What I’m Reading Right Now

Craig Groeschel leads Lifechurch.tv, a church that is dedicated to being a reproducing, multi-site organization (“one church, multiple locations”).  Craig spoke at the 2008 Leadership Summit and gave a stirring, exhilirating and truth-filled talk that continues to resonate in my heart.

He spoke about the (almost) indefinable, elusive “it” that marks the unexplainable attraction to something or someone.  In this context, Groeschel talks about the life-changing power of a church that has “it”.
It is fascinating, this concept of the God of the universe – almighty, all-powerful, omnipresent, creator of all things being reduced to a boring, unapproachable, politicized head of an institution found on street corners and interstates all over this country.  But, sadly, it is happening.  All too often, the Jesus that we love is boxed up and set aside as completely irrelevant and unnecessary.  Too much passion – for Jesus, for people outside the walls of the church, for the hurting and disenfranchised – is frowned upon, and not just by those outside the walls, but sometimes by those within. 
Jan is asking questions about this on her always-fascinating blog.  I am learning from the questions she posits, from the fact that I have no easy answers.  Others are praying and pushing and opening dialogue and moving their feet to declare the truth about incredible, exciting, transformative faith found in Jesus.  These are exciting times.
I love the church, and I love Jesus, and I am really digging this book.  Groeschel is an engaging, honest writer.  His stories will give you great insight and make you laugh, and the challenges that unfold just might change your world.
And just might change your church.
You can find “It” here.  You can read Craig Groeschel’s blog posts here.

Sunday Setlist 9.28.08

I missed last week’s Sunday setlist post – it was a terrific service, but since it’s so late, I’ll refrain from the blow-by-blow description. However, I will say that we used A Thousand Questions, a video from Willow Creek Arts that premiered at the 2008 Leadership Summit. It was an incredible piece that moved people to tears, and generated more response than any element we’ve utilized in the past several months. Check it out, particularly to highlight missions or the challenge of dealing with finding God in the midst of turmoil. Terrific service element!

Now, on to this week; we kicked off a new series called AWAKEN, which is our spiritual growth emphasis for 2008. Every fall we do a church-wide series that includes small groups, student groups and kids. This year we have chosen Live Wisely by Bill Hybels as the study guide – we are tackling the book of James in small groups and from the main stage. Yesterday was a great start to the series, with a powerful message centered on James 2-4. Here’s how it went:
More Love, More Power– band jam. With some great players on stage yesterday, this piece was fun – though we had to abbreviate it because we were crunched for time. As an instrumental, this was a great tune to feature some solo work.
Video – Worship Objects – from Floodgate Productions via Sermonspice. Excellent piece to open worship. We killed the audio and played a live vamp in G underneath the video, to seque into –
Awesome is the Lord Most High – Chris Tomlin. Kevin sang the first verse slowly as a call to worship, and then the band popped in to kick things into high gear.
Let God Arise – more Chris Tomlin. It just worked. I LOVE this song.
We had thirty seconds of ‘auctioneering’ from a resident auctioneer, promoting next week’s fundraising event for our building. Following that, a skit by and about one of our small groups to encourage folks to participate in a group for the series, all homegrown.

Following the rest of the welcoming comments and offering prayer, we did He Is Yahweh by Dean Salwyn.  Elijah and Robert are two amazing percussionists who came in to play after getting home at 1:00 a.m. from a band competition in Virginia Beach (where they won Grand Champion and swept first place in every division – just a few props to the PHS band and the PCC musicians who serve there!!!)
To set up the message, which talked about the focus necessary to persevere through trials, we shot two minutes of our pastor teaching, deliberately and uncomfortably out of focus.  He did the audio live, and we had our own bit of Brittany lip-synching on stage.  It worked!
We ended with Awaken by Natalie Grant, an amped up tune that challenged everyone to ‘wake up’.
It was a great day!
Part of the Sunday Setlist blog carnival at Fred McKinnon.com!

Daily Blogvotionals

Through much of my life as a Christ-follower, I have used daily devotional books as tools for spiritual growth.  There’s some accountability, particularly in a book that also functions as a calendar.  Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, The Women’s Devotional Bible, Streams in the Desert, God Calling – all and more have been well-used and instrumental in the things I have learned about faith and obedience and grace and mercy.

Currently, I’m utilizing The Journal as a tool for Bible reading (although my consistency leaves something to be desired); the only text offered is the Bible itself, and it’s up to God’s spirit to prompt the learning.  I kind of like it that way, a little less structured…
However, lately I’m finding the most powerful and consistent devotional tool to be following a few blogs of people who are writing honestly about their lives, weaving spiritual lessons and applications throughout their writing.  It helps me that these people are real – or perhaps that the connectivity of the internet allows them to feel more real to me than Nouwen or Chambers.  There is interaction and reaction to current events, and real-time activity that brings a fullness to their observations of life that are helpful to me in this season of my own.  These folks are regular people, some who have chased after Jesus for much longer than I, some who are relatively new in their journey.  Some are older than I am, some younger.  Some are working in churches, some stay at home with kids, others lead lives in the workplace.  All inspire me, and – at times – drive me to my knees and break my heart with their honest insight into their lives and their relationship with God.
One of those people is Carlos Whittaker, who blogs at Ragamuffin Soul.  His post today tore me to pieces.  Reading the comments opened the floodgate of awareness as to the commonality we share as broken, selfish, self-absorbed humans – even on our best days.
And in reading stuff like this, I find myself surprisingly empowered.  It’s stunning to find myself in complete posession of this truth, this thing that I claim to believe but somehow fail to embrace as a follower of Jesus: 

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”  Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. – 2 Corinthians 12.8-10  The Message

Go read this post.  And think about working on your list.  I’m working on mine.
Want to check out a few of the folks whose writing inspires and elevates me?  Try these – and let me know who you would recommend:

Raised Into a Light-Filled World

David and Austin are best friends.  They have a rare ability to get along with one another extremely well almost 100% of the time.

Sunday marked a unique day in each of their lives – and they shared it together.  They were two of twenty-four people who were baptized in the James River that afternoon – adults, students and children who stepped out to acknowledge publicly that they wanted to follow Christ.
It’s hard to know exactly what nine-year-old boys are thinking, but I can’t help but believe that each one of them knew that this was a very special day.
It was special for all of us in attendance.  This year, Powhatan Community Church has baptized sixty-one people – a one-year record for this church.  Here’s how Kevin, our Community Care Pastor, interprets that number:

…not that the number in and of itself is important, but the fact that it is not simply a number – it is PEOPLE.  People whose lives are different today than they were before

Austin and David are two of those people.

Listening to final instructions.

Waiting patiently for his turn.

Another one of those people:  Kelley – one of MY best friends – being baptized with Austin, her son.  The look of sheer peace and beauty on her face is a transparent glimpse into her heart.  She is in the process of being transformed by Jesus in an incredible way.

Coming up out of the water with his dad; it is especially meaningful that Lonnie was here to participate.

Moving quickly; I think the water was a bit chilly!

“That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.”  Romans 6.3-5 The Message

Good Friends Who Love Deeply

We were so incredibly blessed this past weekend; some of our favorite people came to visit!  Dave and Diana were good friends during our time in Chagrin Falls; we were in church together, active in the youth ministry and involved in the lives’ of our children in various ways.  Dave and Shannon were good buddies from a children’s small group, and their daughter Lisa and I became very close as she navigated her way through young adulthood.  Lisa is now happily married and loving family life.  Their son Andy grew up and became a youth minister.

When Dave emailed to say they were contemplating a mini ‘Civil War Tour’ with a stop at our place, we were ecstatic.  As it turned out, they had less time than they had anticipated – but they elected to come see us anyway.
We had a great time together on Saturday; dinner and great conversation, including a recap of some crazy memories (“Remember the bonfire that was over three stories high?  Remember some of those Sunday night worship services?”)  We not only cruised through the past, though; we caught up on all that’s happened since, including Diana’s commitment to the people of Mali and the trips she takes several times a year to share the gospel with the people there.  Dave shared about new work experiences and his dream of a church with a vision and passion for people who are far from God.
It was truly a terrific evening.  In many ways, it brought some part of our life full-circle, connecting the past – including times bad and good – and the present, with a great nod towards the future and the exciting challenges ahead of us all.
Sunday morning, they came to PCC.  After sitting through the 9:30 service, they decided to stay and worship again at 11:00.  Knowing that they were in the crowd and that we were worshiping together (in more than just spirit, but geographically!) was really, really cool.
The best part of all is that Dave and Diana are just terrific people, true and authentic and friends in the best sense of the word.  I can’t imagine a greater blessing than the gift of their time.
Unless, of course, they decide to move here.
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.  Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply…”  Romans 12.9  The Message

May I Introduce To You…

Madame President.  Currently presiding over the Freshman Class of 2012.
Woo hoo!
Major props to Katelyn James of Inspired Designs by Katelyn James, who is a stunning photographer and a terrific individual.  If you’re in the Richmond area and need a photographer for a wedding, senior portraits, or any special event, contact her.  She does excellent work!

"Holy Is Your Name…"

I just sent this email to our music team:

Very rarely a song will appear that moves my heart to the degree that leaves me speechless. As I sit here in the Powhatan library, planning upcoming services for the ‘Awaken’ series, I have been moved to tears – almost to the point that I lower myself to the floor to worship right here and now.

“Exalted (Yahweh)” by Chris Tomlin. I’m not even sure why; the song is simple.  Maybe that’s why. 
Spend ninety-nine cents at Amazon or iTunes and worship God. And start soaking up the song while you’re at it; we’ll be using it in the very near future…
When the drums come in and the vocals simply begin to declare, “Yahweh/holy is your name…”, I just fall apart.  There is something of heaven in this mixture of melody and harmony and lyric.
Today I am thanking God for the gift of music to carry our hearts to Him.