Month: January 2011

I remember when …

I remember when:

* children sat in church with their parents and doodled on the tithe envelopes with a golf pencil found in the pew.

* pastors wore suit and ties, but when the preaching was really good, he would take off his coat and throw it to his wife on the front row.

* cutting edge Sunday school technology were felt boards.

* there was a little sign at the front of the church that told the attendance, offering and how many visitors we had at church.

* we had church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and to miss any of the three meetings was next to heresy.

* the only instruments in the church were a piano and an organ. Guitars and drums were for the nightclubs and bars.

* favorite songs could be identified by the page number of the holy hymnal. My favorite was #267 or  “I’ll Fly Away”. For some reason, though, we never sang the third verse of any song.

* you could get in big trouble if you got your “church clothes” dirty before church started.

* it was considered a “great Sunday” when the preacher did not preach and people prayed at the altar instead.

* people who sang “specials” never sounded that special and always had to read the words of the song off the back of a cassette label. They would say “don’t listen to me, just listen to the words.”

* the church building always smelled like sheep actually lived there during the week.

What do you remember?

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Reflections on a Sunday Gathering

My soul is full from the gatherings at New Life this weekend. Rarely does a Sunday not provide amazing stories of people being changed by God, but this past Sunday was really special for many reasons.

1. During the song set, Jon Egan shared the story from scripture of Mary anointing Jesus with a vial of expensive perfume as an act of extravagant worship. He said we had a choice to either enjoy the aroma of someone else’s worship or we could pour out our own perfume. Worship should cost us something. It was a strong reminder that God wants all of our worship and all of our hearts, at all times.

2. Later, Pastor Aaron read from Colossians 1 about Christ being formed in us. He reminded us that the Gospel is not about going from bad to good, but from dead to alive.

3. I spoke on the two baptisms in Luke 3. Water baptism requires us to obey and humble ourselves which allows for the old person to be cut off and for us to enter the destiny that God has for us. The second baptism is simply welcoming the work of the Holy Spirit into our lives and receiving it as a free gift from the Father delivered to us by Jesus.

4. After the 11am gathering, I prayed for a young couple trying to save their marriage, another young couple who had been hurt by a former church and were trying to trust church leadership again, and a middle aged man who cried as he told me that he finally understood the baptism of the Holy Spirit after years of frustration.

5. 53 new families came to Guest Central looking for more info about being a part of New Life. There were some great conversations, lots of prayer and some discussion with yet another young couple who wanted to find out about pre-marriage mentoring.

6. 11 kids accepted Christ in the 5th and 6th grade class alone on Sunday and over 80 in the same class prayed for more of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

7. On Sunday night, we baptized over 140 people, most of them brand new believers, including 54 children. Entire families were baptized together. A man who was homeless a month ago was baptized.

God is the one who provides wind for our sails and moves us with momentum from heaven. It is not a result of incessant hype. Momentum is more than just growing crowds or full parking lots. Momentum comes from people deciding to follow Jesus and being healed of emotional and physical pain. It happens when orphans from Colorado and around the world are being set into forever families. It is a result of widows from our church and city being cared for every week.

The church that Jesus birthed 2000 years ago in Jerusalem is still resilient and fully alive all across the earth. New Life is becoming more and more a reflection of those ancient, yet still powerful ideals. My soul is full.

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Every Story Matters

What is your story? What has God done in your life lately? Would your story be encouraging to someone else if they heard about it? Would your story build someone’s faith and give them the courage to keep praying? Most likely.

A couple of Sundays ago, a man named Dale told his story to our entire church. He had been homeless and alone until he met a New Lifer while walking downtown one Saturday afternoon. They became friends and fast forward a few weeks, Dale accepts Christ, finds a place to stay, and makes New Life his new church family. He lost wife about a year ago, but she diligently prayed for Dale to follow Christ, even as she lay on her death bed.

Sitting in the crowd that Sunday was a young Air Force airman whose wife was praying for him to make the same decision. At the end of the talk, he came down to the front and prayed with one our team. After the gathering, he found me outside and told me when heard Dale’s story, he knew he needed to change his life. It was a story, not a well crafted sermon, that made the difference.

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, we seem to talk about ourselves too much already, but I do believe an inspiring and authentic story can still change people. When God does something in our lives, we should tell others when we get the opportunity.

At New Life, we are working harder at telling all the amazing stories we hear each week. So don’t be surprised if someone holds a camera in front of you because we all need to hear it. Stories really do matter and your story can change lives.

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Awe, Adventure and Advocacy

On Sunday I talked about three words that will define our path at New Life in 2011 and beyond. These are more than just words that start with the same letter, these words are a map and compass for the way we will pray, the way we will make decisions and the way we will use our time and resources.

1. Awe

New Life has always been a fellowship that welcomes the presence of God in worship. The songs that have been birthed from this place are sung around the world, but the awe I am talking about is not just about songs or a set of musical charts. Awe literally means “fearful expectation” or an awareness that God desires to invade our natural worlds with His supernatural strength. I believe the gatherings at New Life this year will be filled with the awe of thousands of people who really hunger for God to be with us and to change us.

2. Adventure

Adventure does not happen in the safe bubbles of life in which most of us live. Adventure is for those who have surrendered themselves to live a life that is full of mystery and sometimes, great risk. God is calling us out of our comfortable places and into the uncomfortable realms of faith. God does want to encourage and comfort us, but He seldom allows us to remain static. God will nudge all of us this year to take some risks, to maybe fail, but for sure, to move forward.

3. Advocacy

God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, and sets the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:5-6). In other words, God is an advocate. God sent Jesus to be our advocate, to provide us something that we had no ability to provide for ourselves. Therefore, our story should be one of advocacy for those around us who cannot help or defend themselves. The widows, the orphans, and the poor need the church to stand alongside them, to defend them if necessary and to provide for them when able.

This is our clarion call as a fellowship of people at New Life. Join us on the journey and let awe, adventure and advocacy lead us forward.

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Anticipation for 2011

Hope is the anticipation of something good happening and I’m full of hope for the upcoming 365 days of 2011. I am sure there will be plenty of surprises, challenges, dark moments and belly laughs along the way, but one thing is certain, time will march on and we will be along for the journey. Here are some things I am anticipating as I look ahead to the new year.

1. The first Dream Center will open and will provide free medical care for women in our city who cannot afford basic services.

2. My first book, Fear No Evil, releases in April with Zondervan. The proceeds from the book will help fund the Dream Centers.

3. Abram will turn 13.

4. We will pay off more of the debt on our property at New Life.

5. Hundreds will be saved and baptized during the Thorn performances.

6. Thousands will surrender to live the vow at the summer Desperation Conferences.

7. Hundreds of New Lifers will go on mission’s trips and have their worldview rocked.

8. I will spend some time in Wales and Kenya, connecting with leaders.

9. Pam and I are taking the kids to San Diego for LegoLand and the zoo.

10. I will celebrate 22 years of marriage to my best friend.

I really believe hope and joy are fanned into flame when we can look forward to something and anticipate God’s work in our future. What are you looking forward to in 2011?

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