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