal. Some issues related and some health. I'm tired. I'm a task guy and so when I get too much people stuff going on at once it really taxes my system. Brian is getting worse - I have seen him every day this week except today. I'm trying to draft a letter for him to sign making his wishes known for his kids after he's gone. He's been reluctant to do anything like that until now. His response to faith issues continues to be "I'm not ready..." He doesn't have much more time to get ready.

I have felt for a long time that I don't like delineating between minister and person. I know some pastors who view ministry as their "job" but that their personal time is their personal time - and that they are "off duty." I have a hard time with that. And honestly - I don't think I want that. I understand boundaries and saying no to things and making sure family is a priority and all that stuff. But it seems to me that when I signed up for this - when I responded to God's prompting in my heart to become a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ - that it was far more than a career move. It is a life - it is a mission - it is everything I have all the time - when I feel like it or not. I don't see any of God's chosen messengers in the Bible being on and off duty. This week and during most difficult weeks - during my private times with God in the evenings - I find that He graciously refreshes my calling. I have spent a lot of that time this week being reminded by God of the early moments in my commitment to ministry. My heart that beat fast for people and seeing the blinders come off one person at a time. My pace that quickened because I was convinced that God's kingdom could actually be lived out in the local church and could actually have a history-altering impact on the world. That's what keeps me going during heavy weeks.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Splitting Wood and Key Lime Pie

So on Thursday afternoon - I got a call at work from Kim. She said that her family (sisters and parents) were headed to Jr's Last Laugh for a show and came across 1 extra ticket - they wanted her to go. She wanted to know if I could be home at 5:30 to watch the kids so that she could go out for the night. I was thrilled because Kim doesn't do that kind of stuff nearly often enough. So when I opened the door to the house - I got mobbed by the kids (yes just like out of the movies). They were jumping and hugging and tackling and the whole bit. Kim's funny last words were - "here are three kids and a crock pot of chili that you hate for dinner... have fun!" I love that woman. Anyway- the kids and I decided to do something special while mom was out, so we cleaned up the house and then went out to the store for some missing ingredients for homemade key lime pie (one of our family favorites). So there I was with three little munchkin helpers making graham cracker crust and mixing up the condensed milk and egg yolks, etc. We emerged with an awesome pie that everyone devoured in two days!

Fast forward to yesterday - that same crew was bundled up in multiple layers - headed down to grandpas with axes and shovels and chain saw in hand (well - I had the chain saw). We spend almost 4 hours cutting and splitting wood for our fireplace and several loads for grandpa as well. Plus an impromptu snowball fight in the middle! It's really fun to experience such a variety of stuff with your kids - I think it's part of the definition of parenting. If I wasn't secure though, I might be having gender questions after the events of the last three days!