Monday, December 31, 2007

Bargain Books In SoCal

I am so excited! We went to the Christian bookstore here in Colton to pick up some books we can't find in Helena. I was completely jazzed to find a number of books that I've been wanting to read on the Bargain books shelf. A couple of these we had to buy at full price, but for most of them we got 4 or 5 for the price of one. Whoo-hoo!

Carpe Manana: Is Your Church Ready To Seize Tomorrow? by Leonard Sweet. Written to help Christians in this strange new world of postmodern culture. Offers strategies for leaders to put their faces, not their backs, to the future. I already have this book, but it was a steal and would be a great gift to someone.
Chazown: A Different Way to See Your Life by Craig Groeschel. Chazown is Hebrew for “vision.” God wants to give His for you, and this book will help reveal it! Living God’s dream will rock your world and align every area of your life, from your relationships to your finances and health. I've read through a third of this and realized I need to wait until I have time to truly examine myself.
Confessions of a Pastor: Adventures in Dropping the Pose and Getting Real with God by Craig Groeschel. Why do we spend so much time trying to please everyone else and make so little effort trying to please God? When Craig Groeschel asked himself that question, he couldn’t come up with a good answer. So one day he decided to drop the act and start getting real. With that one choice, his life began to change in a big way. And yours can too. This is highly recommended by a bunch of pastor friends I know.
Holy Discontent: Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision by Bill Hybels. Very likely, the firestorm of your frustration reflects your holy discontent, a reality so troubling that you are thrust off the couch and into the game. It's during these defining times when your eyes open to the needs surrounding you and your heart hungers to respond that you hear God say, "I feel the same way about this problem. Now, let's go solve it together!"
Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley. Challenges young Christians eager to learn, grow, and lead in ministry or in the marketplace. Andy Stanley addresses essential leadership qualities such as character, clarity, courage, and competency. Andy Stanley rocks!
Sheet Music: Uncovering The Secrets Of Sexual Intimacy In Marriage by Kevin Leman. With his characteristic warmth and humor, Dr. Kevin Leman offers a practical guide to sex according to God's plan. This frank and practical book is a perfect resource for married and engaged couples. This one comes highly recommended from Simply Strategic Guy, Tony Morgan.
Static: Tune Out the "Christian Noise" and Experience the Real Message of Jesus by Ron Martoia. Christians often use words to communicate to others; however, these words arent understood by many of those outside the church. We can be so absorbed in our "christianese" that we dont realize others dont understand the jargon and cannot figure out what it is we mean by what we are saying. Static readers will become aware of what we are saying so we can re-focus our thinking to communicate clearly to those outside the church. I've finished this one already. A good examination of Jewish context and word origins.
Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God by Joshua Harris. Stop Dating the Church reminds us that faith was never meant to be a solo pursuit. The church is the place God grows us, encourages us, and uses us best. Loving Jesus Christ involves a passionate commitment to His church — around the world and down the street. We can't be apathetic. It's time to fall in love with the family of God. On some reading lists of Montana pastors.
Whatever Happened to Worship?: A Call to True Worship by A. W. Tozer. Tozer pleads for an insistence on making worship genuine and forsaking the compulsion to substitute work for worship. I had to pay full price, but this one is a classic.
Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow. It's Sunday morning. Where are all the men? Golfing? Watching the tube? One place you won't find them is in church. Less than 40 percent of adults in most churches are men, and 20 to 25 percent of married churchgoing women attend without their husbands. With eye-opening research and a persuasive grasp on the facts, Murrow explains the problem and offers hope and encouragement to women, pastors, and men.

I realize that it's sad that I'm excited about a bunch of books. I guess I'm a book geek :-)

A Little Bird...

A little bird told me that the worship was awesome today at Hannaford - great job Youth Worship Team! Looking forward to hearing more when we get back.

As for the Powell's, we worshiped this evening at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. Greg Laurie spoke and we got to see Leeland. You can check out the webcast here. Leeland was amazing - still love their song "Carried To The Table"! Also, their namesake, Leeland Mooring, is way young - who'd have thought?

We met our good friend Jennifer at Harvest and then had a late dinner together at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Thanks, Jennifer!

Friday, December 28, 2007

On Vacation In SoCal 2007

Well, we arrived safely in SoCal Wednesday. While we've been here, we've been taking it easy. Even though I've developed a sinus cold, we've been shopping and visiting some of the fine eating establishments such as Vince's Spaghetti, In-N-Out Burger, Jack-In-The-Box, Round Table Pizza and El Torrito. Mmmmm! Here are a few photos I took with the phone:

Here's Andrik at the LEGO Store.

Andrik's new hair style.

What a cool dude!

The kids at the Upland Round Table in 2004.

The kids at Round Table today in 2007.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Worship 2008

We finished up two Christmas Eve services this evening. It was beautiful – a reflective, candlelight atmosphere singing Christmas carols accompanied by violin, cello, and piano.

As we usually do, we ended the evening singing Silent Night in the dark as we slowly lit candle after candle to slowly fill the room - representing the light Jesus brings to our lives. Both the 4:30pm and 5:30pm services were packed.

I also wanted to share a little from our morning services last Sunday. We aimed to refresh the way we look at Christmas and the carols we sing. A fun part of the service was when we had a congregation led sing-a-long of The 12 Days of Christmas.

Many people don't know that there is much Christian symbolism hidden in the song. It is a good deal more than just a repetitive melody with a list of strange gifts. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England to help young Catholic Christians learn the tenets of their faith when it was illegal to be found with any literature of their faith.

The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, but to God Himself. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The rest of the gifts are outlined at the end of this post.

This last Sunday, we divided up the people in twelve groups - then each group was responsible for singing the part of the song that mentioned their group number. Second service was out-of-control! It was crazy and very fun. The group really took their sections to heart with dancing, bird motions, and an impromptu solo! See the photos...

9 Ladies Dancing

2 Turtle Doves

5 Golden Rings

Other symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas:
  • 2 Turtle Doves - The Old and New Testaments (Heb. 8:6-13)
  • 3 French Hens - Faith, Hope and Love (1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 5:8)
  • 4 Calling Birds - The Four Gospels
  • 5 Golden Rings - The Torah (first five books of the Old Testament)
  • 6 Geese A-laying - The six days of creation (Gen. 1)
  • 7 Swans A-swimming - The seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8-10)
  • 8 Maids A-milking - The eight beatitudes (Matt. 5:3:-11)
  • 9 Ladies Dancing - The nine fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23)
  • 10 Lords A-leaping - The ten commandments (Ex. 20; Deut. 5:6-21)
  • 11 Pipers Piping - The eleven faithful apostles
  • 12 Drummers Drumming - The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed
Well, that's it for this late Christmas Eve. On another note, we leave early tomorrow morning for California. That's right - vacation. That means no blogging for a couple weeks. Our wish to you? Have a blessed Christmas and New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Beyond Just Doing Church...

How cool would it be that so many people WANT to go to your church that you need to have tickets for your Christmas services because space is limited? These guys must be doing something right.

Sometimes I think we need to move beyond just doing church, beyond church politics, beyond trying to please people before God, beyond our routine. God desires His Church to be much more fruitful than it is.

Any thoughts?

Monday, December 17, 2007

12 Days of Christmas Video

As I've been preparing Christmas carols for our worship services at Hannaford this December, I've focused in on the 12 Days of Christmas. While I'll share some more info on the origins of the songs in a later post, I do want to share with you a well-done and humorous version from YouTube:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass: The Rest Of The Story - pt. 3

This is part 3 of 3 in a series about the new movie "The Golden Compass" and the book series by Philip Pullman entitled "His Dark Materials." View part 1 or part 2.

With the background I've built up in the previous posts, it's time I get to the heart of the matter. It seems that The Golden Compass movie is not so bad on the surface, but with the controversy brewing I wanted to find out more. In all truth, I was awakened from a deep sleep at 4:00am in the morning and ended up researching it in the silence of a Saturday morning.

I was slightly confused at the story and wanted to tie up the loose ends and so I scoured the web for a non-biased summary of the books. I can tell you that there is a lot out there about how dangerous this series is, especially for kids. This movie and the books have really ticked a lot of Christians off. From my research, I found that the book is also known as Northern Lights in the UK and it is the first in a trilogy called His Dark Materials by author Philip Pullman. Pulman is a self-professed athiest (more accurately agnostic) who was inspired to write the series after reading C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. Pullman was especially annoyed by the Christian imagery in Lewis' books and set out to create an equally creative story of his own from an athiest's perspective. One can easily make the comparison in the beginning of The Golden Compass when main character Lyra begins her adventures by hiding in a wardrobe (as did the characters from Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe).

I will not go into the depth of the His Dark Materials story here, but encourage you to review it for yourself. I found a great summary and analysis here at Barnes & Nobles' I suggest you examine the full summary of all the books. It is an in-depth summary and analysis of each book - quite a bit of reading, but worth it if you have kids, grandchildren, or friends with kids. You need to know more about this, because this story is NOT a children's story. It is an adult proposition about the non-existence of God. It contains many subtle and many not-so-subtle attacks to the basics of the Christian faith. The books following The Golden Compass increasingly speak to the topics of original sin, Christ's Church, the existence of God, adolescent sexuality, heaven and hell, homosexuality, freewill and more. In all these areas and more, Pullman specifically seeks to attack the Christian faith.

As I suspected, the first film/book simply sets up the basis for Pullman's theses. The story itself does not seem that bad. At the same time, New Line Cinema has removed many references to God and the church as well as the entire end of the first book from movie. I believe they've done so as an attempt to lessen the controversy - but I wonder what they will be able to do in following sequels if they're made. In my opinion, The Golden Compass is a stepping stone or an entry way into Pullman's larger purpose - to speak out against a religion that he hates.

From Alber Mohler's briefing on the movie, he reveals some of Pullman's true motives:

"[Pullman] told Hanna Rosin of the Atlantic Monthly,'Why the Christian Church has spent 2,000 years condemning this glorious moment [Adam and Eve's fall from grace], well, that's a mystery. I want to confront that, I suppose, by telling a story that the so-called original sin is anything but. It's the thing that makes us fully human.'"


"Pullman hates C. S. Lewis's work The Chronicles of Narnia. He told Hannah Rosin that Lewis's famous work is 'morally loathsome' and 'one of the most ugly and poisonous things I ever read.' Narnia, he said, 'is the Christian one . . . . And mine is the non-Christian.'"

I would recommend Albert Mohler's briefing on the movie and series. While it comes from a Christian point-of-view, it is not heavy handed and does not focus on nit-picky complaints. What Mohler does accomplish is to warn of the real dangers of the movie and suggest an appropriate response.

I agree with Mohler on how Christians should respond to the film and series. Take a deep breath. Inform yourself about the entire story and Pullman's agenda. Make sure you are clear on what you believe regarding the points of contention. Check it against the Word of God.

In most cases, I believe Christian boycotts are stupid. When we remove ourselves from the marketplace of ideas, we doing Christ a disservice. It would be better to be informed of the film and series, listen to people's impressions, and be ready to engage others in conversations (not arguments) on the basic truths of our faith.

While I believe it could be advantageous to see the film, I do advise caution. If you know me at all, you know that in most cases I don't see harm in most movies as long as we are strong in our faith, but again - I advise caution with this one. I really do not believe the stories from His Dark Materials are appropriate for kids. If you take yours (especially to the upcoming sequels), you better be ready for a long and in-depth debriefing. Whether you should see the film really depends on a number of factors. How strong is your faith? Do you really believe what you believe? How grounded are you in the Word of God? Will it help you engage others for Christ? Only you can answer those questions.

Full Summary & Analysis:
Fair Christian Perspective:

The Golden Compass: The Movie Review - pt. 2

This is part 2 of 3 in a series about the new movie "The Golden Compass" and the book series by Philip Pullman entitled "His Dark Materials." View part 1 or part 3.

Yes, that's right. The family and I went to see the movie. (Go ahead and gasp!) By that time, I had heard about the controversy and was pretty sure that most of what was objectionable would be in the following movies, the sequels. And besides, the Christian community has over-reacted before - it was probably the case again.

As for the entertainment value of the movie, it was okay. The CGI was evident in every scene making new worlds seem more real. I found a few elements quite intriguing and will discuss them later. Sam Elliot was pretty cool in his character Lee Scoresby and the other actors gave decent performances as well. At the same time, the movie kind of dragged. While there was some action, the plot was slow and slightly confusing at times. I was most annoyed by the ending - or lack thereof. Similar to my reaction to Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest, the movie just left you hanging waiting for a sequel. But in this case, I wasn't quite sure if I was inspired enough to come out see the next movie!

After a little research, I'm pretty sure the movie might have had more entertainment value if they had more closely followed the events in the book. It seems most of the elements are there, but there are a few tweaks. Most notably, New Line Cinema left out the ending of the book, apparently saving it for the beginning of the next movie. There is more to say on this, but I will leave that to my next post.

Finally, I did find a few things to comment on - both good and bad...

In the world of The Golden Compass, every person has an animal companion called a "daemon." Each person's daemon is actually the external expression of their soul. In many case, the form of a person's daemon represents something about their personality (i.e. a lion, a bird, a dog, a cat). In addition, children's daemons are not fixed - they change form depending on their mood. I found this concept quite interesting while I watched peoples' daemons interact at the same time the people interacted. For instance, when people would argue, their daemons would fight. While I was intrigued, I was also annoyed every time the word "daemon" was referenced. It is pronounced "dee-mahn" like the word "demon." And It wasn't until two thirds through the movie that I realized they weren't actually saying "demon." There is a difference between the two words: a daemon is Greek word depicting a half-God or an attendant spirit, but the two words are closely related.

One of my annoyances with the "Harry Potter" series is the use of traditionally "evil" imagery depicted as supposedly "good." Warlocks and witches are a good example. The Golden Compass does the same treatment with a number of images, but the witches are what stood out to me. The witches in The Golden Compass are supposedly "good," but they seem eerily similar to all the "evil" imagery we're used to - except for being ugly. It just made me uncomfortable, especially since there was no concession like in The Wizard Of Oz's the "Good Witch of the North."

In the story, we meet a polar bear known as Iorek Byrnison. (**slight spoiler here**) Taken out of context of the movie, I find his story a compelling tale redemption. Iorek was a great and mighty warrior - an armored bear who was to be king of the armored bears. He was to be king by means of a one-on-one battle with another bear, but before the battle he was poisoned. And he subsequently lost the battle because he was not at his full potential. Because of this, he was exiled from the bears. He was tricked by the townspeople, his armor was taken away, and he pretty much became a slave to the townspeople working only for whiskey. Through a series of events, when Iorek finds his armor, he remembers who he is - a great and mighty warrior and eventually becomes the rightful king of the armored bears. (**end of spoiler**)

We, too, sometimes feel disgrace and shame. Our armor is lost and we live a life less than the potential that God has destined for us. The truth is that we are deceived. We are poisoned into removing the armor that God has given us and end up living a meaningless existence wallowing in our guilt when all we really need to do is to humbly come before our God - and He will return our armor and purpose.

I am sure Golden Compass author Philip Pullman would be pretty upset to hear the spiritual insight that I've gleamed from his story, but more on that in my next post.

The Golden Compass: What's The Big Deal? - pt. 1

This is part 1 of 3 in a series about the new movie "The Golden Compass" and the book series by Philip Pullman entitled "His Dark Materials." View part 2 or part 3

If you are not aware, a new movie called The Golden Compass came out yesterday, December 7. Just that morning, I had first heard of a controversy surrounding the movie. Christians are calling for a ban of The Golden Compass and thoughts of believer's reactions to the "Harry Potter" series and The DaVinci Code came to mind.

To be completely honest, we Christians made a big deal about The DaVinci Code. At Hannaford, we addressed on Sunday morning some of the untruths propagated by the film. But I found DaVinci to be a slow, uninspired film that was just kind of silly. Just because Dan Brown said some things about church history, doesn't make them true. The "Harry Potter" films, too, are fantasy and rather entertaining - but I do understand the concerns. In these cases, I think it is important to keep in mind the nature of our culture. We need to find a way to build a conversation with people about these issues and we may find that these controversies can help people actually come to know Jesus. We need to be known more for what we are for, than for what we are against. If you know me well, I firmly believe that Jesus longs for us to redeem culture by becoming part of the marketplace of ideas rather than withdrawing ourselves.

At the same time, if you know me, you also know I love movies. And more accurately, I love good storytelling - especially with the fantastic ability for movies to speak to our native language - the visual. I also enjoy identifying the story of Christ or elements of our faith in stories, even when the author/director/producer had no intention of revealing these elements. You can see this in my previous posts where I often explore faith at the movies.

With all this said, I had seen the trailers and was intrigued to see The Golden Compass yesterday. More on this in my next post.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Blogging With Worship Foundations

Perhaps you've heard of Worship Foundations International? My good friend Martin Allen is founder and president of WFI.From a practical perspective, WFI does some great work doing the following:
  • encouraging leaders in personal worship (mentoring)
  • equipping teams for corporate worship (training and coaching)
  • teaching churches about worship (teaching)
  • leading nations in new worship (leading)
I encourage you to check out the WFI website here, check out some of their work, to sign up on the (e)mailing list, and to check out some of the blog article we'll be posting. Our first one is already posted - "Worship IS about me." You can start reading it on the home page.

Powell Winter Photos 2007

With the new e|Photo Gallery, it's just about time for some new photos. So here they are! We've got an update of Winter photos from 2007. It includes school photos, Andrik's birthday, Halloween, Andrea's Festival of Trees photos, and a few more. There are at least three ways to view them now:

View the Picasa Slideshow (my recommendation)

Christmas Recap from 2006

As December is upon us, I just want to recap a couple of great Christmas posts from last year. Enjoy!
The Other Christmas Season - A funny video about "Black Friday."
The Anticipation & Hope of Christmas - A look at the season of Advent. We're lighting Advent candles again this year at church – same themes, different dates.

Andrik's 26 Seconds of Fame

I mentioned last school year that Andrik worked on a pretty big project for school. He made a report on the First Special Service Force (a.k.a. The Devil's Brigade). The culmination of his project resulted in him being able to "report" on the brigade as a video news reporter. We just got the DVD of him and all his classmate's reports. It is supposedly going to air on Montana PBS sometime. I stripped out Andrik's portion so you could see it. Here it is - his 26 seconds of fame!

Cultivating A Heart Of Thankfulness

From our Thanksgiving Evening Worship Service

Why is it important to cultivate a heart of thankfulness toward God? It's simple really. Psalm 100:4 says, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving..." In other words, gratitude is the gateway to worship. Worship begins by saying two simple words, "Thank You."

Giving thanks is a way for us to declare the glory of God, but it is not always easy. It reminds is that our lives are in someone else's hands - it keeps us in a heart posture of surrender and humility.

Cultivating a heart of thankfulness is really cultivating a heart of worship. It's about looking past the external and recognizing the ways in which God has revealed Himself to you in your life. How has He changed you? How has He given you strength? How has He given you hope? How many times has He forgiven you even though He looks deep into our hearts.

Pride and resentment cannot co-exist with gratitude. A resentful heart cannot say thank you for what it has been given, because it can only look at what it does not have. And therefore, a resentful heart cannot be a place of worship. So in order to be a worshiper of God, I MUST learn to say "thank you" and cultivate a heart that is fully alive with thankfulness. A heart that is focused on worship.

I encourage you to "insert your thanks here." Feel free to share your praises and thanks in the comments.

Consecration Writings Videos

As part of our Worship Dedication Service, we showed three videos. First, we showed our "Let The Walls Fall Down" video again. In the early stages of our Worship Center building expansion, we at Hannaford wrote our prayers, hopes, and scripture on the floors and walls - consecrating the building to God's purpose. We put together a collection of those writings and presented it in two videos; one before the service and one after. Here they are...



Our Dedication Service

It's been a few weeks since we had our dedication service for our newly expanded Worship Center at Hannaford, but I thought I'd share some of our service...

In 2 Chronicles starting in Chapter 5, we are told that King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel had gathered, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted.

And after placing the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, the priests withdrew from the Holy Place. Then, all the Levites who were musicians stood to the side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. And they were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.

The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever."

Songs: I Will Boast & Not To Us
All that we accomplish, all that we build, all that we do is to His glory. The glory is not to us, but boast only in our Lord God.

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple like a cloud. The priests were overwhelmed and could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it.

When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD (taken from 2 Chronicles 7).

Song: Your Glory
Your glory is in this place


Inspired by King Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6.

O LORD, our Father, There is no God like You in heaven or on earth – You who keep your covenant of love with us. You have kept your promise; with your mouth You have promised and with Your hand you have fulfilled it – as it is today.

And how can God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You. How much less this building we have built! Because You sent Your Son Jesus, You hear from heaven; and when You hear, You forgive.

Now our God, may Your eyes be open and Your ears attentive to the prayers offered today. Arise, O LORD God, and come make Your presence known in our lives, and in this place. May we be clothed with salvation, and may we rejoice in your goodness. Let us not only dedicate this building today, but let us dedicate ourselves to Your purpose alone.

We pray this through the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Insights into King Solomon’s dedication of the temple from 2 Chronicles 4-7

1) We learn something about God's timing and faithfulness.
David had it in his heart to build the temple, but God said that he would not do it. But God did promise that David’s son Solomon would build the temple. We, too, wait on the timing of the Lord. It has taken a long time for all the phases of this building project to come to a close. But God is faithful. Likewise, we have written on the walls, the prayers and hopes that the Lord has laid on our hearts. Prayers for this church, our friends, and our families. God WILL be faithful in His time.

2) We learn something about a sacrifice of worship
Solomon and Israel sacrificed so many offerings at the dedication that it could not be counted. We, too, must make a sacrifice of worship. We sacrifice our time, efforts, and money in our worship - because worship is about giving, not receiving. We also sacrifice our personal preferences when we gather with other believers to worship - whether it be the songs we sing, the way we stand or sit, or whether we like the decorations or not. David said, I will not make a sacrifice to the Lord, that costs me nothing.

3) We learn something about God's presence
The priests withdrew from the Holy Place and could not perform their service, because the cloud - the glory of the LORD - the presence of the Lord - filled His temple. We, too, are blessed with the Lord's presence - His glory in this place. But too often we are like little children, fixated and delighted as we envision a place filled with presents (or gifts) from God. Too often, we are more excited about presents FROM God than we are about being in the presence OF God. Let us see this morning, how being in the presence of God - and touching His heart - is better than any gift we can receive from God.

Lord, let Your glory fall, as on that ancient day
Songs of enduring love, and then Your glory came

And as a sign to You, that we would love the same

Our hearts will sing that song, God let Your glory come

Voices in unison, giving You thanks and praise
Joined by the instruments, and then Your glory came

Your presence like a cloud, upon that ancient day

The priests were overwhelmed, because Your glory came

A sacrifice was made, and then Your fire came

They knelt upon the ground, and with one voice they praised

A sacrifice was made, and then Your fire came

They knelt upon the ground, and with one voice they praised

SONG: Lord Let Your Glory Fall
Bless this place and our lives as we live in Your presence. May we bow our hearts and praise You with ONE VOICE.