Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Still On Vacation...

In case you're wondering why you haven't heard from us, we're still on vacation. We're home now so I thought I'd check in, so to speak.
  • Last week Andrea's parents came into town. We went on the local Last Chance Tour Train for Helena history. We've never been on it and I found it quite interesting. I got a deep sunburn on my face, though - really red, but not blistering.
  • We also went on the local Gates of The Mountains boat tour. I've been on it before, but it's still pretty neat.
  • All of us also went to Yellowstone National Park. None of us have been there before (except Andrea - see photos here and here from her trip with Erica), but it's only a 3 1/2 hour drive from Helena. We saw lots of wildlife - mule deer, bison, bald eagles, squirrels, a moose, black bears, grizzly bears, and more - AND we took lots of photos. (I haven't gone through them yet, but I'll let you know when they are posted.)
  • We explored the Yellowstone for two days, staying the night a hotel in West Yellowstone - very disappointing for $130. While the park experience was wonderful, I thought the drive there on the 191 past the Gallatin Gateway was absolutely stunning!
  • On Friday, we all went to see Evan Almighty. I really enjoyed it. It really spoke to how God calls us away from the things we think we need and gives us what we truly need. I liked everything except the whole "random" part - I don't think our acts of kindness need to be random. There is an intentionality, a purposefulness to being a Christ-follower. (We also saw Fantastic Four: The Rise Of The Silver Surfer the previous weekend we liked it.)
  • Andrea's parents left on Saturday. Thanks Don and Nancy, we really enjoyed having you. Sorry about the kids - I guess they are just at that age. By the way, the whiskey works great on them - just kidding!
  • On Sunday we visited a local church that is doing a major remodel on a warehouse for their first church building. We at Hannaford have been trading technical and materials tips with them for our expansion as well. I also worked with one of the leadership there with the PK Jesus Conference. The church isn't meeting in their new building yet, but it's nice to experience how some of the other churches in town worship.
  • We rented a couple of DVDs on Monday. Ghost Rider was done well and generally okay, but seemed kind of weird - a lot more demon and devil content than I expected, and it wasn't really consistent logic. It didn't work for me and I would not recommend it. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the second movie, Deja Vu. The whole time travel is a little difficult for some to follow, but I thought it worked (much better than Next, by the way).
  • Today we went to the park and also went bowling. Boy, I stunk. Last past are the day when I used to league bowl with an average of 205. Of course, the boys both struggle with their scoring as well. We're still trying to instill the idea that it sun to play games even when you don't win.
  • Andrea and I have also been fighting off colds. That has made vacation a bit more of a struggle, dealing with the kids, keeping active, and trying to blow our noses every chance we get.
  • I've also continued reading. I finished Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Faith (really like Donald Miller's Searching For God Knows What but more scholarly), Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus (great stuff about the kingdom of God. I don't agree with McLaren on all accounts, but great!), and am starting another McLaren book he co-wrote with Tony Campolo, Adventures In Missing The Point.
Finally, I'm still struggling with some issues, I do ask that you still pray for me. I appreciate it. I will be back at work next week and blogging as well. So till then...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You Know You Are In Montana When...

I came across this post on Iggy's blog. He's a ministry leader at Billings Vineyard Church here in Montana. Having lived here in Montana for about three years now, I found these ones especially funny (and true).

You know you live in Montana when...

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor and combine crew on the highway.
  • You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
  • You think ethanol makes your truck "run a lot better." (The gasoline here sucks.)
  • You see a car running in the parking lot at the store with no one in it no matter what time of the year. (There's probably dog in it, too.)
  • The festivals across the state are named after fruits, vegetables, grain or testicles.
  • People get a "To Go" drink from the local bar.
  • You install security lights on your house and barn and leave both unlocked.
  • You know someone who's lost their license due to a DUI and have seen their tractor or snowmobile parked at the local bar.
  • You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
  • Driving in the winter is often simply a matter of staying between the fence posts.
  • You think that washing your pickup or car is a waste of time and money.
  • You have never owned a vehicle that did not have cracks in the windshield.
  • The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires 6 pages for High School Sports.
  • You know someone who's shot themselves accidentally.
  • You know all 4 seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction.
Click here for to read them all!

11 Things That Can Kill A Ministry

If you are looking to kill your ministry or slow down your growth, be sure to integrate some of these practices (or stop them if you want a vibrant, life-giving ministry)...

1. Destructive pacing (too much, right now)
Try to do everything in as little of time as possible. Don't give people lead time for dreaming big and being creative. Make sure you pace yourself in a way so that when you approach a task, everything else has to go on hold.

2. Lack of planning ahead (plan to fail)
Make sure that you leave everything to the last minute. You know, like an hour before the worship service. Then you have an excuse for number 11, mediocrity.

3. Encourage people to volunteer (don't let them minister)
Give your volunteers enough just enough instructions to compete the task-at-hand. Then they can go home. Make sure that they don't get a vision or passion for the overall goals because they might try to hang around and start taking away work that the pastor does. And whatever you do, don't hold them accountable.

4. Talk about us (make US the focus)
Always talk about what we can do and how we have all the ability to do anything. That way we can leave the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit out of it. This is a great way to keep people busy, too.

5. Misdirected focus (don't talk about Jesus)
Focus on the little things like worship style, carpet, windows, and any other personal preference. That way we can be bogged down and distracted from the Person of our faith and the real vision He has for us.

6. Lack of consistent and effective communication (assume everything)
If you have certain expectations, be sure to never tell anyone. That way you can blame them when things don't go the way you saw it in your head.

7. Lack of communicated vision (out of sight, out of mind)
Once you mention what your ministry is about, make sure you never mention it again. People will remember it forever, right? Also, don't forget to dream small dreams that are only humanly possible. We wouldn't want God to get involved.

8. The status quo (God always gives small dreams)
You're there. You've arrived. You're doing it just like God wants. Really! He doesn't have any more growth or surprises on the horizon. It's a good thing, too, because society and culture never changes either.

9. Lack of passion (make Jesus seem boring)
Make sure you weigh people down with lots of boring lists to follow. Religion is about rules and formulas. Besides, the message of Jesus is about the law which promises death, we don't want to be life-giving. Jesus wants us to practice religion without relationship, not live an abundant life right now.

10. Make Jesus boring (it's a sin)
Since the message of Christ never changes, nether should the methods we use to reach and engage people. Keep trying to stuff new wine into the old wineskin.

11. Seek mediocrity (God doesn't want your best)
Make sure that what you and your people do is just "good enough." Besides, we're all tired from doing all the things on our lists and taking on God's role in life. God understands. Why else would he give you first fruits if he didn't want you to keep them? That's what He did with Jesus.

I hope you guys can appreciate sarcasm :-)

Father’s Day: Fatherly Impressions

With Father’s Day this week, my thoughts keep returning to how fathers can affect our relationship with God. Our experiences with our earthly father are a lens for how we see our Heavenly Father.
  • If your father was stoic, you see God as stoic.
  • If your father never showed affection, you think God has no affection.
  • If your Dad was absent or busy, that’s how we see God.
My dad was very controlling – I spent much of my childhood battling for control of things. Consequently, it is a struggle for me now to surrender and let God be in control.

But, let me tell you that God is not like your earthly father. And even if your dad was great, God is better. Scripture tells us that He loves us, He has compassion, and that He delights in us.

Zephaniah 3:17 tells us "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
He rejoices over us with singing!

Whatever your view of your earthly father, don’t let it limit your relationship with your heavenly Father. Ask God to reveal to you who He really is.

Father's Day: Do You Know Your Daddy?

In John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "You Samaritans worship what you do not know…"

Do we really know our God, our Abba Father? Do we talk with Him? Do we understand his character and nature?

Jesus continued, "A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."
The Father is seeking worshipers. Not worship, but worshipers. He wants more than good behavior, He wants YOU. God wants ALL of you, ALL the time, regardless of the circumstances.

Get to know your Daddy.

New Photos!

We've posted some new photos in the e|Photo gallery (see the link above). Check out the Misc Spring 2007 and Kellin at VBS 2007 albums. There are some photos of the kids' musicals, Andrea's decorating, Kellin at VBS, and more. There you have it. Enjoy!

Five Things That Distract Us From God

1. We're distracted when we're focusing more on the trappings of worship (music style, song choice, service order) than we're focusing on actually worshiping God. How we approach our gathered worship reflects how we approach our whole lives of worship.

2. We're distracted when we're doing things to earn favor with God. Sorry, but Jesus has already done that. We now obey because we love Him (because He first loved us). Remember, doing the "right thing" can still be a sin, because God looks at our heart motivation. Do we love Him or are we just "earning points" of His favor?

3. We're distracted when we're trying to be Him. It takes energy and makes us tired when we try to be God. We're not good at it anyway. Instead, we need to rely on His Spirit for strength and guidance. Give Him control.

4. We're distracted when we get caught up in religion. That's DOING things out of habit instead of BEING available to be used. Sometimes we get caught up doing things over and over (reading our Bible, doing "good" deeds, behaving a certain way). When we do this we focus on our goals and not His.

5. We're distracted when we're not talking about Jesus all the time. When we stop talking about Jesus, we take our focus off Him. When we take our focus off Him, we begin focusing on ourselves.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Am Tired!

I've got to tell you that I am tired. I really need a vacation and a break from ministry. Don't get me wrong. There are some great people on the worship team - I love 'em! - and I enjoy working with the guys on the leadership team. But I feel stale and tired.

You see, I'm the kind of guy that doesn't like the status quo. I think we should never be satisfied in our relationship with Jesus and we should never be satisfied with our job of sharing the kingdom news of Christ. There are always lives to be impacted.

I'm also the kind of person that sees potential. We at Hannaford are seeing some great things going on - God is really moving and transforming people here, but I can see so much more. We have so much potential and we serve a God that has unlimited power.

With all that, I am so excited to have some time off. Andrea's parents will be arriving on Sunday and we have plans to visit Yellowstone and perhaps Glacier National Park. (By the way, if anyone local has a bed we can borrow for a week, we're still looking.)

In addition to having family visit, I am looking to be refreshed and energized in ministry. I'm looking forward to sharing the message on July 29 - I get to speak! I am really attentive and listening to the Spirit lately, and I sense that God has something amazing planned - for both me AND for Hannaford in the coming months!

So for now, I am tired but that's okay. Everyone needs a Sabbath - a time for rest and focus on God - and my time begins on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Big Idea - Information vs. Relationship

As my reading spree continues, I've now finished Dave Ferguson's The Big Idea. I was breezing through it on Friday and was hit by one big message of my own (I'm still praying through it).

To get a better idea of the book, I'll point you toward two other posts on the book, one by Tony Morgan here, and another by Todd Rhodes at Monday Morning Insight here. I don't really think I could add much more to their insights.

One thing that I am personally struck with from the book (and the others I have been reading) is about the disconnect between information and relationship - that relationship, and not information, causes transformation. While Ferguson doesn't specifically talk about relationship, he does address information.

Ferguson basically makes the point that the average person is bombarded with more information from radio, TV, online, and print than "the average person in seventeenth-century England was likely to encounter in a lifetime." And the church is a part of this idea overload. Unfortunately, more information means less clarity and even less action. The truth of the matter is that the old adage is right; sometimes "less IS more." There is often greater impact when our communication is laser-focused and simple.

In the end, I still don't believe being a Christ-follower is about information. When the religious expert asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he was asking Him to sift through all the information - they had hundreds of commandments and wanted to know the single most important one. Oddly enough, Jesus' response wasn't exactly a single answer: "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" AND "love your neighbor as yourself." Why? Because everything is based on our relationship with God and others. Without that relationship in place, nothing else matters.

Being a follower of Jesus is about more than just being nice, or right, or good. It's about knowing God and people. The apostle Paul hit it on the head when he wrote thoughts like "I want to KNOW Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," and "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord," This isn't just an informational "knowing," but an intimate "knowing" as one knows a spouse.

We've got to realize that there is something more that just knowing ABOUT Christ when we read Romans 6:3-5, "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been UNITED with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be UNITED with him in his resurrection."

We believe in a PERSON, not a set of rules or a list of facts we agree with. Even Jesus prayed to the Father for us in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

Above all other things, let us not be ashamed. Because we can know WHOM we have believed!

Friday, June 08, 2007

McManus Challenges "Awaken The Hero Within!"

Just finished Erwin McManus' Stand Against The Wind: Awaken The Hero Within. While I was originally drawn to the rather small book because of it's graphic appearance, I think it's a great book. (As a graphic designer, you know how I'm a sucker for a well-designed book!)

Stand Against The Wind is a focus on character; who we are rather than what we do. McManus covers such characteristics as humility, thankfulness, perseverance, authenticity integrity, love, endurance, patience, courage, generosity, and wisdom. He also discussed freedom, the fear of the Lord, and being personally engaged with God.

The book is an encouraging study of your character encouraging you dream the big dreams God has given you and to become all that God has created you to be. It's scriptural and culturally relevant.

I started Stand Against The Wind quite a while ago and I'm really glad I finished it, but I'm not in the "place" I was when I originally picked it up. For that reason, it wasn't speaking to me the way I've been craving lately.

Lately ... I've been really "hungry." I feel like I'm just not getting the spiritual nourishment that I need. While I've been practicing some meditative reading and prayer - it's been mostly focused on feeding others lately and not for my own nourishment.

Some of the books I've been picking back up have been helping direct me to the appropriate places in God's word. I mentioned in my previous post about Miller's Searching For God Knows What and I'm also going through Dave Ferguson's The Big Idea, a more practical look at the way we communicate our overall messages at church.

While The Big Idea is generally a practical book, God has "hit me between the eyes" today with something. I feel I've been dealing with a great deal of "holy discontent" (as Bill Hybels calls it). Please pray for me, God has encouraged me to step forward in a way that is a bit frightening. We'll see what becomes of it.

I'll just keep in mind something that McManus suggests: When you fear God, you fear nothing else!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Searching For God Knows What

I just finished Donald Miller's Searching For God Knows What. Miller does an amazing job explaining something that I've felt is missing in today's teaching of the Gospel - the relational aspect of Jesus.

I agree with Miller that the core of salvation and being a follower of Jesus lies not within the rules, formulas, charts, graphs, 3-step plans, and behavior - but the core of what people need is the person of Jesus. While the others can be helpful, if we leave out the relationship, we've missed the point.

Miller has a great way of discussing these truths in a very down to earth way. And while I was not entertained as much as in Blue Like Jazz, I was deeply challenged and moved in my thinking. Despite Miller's liberal political discussions and occasional dry sections, Searching For God Knows What exposes the true travesty of a common "modern" approach to Christianity - missing out on a relationship with the PERSON of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

God In The Movies - 9 Reviews In 18 Paragraphs

Okay, it's been a while since I reviewed any movies, DVDs or TV ... so here goes a long one. Nine reviews in eighteen paragraphs:

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
What can I say about the third installment of Pirates? I mean really, I think what I enjoyed about it most is that it finally ended the second movie. My main motivation to see At World's End was to get a conclusion to Dead Man's Chest, not to see a new adventure.

I discussed this in my review of Dead Man's Chest, but I think a disturbing trend in recent movies is to simply not conclude the story line in anticipation of the next movie. Pirates and Eragon are just a couple in this trend and I have to say, "I need some resolution." The only series I felt comfortable expecting another movie was the Lord Of The Rings. Other series such as the Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Alien resolve each movie just fine while still allowing room for another movie.

As for storyline and spiritual issues, I'm still in a daze from this movie. There was a lot happening and less clear cut spiritual themes. All-in-all, I enjoyed the third Pirates more than the second (because it resolved), but not more than the first.
Shrek The Third
Shrek 3 is more of the same of the first two. If you enjoyed the first two, you'll like The Third. The main themes of this movie involve stepping up and taking responsibility. God has a plan for your life for which He has prepared you. You may not feel prepared, but that is where we need to rely on Christ power and strength.
Spiderman 3
Like Pirates, there is a lot going on in this movie - there are seemingly at least four villains. But unlike Pirates, it was easier for me to pick out a meta theme. You see really, the main villain in Spiderman 3 is ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy when we allow sin (the black tar-like symbiotic alien stuff) to enter our lives. When we know Christ we have a choice to either be controlled by sin or to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. For more, I'll refer you to Mark Batterson's insights on Spiderman 3. Great stuff in this movie!
Meet The Robinsons
I especially enjoyed Disney's Meet The Robinsons. If course, we saw it for the kids. I was one of the few kids movies that I've seen in a long time that didn't contain a lot of sexual innuendos and adult humor. It's also one of the few kids movies that's been release in a long time that is rated G, not PG. It proves that you can make a great movie for the family without all that other junk! To me it is a story about making a choice to see things in a positive light and not letting negativity take over your life.
The Invisible
I read some foreign reviews of The Invisible and they hated it. Maybe it's an American thing, but I rather liked it.

First off, Andrea and I debated whether or not to take the kids (it's PG-13). We're pretty bad at making those decisions, sometimes. In the end, we decided not to take the kids because of "some sexual scenes involving teenagers." Truth be told, it wasn't all that bad in that area. At the same time, there are a number of mature themes, violence, and ... I'm not sure how to explain this, but it's one of those movies from a teen's point of view - where most adults are portrayed as not in control and making a lot of stupid decisions (I might argue that there is some truth in that).

Anyway, it was a pretty good movie by my standards. Good storyline, cinematography, and okay acting. I was pleased that one theme portrayed in the trailers really didn't surface - the whole idea that "you're dead, but if you can find your killer you can come back to life." While I take movies that that in stride (it IS fiction after all), The Invisible ended up being more of an out-of-body "find your assailant before you die" kind of movie. It that better? I don't know. I enjoyed it anyway.
Wild Hogs
Guys getting older and going through that mid-life thing. This is one of the better, light-hearted comedies I've seen at the movies in a long time (Now on DVD). While there is some language and sexual banter, I found Wild Hogs to be a delightful refreshment. Somewhere along the way, we learn to enjoy life, take risks, and be content with the blessings we already have - all spiritual themes to be sure.
Music And Lyrics
Andrea and I saw this on Valentine's Day - Awwww, isn't that cute. Now you can see it on DVD. While we enjoyed Music And Lyrics when we first saw it, I have to say it's one of those subtle movies that grows on you. We find ourselves referring back and laughing at the movie time-and-time again. I think I especially connected with the film because of my background in the music industry. With Hugh Grant playing a washed-up 80's band member, I saw a lot of parallels. Again, this is also a good movie that touches on sticking to your principles, being content, and most of all - the sacrifice of love.
16 Blocks
Finally, here's one I caught on cable (also out on DVD). First of all, 16 Blocks has a lot of violence and language in it. But I thought the story was great.

Bruce Willis plays an aging cop in New York on an unwanted, seemingly simple job of taking a incarcerated witness downtown to testify. Here's the problem, dirty cops want the witness dead - no testifying for him. It ends up being quite a struggle for the aging Willis to keep the "bad guys" at bay.

Why do I like the film? It's a story of redemption and second chances. I suggest you check it out!
Okay, you had to watch it on television to get this one, but near the end of the season a choice was made that shocked everyone. I like Survivor because it is a study of human nature. If you missed it, there are two contestants you need to know: Yao-Man, a older man who had won a new $60k truck, and Dreamz, a younger inner-city kid who works with youth.

Basically it went down like this... You-man won the truck and Dreamz had never owned a car in his life - he wanted that truck bad. So Yao-Man mad a deal. "I'll give you the truck and, when we're the last four and if you win immunity, you'll give it to me." Dreamz went for it saying "I swear to God."

Sure enough, it came down to the final four and Dreamz won immunity. The agreement was to give the immunity over. In interviews, Dreamz said "I need to be a man of my word. I need to set an example for my son."

Well needless to say, everyone was shocked when Dreamz actually went back on his word and kept the immunity necklace. Understand that you have to have watched this to get the impact and understand Dreamz's character. He's not a lying, conniving, strategist. I find it interesting that, in the end, he chose his "wants" over his "character." That's going to be hard as a role model for inner-city youth.

With all this said, I pray we continue to look for spiritual themes in media. They serve as great touchpoints for conversation with those who have yet to surrender to Christ.

Mother's Day - Another Day To Dream Big!

I know, I know. Mother's Day is over for about a month now. But I've been meaning to share what one church gave away this last Mother's Day.

Some churches recognize Moms. Some churches give away books or flowers to every Mom that attends. I thought it was amazing that NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC gave away a house!

It's a great story. Not only did they give away a house, every Mom got chocolate covered strawberries and two minute massages. I don't know about you, but this story from Perry Noble's blog inspires me to do more that just the status quo. It inspires me to DREAM BIG!

The Eucharist

I mentioned my agreement before with the idea that the church should be the place where new ideas abound. After all, God is infinitely creative!

Here is a great example from Rob Bell via Mark Batterson's blog. He recently heard Bell speak about communion with originality, creativity, and authenticity...

"He talked about the Eucharist. And used the phrase body broken, blood poured. And then he said something that's never even crossed my mind: leadership is a reenactment of the Eucharist. In a sense, our bodies our broken and our blood is poured. Not in the substitionary sense of what Jesus accomplished as a sinless sacrifice. But maybe 'do this' in the phrase 'do this in remembrance of me' isn't just a reference to the act of communion. Maybe it has broader ramifications. Maybe 'do this' means do what I've done. In a sense, we are a living eucharist."

May we all be poured out and broken for Him...

The Blind Squirrel Problem

I was reading this post from Seth Godin, and while he may not have intended it, the post reminded me of a similar issue in the church. "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then" translates to "We all get lucky sometimes, even when we don't prepare."

Take this story of the young man trying to get a summer job. Seth implies that a little preparation beforehand might have landed him the job and a summer's worth of work.

Unfortunately, we in the church do this all the time. We leave things to the last minute (like right before the worship service) or fail to think ahead about the big picture of elements needed for our worship service. The old adage is true: When we fail to plan, we plan to fail. How sad to think that we set God's work up for failure by not planning well.

Sometimes, if not always, appropriate preparation involves leaders enabling others to minister and for them to prepare for an event or service (God knows we can't do it all - When we try to, that is also inadequate preparation).

The same applies for those of us on worship team who fail to practice or review songs before and after the team rehearsal. The team rehearsal is just that - a rehearsal for the team to see how things fit together and mix. Trying to learn a song structure or coming to rehearsal without ever hearing a song before is a lack of preparation (Remember, almost all the songs we do have samples and music charts posted on our Praise Team Resource Page). Those type of activities are for individual rehearsal at home.

While God CAN bless these efforts or lack thereof (He has His own plan and offers His grace to fill the gap), I sometimes think He would prefer not to - He prefers that we would not "make offerings that cost us nothing."

Certainly these are half-hearted offerings.