Friday, May 30, 2008

Our first practice

On Thursday, we had our first actual practice for The Music Man. It was only really a read-through, but it was still exciting to have everyone together and to begin working on it.

For just about everyone, it was the first time they'd heard all the music or seen the entire script. Not me, though. I picked up a copy of the CD and the script a week ago and began working on my songs - hard. I worked so hard this past week, that I thoroughly impressed everyone at the read-through by having every song completely memorized! Well, I still have a bit of work to do on "Sadder but Wiser Girl" but everything else is done. And these songs are NOT easy. I think Meridith Wilson decided he needed to see how many words he could cram into each measure.
The song Trouble was by far the most difficult. To see what I mean, click here or here. I thought I'd never get that line, "jever take and try an iron clad leave for yourself from a three rail billiard shot." Whew, that's hard to even write.

It was funny to watch the slightly amused and even a bit shocked look on the director's faces as I sang the songs from memory. As they realized with each new song that I really had them ALL memorized, they were quite impressed. The music director exclaimed, "you've just made my life a lot easier."

But in my mind memorizing the songs is the easy part, I was able to listen to them on my ipod while jogging and doing other stuff. But other than actual rehearsals (which may provide for most of my memorization time) I'll have to sit down and read the script to memorize the lines.

The President in Gardner

You're looking at a picture of Air Force One sitting on the runway at the New Century Airport. Yep, President Bush landed in Gardner on Thursday morning. Sure would've been nice if he'd given me a heads-up on this, we could've caught lunch or something.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We Like Ike

One Memorial Day, Erin and I took a trip out west to Abiline, KS to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Museum. The trip combined 3 of our favorite hobbies: photography, antiquing (Erin) and studying WWII history (me).

As a brief outline of Dwight Eisenhower's career, he was born in Abiline, KS (tiny town west of Manhattan), began training tank crews during and after WWI (alongside of George Patton), eventually became Supreme High Commander of the Allied Forces during WWII and (reluctantly) was elected President and served two terms.
I love studying great leaders. Even just being around his artifacts made me feel like I was in the presence of greatness. Eisenhower lead through a disciplined tenacity. Here's a great quote of his on leadership, "that leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well."

The historians being quoted at the museum believed that Eisenhower's policies of engaging communism during the Cold War lead to the eventual fall of Soviet Russia. What's truly amazing is that though Eisenhower assumed he wouldn't be alive long enough to witness the fall of communism (he wasn't) he firmly believed that if the US stuck to his approach to the engagement of Soviet Russia, the system of communism would eventually fall. Now that's disciplined leadership that focuses on the common good rather than personal (political) gain. No wonder there was a political button that read "We miss Ike."

What really impressed me about Eisenhower was his dogged determination to avoid war at all costs. He knew firsthad the terrors of war, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity." And while he admitted that war is sometimes an unavoidable reality necessary, "The hand of aggression is stayed by force alone" he did everything his his power to prevent war.
As soon as Eisenhower was elected, he got us out of Korea. As soon as Eisenhower left office, we were plunged into the Vietnam War. Here's how Eisenhower summed his his peaceful 8 years as Commander-in-Chief, "The United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground in my administration. We kept the peace. People asked how it happened — by God, it didn’t just happen, I’ll tell you that." It seems Eisenhower believed that avoiding war took stronger leadership than allowing our nation to be sucked into war. "I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

And here's another great quote that summs up Eisenhower's feelings toward war, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. ... Is there no other way the world may live?"

I just can't help myself, here are few other great quotes.
In speaking of the Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb in Japan, "I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon."
In his a message given to soldiers preparing for the invasion of Europe (D-Day), "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely…. The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

And a speech he prepared to give (but thankfully didn't have to) in case D-Day/Operation Overlord failed, "Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone. "

If you'd like to read more great Eisenhower quotes, follow this link.
"I Like Ike" in French. I wonder why the French liked him so much? Maybe because he saved their sorry tails.
That's one big bomb!

The jacket worn by President Bush when he threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium to start the 2001 World Series and a famous saxaphone from President Clinton.

The signature of George Washington on his family Bible.
I wonder if this Shaeffer pen was made at the plant in my hometown of Fort Madison, IA?
The table around which Allied Leaders sat while planning the invasion of Hitler's Europe.

The Eisenhower home.

Some general pictures of Abline

Update from the Reinbolds

It's hard to believe they've been gone for a year and a half, but Emmanuel and Janelle Reinbold are some good friends of mine who helped start TFC and had a big impact on a lot of your lives. Emmanuel and Janelle moved away in December of 2006 to begin pastoring a church in McCook, Nebraska (who would want to move to Nebraska?). Emmanuel and I still talk quite a bit and I asked him to share an update of their family and ministry with those of you who knew them.

Greetings from McCook, Nebraska!
We have been hearing great praise reports about all that God is continuing to do through Trinity Family and are so excited for you! It is hard to believe that it was just a year and a half ago that we left Gardner, KS to embark on this amazing journey called “ministry” and we are pleased to report that God is really moving out here in Nebraska as well!

We walked into an established church with some “wounds” but the people were at a place where they were ready to let God take complete control in order to more effectively reach our community for Him! What an opportunity! The church board wanted to start the process by “getting ready for company” which involved a major remodel project to update our restrooms, offices, hallways and nursery. Although this is not a project most pastors want to start in their first year of ministry, the Lord clearly led us into it and the talented people of our church completed it early this spring! We are in the process of writing children’s ministry policies to bring us up to date legally and help parents feel more secure in allowing us to minister to their children. This is a huge task but with the completion of the nursery policies we are already seeing positive results when visitors come. The biggest task to date started with a church board retreat last July in which we evaluated the internal workings of our church and prayed for guidance for a clear ministry vision from God to unify and guide us through this change process. As a result of this vision we are seeing several non-churched families involved in our small group studies on what it means to be a disciple of Christ as well as our Crown Financial studies. We have also been able to engage many people in discipleship who were previously just attending worship once in a while.

There is much work yet to be done, but God has clearly been directing every step of the way as we are learning more and more about the amazing power of prayer and how to not get too far ahead or behind Him as we trust Him to take the lead. We really believe that “Whatever God can do, prayer can do”!!! We do still covet your prayers and continue to keep you and your ministries in prayer as well. You can check out our church website at

Emmanuel & Janelle Reinbold

I'd add that the Reinbolds' are expecting their second child later this summer!

Strong all the way through

I've come a long way over the past two years in my strength on the bench press. Not so much in regards to how much I can lift, although that has gone up, but in my strength all the way through the lift.
For about the first year, I would often times fail in one of my two "sticking points:" as the weight came right off my chest or when I got it about 3/4 of the way up. So, we focused on those two areas of weakness. I did some reps of light weight, holding the bar on my chest for a one count and then exploading (or so I tried) upwards, which strengthened my first sticking point. We'd also place more weight on the bar than I could actually bench and then set the bar on the side bars at a height equal to my 3/4 of the way up sticking point. So, I'd focus on that last part of the movement.

All that work has paid off. Last night I was finishing my workout with a pretty heavy amount for just 3 reps. The first rep was a shock to my system, so I wasn't very smooth but I was able to get it. On the 2nd rep, I was able to use perfect form and move the weight smoothly. But I knew that the 3rd rep was going to be difficult and it was. I was nearing exhaustion and it felt a lot heavier than on the previous rep, but I was able to slowly lift up the weight. I was able to push through the first sticking point right off my chest and then power it through the second sticking point at the 3/4 height. The amount of weight caused me to go slowly and repping the movement took everything I had, but I was able to slowly and steadily move the bar through the entire lift. Not at one point, even with the bar moving so slowly, did I wonder whether I'd be able to finish the movement. After I racked the bar, Jason told me, "You've come a long ways; you're now strong all the way through the lift."

Where are your weak areas? Where are the places you continue to fail over and over? If you continue in the same pattern you're on right now, you'll continue to fail in those same areas of weakness. What changes can you make so you can follow the instruction of the author of Hebrews to "throw off every sin that drags us down so we can run the race with endurance"? What new disciplines do you need to bring into your life? What old patterns do you need to eliminate? And most importantly, what form of accountability do you need to make those changes.

A sign that someone is maturing in their walk with Christ is the realization that we're eliminating our "sticking points." Can you see indications that what was once an area of continual weakness is now turning into a steady strength?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Taking on the character

I've been working on learning the songs for The Music Man. One of my main songs, Trouble is a major tongue-twister. As we drove to Abilene today, Erin and I worked on it for over an hour.

But learning these songs is helping me take on the character of "Professor" Harold Hill. His real name is Greg and he's a con-artist who is planning on taking money from the stubborn Iowans of River City. He's a slick charmer who wins a new girl in every town. Of course, the girl in River City steals his heart and he does a 180.

If I think about it, it's not that hard to get in character. A scheister who is just after people's money; isn't that the job description of a pastor?

Thanks, I'll be here all week...

The streak is broken

Until Sunday afternoon, I hadn't played a pick-up game of basketball since the last semester of my senior year of college, just over 8 years ago. I reluctantly broke the streak at our Memorial Day picnic/worship gathering but now I'm glad I did it. Mostly, I just passed the ball to Marty Mothersbaugh and Travis Bottcher, but I actually made a few shots. I also gave Aaron Holmes a good shot to the head, but he returned the favor by swatting a shot from behind.

The picnic was a good time together. It's great to change things up. I personally loved the relaxed Sunday. I did my SOAP reading and went on a jog Sunday morning. Amazing how much free time I have when we aren't doing set-up. Scott Sidusky did a GREAT job leading the music, too! It was also great how Pastor Andy helped the kids lead us in communion. It was even better watching some of them eat the bread between serving worshippers.

I was able to have a long conversation with a couple who were at TFC for only the second time. The wife has basically no church background and the husband hasn't been since college. They just had a baby boy and just moved to Gardner. When they got our flyer in the Chamber's new homes packet, they decided to give us a try. I told them they were in the right place. It's amazing how God just keeps sending us family after family that are new to church. It's a honor that God entrusts these special families to us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Yep, here's another great message from Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis. The message is entitled Stuffocating and you can listen here.

The message is on Luke 12:13-21, the parable of the Rich Fool. This message makes all kinds of different points, one great point is made through a video found at thestoryofstuff website, explaining how we've been socially conditioned to be consumers. Watch that video!!!!

There's a lot in here, but one line really hit home, especially after I posted this just a week ago.

"What are our excesses today, what would Jesus' parable say to us today? What do we put in our barns today? What pulls you away from being grounded in Christ? (She then gives some example about shoes; I can't understand the female attraction to shoes). What about money? Our tendency today is to save money. Our security is in our money. We aren't excited or feeling good about next year because Jesus is working in and through us but we're excited about next year because we know we've got enough stored up. That no matter what happens, we're safe. So our identity, our safety, our security is coming from something other than Christ. I'm not saying don't have a savings account, but I'm saying wrestle with this issue of where your security and identity comes from."


Preaching that hits home

I've been listening to a series of sermons from Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis. I'm familiar with Greg Boyd because I recently finished Myth of a Christian Nation, which was one of the best books I've ever read.

This page lists all the sermons from the year. I'd strongly recommend these messages: April 6th's Facing Reality, April 20th's Inside Out, May 4th's Beyond the Comfort Zone (that sermon seriously messed me up), May 11th's Taking out the Trash. It's honestly been a painful experience to listen to these sermons. God has been working me over; both as I listen and as He reminds me of things later. You know God is trying to tell you things when you hear something and then "coincidentally" read a similar passage later. This may not apply to many of you, but this message on What Kind of Leadership really hit me hard.
I'd encourage you to check-out those messages. Don't be surprised if you hear some of these same ideas coming through in my preaching sometime soon.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I love my job!

Last Sunday, I had an amazing conversation with a guy from TFC. He started the conversation by stating, "I blame Trinity Family for this." Three years of pastoral ministry has taught me how to utilize a type of pastoral armor, where I can just listen to the complaint without taking it personally. But to my complete suprise, he then went on to tell me that he and his wife of 6 years were getting back together after a year of separation! I could barely hold back the tears of joy. I had no idea he was even married, he's been at TFC for about 9 months and never mentioned his estranged wife. He told me that reconnecting with God has prompted this move toward reconciliation. All I could think was I love my job.

Then this morning, I read this blog post from Emily Crow. Wow, that just about brought tears to my eyes, too. But thankfully, I'm too much of a man to cry :).

And then there's the blog post below about my conversation with Guido. Really, does it get any better?

A Beautiful Picture of the Kingdom

Jesus gave us a mind-blowing picture of those who belong in his kingdom and those who don't. This is a passage we need to read and reread, because it's a completely different perspective of who is "in or out" than what we hear in church most Sundays. Matthew 25:31-46.
If you combine this passage with some other sections of Jesus' teaching, we can see that Saturday was a BEAUTIFUL picture of the Kingdom (the domain where Jesus is King).

On Saturday afternoon, a group from Trinity Family, Christ Community in Olathe and Bonita Flats gathered together to spend a few hours working on the facility of My Father's House in Paola. Here are a few thoughts as to why this was a beautiful picture of Jesus' Kingdom.

1) We were serving the poor You can look on My Father's House website to see exactly what they do, but in serving My Father's House we were serving the poor and rural homeless of the area. Jesus was as clear as he could possibly be on this point, "you serve the poor, you're a part of my kingdom. You don't serve the poor, you're not a part of my kingdom." Ouch, it hurts to write that because Saturday was the exception rather than the rule in my life.

2) Christ Community 'planted' Trinity Family There's a crippling mindset among many churches, which we faced a bit while preparing to launch TFC, it's the mindset of scarcity. I can't share with you because than there won't be enough left for me. Christ Community was able to move past those fears (and they rightfully had fears because they agreed to plant TFC during a difficult time in their church) and make the Kingdom decision to plant our church. It's a privilege to work alongside CCC.

3) We were able to remove some "in/out" barriers If you read the gospels, you'll see that Jesus is always flipping things upside down. The people you think are "in" are actually "out" and those you'd think are "out" are actually "in." Being able to work alongside some employees and regular customers (I think one guy that came doesn't actually work there but hangs out there all the time which made me think of "Norm" from Cheers) of Bonita Flats (a gentleman's club) helps break down the "in/out" barriers.

I really can't tell you how great it was to hang out with the group that came from Bonita Flats. I got to meet a lot of nice people and I had an incredible conversation with Guido, the head manager and part-owner of the club. I can't remember everything we discussed but one thought that kept going through my mind was what a privilege it is to get to talk about life, church and Jesus with a guy who is part owner of a gentleman's club.

Guido told me he'd read through my blog and was impressed by how much our perception of them had changed from the first night in August where we 'bravely' took the gift bags to the clubs to where we are now. He also said their perception of us has changed as well. While they were also leery of us at first, they now trust us. Several people also gave me what might be one of the best compliments I could receive, "you don't look like a pastor and your wife doesn't seem like the usual church lady. You seem like normal people."

We also talked a lot about how Trinity Family (from their perspective) seems like a different type of church. We talked about the organization that protested Temptations blog entry and why that isn't the way of Jesus. Guido also told me that another church from our denomination were out at his club awhile ago, protesting and handing out flyers. I apologized for bad Christian behavior and un-Christlike Nazarene behavior as many ways as possible. I'm praying that maybe some perception barriers were broken down and that my apology goes a long way toward a healthier picture of Christianity. I did share one of my favorite quotes I heard at a church planter's conference, "I love Jesus, but sometimes his bride is a real female dog" (kids read this blog).

Someone in the midst of our conversation said they were glad to be there because "its good for the soul." And I affirm that comment from a lot of different angles. And the great thing is that we're just beginning! Guido wants to make this a every few months activity.

I don't know if I've ever been more proud of our church. It's all about the Kingdom!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Feast and Famine

I guess it's kind of obvious that I've had money issues on my brain lately. This post isn't going to be a very fun one to write, it's not easy to be this vulnerable.

So, I've let fear get a foothold in my life the past few days. I was driving up to the airport late on Wednesday night to pick up David from his business trip when some really scary questions entered my mind. These questions have always been in the back of my mind, but they fought their way to the front that night. What if we pay all this money for IVF and it doesn't work? Do we spend more money to try again or do we save up for an adoption? Why does it take us thousands and thousands of dollars for a chance at something that others get on accident?

But what if it does work? Then how will we make it financially? Our plan is for Erin to stay home. If both eggs implant and we have twins, as is very likely, then there won't really be a choice as to whether Erin can stay home, it will be necessary. How can we make it with what I get paid? Erin is diabetic and we need to be on a group insurance plan but the plan through the denomination is SUPER expensive! I'm not proud to admit this, but after getting home late at night from the airport, I went on the UPS jobs site to see what shifts they offered. I then laid in bed forever because the worry kept me from falling asleep. I know this goes exactly against what Jesus told us in Matthew 6:25-34. Which makes me think what was going through my head was actually a temptation to doubt slyly wrapped in a concern for my family.

I told all these thoughts to Erin last night and she (lovingly) got on me for my lack of faith. After talking for awhile, we opened up that night's scripture reading and I asked, "Do you think this will have any connection with what we're talking about?" Of course, it did. The passage was from Genesis 41:37-57. It's the story of Joseph ascending to second in command in Egypt and preparing Egypt for the 7 years of famine that would follow the 7 years of prosperity, which God revealed to Joseph through a dream. Joseph stored up the excess crops during the 7 years of prosperity so Egypt could survive during the 7 years of famine. But not only did Joseph store enough for his own country, he stored enough to help others as well.

So that's exactly where Erin and I are at, we're entering (if IVF works) into our last year of abundance. During the past 3 years we've had two full-time salaries and no kids. A year from now we hope to have one or two kids and one full-time salary. We've been pretty close to living on just one of our salaries, using the other income to pay off house debt, build our savings fund and save for IVF. We MUST keep up that intentionality during this next year. If we work at it, we can have our school loans paid off by the time our baby(ies) are born. This doesn't mean we don't spend any money, just that we're very intentional about what we spend. We're going on vacation this summer but our monthly budget helps us eliminate all the nickel and dime things that will drain the savings we need to have before the big paycut and cost-increase. Every summer I have to resist the incredible urge to get cable or the dish for all the sports packages. We can save that $700 for the future and I can just go to friend's houses to watch the Hawks. A bunch of little, self-denial decisions like that will help us prepare for the future. Could we live off one income if we were debt-free except for the house? We're hoping for that.

But I also have to deal with the faith and doubt issues. When we've done things that seemed crazy but we knew God was asking us to do (seminary, student-teaching, PLANTING A CHURCH) God has always taken care of us. I'm going to do what's in my power (save for the future) and trust Him to provide in the way only he can.

Thanks for letting me question God, plan for the future and affirm my faith in God out in the open.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How we spent our money in 07

When we were doing our taxes about two months ago, I thought it would be interesting to go through our records and monthly spending plans to see where all our money went. As I look through this, I'm glad about some things but disappointed about others.

Taxes - 15.72%, this doesn't include our tax return, this was money taken out of our initial paychecks
Retirement - 9.9%, not quite the 15% Dave Ramsey recommends, but okay
Giving - 10.6%, to be honest I'm not real proud of this. I realize that whenever the day comes that God blesses us with a child and Erin stays home, we'll really be struggling just to tithe but in the meantime this should be higher. I need to track this closer this year.
Utilities - 4.6%
Savings - 0%, yep, you read that right, we didn't put anything into savings. We do have savings but we didn't add to it last year.
House Payment - 30.5%, this is why we didn't put anything into savings last year. We bought our house with the 80/20 split, little did I know the money we saved by not paying PMI would be doubled with the 9% interest rate on the 20% loan. So, we worked our tails off to pay off most of the 20% loan, then refinanced into a conventional loan.
Refrigerator - 1.6%, don't know why this is its own category, but we had to buy a new fridge. Erin's dad got us a good deal.
Home Repairs/Maintenance - 1.6%, we did a bit of work on the house
School Loan - 2%, this is our project this year, to kick Sallie Mae out of the house (after saving up enough for IVF)
Eating out - 1.3%
Groceries - 4.4%, Americans pay a smaller percentage of their income on groceries than any other country in the world (along with Western European countries)
Gas - 2.8%, that's likely to go up a bit this year
Car insurance - 1.5% and we got nothing for it, the hit and run wasn't worth the deductible to fix it
Car repairs - 4.1%, All the money I made from coaching (and then some) went to fix our cars, sure am glad they ignored my offer to coach for free
Vacation - 3.9%, we greatly value travelling. We want to enjoy it now because whenever the blessing of a kid comes, it's Grandma and Grandpas and if we ever do save up enough money, it will be some kiddy place like Disney World (ugggh).

That leaves 5.48% for other stuff not on this list

This is a good exercise for me to do, some things I need to change over this next year and some patterns we want to stick with.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

No Perfect People Allowed - Chapter 7

What about other religions? The tolerance litmus test - Q1

"For you were killed, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." - Revelation 5:9

"Chapter 7 alone is worth twice the price of [this] book." - Brian McLaren

Here are some quotes from the chapter

As we have reached into the unchurched culture of our generation, this one question, phrased in many ways, gets asked more than any other: "How do you feel about other religions?" It has become the litmus-test question for our generation, and we must think carefully about how to remove this challenging barrier to the "good news" of Jesus.

[When many] hear Christians say that Jesus is the only way, and they immediately think we are saying, "We're right and everyone else is wrong because our way is always right." They see it as nothing but pride and arrogance - the same pride and arrogance that would cause Christians in the Middle Ages to slaughter Jews and Muslims... Anticipating and openly voicing this question-beneath-the-question often diffuses people's resistance to even listen. This allows them to relate to you and actually want to hear your answer. When you affirm where tolerance is needed - you can also show its natural limits... You can be tolerant and disagree.

Now if you attack me or my character or intelligence - then you're not motivated by love but by your need to be right... Do you always think you're right and everyone else is wrong? It has become a tolerance litmus test for arrogance. We must demonstrate a humility and willingness to learn - remembering all truth is God's truth, and truth has nothing to fear.

So what do the world's religions teach all of us? We're all royal screw-ups - myself included, Jews and Christians, Muslims and Buddhists! The world's a mess!... We need God's help! We cannot become who we know we are intended to be without God... So does the bible teach that all other religions are wholly wrong and Christians are right? No! It teaches that every single person is wrong and God is right, and our problem is we all tend to turn from God and go our own way rather than humbly seeking God and his will.

For many people, their real concern is that it doesn't sound fair to say Jesus is the only way. If the fairness question does not get addressed, seekers will often jump to the conclusion that Christians are just arrogant, and they will miss the truth that through Christ, God has been more than fair... So according to Jesus, everyone made right with God must pass through him. But we do not totally know how this works except that is by faith only.

I do know God cannot be unfair. God looks at the heart, as we've said all along, and God will not unfairly judge a person because of a lack of knowledge or cultural or religious conditioning. I'm confident God will not send anybody to hell for lack of knowledge or place of birth or ethnicity - it will only be because they truly did not want God's leadership and relationship - and in the end, I believe God will sadly say, "Okay, your will be done."

Jesus continually talked about how surprised people will be when it's all said and done (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus is the only provision God has made to justly forgive us for doing our will rather than God's will - so if God sees the heart of a person who never heard about Jesus but is seeking to be forgiven and made right with God by faith, and God somehow does for her what he did for Abraham, it is only through what Jesus did on the cross.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Professor Harold Hill

Yep, that's me. I just found out the director of the Gardner Community Theatre has chosen me to be the lead in Meridith Wilson's "The Music Man." Not only is this a great musical, but it's about a city in Iowa on the river, which is exactly what my hometown of Fort Madison is.

As we were doing our read-throughs and singing the duet with Marian, I had a feeling I might get chosen. But just to be safe, I was also trying out for the barbershop quartet, but the director pulled me from there to tell say, "I've got something else for you. Will you take whatever part I give you (I wasn't sure what that meant), I want you to be my Harold." Although I'm writing this on Friday morning, I can't post it until Saturday because not everyone has been told yet. The director said on Thursday night that although she hasn't chosen the other parts (including the female lead) Harold Hill was the one thing she was sure of. That both pumps me up and freaks me out.

This is going to take a lot of time and work but it won't take away from pastoral work because this is part of being a pastor. When we were at retreat, the speaker warned against spending all your time with the church and encouraged us to find a way to get involved in the community. We don't just pastor our congregation, we pastor those in the community, too. I'm going to get to know the other cast members very well, who knows how God might work through these relationships. And it sure seems to be a "God-thing." We just happened to find a flyer announcing try-outs laying in a shopping cart in Wal-Mart two weeks ago. I decided to go to the tryouts and just sing in the chorus, but since the atmosphere was so relaxed, I decided to audition for a minor part. Well, you can see they decided they wanted me for more than that.

If you don't know much about this musical, here are two of the more popular songs from the musical. Harold Hill sings both of them. Hill's a travelling salesman/conartist convincing the town he's here to lead a boys band. He plans on taking the money of these stubborn Iowans and leaving, but he gets sidetracked by a pretty music teacher.

76 trombones
Till there was you
Madam Librarian

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


During my workout tonight, Jason convinced me to change my squat stance to a wider stance. After just a few reps with very light weight, I quit because it was killing my knees. My tendons weren't used to the different angle. But I pushed through it and ended up being somewhat comfortable with the stance after a few sets of (still) light weight.

The reason for the new stance is that it will give me more power. I'll have to work up to a comfort level but the wider stance will keep my muscles tight through the whole movement, allowing me to control and move more weight. I could've stayed in the familiar stance but it would've cost me in the long run. When I finally work through the learning curve, I'll be stronger than before.

Yep, that applies directly to our relationship with Christ. Also to our relationships with other people and the gifts God has given us. God often makes us uncomfortable so he can teach us new things.

This morning, Erin and I had a serious fight over a stupid incident involving a pink towel. We weren't really fighting about the towel, we were fighting over deeper issues. It was very painful to admit the attitudes of mine that lead to the fight and the way I made Erin feel.

Right after the 'pink towel' incident, I had my regular meeting with my accountability partner. In that conversation, I had to admit more uncomfortable things about my weaknesses, attitudes and temptations. Not comfortable for the short-term, but it will make me stronger in the long run.

Are you willing to be made uncomfortable?

By the way, I set a new personal record on the dead lift - 400 pounds!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's all about Jesus

I should probably do this more often, but I want to post some thoughts from Tuesday's SOAP reading. The passage was Acts 3:1-10, I'd highlight verse 6, "But Peter said, 'I don't have any silver or gold for you. But I'll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk.'" By the way, that's the S (scripture) of SOAP.

Observation - That's really the whole point, following Jesus.

Application - This has been getting pounded into me the past few weeks. People don't need my "pastoral skills." People don't need the church. People need Jesus!!! Although the church and I work to point people toward Jesus, it's really all about Jesus. People need Jesus. For me personally, this means it's not about me. I don't need people to praise me, I want people to praise Jesus. As long as I'm faithfully teaching the same things Jesus taught, I can be okay with people getting mad at me. I don't need people to like me. I know this is extreme, but if hating me helps people love Jesus, I'd be okay with that. If people get mad at me for calling them to live by the standard Jesus taught, then I realize they may be directing their anger at me but the real problem isn't with me, it's with Jesus.

Prayer - Jesus, help me with this. Keep me focused on you. Help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me point others toward you.

Right out of Tuesday's journal.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Yet one more shot to my pride

I've heard Craig Groeschel say two incredible things about church planting that he was told by his mentor. 1) You will overestimate what you can accomplish in the short-term while underestimating what you can accomlish in the long term 2) God WILL break you!!!

I've found both of these to be dead-on. God has been breaking my pride into tiny little pieces, over and over. But he's also been showing me the amazing things he wants to do through this church. The longer we're at this church thing, the more results we're seeing.

One of the best things going at TF, as anyone remotely familiar with our church knows, is our Love Wins ministry. A few posts ago, I shared how I was frustrated about a church-group protesting strip clubs. Well, I sent in an email to Channel 9 to tell them about Love Wins and show them an opposite picture of Christians. I didn't expect much but was very suprised when Dan Weinbauhm, one of the lead reporters for Channel 9 called me to schedule an interview with Erin for the 10:00 news. I was so excited!! I was pumped about the publicity TF was going to receive, even thinking about how glad I was that we'd finally finished our new website, since it was sure to get a ton of hits after the news story.

But my sweet and wise wife was hesitant about the news story. So she called one of the main guys at one of the clubs to get his perspective. His response was a resounding no! He said nothing good, from their side, could come out of a news story on their club. So, the decision was easy, we wouldn't do the story. And while the whole time I'd been excited about how we could present a more Jesus-like picture of Christians through this story, when I emailed Dan Weinbauhm to tell him we weren't going to be able to do the story, I came face-to-face with the deeper motives from my own pride. While the publicity would've been nice, while my DS was going to call the guy who organized the protest and tell him to watch the story, while we may have gotten some big donations from people watching the story, the bottom line is that it would've hurt or destroyed our relationships with the clubs. You see, it isn't about me getting publicity as "super-pastor," it isn't about TF getting publicity as this wonderful church, it's about loving people!!!! That's ultimately what it's all about. If something is self-serving, it can't be loving.

Then the guy from the club talking with Erin went on to tell a lot of great stories about how Love Wins is building credibility within the club. He even told Erin he's read our blogs, so "hi!." This goes to show what can happen over the long-term.

I also realized later why it this story would've hurt the people in the clubs. The story would've been spun as these saintly church ladies loving these evil dancers. Not true at all!!! We're all sinners in need of a loving Savior. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we'll be able to share the love of Jesus.

Later that night, Erin and I read our devotional for the evening. We were both blown away by how timely the passage and reading were. The passage was Philippians 2:5-8. Here is a great line from that day's reading from Dennis Kinlaw's This Day with the Master. "It is surprising what healing and growth can occur in human relationships when we reach the place where we can bow to others and above all bow to Him."

Jesus, keep breaking my pride!

Those are MY jelly bellies!

I just heard a great message from John Burke, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin, TX about tithing. I don't know if I've every heard it explained better than he did. I was mowing my lawn yesterday, listening to this podcast, thinking, "I've gotta share this."

This message was a part of a sermon series, Ka-Ching-Onomics, which you can listen to here, scroll down about 1/3 of the way down the list of sermons and you'll find it. I'm also thinking about preaching this same series next January.

John tells a story about buying his son a bag of jelly bellies while at the mall. It was a funny story, but the summary is that when he asked his son if he could have some, his son responded, "no." Then slyly moved the bag to the side away from his dad. The thought that went through John's mind was, "those are my jelly bellies! 4 year olds can't buy anything. I wanted him to realize I gave him good things because I love him, I could buy him many more, even bury him in jelly bellies. My son does not need a greedy mentality but an abundance mentality with me becuae I love him and he can trust me. And there's more where that came from."

The connection to our relationship with God is obvious. The following is taken from John's message:

Thousands of years ago, before Jesus came, God established a test, to see whether our hearts would trust and love God more than money. Moses called God's people to give a tithe (the word literally means "tenth") from everything they produced; grain from the earth or fruit from the trees. 1,000 years late, when the people of God weren't following God's command, the prophet Malachi challenged the people of God to "bring the whole tithe into the store house. Test me in this, says the Lord, see if I do not open the floodgates of heaven with blessing, so much you won't have room for it. I'll prevent the pests from devouring your flock and the nations will know that I" am the Lord."
God's saying, "if you say you love me, demonstrate it. Take the first 10% of everything I've given you and direct it toward my purposes through my house." In our case, that applies to the local church, acting as the body of Christ in serving our community.

But why this benchmark amount? Because it seriously tests our loyalty. It's not easy but it's not impossible. It makes us face head-on the god of money who says, "you need more. Hold me tight and I'll save you and make you happy." The tithe forces us to choose which God ultimately we'll trust. Which may be why God says, "test me." This is the only place in scripture God calls his people to test him. See if I'm not a good Father who can pour out more jelly bellies than you can possibly handle.

If this makes you defensive, it's worth asking 'why?'. Why am I feeling threatened? When I talked about this a couple years ago, a lady emailed me and said, "When you first said 10% to God, I nearly gagged, it was a huge blow. I'm a new christian but you challenged us to do it three months and see if we weren't glad we did. So I took the challenge and I have to tell you I was blown away by what happened. Some of my financial situations worked out in ways I could've never predicted."

People think, I can't afford to tithe but you're leaving your Creator out of the equation, leaving your creator out of the accounting. Which is probably the problem. Maybe the reason you can't afford to tithe is that you don't tithe. Maybe the reason you feel like there's never enough, that the pests keep devouring everything you have, is because you're never obedient in this area. The only way past that is to trust and to risk. God knows our fears, which may be why he says, "test me and see if I won't be faithful."

One couple told me about being buried in $100,000 of medical debt. They'd been giving to things along the way but had never surrendered their finances to the full tithe. "This new year's eve, I finally decided to give God the full tithe, 'okay, God, it's yours.'" I work on straight commission. New Year's Day a new contract came in. My office manager called to tell me because that never happens on NY Day. The next day, another contract. The next day another, and then another the next day. Then two more contracts. God has accelerated our efforts to become debt free."

But here's the warning, this is not God-lotto. This is a relationship, not a get-rich scheme. God doesn't deal with us all the same, because our situations are different, but God is faithful.

Then John goes on to explain all the mean and evil things people will assume about him for saying this. I've been told the exact same things. But I'll give the same reminder John gave, "I won't make an extra penny for preaching this."

The reason for sharing all of this is so that we can experience freedom, true riches and God's faithfulness. And even though I won't get paid another 1$, I'd love to see our church be able to better serve as the body of Christ in our community.

So, here's the challenge - who is ready to take that step? Who is ready to give a full tithe and begin experience God's best in their lives? We have a money-back guarantee through our church. If you commit to tithe for 3 months (a full 10%) and at the end of the three months have not seen God meet your needs, we'll refund the money. I'm dead serious, our Advisory Council has approved this. If you're ready to take that step, you can post on this blog or shoot me an email.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who really tithes anyway?

This will be the first of a two part series on tithing. I've come across a great blog entry and message about tithing and I want to pass it along and to start a conversation.

Disclaimer: I do not work on commission. My salary is set (it's been the same for 2 years) and it doesn't fluctuate with our church's giving. So this is not about raising my salary, it's about experiencing God's best in our lives.

Now I realize money is a taboo topic, but since the Bible talks more about money than prayer and faith combined and Jesus himself talked more about money than anything else, I'm willing to have an open conversation about the topic. I found a great entry on Bil Cornelius' blog today. I met Bil at the Evolve Conference. He's a great leader with a great heart and he's an amazing communicator. I'm going to post his blog entry below and then ask a few questions.

Too Good
I was just about to drop a new blog when this came across my desk. This blog is from a faithful member of our church, and obvious supporter of our ministry. If you are a leader in any way, you should take the minute or so it will take to read talks.
I just returned home from a birthday party for a three year old. In researching my new business venture, I've priced the different things that are made available for birthday parties. I'm probably underestimating the cost of the party to be $400. On a three year old. If the parents were to read this they'd probably scoff, I wish $400.....the cost alone was not my issue. It was coupled with the really large presents people were bringing. I'm quite sure some of the gift bags cost more than what we spent on our gift, again not the entirety of my issue.
The conversation came around to where people go to church. The second Bay Area came out of my mouth, the talk turned to money. They are always asking for money. The crowd cheers when they announce offering. Money, money, money. One lady made the comment that they were used to putting in their wadded up dollar, "so people saw" them putting in something, and this church was asking for $1,000/year for three years. OMG. Who tithes anyway. "We do". That stopped the conversation quite quickly.
These are the same people who were talking about how many Vera Bradley bags they had, and "Have you gotten the Coach clutch?" Not my normal crowd I guess. No money left after birthday parties and purses.
I haven't noticed the constant money talk at Bay Area. I do know that they ask for it, but it hasn't really bothered me that they do so, since we've been giving. We're the ones who cheer when they announce offering. It's not weird when you are on the tithing side of things. When they were asking for $1000/year we committed to a double tithe, based on the salary of a job that we didn't have at the time. It was more than $1000/year, but we believed that we'd get the job, and the salary bump would be bigger than a 10% bump in giving. I'm not saying that we promised to give in order to get a "raise", but rather we knew God would give it to us if he could give through us. It's worked out well for us. But not at first.
When we first started giving we didn't get the job when promised. Not the first month, not the second month, not the third month. We still gave the first month, the second month and the third month. We have not had any real money problems since. Of course we've had some issues and what not, but there aren't any starving naked kids running around the house. Even a couple of weeks ago we got a letter from our insurance company, they were dropping us because our roof appeared to be an overlay. Turns out overlays haven't been legal since 1993 or something, and the previous owner should have put on a new roof when we bought it six years ago, yadda yadda yadda. This was immediately after promising an attorney several thousands of dollars to adopt our kids, and getting ready to start a business. None of which we can "afford". We're doing what we can, but are relying on God to come up with enough money to pay the attorney, repair our house, start a business, and feed the kids. I don't really want the Coach clutch, but I'm sure He'd throw it in too.
God allows us to test him in the tithe. I'm sure that four years ago when we first committed to giving seriously, it probably was a little bit of a test on our part. I also am pretty sure my crowd tithes. We don't discuss it but their kids are neither starving or naked. The whole "can't afford to tithe" argument goes out window when you have two Lexus' and live in the Lakes. Tithing is not for rich people. 10% is 10% and we get really excited when a tithe has a comma in it, it means good things for us. I'm actually looking forward to the day I can put two commas in a tithe check. Then they'll say "well, if I had ten million, it'd be easy".
I think the problem us humans have is we are used to mathematical accounting. We use the God accounting system and it nets more somehow. So, who tithes anyway, we do, we can't afford not to.
Posted at 02:16 PM

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Too Good? Pretty amazing considering your blogroll. Thanks for the nod.
Posted by: Annie April 28, 2008 at 04:09 PM
This is AMAZING! Thank you SOOOOOOOO MUCH for sharing!
I, too, am one of the crowd that cheers at offering time. It is a BLESSING to give to God! And sometimes it is more than 10%, and sometimes my bank account says no...but God says YES! So, I do. In the end, I know that He will Bless! Not because I gave to get (which I didn't), but because I have chosen to be obedient to His Word. THAT'S enough!
Thanks again for the inspiration!
Posted by: Susan April 28, 2008 at 07:09 PM
I am also a cheerful (cheering) giver of the tithe. I am just trusting God and so far ,He hasn't let me down. Sometimes I don't know how I'm going to be able to pay the bills but I know that God will somehow make it enough.I'm not even afraid when things are really bad, like the house payment went up $300 due to an escrow shortage and there is not very much in the bank. I have had alot and didn't tithe, now I don't have very much and I tithe.I have learned to be content in any situation because I know that God will provide my every need! I made bad choices before(with money) and I believe that God is teaching me how to be a better steward of the resources that He entrusts to me. I will not listen to the enemy when he lies to me and tells me I can't give to God first. I will not mishandle my seed anymore! I will continue to sow my seed into the good soil of BAF through tithes, offerings and service.I can't wait till next Sunday's offering time to sow some seed into God's Kingdom! Yeah!!!


Here are some thoughts:
I think it's awesome that people celebrate their offering, kind of like Mars Hill cheering when Rob Bell says, "if you're giving an offering, there are joy boxes in the back." What would it look like for us to do that?

I realize this is going to sound brash, but I believe we can all tithe. If we're submitting to the "b" word (budget) and tracking our spending, we can give away at least 10% of our income. I also believe it requires serious lifestyle changes, though. We'll never be able to get everything we want (no matter our income), so saying 'yes' to a tithe means we must say 'no' to something else. I also believe that unless we're tracking every dollar we spend, we don't know where our money goes and we'll live under this constant fear of not having enough and a constant guilt from not giving. We can't just write a tithe check and then blow the rest of our money saying, "God will provide." That's not the point.

I think it's hilarious that Bil's church is the church that "is always asking for money." I also found it interesting that the person telling this story didn't think the church was "always asking for money." It was the people spending every last dollar they made on unnecessary stuff for their kids that complained about the church "asking for money." That's both funny and sad.

I agree with the line, "tithing is not for rich people." My parents were dirt poor, but tithed and we never went naked and we always had food. It's NOT a coincidence that when this family began putting God first, they never lacked for anything they needed. God's math is different than our math. 90% of our paycheck, with God in control, goes so much further than 100% with us in control. On paper, it may seem impossible to tithe, but God will come through in ways we don't expect. I really, really, really believe that!!!!!

I thought the responses were as interesting as the actual post, which is why I'd love to have a conversation about this. What do you think? Is the tithe biblical or is it something made up by the institution to support the institution? What are good reasons to tithe? Why don't people tithe? Are there legit reasons not to tithe? Is it a sin not to tithe? Is it oppressive to expect people to tithe? I realize that my above comments reveal my position on tithing, but I'd really like to open up this conversation.

I know this blog is read by people at all different points in their spiritual journey, so any non-anonymous comments are welcome, although I reserve the right to counter any points made in the comments.

Who really does tithe anyway?

Great quote

Here's a great quote that fits with the blog entry below.

"To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against." - Christina Baldwin

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Would Jesus protest a strip club?

If Jesus were here today, would he be protesting in front of a strip club?
Check out this news story from Channel 9 - link.

Somehow, I don't think Jesus would be holding one of those signs.

Would Jesus be inside, passing out gift bags? Well, Jesus was a man and Hebrews tells us he faced tempation, so he may not be inside. Maybe he'd be hanging out with me and Mike Palmer in the parking lot as Erin and Jaymie passed out giftbags on the inside.

We've got some ladies coming over this evening to put together the bags for tomorrow night's trip to the clubs. That seems a bit more like the way of Jesus.