Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pray for Anthem

Please pray for God to show up at Anthem tomorrow night. We're doing two services, 7 and 9. If you could pray one thing, I would suggest, "God, send your fire upon the next generation." That prayer is the simple version of William Booth's: 
"God of Elijah, hear our cry. 
Send the fire
to make us fit to live or die
send the fire today
To make our weak hearts strong and brave
Send the fire today...
Look down and see this waiting host
We need another Pentecost
The revolution now begin
Send the fire today

(props Warnock for the vine)

Here are some pics from practice tonight...

Below: You can see "selah" on the screen. Pray that God would meet people during these musical interludes- that the Holy Spirit would put it in people's hearts to seek God and behold his glory.

Below: There is a lot of technical stuff going on... Pray for the live recording to go well and for no surprises.

James and James on the keys... Their own band is taking off. They've got a hilarious show and good music to go with it.

Clint, our drummer, lays it all on the line. Two services may be the death of him. Pray for all the musicians and vocalists to be strengthened physically and to be fervent in worship.

Alex is the latest add to the Anthem team. He embodies what God is doing through Anthem- the next generation getting sold out for the things of God.

We'll also have 3 prayer rooms going from 6:30 until ??? (at least 10:30), where people will be praying. One room is for contemplative prayer, another prayer for the nations/intercession for schools, etc and the third room for healing.

Hear Oh Lord and answer us, for we are poor and needy. (Ps. 86)

Playing for Change

Just found this link to "Stand by me". Very cool.

Props to Ed for the vine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Family Date Night

We had $10 left in the grocery fund for the week and a 1/2 off coupon, so we went to the best pizza place in Ames... 

But first we went to the Wilson's farm, where the kids got to pet some baby chicks. 

We called in the pizza, and had some fun at the park while we waited.

At dinner, Leatha and I sat at a different table across from the kids, pretending we were on a date night without the kids. We let Ava be the parent at the kid table.

Al, the owner, graciously brought a couple cookies for the kids. The cookies were gigantic. Makai is enjoying some honey on the crust, a favorite at Great Plains.

The best part was coming home and not having to worry about dishes and cleaning up a mess in the kitchen. It was well worth the $8. 

The night ended with me climbing in bed with Cameron, and asking the boys what they think about when they lay in bed at night. As a kid, I remember laying awake in bed for a long time, pondering the world and praying to God.

I found that my kids are no different. They told me about their dreams: Beck told about a monster that tries to crush our house, while Cameron shared about getting "fives and ones" so he could buy a Bionicle.

They both talked about last week's D6 drama, where only one boy shared his toys, while the others refused to give them up. They said that if God asked, they would be willing to give up their most prized possessions, but "it wouldn't be easy."

I prayed my favorite Psalm over them, that they would be led into paths of righteousness and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I won't sing or pitch at the game

If someone asks me to sing the national anthem (which they never will), or throw out the first pitch at a baseball game (which they never will), I will decline. It's an embarrassing moment waiting to happen...

I was checking out Jim Rome's commentary on the 58 point blowout last night in New Orleans. I knew he'd have a funny take, and he delivered. He said all the fans should be refunded, since the Hornets didn't show up against the Nuggets. 

Rome loves to reference Carl Lewis butchering the national anthem, as well as the Cincinnati mayor's first pitch debacle.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

5 Days Until Anthem

As we count down to Anthem (5 more days), I've been sending out devotional thoughts to the Anthem team to prepare our hearts for Thursday. Today was a topic we don't think about enough: the jealousy of God. This excerpt is from Charles Spurgeon, considered the last of the great Puritans. They had an awe factor that made them great Christ followers... 

“…jealousy is selected as some faint picture of that tender regard which God has for His own Deity, honor, and supremacy, and the holy indignation which he feels towards those who violate his laws, offend his majesty, or impeach his character. Not that God is jealous so as to bring him down to the likeness of men, but that this is the nearest idea we can form of what the Divine Being feels—if it be right to use even that word toward him—when he beholds his throne occupied by false gods, his dignity insulted, and his glory usurped by others. ...Reverently, let us remember that the LORD is exceedingly jealous of his deity."

Here are some related verses:

Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me."

Nahum 1:2, 6- The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies... Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him."

Exodus 34:14 "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

Is 48:11 "I will not yield my glory to another"

Isaiah 45: 21-22- Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD ? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. 22 "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.


Click here for a story that might make you cry- it did me. It's sort of the climax of the adoption process for our friends, Jason and Jen Lee. 

We love you guys! God is good!

John Adams

This 7 part miniseries produced by HBO was well worth the investment of time to watch (6+ hours). If you watch it, make sure to watch it with the special feature (Facts are stubborn things) turned on. It provides a historical guide to what's happening. Even without it, you will be overwhelmed by the story of America's birth. I was shocked by how different it was from what I had in my mind.

I am naturally drawn to historical nonfiction, but I think the story is compelling enough to draw in those who might not otherwise be interested in history. Moreover, the love story and family dynamics of the Adams family (da na na na... ch ch...) is insightful, heart-wrenching, and instructive.

According to David McCullough, the historian and author of John Adams, this movie is extremely accurate. 

This is one of the few movies I will probably watch again. 

btw... you can probably check it out from your local library.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Weather Report

"How did your message go at Salt Company last night?"

(That's me asking myself a question)

Using a weather metaphor I'd have to say cloudy skies with a thick haze.

But, in spite of almost mediocre preaching, God still managed to use it. I received a wonderful letter of thanks afterwards from a woman who happened to be visiting:

"...I've been in churches that barely mention women on Sunday morning. The only sermons that are preached that help a mother to tackle her daily routine is on Mother's Day. It's sad because most churches are over 60% women. Thanks for reaching out to that 60%...these girls need to hear how important they are to God. They have such a special relationship with Him. I came to learn about an awesome college ministry. I didn't expect to be encouraged and thanked for my ministry at home..."

Here are some other reflections on the past week:

We interview everyone who applies for leadership in Salt Company. This year we had around 60 applicants. Here they are gathered for an informational meeting about Cornerstone. We require all of our leaders to be members of Cornerstone. Next semester we'll have around 150 leaders. It's not a good time to be losing one of my right hand guys (Mike Easton). 

Here's my friend Paul Sabino preaching at Salt last week. Paul has a high preaching slugging percentage. Once again, students were stoked for the nations from Romans 15.

One of the benefits of college ministry... working the Arant soil.

The city of Ames has graciously provided a second office for me. Unfortunately, I'm only able to use it when the weather is nice...

I went to do some studying at Brookeside Park and somehow ended up at the skatepark for an hour. 

That might explain the haze last night...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

50 Free Songs + 1 Free Audio Book

Click here or go to to get 50 free songs and 1 free audio book. I just downloaded and cancelled right away, although their marketing scheme nearly worked on me. It isn't a bad deal, I just didn't want to commit to buying music monthly.

Their music selection is limited, but if you look around there's some great stuff. They had a lot of great audio books. I downloaded the entire "Message" translation of the Bible- a pleasant translation to listen to.

The music I downloaded was: John Denver, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Lecrae, Watermark (live), Green Day, Chris Rice and Van Morrison. Quite a study in contrast...

BTW: I'm loving Lecrae's new album! I got bit by the hip-hop bug back at Eat Concrete skatepark in Omaha during the early 90's. Only Lecrae is a little more redemptive than Eazy-E, NWA, Doctor Dre, and Public Enemy. Lecrae's rhymes inspire me to be more sold out for Christ.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Go Rick!

This interview in Christianity Today (click here) is one more reason I love Rick Warren. The dude has such a high "get it" factor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Confession

I've been hiding this in the closet for 4 days now. 

I was corresponding with a good friend about some random stuff, and I felt overwhelmed with conviction that I had to tell someone. He's the kind of friend I knew I could tell. And I know you're the kind of readers that I can confide in. So it's time to come clean with a confession.

Here's my best attempt at laying out the events of Sunday...

I was wiped out after leading worship at the Easter services at Cornerstone. You know how it is when you're tired and you let your guard down right? We've all been there. 

I was innocently flipping through the television channels when I stopped at a channel I knew I had no business watching. I should've had this channel banned from my cable plan, but there's no way I could've. It was a major network.

Anyway, I stopped on CBS...

It's hard to get this out in the open, I just don't know how to say it.

Here it is: I knowingly, voluntarily, purposefully watched over 30 minutes of golf- The Masters. 

I must admit, I don't know how it happened or why it happened. It just did. And here's the sad part- I enjoyed it. 

I'm sorry for those of you I've let down. I can only hope that this will not become a habit, but I'm afraid the older I get, the more I will be tempted and lured into this vice. 

I'm not sure what's next... NASCAR? Bowling? Country music?

Leadership Reminders

James is a student in our ministry who will be leading a trip overseas this summer. He just blogged about some of the highlights from his leader training in Wichita (click here for his blog):
  • "Vision is the clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be."
  • Gravitate toward conflict and call fouls early. "A straw never breaks the camels back if we're continually unloading the camel."
  • Leadership must be earned, it's a privilege granted by the follower. Serve according to their needs - not your own strengths.
  • Girls will cry. DON'T PANIC.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Take the Day

As we approach Anthem on April 30th, we'll be doing a series of videos to show how to play the songs. I love the non-conventional songwriting that comes out of Ryan:
Verse 2: 
"Come the day this body will meet decay. And I will go the way of all the earth. I will lose everything, to the unseen. But I will retire on riches of the King..."

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Crazy Week Comes to an End

Holy Week was awesome, and yet draining.

We had our spiritual intensity week for college ministry, which led up to Easter weekend. Our church did a production called the "Ragman." The short story was written by Walter Wangerin, and adapted (original music, most of the script) by Jenni Sabino. It was a great modern way of communicating the gospel. 

I led worship at the end, and I think it's one of the more awkward settings to lead in. You might wonder, "Are you kidding me? Easter weekend should be the easiest to lead." There were around 3,000 people there between the 5 services, which means about 1,000 of those faces staring at us on stage had the deer in the headlights look. At the same time, it was so fun to see people that God had brought to hear the Story. 

So after it was all said and done, we decided to get some much needed family time in on Sunday afternoon. 

So we went bowling.

Even as one who enjoys my freedom in Christ, it seemed a little sacrilegious. Here's a picture of our scores after one frame (Leatha and I had our own lane, with the kids on the "bumper" lane). It was a barn burner after frame one. Any guesses on who won?

With an epic come back, I ended up leaving with a "W" (Me: 133 Ava: 94 Leatha: 86 Cameron: 57 Beck: 19 Makai: 1)

We ended the night by breaking a Lent movie fast with one most of you have probably seen: Slumdog Millionaire.

I loved, absolutely loved it. 

If you haven't seen it, just stop reading and watch it. Fair Warning: Movie spoilers ahead...

Here's what I loved:

1. Captivating story line.

2. I got a very cheap trip to the slums of India ($1.07 thanks to Redbox). My heart got wrecked for the oppressed children and injustice that is more common in this world than I'd like to think.

3. It told the Story that every good story must tell: 
Act 1 (15 min)
Assumption of balance- Inciting Incident- Foreshadowing
Act 2 (1 hr 40 min)
Progressive complications
Act 3 (15 min)
Crisis- Climax- Resolution

Act 1: Gen 1-3
Act 2: Gen 4-Malachi
Act 3: New Testament

Slumdog pretty much followed the script. There was no stopping redemption- it was destiny.

4. There was little to no sensuality, nothing that caused me to stumble in any way.

5. The movie portrayed the world as it actually is. The protagonist was a true hero and the movie glorified the right things, while exposing evil for what it truly is. Notice that Jamal never cared about winning the money, he just wanted Latika back, while the corrupt Salim died in a pile of cash.

I'm not trying to over spiritualize this movie. I'm not thinking this is a Christian movie. I'm just saying I was moved by it and I think every great story points to God's Story. It was a great movie that's worth watching.

I loved it. It's fantastic. (Hear Jack Black's Nacho Libre voice...)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This is hilarious

"stuck in the bowels of the church kitchen" sent me over the edge... click here for some serious humor from "stuff Christians like"

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spiritual Intensity Week

This Holy Week our college ministry will start every morning off at 7 AM for prayer on campus. Each day has a different theme; today was "dying to live." The spiritual discipline to coincide with the theme was fasting.

There's nothing that will awaken the soul like going without food. I shared with our students a couple insights I ripped off from mi amigo Ed. 

1. We all have broken "wanters". We all want, the problem is that we want the lesser thing. Fasting re-calibrates our souls to want the greater thing- God. 

"Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
"Taste and see that the Lord is good."

2. A caution in fasting: Beware of the Shamu Principle, which goes like this: "God, I did my trick (i.e. fasting), now you give me a fish (i.e. tell me who to marry, what house to buy, give me that job, take away that cancer, give me that answered prayer)." In fasting, God is never the means to anything other than- God. Or worse, as the illustration might go, God is the whale who does his trick, and fasting is our way of throwing him a fish to reward him. The thought of turning God into a powerful trained beast who does our bidding for a reward is a horrifying one. Either way, fasting must not be seen as benefitting God, but us. And it's not that we shouldn't fast because we desperately need God's help for something specific, but we utter all day long in our hour of need "May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."

Today as I was praying with Mike Easton over the noon hour, I had a cool vision. It was actually a memory, but was triggered with crystal clear detail as Mike was quoting Psalm 71, "18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation..."

I remembered the last time I prayed with my Grandpa Bill. He was laying on the floor with cancer. He would come in and out of sleep, sometimes praying with moans of agreement, while other times snoring. But what I remember so vividly (as a 17 year old), was his gray hair. Here was an old man who was going harder after Jesus than when he first started the race. 

I desperately want to finish strong.  Lord willing, I will get to "old and gray." The best I can tell, I think it was a vision of what my life ought to look like.

I realize if I'm going to be going harder after Christ as an 80 year old, I've got to keep running harder tomorrow. 

I'll see you at 7:00.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ministry Events

Here's some of my takes on last week's events...

We'll start with a picture from The Fountain (La Fuente). A chunk of my job involves meeting with people, and often it happens around a meal... everyone has to eat. Mexican is always a good choice. What do you notice is missing in this picture?

You got it...agua. The meal came out- seriously- less than two minutes after we ordered. It even beat the water out to our table. But that's ok- who needs water when you've got salsa to drink?

Below: This is a picture from our family ministry on Wednesday nights called D6. It's amazing the work that goes into making every week a dynamic production. But the content is great and our kids are learning to express their passion for Christ through singing and dancing.

Below: Fred Stoeker, author of "Every Young Man's Battle" (and a number of other books, including the recently released, "Hero") spoke at Salt Company on Thursday. 

It was perfect, because my good friend Paul Sabino told me, "You've got to have him speak at TSC." Never having heard Fred or read his books, I thought, "It's a win-win, because if it sucks then I can blame Paul, and if it's a home run, I can take credit."

That's a joke.

Kind of.

I ended up doing a little of both :)

Our younger students raved, "That was the best speaker we've ever brought in to speak at TSC." Other upperclassmen weren't so enthused about the talk. 

Without going into detail about everything that Fred spoke about (it will soon be up on, I will say this... I introduced Fred as a man commended to us by Paul Sabino and a man with a "prophetic" message. I was corrected afterwards on my use of the word, "prophetic" in my intro.

Here's why I think it was the appropriate word and why I thoroughly enjoyed Fred's message to TSC:  The usage of the word "prophetic" in the N.T. is vastly different from that in the O.T. I wasn't expecting Fred to be infallible and make predictions about the future. I wasn't thinking I was doing an intro for Ezekiel or Amos. On the contrary, Fred calls out for purity in a generation that is jacked up and well acquainted with suppressing truth and justifying sin. His message is timely and must be heard. He's not crying out "Peace, Peace", when there is no peace. He's sounding the alarm- "Wake up to the life God is calling his followers to!"

There was no shortage of criticism from people after his talk. I understand. People want to be discerning and ensure the Scriptures are being preached. Some said it was legalistic. Others said it elevated his son too much. Others complained, "Where was Jesus in that talk?" I get all that. There were many things I didn't necessarily agree with. But that's exactly why I love having guest speakers. I welcome a fresh perspective.

I think this passage is instructive in situations like this:

"Don't suppress the Spirit, and don't stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don't be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good. Throw out anything tainted with evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:20-ff from The Message)

The point is not that we're looking for the bad in what people have to say. We don't need to be the theology police. What we need to do is work hard to ask ourselves, "What is the good I can take out of this? What might God be saying to me through this person?" As Paul says, "The bad stuff we can just let blow away in the wind. But the good stuff we cling to."

I hope we raise up and send out students from Salt Company who are 
grounded, not gullible, 
gracious, not critical, 
and teachable, not judgmental.

Overall I'm proud of the maturity of our students to welcome Fred's challenge to be pure. But that makes two weeks in a row we've been nailed- last week on submission from Romans 13, then on Purity, and I think it's by God's providence we have Romans 14 this week (on disputable matters).

Below: Brian and Erin Scott Wedding. I always get emotional at weddings. Especially when "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" is played. This couple is going to rock for the kingdom. Bless the Scott family! 

PS to those of you getting married: If you actually want good advice during the message portion, get Pastor Tom- it's ridiculous how much wisdom he dropped on us in 20 minutes.

Below: Wedding #2 on Saturday... Nate and Jess Eagles! It was a long time coming, and it finally happened. This picture is the closest I've ever been to a bride as she walked the aisle.

Below: This wedding was so cool, I turned to Leatha and said, "I'm counting this as a date night." It was unique in that we were sitting at our table during the wedding ceremony, and it turned right into the reception. It was a blast to see so many old friends who were back in town.

Below: Spring in Iowa.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sacred Space

Click here for a website that might help you create space for God. For some reason, I especially enjoy this during Lent. Don't speed read through it. It's relaxing. 

Why does "relaxing" not come to mind more often when I think about time with God?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Song of Songs

Yesterday I listened to this message by Mark Driscoll on "The Dance of Mahanaim." It's considered one of the most erotic passage in the Bible. 

It is said that sex is one of the top conflicts in marriage (right up there with finances and in-laws). So that means that many of you married folk who are reading this might benefit from this sermon. I haven't listened to the whole series, but it also might be a good listen for you and your spouse if you are struggling in this area.

If you are single, it might be a good listen because it's in the Bible.

Recently, someone gave a talk at a conference (strategic ambiguity) and was very critical of Driscoll's openness in talking about sex. He referred to it as the "pornification of the pulpit." I'm not sure if the guy who was giving the talk has ever worked with youth, or himself been through junior high and high school. 

Every year in our youth group we would get the "purity" talks. They talked about "petting" and whether or not it was ok. I think that's the proper way to talk about it without being lewd and uncouth. "Petting"?! Here's an unhelpful thing to say to a teenager, "Petting is wrong." Try this: "If she's not your wife, keep your mouth off her mouth and your hands off her chest" (or you can actually tell them not to touch her boobs if you want them to really get the point. In talking to the teenager in person I would get even more specific. But I don't think the world wide web is ready for that).

All this to say, a culture that is so saturated with sex, and therefore profoundly confused, needs to be confronted with a redeemed view of God's design. Props to Driscoll for speaking on this. You can podcast the whole Song of Songs series on iTunes for free. 

Somewhat related...

I was in on an email discussion about the theology of rewards in heaven. It's hard for us to imagine what rewards will be like in heaven, because we are limited by our experience of the pleasures of this life. As Peter Kreeft said, "We are like concerned children asking if married couples can eat candy while having sex."

Thanks, Peter Swanson for the quote and great thoughts on rewards!