Sunday, December 10, 2006

But Wait . . . That's Not All

I know it sounds like an infomercial but. . .

After I get back to the church the cell phone rings . . . Caller ID says it's Gina. For a moment I consider not answering it. I could not imagine that it is good news.

She tells me that our 4 year old wet the bed, during his nap. On the hotel bed. Been a while since he did that. Then she says, "gotta go, Phelicia is throwing up again."

So I go by Wally World to get some Pink liquid chalk and tums. I get back and they are hurling again. I tell Gina that I will take the 2 that aren't sick back to church with me just to keep away from the sick ones. Of course, with no nursery they dicide to play tag in the worship center while I am speaking. Gina calls after the service to say the sick kids have both continued their vomiting and I finally head home by way of Wally World to get some pedialyte.

Hope we have a better day tomorrow.

By the way props to Pastor Tom and Celebration Church of Wilkesboro, NC. They really took great care of us and have made us feel like a part of their church and their lives. Blessing Bro.

Never a Dull Moment - Why My Wife is My Hero

I am amazed that I have a moment to blog.

Yesterday began our 'Christmas Vacation' adventure with packing to leave for Texas. It started by us speeding to Raleigh for Gina to run a road race (5K Jingle bell run for arthritis). Don't ask me why I let Gina talk me into this the day we were leaving... but she won again and won a gift card for athletic gear at a local athletic store! She even got a red "Hero" hat becuase she has struggled with some arthritis herself.

Anyway we then went back home to finish packing to leave no later than 2pm. As usual 2 and 1/2 hours later than planned, we left -5:30pm. After turning around 3 times to get something we forgot at home, we arrived in Wilkesboro at 9:30. Pastor Tom Bartlett came by the Hotel shortly after we arrived to make sure everything was okay. We were having a great talk in the lobby when Gina came down for a few minutes to get the keys to get something out of the car. She left the kids in the room watching a movie thinking they would be okay... big mistake. Calean started crying, so Levi thinking he was helping left the room to find mom or dad. When he left, his other siblings escaped not seeing where Levi went because he ran down the stairwell. Then Caelan's cry turned into a scream along with his other two siblings who wandered up and down the hallway crying and screaming waking all the guests up. Gina finally went back up,and found the chaos apologizing to all the guests and hoping noone would call social services. In the mean time remember Levi, well the stairway only led outside, so we found him when a security guard brought him back in from the parking lot.

Crazy Hunh? It gets better.

The next morning the pastor picks me us at 7am so that I can go to the early service and leave Gina with a car... and we left her with a map. I had a great time sharing about our our recent trip to France and the way God is working to prepare the way for us to plant a church. After the first service Gina calls on my cell phone. She has had a rough morning not able to find clothes and shoes, having to use hotel shampoo on the kids and buring all their eyes, and then getting lost becuase she couldn't figure out the directions that the pastor made for her (they made perfect sence to me). We finally got her there and she hands off the baby whom she later said had thrown up this morning (part of that rough morning thing). We figured he just had something bad to eat so we put him in the nursury. We shared about Team France again in the second service. It was great. We really got to give the people a feel for what we are doing.

Then we went to lunch with several families (difficult enough with 4 kids). I am talking about our ministry to some potential interns and a young French lady who recently moved here. Gina is busy taking kids to that toilet, so when she gets back and I tell her that Caelan smelled a bit ripe she says go ahead and take care of it. Being the knight in shining armour that I thought I was being, I took him to the car and whoa what a mess. He had diarrhea on himself and his cloths from top to bottom. I carefully cleaned him up standing outside in the parking lot. Then since all of our baggage was at the hotel, I got lucky finding a stray shirt in the car and a pair of his brother's swim trunks thrown in at the last minute. I am really proud of myself for suffering for my wife. I walk back in and set him down with her and told her I would be back after I threw some things away. Before I could take a step Caelan threw up all over himself his chair and the floor. Gina took him to one bathroom while I headed for the other to get wet paper towels to clean the mess. We basically didn't get to eat. So we said "see ya tonight" to everyone and left with our untouched doggy bags.

We finally get back to the hotel. Rest at last. As Gina is about to walk in the door with the kids Phelicia decided to throw up her lunch in the well landscaped flower bed beside the door. Sorry Hampton Inn. So after 3 trips to get stuff out of the car everyone is almost asleep. Now I have to get ready to go back up to the church.

Pray for us. We could us it this trip.

Also, you now know that my wife is my hero for more than just her running.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ethos Conference in NYC

I am a little slow in getting around to blogging on this, but I had an awesome time at the Ethos Conference in New York City last week.

Here are some thoughts that stood out to me:

We need to be able to lead without worry about others getting the credit. 1Chron 11:4-...Joab leads the charge on the city; David names the city and lives in the palace.

We need more inovators in our churches. Even fast growing successful churches are built primarily on "early adopters" and "early majorities" Erwin said that movements are never fueled by the majority.

Mosaic uses creative names for everything. The paid staff all have superhero names. There teams are called tribes. The staff positions are creative names like navigator instead of executiove pastors. Erwin said, they don't care if the church people know what they do and the don't want the non-church people to know what they do.

No one is particularly interested in your spiritual well-being if you are not interested in it yourself.

Most ministry leaders who fall morally had an accountability group. We learn to lie.

Bible knowledge does not change your life. Stalin memorized the book of Matthew.

Knowledge with out application leads to liberalism.
Experiencials always need to create a new experieince.
Liturgicals get deep from religious rituals. Jesus did not die to create ritual.
Mystics live in relationship to invisible realities. Erwin consideres himself a mystic. He said that if you think his books are mystical you should try reading the Bible.

Ambition and Humility are not opposites. We don't have to say selfless love but we do have to say selfless ambition.

Don't let arrogance feign as ambition or apathy feign as love.

Character is usually defined as stopping doing things that are counter to God but long term character is built by replacing something with something.

If we eliminate one passion without replacing it with a new one we will return to the old one.

The Bible is all about freedom.

People have not stopped listening. They have stopped listening to people who have nothing to say that matters to them.

Three intinsic cravings that all Humans have:
1. Intimacy
2. Meaning - We need for things to have meaning. Words in a foreign language have no meaning to us. Sometimes we givine meaning to meaningless things and sometimes we make meaningful things meaningless.
3. Destiny - when you no longer believe that tomorrow can be better than today, you move to dispair. Every great story or film connects us with a love that leads us to a better future.

Gina Wins Again

Since I seem to be blogging a lot about Gina and her running accomplishments, so I will keep it brief.

Reindeer Dash for Cash, Greenville, NC
Dec. 3, 2006
10 Mile Run

First Place Overall Female
64:12 - 6:26 pace

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Why Jesus Loves Futbol (soccer)!

Away in the manger
no crib for a bed.
The little Lord Jesus
lay down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky
look down where He lay.
The little Lord Jesus
asleep on the hay.

I love Christmas time and I love manger scences. Notice the frame that my wife used to make our manger, while I was in New York last week.

So Jesus was born in a soccer goal. Pretty creative, I must admit.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My Wife Rocks . . . Bummer!

If you have been reading my blog long, you know I like to sing the praises of my amazing superstar of a runner wife. She is a former All-American middle distance runner and 2 time national champion in the Steeplechase. That's awesome, but it was also 15 to 20 years ago. She has recently started to run again at age 39 after having 4 kids. She has done awesome winning her age division every time, but she doesn't care about winning her age division.

She has placed 7th, and 2nd overall women in two recent races. These races were in a series of 5 races to get points for an overall prize. She ran one last race last weekend because the points come from the best 3 races. She figured that she could win the series if some of the gals that beat her in the first race didn't show up and she could win first or second.

Well on thanksgiving day we showed up and, sure enough, several of the girls who beat her before were there. But, this time she beat them and won the race. She is my hero!

Here is the bummer part; we found out that you have to run 3 races to qualify, but they take the top 4 race scores. Bye-bye $300. Maybe next time.

Ethos in the Big Apple

I am in New York City this morning for the Ethos Conference put on by Mosaic Church and Erwin McManus. This is my first time in NYC out side of the airport. What an awesome city. I wish my bride was here with me.

I am excited about what God has in store for me at this conference. I have already been challenged by Erwin's books. This is my first time at Ethos. There are lots of awesome pastors here who have planted great churches. It will be great to be around these guys and soak up all the wisdom they offer from their experiences.

I will try to update the blog with some notes if I get a chance.

Blessings from the Big Apple!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A&M 12, tu 7 - Poor T-sips . . .

It was a great day yesterday. I got to see the Aggies beat our arch rival on tv. I got to see the Aggies put 244 yeads on the #1 rush defense that only allowed and avg of 42 rushing yards per game this year. I got to see the t-sip QB heisman candidate Colt McCoy throw 3 interceptions. With the OU win today the t-sips won't even go to the Big 12 Championship. Poor t-sips :(

The Timex Minivan

In a recent prayer email to our prayer partners I wrote a request to pray for our 2 minivans. Combined they have over 400,000 miles on them. I included the odometer picture you see here.

Last week, Gina called me while I was on my way to meet with a friend about partering with our Paris Church Planting ministry. Gina said the car had broken down. She said that it was low on gas but that the car would start and is running right now but when she gives it gas it sputters and dies. But, it would start back up. I started putting the pieces togehter like dying on the road, running ,though running badly, and over 250,000 miles. My initial diagnosis was DOA engine (thrown rod).

I met quickly with my friend, who is now a new ministry partner and began driving to where Gina had broken down. The whole time I was thinking "What are we going to do"? I thought for a brief moment that maybe no one on the prayer team really prayed about our cars. I knew that when I got there I could check the oil and water in the oil would be a quick sign that my suspicions were true. Still I wondered how I would travel to meet with churches and pastors while Gina is at home with 4 kids. Who gets the other minivan? I finally came to grips with the fact that God would make it all work out (I quit whining). About a block away I prayed one more quit prayer, "God please let it just be out of gas" (even though it didn't sound like it from Gina's desciption.)

I arrived and got it in the car to start it. Guess what? It wouldn't start any longer, but it did sound OK. I quickly grabbed the gas can I through in may car on the way out the door, went to get some gas and put it in the van. It started right up and purred like a very, very old kitten. Yep that minivan has taken a licking and kept on ticking. I guess the prayer team really did pray about our cars.

As of this morning it has 253,968 miles on it. Should I try driving this thing from NC to TX and back for Christmas?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Today

By the way, don't forget to vote!

Extraordinay Insights

This morning I got up at 5:50AM. There was no emergency or place to be early. I have been trying to get up earlier. I typically stay up later and get up later (between 6:30 and 7, not 10). Some people can do that well, but I know that I am more effective if I go to bed early and get up early (something the Army taught me I guess). So, I am excited that I broke the 6am barrier this morning and ultimately would like to get into a 5am routine.

I really feel like God has been speaking to me lately. Each devotion and sermon seem to really target a specific area of my life. You see, God has called us to plant a church in Paris. He has confirmed this in so many ways. I literally have a document on my computer that I call the monument document that I write in to remember all the ways that God is working. We are finding how open the young people in France are to a new kind of church. We know that they will come and experience God in ways that will change their lives forever.

But in the midst of all that God is doing in our lives and ministry right now there is still one area that does not seem to be coming along the way we would like for it to. That area is funding. As a faith based church planting ministry we are funded completely by individuals and churches who want to be part of planting a church in Paris. Right now the funding is coming in very slowly and has forced us to push back our deployment date. I can't help but ask God, why are you blessing in every area of our ministry except the funding.

I just finished reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (again) and Practicing Greatness and In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. All of these books ended with challenges. Fresh Wind talked about King Asa starting off well but forgetting God in the end. Practicing Greatness talked about God leading all of people he used in a significant way to a wilderness experience before he used them. In a Pit talked about how God doesn't do the impossible in the lives of people who don't attempt the impossible.

The Sermons over the last 2 weeks were on Nehemiah and Abraham. Nehemiah had to boldly ask the king for help. Abraham had to experience 100 dark years of not being able to have children to come to the place where he could believe God for anything and father a nation for God.

I won't go into the details of what each of these things has meant to me, but I can tell you that God is really shaking my foundations right now. I believe that He wants to do something big, but He must prepare us, if we are willing to do what it takes without knowing all of the details.

We have always expected that God was going to do great things through our team in France. Sunday morning, I really sensed God's spirit speaking to me. I wrote down this statement in my notes:

Extraordinary expectations require extraordinary preparation.

I am just beginning to grasp the meaning of this statement.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thoughts on the Ted Haggard Scandal

Many blogging pastors have piped in on the Ted Haggard scandal. We don't yet know what the truth is. We do know the fallout that is taking place from the accusations and we know that by his own admission some of the accusations are true.

I hate it. I really, really hate it. I don't hate it because Ted Haggard has somehow let me down or that there will undoubtedly be tremendous fallout against ministry leaders and evangelicals. What I hate is that another man of God is struggling with the main thing. I don't know Ted Haggard. I have read about him and I have read one of his books. I do know this though. Most ministers don't choose the road to ministry and church planting because they want a good, fun, or easy life. They choose it because they love God and want to serve Him. I believe that all effective ministry begins with a deep passion for God and Ted Haggard is no excpetion.

This morning in my devotion I was reading about King Asa in Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. If you read through the account in 2 Chronicles 14-16 you will see a man who mysteriously had a deep faith in God after 2 generations of idolatrous predecessors. He destroyed all of the idols and high places and had deep faith in God to defeat powerful enemies. He even deposed his own grandmother from her throne as the Queen Mother and cut down her asherah pole.

In Cymbala's words

"Twenty-five years went by. Somewhere along the way - as has happened to many churches, pastors, choir directors and whole denominations - Asa stopped feeling his need to seek the Lord. We don't know why. We don't know whether the cares of life somehow made him spiritually soft. Maybe he thought he had reached a spiritual pinnacle and could relax. But the Bible teaches that we are always either drawing near to God or falling away. There is no holding pattern."

Asa never returned to the Lord that he once served wholheartedly. The Bible says "though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord . . . in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died. (2 Chron 16:12-13).

I am not saying that Haggard is like King Asa. I have no idea. I just think that this scandal should make pastors take a deep look at themselves. What ever the extent of Haggard's sin, we are never far away. If we are seeking to fulfill the Great Commission we will at times be attacked, scrutinized, criticized, over-worked, rewarded, blessed and revered. We will feel tired, discouraged, defeated, energized, anointed, and sometimes even unstoppable. Many will struggle at times with depression or pride and maybe swing back and forth like a pendulum ticking on a time bomb ready to explode.

We must find our comfort, encouragement and security in Christ. The Bible is full of verses that tell us to "SEEK" the Lord. If we seek Him with all of our heart He will be found (Jer 29:13) and He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb 11:6).

Check out Mark Driscoll's blog for thoughts on ways to guard ourselves. This scandal should be a wake-up call for every ministry leader to do some self evaluation. We can address the sins or dangers in our lives like David or we can or we can ignore them like Asa did. Asa was told you have done a foolish thing and from now on you will be at war (2 Chron 16:9).

This has got me thinking. I don't want to be at war for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will You be Missed?

I read a great blog from Seth Godwin this morning.

He talks about how we really don't miss the lo-tech brick and mortar businesses that have been replaced by high tech ones that have made things simpler or faster. The old businesses didn't offer anything substantial enough for us to miss them.

In closing he says, "here's the question: When you're gone, will they miss what you do? It's not too late to change the answer..."

Wow, let that hound you for a day!

Monday, October 30, 2006

We found your Ellie (on Ebay)

Our daughter has a stuffed pink elephant named Ellie. She got her Ellie the day she was born and she doesn't go anyware without her Ellie. Unfortunately after 2 1/2 years of life our daughter appears to have lost her Ellie in a store (Wal-Mart we think). We called every store visited everyday for about a week to no avail. To make matters worse, Ellie (Squirt is her real name) was discontinued. What do you do?

EBAY to the rescue. We found an Ellie on ebay and won the bid for 99 cents (+$6 shipping). We told her that someone found her and was going to send her to us. I think that's ok. It's kind of like lying about what you got your wife for Christmas when she guesses right. I don't think it really counts. Unlike the comercial, however, we didn't take the replacement Ellie outside and rough her up. Big mistake. When our daughter first saw her she hesitated and has since asked if the man who found Ellie can send us the other one to match this one.

The lengths that parents go to to show their love for their kids.

**Notice the before and after pictures above.

Need a Penny, Take a Penny

I was getting some peanut butter crackers for the kids at a gas station last night, taking the 45 minute trek home from our connect group. I noticed the little ashtray like dish near the cash register where people throw their extra pennies. The sign above it read:

Need a penny, take a penny.
Need a nickle, get a job!

I just had to share that.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Insights from the Disney World Experience

I have never had the opportunity to go to DisneyWorld (comment if you would like to send me there), but I read some great insights from the Disney Expereince on Tony Morgan's blog this monring. Could someone say this about your church?

  • The experience begins in the parking lot.
  • We will invest a lot of money to make dreams come true.
  • It helps to have someone with you that’s been there before.
  • The value of excellence transcends socioeconomic and cultural barriers.
  • It’s hard to communicate with people wearing masks.
  • The journey is more fun when you’re on it with friends.
  • The world is small.
  • Lots of people fulfilling the same mission can achieve great results.
  • It’s possible to leave a legacy for future generations.
  • We remember the fireworks at the end.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Workshops in DC

I went up to National Community Church in Washington, DC on Wednesday for two workshops. The morning session was on Assimilation by Nelson Sercy, Pastor of Journy Church in New York City. The afternoon session was on Right-Brained preaching by Mark Batterson, pastor of NCC in DC.

Nelson helped to plant New Horizons church in Apex, NC before going on Rick Warren's staff as the Director of the Purpose Driven Community. He then started the Journey Church in New York City and in 4 years has seen it grow to over 1000 in attendance. So, he has some good stuff to say. Just a few things that stood out:
  • Everything speaks.
  • If you have been around the place for more than 7 weeks you will not notice many problems
  • Don't let volunteers be greeters; pick them yourself
    • Requirements
      • they have to smile
      • they have to have teeth
  • If you want to know the temerature of a church, stick the thermometer in the pastor's mouth - Rick Warren
  • A church is a family expecting guests
  • Put cool stuff in bathrooms like you might find in your bathroom at the Ritz.
  • The communication card is key
    • have everyone fill it out every week
    • don't begin with a blank for the date. many men won't fill it out if they can't fill in the first blank
    • don't use tear offs
  • They send a free gift (some kind of gift card) for first-time and second-time guests.
  • What is rewarded is repeated.
  • A regular attender says "this is the church that I go to"
  • A member says "This is my church"
  • Ownership is the path to membership
  • People often want to belong before they believe
  • People say no to what is unclear

Mark Batterson planted a church in Washington DC in 1996, that has grown to over 1000 in attendence. He is one of the most read bloggers on the internet and a frequent conference speaker. He also has a new book out called In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. Mark is a ferocious reader and is brilliant in his ability to cross pollinate between faith and other diciplines.

Some things that stood out:
  • If you have something worth saying it is worth saying to as many people as possible.
  • Intentionally hire inexperience.
  • God's blessings always come with complications
  • 95% of what preachers say is forgotten in 3 days
  • The Holy Grail of preaching is say things that are unforgettable.
  • The most important truths should be communicated in the most unforgettable ways.
  • The best way to do this is to say old things in new ways.
  • The great commandment says to love your God with all of your mind but most seminaries focus only on the left brain.
  • Novelty stimulates the right briain. Familiarity stimulates the left brain.
  • After you sing a song 30 times you cease to think about the words.
  • Good art is a slight deviation from what we expect. Too far is bizarr and not enough is boring.
  • 4 keys to Right-Brian Preaching
    • Cross pollination
    • Cultural Exegisis
    • Creative Incarnation
    • Humor

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Wife is my Hero

My wife ran her first race (5k) after having 4 kids this past Saturday. She ran it in 18:55, which translates into a 6:06 pace. Not bad for a 39 year old mother of 4. She easily won her age group and placed 8th in the overall female group. The important thing to know here is that the 5k is not even her race. The time she ran Saturday is consistent with her 5k times in College when she was among the best in country in the 800 and made the All-American team in the 4X800.

How did she get back in this kind of shape?

When she decided she wanted to run again it wasn't easy to fit it into her schedule with four kids. It forced her to run around 3pm so that 2 kids would be napping (while I worked at home), and she had to push the other 2 in the double baby jogger. She did this 4 or 5 times a week through the entire North Carolina summer. She generally ran 7 to 10 miles. It was a spectacle to see. People like the postman would ask me "was that your wife running and pushing kids in this heat so far away from your house?"

You see Gina would never have wanted to push 2 kids in a baby jogger while training in the middle of the summer heat, but she never complained. She knew that if she wanted to train she was willing to do whatever was necessary to make it work for the family. She realized a couple of months ago that pushing 50 to 80 pounds in the baby jogger has done more for her training to bring her to this level than she could ever have done in that amount of time any other way. God used an inconvenience in Gina's life to take her farther than she could have gone on her own.

Carpet Evangelist on a Mission

I got a call this morning from the guy who will be installing new carpet in our upstairs addition (we're almost done). He had heard that we were going to be planting a church in Paris and wanted to share with me something that happened yesterday.

He was in a town near the courthouse and knew a lawyer that was struggling with something and he felt that God wanted him to talk to the man. So he drives 15 miles out to the guy's house only to find that he was not home. He thought "Lord why did you lead me to come to his house when he is not even home?" Then it occurred to him that the man was probably in the courthouse working. So he drives 15 miles back to the place he had just left. As he walks into the courthouse he sees a another man walking out that had visited his church last week and was having lots of problems in his family. He ended up sharing Christ with this guy.

He came to realize the God wanted him at the courthouse at that time to meet this particular man. But he had to wait about the time it takes to drive 15 miles away and then back in order to be in the right place at the right time to influence this man for Christ.

Some times God leads us on a mission that he knows we will never complete because he is preparing us for another mission. When you are going where you feel God is leading you, don't get discouraged if things don't make sense or seem impossible. Just keep following God's direction until he leads you otherwise, because he does have a purpose. In Romans 8:28, we read "that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose." It is not always for my good. It just says for those who love him and are called according to His purpose.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ramblings on a Sick Day

I have had a grueling schedule these last few weeks. We were in London and Paris on from Sept 27 through Oct 5. After arriving home, I have been working at a frantic pace to get our upstairs project done so that we can put out house on the market. Yesterday, I left at 5:30am to drive to Charlotte to check out Pastor Naeem Fazal at Mosaic Church in Charlotte. I got home close to midnight last night. So today God said it is time to rest. I have a full blown cold. Not that I scheduled it this way, but today was a good sick day. I have a friend coming tomorrow to help me finish the trim in my upstairs to get ready for carpet on wednesday. Then I leave for DC wednesday for a conference on thurday to get back late thursday night. Then I get up and take the family to the state fair on Friday and leave for South Carolina on Saturday afternoon to visit NewSpring Church in Anderson on Sunday and return late Sunday night.

So now you know why I haven't been blogging. There is also no such thing as free internet in hotels in London and Paris. When I say not free, I mean expensive. $17 for 2 hours and $34 for a day.

In the midst of all this crazyness Naeem preached on what we do with our life and whether we are leaving a legacy. He also did an interviw with Lloyd Reeb author of From Success to Significance. I met Lloyd a few years ago at a church planting conference so it was cool to talk to him about how that conference gave me a heart to plant churches and how we are now planning to plant a church in France. When I read Lloyds book a couple of years ago I remember thinking of his concept of halftime in our lives and thinking that it wasn't relevant to me becuase I am not there yet. Yesterday, I got to thinking and it hit me that with my dad's genes (blood disease stuff) most of my family only lives to be about 74. I am 38. That means haltime is over and the 3rd quarter has begun.

Gina and I have given up a lot to pursue God's call to plant churches in France. It has not been easy but we are pursuing a life of significance not success. But in the insanity that sometimes comes with pursuing God's plan for my life it is easy forget my bride and my four future world changers. I pray that God will give me wisdom and strength to not give my family what's left. I know that I will make time for what is important to me and that means helping my family to fulfill there dreams.

It is not about me. The greatest commandment says it is about God. The second greatest commandment says it is about others next. There is no third greatest commandment that says it is about me.

One other thought. I married an athelete who makes me eat better than I would on my own. So if I plan to live to 84, I'm still in the second quarter.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day

Book Review
In A Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day
by Mark Batterson

I love inspirtational books. I have read so many acedemic books an d have learned many wonderful things. Unfortunately those books rarely chnage my life. I am convinved that the problem with churhces today is that they are teaching something (the Bible) that is absolutely true but they fail to lead their hearers to life change.

In a Pit With a Lion does just that. It inspires real people to take truth and make life application. It inspires us not just to live but to live abundantly.

Taking from the description of Benaiah in the list of King David's mighty men in 2 Sam 23:20-21, Batterson shows how God uses unlikely cicumestances to prepare us for our future calling. He challenges us to chase those lions, rather than running. He points out that we don't always prevail (humanly speaking) in these unlikely circumstances but that but we will never realize God's greatest plans for our lives if we never chase the lions.

This is a great book and I strongly recommend it. My team will be reading it together to help prepare us to chase lions in Paris.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Win is a Win . . . I think.

Aggies 28, Army 24.

Ok. Ok. If we were looking for bcs points, Saturday's win probably didn't do it. But a win is a win, right. What in the world happened? We were favored by 27. Where was the 200yrds passing?

WHY did coach Fran go for it on 4th down on our own 23 yard line with 2:58 left on the clock? WHY? When our 274 pound back got stuck in the back field, we gave the ball to Army and only won the game with a goal line stand interception.

I guess in the end a win is a win. My wife's team, Tennessee lost to a much, much better team. But they still lost. I really wanted Tennessee to win. There was a very real chance of all three Florida teams losing in the same weekend. What a weekend that would have been.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Using "Church" & "Marketing" Together is Not a Sin.

A few days ago I posted about my wife (I've done that a lot recently) greeting folks at C3 Church during last week's big groundbreaking weekend. She kept coming to me and saying "your not going to believe this but every visitor I meet came without being invited." They saw the balloons or the big tent driving by or read about the event on the website or in the newspaper.

I know there were probably visitors who came because they were invited but the ones she met (and she met a lot of them) did not. They came because they saw something about the church that they wanted to check out. They had an increase last sunday from an average of about 1900 to about 2300. Many of them of them came because of intentional or unintentional "marketing." Last weekend 400 more people than normal heard the gospel message. I will never stop telling people that we will never reach 100% of the people who we don't get to share the message with.

Checkout Dave Ferguason's blog on multi-site churches and attracting the unchurched.

An Unlikely Olympian

As I was rereading my last post, I decided that I should share a bit of my wife's story with you. My wife is fast. She has always been fast. In elementary school she knew she was fast because she usually beat all of the boys.

Since before she started running track in middle school, she dreamed of making an Olympic team. The picture you see here is Gina in the 1992 Olympic trials in the women's Steeplechase. She won! Shortly after this picture was taken she broke the tape to win the Olympic trials and became 1992 US National Champion in the Women's 2000m Steeplechase. She then ran a victory lap with the American Flag and signed autographs. What most people did not know, however, was that she was not actually going to the Olympics. The event she had just won was only an exhibition event, since the women's Steeplechase was not yet an Olympic event (is has been an Olympic event for men for years). She qualified to fulfill her life-long dream but did not have an event to run in the Olympics. She did win the National Championship again in 1994 and got to compete for the US team in the Goodwill Games in St Petersburg, Russia.

Well, 16 years and 4 children later the Women's Steeplechase is becoming an Olympic event in 2008. She is still fast and has the will to push herself beyond what the normal human mind can imagine. Did I mention her pushing a double baby jogger (actually a cheap knock off with square wheels and rusty bearings) 10 miles regularly at a 7:30 pace in 96 degree heat. I know the likelihood of a 40 year old mother of 4 coming back to compete in the Olympics is next to impossible but my God is a God of impossibilities.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

If it ain't Rainin', It ain't Trainin'

My wife changed her training today. Instead of running 10 miles at 3pm in August heat pushing a double baby jogger, she ran 10 miles in 68 degree rain with 2 kids in the baby jogger wearing ponchos to keep dry. She said the bright orange ponchos were good to help cars see them under the overcast skies.

You go baby!

Building a faster Hotdog

I noticed this add on TV and in the paper a few times the last couple of weeks. Can you believe all the time that we have been wasting finding a bun and placing the hotdog in it? Not any more. We can now get back those precious seconds that have been robbed from us while finding our buns.

There has got to be a life illustration in there somewhere. Give me your thoughts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Zone Defense

I was reading Practicing Greatness by Reggie McNeal this morning . It was talking about investing in your strengths not your weaknesses. As I was reading I refelected back on this weekend.

My wife and I are so different in everything. Well there is one exception. We both score high "D" (for dominance) on one of those psych tests. In pra-marital counceling our marriage counselor said this could be challenging. That was the understatement of the decade. But as we have grown we have really begun to see how God put us together with someone who has strengths in our areas of weakness.

My wife was so amazing this weekend. I don't mind speaking to large crowds but meeting people I don't know in a crowd one-on-one is like dreaming of going to school in your underwear. I'm not in my zone.

My wife on the other hand loves meeting people and making them feel important. I saw Gina meet every person who walked in the door of C3 Church that looked remotely out of place. She talked to them, made them smile, played with their kids and made them feel at home in a new place. She is so good at it. She just shines. And she can spot a person who might have been missed. She has such a heart to make unpopular, unnoticed people feel special. She hates to see lonely people. It is truly a gift. When she can brighten the day of someone who is sad or lonley, she is in her zone. I am blessed.

In sports a zone defense lets defenders cover opponents in their own area of the field or court. They can focus on the area of the field where they are without chasing oppoents into another teammate's area. They kind of specialize in what they do best. My wife and I cover more territory becuase God has given us different gifts. I could not do it without her.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coffee Shop Reminder

I met a guy working in a coffee shop (not starbucks, he would want you to know) last week. I was the only person in the store so I got to talk to the guy for a while. When he asked what I did I had a chance to tell him about the church we are going to plant in Paris, France. I told him how we were planting a differnet kind of church for a new generation of French people. This church would focus on exciting worship, relevant teaching and building genuine relationships with God and people. As I described our plans he said wow that sounds like a church for me.

As we talked, I found out that he is one of the "de-churched." He grew up baptist and grew disallusioned with the church and its connection to God. He is one of the "I like God but not organized religion type of guys." But he was very interested in a different kind of church. I invited him to visit C3 Church. I told him that he would love and I really believe that. I played him some of their worship cd (from a few years back) and he said "you play that in church?, I gotta check this out."

This is why we do what we do. Many churches have given up on these guys and said that they have made their decision, that they are the unreachables. This could not be more wrong. These people are asking the same questions that we are, they just don't get the answers we give becuase we speak a different language.

Not only do I believe that these people will come to hear, I believe that they will accept Jesus and that their lives will be changed. Best of all these people bring their friends and they have amazing testimonies.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Postmodernism: Friend or Foe

Wow, 2 posts in one day!

Since my days of youth minstry I have heard how bad this new postmodern generation will be to the future of the church. Over and over, I have heard statistics of how young people do not believe in absolutes. I'm not so sure this is a bad thing.

I have thought many times that the emerging world looks more like the first few centuries of the church than has the generations of the last 400 years. We worry about things like sensuality, abortion, gay marriage, separation of church and state, materialism, and situational ethics. In the first few centuries, we saw temple prostitutes, orgies, homosexuality, tremendous persecution of the church by a religiously pluralistic government, and gods for every situation. In the first centuries the Christian church seemed to get singled out. Sound familiar? In spite of all this we saw some of the most rapid growth in the history of the church.

The problem for the evangelism in a world where non-Christians believe in absolutes is that they absolutely believe that we are wrong. While I'm sure it has happened, I have never seen a debate where someone was so convinved by the other side that they changed sides at the end. Is a culture that focuses on experience such a bad thing? The Psalmist said "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). I think that postmodern people who initially don't believe in God might be willing to accept Christ as they experience His goodness.

I was re-reading my highlights today in the book "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal. I assigned this book as reading for our next team meeting. I liked his thoughts on the emerging post-modern culture. He says:

"We need to take courage. Though secularism and nihilism have taken their bast shot to kill God, they have lost. The post-modern world, governed by quantum physics and its emphasis on relationships, is God's end run around the modern world. A quantum world stands ready to accept divine design and divine interaction. God himself is stirring the pot (not the kind you smoke). If we can pay attention we will eventually discover that not only will we not lose God in this emerging postmodern world, we will find him again."

The church will become a bit messy by the standards of the past 50 years of the church. But, I think that's a good thing. Jesus sought out people with problems and many of them joined him. If you don't like messes I don't suggest you enter the medical field. But, Jesus, himself, was the great physician.

Tag Team Church

I was reading a Mark Batterson blog about a new invite card . I love what he says here: "Invite cards are one way we remind ourselves that church is a tag-team sport. When NCCers walk in they tag me and say "go for it." When NCCers walk out I tag them and say "go for it.""
He is so right on. Most of my life I have been in churches where the leaders expected the members to completely lead someone to Christ and then bring them to church and the members expected the pastors go out and bring the people in.

Churches like NCC and my church, C3 CHurch, find ways to use everybody's strength to reach more hurting people.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Something we can learn from the French

Americans generally think the French are rude. They don't speak to strangers. As a matter of fact, if you same hello to someone on the street they will often look at you as if you are strange. Most Americans would think that this is rude behavior. We consider saying hello to strangers polite. They consider it shallow. I guess we're both right. It is polite. But, in reality we probably don't mean it if we say "how are you" to a stranger.

As we plan to plant a church in France we have to understand not only how people act but why they act that way. They place a high value on being genuine. So they won't say something if they don't mean it and they would be offended if you say you will do something and don't follow through. For example, when we say, as we often do when parting company, "I will call this week" or "lets do coffee this week" they expect that we will follow through. Unfortunately our culture of politeness almost sends those words out of our mouths before we can think about them.

In the past six months I have really noticed the negative side of this phenomenon. I can't tell you how many times I have left messages with people who never called me back. In many cases, it was someone who said "call me", I left a message, and they never called back. In many cases I left multiple messages and in some cases sent emails. Most of these cases involve either Christian people or contractors that I want to pay. If, on our answering machine, we say "leave a message and I will call you back" and don't call back, then what does that say about us? I know that I do and have done this often. Having seen this so often recently, I am very really convicted about it.

I think the French are on to something here. "Say what you mean" and "do what you say." My wife and I have committed to changing this. And, I urge you, especially as Christian, to do what you say you will do and if you say, on your answering machine, you will call someone back if they leave a message, call them back if they leave a message. If you say you will call someone to get together for coffee, call them to get together for coffee. If you already make following up with people a priority, thank you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kids with Passports

France, here we come!

Our children received their passports yesterday. That is a concept that boggles the mind: children with passports. Especially, a 1 year old with a passport. They are good for 5 years. Do you think that my 1 year old will look the same at 6 or how about my 5 year old at 10.

We haven't recieved Gina's updated passport from her maiden name to Witcher yet. Then I got to thinking about some of the stamps and visas in her passport and realized that it might take a little longer than normal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Death to "Comment Spam"

Well I knew this day would come. I am beginning to get more comment spam. So I took the plunge today and turned on "word verification." Sorry if it takes and extra step to comment but, hey, think of it as learning (or making up) a new vocabulary word with every comment. Got a good definition? Post it with your comment.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Review - Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

For starters, I like the book. The book has a great conversational style that is an easy and interesting read. He is nothing if not genuine and real. I can't imagine with all he reveals about himself that he is hiding anything. For me it was a great introduction to a culture that I don't really understand. It will prove invaluable in the future when I meet people like Miller who have been hurt and burned by traditional organized religion (whatever that means). It also gives us hope that there are those out there that we might least expect who are truly seeking God and yet their experience with Him is expressed ways that many of us don't get.

While I liked the book I am left feeling a little torn. I also had some problems with the book.

While Miller says that Christian Spirituality is not political, the book is full of the authors political rants. Unfortunately, most of those rants end up being attacks on other churches and Christians. It seems as if he belittles just about everything and everybody relating to Christianity that does not fit in his comfort zone. The good part is that he owns up to it. That kind of thinking comes from people who are fairly self-centered. One of the consitnet themes in the book is Miller's continual recognition of his own "self-addiction."

The final thing that concerns me is that while he does a great job of pointing out problems in the church I am not sure I agree with his conclusions. I am not sure that a "cussing" pastor is something not be lauded. I also don't like the fact that he sets up pot smoking, oversexed hippies as our examples for Love. I am sure that we can learn a lot from people outside the community of faith but I sure there are many good examples of Love displayed within the faith community that are both moral and Holy Spirit led.

I really would like to meet Miller. I am thankful for what he taught me and I am interested in reading some of his other works.

Those "far from God"

We had a great weekend at C3 Church. It began with a Leadership Conference led by Pastor Matt and Pastor Rick White from The People's Church, in Franklin, TN. It was a truly great leadership conference, follow by a great sermon by Pastor Rick on the weekend. He shared about how he made a decision in 1992 after leading a mainline traditional church for 10 years that he had to do change to begin to reach those who were "far from God." This decision cost him friends and 1/3 of his church but he has no regrets. Today they are more than twice the the size that they were before 1/3 of the church left. The great part is that the growth they experienced since 1992 is largely due to this new effort to reach those "far from God." He said that before '92 his church sustained continued growth but in those days they were just "trading sheep." He said that the only people coming to new faith in Christ were children of members.

I praise God for men like Pastor Rick White. He is one of the few pastors who developed a vision for a new type of ministry and had the strength stick it out. There will be many in heaven one day who will thank him. He opened his sermon by asking a question from the book No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come-as-You-Are Culture in the Church by John Burke. What does a Buddhist, a Biker couple, a gay rights activist, a transient, a high-tech Engineer, a Muslim, a 20-somthing single mom, a Jew, an unmarried couple living together and an atheist all have in common? They are the future church. So I guess I have to add a new book to my wish list.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sticker Picker

Over the past few years we have noticed sticker grass (aka stickers)invading our yard. Toward the end of summer we will hear one of our four children screaming like they have been stung by a bee and then we begin the torture sessions with a pair to tweezer (and sometimes a needle) to remove the remnants of the little devil.

My wife, bless her, loves our kids beyond normal sometimes. She has been out in our 3/4 of an acre backyard picking these evil stickers by hand for many days. Finally, after 10 wagons full of stickers she was satisfied that she had picked most of them and we finally mowed the yard.

The last 2 days we have noticed our 1 year old out in the yard pulling up grass. It is amazing to see how children emulate their parents. When I began to think about it I saw a beautiful illustration here.

When sin enters our lives God is there. When he hears us screaming about the pain the sin causes, he will take us through a sometimes painful process to remove the sin that causes the pain. But he also deeply desires to remove the things in your life that lead to sin before we sin. The things that grow and grow in our lives until one day we will enevitably step into sin. The most beautiful part though is that when we come to God as little children, finding our only real satisfaction in Him like a 1 year old does in his mother, we begin to do the things that God would have us do to clear the junk out of our lives before it lead us to sin.

I learn so much about God through my children. I sure hope that they learn somthing about Him from me.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Divine Connections

As we prepare to go and plant a church in Paris, we are in the process of raising up partners who will fund our ministry. It will cost $9,000 a month in ministry and living expenses to plant a church in one of the 15 most expensive cities in the world. There have been many times that I wish I did not have to raise support. Times I wished that we would be supported all from one source.

But I guess, like Garth Brooks, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. He (God not Garth) has led me to meet lots of new people in this process.

I have had the opportunity to meet and partner with amazing pastors like Matt Fry, Dino Rizzo and Mark Batterson. The church where I was saved as a youth, FBC in Lampasas, Tx (Rick Willis), is supporting our ministry. That means so much to me. I have met many new awesome pastors in this process. Pastors like Tom Bartlett, John Siebeling, Dan Ohlerking, and Vince Blubaugh. My wife and I have had the opportuity to meet Christine Caine and Phil Dooley from Hillsong Church.

Last week I met two awesome pastors in Charlotte, Naeem Fazal at Mosaic Church and Jerry Stone at The Life Church. Both pastors gave me the names of other pastors they knew. Naeem said he knew Erwin McManus and would connect me with their missions ministry. Today, before I got any contact info from Naeem, I got an email from Alex McManus (Erwin's brother)whose son just got back from 2 months in Paris. A few minutes later I got an email from Erwin McManus himself. The writer of the most inspiring book I have read this year was emailing me. He said they love Paris and want to plant a Mosaic church there.

I stand in Awe of God. Except for the fact the God has a great plan for the people in Paris that he is going to let me be a part of, I would never have met most of these great men and women of God.

I am writing this as a monument to all God has done. Joshua 4.

Survey says . . . I belong in Paris?

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Stuff kids say.

While we were driving today, Levi, our 5 year old, was telling us how God gives us new teeth when our old ones come out. He then asked if Jesus got new teeth when he was little. This began a conversation between Gina and I about whether or not Jesus ever did little anoying kid things that aren't really sin.

A few minutes later he informed his mom that since he didn't have a kleenex he was eating his boogers.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are Satanic and Relevant synonyms?

I would like to begin to review books and magazine articles from time to time.
I will begin with an article that really caught me off gaurd. I began the article in an office a few weeks ago and today decided to buy a copy so I could read the whole thing.

Article Review
Christianity Today
Why Jesus used the 'S' Word: Apparently 'Satanic" can be a synonym for relevant.
Mark Galliu - Managing editor of CT. The article is an excerpt from his book Jesus Mean and Wild.

The article seems to be an attack on very large churches with exciting, dynamic ministries, published pastors, and recorded praise and worship albums. He relates a story of how he attended one of these churches and it became impossible for him to attend there for some reason. He then went to a small church where he found the 'people of God'. He said that there were "no studied attempts to be authentic or relevant or cool." He said "it was a more godly expereience to go to that little fellowship, because for all the good megachurches do, this little fellowship manifested the presence of Jesus in a way that is unique and absolutley necessary in our age.

He then relates the story of Peter's rebuke of Jesus in Matt 8:31-33. He says that Chrisitians have always been tempted to "confuse success with faith." He says that, like Peter, we still "thirst for glory and power." He says that growing churches have an unspoken assumption that growth signals God's blessing. He goes on to minimize church growth (not the principles but growth itself). He points out how church planters will study a target group in order to be relevant. He even points out that it works because these churches are bursting at the seems.

Next he relates his first church position out of seminary and the dreams of how one day in his church he would make worship really relevant. Shortly after he began to understand that most of the parishoners in this congregation found the services moving and meaningful. He talks about his desire to form a church in his own image when he was young.

He says that the typical church is often boring and irrelevant, full of bickering and gossip and hypocisy, but this is the institution, he says - not our dream institution - that Christ identifies with.

He then talks about the reformation and great awakenings as if they were products of the staus quo.

He closes by saying that "like Peter we have to die to our notions of relevance and success."

I don't understand the correlation between Peter's rebuking Jesus and intentionally creating a relevant atmosphere in the church. This is the premise by which he ties 'relevant' and 'satanic' together. If one of these relevant pastors sensed God saying "replace the keyboard with a pipe organ" and refused because he didn't think it would work, then Galliu might have an argument. I tend to assume that both relevant and irrelevant (I guess that is the only other option) pastors believe that they are doing God's will.

I would argue that his first church out of seminary was a relevant church. It was at least relevant to those to whom they intended to communicate God's message. A quick search on gives the meaning of relevant as "having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand." So when the people are connecting with the message I assume that we are being relevant. When pastors say they want to plant a relevant church they usually mean that they want to start a church that will be relevant to its community as opposed to one that is relevant to its membership.

That brings me to my final comment. Churches that place a high priority on relevance are usually missional churches. They do what they do in order to fulfill the great commission, not to be successful. Being relevant does not have to do with a personal image of an ideal church. That would not be relevant. A relevant church will continue to adapt and change the way they communicate the unchanging message of the Gospel.

As my family prepares to plant a church in Paris, I am passionate about being a missional church; a relavant church; a life giving church. The average church in France has between 25 and 40 members and is not growing. There are about 400,000 believers in Christ in a population of about 60 million. We will do everything we can to be relevant to the emerging generation in France because my heart is broken over the thought of 59,600,000 people spending a Christless eternity in Hell. When our heart is broken over the lost and we become passionate in prayer for God to transform a generation and a nation I believe that God will lead us to be relevant. Imagine what an unchurched person thinks when they go to church, get singled out as a visitor, hear a message on justification or sanctifucation from a preacher in a sancuary behind a pulpit while reading a bulletin during the tithes and offerings. Sometimes I think that unchurched people going to church for the first time will experience what I experience when I go to France without an interpreter. I recognize some words but it is often difficult to put it all together to understand what people are really trying to say. When lost people get it and accept it, God changes their lives. Seeing life change changes the churched and the unchurched.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

If you pray and have a heart for the less fortunate children in the world, especially AIDS orphans, I encourage you to consider joining in 40 days of prayer for the children in Africa.

Dan Ohlerking is part of the Children's Cup Ministry and a pastor at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, LA (a great church with a heart for missions and the less fortunate at home). If you would join Dan and Children's Cup in Prayer during this time, follow the link above and let em know.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Study Abroad in Lebanon? Setting Boundaries

If I can't think of something great to write I can read something great to copy. Enjoy.

Excerpt from:
Raleigh News and Oberserver - Opinion Page
Study abroad - in the peaceful Mideast?
Rick Martinez, Correspondent

OK, I'm a man of the times, so here are my suggested "boundaries" for parents whose children have their hearts set on studying and spending someone else's money overseas. These boundaries -- not all of which apply to Lebanon -- are workable. And once Hezbollah is eradicated, even Lebanon would qualify and return to being a jewel of the Middle East.

Boundary 1 -- Select a country that's not the subject of a State Department travel advisory or considered a terrorist safe haven.
Boundary 2 -- Pick a nation that hasn't banned direct flights to and from the United States.
Boundary 3 -- Avoid any country that refers to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave as the Great Satan.
Boundary 4 -- Choose a country whose leader doesn't wear fatigues to the office.
Boundary 5 -- Don't go to nation where concealed weapons are a must, instead of a privilege.
Boundary 6 -- Avoid countries that don't allow your gender to vote or choose a spouse.
Boundary 7 -- Pick a country with a central government. Warlords don't count.
Boundary 8 -- Make sure any prospective nation has a standing army that's stronger than any rival militia. Better yet, if rival militias exist, pick another country.
Boundary 9 -- Avoid any country that could join the Axis of Evil.
Boundary 10 -- Select a country whose people don't blame all of their problems on George W. Bush. Never mind, that would eliminate the United States.

If none of these fail to rid your children of their desire for a four-year, all- expense-paid, transportation-included, full-ride education in a country that's a future war zone, there's still one more viable option.
Tell your bundles of joy to join the Army. They'll get an education they'll never forget and a free helmet to boot. (full story)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lead Head

In a effort to understand why my favorite soccer player head butted Materazzi in the final minutes of the World Cup final I found a great story that really calls it straight.

Zidane goes down in sports infamy
Michael Rosenberg / Special to

So when they gave Zinedine Zidane the Golden Ball as the top player in the World Cup, did he eat it?

If so, that would still only be the second-dumbest thing he did this week.

If you haven't seen Zidane's headbutt to Marco Materazzi's chest by now, you're missing out. The more you watch it, the harder it is to understand. Zidane appeared to be minutes away from leading France to the World Cup title for the second time. (Though the game was tied, France had Italy on its heels, and Italy had a notoriously miserable history in shootouts.) People just don't lead their country to two World Cups like that. (more)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sad Day for France

Gina and I decided to really follow the World Cup this year to get more accustomed to the sport that pervades our future country of residence, France (and the rest of the known world). We absolutely loved it. We watched many of the matches.

Today's championship match was a huge disappointment to French sports fans for more reasons than one. The most obvious disappointment was that France lost the game in penalty kicks after 2 15-minute overtime periods. The bigger disappointment, however, was that one of the best players to ever play the game (Zinedine Zidane) was given a red card (kicked out of the game) in the second over-time period for leveling Italy's Marco Materazzi's with a head-butt after words were exchanged. The 34 year old Zidane was to retire after this World Cup. France was an unlikely candidate to even make it to this game after ties in there first two matches of this year's Cup. They later turned it around to upset the World Cup favorite Brazilians and Portugal to make it to todays final match. Each unlikely win gave team captain, Zidane one more match before retirement. He had a chance to go out as the man that led the French to another World Cup championship. Now he will go out as a man retiring who lost his head and was not present at the medal ceremonies.

What happened? What did the Italian player say that triggered the anger (reportedly a racial slur)? Why would a player in such a public game (World Cup championship, retiring after game) do something so stupid? The commentators said he was one of the best players to play the game along with players like Pele and Beckenbauer. He absolutely humiliated himself in front of approximately 5 billion worldwide viewers (more than 5 times that of the 2006 Superbowl ).

I am reminded of how many times I have lost my head in anger with my wife or my kids or maybe a co-worker when I knew better; when I knew the consequences; when I knew how stupid I would feel later. But I still did it. Why? With so much to lose, why do we feel we feel the need to release our anger toward others?

Satan knows how to push our buttons. He knows what it takes to get us to feel an uncontrollable urge to make bad decisions that really cost us. He knows how to get us to give in to momentary satisfaction at the cost of long term consequences. The Holy Spirit, however, gives us restraint. Without the HS living in us we don't have a chance.

Why did Zidane do what he did? I don't know. I'm sure in the coming days we will see a lot of speculation, but we may never know for sure. One thing that I do know is that there is a life illustration in this somewhere.

Pray for France. Pray for Zinedine Zidane.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

France 1 Potugal 0

Sunday, July 02, 2006

French Blue Laws

Listening to NPR this morning (yes NPR, another story for later), I heard about something in France that I did not learn on more than 30 days of survey work there last year (you gotta ask the right questions). France has legislation that prevents most stores from opening on Sundays (read it here). The law says Sunday should remain a day of rest, worship and leisurely family lunches. It makes exceptions, though, for stores in a touristy area, having a cultural, recreational or sports dimension. It is amayzing to see a law like this on the books in a country that actaully has real legislation establishing "separation of church and state." The ACLU would have a cow in this country.

I guess it goes to show that religious rules don't make people follow God. I am not saying that moral laws are wrong, but in the absense of time with the creator they are empty. We are influenced more by the people we spend time with than we are by rules.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big Mo-balls

As we look to plant a church in Paris, I believe one of the most important things that we must do is "be creative." I have spent a great deal of time thinkg about this. In order to develop an atmosphere of creativity, I have thought a lot about what we don't have (like more resources: human and financial). It is easy to think about the big churches and all of their assets that make creativity easy. But, while reading The Creative Leader, by Ed Young, I was reminded that the big church machine that goes with those big church assets can also create an environment in which it is more difficult to be creative.

As I thought about it, I came to this conclusion: Creativity in a growing organization requires the "Big Mo" (momentum). If you develop an environment of creativity when you are small it can continue to grow with the organization and can utilize the greater resources that come with a larger organizational structure. If you don't have a creative environmant when you are small, it will be very difficult to develop it in a larger organizational structure in spite of the bigger resources.

A small snowball at the top of a steep hill is easy to start rolling. As it rolls it gets bigger and faster. When it stops it is a heavy beast to get rolling again.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Family Vacation

Family is the key word here. A couple of years ago with 3 children under 4 years of age I left the family vacation at the beach thinking that this was a vacation for the kids. The parents were just there to baby-sit. Now with 4 kids under 6, I knew it was a vacation for the kids before I ever left home. For mom and dad it is pretty much one week of working over-time in a cool place where you can take a short walk through the sand and take a dip in the big pond ("Atlantic Pond").

I pray that the Lord will use this time away from home to stir my creative juices a little bit. In the middle of the ocean and the wind and the waves I want to experience the Lord in a new way this week. I want to stop and smell the salt air and know the complex and wonderful God spoke it into existence for a purpose I will never understand. I want to know His unknowable love and for all the fullness of God to permeat my heart (Eph 3:19) so that when I speak out of the overflow (Luke 6:45) I will actually have something say.

Lord, speak to me in a fresh new way this week.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Jesus was Cool

I just got an email from Jim Kearns, a church planter friend of mine in Cincinnati. I have included part of his email here:

A youth pastor in our association at a lunceon was talking about Christian Rock and how it was wrong to listen to heavy metal music. I did not hear the whole conversation so I asked what groups he was talking about and they told me Third Day and Casting Crowns.

This got me a bit worked up. Here is my response:
You are the man! Don’t let those guys think that you are going to quit listening to your Casting Crowns “metal.” I want to ask those guys if they have ever read about a revolutionary who questioned the religious leadership of the church, hung out with unchurched sinners and told creative stories so that people who didn’t understand the church lingo might understand what he was getting at; a guy who would make time to hang out at a well so that he could be in a place where regular people regularly go. While the church leadership were waiting for people to clean up their lives, obey all the rules and come to them, this guy took God to the market place (wherever people are). I know that there is a tendency in the church to say we don’t need to be relevant or cool, but Jesus was cool. He was the great physician. He looked for people who needed healing and not only gave them a cure but hope for a better life; life to the full. Jesus cared for people. It was about relationship not rules.

Theater Church & TF1 French Television

I had a great weekend at NCC in DC. I got a chane to meet Mark Batterson and love what they are doing. I really connected with these guys becuase the 'Theater near Metro stations' idea is a great method for Paris. We have been looking at that concept for a while and I really wanted to meet the pros in DC. I heard that they were going to have TF1 French television there so I figured that this would be a good weekend to do a little recon. They had an awesome worship time and service and they have a very cool coffee house, Ebenezers. Mark introduced me to Julie from TF1 as a guy planning to plant a similar church in Paris. She was very interested and interviewed me for the story. How cool. I don't know if any of my interview will make the story but what an awesome God thing if it does. Maybe God will start a little Buzz before we get there. I could never have planned such a God weekend.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Great Generation

I was reading Chasing Daylight by Erwin McManus today and sensed God giving me some real insight on initiative. McManus said "the great tragedy is not the sins we commit, but the life that we fail to live." I immediately thought of King David. He was certainly one of the greatest sinners (adultery, lying, deception & murder). Yet he was accepted and used mightily by God. He was even setup as an example for future generations of God's chosen people.

There were many others who by our standards should not have been God's choice for carrying out His greatest works. Look at Ruth the Moabitess, she wasn't even a Jew but became the great grandmother of King David. Go back a few generations. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute from Jericho. A prostitute.? She was the mother of Boaz, the husband of Ruth, the great, great grandfather of the King David. Go back about 5 more generations to Judah. Here is a real stand up guy. He gets his widowed daughter-in-law pregnant. But wait its not his fault. He thought that she was a prostitute. Her name was Tamar, the mother of Perez, who was the great, great, great, great grandfather of Boaz. You get the idea. The most astounding thing about this lineage of moral delinquents if that God saw fit to put them in a royal lineage that ultimately led to Jesus (Matt 1). If you read their stories though you will notice that all of them turned from their old lives and took initiative in the new lives that pleased God.

We need to remember that God is in the business of changing lives and making them useful for a purpose. The moral of the story? No matter where you come from or what you have done, you can still become great, great, great (etc.) to God.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Lifestyle or Product Loyalty

While watching the finale of American Idol tonight (the first time I have watched the show since the last finale), I noticed something in a coca cola commercial. It was the motto "The Coke side of Life." I immediately thought that they were trying to market their product as a generarional lifestyle like Pepsi did a decade ago using the "Pepsi Generation" marketing campaign. Then I rememberd reading a blog post by Mark Batterson earlire today and had a profound thought (it happens sometimes). He was talking about an interview he read with Howard Schultz, Starbucks chief global strategist. In the interview Shultz says, "It's a very important distinction that people use our stores all over the world as an extension of their daily lives, and sometimes the coffee is subordinate to that."

Wow! Isn't it amazing that the business world is reacting to the personal needs and hunger of a generation of people while the church (for the most part) continues to expect "brand loyalty." Businesses have focused on selling a lifestyle rather than a product while the church tends to focus on a church tradition (product). People want to be part of something larger than themsleves that can bring them a better life. Jesus talked about life change; about new life; about hope for a better tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bigger Boxes & New Wineskins

I met with my director Mark B. last week in preparation for my upcoming trip to France (Feb 8-23). As we were talking about 'out of the box thinking' I shared how I've begun to think that we can't truly think outside of our box (or experiences). He talked about how we need to make our boxes bigger. Revelation time?! I have never thought of it quite that way. We still need new experiences but we ultimately add those experiences to our repertoire of ideas on how we view the world. So. . . how about this? We must continually, intentionally, stretch ourselves to experience new things which add to our old box thus creating a new bigger one.

Jesus said that you can't pour new wine into old wineskins becasue they will burst (Matt 9:17). When new wine or grape juice is poured into wineskins the fermentation process causes the wine to expand and stretch the skins. If you put the expanding wine into old, already stretched skins they will burst becuase they can't stretch any more. So how does the idea bigger boxes fit with this passage. What does the passage say about our abilty to renew how we interact with the world? Who is the wineskin, us or those we are trying to reach? I don't really know the answers but it gives me pause to think.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Neo Church

I try to read creative blogs to create new boxes. As I prepare to plant a church in the Paris area of France, the only thing that I know is the French people don't much like church. I am constantly thinking of re-thinking church. I really like this Neo Church blog. Well said Pastor Mark.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year

I love the New Year's holiday. It is a time to start over; a time for new beginnings. Actually, I love the period from just after Christmas to about the 2nd week in January. It takes me that long to really nail down my resolutions. I find that I always need to adjust my life a bit. I get excited about the time of year when it, at least, feels like you can start over.

It is kind of like a new semester in college. When you are preparing for final exams and finishing research papers you already begin to think about how you will be better prepared next semester. Maybe I should start renewing my resolutions on the semester system. There would be less damage to repair.

Actually, this New Year's holiday is different. We finally have our team together to go to France. We have scheduled team training in May and have a potential deployment date of August or September. This is the dream that God has put on my heart and it will all finally be taking place in 2006. I never wanted to go to France but now there is nothing that I would rather do. Really. I am more challenged than ever to seek the Lord with all of my heart becuase the Bible says that you will find Him when you seek Him with all of your heart. I know it sounds simple but who really does this?

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!