29 January 2006

vision night 2006 at healing place church

what a cool deal. another reminder why i love hpc.

tonight (under the leadership of ann morrow and johnny green and a whole lot of work by lance's team) we literally rolled out the red carpet for the volunteers and other people who gave so much of their time, treasure, talent and touch to make 2005 a great year for hpc.

search lights traced the sky on this beautiful evening, and richie, havvy, emily and michelle worked some "celebrity" interviews out at the red carpet, jp brumfield and a bunch of crazies welcomed each guest with an overwhelming supply of cheering and fanatical antics. and to top it all off, several couples were taken by limousine to dinner after the event.

marc cleary joined lance in emceeing the event, working through some teleprompter surprises to bring a unique "comedy" act to set the stage for the evening. then a year-in-review video which was -to say the least- as great a year-in-review piece you'll see anywhere. dino rizzo followed the video with a short message about jeremiah 33:3 ("call on Me and I'll show you some incredible stuff you don't know about..."), and he did a great job of correllating that promise to hpc in 2006 and our core values: reach, serve, give, build.

a great way to set up the new weekend series, iLife, a great way to thank everyone for 2005, and a perfect way to "wrap up" 21 days of discovery.

great job everyone!

28 January 2006

ode to robert

i went by the annex late tonight and my son jd rode with me. when we were leaving, this was the only car left in the parking lot and jd said, "i wonder how many nights this car has been the only one in the parking lot." jd knows what few people outside the staff of hpc know. there's a lot more to this genius of a man than just good looks and a nice car.

say what you will about his bard-ness, robert conti is one of the often-unsung, nearly always behind-the-scenes teammates who is a mulitplier in the mosaic that is the hpc staff.

as usual, tonight the doctor is in.

first trip to big kids church

lincoln (my 5-year old) just started going to big kids church tonight. he's turning 6 next week on feb 9, and so this is his official "graduation" to kids church. he's pumped. he's feeling older. i'm feeling old. i'm feeling proud. and i'm thankful we've got a great kids church here at hpc. thanks, sherrie, hope, rosie, roxanne, and all those who make hpc kids church awesome.

thank you, Lord, for putting this team together.

and thanks for letting me be lincoln's dad.

a tribute to two guys who've got it right

on the left is timmy straight (hpc's st. francisville campus pastor and on the right is rob read (hpc's danville, california campus pastor)

these are two guys i really love and i found another reason why i love them this weekend playing basketball during the hpc staff retreat. rob came in from california for the retreat. now, i've played basketball with timmy quite a bit in the past - i know he's got a good game, and he's the kind who will have a good game until he's 70. rob came into the gym wearing jeans and dress shoes, acting kinda like he really didn't know much about basketball: "i'm not too sure if i'm gonna play or not..."

HA! dino gave rob his shoes and timmy gave rob some gym shorts and rob came out eventually and started playing. he was great. he played like a little man in a big man's body. shake and bake, spin moves, tip-ins, mr. windex. me and my fat old self were amply impressed.

but that's not what i discovered about these guys. what hit me later was just how much these two men are much more than good ballers. they love God so much more than the game. they love people so much more than the score. their passion for people and for the God who made them is so much greater than anything else you'll ever see them do.

i've left the court many times in the past where i've been embarrassed at the way the people i've been on the court acted (often while wearing the name of their church on their shirt). but these guys were neither weak on the court nor were they possessed by basketball. they simply know the difference between the game and real life.

real life matters so much more. thanks rob. thanks timmy. for being living examples of that yesterday at the lsu rec center.

27 January 2006

staff retreat

okay - the pic is a new low in quality, i know. i was supposed to take a pic for dino to use in his blog entry about retreat. this is what i got. it was during the opening session of our retreat. lights were low and God was moving big time. i just couldn't see whipping out the big flash to capture it.

so, this is the pic you get. hopefully some of the description i give you here will be more impactful. dino's got a couple posts up about it, too, that you oughtta read.

you can click here to listen to the audio from that night (it starts about mid-way through the meeting, unfortunately).

but here's my personal account.

we went into a room that probably would comfortably seat about 100 people - almost all the chairs were gone except what lined three walls. there was a 7-foot cross lit up in the corner, and a table with communion laid out on it. delynn and jason and a very small band were singing some of the worship tunes we've recently added to our arsenal. and the lights were very low. very very low. great environment for worship. i don't usually get the benefit of just being able to walk into an environment like that and not get overwhelmed with analyzing it and reconsidering what decisions were made to set it up the way we did. it's been a long time, but i got it last night. i got to just roll in and join in the flow. nice. (thanks to all those who invested their time and effort to make it what it was).

the plan was just to worship and pray and see what God did. amazing. timmy straight (hpc's st. francisville campus pastor) gave a message in tongues, and then the interpretation: the gist of it was asking why we are surprised when God moves like he does. why are we shocked when God answers a prayer we pray? don't we believe it when we pray?

there was more to the message, but that's what rang loudest in my heart. God began to show me how when i pray, i typically don't really really believe (at least not like i should) that he's gonna answer. i pray because i know i should. i pray because i want God to answer. but i don't pray like i really truly think he is going to answer.

what he began to show me was that i need to do like elijah told the widow - gather vessels and God will fill them. i need to get ready for God to answer the prayer. why do i pray and not prepare myself for his answer? i need to recognize the "cloud the size of a man's hand" and get prepared for the downpour. i need to start running now because God has answered my prayer, and the rain's coming. there's no reason to be surprised or shocked when the rain comes. it's gonna come and i need to be ready.

every time i've prayed since that point - even praying over my kids last night - i've started having this little check in my heart asking myself if i really believe God is going to answer that prayer. it should be a "duh" kind of thing to ask myself, and the answer is always "yes" but when i answer "yes" the rest of the prayer then becomes a little more focused, and a little more determined.

i guess that's what praying the prayer of faith is about.

from my friend in brazil

just got this update email from isaac - working with the campus hpc's got in brazil. if you want a small reminder of why we do what we do, here's a reminder:

Hi, I hope you're doing well. Life down here has been great. This new year has begun in an awesome way, and I look forward to be a part of what God has planned for 2006.

I just got back from a trip to the churches in the interior. I had an awesome time with the people there. I was not able to visit all the churches but the ones I did visit are a blessing. I went to Joy Lake, and spent two nights with them. We had services both nights and gave an encouraging word to the Christians there. As I look back on the trip, I think God was really emphasizing relationship. I got to know the people more. I listened to their life stories and had the opportunity to just spend time with them away from the church setting. It spoke to me more by doing that than to be in front of the church giving a word.

We also had a good time with the believers at Alligator Lake. The church there has a floor now and walls are painted. We are getting real close to finishing it. From there we went to Swamp Lake to dig a well. It took us two days to dig it, but this family finally has a well where they can get clean water from. Without a well, when the water level is really low, the people in this lake dig holes near the dirty water that is left on the lake. The dirt settles and leaves a semi clean water.

One day while we here eating breakfast with the family where we were digging the well, they started telling us a story about
the water hole they used to have. About four years ago, his son drowned in their water hole. He showed me a picture of the little boy who was about 2 to 3 years old at the time. Then the man expressed his gratitude for this well at his house. These wells are not easy to dig, but hearing this man's story and hearing how thankful he was, made everything worthwhile. Lives are being changed.

The church here in town is doing great. We have been doing the 21 days of discovery. It's been awesome. The youth group is doing well also. We are planning a youth camp for the end of Feburary. We are really looking forward to it. The theme of the camp is intimacy with God. So please keep us in your prayers.

Thank you for your prayers and support. May God bless you richly.

In Christ,


26 January 2006

i'm on the charts....

randy santiago (west texas crazy) ranked my blog at #7 in his best blogs list. thanks randy!

(it's a weird sort of we-both-used-to-be-in-east-texas and my-cousin-married-his-sister or something like that. i don't think it's a whole lot of how great my blog is.)

24 January 2006

chad is crazy

i just got this pic from a good friend of mine who is a missionary/maniac like no other.

chad daniel is insane. for those of you who know chad, this is a totally "duh" thing to say.

he does do other things besides snake-charming. he once freaked my kids out by grabbing a lizard and sticking it in his mouth head-first and letting it wiggle it's tail and back legs out of his lips. my kids still can't see a lizard or chad without that image flashing back on them. (imagine the lizard's flashbacks!).

the real other stuff is something worth checking out - www.globalexpeditors.com.

love ya chad.

conversation between andy stanley and a blogger

check out this conversation between andy stanley and a blogger who posted something about one of andy's books. andy's so classy. no "air" of snob and no "condescension" in his tone but rather poised and honestly interested in what this dude had to say.

and the topic - it sure will make you think. it's about the mega-church deal - the idea that mega-churches aren't really what God had in mind. rather than just shrug it off as "stupid" i think it is important that we at least try to understand what bothers so many smaller church fans about the mega-church deal. and that's what andy was doing here.

i think it is worth the read. it'll make you think regardless of which side of the issue you're on or even if you aren't even worried about the issue. reading what they have to say can certainly help you come to a better focus on why you do what you do in your church.

(thanks to ben over at babulife for the heads up on this link.)

20 January 2006

getting stuff done

great post on seth godin's blog about procrastination. it'll make you think.

everybody stalls

19 January 2006

mark driscoll is blogging

the author of radical reformission and pastor of mars hill church in seattle has started blogging. this is one i'm very interested to see what he'll say on his blog. check it out here.

thanks, josh (at the leadership blog) for the heads up!

17 January 2006

two geniuses join forces

david russell has taken a position on mark batterson's team up in dc at national community church. he's gonna be the "digital pastor" - great title.

i would love to be a fly on the wall in their creative meetings. these are two guys we look to here for creative sparks and for genius ingenuity (i guess that is a redundant term). it's like getting lebron and shaq on the same team. it's just not fair. but then again, we're in a "game" that plays for keeps and frankly i'm elated to see these two uniting forces and increase the already-great momentum ncc has both in dc and across the country.

congrats david and ncc. and congrats to the whole Kingdom - it's our win.

jd's basketball schedule

i keep losing my printout of my son's basketball schedule. i'm guessing i'm not the only one, so i'm posting this schedule here - so me and all the other parents and family who need to know can know when the games are....

by the way - jd plays for the suns and they're already 2-0.

14 January 2006

21 days - day 6

i was reading hosea this morning during early morning prayer. i love that book. one of my favorite courses in bible college was a study on the book (lots of hebrew in the course - but a really great prof made the whole study really awesome).

anyway - i went back to the book this morning (not sure why) but i am so impressed again at the length God will go to in order to express His love for us and to get our attention when we forget Him. it's an overwhelming story of outrageous expression of God's unfailing love. (the hebrew word for it is chesed - for those of you that wondered if i caught any of the hebrew in the course - so there).

i read this sidebar in my bible from some notes i'd written a few years back - "do something just to let God you love Him. not for any benefit of your own - or to get anything out of it for yourself. just do something for Him. like you would do for your wife - giving her something or writing her a note. tell God you love Him by doing something you've never done before for Him."

what a great idea. after what He's done for me, there's no way i can ever express my gratefulness enough. so i'm looking for ways - trying to find creative ways to tell God i love Him. this is gonna be fun.

12 January 2006

the art of evangelism

great post on evangelism from a business viewpoint at guy kawasaki's blog. (thanks geoff for cluing me in to this dude's blog.)

i don't know if this is tacky or what, but in the interest of getting you to actually get the point, i'm gonna copy what geoff posted as a commentary about guy's post. but by all means - go read guy's blog for yourself - great stuff - not just this post. and the same goes for geoff's blog. you need to keep up with both of these guys if you're working in the church at all....

here you go:

Not everything is relevant (he's talking about pushing products, not sharing the Gospel), but there are some great lessons.

  • Look for agnostics, not atheists

  • Let people test drive the cause

  • Making a commitment to Christ is a huge decision. When its presented as now or never, all or nothing today we may be turning people away who don't need to be turned away. I'm not suggesting that a half-baked commitment is good enough; we just need to give people space to make such a life changing move.

  • Learn to give a demo

  • If we can't share a personal story about how Christ has changed our life we need to find another cause.

  • Provide a safe first step

  • Never tell a lie

  • When the Gospel is presented as a panacea to all of our problems (If it is, why am I still fat?) we can invalidate the truth of a life with God.

nice way of putting it...

got this from an article tony morgan wrote over at pastors.com.

"When our primary goal is to help people meet Jesus... we need to remember that those people are not looking for a three-point message that exegetes the biblical text. More knowledge won't help. They're trying to parent their kids, save their marriages, deal with losses and illnesses and addictions." - tony morgan

(tony's a pastor at granger community church in indiana - i read his blog all the time - great stuff there on ministry. check it out.)

11 January 2006

discovering more about grace

when I say “discovering” i mean it in a loose sense, kinda like how we say columbus “discovered” america. well, he followed vespuci, who only found what someone else had “discovered” way ahead of him from the other side. nonetheless, this morning was a discovery for me. maybe a better term would be “illuminating” or “getting some revelation about” grace. whatever. i think you get the point.

what hit me today during day 3 of the 21 days of discovery early morning prayer time at hpc was this: God’s grace is enough. it is sufficient for me, for you, for anyone who ever was or is or will be. i’ve heard the verse, “My grace is sufficient for you…” a thousand times but this morning it clicked with me. at least this part of it was a fresh hit for me. (i’m sure there’s still way more about the sufficiency of His grace i don’t understand.)

anyway – it was during a song by hillsong i was listening to on my son’s ipod (thanks for the loaner, jd). it just said one line in there about “Your grace is all i need.” over and over that line rang in my mind. it is all. that's enough. His grace is enough. and then the thought that follows in paul’s verse that says God’s grace is made perfect in my weakness.

wow. that's a toughie. that's saying that without my weakness (my sin) His grace would be incomplete? in a way, i guess so. without my weakness there would be no need for His grace. so, should I keep trying to be weak – keep messing up to help God out? paul asked the same thing (rhetorically). “should we continue to sin so that grace may abound?” here’s my version of his answer to the question. hardly – we’ve sinned enough and we’re plenty weak already – no need to increase it. one “little” sin was enough to separate me from God. it was enough to make me need Jesus to die on the cross for me.

but that was it. that was enough to cover it all. sometimes I don’t like to have to admit i need his grace. don’t ask me why – it’s a pretty stupid way to act, like we don’t need God’s help. we all need grace. i don’t want to need it. I’d rather be perfect. I'd rather never need to be forgiven or need help. but guess what – i do need it, and I’ll probably continue to need it, so I’m tremendously grateful it is there.

thanks, God.

10 January 2006

21 days - day 2

a thought hit me this morning during the early morning prayer at church about psalm 112 (what i am trying to dig into a lot lately - it's a description of what God sees as a righteous man - and since that's what i wanna be all about, that's what i'm studying right now.) here's the thought:

it says of this man being described that "his righteousness endures forever." i've always seen something like that when it talks about something enduring forever as meaning it will go through all eternity - not ending when this life is over. but what i thought about this morning is that forever begins now. if i'm going to be righteous forever, that includes everything i do in the next hour, the next day, the next year, etc. it isn't something that i'm waiting for - it is something i do now. i make righteous choices, i live in His righteousness daily - hourly - moment-by-moment.

seeing it that way makes the "little" things seem much larger. little things like showing anger when i get frustrated with another driver, like being impatient with the kid working the drive-thru who can't understand that i really do want seven drinks and seven meals in this one vehicle. like being selfish or lazy. all of those botch my "righteousness enduring forever" description because when they happen, my righteousness just failed to endure a challenge.

God help me to allow Your righteousness to be mine and to continually choose to endure the good and the bad - the fun and the painful - the happy and the sad - all without failing to be righteous through it all.

05 January 2006

on grace (a peek inside my journal)

i debated sharing this from my personal journal because of it being so open, but the more i thought about it, the more i thought maybe it'd help someone in their own pursuit, so here goes:

just got out of an early early prayer meeting with some of the healing place church staff. i like this prayer time (5:30) cuz i can get up and back before anyone else wakes up. (and so one of the twins starts crying as I type this.) i just wanna real quick put something in here about this morning. dino said something at the end of communion right before we took the cup that hit me strong. he said, “let’s just believe that after we take the cup – for that moment right there that we are all actually totally pure before God. all sin is forgiven – we’ve repented and he’s washed us and at least for that moment we are totally all of us all clean.” all too often i forget what an incredible thing forgiveness is. forgiveness by God for me is just a breath away at any moment any time of the day – and yet all too often i fail to ask for it, yet the result of asking for forgiveness is ALWAYS being forgiven totally and being made clean.

but that brings up two more thoughts. first, how stinking difficult it is sometimes to forgive others. why is that? God has paid such a high price to make it easy for me to be forgiven, and yet i make it such a difficult thing for others to find my forgiveness sometimes. the other thing that hit me is how much i need to walk in grace. now i’ve heard that phrase a bazillion times in my life, but it was just last night (as i watched the longhorns dethrone the trojans in the rose bowl) that i think i may possibly have begun to understand it. reading brian houston’s little book “how to live a blessed life” i read something that triggered a rabbit-chasing in my mind. he said something about living in grace, and i began to think about the way grace really does take away my sin. it is the whole reason that i can have any hope of heaven. but here’s my issue: far too often i allow God to forgive me and yet i continue to live under the guilt of my sin. i know I’m cleared with God, but i also allow the memory of my shortcoming – my weakness – my sin – to force me to walk a path that is lower, afraid that i’m no longer worthy to walk the path i was on earlier.

how ridiculous is that? sure, it is always about not sinning in the first place. don’t screw up and there’s no need for this to even be talked about. but if/when i do sin, i need to repent and then allow God to wash away the sin and the guilt of it. david prayed, “create in me a clean heart, o God, and renew a right spirit within me.” God can renew. God doesn’t need us to walk around the rest of our days dragging a load of guilt around. that would reduce forgiveness to just being an “ok-you-didn’t-lose-your-ticket-to-heaven” thing. but it is so much more than that.

forgiveness is complete. sure, there’s consequences for sin. look again at david. how could he wake up in the mornings after that whole deal and not be reminded of his guilt? i think he knew God had forgiven him and he did what i think i would find to be one of the hardest things to do: he totally accepted God’s complete forgiveness and walked away from the guilt and condemnation.

so when i feel less than top notch because i’m reminded of my past failures, i need to remember that God has already taken care of it because i have asked him to forgive me for whatever it was. and I’m not second-rate to anything or anybody. i can hold my head high in the grace God has shown me. His grace doesn’t just allow me to squeak by and still make heaven. it puts me back on the right path and it sets me back as though i’d never messed up.

i have got to quit holding on to what God has erased. today, Lord, help me to walk in confidence – in the confidence that you’ve washed all my sin away by your grace and that your grace is sufficient for me – i don’t need to do something else to make my being clean complete and totally perfect.

none of our past failures should ever be allowed to hold us down or keep us back even a step off the pace of what God wants for our lives. we are what He says we are – regardless of the past. it is forgiven and we can stand up tall and grateful to God and advancing into His plan for our lives unashamed and undaunted (but hopefully wiser for the lesson learned).

04 January 2006

why mcdonald's will always be better than burger king

check out this pic i found over on the brand autopsy blog.

i'm still here

i've got so much to blog about that it's crazy. most of it doesn't matter anymore, so i'll probably just try to keep up rather than catch up. basically, the holidays were what they should be for us as a family - a good bit of time spent together, too much food eaten and plenty of working around the house (including a trading spaces-rivaling tranformation of our dining room starting at 5:30p one day and being done before midnight - complete with two coats of paint on the walls, new curtains, new covers on the seats, and new table layout...) ahhh... the holidays.

there were also a couple opportunities for some reality checks. my grandma's death was one - her life was full and she's clearly in God's presence now, so the loss was ours, not hers. but not having had many family members pass away in my lifetime (she's only the third in my first-cousins and closer family in my lifetime) - i'm not a pro at dealing with it. weird feelings to have to deal with. thank God for a great wife who has been there herself with all that. she's amazing.

the other reality check for us came just a few days ago when one of my daughter's friends dropped rhodes (one of my almost-two-year old twins) on his head in our kitchen (linoleum floor). i wasn't home, but my wife was. everything turns out fine, but we didn't know that then. scared? for sure. understanding anew that life is fragile? absolutely. grateful for all my family more today than yesterday? oh yeah.

it amazes me when i consider how many times every day God spares us from tragedy - most of the time us not even knowing about it. i'm just glad he does. thank you, God. thank you, God.

more to come. just wanted y'all to know i'm not gone from the land of blogging.

oh yeah - geaux tigers. sorry 'canes - hahahahahahahahahaha F-O-R-T-Y to 3. ellllessssssuuuuuuu.