How Does MY God Speak to Me?

Right now I am in my car traveling home from celebrating Thanksgiving writing this from my phone. We have on the DVD player for my girls. They are watching Flo The Lying Fly. In this movie God speaks audibly to Flo several times. So we're riding along and suddenly Cana asks "How does God speak to me?" So I paused the movie and began eplaining how this was a cartoon and that cartoons are just pretend. So in this catoon God was speaking outloud. To which Cana responded: "But how does MY God speak to me?" So I began explaining to her that God speaks to her in her heart. And then I asked her: "Would you like to try it right now?" She enthusiastically said yes so I led her in this prayer: "Dear Jesus. Could you please speak to me in my heart?" Then I told her to keep her eyes closed and to listen with her heart. After a few short moments she opened her eyes with a big smile on her face. I asked: "Did he speak to you?" "Yes!" she said. "What did he say" I asked. She looked at me with a beatidul smile and simply responded: "He said I love you."

I'm a happy father right now.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I certainly did. Still, I have to admit that I'm struggling to reconcile with the fact that we express our thankfulness to God through the act of indulging in gluttonous behavior. I feel that we may be a bit like that Corinthian church that was being gluttonous and getting drunk during the Lord's Supper. Apparently they thought it was completely couth to express their gratitude for Christ's sacrifice by indulging in sinful behavior. Apparently, we feel the same way. Maybe that's a bit harsh. Maybe not. 

ViaFam08-2Nevertheless, my Thanksgiving was filled with family, fun, and fowl. I hope yours was as well (unless you are a vegetarian, in which case you can substitute "fowl" for whatever healthy garbage you eat). This year in particular God has caused me to be especially grateful for the many blessings he has given me. I love my family. They are certainly God's greatest blessing to me. I am grateful for my wife who is the most loving, gracious, and caring person I have ever met She's also extremely hott (with two "t's"), which I must admit that I am very grateful for! I am grateful to have been able to gather the entire Via clan together again. It won't be long before we have to rent a convention center to hold us all!

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good bowel movement. 

Fight of My Life: Episode 3 (better late than never)

So, I just realized yesterday that I never posted Episode three of the "Fight of My life." So I'm posting it now. Some of you who do not come to Journey may have been waiting on this for sometime. My apologies. Better late than never, I guess.

One Message. Two Locations.

This week I will be preaching at The Warehouse and Crouthamel will be preaching at the Theater. I love the process of preparing to preach. I love the praying, searching my heart, and searching the scriptures. The only problem is that you can only put so much information in one message. The temptation is to want to take everything that you have learned and impart that knowledge to everyone. There is a huge problem with that, however. Knowledge in itself never changed anyone's life. In fact, scripture says that "knowledge puffs up." My job as the speaker this weekend is not to impart knowledge but to help people follow Jesus. That's why, as we prepare, that Jimmy is constantly pushing us to identify the irreducible minimum. If I could only communicate one thing, this weekend what would I communicate? Then, take that point and build your message around that point so that you can communicate the one thing that you think will most help people.

At Journey, we measure success by life change. Numbers are not a true gauge of success. Finances are not a true gauge of success. We want to know how many people's lives are being changed. Are we helping our people at Journey follow Jesus? Are they looking a little more like Jesus every day, month, year? 

When we are preparing messages at Journey we are constantly evaluating whether this message is helping us reach our goal. What has been unique about this message is that we team developed the message. I've never been a part of something like this before, and I loved it! Jimmy, Paul, and I all studied up. Then we all came together, presented our material, stripped it all down to a common irreducible minimum, and then began building a single message together. It was awesome. What an honor and a privilege it was for me to build a message with two veteran (and by veteran, I mean old) preachers whom I respect and admire. I couldn't be more excited about it. Don't miss out on this weekend. It's going to be a cool weekend. If you have the time, what would be really cool is to go to both campuses so that you have the opportunity to hear the same message presented by two different people! Then you could see where they are the same and where they are slightly different. And then we will do an on-line poll where you can vote for who you thought did a better job! No, just kidding. But seriously…

Perpetual Holiday

I'm a sucker for great quotes. I ran across this one today, and I loved it.

"A perpetual
holiday is a good working definition of hell."

George Bernard

I love this quote, even though I have mixed feelings about it. My first thought is that my good buddy George must not have had the kind of family that I have. I love holidays, because I love spending time with my family, both my immediate and my extended family. My wife and I have two beautiful children and another one on the way. God has blessed me with the most amazing family. In ministry, I am busy through the weekend, so I take one day during the week to just relax and hang out with my family. I look forward to it every week. I feel that way about holidays as well, only magnify that feeling by a thousand. It gives me more time to spend with my family. But not only is it MORE time, but it's PURPOSEFUL time. My oldest daughter Cana, is three and she is just getting to that age where she is really beginning to understand and enjoy holidays. Recently she has been asking why Christmas is taking too long (to get here)! I love to see the joy that family togetherness brings to the faces of my wife and girls. It brings me joy and inner happiness. So in that since, a perpetual holiday is probably more like heaven!

I was also raised in an awesome family. My parents and four boys and one girl! Add to that a friend of ours who moved in with us and became assimilated into the family. There are few things that I look forward to as much as when we all get together. There are only a few times a year that happens: family vacation, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These are my favorite times during the year because I love my family. It's awesome. We all love Jesus. And we all love each other. When I'm together with my entire family, it makes me never want to leave. It's just too much fun. Again, I have to think that this experience must be a small taste of heaven!

On the other hand when Ol' George said "holiday" he probably meant it more along the lines of "vacation." And here is where I can relate to his statement. Vacation is a time when you relax, there is no agenda, there are no appointments to keep, there is no schedule. Now, that's awesome… for awhile. Everyone needs time to stop and take a break. But if all of life was lived that way perpetually, there would be no purpose, no meaning, no drive. Nothing would get done. I am consumed by the gospel. I believe that we are in a battle against the Ruler of this world. I believe that souls are literally at risk. And I believe that I can make a difference. I believe that I am called to make a difference. That is my passion. That is what drives me! So in that sense, a perpetual "holiday" where I am ignoring the call of God on my life, living aimlessly, and simply cruising through life… Yes, that would be a good working definition of hell for me.

Resurgance Blog: Get Better at Contextualization

If you know me at all, you know that I love Church History, I love church planting, I love learning from the examples of those who have gone beofre us, I love contextualization, and I adore (yes, adore) solid theology. That's why the recent blog by Jonathan Dodson on the Resurgance Blog, nailed it for me. It was the perfect amalgamation of all these things in one blog. Awesome. 

Generosity Sketch

Here is the sketch that I was referring to in my recent blog about Lillian. It hasn't played in any of our weekend services yet, but I thought I would post it anyway. I'm not even sure if this full verion will make the final cut for the weekend, which is why I'm posting it here, now. Enjoy.

The Secret to Gratitude – Part 2

Right now I'm reading Uprising by Erwin McManus. In one part of the book he mentions how Paul said that he was the worst of all sinners. He goes on to say that Paul was not literally the the worst of all sinners but that was how he thought of himself.

As you know, I was already thinking about gratitude and in my earlier post, I gave somewhat of a formula for gratitude: 

The greater the need

The greater the grace
The greater the gratitude
I still believe that this formula holds true, but what does that mean for those of us who have never had any great need. This is why McManus's statement about Paul got me thinking. Paul thought of himself as the worst of all sinners, even though that was not actually the case. Now, I'm not saying that we, as believers, should go around thinking of ourselves worse than we actually are. But for most of us I don't think that's a problem. Most of us think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

I think that most of us have no idea who we really were before we met Christ. Many of us have not led overtly evil godless lives, don't think we were that bad before salvation, and so have a diminished view of God's grace. What if we could gain a proper perspective on who we actually are, what we were actually like before Christ, and what we actually deserve. 

The hard truth is that we all deserve hell. God is a holy and righteous God. We are his creation, created in his image to love him and enjoy him forever. But before God, in his sovereignty, snatches us out of our damned fate, we live in total rebellion against him. Rebellion against the One who created us and loves us more than we love ourselves. And then even after salvation, many of us would rather go on loving ourselves and enjoying our things more than him. 

I'm not saying this to depress you, but to encourage you. Perhaps until we have a proper view of ourselves, we will never have a proper view of God and what he has done for us. Just the fact that he allows me to live another day is grace. Add to that the fact that he has given me clothes to wear and a house and a car and a ministry and a loving family… that's even more grace. The fact that he allowed me to marry the sexiest woman alive and has given me two beautiful daughters… more grace. All these things are what theologians call prevenient grace, and that's just the beginning. Scripture tells me that even while I was still a sinner, an enemy of God, Jesus died for me. That's grace! Then his Holy Spirit illuminated my mind so that I might understand the truth of the gospel and respond to him… more grace! Then when I responded to him, he forgave me of my sin… GRACE! Not only did he forgive me, but Scripture tells me that he accepted me into his family and even made me a joint heir with Christ!!! What the crap?!? 

When I deserved death, hell, and damnation, he gave me life, heaven, and salvation. When I deserved nothing, he gave me everything. When I deserved to be cast away from his presence forever, he adopted me as a son.

GRACE!!!!!! I'm tempted right now to scream it at the top of my lungs. GRACE!!!!!!

So perhaps I should slightly modify my original formula:

The better we perceive our great need
The more we understand his great grace
The greater our response of gratitude

Lillian Kalemera

For this week's message we are doing a video piece about generosity and giving. I wrote part of the script for this piece about a close friend and hero of mine. 

I thought that I would post this portion of the script on my blog for several reasons. Lillian is very dear to my heart, and what is below I have voiced to many people in the past month or so, but have never been able so say it quite so clearly or concisely. Also, her life was about impacting people with the love of Jesus. There were often times when I thought that her face literally glowed with the very love of Jesus. So I pray that this short recounting of her story will impact you in such a way, that you too will give your life away. And in giving your life away, that you may truly find it.

Have you ever
met someone who was so selfless it changed your entire perspective on the

When I was 17, I
had the opportunity spending several months in Uganda, Africa working with some
locals who ministered to the poor, the downtrodden, the widows, orphans and
aids victims.

In a country
where there is so much need, the work is never done. And it was there that I
met a woman who forever altered my perspective.

Lilian Kalemera,
a Ugandan national, worked with Arise Africa. In the past few years, her heart
has been drawn more and more to thousands upon thousands of orphans that walk
the streets and dusty paths of Uganda.

Lilian has been
in bad health for many years. Many of her American friends have offered to
bring her to the states so that Doctors could properly care for her needs. But
most often she refused stating that she had too much work to do in Uganda. Who
would care for these women and children if she left?

This past
August, I had the opportunity of spending some time with her again. She was as gracious
and loving as always, but I could tell she was not in good health. One morning
I asked her “Lilian, how are you feeling?” Her reply was “God is good.” To
which I responded, Lilian, I know God is good, but how are you feeling. She
said, “What does it matter, how I feel if God is good?” I asked her, Lillian,
what can I do for you? She asked me to pray that God would allow her to build a
playground for the orphans so that just once a week they could forget the pain
in their lives and just be normal children.

On Sunday, September 7th 2008, Lillian went home to be with Jesus. In very literal sense, she had lost her life for the sake of the Gospel. But in the end she gained an eternal prize, and she heard those words I long to hear: "Welcome home, my good and faithful servant."

Cell Phone Fun – Adventure Landing Lock-in

This past Friday night (or Saturday morning – however you look at it) our youth had a lock in at Adventure Landing in Raleigh. Now, I'm no stranger to this event. I've done it multiple times before and it's always a blast. But this particular time was very rough for me.

First, consider the fact that I have been out of the youth pastor game for 3 years. Youth paststors have a way of building up what I call youth pastor stamina. I am newly back in the game, so I still have not yet re-acclimated to the crazy schedule and grueling events. Second, Friday was already one long day for me. It was one of those days where all of my multiple responsibilities unavoidably collided. Most days are not like that, but Friday was out of control crazy. To help matters, I slept in until 8:00am and then went to work. I started work at 9:00am. I worked hard on weekend stuff, advertising stuff, and stuff (more on that at a later date). Then I had an informal "meeting" to hang out with some kids and go see "House" together at 3:00pm (which was AWESOME, and I'll give you a full review some other time). Then at 5:30 I had a party to thank and celebrate all of my volunteers for all of my First Impressions teams at a farm out past Creedmoore (about an hour away). Then I left there at around 10:00pm to make it back to the Warehouse campus to get ready for the lock-in. I met a few of my leaders there and we left at 11:30pm to head to Adventure Landing where we were meeting all the kids. I left there at around 7:30am (Saturday morning) and headed back to the Warehouse to tidy up a few things I didn't have the chance to finish up on Friday. I finally headed home around 9:45am, and was in bed by 10:30am. My wife was loving and gracious and took the kids out of the house for the day so that I could some sleep. I told her not to let me sleep too long so she called at 4:30pm waking me. She had to call 20 times (not 20 rings, but 20 calls)! Needless to say, I took the night off that night. Thanks to Meme, Kelly and I got to spend some alone time together that evening.

So that was my weekend! On to the real reason your reading this blog: Cell Phone Fun. This is a nauseating clip of one of my youth and I running the doubles kart around the track. Enjoy!