Here is a radio interview I used in church this past sunday. I was looking for a video that helped people going through difficult times see life from a different perspective. Logan is a 13 year old cowboy from a small town in Nebraska. He called into a Christian radio program to share what God told him and now over 7.5 Million people have listened to his interview on youtube.
The past month has been crazy. I was only able to post one blog from Tanzania. The internet was pretty sparse once we left Dar es Salaam. But I was amazed at the cell phone coverage while I was there. It was crazy to be able to be in the middle of the Ngorongoro Crater and text Melinda about the elephant I was watching. I think I had better coverage there than in the Twin Cities. It feels great to connect with my pastoral team. I love being able to leave and know our church is in good hands.
Today was our first full day in Dar es Salaam. Charles Porter has been a great host for Joe and I. We traveled across the city and shot some video you'll see later. Here is a shot of us by the Indian Ocean. The temperature is in the upper 80’s and humid. Quite a nice change from the -45 windchill we were having in Woodbury.
We met with the General Superintendent of the Tanzanian Assemblies of God. He shared some of the needs in his country and we toured the facility they are building. This morning we also stopped by the local produce market. I’ve been amazed at how modern Dar is compared to Haiti. Granted our power has gone out twice today at Charles home, but we do have a connection to the internet. Charles also makes some great coffee. I’ll try and post more info in the coming days.
Elisha David Jay was born August 29 at 8:59 a.m. It has been an awesome week connecting with him and seeing our family grow from 2 kids to 3 kids. Everything is going great! Melinda is recovering well from her c-section and Rylie and Joel love their new baby brother. Thank you so much for all the cards and meals!
I found a website that helps me to pray more often. It is a nifty little site called www.echoprayer.com. The concept behind it is to send e-mail reminders to you at various times of the day. My phone receives these e-mails and I'm able to pray for them on the spot. Too often I want to pray for someone but I forget. This is a great tool to help your prayer life and it is totally free. Check it out and see what you think.
A number of people are talking about a free personality test. I joined the club to find out my "personal DNA". Here are my results. My personalDNA Report Today I am an "Animated Creator". When I take these kinds of tests, I'm amazed at how the results change based on the environment I'm in. If you need any creative ideas, just talk to me in my office on Tuesday mornings!
I am ending my blogging sabbatical. Ok, I didn't really intend to have a sabbatical. It is amazing how easy it is to let a blog slide. My family is on vacation in North Dakota. Last night we watched fireworks on the capitol mall in Bismarck. It is always great to spend time with family.
Ever been on the road wanting to save a few minutes and do "call ahead seating." I hate spending the $1 to call 411. Well, Google has done it again. You can get FREE 411 information on any business. I tried it out a couple times and it worked great! Thanks to Terry Storch for this tip. I don't know how Google does stuff like this for free, but I'm a fan. Try it out just call 800-466-4411 from any phone.
I was reading an e-mail sent to Perry Noble. 30 years ago, a pastor's wife felt that she should invite a neighbor to her church's Easter service. This man was known as the town drunk and she was wondering if he would come to church and how church people would respond. Here is an excerpt:
We got to church and when we walked in . . . the miracle began! I was right, just about everyone did know Fred . . . and they were thrilled to see him! He was warmly greeted, given hugs, and I just stood there . . . amazed!
Fred came to church every Sunday after that, and just a few weeks later, he accepted Jesus Christ into his heart!!! The transformation began! Later, I came to learn that during the week leading up to that Easter Sunday, Fred had begun attending AA. I was just one link in a chain that God had begun putting together to rescue this man.
I wonder how God is going to use you and me this Easter!
You can read the whole article on Perry's Blog.
I received an e-mail this morning that asked a question about why we choose the music we do at Valley Creek. It was a great question so I thought I would share with you the answer I gave. Here is part of the email question: “I don't mean to start your day off bad, but I feel the need to express my concern about the choices of music the worship team selects to play during greeting time. Part of a persons worship experience is about entering into his presence, but when the worship team (not rock band) choses to play secular songs during that time it becomes distracting.”
This is a great opportunity for me to share our church’s view on using “secular” music, “secular” quotes, and “secular” movie clips for God’s redemptive purposes. For me the issue goes way beyond music and gets right to the heart of how and why we choose to communicate the way we do. The whole idea of “Secular vs Sacred” is a misnomer. Jesus always used the culture to direct people towards the kingdom of God. I believe God uses our “secular jobs” for sacred reasons all the time. Ever since my days as a youth pastor, I have used the terms good music and bad music. It is a much better term, but much harder to define.
Good music and great ideas move the heart and challenge the mind. Using concepts from everyday life and from people who have a connection with our culture can engage lives and be used by God to bring people closer to Christ. We will never compromise the message of the Bible. In fact, the message of the Bible is so important that we must engage culture to communicate it.
The Apostle Paul chose to engage culture instead of boycotting it. Acts 17 is a great example of Paul choosing to use the culture of the day and quote from current poets to point people toward Christ. We are committed to using the same principle. By using modern day songs, movie clips, and books I am not saying “Everything these people say is right”, or even “go see this movie.” One of the most powerful video clips I used was part of the trailer for “Vanilla Sky.” I never saw the movie, I heard it was not a God honoring movie and said so as I introduced the clip... but the quote in the trailer was so powerful I wanted to use it. I knew God could redeem that video clip done by Hollywood and use it for His purposes. Cameron Diaz told Tom Cruise... “Don't you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not!” Talk about a powerful introduction to the subject of sexuality in marriage. I also use quotes from people like Mark Twain and love the music & lyrics of folk singers like David Wilcox and Marc Cohn.
I want my life to be fully integrated. Church is not a place where we live one way and then go home and live another way. When I was in my teenage years, I remember borrowing my children’s pastor’s car to watch their home while they were on vacation. There, in the am/fm cassette deck, was a Lionel Richie cassette. We had a great conversation when they got back about the differences between good music and bad music. We talked about how good music can be used to bring glory to God. There must be wisdom and discernment in this. For example, you will not find us using the song “Love Shack” in church.
Someone once asked a couple years ago, “Why did the band sing the U2 Song 'I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For' on the church float in the Woodbury Day’s Parade. Why not play Christian music?” The answer is that we are trying to build a bridge to people who are looking for Christ. We want to take concepts that people are familiar with in culture and use them as a bridge to the message of redemption in the Gospel! We sing about “finding what they are looking for” because people need to find what they are looking for in Christ. As I am writing this at Caribou Coffee, the Coldplay song “Fix You” is playing. That song causes me to worship God. It is a song about our deep desire to be loved and cared for... God is the one who has “Fixed Me” and it causes me to express worship to God.
In last September’s “Finding God in my iPod” series we used these songs: 1) Bring Me To Life: Evanescence; 2) Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Green Day; 3) Dare You To Move: Switchfoot; 4) I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: U2; 5) Fix You: Coldplay. It was one of our most powerful sermon series we’ve done. We are committed to bringing the Bible’s answers to the questions our culture is asking. Our primary focus in church is to connect vertically with God. Most of the songs we sing are exclusively focused on that. But we will also include songs from culture to help people see the answers God provides.
This past Sunday we chose to use the song “How Sweet it is to be Loved by You” by James Taylor during the welcome segment of our service (that is what prompted the e-mail). Three reasons we used the song: 1) We believe Godly love between people honors God and should be celebrated. 2) It was fun... church should be filled with Christ honoring fun. 3) Hopefully people make the connection of how sweet it is to be loved by Christ the author of love. Steve’s whole message was based on the idea of how God is looking to make eye contact with us, love us, and revolutionize our world (See example from Zacchaeus’ life Luke 19). Jesus is searching for us and wants to love us no matter how far away we have run from Him.
So the short answer is yes, we will continue to use all kinds of good music to help lead people to Christ. Even if it offends some Christians. Our mission to: Connect to God, Reach out to others, and Grow with one another is too important.
Another great article worth reading on this subject is written by Tim Stevens, “Does secular music have any place in the church.”
I had a random conversation with someone new to Valley Creek at a coffee shop. They said they loved our church but wanted to know if it was ok for them to come back each week if they didn't yet buy into the "Jesus as Savior" thing. I loved their honesty. I said I would love to have them come back. I said, "We want you to come and discover more about Christ at your own pace." What better place to go while you are trying to figure it all out than church!
Yesterday, I was talking to my friend Steve on the phone about people taking time to choose to follow Christ. I loved his quote, "If you keep dancing by the side of the pool eventually you will fall in." I want people in our church to take time to discover what following Christ is about and eventually fall in. It takes time for people to work through all the misconceptions of "religion" and find that nothing satisfies like a life that loves following Jesus.
I'm going to give people time to dance by the pool.
We had our second monthly "Leadership Summit" for Valley Creek. I wish we would have started this earlier... but I know the timing is right. The volunteer leaders at our church are ready to break through the leadership roof and see God's kingdom advance! Our church has world class leaders that are ready to follow after God and see the East Metro transformed for Him. I've been sharing some Leadership videos from Bill Hybels and next month we will be hearing from Andy Stanley. I also just found another DVD from Willow Creek titled "The Top 10 Highest Rated Leadership Sessions of All Time." I just ordered it, it looks good. The future of our church totally depends on our leaders. I thank God that he has brought awesome people into our church.
The past few days many of you have noticed this site has been down. I've done some updating behind the scenes. This upgrade from Blogger will allow me to have a little more functionality with this blog. I also started two new blogs. One for a bunch of pastors in East Twin Cities Section and another for those who have jumped into volunteering at Valley Creek Church. I am using Zookoda to send out email newsletters to all of my leaders from that leadership Blog (for free). This company allows you to import and manage your email list. I have found that way too many people do not know what an rss feed is. Technology is a great tool, but if people don't use it they are missing out. I'm glad Zookoda has a way to make it easier for anyone with an email address to follow a blog!
I'm a fan of the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. He has a simple and logical way of helping you organize your life. What I have been missing is a great way to implement action steps on my Mac. For those of you who are Mac users, I recently found a great program that is now free and open source. You can download Actionastic (kind of a weird name I'll admit) right here. I added all my projects and context into this program and so far it is all working pretty smooth. I've tried out a few other programs, but I think this one has the best potential. Hope this helps someone else get organized!
Ok, I never thought I would do this... but I recently came across a program for Mac or PC called, "Calorie King: Nutrition and Exercise Manager." You can download this program for free and try it out for seven days. It is amazing to learn what I have been eating! Every major restaurant I look up is in there. They have a massive database that covers everything you can think of... Starbucks, Caribou, Taco Bell, Panera Bread, Milio's. They help you figure out what your BMI (Body Mass Index) is and what you should be aiming for. I learned that my Double Decker Taco Supreme I ate yesterday at Taco Bell had 380 calories and 18 grams of fat. My caloric intake (can't believe I just wrote that) seems fine... my fat intake is double what is should be. Today I took a big step... 2% milk with my coffee instead of half and half. Don't know if I can handle this or not, we'll see. I'm glad I drink coffee (12 calories) instead of a mochas (493 calories). If I drank as many mochas as I drank coffee I would be trying to lose 150 lbs instead of 15 lbs. I'll see if I last beyond the 7 day trial.
Melinda and I are expecting our third baby the beginning of September! I have learned a few things from our past pregnancies... I need to remember some things. I was reminded of some of them from Perry Noble's blog.
Four things you cannot say to your pregnant wife.
1) Didn't we eat here five times this week already.
2) What is taking you so long?
3) I cleaned out your dishwasher for you.
4) No you can't have a bite.
Here is a link to a video we used March 4th to intro the current series we are in. Thanks to Mark Batterson for writing a great book, In A Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. It has been the inspiration for this series. I talked with Mark at the Buzz Conference last year in Washington DC. Great things are happening in their church. They have gone to multi-site model of ministry. I hope to connect with them again sometime.
I thought I would share with you a couple online sites dedicated to developing small groups. One is called "Big Ideas about Small Groups." the other is www.smallgroups.com. I am excited about the future of our home groups. Tom Stebbing and I have been dreaming of what can happen as we get more intensional about developing this vital part of our church. Everyone needs to be connected. If you have not founds a home group take a look at this list and contact one of the leaders or talk with Tom this Sunday! Becoming like Christ happens best in the context of real relationships!