Monday, December 24, 2007

Life in a Gray World

While parked at a red light a few days ago, I noticed a bumper sticker that read "I am not a Republican." I was initially surprised by the boldness of that claim, but the bigger surprise to me was that someone could be so black and white in a gray world. It was as if there is only one "right" political party and everyone else is inherently wrong.

Life is not about issues, it's about people. That is the problem with political parties. We get so ingrained into one way of thinking that we totally ignore other issues at hand and the people that struggle with them. It is a lot harder to be anti-abortion while resting your hand on your 16 year old daughter's pregnant belly, knowing full well that she may have just ruined all hopes and dreams for her future.

Life is not black and white. Life is confusing. Life is messy. Life requires humble servants of Christ who will live in the trenches and get their hands dirty in the mess of life. May we not be so concerned with the issues of life that we forget about the people we live with.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Great X-Mas Party

Last night I celebrated Christmas with the students in our youth ministry and it was a great time. We had nearly 40 kids and we chilled at a restaurant and arcade for a couple hours while eating pizza, playing games, and shooting each other in laser tag (in which I totally dominated).

I am aware that in each youth ministry event in the next 6 months, including last night's party, I will experience the full gamut of emotion, from joy and thankfulness to pain and sorrow. Pray for me and my students during this time of transition that we would be able to say goodbye in a healthy way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Official

For the regulars here you know that my wife, Mandy, and I have been praying about when to move to Seattle to attend Mars Hill Grad School. Well...the verdict is in:

We're Going!!

We will be leaving Sioux Falls in July to move out to Seattle and start graduate school. This is an exciting time in our lives and we covet your prayers as we start the transition. I have told our staff at church and a letter is going out today to our youth and their parents, so this weekend could be interesting as I field a million questions about our future. Pray that I might have patience.

A Come-from-Behind Victory

While I love discussing deep, theological ideas and how they play out in the world, I also love just relaxing a watching a Sunday afternoon of NFL football. This year was my first year to play Fantasy Football and it has been a blast. This past week was the first week of the playoffs and it had me nervous that my fantasy season was over.

With only 3 players left I was down to my opponent by 75 points, seemingly unsurmountable odds. Two games later, however, I had taken the lead and won the week by a mere 2 points. I now move into the semifinals and if win this week, I will play for the championship. Now some of you may be thinking that this is of little significance. Some of my excitement revolves around my desire to win, but most of my elation over my first-round victory is financial in nature. I had to pay a decent amount to play in this league, so if I can get into the championship game, I think I might get my money back. To quote Cuba Gooding Jr., "Show me the money!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Social Justice

So God has really been working on my heart in the past year in the area of social justice but I am still left with more questions than answers. I am so glad to have people in my life who are willing to both ask me hard questions and listen as I think through my random thoughts.

Hard Question:

Is it okay for Christians to own expensive vehicles like a BMW, Mercedes, or a Lexus? In a world of such dire need, are we ever justified in owning more than we really need? I'm really not sure.

Random Thought from my friend Nate:

Nate said that he can't justify ever washing his new car and using all that water when millions of people in the world have no access to any clean drinking water.

Just something I'm thinking about. Peace.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Wait is Over...

For those who frequent this blog, you know that Mandy and I recently visited Seattle to look at a seminary there called Mars Hill Graduate School. This afternoon I received a phone call from the director of admissions telling me that I have been accepted. I cannot be more happy.

Mandy and I still have a lot of talking and praying to do in order to decide when is the best time to move out there and start the next chapter of our lives. Please pray for us that God would grant clarity in this decision. Peace.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Enjoying the Now

This afternoon I froze my butt off (actually it was more my fingers and toes) while watching my alma mater, the University of Sioux Falls Cougars, play the semi-final round game of the NAIA football playoffs. USF just squeaked out a victory in the waning seconds to propel themselves to the National Championship game this coming weekend, while I found myself amongst hundreds of screaming fans barbarically high-fiving and yelling like maniacs. While the game was a blast to be a part of, I found myself thinking deeply as I exited the stadium.

Ironically, while I was in college I rarely attended any sporting events and had very little school spirit, which I greatly regret. Why is it that we fail to enjoy things until it is too late and time has passed us by. We can get so wrapped up in ourselves that we fail to realize what we are missing out in the world around us. I want to be someone who fully enjoys the opportunities in the here and now, while still looking forward to future. I don't want to miss the ways in which God is blessing me now, while I am busy awaiting His future blessing. May we all treasure the time we have in each season of our lives and not be impatient in progressing to the next stage before leaving the current one.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Different Kind of B-Day

Today is my 25th birthday. Now like the average American, my history of birthdays have almost always been solely about myself. I get the attention. I get the gifts. I get served. While I am very blessed to live in a culture where gifts are given (and much appreciated), for the first time ever, I spent half of my 'special' day serving someone else.

For weeks I have been speaking to a lady named Ann, whom I have never met, about how she needed help moving into her new apartment. Today was the only day that worked well so...this was the day it happened. I rallied a group of six together this morning at 8am to help serve a woman none of us had ever met...and it was great. To be honest, I can't imagine a better way to celebrate another year of life than by serving Jesus Christ through service to the poor. This woman had no one else to help her, it snowed and sleeted the entire time we were working, and she barely thanked us at the end, but it was great. I praise God that He continues to mold my heart for the poor and oppressed. A few years ago I could have cared less. While I still have a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, I have enjoyed the ride and look forward to the journey ahead. Blessings on the road!

Monday, November 26, 2007

We're Back...

I pulled into the church parking lot this morning and felt like I was visiting a foreign country. I love vacation and time away from the everyday, but it sure is hard getting back into the routine. I'm sure the natural question on everyone's mind is "How was Seattle?" We have gotten that questions dozens of times since our return and the response has yet to get old. Seattle was amazing.

We really did LOVE Seattle while we were there. Mandy had never been there and I was pretty young when I visited, so we didn't really know what to expect. We had received mixed reviews from others, with some saying they loved Seattle and some ranting about the terrible weather and the depression that follows. Well...we loved it.

It rained all day when we arrived, so that part wasn't much fun. The weather was pretty good, though, the rest of the trip. Most of the time the rain exists in the form of a mist that doesn't really get you wet, so it was not annoying at all. The temperature was great! In the winter the average temps are in the 40s and in the summer the 70s with very little rain. I think I will love the outdoor opportunities that abound in the Greater Northwest.

We had canceled our rental car just days before our trip, so we were at the mercy of public transportation during our stint in Seattle. It worked out great though. We saved a ton of money and were able to ride all over Seattle with ease. We were very impressed and plan on only having one vehicle when we live there, while taking the bus nearly everywhere.

We were able to relax and enjoy the city as well. We ate fresh seafood (including the best Clam Chowder I've ever had) in Pike Place Market. We surveyed Seattle from the summit of the Space Needle. We took a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. I climbed the 65' climbing wall at REI. We went to church at Mark Driscoll's church, Mars Hill Bible Church. Mandy and I loved the time we spent with each other, enjoying the city and discussing our future.

Mars Hill:
The point of our trip to Seattle was to visit a seminary there called Mars Hill Graduate School. Mars Hill is a cutting edge seminary that seeks to prepare students to deal with their own stories so they are able to minister to others, regardless of the culture they find themselves in.

The school was perfect. It is located in one building, an old, four-story luggage factory in downtown Seattle. It is one block away from Puget Sound and is sandwiched between a ritzy hotel and a low-income employment agency. The school has sought to preserve the warehouse feel, keeping its wood floors, vaulted ceilings, and garage doors for classroom walls. The building is full of art from the nearby Seattle Art Institute and student projects.

Our time at the school was filled with great information to help us make our decision. On Friday morning I went through the interview process. On Friday afternoon and Saturday was the actual Campus Visit Weekend. We got to hear lectures from current faculty, staff, and students, get information about academic programs and financial aid, meet other prospective students, and ask tons of questions we all had.

It was a great weekend and Mandy and I really feel called to go to seminary at Mars Hill. The question for us is when? Please be praying for us that we would sense God's timing about when to move on to the next season of our lives.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Last Minute Change of Plans

For who have been reading here in the last few months, you know that Mandy and I have huge plans this coming week as we are traveling to Seattle tomorrow morning to visit Mars Hill Graduate School. We will be flying out of Seattle on Monday where we will have to change planes in Denver. Rather than completing the rest of our trip we are going to stay in Denver and catch a cab downtown just in time to watch the Denver Broncos play live on Monday Night Football. We will then spend the Thanksgiving week at my aunt and uncle's condo in Breckenridge.

We found out this morning, though, that if we check any bags in Seattle on the return trip, they cannot be taken off the plane in Denver, but will simply be shipped on to Sioux Falls. So, we have to carry on all our luggage rather than checking any bags. I am actually quite proud of us for fitting clothes for 9 days into our carry-on luggage. Pray for us that this is the biggest surprise we face on our trip, although I doubt it will be.

Monday, November 12, 2007


For those who read my blog, you know that Mandy and I are flying out to Seattle on Thursday morning to visit a graduate school that we think God is calling us to attend sometime in the near future. I had not thought very seriously about applying because Mandy and I are not sure yet when we would want to go out there for school. One of the pieces of the application process is an interview so I assumed that I would have to fly out to Seattle again after my application was in so I could meet with the interview committee. I found out last week, however, that if you have applied already you can interview this weekend during the Experience Mars Hill Weekend.

So this last week I quickly put together my application and overnighted it to Seattle for $16 so it would be in the hands of admissions this morning and hopefully I will be able to interview on Friday morning rather than having to make another costly trip in the spring.

The last part of the application process that I have not completed yet, though, is the taking of a test called the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Many grad. schools use this as their GRE in order to test your ability to think critically and analytically. I take this 120-question test tomorrow morning, pray that my head will be clear and focused and I am able to think deeply. Each question is in the format of something:something else::something:something else. I have looked at some practice questions and some are quite easy but others might as well say jflasjfla:jfalsjlf::_________:_________. Again pray for me. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Adopt-A-Block Update

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the staff at our church had decided to Adopt-a Block. We want to get to know our neighbors and simply shower them with the love of God through conversation and service. I am proud to say that this has been taking place.

For the first time since I have been at Asbury, we are actually caring about our community enough to get to know the needs and try to make a difference. We have been meeting our neighbors every week now for about a month and it has been great. This past week we all raked leaves for two of our neighbors who might have had a hard time doing it themselves. Tomorrow, on the day before Halloween, we are going to do a reverse Trick-or-Treat, where instead of collect candy, we will go door to door passing out candy and getting to know our neighbors even more.

Pray for us as we seek to develop into people 'of' mission rather than simply people who 'do' mission.

the Overhaul

I few months ago I noticed this ugly, white delivery trucked parked in our parking lot at the college, and since then have not been able to stop thinking about it. My mind instantly began to process the many sorts of ministries and missions that could be done out of this vehicle.

Well, on Saturday afternoon I bought it. After jumping through all the hoops necessary at our church, the youth ministry has purchased this truck and we are now in the process of brainstorming ways that we can serve our neighborhood, community, and city through the use of this truck. We plan on helping people move, doing service projects like leaf raking, feeding the poor, and serving free ice cream to underprivileged schools in town. If you have any other ideas for ways this truck can be used, I would love your input.

The truck looks exactly like a U-Haul, so, to play on words, we are calling it "the Overhaul". We are praying that this truck becomes a tool to overhaul people's lives and our culture's way of thinking about the poor and the oppressed. God calls us to a complete transformation, an overhaul, and we want to be people who are not only being transformed, but are also transforming others and our society.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Busy November

In addition to all the other things that keep me busy around Asbury during this time of the year, Mandy and I will add to our busyness by traveling all over the country. We will be flying out to Seattle on Nov. 15 to visit Mars Hill Graduate School. I know that at some point along my journey I want to be trained in ministry, so we are beginning the search of where that may take place. Don’t worry…this doesn’t mean we’re leaving! We’re just looking.

On our way home we fly into Denver to change flights, where my parents will be waiting for us. We are going to skip the second half of our flight home and spend the Thanksgiving week at my aunt and uncle’s condo at Breckenridge, CO. Pray for us as we seek God’s direction for the future and for safety and relaxation as we travel, spend time with family, and hit the slopes at Breckenridge.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Play the Lottery for Me!

My friend Jerry recently posted this article written by John Piper, a pastor in Minneapolis. I thought it was incredibly interesting at the time and I continue to think about it today, so I thought I would post the article to get your opinion on this topic and other money obtained via questionable methods. Let me know what you think!!

Don't Play the Lottery for Me! by John Piper

The West Virginia pastors who accepted Jack Whittaker's tithe on his $170 million Powerball booty should be ashamed of themselves. One of them said, "That's a blessing to have that kind of backing." I don't think so.

Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their silver and throw it back into the temple of greed.

In 2001 Americans wagered $57 billion dollars on lotteries, $18 billion on horses and dogs, $592 billion in casinos, and $150 billion on other gambling. This is a blot on American life. Break it down to individuals. Massachusetts sells more than $500 worth of lottery tickets each year for every man, woman, and child. Think how many do not gamble, and you will begin to imagine what thousands are throwing away to have a 1-to-135,145,920 chance for the jackpot.

The American exploitation of the poor with lotteries muddies the conscience of many legislators. Statistics abound that "the government-sponsored lottery continues its shameless exploitation of the poor" (James Dobson, April, 1999 Newsletter). This exploitation is explicit in some of the advertising bought by the $400 million spent annually by states to promote lotteries. For example, in Chicago one sign read: "This could be your ticket out." That is shameless. Other promotions mock the virtues of hard work and serious study as a way to make a living. Plan A: Study hard, save money, get old. Plan B: Play the lottery.

Only a few, it seems, are willing to say how far and how manifold are the corrupting effects of the lottery. How many have pondered this insight from Richard Neuhaus, "In a democracy, the need for popular consent to tax is a powerful check on government growth and irresponsibility. A government that raises money by encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses of its citizens escapes that democratic mechanism of accountability. As important, state-sponsored gambling undercuts the civic virtue upon which democratic governance depends" (First Things, Sept., 1991, p. 12).

Is it a "blessing" for the church of Jesus Christ to have the backing of a social sickness that "destroys marriages, undermines the work ethic, increases crime, motivates suicide, destroys the financial security of families . . . and dupes people into believing [it] will benefit the children" (Dobson)?

Don't play Powerball for me. And don't play it for Bethlehem. I go on record now that I will not knowingly take any money won from gambling. And I will do my best to lead the elders of our church from accepting any money offered to this church from the proceeds of gambling.

We are followers of Jesus. He had no place to lay his head and did not accept the demonic temptation to jump off the temple for the jackpot of instant recognition. The Calvary road is not paved with Powerball tickets, but with blood. The Church was bought once by One who refused the short cut of instant triumph. It will never be bought by those who dream of riches.

The lottery is another opportunity to pierce your soul with many pangs, and lead your children into ruin. The Bible says, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. . . . Some by longing for it . . . and pierced themselves with many a pang (1 Timothy 6:9-10). In other words, the desire to be rich is suicidal. And endorsing it is cruel.

It is wrong to wager with a trust fund. And all we have, as humans, is a trust fund. Everything we have is a trust from God, to be used for his glory. "[God] himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). Faithful trustees may not gamble with a trust fund. They work and trade: value for value, just and fair. This is the pattern again and again in Scripture. And when you are handling the funds of another, how much more irresponsible it is to wager!

Don't play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money.

Pastor John

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good Intentions

Lately God has really been shaping me and I have regularly felt my heart breaking for the poor, hungry, and oppressed. I want so badly to partner with God in his work in the world by serving the least of these. My thoughts are consumed with what it would be like to suffer with and help end the suffering of those cast aside by our society.

At the same time, though, it is easy for churches to either focus on the spiritual life and neglect the poor, or to serve the poor and neglect the spiritual life. The temptation is to sway either way because it makes it easier. We usually focus on only one of the great commandments, either loving God OR loving our neighbor. The challenge is to serve our neighbor BECAUSE we love God first and foremost.

I want to be someone who cares about the things God cares about, but I don't simply want to be another 'program'. I want to care for God's creation as a result of my profound love for the Creator. May God continue to mold me into the man he wants me to be.

True Beauty

I was at a high school variety show the other night and was privileged to hear a teenage girl sing who had an absolutely beautiful voice. The thing that got me though was that I truly saw this girl as a beautiful creation of God, despite the fact that the world would not normally call her "beautiful". I was just so proud of her and saw her as incredibly special, even though I don't even know her.

I really felt like I should approach her after the show and tell her my thoughts, but I decided against that for fear that she would think me creepy. I pray that she has people in her life that will tell her they love her for just who she is and that she is beautiful inside and out. I fear she won't and I will have missed my opportunity. Do you think that would be creepy for a 24 year old guy to tell a teenage girl he has never met that he thinks she is beautiful inside and out and that God loves her and has a plan for her life? It is sad that people would look down on that kind of language, but they might.

I pray that as my relationship with God continues to grow I will begin to see even more people through God's eyes. I could almost literally SEE this young girl's worth. May it be that way with everyone I encounter. May I see them as God sees them.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Throughout the past 3-4 years I have gone through periods where I read like crazy and then take a break and don't read quite as much. Right now I find myself in one of those book-crazy times. My newest book is an amazing book by Matthew Barnett called "The Church That Never Sleeps." The book is the story of a pastor in L.A. who has started a church that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The church operates out of an old 15-floor hospital in downtown Los Angeles and uses each floor for its nearly 200 different ministries.

One ministry that they have started is called Adopt-A-Block. What they do is send out about four people per street block to minister to that block each and every week. Every Saturday these people will visit their block and simply love and serve the people there as much as they can. They will go door to door meeting the residents and showering them with love. They will serve them in whatever way they can, whether that means mowing lawns and raking leaves, playing with kids and passing out toys and candy, or spending time with the elderly and just talking and listening to stories.

Barnett talks about how this program has radically altered their neighborhood as they have built incredible relationships with their neighbors, found out the needs of their community, and seen hundreds of people flock to church services from the area because of the radical love of these Jesus followers.

I dream about making that kind of impact on Sioux Falls, SD. I badly want to change our community for Jesus Christ and see people turn over their lives to a new way of living. I will be talking with our staff at Asbury about how we could implement this ministry in our own neighborhood. Pray for me, our staff, and our congregation as we seek to be the gospel in a world of need.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We Don't Give A S*#^

My previous post was regarding a Derek Webb song that I had preached about in anticipation of seeing him in concert at LifeLight Music Festival. Now after hearing Webb sing and speak at the festival, I am all the more encouraged about the ministry he is trying to accomplish and the way he is staying authentic to the way God made him through the process.

Near the end of his set, Webb began to talk and I knew he was going to say something controversial. He did. He was talking about knowing that God's will for our lives is that we 'love God and love our neighbors' and that right now in the world, our neighbors in greatest need are the people in Africa. He went on to state that by looking at the church today, it is apparent through our actions that we "don't give a s*#^ what is happening in Africa." Derek just let the phrase ring out silent and you could obviously tell that there were a lot of people offended in the crowd. He went on to say that the problem with Christians is that we get angry about the wrong things, that we were angry with him for saying a word, but not angry that thousands of people die in Africa everyday.

While I am not inherently a huge fan of swearing and choose not to swear in my own life, I thought it was brilliant how Webb got our attention and then hammered us with the gospel. We DO get angry about the wrong things. I get offended if a Missions committee meeting at church goes 5 minutes late, but I don't get angry that thousands of kids go to bed hungry every night in my own hometown.

I want to be someone who doesn't just think about helping the poor and doing God's work, but who actually joins God in ending the injustices of our world. I want to know the poor and oppressed of my community and actually fight on their behalf. I want to actually live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A New Law

One artist I am especially looking forward to seeing at LifeLight this weekend is Derek Webb. Derek used to play in Caedmon's Call but now has a successful solo career. Derek is a very deep thinker and uses his lyrics and the stage as a platform to talk about his faith and how that collides with the world. He never ceases to challenge me and I find myself listening to his cd "Mockingbird" at least once a week.

I recently preached about a song he wrote called "A New Law". The song speaks of the church trading the old law, the Old Testament Law that so often weighed down the Israelites in a life of rules and regulations, for a new set of laws. Churches today tend to create all sorts of rules and regulations for themselves that are typically far from the gospel of Jesus Christ. We teach that you must think a certain, or not at all, and we tend to emphasize things that are not as important as others, like the type of music you should listen to, homosexuality, etc.

Jesus came to offer a life of freedom. Paul writes in Galatians 5, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Christ speaks of overturning an old way of doing life, a life of bondage. He uses all sorts of phrases like "you have heard it said" to show a new way of following God.

I pray that I will be the kind of person who will honestly seek out the truths of Scripture and will seek to follow Christ with all I am. I pray that I will take Christ for his word and not make his gospel anything it was never meant to be. I pray that the church will get serious about being the Body of Christ, His bride. I pray that Christians will get serious about the kind of life Jesus has called us all to, the abundant life.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No More Buffets...

Lately God has been teaching me a lot about what it means to be a disciple with all of my life, not just some. As Dan Brown writes in The DaVinci Code, Christians have become "cafeteria" Christians, where we pick and choose what we want to follow and what just isn't convenient enough. Jesus doesn't call only part of us to be sacrificed, though. He wants all of us. So for me I desire to be a follower of the Way who is doing all that God has called us to.

I have felt especially convicted in the area of social justice of late. We sit comfortably in our American lifestyle and claim to care about ending the problems of the world. I want more than that attitude.

My wife and I were talking about these very things the other night while we were sitting down eating a nice meal at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Sioux Falls. I got about half-way through my meal and realized that I might be part of the problem. Millions of people go to bed hungry at night and I comfortably stuff my face with food and fail to finish my plate before going to get another one.

Mandy and I decided (and agreed not to be legalistic or judgmental about it) that we never needed to eat at a buffet again. We decided this based on three things. Firstly, it can be a step in the right direction toward partnering with the poor and oppressed of our world, to no longer be part of the problem. Secondly, it costs a lot and we simply don't need to spend that much money on food we don't need. And lastly, we end up eating way more than we need and is healthy.

I pray that we would start to embrace lifestyles that would honor the gospel Jesus died for. I am committed to finding ways to change the world and I hope that you and the American church are in for the ride.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Great Couple Weeks

It seems like it's been a while since I have written here, so, finally, I am back. I have just had a great couple weeks, both in ministry and personally. I really love my life as a youth pastor, and summers have a way of reminding me of how lucky I am to be serving God in this capacity.

The last few weeks I have had tons of opportunities to spend time with my students and volunteers and it has been very rewarding. I have been rock climbing a bunch with students lately, which is always a blessing. This time provides the opportunity to form tight-knit relationships and ask students all sorts of questions about their lives and faith. I also get to go play frisbee golf with students once a week too.

Last Saturday I took my volunteers in the youth ministry to an old farmstead owned by people in our church and we spent the day eating, hanging out, and most importantly, planning all of youth ministry for the entire 2007-2008 school year. What a blessing to already have the calendar printed out for every activity this coming year!! This was a new experiment and proved to be extremely successful. This should allow for greater success in communication with students this coming year.

Finally, on a personal note, my 4th of July was awesome. I spent the entire afternoon on Lake Okiboji skiing and wakeboarding and had a blast. Unfortunately I don't get out to the lake as much as I would like, so it was so refreshing to be in the boat for the first time this summer. My body is paying the price now, but it was worth the aches and pain for a fun day in the sun.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Counselors Learning From Students

For those who regularly check in here, I apologize for my lack of consistency. My life as a youth pastor leads to a very strange, hectic, and jealousy-causing summer schedule. I just got back from a week at camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This was one of the best weeks I have had in a long time spending quality time with God in the mountains.

I don't know about all of you, but God never fails to speak to me and convict my heart during a week at camp. This week I really sensed God telling me to trust Him. This seems like it would be very natural for a youth pastor, but I struggle with this like crazy. I find myself constantly relying on my own talents and abilities rather than on God for support. God has blessed me in certain ways, as He has with all of us, but He has not done this so that we don't need Him. Hopefully His blessing will cause us to keep depending on Him rather than turning away from Him.

God desires to speak to us and lead and guide, but we must be willing to follow. How much more could we accomplish in ministry if we actually put our trust in the Creator? How much more could God do through us if we allowed Him to? I pray that God continues to use me mightily while I learn to put my trust in Him for all my needs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Life Lessons from NBA Basketball

Call me a band-wagon jumper if you'd like, I don't care...I love watching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I have always been a pretty casual fan of NBA basketball, much more preferring the style of play seen at the college level, but this year I have found myself glued to the TV during the NBA playoffs, especially when LeBron and the Cavs are on.

Last night I found myself extremely impressed by the maturity level of LeBron James, a 22 year old NBA star. He was intentionally fouled on the last play of the game and should have had the chance to tie the game at the free throw line, but the whistle was not blown. In a world that always has an excuse for everything and is so quick to throw someone else under the bus, LeBron calmly said that the blatant foul was merely "incidental contact" and did not disrupt his shot. Most 22 year olds, or 40 year olds for that matter, would not have handled the situation with the kind of class that this young man did.

Now for those who could care less about basketball, I think there is still a lesson for all of us in this . We really do always have an excuse for everything. Nothing is ever our fault. We will blame anyone else as long as blame is shifted from ourselves. I am the same way. I don't want to be that guy though. I want to own up to my mistakes, admit I'm human, and ask for forgiveness. I don't need to argue my point when I am proven wrong. The courage of this young man reminds me all over again of this flaw in my character. May we all be people who own up to the situation and handle it with class and dignity.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Dangerous Times

For those who don't know, I have recently gotten really involved in the sport of rock climbing. Now usually this sport is merely recreational, but yesterday it became quite grueling. The area that I go with students and friends is Palisades State Park, a nice easy area to set up and climb in. Yesterday, however, my friend Joel and I tried out a new place in Luverne, MN called the Blue Mounds.

There are a lot of great places to rock climb at the Blue Mounds, we just failed to pick one of those spots. The area we chose to climb yesterday ended up being a terrible chunk of rock that would rip away from the wall when you would get a good hand hold. At one point I accidentally ripped what was probably a 20 pound piece of rock away from the wall and it shattered into bits as it hit the ground below.

While climbing has become one of my favorite things to do, you won't find me climbing that area of the Blue Mounds again anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I'm Back

For those of you who tune in here from time to time, I hope you enjoyed hearing from some of the students in my youth group. This past week I took a group of high school students to serve on an Indian Reservation in Mission, SD, located in the 5th poorest county in the entire U.S. This was the best mission trip I have been on so far, including last year's trip to Panama City, Panama. I was so proud of my students for all the work they accomplished in other's lives and in their own lives.

Visiting the reservation is always an eye-opening experience for me, despite growing up 45 minutes from 3 different reservations. We can become obsessed with doing missions somewhere else and totally avoid the blaring needs in our own backyard. We can become calloused to the poverty and oppression in the world around us. In the words of Rob Bell, "The tragedy is when we think that our world is the world." I think that is so true because we can get wrapped up in the everyday things of our own lives and forget that there is a whole other way of life out there that is in need.

May we, as Christians, see the Gospel not just as a way to get out of this world, but as the only way to redeem this world we find ourselves in.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday, Another Work Day

Today we woke up, had some cereal, and headed off to our work site. We ended up driving about a half hour to just outside st. Francis South Dakota. At our work site, we took off shingles of an abandoned house and took the roof off. They are going to use the walls of the house and bring them into mission and rebuild a new house for an alcoholics anonymous group. Tonight our plans are to relax, watch a movie and maybe play some extreme Frisbee with the cute Creighton prep boys :)

Posted by the wonderful: Boston and Brenna

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rest Day

Today was just a day for resting and relaxing. we did a lot in a short period of time. We didn't leave the house until 10:30 from there we made our way to Valentine Neb. just to walk around and check out the town. we ate lunch and made our way to the bad lands but after we were done they were the good lands. we made our way around there for a couple of hours after that we made our way to Wall Drug. There we visited all these different stores and statue things. It was pretty cool. We took a lot of pictures there. We ate at a cafe there. On our way back to mission, we were counting how long Neal couldn't talk. It is going to be a short night because we need to get our energy back for working at the site tomorrow. Bye!

Posted by: Ciara and Brenna

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Men and Ciara

Today We began our day going to our second work-site, where we tore out the old tile with a flame thrower(intense). We also started working on the bathroom installing a new toilet and vanity. The boys started out with a rude wake up call this morning with pots and pans by the girls. we had eggs and ham for breakfast, the we split up into groups, the boys and I (ciara) went to the house and began our duties. Neal and Luke worked on the window from yesterdays project. we went through some interesting obstacles such as: chris burning everything down in the house with the flame thrower. Max and Jason helping him. Jason tried to start a fire with no lighter but there was the ever happy handy napkin and toaster idea to get the flame. we can't wait for our chillaxin day tomorrow. And i can't wait for the boy's 6am wake up call!!
posted by:Ciara and Max

Day @ the nursing home

Today, Boston, Tina, Mary, Brenna, and Katie took a trip to white river to visit the people in the nursing home. On the way we stopped and got coffee from a trailer drive up coffee shop. Boston's Face lit up! At the nursing home we met a guy named William Walks AKA Willy he's such a cool guy. He told us tons and tons of stories about his life and about his "girlfriend." Katie also met a 33 year old named Bernadine, who Katie became close with. So Boston, Brenna and Katie decided to surprise the two and we sewed them pillow cases with there names on them. Boston and Brenna also played a little beauty school and painted some ladies nails. The cool thing about the nursing home is that it wasn't like normal nursing homes. The people who worked there were really respectful towards the elders and didn't just think of them as old people, they thought of them as elders and really did have so much respect for them. Also we got to play bingo with them residents which was also cool because they get so into it and are really competitive. Tonight we listened to Shane Redhawk who talked about his culture and showed us some of the clothes they wear.
Some predictions: Boston And Brenna decided that we think a girl on our team has a crush on a guy on our team. But we're not for sure.
Some quotes of the day: a girl from the nursing home told Brenna to give her the cigarettes that she had in her pocket because she's not supposed to have them. (she didn't have any) and then later we found out that the lady steals cigarettes from nurses purses.

"coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee." by Tina and Boston and Katie

"you can stay here as long as you don't drink alcohol or smoke weed" by willy

Posted by Brenna and Boston

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday Work Day!

Today we finally got a work day. I got sunburned! Katie, Neal, and I got to replace a window. Ciara and I have been taking long walks each night around the area. The other group got to make a fence for this family so their daughter wouldn't escape. Tonight we are all going to the sweat lodge. Each night we get to talk about our highs and lows of our day and what we are looking forward to and all that other good stuff. Last night, when everyone else was sleeping Katie and I were talking in our beds, and we heard strange noises coming from the guys' room upstairs. Katie goes "what are they doing up there?" and I go "Probably playing Spin The Bottle!" It is obvious that Luke is annoying his mom with his famous quotes such as, hey dawg, or you player. i think that she is ready to leave him here for a while. And Tina lost her nut last night(she had a bag a peanuts and she lost them!!).There is this really cute staff person that helps us on our work sites, so that was a plus! For dinner tonight, Mary(ciara's mom) made tuna casserole. It was amazing! Well i suppose i better get going we have a sweat lodge to go to. Bye!
Posted by: Brenna Randolph

Sunday, May 27, 2007

sundays adventure

Today we began our week journey in Rosebud. The Ride was long, but in a way short. we enjoyed keeping each other company, and enjoyed annoying one another. Chris as usual listening to his punk rock music, Brenna and Katie passing notes to each other. Max keeping Jason company in the front. Luke chompin away on his very own homemade cookies. when we arrived we unloaded everything then we got ready for dinner. But it was strange because we kept hearing this knocking noise and thought someone was already getting to work with a hammer. and we go check and max is locked in the cellar by Chris and Katie. he was just waiting for someone to let him out. we will keep that mind when Neale gets on our nerves.

posted by: Ciara Millikan

Safe and Sound

For those who are here at this site tracking the progress of the 2007 Rosebud Mission Team, welcome. We are here and safe. We arrived at about 5:00 and got unloaded and settled into our house for the week. We ate dinner at about 6:00 and start our orientation at 7:00.

As announced, students will be blogging on this site each day throughout the week, so keep checking back to see what they are up to. See you in a week.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peace and Quiet...At Last!!

For those who don't know, my wife is in charge of one of the freshman dorms at the University of Sioux Falls, which means we have the privilege of living with around 70 freshman men and women, sharing life with them on a daily basis. This past week was finals week so the students have now moved out for the summer, leaving me and Mandy with the entire dorm to ourselves. It is sort of nice not having screaming students all day, every day. I am sure we will be missing the students by the end of the summer, though, and will be ready for a new batch to move in.

We have learned so much in this first year in this position. God is teaching me a lot about living a lifestyle of ministry, rather than just doing ministry as a job. We don't have the luxury of having nights off, because we live in our ministry setting, with the people we are ministering to. It would be like a year of lock-ins at the church.

I think this is the kind of ministry that God calls us all to, though, whether we get paid by a church or not. We are called to be in people's lives, to get our hands dirty in the daily grind of living. We are called to walk alongside those in pain and do our best to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Mandy and I are so blessed to have this unique opportunity to do college ministry, but I hope we will always be the kind of people whose doors are open and hearts are tender. I hope I am always more than "the youth guy at the church."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What I'm Learning...No One Else Cares About!

I hesitate in even writing this post for fear that no one even cares, but hey, oh well. This place has become a place where I share what I have been learning and what God has been teaching me. So here's what I've been learning lately:

I have been quite interested in studying Jewish history, culture, and background in order to better understand the context that Jesus spoke in and that the Bible was written in. I had known that knowing and understanding Hebrew language and Jewish culture was important, but it had always been ingrained in me that understanding Greek language and culture was more important to understanding the New Testament. I was wrong.

We all know that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, thus making 77% of Scripture Hebrew right off the top. I had always thought that the New Testament was all written in Greek, but I was incorrect. While we have Greek manuscripts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and the first half of Acts, the original text was actually written in Hebrew. Also, there are a lot of quotations found in the book of John and Acts that are Hebrew. Adding these books in with the Old Testament writings brings the grand total up to 90% of the Bible being written in Hebrew.

I am only beginning my quest for knowledge, but this information that I recently came upon reinforces my need to be a student of Jewish thought in order to better understand what it is Jesus has called us to. I trust that God will continue to lead me as I seek to understand what He is doing in this world and how I can get on board with His plan.

Sorry to bore you. I know I am nerdy. Hey, we are all nerdy at something. This is mine. What is yours? What is it about you that your friends give you grief for?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

My Plans...I Think

I was just thinking that although I blog frequently, I rarely share information about myself. My life is constantly changing, but I have failed to inform people of my plans for the future (whenever that may be).

Those who know me well know that I deeply desire to go to seminary one day and was even going to a seminary here in Sioux Falls for over a year. I wasn't exactly pleased with the quality of education I was getting, so I quit going there. My wife is finishing her graduate degree currently, but when she is finished we will begin to think about doing seminary the right way, the way we want to and at the place we want to.

The school that is currently on the top of my list is called Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, WA, and no, this has nothing to do with Rob Bell in Grand Rapids, MI, even though I would marry him if he asked. Mars Hill is attempting to do seminary in a way no other seminary is currently doing it, by combining strong theological and biblical training with real life, practical preparation for ministry. They teach you how to figure out how to do ministry in whatever culture God places you in.

Mandy and I will be flying out to Seattle in November to tour the school so you can be praying for us as we seek God's direction for our future. If you are interested in exactly how Mars Hill is different, you can check out their website at Here are a few thoughts on the program I am considering:

What if you truly believed that the gospel could change the world?

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. Sometimes the process of discovery is more important than the discovering. Sometimes mystery is more important than certainty. Mars Hill Graduate School students are uniquely curious, deeply passionate and intentionally thoughtful about both the theory and practice of their faith. They are keenly aware of the vast reality of what they don’t know…and that awareness shapes the dialogue of the classroom as well as the life of the community. They’re asking questions of text, soul & culture in order to experience God through transformed relationships. Will you join them? What if…?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Does It Look Like I Want Your Junk?

With the coming of the beautiful weather lately, has come a whole new season with it: Rummage Sale Season! In Sioux Falls this time of the year means that the Kingswood Rummage Sale is in full force. For those non-Sioux Falls natives, the Kingswood Rummage Sale is the largest grouping of rummage sales in the nation, with literally thousands of garages open to the public.

Now for those who hate the feeling of finding a parking space at Walmart on a Saturday afternoon, this event is not for you. I happen to enjoy rummage saling, however. I have nothing against buying used, cheap stuff, plus you get the added bonus of watching crazy stay-at-home moms from Iowa fill small horse trailers full of there recent purchases. It's great!!

This morning I drove around with a friend casually perusing the Kingswood Extravaganza. I found nothing worth my hard-earned dollar, but did witness a number of very funny things. The first hilarious siting was an elementary school girl riding a scooter wearing a very funny rabbit costume, ears and all. So Funny!! So Weird!!

It always amazes me the things people try to get rid of, and the fact that others are willing to buy. We came across a sign announcing that just down the street we had the opportunity to buy "Beer Signs", as if we needed to add to our collection. It is also funny to see all the exercise equipment for sale, knowing full well that each one was purchased as a New Year's Resolution after watching a Bowflex commercial and was only used for a week or so.

The pinnacle of our shopping excursion came when we came across a house that was actually advertising that they had an "ATM Inside." Can you believe that? An ATM at a rummage sale. Has American materialism really stooped this low? If you need to take out a second mortgage on your house to go rummage saling, you may have a problem.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quotes from "The Barbarian Way" by Erwin McManus

"Even then Jesus understood His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness." (pg. 31)

"Instead of finding confidence to live as we should regardless of our circumstances, we have used it as justification to choose the path of least resistance, least difficulty, least sacrifice. Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God's will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance." (pg. 44-45)

"People who are fully alive look out of their minds to those who simply exist." (pg. 69)

"Barbarians wake to live and live life fully awake. To be filled with the Spirit of God is to be filled with dreams and visions that are too compelling to ignore." (pg. 100)

Speaking about the names given to different groups of animals:
"I was surprised to learn that a group of buzzards waiting around together to feast on leftover carnage is called a committee. Just this one insight is worth the price of the whole book. This explains so much of what's going on in churches--a lot of committees waiting around to live off human carnage." (pg. 136-137)

A Quote from Dan Kimball

Here is a thought from Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith in Santa Cruz, CA. His thoughts have always challenged me and I am sure would challenge you as well. He has just recently come out with a new book called "They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations." I have not read this book yet, but it is one of my next on my list of must reads. His thoughts can be found at his blog site:

"...are we in the Christian bubble and not taking the words of Jesus seriously where He specifically prayed we aren't removed from the world and the people (John 17:15-18). It seems we can slip into being salt and light to each other in our bubbles, but not to those living in our own communities all around us outside the church." -- Dan Kimball

What a great thought. We can get so immersed in our Christian communities that we don't even know ONE non-Christian. There are probably a ton of pastors in this country that do not have an ongoing relationship with anyone who is not a Christian, the very people we are called (and payed) to serve and witness to.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is It Christian??

Okay, the secret is out: my wife, Mandy, and I are huge American Idol fans. We watch it religiously (no pun intended; but now as I think about it, maybe we are religious about it-we sit on our butts once a week and never care enough to take time to affect the outcome of what we are watching-that about sounds like American Christianity). On Tuesday nights we are glued to the TV awaiting the drama.

This week the guest was Martina McBride, an incredible country artist and my wife's favorite singer. Now most people would not classify Martina as a "Christian" singer, but tonight she sang a song about her faith in God. This got me thinking about the classifications we place on inanimate objects such as music, art, writing, etc., and how we fail to realize that 'all truth is God's truth.' We would say that the songs that Martina sings about God are "Christian" and the songs about life aren't, but I don't think I agree with this.

Maybe the fact that she is singing makes the song spiritual because we worship a God of creativity who values the efforts of the artist in expressing their thoughts and feelings. Now by no means am I saying that all songs contain the same value, but maybe just that we need to rethink the camps that we force people into. Why does a band have to be a "Christian band" and can't simply be a "band made up of Christians?" Is there a difference? Are we right in this sort of classification? Let me know what you think. I'm up in the air about this too, as you can tell by the random thoughts throughout this entry.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I Finally Did It...

I have been talking about getting a tattoo, the same tattoo, now for almost 6 years, and this past week finally went through with it. This was done after much prayer and thought for a long time and I am so pleased with the outcome.

The tattoo is a cross with a sun behind it that is on my right ankle. I sketched the cross based on a different tattoo I saw as a freshman in college. Coming out from the crossbar of the cross and going all the way around my ankle is the Greek for John 10:10, "...I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

I have wanted this tattoo for a while for both personal and evangelistic reasons. It is exciting to me to take this radical step of showing my faith, of taking up my cross. It has also been amazing to get so many questions about what the tattoo means. I love the conversations about Jesus I have been able to have with people I would never expect to be able to talk about my faith with.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Thoughts on Easter...

What has Easter become? How has Easter become more about eggs and bunnies than death and resurrection? What do your Easter rituals look like? Would they look any different than your non-Christian neighbor? Would anyone be able to tell that you were Christian by the things you do and the words you say?

Let’s not forget the real story of Easter. Easter is the confirmation that the Messiah has come, that we worship a risen Savior. Easter is a time for new beginnings. Easter is a time for radical life transformation. Rather than New Year’s Resolutions, we should be making Easter Resolutions, that because we serve a risen God, we want to completely change the way we live our lives.

Look at the life of Peter. Just two days ago he was denying that he even knew Jesus. Now, less than a week later, Jesus is tracking him down to offer him grace three times over (John 21).

Where are you in need of radical transformation? Where have you strayed from God this past year? We worship a risen King who called us to lives of faith, hope, and love. Let’s start acting like it.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Better Vision

Lately I have been so frustrated with the lack of vision in churches today. I am most of the way through George Barna's new book 'Revolution' where he talks about a new way of doing church where people who are radically sold out for the message of Jesus are beginning to do ministry, fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism apart from the local church. At first read I didn't quite agree with him, and maybe still don't totally, because I am a huge proponent of the local church. But as I spend more and more time in churches, including my own, I am more and more frustrated with the way things are run and become extremely doubtful and cynical about the capability of most churches to actually impact the world.

Why are we so worried about appeasing everyone? Heaven forbid someone is not comfortable with every single aspect of corporate worship. Is that really our goal and vision? To simply massage people's emotions? To make them feel good and happy and comfortable each Sunday morning? As I study the book of Acts, the early church was anything but comfortable, and when they were, the leaders would reprimand them. They were stretched. They were challenged. They were taken outside their comfort zones. We are so worried about appeasing the people who are already in our church that we completely ignore both the people leaving our church and the people attending no church at all.

May we be people of better vision that that. Let's quit massaging egos long enough to make disciples. Let's quit thinking that church is what happens on Sunday morning. Let's quit thinking that church is what happens at a certain place with a certain group of people. Let's stop basing church on our own opinions rather than the life-changing Word of the Living God, the Creator of the Universe.

Monday, March 19, 2007

An Eternal Perspective

Often it is incredibly frustrating to feel like I pour my life into ministry and rarely feel the fruits of my labor. Throughout my time in ministry I have gone through a series of highs and lows in this area. Sometimes I feel successful for the Kingdom, and sometimes I feel like a failure. I know in my head to 'keep an eternal perspective,' but that is easier said than done.

This is one of those down times. I am not questioning my faith, or whether God exists, or whether prayer works, or if I am called to ministry, etc. Sometimes I DO have those questions, but not now. I think I am wondering if there is more to life than this. Is there more to ministry than this? Is what were doing in churches today having any impact? Are we making any ground? Is providing an activity once or twice a week for students actually accomplishing anything?

For those taking the time to read this, I say thank you and sorry in the same breathe, because I am fully aware that I am simply rambling and have no answers or solutions to my questions. This is simply a report on what I'm thinking. Obviously I don't know what I'm thinking.

May we be people who aren't afraid to admit that we don't have it all figured out. May we never stop asking the hard questions, even when people tell us to shut up. May we strive for so much more than we have now. May we seek to be Christ-like in all we do, including our ministry (regardless of what that looks like).

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Need to Win?

Throughout my life I have been extremely competitive. I rarely do things that I know I will not have success at. Now by no means am I saying that I am successful, though. I simply skip a lot of activities that would probably be enjoyable and only stick to the things I can do well.

Recently, however, my competitive attitude has begun to soften. I sometimes even find myself annoyed when people take things too seriously. I am currently on an intramural basketball team at the University of Sioux Falls where I play on a team with other staff members. I think I probably bring the average age of the team down 10 years or so. Needless to say, we did not win our first game. This is a struggle for me to be encouraging to others, but it is a great challenge and is teaching me the importance of teamwork and simply enjoying the people around you.

We can get so wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others and proving ourselves superior, that we miss the point of the activity we're participating in. We can get so involved in excellence and the end destination that we miss the journey and the people we're traveling with. May we be people who always strive for greatness, but understand the futility of competition. May we truly comprehend Jesus' words that 'those who want to be great must be a servant, and those who want to be first must become last.'

Monday, February 19, 2007

Goodbye Audio A

Last evening I had the opportunity to go to a MercyMe, Audio Adrenaline, & Aaron Shust Concert. The concert was great and it was fun to hear a ton of familiar songs and sing along with some of my favorite Christian artists. I had never seen MercyMe in concert, so that was definitely a treat.

Now as I write and reflect, however, I am filled with a bit of sadness as I witnessed one of the final Audio Adrenaline concerts ever last night. This April they will call it quits after 16 years of amazing cds and jaw-dropping performances.

Audio Adrenaline has been a staple in the Christian music industry for almost the entirety of the "Christian Rock" era. I have been listening to them for over 10 years now, almost half my life, and have 8 of their cds. Their music really catapulted me into the realm of Christian music, something I am very grateful for.

I suppose there are no need for tears here, but I am really just trying to say thanks and goodbye to a fantastic band. I wish them the best and know God will continue to use them in amazing ways for the Kingdom.

Audio A Info:

Monday, February 12, 2007

Service vs. Evangelism...

I was recently reading a blog post from a new ministry called This ministry is attacking pornography head-on through some creative means. For Valentines Day they are planning on giving roses to local exotic dancers as a way of demonstrating what true love looks like.

So far there have been 63 comments made regarding this post, including a very heated debate about whether or not service always needs to include a clear presentation of the gospel message. The debate is very interesting and raises a number of very good points. I am still wrestling with whether or not service alone in the name of Jesus is enough, or whether those actions should include the Gospel message. I have my opinion on the matter, but I would be interested to hear what you all think in response to the issues addressed in these comments. Here is the link for the blog entry:

Monday, February 5, 2007

My Favorite Superbowl Commercials...

I am an avid football fan and loved watching the Superbowl yesterday. It was a great game that featured a host of different storylines within the game, from Peyton Manning overcoming defeat to Tony Dungy becoming the first African-American coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

At the same time, however, I also look forward to the Superbowl each year to see the creativity of the commercials. I have been disappointed in recent years by the lack of originality and humor in the ads, but was pleasantly surprised by the commercials this year. Two companies stood leaps and bounds above the others in my book...Sierra Mist and The Sierra Mist Comb-Over Beard sketch and the CareerBuilder Performance Evaluation commercial were my favorites. You can see these commercials and all the rest at Feel free to let me know which commercials you thought were the best.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Different Train of Thought...

"...whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man." -- Matthew 20:26-28

As Mandy and I read through this passage this morning, I was struck by a number of things regarding these words of Christ. Firstly, this is such a strange way of viewing the world. The idea that in order to be first, you must be last, or that in order to be the greatest, you must be a slave, is so opposite of the picture we usually see. The beauty of American capitalism is that each person can pull themselves up out of the pit, but usually this involves pushing someone else in as we climb out. We are trained from a young age to "get ours, while the gettin's good," to only worry about #1. But the message of Jesus is one of servanthood. Scripture actually teaches that the best possible life will come through service to others, not from looking out for ourselves.

The passage has an even deeper meaning to it than that though. The phrase "Son of Man" was a phrase that was used to talk about Caesar, the Emperor of Rome. We can all picture the lavish lifestyle of the Caesar, one filled will hundreds of servants, waiting on him hand and foot. So Jesus' message becomes one of opposition to this kind of lifestyle. It's a political message. It's a message that would eventually get him killed. Jesus is saying that the true Son of Man would not be like that, but would be a servant to all. The true Son of Man would put others before himself. The true Son of Man would get serious about saving the world he claims to be a in charge of.

Some get 'up at arms' when the church gets too political. Maybe if the true Body of Christ, the people of God, would get a little more political, we could change the world. Now I'm not only talking about elections and government. Being political means having a desire to change entire systems of oppression that don't exist for God and the good of humanity. What can you do, as a follower of Christ, to change the world? How can you make an impact?

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

And It Seems Like Common Sense...

As I write this entry I am in the midst of preparing a sermon about being "In the world, but not of the world." This topic has been brewing in my mind now for a number of weeks and I have gradually written down a number of 'terribly insightful' thoughts which will surely turn heads and change lives:).

I am not sure if it is irony, though, or simple stupidity, that in the midst of attempting to think through what God would want me to say about this subject, I had failed to actually read through what God had to say for himself through his word. In trying to be God's messenger in this world, I had failed to look at the message. I don't think it was coincidence that Jesus spoke quite candidly about the very thing I was attempting to say. And I hadn't even looked at his words.

We have a huge tendency to do this in our own lives all the time. We desire to know and hear God's voice, but we never take time to listen to what he is trying to say. We desire deep insight regarding our purpose on this earth, but fail to read his memoirs about how to live the best possible life. Let's quit this elementary behavior. If we desire a deep relationship with our Savior, then let's act like it really is important to us. After all, it's only common sense.