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Finding God in the Pool Hall

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Finding God in the Pool Hall

pool

Last Sunday Daniel shared part of his story with us.  You can watch it here.

Daniel's Story from Valley Creek Church on Vimeo.

Jesus took him on an unexpected journey.  How long has it been since you have stepped outside your ordinary routine?  Maybe you are lacking adventure, maybe it is time to take the next step with Jesus and see where the path leads.

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Drink it in

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Drink it in

Last Sunday I saw something refreshing.  Something life giving.  Something that everyone is looking for.  I noticed how now more than ever, people were mingling with each other.  After the service was over... It wasn't over.  People gathered in the lobby, shared stories, laughed and prayed together. Maybe you missed it, but I think this can change everything. People are not looking for the slickest Christian show in town.  People are longing to be known and live life together.  Don't get me wrong, I believe we need to present the message of Jesus in creative and engaging ways on Sunday mornings.  But I know nothing is as appealing as one on one relationships.

Our "Parent Panel" did an excellent job answering your questions on parenting.  Thanks Rebecca, Andy, Melinda, and Barb!  You provided practical Biblical wisdom for some really challenging situations.

I think the panel was part of the secret sauce that made relationships flourish yesterday.  People who sit next to you in the auditorium were able to share some of their journey.  We are all on this adventure of following Jesus together.  We need each other.

Many of us had an extra cup of Caribou Coffee in the lobby after the service.  I saw a few people tipping the cambro over to savor the last drop.  I think that what we were really quenching was a relational thirst.  Life is too short to live disconnected, let's drink it in.

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Do voter guides change the world?

I read this article from the washington post.  It mentions churches who support a political candidate during the Sunday service.  This Sunday I'll be talking about Jesus, not politics. Last week I received multiple phone calls to have voter guides placed in our church and provide onsite voter registration.  I politely said, "No Thanks," and then listened for the next five minutes about how sorry he was to hear that I was supporting the decline of America.

Don't get me wrong... I want you to vote, but our church is not going to tell you who to vote for.  I do not want to reduce people's view of a person to a "voter guide."  I believe people need to be more informed than that.  The issues this world faces are complex.  I listen to both conservative and liberal talk radio.  I think it is healthy to listen to both sides of every issue.  A great way to have an informed view on both Obama and McCain is to watch them talk with Pastor Rick Warren (Author of The Purpose Driven Life) during the two hour Saddleback Civil Forum.

Here is what I believe...  The decline in America is not caused by the lack of voter guides.  The decline is caused by people missing out on God.  The power of politics is pretty small compared to the power of a life changed by Jesus.  If I believed politics changed the world I would have become a politician.  I believe the world is changed by people who discover God's purpose for their lives instead of following a made up purpose.  I am committed to "CHANGE"...  but real change happens in the center of each person... a change that only happens when God gets involved.  That is the change you will hear me talking about this Sunday.  I'll vote for a changed life over a changed Washington anytime.

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Large Dark Roast Please

I love hanging out at coffee shops.  But what is the deal with the Starbucks cup sizes?  I have gone along with the funny cup size names for years. But this morning I rebelled. What in the world is "Venti" anyways? (Googled it - Italian for 20oz) Why is a "Tall" actually short?  Why is a "Grande" (Italian for large) medium? In my great act of rebellion I ordered my coffee this morning by saying a "I'll have a large dark roast please". The barista corrects me... surely I must have been mistaken...  I am a regular I should have known better than that. "Venti?" She asks, looking at me with a puzzled look.   She waits for me to acknowledge the error of my ways.  I smile and nod and take my coffee.  I guess I just need more coffee to keep me from making a big deal out of nothing.

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Engaging Culture

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.”

My answer:

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.

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Dancing By The Pool

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.

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Paul David Hewson Quote

“At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you...and yet along comes this idea of grace to upend all that... Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff... It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity... it should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.” –Paul David Hewson (Bono) [Quoted in Servant Magazine Issue 77 Page 9]

I am thankful that Bono is using his global platform to remind us of the heart of the Gospel and our need to reach out to the poor and those with AIDS. I’m sure there are issues that I would disagree with Bono on, but I do agree with this quote. Following Jesus is so radically different than any other religion out there. God’s unearned grace towards us does defy reason and logic. It is a stumbling block for so many people. I hope this quote sparks a curiosity in the hearts of many of his fans. I want God to use each one of us to challenge others to turn from our own selfish way we are going and turn to Christ!

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Culturally Disturbed


I got off the plane from Haiti and arrived in Miami. Henry used to live in the Miami area so we took a few hours over our layover to see some sites. We walked down South Beach and drank in every ounce of sun we could. We sat down for dinner at a sidewalk cafe. As we were eating, a large plasma TV screen scrolled the words “Breaking News.” A few miles north of our restaurant, Anna Nicole Smith died. I was fascinated by people’s response to this news story. I saw group after group stop by and watch the news in shock.

I had just spent the past 6 days in Haiti. Not a long time, but long enough to realize something is wrong with what we value as Americans. I spent time with 65 pastors and elders from Haiti who want to make a difference for Christ in their poor communities. I spent time with missionaries who spend months away from their families so they can build up other church leaders across the world. They are my heroes! Instead of focusing on people who are truly great, our culture has wall-to-wall coverage focusing on an exotic dancer who at age 26 married a 89 year old billionaire for his money. We value the wrong things. It is not about the money... the popularity... the fame. It is about God. I am convinced that some of the pastors I met this week will be some of the most blessed people in eternity. They are people who pray, people who trust God for everything, people who live on less money than I can even imagine. Yet, I think they are blessed in ways I will never fully understand.

This missions trip has made me culturally disturbed.

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Starbucks and Jesus


I had the opportunity tonight to talk with someone from our church about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She came to Valley Creek just a few weeks ago and is wanting to figure out how to get past her doubts reconciling God and science. I was able to give her some great resources to read. As I was sitting there tonight I saw Rick Warren's quote on my Starbucks coffee cup.

"You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your real purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance and our destiny."

The quote fit great in our conversation about why God placed us here on this planet. What a cool moment.

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