Friday, December 30, 2005

Questions for the New Year

The long running soap opera Days of Our Lives begins with these words, "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives." It's that time of year again. In just two days, 2005 comes to a close, and 2006 begins. It hardly seems possible that another year has come and gone. The sands in that hourglass are precious, and I want to begin the New Year with a resolution to live 2006 more proactively, with more purpose, passion, conviction, and risk than ever before.

What did you do in 2005? Do you remember the resolutions that you made at the beginning of the year? Did you keep them? Are you proud of what you accomplished? What will you remember most about 2005? What will you wish that you could forget? Who did you meet? Who did you reestablish a relationship with? Who did you help? Who impacted you? Who did you impact? Who changed you? Who did you change? What did you learn about God? How did He surprise you? How did you delight Him? Where is your life going as you begin 2006? How is that different than where you were last year? How has your family changed? How much time did you spend with them? How was that time spent/ How would you like that to look different next year? How did you spend your time this year? What brings you the most joy? What brings your family the most joy?

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:"

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Walnut Memories

It's amazing how the smallest thing can sometimes bring back the most vivid memories. Memories long ago forgotten come back with a trigger that comes out of left field. That happened to me this morning.

I was home for an hour while my wife was at a doctor's appointment. My youngest son, Zachary was with me. He said, "Dad, can I have some of those nuts?"

"What nuts?'

"Those ones. Up there."

I didn't see them, so he marched up to the island in our kitchen and pulled down a plastic bag full of nuts. The bag contained walnuts, filberts, pecans and almonds. All of the nuts were in their shell. We never have nuts like this in our home. So, when I saw them I said, "Honey, we need a nutcracker to open these. I'm not sure that we have one." And, that's when the memory came.

When I was growing up I used to spend a lot of time at my Grandpa Art and Grandma Helen's home. Grandpa loved nuts, especially walnuts. Every time I went to their home there was a bag of walnuts sitting on the kitchen table. And, if you opened Grandma's cabinet drawer, there were two well worn silver nutcrackers. My Grandpa and I would sit at the table. We'd crack open walnuts, eat the nuts, and Grandpa would tell stories.

The stories were great. There was the adventure that Grandpa took on a train to a carnival nearby, where a carnival barker was furious with him for continually winning the carnival game and threw him out. There were the countless stories of what it was like growing up as a boy on Michigan farmland. There were the stories he'd tell me about what my mom was like as a little girl.

I am so blessed that the memories that I have of my growing up years are positive.

As a youth pastor I am continually reminded of just how blessed I am. Unfortunately, many of the students that I work with don't have pleasant memories of their homes, their relatives, or their childhood.

If God has blessed you with great memories, thank Him today. If not, resolve to give good memories to the people in your life.

Zachary and I managed to get one of those walnuts open. I'm glad. It's going to be a good memory for him someday.

"The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Choose Your Top 3 Book Link Is Now Live

A lot of you have been asking me about my book that will be released in August of 2006.

Zondervan has now put an author link and book link on their web site.

The author link can be accessed at

The book link is here:

I'd appreciate your prayers that God will use this project to be a blessing in the lives of others.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Advance Tickets To See Narnia

How would you like a chance to see Disney's new movie, Narnia - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, before all of your friends?

Wooddale Church has secured 1,000 advance tickets for the movie. You'll get a chance to view the movie before everyone else does -- at 6:45 the day before it comes out. That means you'll see the movie on Thursday, December 8. Everybody else has to wait until Friday, December 9. Tickets go on sale at Wooddale this Sunday.

Tickets are for the AMC Theaters - Eden Prairie Mall. Cost is $9/ticket.

If you've never read C. S. Lewis' masterpiece Narnia series, start with the book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. It's a phenomenal story, and the spritual parallels are remarkable. I'd recommend reading the book, seeing the movie, and then having a spiritual conversation with a seeking friend after you've seen the movie together.

Wooddale will be having a C. S. Lewis book club starting shortly after the film releases.

Consider it.

"The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."
Isaiah 11:6

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

26 Young Men

I was with 26 young men this past weekend in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin for The Emerge Conference. It was a conference that we created for the purpose of helping high school guys understand God's unique purpose for men.

What an incredible weekend! We spent time discussing the church, it's relevancy for today, the unique challenges that men face, and spiritual leadership. I was encouraged as these guys talked about their passion to be a part of God's redemptive work on planet earth.

There are several humorous moments that occur on a weekend retreat where there are no women around, and guys are free to just be guys.

Here are a few of them:

1) I have never smelled a worse smelling vehicle than our bus. A pungent odor was with us the entire weekend. It was our constant companion.

2) Guys who can hold their bladders for countless hours when women are around become wusses when no women are around. Just when one guy was feeling great, another would have to use the facilities.

3) Belching is expected, and sometimes confused as a spiritual gift.

4) Guys can flat out eat. $75 worth of junk food can evaporate in a matter of minutes.

5) Guys will still spend $5 to make back .50 in the quarter game that I used to play at county fairs as a little kid.

All The Time

When I lived in the South, pastors would often march up to the pulpit and pronounce, "GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME AND ALL THE TIME . . ."

Then with a gleam in their eyes they would look at the congregation and await their response. The congregation would respond, "GOD IS GOOD!"

As hokey as the ritual was, it was true. God is good, all the time.

All the time.

Recently, I have had several students question God's goodness with me. The questions have ranged from, "If God is so good, then why do bad things happen to good people?" to "I just don't get God. Why did he let this or that tragedy happen?" to "I don't feel like God has been good in my life."

Life is hard. There are difficult things that we will face throughout our lives. But, God's goodness does not depend upon our circumstances. Good is a descriptor of God. It's one of the reasons that we have to thank Him. 1 Chronicles 16:34 says, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever."

Sometimes we need help remembering just how good God is.

Here are five ways that God has demonstrated his goodness to us:

1. He hasn't given us what we deserve.
Who among us is worthy of God's mercy? If you answer that you are, you, my friend, struggle with self righteousness. Romans 6:23 tells us that what we deserve for the sin in our life is eternal separation from God. But, that God has offered us eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. We deserve death, but He offers us life.

2. He has given us today.
The air that you breathed when you woke up this morning was a gift from Almighty God. He loves you. He has given you an opportunity to make the most of today. He hasn't promised us tomorrow, but we have right now. No matter what your circumstance, our good God can use today to shape the rest of your life. Let Him have complete control over your day. Ask Him to give you divine moments. Look for the small things that He brings your way. Try to view every interaction with others as a moment that God has designed from before you were born. Those interactions with others are sacred moments.

3. He gave us Jesus.
The greatest gift ever given to this world is the gift of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says that, "God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Only He, who is ultimate good, would do something so sacrificial.

4. He ultimately desires the best for us.

The problem is, so many of us think that we know what is best for us better than God does. Ask the average American, and they'll tell you that the best for us would be a big house, nice car, good family. God's best has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with desiring Him. God, in His goodness, wants us to experience and love Him.

5. He loves like no other.
Some of the most beautiful passages in Scripture are the ones that describe the expressions of love that Jesus showed to those who rejected him.

Of a rich young ruler, who would ultimately reject Jesus, we read that, "Jesus looked at him and loved him." (Mark 10:21a)

Of a crowd that desperately needed the touch of a Savior we read, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd." (Mark 6:34)

To the disciple that was in the midst of betraying Him, Jesus said, "Friend, do what you came for." (Matthew 26:50)

I don't know what you're going through this week. But, I hope you'll remember God's goodness. He loves you so much.

An old children's song sums it up well . . .

God is so good
God is so good
God is so good
He's so good to me.
God loves me so
God loves me so
God loves me so
He's so good to me.
He cares for me
He cares for me
He cares for me
He's so good to me.
He died for me
He died for me
He died for me
He's so good to me.
He lives for me
He lives for me
He lives for me
He's so good to me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"I Need A Sign," "I Just Don't Feel God," and Other Tough Questions Students Ask

We call it Pizza and God Talk.

Of all of the ministries that Wooddale Senior High does, nothing is changing hearts as much as this one.

Every other week 40-80 students meet at a Uno's Restaurant in Edina, Minnesota to discuss what questions they have on their mind. If you want to read about the amazing history of Pizza and God Talk check out this link: You'll find an article about it on the Children and Youth page.

Last night's Pizza and God Talk brought up a couple questions that I hear often. They are important questions that students deal with all of the time. Because these qustions are so important I wanted to devote a bit of space to openly discuss these questions here.

Here are the questions in paraphrase form:

1) Brian, I have given up so much to follow God. And, I feel like God is silent. I just feel like I need God to give me some sign to show me that He's real. Why doesn't God do that?

2) Brian, I have been a Christian for a long time now. I have read through the entire Bible. I have read lots of Christian books. I just feel distant from God now. What do I need to do to feel God's presence in my life?

The rule at Pizza and God Talk is that students have to take turns answering the questions first, and then if they can't answer it, an adult takes a stab at it.

These types of questions are the toughest to answer. Why? Because we've all been there. We've all had times where God seems distant, where our faith grows cold, and where our spiritual lives seem more like monotany than vibrant relationship with God. But, let me suggest something that would be good for all of us to remember when we have these questions.

What is the common denominator behind these questions? It's that they view God through the lens of self rather than viewing self through the lens of God. We Christians are quick to foget just how much God has done for us. We're quick to forget the lessons that He has taught us. We want God to work like a supercomputer, giving us the answers to our prayers in lightning quick speed. We want Him to give us what we want, not what He knows we need. We want a the lessons that God is going to take a lifetime to teach us to be learned in a moment.

That's not how God works. He never has.

When it comes to asking God for signs, we're off base. It was only on a very few occassions in Scripture that God revealed Himself or His will through signs. Hebrews 11 is one of the greatest chapters in Scripture. It is the record of those who followed God by faith. Most of these characters never received a sign from God telling them exactly what God wanted.

Here's what God has given us. He gave us the Bible. His will for how we are to live our lives is recorded there. But, He also gave us more. He's not a cold hearted God who said, "Here, read, find out my will in a book."

John 1 tells us that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." God gave us God. The student who asked for a sign did so because he felt like he had given up so much. He wondered what God had done for him. The student had given up a lot. He had left behind a life that had held him captive for so long. There was a battle going on within the student that made him feel like maybe it wasn't worth it to have given up so much to follow God. But, it was. The student, viewing God from the lens of self, thought of all that he had to give up, and forgot all that God had to give up in order for the student to be forgiven. When reminded of God's supreme sacrifice, the student's need for a sign began to vanish. God had already given him everything he needed.

The next step for the student in finding the contenment that God wants him to experience is for him to begin to live his life the way that God designed him to live it -- to discover the unique purpose for which he was created. I began to share with the student the strengths that I see in him -- the natural and spiritual gifts that I believe that he has. And, I challenged him to use those gifts. He will never be fulfilled until he is living for his unique purpose. He needs something to take the place of that which he left behind when he followed Christ. He needs to live for what he was created for.

The student who followed Christ for so many years, read the Bible, etc. but felt distant from God also needed to discover his unique purpose. God has a great purpose for each one of us. This student grew up in a Christian home. He's been going to church since he was in his mother's womb. He knows so much about God. I told him that until he begins serving God in a purposeful way, he is going to be like the baseball player, who practices with his team every week, but never gets in the game. He sits on the bench, waiting for a chance to hit, but never has a chance to make an impact on the game. We're not going to feel God if we don't use the gifts that God has given us, and if we dont' take God up on God's challenge to us. Remember what Jesus said before he ascended into heaven?

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

When will we feel Christ's presence? When He is working in us to accomplish his purposes.

Want to feel Christ? Go out on a limb. Ask Him to use you to accomplish what you cannot accomplish on your own apart from Him. Then there will be no question as to whether or not God is really there.

Here are some of the other tough questions that students regularly ask at Pizza and God Talk.
- How do we know that Christianity is true and other religions aren't?
- Why do Christians act like jerks to homosexuals, people who have abortions, and people who don't agree with their political agenda?
- Why did God allow my (friend, parent, sibling, etc.) to die?
- Are the recent hurricanes God's judgement for the sin of those cities? (Incidentally I thought Diane Sawyer of ABC news answered that question well, when with another questions she said, "If Hurricane Katrina was God's judgement on New Orleans, then why was the French Quarter the only area of the city that was spared?")
- Is my (friend, relative, etc.) who wasn't a Christian burning in hell right now?
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:20b

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Happy Birthday Jeremy!

"Brian, I want you to look at me. We are not having this baby today! I may be in labor, but I can wait to deliver."

That's right, Jeremy. Your Mom wanted you to have your own special birthday.

Your sister Breanna had just celebrated her sixth birthday, and your brother Chris had just celebrated his fourth when you were born.

Oh, what a bundle of joy you were. I think you've had a smile on your face since the day you were born!

Jeremy, we love you so much.

Happy Seventh Birthday!!

It's been fun watching you grow up, and to see how much you love Jesus and others. We absolutely love your heart. Dad and Mom are proud of you.

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Breanna!

I'm trying. I really am. But, it's hard.

Okay, here goes.

Today, my daughter Breanna is a ttt

Just a second.

I know I can do it.

Today, my daughter Breanna is a ttteenager.

Okay. I did it. I said it.

Breanna is a teenager.

Breanna, where have the years gone? It seems like yesterday that Mom and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first child. We didn't know if you were going to be a girl or a boy. We were both just so excited that God had suprised us with a pregnancy. For nine months all we could talk about was this little child that God was going to bring into our family.

When you arrived -- WOW! Our world changed. Forever.

I didn't want to let you out of my arms. I would hold you from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I left for work. When I arrived back from the office, I'd rush to hold you in my arms again.

This morning, I held you again. You're a teenager now. There, that wasn't so hard to write that time. A teenager. I hugged a young woman who I am so proud of. You are a joy to parent. I constantly learn lessons from you. You challenge Mom and me with the love that you have for others, for God, and with your zest for life.

I love you, Breanna.

Happy Birthday. And, may you forever know, that your birth day made every day to follow so much better than the days that preceded it for your Mom and Dad.

I couldn't be more proud of a daughter than I am of you.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

Monday, October 31, 2005

What Would It Take?

This past Friday night I had an incredible time with my son Jeremy's first grade class. We were at a First Grade Family Pizza Party. My wife Cyndi was out of town, visiting her mom and sister, my daughter was at a church activity, and my oldest son was at a friend's home. So, it was just Jeremy, Zachary, Dad, and about 100 other people in the gym at Calvin Christian School.

Cyndi is one of the Room Moms in Jeremy's class. The room moms were in charge of the party, and since Cyndi couldn't be there, I was a room dad. Our job was to set up tables, decorate the room, and make sure that everyone was having a good time.

Midway through the party, I noticed that all of the kids were on one side of the gym looking a little bit bored. They had been playing basketball on a regulation sized basket. Keep in mind, these are first graders. They could have shot the ball at that basket all night long, and it wasn't going to go in. So, now, some of the kids thought they'd throw the balls at each other. Keep in mind, these are basketballs. Had it been dodgeballs, this could have been fun, but now kids were getting angry at each other. Tears were flowing down faces, but most of the parents were too busy to notice. Since I was without my spouse, I thought I'd go over and try to do an organized game with the kids.

The only game I could think of on the spare of the moment, considering the amount of kids that were present, was the game 500. Now, to the uninitiated in the blogosphere, the object of the game 500 is to do whatever it takes to get the ball that is thrown. The person throwing the ball yells out a certain number of points that each ball thrown is worth. The first person to catch 500 points worth of balls wins.

When I was in school, winning the game was prize enough. Why? Because it meant that you were the best. Of all of the other people catching balls that day on the playground, you were the best of the best.

Times have changed.

The children in that gym would have nothing to do with this game unless there was a prize. I had no prizes with me. So, I opened my wallet. I quickly defused the enthusiasm that the students had that they would be earning money for winning this game, when I announced that I was a pastor, and that I have no idea what money looks like. I showed them my empty wallet to prove it.

"But," I announced, "I do have THIS!"

I'm pretty sure that some kind of cool announcement music came over the school PA system at this point. It sounded like a heavenly anthem, "WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH."

"This my friends is a Qdoba Mexican Restaurant lunch punch card." (It was a card that requires 10 punches for a free lunch. Two of the punches had been punched in the past year.)

You would have thought that I had just pulled out of my wallet some serious cash. Every kid in the room wanted that card.

"100!" I shouted, and then threw the ball high in the air. A collision of bodies ensued in front of me.

A tall, lanky kid came out of the spontaneous mosh pit with a grin across his face, revealing that his two front teeth were missing.

"100!" I yelled again. The ball went in the air, and now a small little girl came out of the pile of bodies with ball in hand.

The scene replayed itself a dozen times or so before that tall, lanky, tooth challenged kid emerged victorious. To the victor went the spoils. I handed over my Qdoba card with 20% of the card punched, and the kids were feverish with anticipation over what the next prize that I would hand away would be.

By the time the night was through the kids had earned three restaurant cards similar to the Qdoba card, an expired Happenings card, a pen from the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sacremento, and an expired membership card to a video game store.

It's pretty amazing that children would compete with such intensity for such insignifcant prizes.

If the question for these kids had been, "What would it take to get you to participate with all of your strength in a game of 500?" The answer would have been some worthless prizes.

If the question, "What would it take to allow Jesus Chrsit to have control of our lives?" was given to us, I wonder how we would answer.

It seems to me that so many of us, myself included, are pursuing things in life that when it is all said and done, are as insignicant as the worthless items from my wallet that those first grade kids played their hearts out for. The wisest man to ever live was King Solomon. Despite his wisdom, Solomon made some horrible choices. At the end of his life, he was full of remorse for those choices. Writing once again from a place of wisdom Solomon wrote,

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."
Ecclesiastes 12:13
God, help us to remember that You are more valuable than anything this world has to offer. To remember, that the world, and all of it's trappings will pass away, but that the person who does Your will, will live forever. Help us to allow You to be the Ruler of our lives -- to stop trying to take control of our lives, and to allow You to change us in our very core. Thank You that trusting You will never result in us having regrets. Thank You that You alone are worthy of our praise, and that You alone are worthy to be trusted with our lives. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Happy Birthday Chris

It was eleven years ago today that my life changed forever. In a small hospital room in Fairfax, Virginia a beautiful baby boy was born. The moment I saw him, I knew that I would die for him. He brought tears to my eyes, a lump in my throat, my heart skipped a beat.

I am so proud of the young man that you are becoming. God is already using you to have an impact on your friends. Chris, Happy Birthday! I love you, Son.

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5-7

This Weekend's Parents in TUNE to Deal with Drugs

Parents In TUNE is a ministry of Wooddale Student Ministries.

This coming Sunday, November 6, Wooddale's Junior High Pastor, Heather Flies, Sargeant Randy Thompson from the Eden Prairie Police Department and I will be giving a presentation on Keeping Your Kids Off Of Drugs.

I regularly deal with families who have been through incredible pain because of the choices that their children have made in the area of drugs. If you are a parent of a pre-teen or teenager in the Twin Cities I encourage you to come out to this informative and challenging seminar.

It is free of charge and takes place between 6-8 p.m. in the Wooddale Church Chapel.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Pray for University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas

Yesterday was a terrible day for University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. University Baptist is an outstanding church. God has used this church to influence churches around the country in reaching young people for Jesus Christ. This is the home church of the David Crowder Band, a group of musicians that God has used to minister to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Yesterday, while standing in the baptismal pool, Senior Pastor Kyle Lake tried to adjust the microphone and was electrocuted. Here is a statement from the University Baptist Church website:

This morning, Sunday October 30th, our pastor Kyle Lake was involved in an accident during a baptism and was transported by EMS to a nearby hospital. Kyle passed away around 11:30am. Not only did we lose a pastor but we've lost our friend.
We are confident that Kyle is in heaven today because of his trust in Jesus Christ as his Savior.
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. “ -1 John 5:11-13
The family would like donations in lieu of flowers to be sent to University Baptist Church, the church that Kyle pastored and loved. You may send this to 1701 Dutton Avenue, Waco, TX 76706.
Please continue to keep the Lake family in your prayers.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

If Daddy Didn't Do This Right, We're All Gonna Die

The story you are about to read is true. Only the names of certain individuals have been withheld in order to protect their dignity, pride, identities, and all that stuff.

Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows that I am the most mechanically inept person that God ever created. It's not something I'm proud of. In fact, if I could shed that identity I'd like to. I want my boys to be able to learn how to fix a lawnmower, repair their own bikes, work on the car, build cabinets, and remodel a home.

So, today, I took a step. It wasn't a huge step, but it was a step. My wife's brakes had been squeeking, and a friend told her that he could show me how to replace the brake pads in our van. Excited about this opportunity to replace my ineptitude with competence, I took my friend up on his offer. I stopped by Checker Auto Parts yesterday, picked up some brake pads, and this morning at 9:10 arrived at the door of my friend's home, ready to take on the challenge of replacing our brake pads.

The job started out well. A hub cap was removed, then a tire, then the housing for our brakes, then the brake pads. I opened my box of brand spankin' new brake pads and handed my friend two of the pads. He quickly and skillfully put one of them on, showing me how it was done, and then I put on the next. Within a few minutes the tire was back on and we were replacing the brake pads on the other side.

It was then that what was our only real mistake was revealed. Brake pads have an idicator that tells you when your pads are wearing too thin and that you should replace them. Every set of two should have one pad with an indicator and one without. This side had two with, which meant that the other side didn't have any. After a couple minutes of trying to convince ourselves that it really wasn't that important, we did the prudent thing and went back to the side that we had already changed. My friend removed the hubcap, removed the tire, removed the housing, and then we took off one of the brake pads, replacing it with the correct brake pad.

Now with the correct brake pads on both sides of the van, our job was nearly complete. We put the tires back on, and I was ready to roll.

Something about this job seemed wrong to me. It had been too easy. We had only made one mistake. I should have known that it couldn't be this easy. I had jokingly told my two youngest kids, before we arrived at my friends home that, "If Daddy and (NAME WITHHELD FOR HIS PROTECTION) didn't do this job correctly we'd all die." I know. Not the best thing to tell a six-year-old and a four-year-old, but hey, I like the dramatic.

It was now time to drive away. Husband, Father, Pastort, Car Mechanic. I was ready to add a new title to my repetoire. As I put my boys in the car, Jeremy said, "Zachary, we're all going to die if Daddy didn't do this job right."

"Jeremy, Daddy and (NAME WITHHELD) did it just fine. We're not going to die."

Insert key.


Engine roars to life.

Shift into reverse.

This is where the story gets a little bit scary. If your stomach gets queezy, stop reading now.

My friends driveway is a little bit like the streets of San Francisco. It's steep. And that is an understatement.

We begin our descent. My foot covers the brake pad. My foot pushes the brake pad. My foot goes down to the floor. My van does not slow down. I PANICK!!!!

Praise God there were no children or cars coming.

My van was not stopping. What had we done wrong? What was I going to do.

My van is now moving at a good clip, and I can't stop it. I try to steer to avoid trees as the van now begins to descend the hill of the home opposite of my friends home. I was halfway up their hill, with no signs up stopping, predicting that my van was about to become a pendulum swinging back and forth between my friends driveway and his neighbor's yard. Finally I remembered the emergency brake. I hit it. And our van stopped. I then put the van in neutral, coasted back into the street and walked straight to my friend's door.

(NAME WITHHELD)! It didn't work!


With soothing calmness he remembered what we had not done. We needed to pump the brake a few times to make sure that the pressure was back into the brakes.

No big deal. No one hurt. And, a great story.

Isn't it great to know that we never have to worry about our Heavenly Father ever screwing up a job? He is infallible. I know, it's one of those traits that sometimes bothers us about God. It makes Him tough to relate to. But, maybe that's part of the point. I wouldn't really want a God who makes mistakes. And, I don't want a God who I can totally relate to like I would one of my best friends. There has to be some mystery about the Holy One! It's what makes Him God.

God, thanks for Your protection today. You didn't have to grant that. Thanks for good friends who are willing to help keep repair bills low. Thanks for your unfailing love. And thanks for reminding me that You are perfect and I am not. And, I don't have to be. Thanks for loving me just the way that I am, but not be content to leave me this way. You just might make a mechanic out of me yet.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deuteronomy 32:4

Friday, October 28, 2005

Pray for Dwayne

He was just a few miles from the Denver Broncos Training Facility when two cars traveling in the opposite direction crossed the median of the highway and met Dwayne Carswell's car head on. It was rush hour on this busy stretch of Interstate and Dwayne had no way to avoid the crash. His vehicle hit the others with such force that his driver's side door was literally torn off. Dwayne suffered major internal injuries. He remains in intensive care, but will recover. Dwayne, a Guard for the Broncos, and former Pro Bowl Tight End will not play again this year.

Dwayne was a college classmate of mine. I was actually his RA his freshman year at Liberty Univerity. My wife worked with him in the college post office. I haven't spoken to Dwayne since college, but I've followed his 12 year NFL career with interest.

Woud you join me in praying for Dwayne? Pray that God will heal his body, and that Dwayne will use this time to reach out to God. I'm praying that Dwayne will become passionate about Christ.

If you'd like to send Dwayne "Get Well Wishes" you may do so by visiting the Denver Broncos web site. It is located at

To see how Dwayne's teammates are responding to this tragedy visit:

Go To Ebay And Bid On This Game

One of you should go to ebay and bid on this item:

My father-in-law gave us this game last Christmas, and it has become my family's favorite game. I know it sounds hokie, but you really ought to check it out.

If you read this after the auction has ended, never fear. I found 203 copies of the game available on ebay at this link:

It's a fun family game night. Give it a try.

Summer of 2006 Mission Trips To Be Announced on Sunday

Wooddale Worldwide Week has started, and in two days we will be announcing the Wooddale Senior High Summer Missions Trips of 2006! I can't wait. As a youth pastor I have seen God use these trips to change the lives of students every single time we've taken one. This year will be no exception.

The announcement takes place at ten:fifteen, our Sunday morning program.

An informational meeting for all interested students, parents, and potential mission trip staff takes place on Wednesday, November 16, at 6:00 p.m. in the Wooddale's Room 207. Don't miss it!

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
Romans 1:11, 12

Read This

I get asked questions all of the time about the Emerging Church movement. Brian McLaren recently talked about seven layers of emerging churches. Maybe your church is more emerging than you thought. Check it out:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

James MacDonald on Emergent

For a fascinating discussion on the Emerging Church movement, and why James MacDonald is not emerging check out: The feedback on the blog is fascinating. Author and speaker Scott McKnight's response to MacDonald is most interesting. You can read his response, and James MacDonald's response back here:

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

Rosa Parks

She passed away on Monday after 92 years on this earth.

Rosa Parks was a remarkable woman. Her bold choice to not give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955 took place long before I was born, but her impact on this caucasion pastor will never be forgotten.

There are so many things that I appreciate about Ms. Parks. But, the thing that impressed me the most was the conviction and the integrity with which she lived her life.

The racial divide between people of color and caucasions is far from over. May we, as the church of Jesus Christ be all the more determined to see that divide minimized.

This past summer a fundraiser was held in Minneapolis to raise funds for churches in the urban core to hire youth workers, develop youth programs in churches, and come alongside of the churches in North Minneapolis. The fundraiser was designed to raise over $1 million. When all was said and done, the project only raised 4% of its goal, raising $40,000.

Did you know that there are over 100 churches in North Minneapolis, and only one full-time youth worker for all of those churches? The church I serve in the suburbs of Minneapolis has the equivalent of five full time youth workers. Join me in praying that God will provide youth workers and funds for the churches of North Minneapolis.

Why is this such an urgent need? North Minneapolis has the highest crime rate in our cities. Last year, eight students from North High School in Minneapolis were gunned down. The need in the cities is great, and the church must confront it.

May we follow the example of those who believed that all men were created equal, and that the dignity of each person was important and worth fighting for.

For information on how you can make a difference in North Minneapolis check out the website for Urban Reclaim at

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

James 2:1-5

Grandpa Would Have Loved This Day

He was just a boy the last time it happened. The year was 1917. The Chicago White Sox were the toast of the town. And, Grandpa, he was a fan. He absolutely loved baseball. I can imagine his excitement at his home town team winning the World Series. I wonder if he ever thought about the fact that the Sox, or the Cubs for that matter would never win a Series again in his lifetime.

My Grandpa's dad was a Chicago cop. I never met my great-grandpa. I wonder if his duties as an officer required him to be a part of the security detail at the world's greatest sporting spectacle - the 1917 World Series. I wonder if he had sercurity duty at the 1919 World Series. That series will forever be remembered as the series that the Chicago White Sox threw, resulting in the banning from baseball for life of 8 players. I wonder if Grandpa's heart broke when the 1959 White Sox couldn't erase the ghosts of 1919.

I remember Grandpa telling me once about watching Babe Ruth play in person. He told me that his favorite ball player to watch was Lou Gehrig. He had even taken home movies of Gehrig and told me that he'd show them to me one day. It never happened. I think he disposed of a lot of his home movies when he moved from his home in Wheaton to his apartment. I'd sure love to see those films now.

Grandpa was a bigger Cub fan than a Sox fan. He loved going to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play. For a time, he was the Senior Pastor of Addison Street Baptist Church. The church is located just blocks down the street from Wrigley. In the year's he pastored Addison Street, he was able to go to as many games as he wanted for free. Clergy didn't have to pay for ball games back then. It was one of the perks for making so little money. Some of his best visitation with church members happened in the bleachers of Wrigley Field.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when just one day after having my wisdom teeth removed my Grandpa called me to tell me that he had received four box seats to Wrigley Field. He wondered if I'd go with him. The only thing that would have made me leave my bed that day was a chance to see Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson play in person. I was there. And today, it's not seeing my baseball heroes that I remember. It's sitting next to my Grandpa, with his arm around me, and his stories of baseball. I miss those days.

Last night, the Chicago White Sox did it! Led by their feisty manager, Ozzie Guillen, who my Dad took me to see when I was a boy, the Sox erased 88 years of futility. A four game sweep of the Houston Astros and the White Sox are champions of the world.

I'm a Cub fan, but this feels good. Maybe next year the Cubs will make it happen. For now, I'm happy for the City of Chicago.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Rake and Run

It's called Rake and Run.

The concept: Get a bunch of people together, make sure that they bring rakes and trash bags, pick a neighborhood at random, and bless them by raking their lawns.

It's that time of year again in Minnesota. While most of the country is enjoying the brilliance of fall colors, Minnesotans are raking up the leaves that we were admiring on our trees a few weeks ago. It is nature's final reminder that winter is just around the corner.

Last night, a group of 150 students and staff from Wooddale Senior High embarked on several homes in Eden Prairie, Hopkins and Minnetonka and raked the lawns of unsuspecting homeowners. I was so proud of the way that our students represented Christ. My e-mail inbox has already been buzzing with e-mails of gratitude for the service that these students provided.

Our Senior Pastor, Leith Anderson, if fond of reminding us that whatever we do, make God look good. Our students did that last night. From a family with newborn quads, to a family that just lost their dad, to the homes in the neighborhood near church, you were a blessing! Great job last night! God is using you, Wooddale Senior High. I'm proud of you!

He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel 2:21

Significant Conference Taking Place Today in Washington D.C.

There is a major conference taking place today in Washington D. C. that seeks to set an agenda for helping America's youth for the next several years.

You can access live coverage of the conference at This conference stems from President Bush's State of the Union address in which he addressed the issue of America's troubled youth. The conference has brought together some of the top religious, educational, social and civic leaders in America who are on the frontlines of working with and researching youth.

The conference is worth taking a look at.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Prayer Requests

Two of our Wooddale Student Ministries families are hurting today.

On Tuesday, the Heinitz family lost their mom, Kate. Please pray for Krista, a senior at Jefferson High School, and Jake, a sophomore at Jefferson. Our hearts and prayers are with them.

Tuesday was also a horrible day for the Griggs family as well. Briana (13), Desirae (11), and Madeline (8) lost their dad, Cliff. Pray for Cliff's wife Beth as well. Please keep these two precious families in your prayers today.

Funerals will take place next Monday and Tuesday.

My help comes from You, O Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Here's Muffy!

So, here's a picture of our new puppy.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

When Life Gets Too Busy

You might be too busy if . . .

Go ahead and answer that question in my comment section. I'd love to hear what you come up with.

The fall of 2005 may forever be remembered as one of the busiest times of my life. It's been a couple of months since my last update, so let me give you a few highlights from the past couple of months.

New Family Member(s)

My brother Kevin and his wife Melissa welcomed their new daughter Rebecca JoElaine into the world last Friday, October 21st. That makes Cyndi and me and Aunt or Uncle for the twelfth time. Congratulations Kevin and Melissa.

We welcomed a little dog named Kristi into our family August 27th. She was a mix between a beagle and I'm pretty sure a doberman, although the pet adoption agency told us it was a dauschound. After assuring us that Kristi was great with children and cats, and a great ride home, Kristi turned into Cujo! After biting three family members, and threatening a lot of visitors, Kristi went back to the adoption agency.

Then, last weekend, Muffy joined our family. She is officially Christopher's dog, but we all like to claim her. Muffy is beautiful little Sheltie pup. She is four months old, and so incredibly sweet. She belonged to my brother Randy and his family, but they had to let her go due to allergies. So, we had the double blessing last weekend of seeing Randy, Lori, Joy and Matt, and falling in love with a new little pet. I'll post pictures soon.


It's been an incredible fall with Breanna now a junior higher, Chris a fifth grader, Jeremy in first grade, and Zach in his last year of preschool. Breanna is loving the junior high youth group at church. That's not too tough when you have the best junior high pastor in America for a youth pastor! Chris is loving his new dog. He is also tearing through book after book, recently scoring the second highest person at his entire school in reading (amount of books read, and test scores on the books he has read). He's a lot like his mom that way. JJ is loving first grade. He is reading so well too, and he loves sports. Zachary loves the time that he gets with mom alone, now that his older brother is in school full time, five days a week.


Things are going very well at church. Our fall retreat was one of the highlights of my time in ministry. Nine students made commitments to Jesus Christ. Many of them were students that I have been praying for for a long time. God is absolutely transforming their lives.

So far, 16 students have made commitments to Jesus since the school year started. Pizza and God Talk, our ministry that happens after the Garage on Wednesday nights where students can ask whatever questions that they want about God continues to grow. The questions that the students ask are extraordinary.


My book will be published by Zondervan in August of 2006. It's been a fun process to see it come together. In the past few weeks I've been able to see the cover design and was interviewed by Zondervan for a CD that their sales reps listen to and play for bookstore owners. I can't wait to see the book released.


I've been speaking at a number of conferences this fall. I was in Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Alexandria, Minnesota in October. I'll be in Wisconsin Dells, WI and Nashville in November. Then, I have some time off. I'm looking forward to being home more!


We'll be announcing our Summer Missions trips to students on Sunday. I'll be travelling to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in January. It will be my first time to Honduras. Please pray for Central America. Hurricane Stan dropped a tremendous amount of rainfall on the region, and then an earthquake caused devastating mudslides. Many people in the Lake Atitlan region, where our trip goes almost every year, were killed. One entire village has been declared a cemetary. Over 400 bodies are buried deep in the mud. I've been in regular contact with Jaime Lopez, our missionary in Guatemala. I am concerned for him too. His wife Doris had surgery to remove her gall bladder on October 3, and now will be having surgery to have a lump removed from her breast. They have been through it. Jaime is like a brother to me. We have spent much time together, and it hurts to see him going through so much.

How strange is this weather that we've been seeing around the world? Paul Douglas, the meteorologist for WCCO news in Minneapolis says that he has never seen weather phenomenon like we are experiencing. It's bizzare.

Well, that's a little bit of an update. I'll update more regularly.

Behold, You who form the mountains and create the wind, And reveal Your thoughts to people; You turn dawn to darkness, And tread the high places of the earth - The Lord God of hosts is Your name.
Amos 4:13

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Velvet Elvis Followup

Rob Bell answers a lot questions about the criticism that has been hurled his way in his Sepember 11, 2005 sermon. You can download the sermon at If you're reading Velvet Elvis, it would be good to hear Rob's response so the criticism for yourself. He answers it 30 minutes and 32 seconds into the sermon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rite of Passage

There are certain rites of passage that every boy must go through on his journey into adulthood. My eldest son, Christopher, went through one of those rites of passage on Monday night. And, for me, it was pure delight to walk throught it with him. Chris learned how to mow the lawn.

It began with a lesson on clearing the lawn of hazards before you begin mowing. Lesson two was taking the lawnmower out of the garage without injuring yourself on anything that is found in the destructive path between where the mower is stored and the end of the garage. We created a path through the six bicycles, snow blower, basketballs, baseball bats, and other items that were in the way, and without injury or damage to our van, got the mower out. That was a major accomplishment in and of itself. Lesson number three invovled checking the oil and gasoline levels in the mower. We filled the mower up, and then the real fun started.

"Can I start it, Dad?"

"Sure, give it a shot."

Pull, Pull, Pull -- Nothing.

The mower wouldn't start.

"See that button in the front of the mower? The one that says, 'Primer?' Press it three times and try again."


He presses the primer and then moves back into location. PULL, PULL, PULL -- Nothing.

"Should I try pressing the primer button again?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

He presses the primer and then moves back into location. His face now showing the frustration I've seen on dozens of other young men in my life.


The eyes now fill with delight. Boy turns into young man as he now controls the powerful machine.

"Dad, what do I do now?"

"I'll mow the first row, you can mow the second. For now, can you pull the weeds by the flower planters?"


I've never seen him so excited about pulling weeds. I take my turn behind the mower and begin to mow the first row. I realize that for the next several years my opportunities to do this are going to be less than they've been in the past. For Chris is motivated by the lucrative $5 prize that awaits him at the end of this task.

"Okay, Dad, I finished the weeds. Can I mow now?"

"Sure, Buddy."

I hand over the controls to my son. And, I watch him grow up before my eyes. A big smile comes across his face. He could try to hold it in, but it would be futile. He's proud. Proud to be in control of the machine. Proud of the fact that his parents trust him with such a big task.

Truth be told, I worry every time he comes to the part of the yard where he has to push the mower up hill. What if he can't do it? He does just fine. What if he gets hurt? He doesn't. What if he gets so good that he doesn't need me?

The mulch bag on the mower fills up.

"Dad, what do I do now?"

He still needs me. I show him how to empty the bag. It's too heavy for him to pour it into our yard waste bucket.

"Dad, can you help?"

My son still needs me. And, he needs me for much more than lawn mowing lessons. He needs me to teach him how to live a godly life. To be a man of character in a world that is pushing against him. He needs me to tell him that I love him, that I believe in him, that nothing in the world could ever make me stop loving him.

Lord, help me to be the kind of Dad who radiates You; the kind of Dad who helps my kids to see that no matter how old they get, how mature they are, how confident they are, how much they know -- that they will always need You. Help me to live a life of total reliance upon my Heavenly Father. And thank you for trusting me with the mower, and being there for me even when I think I don't need you. Thank you for loving me, God.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is a book that I recommend to so many mom's and wive's to help them understand the men in their lives. I'm told that this book does the same thing for men in regard to women.

So, I'm just starting to read it too. My sister loves this book and I can't wait to see what I learn about the women in my life through the reading of it. If you're reading it, I'd love to know what you think about it, and if you agree or disagree with what John and Stasi Eldredge say.

The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus

Students in our ministry know that I love this book. I gave away 20+ copies of it in the spring. I'm rereading this book, and challenged again by the call to live faith, the barbarian way.

Erwin McManus pastors, Mosaic, in Los Angeles, California. This church is reaching young adults like few churches do. 80% of the 5,000 attendees of Mosaic are in their 20s or below. McManus' message resonates with them, and it resonates with me. Check it out.

It's published by Nelson Books.

Faith of My Fathers by Chris Seay

Chris Seay has been one of the pastors at the forefront of the emerging church movment for some time. His new book Faith of My Fathers is a fascinating look into the way three generations of pastors think about church, ministry and culture.

Chris' grandfather served as a pastor for years. His father is still a pastor. His two brothers are also involved in ministry. The book is basically a transcript of the conversations that these men had on the following issues:

The Inner Life
Jerks in Ministry
Government and Politics
Social Issues
Racial Issues
Being Yourself

The book is supposed to be released September 1, but our bookstore already had them in stock. I had a hard time putting it down when I picked it up. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you read.

The book is published by Zondervan.

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

I'm only through the first four chapters, but WOW! I love this book. What a great reminder to me that I am a part of God's story, and that life doesn't revolve around me. Chapter three has some great insights into God's call on Moses' life. I love these words from that chapter:

"God was telling Moses: I AM the center of everything. I AM running the show. I AM the same every day, forever. I AM the owner of everything. I AM the Lord. I AM the Creator and Sustainer of life. I AM the Savior. I AM more than enough. I AM inexhaustible and immeasurable. I AM God. In a heartbeat, Moses knoew God's name - and something more. He finally knew his. For if God's name is I AM, Moses' name must be I am not. I am not the center of everything. I am not in control. I am not the solution. I am not all-powerful. I am not calling the shots. I am not the owner of anythying. I am not the Lord."

The book is published by Multnomah. Buy it. It's worth the cost.


Inspired writing. Literally.

The second book of the Torah is challenging me in new ways.

Last week I reread the story of Moses and the burning bush. After reading the story in my personal devotions, I read what two authors thought about the account in their books. What amazing insight into our God. Check it out.

Velvet Elvis

To say that Rob Bell's first book Velvet Elvis is creating quite the controversy would be the understatement of the year. Some are calling him a heretic, some are calling him refreshing. What do you think? The book is definitely worth a read. It has created some strong feelings in me. I'll be writing a comprehensive review about the book later this month. For now, if you've read it, or are starting to read it, please leave your thoughts in the comment section of this post.

Read With Me

I love to read. But, I read kind of wierd. I am usually reading several books at once. Over vacation my wife, brother and sister-in-law spent a couple hours talking about Rob Bell's new book Velvet Elvis. It was two hours of stimulating conversation. While talking it occured to me that there are probably a lot of people who would love to talk about what it is they are reading.

So, I want to give you a chance to do that.

I'm reading six books right now. Some of them are changing me. Some are making me mad. Some are making me think about things that I've not spent enough time thinking about it. Here's what I'm going to do. Each time I begin the process of reading a book, I'm going to put that book title, and sometimes a picture of that book in this blog. I will respond to the book by editing my posts as I get around to it. You can respond with your thoughts about the book by putting a comment in the post about that book. Other readers to this blog will respond back to your comments. This could be fun!

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15

Vacation Pictures


Cyndi, the kids and I just got back from a fabulous vacation last night. How fun it was to have ten days together as a family.

The highlights . . .

  • Seeing family. I had a chance to spend time with all but one of my siblings and my mom and dad. It's always great to see the people that you love when you live so far away. We spend two nights with mom and dad, and a week at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Muskegon, Michigan with my brother Mark and his family.
  • Time together. Life is busy, and our family never seems to have enough time together. It was great to unwind, play dozens of games of miniature golf, swim, lie on the beach, body surf, eat meals together, and worship together.
  • Worshipping at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan and First Baptist Church in Geneva, Illinois. It's great to be part of the body of Christ.
  • Talking. We spent hours talking about everything from wave runners to theology.
  • Reading. I love to read, and was able to spend time reading four books. See my next entry for more on that.
  • Holding Hands. I spend time holding each of my children's hands this week. I'd hold their hands as we walked on the beach, on the sidewalks, in church, on a trail . . . it was awesome! I wonder how many more years I'll be able to do that. I also got to hold my wife's hand as we walked the beach, the conference grounds, as we drove across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. I love that woman.
  • Go Carts. Craig's Cruisers in Muskegon, Michigan. All I can say is "Thank You."
  • Birthdays. Happy Birthday Britney and Melissa.
  • Sleep. We all slept in. Zachary slept 'til 11:15 on day! That's a new record.
  • Sunsets. There is nothing in the world like a Lake Michigan Sunset. Wow!
  • Blimp Over Sears Tower. I love the Chicago Skyline, and this year we were treated to the treat of the Good Year Blimp hovering over the skyline as we drove through the city.
  • God's Suprises - For the second year in a row, our room was upgraded at no cost. We stayed in one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever been in.
  • Exodus. Read it. It's in the Bible.

"Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. To him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever. Who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever. Who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever."

Psalm 136:3-6

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Digitial Camera Scavenger Hunt

Last Wednesday night our students participated in a Digital Camera Scavenger Hunt after DIVE. Here are a few of their pictures. Enjoy.

"being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Philippians 1:6

.mp3 of my sermon on Money and Power

You can download the .mp3 of the talk I gave at Wooddale Church's Mosaic service on August 2, at The sermon dealt with the topic of money and power.

"To aspire to leadership is an honorable ambition."
1 Timothy 3:1

Monday, August 08, 2005

Changed Forever Update

A few posts back I wrote about how God worked through our summer movie teaching series to change the lives of some students forever. After teaching our lesson on The Fantastic Four, four students invited Jesus Christ to become Lord of their lives. It was their changed forever moment.

Kevin Franske, Wooddale's Senior High Program Assistant, told me before our series began that Ralph Winter, the Executive Producer of The Fantastic Four was a believer. Ralph had spoken to Bethel University students in the spring about God and Hollywood. Kevin has corresponded on and off with Ralph ever since.

Last week I felt impressed to let Ralph know about how God had used the trailer for his movie as a teaching tool to lead some to Christ. Here is Ralph's response:

What incredible news. I am truly moved by this. What an amazing God we serve that He chooses to use whatever we have in hand for His purposes. I am humbled to be a part of His process with those students. Thank so much for your support in prayer.

Let's keep Ralph Winter, and other believers in Hollywood in our prayers. Ralph has an opportunity to impact millions of people through his movies. He is currently filming X-Men 3, and has been the producer in every one of the X-Men Movies, Star Trek III, IV, V, VI, Mighty Joe Young, Inspector Gadget, Planet of the Apes, and many more.

"Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love."
Ephesians 6:24

Weekend Memories

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. Life has been crazy. Last week I spoke five different times. Each occasion was unique, and it was fun to watch God work. We leave for vacation this Thursday, and I can't wait! We'll be driving to Chicago on Thursday night, and then to to Michigan on Saturday morning.

This past weekend was a special one for the Schulenburgs. We drove a couple of hours north of the Twin Cities to the cabin of some of our dear friends. It was there that I saw a new side to our four-year-old son, Zachary. Our friends own a couple of wave runners and a boat. Zachary has shown himself to be quite the young daredevil. He loves speed. I put him in front of me on the waverunner, and after an initial 30 seconds or so of trepidation, Zachary said, "Daddy, go faster!" I went faster and faster until the waverunner could go no faster. That wasn't good enough for him. He still wanted to go faster. He giggled the entire time.

The next day, while watching his Breanna and Chris tube, he insisted on going on the tube. He loved it.

We had a great time at our friend's cabin. Jeremy caught nine fish on Saturday morning, using only a string and a stick -- two rock bass and seven sunnies.

When we arrived back home Saturday night we had a chance to catch up with some of our best friends from our days in the Quad Cities. Mary Walas, a young woman that Cyndi started discipling when she was in seventh grade spent the night with us. She is now in college, and it was ironic to think that Cyndi started discipling Mary at the same age that Breanna is now. I pray that Breanna will have that type of relationship with a mentor in her life. It was awesome catching up with Mary about a place and people that we love very much.

I preached at Wooddale's new daughter church, City Church on Sunday morning. It is always fun to see the joy and ownership that those involved in a church plant have. What a great morning.

Cyndi's parents arrived for a quick overnight stay yesterday afternoon. We had a great time hanging out, catching up, and eating out. We ate dinner at Ray's Azteca Mexican restaurant in Chanhassen. I'd heard about this restaurant from another Wooddale pastor. Wow, was it good! They had a mariachi band and it felt like we were at a Mexican celebration. We had a blast. Last night we played the Schulenburg's favorite game -- Sold! You'll have to ask me about it sometime.

Weekends like that are tough to top. It was so nice. Kind of makes me long for the days when I'm spending eternity in my Father's house . . .

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
John 14:2-3

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Disappearing Shed

It's going away. The Chesholm Lane neighborhood is breathing a collective sigh of relief as the shed that has for the past two years stood decaying in our backyard is being torn down. It began as a dream. My teenage neighbors on either side of our home had always dreamed of building a giant fort. This fort was to be constructed entirely of wood that they collected while diving into the dumpsters at construction sights. Neither boy was allowed to build this fort on their own property. Their parents knew better. We didn't. We said, "Sure, go ahead. Build the fort." And, boy, did they. The fort was constructed as large as it could be without securing a building permit. It has a spot to hold a video projector, a screen to watch movies, and a carpeted loft. And, it was never sided. So, for two years our shed has been decaying. I never had the heart to tell the boys it needed to come down. I guess I always thought the fort would eventually fall down. It has withstood major storms, Minnesota winters, hail, snow, teenagers and it has stood strong. It has a very strong foundation.

Last night we began Operation Demolition. The entire roof of the structure was removed. It was so much fun to watch it come down. The fort will be a distant memory next week. But for now, shed a tear as my neighborhood eyesore goes away.

"I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
Luke 6:47-49

Monday, July 11, 2005

Pizza, Pictures and God Talk

If you were a part of Project Colorado, Washington D.C., or OGES make sure that you make plans to attend Pizza, Pictures and God Talk following DIVE this Wednesday night. We'll be talking about what God did on the trips this Wednesday night at DIVE and then meeting at Uno's Pizza in Edina to talk about God, look at pictures, eat and hang out. See you there!

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day apporoaching."
Hebrews 10:25

Kaila Fagerstrom to Share Faith Story

Kaila Fagerstrom, a senior at Eden Priaire High School and a member of our medical team on OGES will be sharing her faith story at all of the services of Wooddale Church this weekend. I hope you can make it to one of the services to hear how God used this trip to impact Kaila's life. Be praying for Kaila as she prepares to share what God taught her.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."
Romans 1:16

Changed Forever

Well, we're back from Guatemala and El Salavdor, and the past two weeks have been life changing, but I want to share something exciting that happened yesterday. Our flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis had been delayed the night before, meaning that by the time I got home and started a load of laundry it was 4:00 a.m. After 2 1/2 hours of sleep, I was pumped to finally get to spend time with our students that were a part of Project Colorado. These are our students who are entering high school. Their trip left two weeks before OGES and came back the day we left. So, it's been a full month since I've seen them. They were full of energy yesterday as ten:fifteen, our Senior High Sunday education hour began. The lesson I taught yesterday was the final lesson in our Summer Movie Series. Each year we take five blockbuster summer films and develop lessons about spiritual truth based upon the theme of the movie. Yesterday's lesson was on The Fantastic Four - Changed Forever. The trailer from the movie talks about five people whose lives are changed forever. The tag line is one will be bad, four will be fantastic.

During the lesson, I asked our students to answer the following question: When were you changed forever? We talked about 2 Corinthians 5:17, and God's desire to take us, wherever we are, and conform us to his image. At the end of the lesson, four students prayed to begin their journey with Jesus Christ! What an exciting way to begin a new chapter of ministry, with a new group of students. We saw hundreds of people come to know Christ in Guatemala, but my heart rejoiced as I watched those hands slip up in Minnesota. Please pray for these students as they begin their new journey of faith. They will surely be tested in the next few weeks. I pray that in twenty years they will be able to point to yesterday as the day that they were changed forever.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, July 07, 2005

His Love Endures Forever

Early in our OGES trip I read Psalm 136 to our students. I encouraged them to look for ways that God has shown that His love endures forever on this trip.

Here is my attempt.

When there is no sleep the night before the trip,
His love endures forever.

When the airplane rises and falls without fail,
His love endures forever.

When the luggage all arrives without a hitch,
His love endures forever.

When you see the smiling Guatemalan faces,
His love endures forever.

When you see the majesty of the Guatemalan mountains,
His love endures forever.

When the joyful sounds of singing reign throughout the bus,
His love endures forever.

When the skies above the rainforest open with thunderous praise,
His love endures forever.

When the majesty of waterfalls and natural pools become the playground of students,
His love endures forever.

When the buses pull into Campur,
His love endures forever.

When the bricks go up the mountainside,
His love endures forever.

When the patient sees her first doctor,
His love endures forever.

When the puppets make a child smile,
His love endures forever.

When your basketball competition is ten years younger,
His love endures forever.

When the arms are raised after mimes perform,
His love endures forever.

When the Holy Spirit works through a team,
His love endures forever.

When the muddy path is a source of laughter not injury,
His love endures forever.

When the tire blows and no one is injured,
His love endures forever.

When the medicine cannot cross the border,
His love endures forever.

When awakened each night and drawn to pray,
His love endures forver.

When God works through our imperfections,
His love endures forever.

When the volcanos rise above the clouds,
His love endures forever.

When the Lord takes care of even the dogs,
His love endures forever.

When the predicted illness does not come,
His love endures forever.

When the doctor becomes the actor,
His love endures forever.

When light is brought into the darkness,
His love endures forever.

When the interpreters bridge the cultural divide,
His love endures forever.

When students see God´s miracles,
His love endures forever.

When students cannot see His hand at work,
His love endures forever.

When drunk men find hope in a godly group,
His love endures forever.

When families without hope receive it anew,
His love endures forever.

When we see how much we´re blessed,
His love endures forever.

From the rising to the setting sun,
His love endures forever.

OGES Report Number Three - In Their Own Words

There are many special moments that take place on the Operation Guatemala/El Salvador trip. Not the least of which are our team times. These moments together allow us to process what God has done throughout the day, worship God, laugh, cry, and learn about each other. One of the best parts of this year's team time has been what our Guatemalan and El Salvadorian friends have shared with us. Today, I thought I'd share some of their words with you.

Caleb has been an interpreter with us on our past few trips. He is a young man who God has used to bless our team in many ways. He is passionate about his relationship with Christ and about bridging the cultural divide between U.S. Citizens and Central Americans. During our team time last night, Caleb shared that he had been suffering from depression for about three months. Our team brought him new hope. He said that he had smiled for the first time in months and remembered what was truly important in life. He is excited about going back to Guatemala City with a renewed vision for reaching others.

Paola is a young El Salvadorian woman who has worked with our medical team in clinics. She has been stationed in our outtake deparment and prays with every patient leaving the clinic. The other day I heard that she had actually prayed with 18 patients to receive Christ. What an evangelist. Paola has challenged her fellow El Salvadorian's to be involved in ministry. At our team time she said, "We are the one's who should be doing what these American students have come to do." She was encouraged by our team and what happened here. You know what? I think our kids were more encouraged by her than we were to her. She demonstrated what it means to take a risk with sharing Christ within your own culture. May we be as involved with ministry when we get back as we have been here.

Dr. Byron is our team physician. He has been with us since we landed at the airport in Guatemala City. I have been so impressed with the tender care that he has taken with each patient that he has seen. For most of the trip he was our only doctor, seeing hundreds of patients, and he did it with a quiet dignity and utmost respect for each patient. He speaks no English, but has tried his best to not let that hinder his involvement with the team. Highly educated, he gave up two weeks at his clinic to serve the Lord on the mission field of his own country. Sunday was an off day for the clinic, and Dr. Byron had a chance to join our basketball and mime team for their game. He was so moved by our mime. At team time last night Dr. Byron explained through an interpreter that he had been involved in a Christian theater company for a number of years as the director, but found that he had become too busy to stay involved. He explained that he left without ever feeling like it was the right thing to do. This trip has convicted him that he needs to go back and restart that ministry so that he can reach more for the Gospel.

Edy has been our OGES bus driver since 1991. He is a bundle of energy and laughter. CBS should make a new sitcom called "Everybody Loves Edy." Edy spoke last night about an experience he had with Peter Boyer, Kevin Franske, and Jaime Lopez. In Campur this group of four trudged through the rainforest to a community that was 45 minutes away from civilazation. 35 homes were all that are in this community. We provided solar powered lighting to the church that services these neighborhood. Edy said that the group of four were invited to eat lunch at the home of one of the families. Upon entering the home, the poverty of the family was evident. All of their earthly possessions were hanging on a shelf. A few clothes, a Bible, and some cooking utensils were about all they had. And yet, this family cooked a very special meal that all Guatemalans know about. It was a meal reserved for the most special of occasions. Edy was reminded about the needs in his own country and challenged not to discriminate against the poor.

Those are powerful words. i wanted you to know what's been happening from the perspective of our Guatemalan and El Salvadorian friends.

The team is in Lake Atitlan today and will be exploring the shopping district of Panajachel. Pray that they don't lose focus.

"For I long to see you that I might impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong. That is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
Romans 1:11, 12

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

OGES Report Two

What an unbelievable three days of ministry we have had in Jutiapa, Guatemala. This is a community that has seen a rise in Satanism and the occult in the past several years. Two years ago, while doing ministry in this same area we had to leave 1/3 of our team behind because they had become sick. This year, God has been so good regarding our team health. Every day of ministry here involved seeing God´s hand directly involved in drawing people to Him.

One of the areas that amazed me the most was the medical clinic. It was here that over 350 patients were seen in two days. That is an extraordinary number. I found out yesterday that almost 20 people have prayed to receive Christ while seeing the doctor! How cool is that?

Our service team spent the past two days cutting wood for a camp so that they could build twenty bunk beds. By the time yesterday was through, the wood was all done being cut, and the first three bunk beds had been assembled.

Our Children´s team has been at a large number of schools, plus they volunteered to help out at the medical clinic yesterday, due to the large number of children that were waiting outside for hours at a time. By the way, if you read my last entry you know that our medicine didn´t get into El Salvador, so we had to send it to Jutiapa. Do you think God knew what He was doing? There is no way that we could have anticipated the large number of patients that we saw here. We saw as many here as Campur and Sonsonate combined, and needed that medicine right where God put it.

God also provided another doctor and his American wife to work with us an interpret for patients. That enabled us to see more patients and work more efficiently. God is good, all the time.

Our basketball and mime team had a tremendous ministry as well. Our mime team was even asked by schools that didn´t have basketball courts if they would come and perform, since the people had heard such wonderful reports of this American mime. Our team said, "Yes," and more people were added to God´s family. The basketball team even let their old youth pastor play with them in their last game. My Guatemala stats? 24 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 3 steals, 5 assists, 5 technical fouls. Oh, by the way, we played fifth graders. Now, I know what Shaq feels like.

Our time in Jutiapa ended with a wonderful worship service that the women of the church put on for us. The doctor´s wife also happens to be an accomplished singer. Her first CD comes out soon. She sang songs in Spanish and English for us. The kids loved it. Then the church presented Wooddale Church with a beautiful leather scroll with writing thanking us for our ministry here. Once again, I feel like we should be most grateful.

There are so many more stories about our time here. God is good, and we´ll share them at length upon our return.

"But God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
John 3:17