Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

Obviously, I don't know what you and your family have planned for tonight's New Year celebration. However, I hope that you are planning on spending some of your time in prayer. I know that my family will pray together as we prepare to meet 2008. Some things that I think on are "what does this new year have in store for our family? What challenges will we face? What struggles will we meet? What incredible opportunities will we see? How will our ministry change and grow?" I could continue to post questions 'til Jesus comes again, but the fact remains that it doesn't matter. What matters is that when we meet each situation, we are not meeting it on our own. I want to please Jesus in every situation. But, in order to do that, I will have to be intentional about it.

I hope that you have a great new year. I hope that you are safe. And my prayer for you and your family is to go boldly into this new year with the understanding that you can't accomplish things unless you've dreamed dreams. Dream God-sized dreams if you want God-sized results and allow Him to make them into reality.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Flight Plans

Well, we thought that our flight here was the last time we'd have to do a late night flight with the kids...oh, how mistaken we were. We just received word that due to all of the heavy travel, our flight has been delayed and is rescheduled for 10pm tomorrow night. That means that we won't get in to Las Vegas until 11pm at night/Pacific. Which means, now that we're on eastern time, it will feel like 2am to us. Then, a 3 1/2 hour drive. I believe we're gonna have to find a hotel in Vegas. So, another late night travel flight is on the horizon.

Tonight, we're planning on going on a hayride. There is a place called "Lights of the South" that is near my parents' home. You ride the hayride and look at all of the light displays. The kids are excited about it. But, until then, we've got a lot of playing to do. Family first!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Trip Continues

We traveled Christmas afternoon to my parents' home...about 2 1/2 hours from Jody's parents'. After dinner we opened gifts and had a great time together with my brother and his family, along with my parents. I really got some great things this year. I received an ipod nano, a little cash, some cool clothes, an ipod speaker system, and a Megellan Maestro 3100 gps navigational system. Pretty good, huh? The kids made out like bandits, and I am in good with the wife. Great Christmas!

We've really had a great time with each of our families. That's what makes Christmas to us. We enjoy celebrating the birthday of the King together as a family. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Georgia Pond

My in laws have a pond back in the woods on their property. Recently, they drained it and are letting it fill back up before restocking it. The recent rains have left a good-size puddle on one end, but the rest is just a pit of dried mud. I let the kids walk down into the pond to walk on the mud today. They loved it and were running and jumping and just being kids. However, soon their just being kids had them swimming in that good-size puddle. I heard some splashing and looked down to see them backstroking through the water. Yes, it's cold here. They were freezing. But, they had the time of their lives. I've just got to get their clothes and shoes washed and dried before their mother gets home. Shhhhhh!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Good Day

We got up and left my parents' house today to head to Jody's family's. We met and ate at a traditional Chinese restaurant in Jody's hometown. I say traditional because we meet for lunch there at least once EVERY trip home. It's a tradition...especially at Christmas. After that, Caleb and I spent some time at Walmart playing Guitar Hero on XBOX 360 on the game aisle. He won.

Ella has had a great day today. She and I have gotten to spend a lot of quality time together, and I've loved it. She is going to be a daddy's girl if it kills me. I'm really looking forward to all of the family time on this trip. I love my family. I hope that each of you are having a great Christmas season. Be intentional about making memories that will last a lifetime. Don't let reading people's blogs (ha!), surfing the web, and watching TV take away from your family time. After all, it's that family time that you will each remember long after the outcome of that movie has faded from your memory.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On a Midnight "Plane" to Georgia

I used to always wonder why in the old R&B song "Midnight Train to Georgia" the lady didn't take a plane. Was it because in other songs people were leaving on jet planes, not knowing when they would be back again? Or was there another reason? Well, last night I discovered the answer....BECAUSE THE PLANE RIDE WOULD BE MISERABLE!

My family and I left last night on a midnight "plane" to Georgia and decided we will never do it again.....or at least until our baby is older. The plane was packed. Ella wanted down. She wanted mom. She wanted dad. She wanted no one. She wanted mom. She wanted to run the aisle. She wanted....well, you get the idea. She finally dozed off right about the time we were beginning our decent. So, needless to say, we are exhausted. But, the good thing is, we're here.

Another good thing was the Holiday Breakfast Sampler that we got to experience at Cracker Barrel . Wow. I love that place. We've got to get one built on Greenspot in Highland. Let's start a petition, now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Way Up High

JR Lee and Todd Lollis , both good friends of mine, are living on top of a scissor lift at a car dealership. Why? Well, because they are trying to get people to invest in the lives of some underprivileged kids by buying over 100 bikes. You can read the story about it HERE . I encourage you to also click on the webcam feature and see them live on top of the lift. It's not constant streaming action, but very interesting all the same.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Created for Worship

You were created to be a worshipper.

The understanding of that statement alone carries with it a great weight of responsibility. It has nothing to do with a stage. Instead, it has everything to do with a lifestyle. Our lives are to exemplify Jesus Christ in every aspect.

Our Thought Life - every thing that we think on should honor God.
2 Corinthians 10;5 says "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Our Actions - 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that our old selves have passed away and that all things in our lives have become new. ALL THINGS! EVERYTHING! ALL!
That means our attitudes. That means our approach to ministry. That means our desire to serve. That means our home life. That means the pettiness of our pride that allows us to be offended over nothing because we think everything is, or should be, about us. That means that what we "think" does not matter anymore. Instead, it should be about WHO we know.

Our Worship - Theologian and Worship Leader Steve Camp says "a powerful doctrine sung in glory to Christ with an impure life is noise to the ears of our holy God. Submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the obedience to the Word of God are marks of the worthy walk of faith. However, when Biblical standard are dishonored and unrepentant sin persists we must adhere to the instruction of the Word-stop the music until life is right. (Amos 5:23-24)"

May every aspect of our lives bring glory to the living God. We were created for that purpose. Most people seek their whole lives for "their purpose" and to "find themselves". As believers, we should KNOW what our purpose is...to glorify God and to worship Him forever. This is the chief end of man. Live your life to accomplish the purpose you were created for. Only then will you discover the meaning of the abundant life Christ offers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

There's Always Something Going On

It was a pretty busy weekend, so I haven't had much time to blog. Here's a list of things that are going on right now:

1) I just purchased two gifts online that are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas Eve. Hmmmmmm, can you say "nervous".
2) I spent most of the weekend looking at the bottom of a trashcan. No, I wasn't curious about it's interior contour.
3) Our Christmas Worship Concert was a great success. I am so proud of the Immanuel Choir and Orchestra.
4) I sang at the funeral of a great man today. What an honor to be asked.
5) Caleb and I went shopping tonight for some last minute things that I just happened to hear about. Why do we not hear about these things in November?
6) We are flying to Georgia on Wednesday night. Our flight leaves at 10:50pm and arrives in Atlanta at 6am. I sure hope our children sleep. I sure hope this wasn't a mistake.
7) Clash of the Choirs comes on tonight. I plan on watching.
8) We're doing Christmas early since we are going out of town. I don't want to drag Christmas gifts across the country....twice. Santa Claus is coming to town tomorrow night at my house.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Are You Getting?

So, I'm just a little curious. For those of you who are willing to let the rest of us in on your little secret, I would love to know what your "surprise" is. If you would, post a comment telling me what that "BIG" gift is that you are getting your significant other. Husbands, what is that one special gift that you are buying your wife. Wives, what will it be this year that your husband is going to gasp over?

I want to take this little poll to see what this year's leading gift type is going to be for men and women. Will it be electronic gadgets that men will find under the Christmas tree this year? Will it be that sparkling "best friend" that women will discover beneath the bow and wrapping paper? Here is your chance to speak. Let us all in on the secret. If you feel it necessary to keep the surprise a secret, post your gift idea as Anonymous by not signing in to blogger. That way, no one is the wiser.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Got Elfed

So, I decided to try to elf our family. It was pretty funny. They only let you do up to 4 people at a time, so baby Ella was left out of this one. But, we made one of her with the kids, too. You can check out our dance of four HERE .

Let me know what you think. And, try it out with your family. It's great for a laugh.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Featured Servants:

Tonight was the last night of the dessert theater at Immanuel for the musical "It's a Wonderful Life". Tomorrow night will be general admission and will be the last performance. Our worship ministry does at least 2 musicals per year, and I am amazed every time by the directing and leadership of Lisa Lyons. Lisa is on the worship staff at Immanuel as our Outreach Productions Coordinator. She is one of the very best directors I've ever seen. Her attention to detail is amazing, and she ties it all together and makes it a ministry to those she is working with. Everyone who knows her and has the benefit of working with her is better for it. God has blessed Immanuel with Lisa Lyons.

Her husband, Lee, is also an incredible talent. Every musical displays an incredible set that is designed and built by Lee. I'll try to get some pictures on as soon as I get them. Not only does it look good, it is incredibly functional and helps to make the story come to life. If you've never had the opportunity to see one of our productions and are going to be in town, take the opportunity to visit Immanuel tomorrow night at 5:30. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dan Takes Flight

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I have a pretty crazy clan of friends. But, this one is tops of the list in 2007. A friend of mine in Tennessee, Dan "the man" Craddock, strapped on some crazy concoction and took to the air. You've got to watch the video to really understand it. High above his house.......Dan - you are officially the only person I know who has a wind sock on his house. Congratulations!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bridging the Gap

As a worship pastor in most churches across America, in any given worship service we are responsible for drawing people from 4-5 different generations into a sweet intimate worship time. That can be a real challenge at times. At Immanuel, we are passionate about reaching young families, building a hope and a future for Immanuel and the community we are called to serve. As a result, our older generations can feel left out and like they have no part in leadership.

One thing I have been passionate about is bridging the gap between generations. Many, when thinking of senior adults, feel that all they do is gripe and complain. Though true with some of them, some of my biggest supporters have been senior adults. I have some seniors who call me on a weekly basis to encourage me and pray for me. Here is a generation that can pour Godly wisdom into me. Many times I have to look beyond their approach to ministry, which can seem dated and irrelevant to our present culture. However, their passion and desire to make a difference is relevant.

Tonight, we are "bridging that gap" between generations, again. We are having our children choirs and Senior Adult choir go out carolling together. They will break into groups and sing in various neighborhoods. But, that's not the best part. After they sing, they will come together for hot chocolate and snacks. It's during that time that our Senior Adults will each share their favorite Christmas song and why it means so much to them. Then, our children will have the same opportunity. We want our mature generations to pour into and become spiritual grandparents to our younger generations. Instead of drawing lines in the sand and writing off whole generations of people, as leaders we need to find strengths in everyone and plug them into areas of ministry where they can flourish and make a difference. They are still on this earth because God still has a plan for their lives. I would love to see that plan lived out in the life of the church, and give them a reason to trust and support my ministry as I seek to serve Him.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Banquet

I was asked to provide music for a Christmas banquet that was held last night. The banquet was for pastors and staffs of the Inland Empire Baptist Churches. I am all about loving on and encouraging other pastors and staffs, so I was all for it. I asked a couple of friends of mine, Darrin Thurber and Mike Levitsky, to play with me. Darrin is an acoustic guitar guru and Mike is unreal on drums. Mike is actually sponsored by these guys . If you go to their site, click on the artists link and then on outlaws. You'll find Mike listed there.

It was a great night. We did some cool arrangements of some carols, a Third Day Christmas song, a Paul Baloche tune, and then we ended with one that I wrote called Bethlehem. It was a lot of fun, a great time of worship, and great food. Anytime I get the opportunity to worship and lead in worship is a good night for me.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dinners, Musicals, and Concerts, oh my

Sing with me, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Well, that's how the song goes. But, in our hectic lives full of appointments, school functions, staff parties, Christmas shopping, and traffic jams, the joy and wonder that we knew as children somehow disappears. How can we get that back? Well, I'm glad you asked.

I absolutely love Christmas. To me, it IS "the most wonderful time of the year". However, I have to be intentional about making it such or I fall into the trap of looking at the circumstances around me and I miss what Christmas is all about. Without the manger, there would have never been a cross. Without Bethlehem, there would have never been a Calvary. Without a birth, there would have never been a death and resurrection. I find that teaching these truths to my children and celebrating THAT during this time of year, helps our family to stay focused on the TRUE meaning of Christmas.

Now, understand me. I don't see anything wrong with playing Santa Claus and enjoying the magic of Christmas that makes my kids eyes light up. We do that as a family, as well. As kids, my children are excited about what they are going to get for Christmas. The gifts. The lights. The FOOD! But, as they grow, I want to have invested more in them than that. As they mature, they'll understand what we've taught them and the TRUTH in that story will come to life for them. Be intentional about investing in others during Christmas. That is the only way that I've found to make the distractions go away and the true meaning of Christmas to take center stage.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday

Well, it's Friday, and I have a lot on mind. So, I thought the easiest way to blog today would be to make a list. It seems that is the going thing these days in the blogging world anyway. So, I...must...give...into....the....pressure.

1) It has rained ALL day today. In SOCAL, when it finally does rain, it pours.
2) We are having Abby's 6th birthday party tomorrow. Jody made 36 cupcakes for 10 kids. Hmmmmm....I wonder if there will be enough cupcakes???
3) I dropped in on a rehearsal last night for the Christmas musical. It is going to be awesome.
4) I just found out that my parents had a drive-by shooting at their store. No one was hurt, but the front glass was shot out by two bullets. (And they were worried about me coming to the gang-infested state of California. Please.)
5) My 7 year old eats constantly. I didn't think that started until at least 13.
6) The SEC Championship is this Saturday. It's sad when the best team in the SEC isn't even in the game. But, the Georgia Bulldogs will be in a BCS Bowl. I can't wait.
7) Today is the last day of November. That's crazy.
8) I'm working on a surprise for Jody for Christmas. She's gonna cry.
9) The Cowboys are 11-1. Super Bowl bound!
10) This Guy called me today with an idea. He lives in GA where they are in the midst of a severe drought that is threatening their water supply. His idea is for everyone in the Atlanta area to buy a case of water from Wal-Mart and pour it into the lake. That should pretty much take care of their water shortage. I like it!

Well, I've got another choir rehearsal in the morning in preparation for our Christmas Worship Service on December 16th. We also have the birthday party tomorrow and a parade we're supposed to go to. So, I'm going to go and take my wife out tonight. She deserves it. So do I.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Worship Tool

Yes, again this involves Paul Baloche. I've just found that he is putting some great things out there for worship leaders at little or no cost. Check out his website at LeadWorship.com . You can put in your email address and receive updates and download options. Also, there are a ton of songs on this site that you can download demos of and band charts for....all for free. Yes, that's right. FREE! What a great tool. Thanks, Paul, for putting great worship leading tools into the hands of worship leaders around the world.

Kingdom Minded people make me happy.

Collection of Note

As a worship leader, I am always on the look out for great music that is scripture based and facilitates worship. With the constant change in worship styles and formats, it is difficult to meet the needs of everyone with one product. However, Integrity Music has just released a new Paul Baloche CD that is a great tool for worship. The name of the CD is "Our God Saves" and has several great worship songs. But, what really makes this a cool tool is that it saves the worship leader tons of time in writing charts and/or searching for chord charts online. It is an enhanced CD that has the leadsheets on it along with instructional video clips that give you tips on different guitar techniques in playing each song. If this fits your church's worship style then go check it out. It's sure to be a great tool for you and your fellow worshipers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Have You Ever.....

This blog is specifically for you Worship Pastors out there. Most of you will be able to relate to many of the following "have you evers". Each of these is an original that I've dealt with at some point in my ministry. I decided to take some of the crazy things I've had happen along the way and compile a list. I hope that others of you will find the humor in them.

HAVE YOU EVER.....

1)...had someone start off a derogatory remark with the words "with all due respect"? That's usually just a "polite" way to tell you off and still feel like they did you a favor.
2)...had someone write you an ugly note on their tithe envelope to give you a "message from the Lord"? In most cases, if that amount you wrote is any indication of your normal tithe, I don't trust the messages you are hearing from God.
3)...called to apologize to someone for some petty little thing that you didn't even know you did because it had gotten back to you that they were upset...only to have them tell you that it didn't bother them? Really? So, it didn't bother you so much that you told 49 of your closest friends? I'd really hate to upset you.
4)...had someone complain that the sound in a church service is so loud that it is damaging their hearing, yet refuse to move to a quieter spot in the church because they like their seat?
5)...had someone who can't sing, can't play an instrument and can't hear try to tell you how to lead worship?
6)...had someone shake their fist at you during a worship set and try to get you to change the tempo to suit their opinion of how that song should go?
7)...had someone stand on the front row and hold their lighter up, igniting a 1 foot flame in the air as you sang that last worship song just before the Pastor's message?
8)...received a letter that threatened you physically because you didn't tell everyone to give a standing ovation to the children's choir director? (I was looking over my shoulder for a month for that crazy lady.)
9)...tripped on that last step going up onto the stage in front of an entire congregation. (And I was the guest worship leader for that day. I wonder if they lost my phone number. I haven't heard from them.)
10)...had to send a chaperon home from a student choir tour? (Yep. Did that one, too.)
11)...partnered with another church to come do a mission in their town for them, only to receive a bill from them for the water and electricity you used while staying in their dirty high school Sunday school class?
12)...received an email, card, or phone call from a church member that was full of encouragement and appreciation that made dealing with all of the other stuff worth it? I HAVE!

Snapshot

My family and I did something yesterday that has been a long time coming...we had family pictures taken. We went to a park nearby and took some pretty cool shots on an old bridge. A good friend of our ministry, David White , took the shots for us. It was amazing to view the pictures. Because I'm with my kids everyday, I don't get to step back and see them growing up. Looking at these pictures made me realize how much they've changed, and are changing.

It's the same way in my walk with Christ. I get frustrated with my progress and feel at times that I'm not growing or becoming what He created me for. But, He is able to step back and see how far I've come. He sees the big picture and already knows the place He has for me to arrive. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could take snapshots of our spiritual lives? We'd be able to see ourselves maturing over time. Or, perhaps in some cases, not maturing at all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Time!

As November ends and December begins, the days on the calendar are quickly being marked off. It is amazing how quickly time is flying by. The preparations that seemed too early to begin in August, appear to have begun just in time as we find ourselves on the doorstep of opening night for the Christmas musical. This year's musical is "It's a Wonderful Life". It is very much like the movie, but we've written in a spiritual element that is sure to stir the heart. Our hope is that people will be able to relate to the real life situations of the characters and understand that God has a unique plan for each of us. We were created for a purpose. If we make ourselves available to Him, we will see God achieve His will in our lives in ways we never dreamed possible.

Tickets are already on sale. December 6th, 7th, and 8th is a ticketed dessert theater, and the evening of the 9th is a non-ticketed general admission. Tickets are going fast. If you've not yet purchased yours, please make plans soon to bring your family to the Immanuel Christmas Musical, "It's a Wonderful Life". It's the perfect jump-start to the Christmas season.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wow

Turkey, Dressing, Vegetables, and Pumpkin Pie. What a day! And, we're going to this guy's house now to eat another whole meal. I'm giving thanks already. Mmmmmmm.

Happy Thanksgiving

We had our annual Thanksgiving Eve service at Immanuel last night. I had never heard of a church having one before. I'm sure that there are others, but the idea was new to me. We had a good turnout and a sweet time of worship together. My daughter, Abby, had her first church solo (it was a duet, but she was calling it a solo). She did a great job and I was so proud of her. I love Thanksgiving. Even though we have already decorated for Christmas and are highly anticipating that day, Thanksgiving is special, too. Nothing in the world is better than being with my family. So, today is going to be great.

On Thanksgiving, there are a lot of distractions if you allow them. So, stay focused on your family and make it a day to remember.

From our family to yours, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sound Advice

I just got off the phone with a good friend of mine in Plano, TX, Mark Celoria. He has recently been called to a church there as Minister of Music and Worship, and is loving it. He recently had the opportunity to meet with a hero of mine, Todd Bell. Todd is the Minister of Music and Worship at Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, TX; one of the greatest churches in America. I say that because of the impact they are having on people's lives worldwide, and God is blessing them tremendously. I've had the privilege of meeting with Todd in the past and he is always full of wisdom and sound advice.

When you are in a position of leadership, one of the things that you are concerned with is always having something to offer your people. Whether that be musically, or a word of encouragement, or wisdom, you want to be a blessing and constantly help your people to grow. That means risking being repetitive. In order to help people believe something, they have to see it lived out. That means repetition. But, where do you draw the line between pouring into your people and sounding like a broken record?

Todd Bell relates it this way: Any football coach worth his salt will continually, week after week, preach the fundamentals to his players. That is the only way they will truly "get it", implementing the fundamentals in a real game-time situation. It's the same with worship. We have to hear the fundamentals consistently that:
(1)We were created for a relationship of worship(2) You must first be a worshiper before you can be a worship leader (3) Your ministry is impacting lives for the glory of God (4) The joy of His salvation must show on your face before people hear it from your mouth (5) You must be prepared spiritually or the musical preparation means nothing.

These fundamentals, and many others, have to be a part of who we are. We are continually growing as worshipers and as worship leaders. Continue to strive to be the very best you can be, and allow God to be glorified in every aspect of your life.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Preschool Chapel

I had the awesome opportunity to speak in the preschool chapel for the Immanuel Day-School yesterday. I expected about 20 kids, so when over 100 came through the door it blew my mind. I had decided that for preschoolers, I wanted to get them involved and tell a story that they were familiar with so that they would have a sense of accomplishment in already knowing it. I thought that I would have to explain where Adam and Eve were and why they were not supposed to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But, to my surprise, the kids knew all of that. They were answering every question.

I brought volunteers onto the stage to be trees and bushes and stuff. Also, a couple of them were Adam and Eve and one was the serpent. It was hilarious. As I referred to them as their character, they would just stare at the audience and pick their nose or scratch their head. Point of the story? These kids are being taught the Word of God at Immanuel. I was so proud that 2-4 year olds completely knew that story and that most of them had an understanding of what sin is. Way to go Immanuel Teachers! You are making an impact for eternity.

Christmas Shopping

Every year we find ourselves in the same position as most Americans...rushing around at the last minute trying to finish our Christmas shopping. This year, we only have 2 family members left to buy for, and then some additional things for our kids. We are 90% finished with our shopping. I can't believe it. I just had to tell somebody.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Promised You Photos





Here are some pictures of us putting up our Christmas tree on November 10th. Yes, it was early, but so much fun. We are having a blast everyday as the kids race to the tree each morning to plug the lights in. I love this time of year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saturday's Event

Okay...I haven't gotten the pictures up yet, I know. But, I will tomorrow. I just wanted to go ahead and tell you what went on in the Bumgardner house last Saturday. We all got up and fixed breakfast together. We made pancakes and the kids' pancakes looked like Mickey Mouse. Jody is talented like that. Anyway, as we were sitting at the breakfast table we could fill a cold breeze coming in the window. Jody commented that it felt like Christmas. So, I got up and put some Christmas music on. Now, as a worship pastor, I've been living Christmas since July. In my position, you have to start previewing music and picking out your Christmas program early. But, now we've brought it all home. Being in somewhat of a Christmas mood, we decided to do something "Christmassy". So, we pulled out the tree and indoor decorations and had a blast. Now, our tree is up, our mantle is decorated, and our stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It is a winter wonderland in here people...and I love it.
I'll post the pictures of us decorating tomorrow. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

I actually have the day off today. My family and I are going to go do something...still not sure what that is. But, you are not going to believe what we did on Saturday. Make sure that you check back in over the next couple of days. I have pictures. I will post them as soon as I can. If you know us really well, it won't surprise you (too much) to see. But, for others, it will be a "what in the world?" moment. I'll give you a hint....we just got a little ahead of ourselves. See 'ya then!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Date Night

Immanuel's preschool ministry offered a date night tonight to church families. Free child-care was provided from 4-9pm. What a great ministry! Jody and I took advantage of that offer and invited another couple out tonight. We went to Victoria Gardens and ate at a restaurant called Gyu-Kaku , a Japanese restaurant. It was very interesting. The food was great and was all-you-can-eat. But, in the middle of each table is a grill. Yes, a grill. They bring you a big tray of different types of meat, and you grill it yourself. It was very good, and we had a lot of fun. The price is a little steep, but it's worth a try. Gotta love the Garden. There's always something to do out there.

Blackout

The Georgia Bulldogs had a blackout in Athens,GA on Saturday. For those of you who do not follow sports, the bulldogs encouraged their fans to where BLACK to the game today against Auburn. The football team broke out black jerseys (normally red) which not only pumped up the team, but the crowd was in this game before the opening kickoff and all the way through the end. What a great game. Georgia is playing like one of the best teams in the country. Go Dawgs!

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Night with the Darlings

You are not a true American if you have never watched the Andy Griffith Show. I love that show. And if you have seen very many episodes at all, then you know the Darling Family. They were a mountain family that played blue grass music, while their "Pa" blew in a moonshine jug to add that little "extra something". Tonight, our choir and orchestra will be hanging out together up in the mountains for some vittles and a little country celebration. It is going to be a great time. I can't wait to see each of them tapping their feet and chewing on a biscuit. What spells "bonding" better than that? I love hanging out with our people! See 'ya there.

ISWA

The Immanuel School of Worship & Arts (ISWA) had their very first semester come to an end last night. It ended with a great night of worship as our students led us in songs of praise. I couldn't have been more proud of our students and our instructors. It is amazing to see how far they have all come in 8 short weeks. Keep an eye out in the upcoming weeks as we'll be promoting the next ISWA semester, which will offer private lessons on various instruments, as well as class settings in various subjects. Great job last night guys! If you missed it, plan to attend the semester ending worship night next spring.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Living Waters

One of the things I love about Immanuel is that we are Kingdom focused. We don't look to just build up "our" church, but instead we look to make investments in the Kingdom. One way we do that is that we have several mission churches that we support and help to reach the communities that God has planted them in. Living Waters is one of those churches. This church has been planted in San Bernardino and is trying to reach a very diverse culture with the gospel. Our worship team is working with their guys to pour into them as much as we can. Their team is very inexperienced, but they have a passion to reach people. That's where we come in.

We are planning on using every resource we have to build them up, strengthen their approach to ministry, and help them reach that community. Get ready San Bernardino. Living Waters is preparing to take that city for Christ.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Integrity

I don't know why I am amazed any longer. I guess I just want to see the good in everyone. But, it kills me to see professing believers who do not seem to have integrity in any area of their life. I know that we will let each other down. I know that no one is perfect. But, when a lack of integrity seems to be a pattern, and our character is shaded by our choices and deceit, we cast a shadow on the cross of Christ.

Think about what David said in Psalm 101: "I will pay attention to the way of integrity. When will You come to me? I will live with integrity of heart in my house. I will not set anything godless before my eyes (now that is devotion)....A devious heart will be far from me; I will not be involved with evil."

How often do we rise up in the morning and make this kind of commitment to the Lord? Well, that is exactly what it takes. No one can live a life of integrity apart from a daily, renewed commitment to God. We have to renew that commitment every morning for it to be fresh in our hearts. That is why our New Year's Resolutions always crash and burn; we don't renew that commitment daily. Instead, we make a "one day" commitment with the intention of it being a year-long commitment. Renew your mind every morning. Focus on the things of the Lord. You will definitely see your character reshaped and your heart blazing with a new found passion to please Him.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Praise and Worship

The Worship ministry here at Immanuel began the Immanuel School of Worship and Arts this fall. Our first semester was a test-run with one class, Praise Band 101. Our instructors are incredible, and we've really seen a ton of growth in our students. In January we will be expanding with private lessons, as well as classes in basic music theory and such. Tonight is the last class for Praise Band 101 this semester. We will meet together to put the final preparations on our worship service that is scheduled for this Thursday.

It is going to be very cool. We will be worshiping together while featuring various students on their instruments. We have been teaching and equipping them to be worship leaders. Our goal is that they will grow in their understanding and ability musically, while learning what it means to be a worship leader. But, our primary goal is to help them grow as worshipers, ultimately glorifying God through all that they do. Make sure you look for the opportunities coming up next semester to get involved and grow in your abilities to lead the Lord's church in worship.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's October 31st!

As a kid, I was really into the excitement of Halloween. I loved going in haunted houses, watching scary movies, and sitting around in the dark with friends telling ghost stories. Growing older, I now have a new excitement for this time of year. Immanuel really goes all out for tonight's community focused event. This year, we will have 75 game booths (all giving out candy...yum), pony rides, a hayride that takes you through the story of the Wizard of Oz, a petting zoo, live music, great food, a hay maze, and a ton of other stuff. Did I mention the candy? Based on previous years, we are expecting an estimated 12 - 15 thousand people to pass through our campus throughout the evening. The majority of these people would never step foot on a church campus. Hopefully, just by loving on them and providing this event for their families, their interest will be peaked in the church and we'll see them again. If not, at the very least we loved on them and they know it.

The primary focus is being placed on providing a great event for the community. I can't wait until tonight. In fact, I'm bringing a pirate, a black cat, and Minnie Mouse with me. I'll post some pictures of that soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You Can't Please Them All

Every now and then someone chooses to voice their opinion in ways that are not very encouraging. These people seem to rise up in our lives at times that are not the most opportune. As a result, the risk of discouragement is high and we can easily be pulled off course. Our response to such people speaks highly of our character and our faith. This does not mean that we can't reprimand when needed, but we must react in a Godly attitude that exemplifies Who He is in our lives.

We must also be prepared that if we are in a position of leadership, we don't get to just enjoy the glory. There will be times that we must endure the "mess". Where there are people there are problems. And often times, we become discouraged by the "problems" caused by the people, instead of looking to the "possibilities" in the people. It really is all perspective. Teach those around you while meeting their issues head on. It is the only way to accomplish, encourage, and "earn" the respect that we each feel we deserve in any position.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Dawg-gone Good Day

Though I waited with my heart in my throat most of the afternoon, it is finally official; Georgia defeated Florida 42-30 today! My day can't possibly get any better. It was an incredible game from the opening kickoff. After Georgia scored their first touchdown the entire team rushed into the end zone to celebrate. Though a penalty came as a result, it set the tone for the day that they had come to play and were settling for nothing less than a win. And that is exactly what they got.
What a day.

Now, I guess I'll go cut the grass. See, I told you my day couldn't get any better. I'll be celebrating this one for a while.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Little of Everything

I spent much of the morning today creating practice tracks for the Immanuel Choir. This is in preparation for our night of Christmas Worship on December 16th. We've been working the music since the end of August, but feel that we can make the most of the time we have left by utilizing our resources. So, practice tracks should help polish off the memory work that we have left. We're having to adjust choir rehearsals to Sundays for the next 2 weeks because of cancelled services on Wednesdays. Lots to do.

I'm working on a song right now on the theme of thankfulness. Partly due to the season we're entering into. But, also because of where the Lord has me right now. Recognizing His blessings in my life and the life of my family. Were it not for the grace of God I could be alone, living on the streets, or worse. His power in my life goes beyond my imagination of what He is capable of. It surpasses my thoughts of what I need or could ever desire. He is absolutely everything.

"Let the people give thanks and praise Him, for He is worthy of our praise."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fire Damage

My family has been blessed by God's protection during the recent fires in Southern California. However, there are so many families that have been displaced. I received an email today from one of our own choir members saying that she just learned that her house had burned in the Slide Fire in Running Springs. Lynn Wilder, was actually out of town when the fires hit. She and her husband had lived in that house for 33 years. So, it will take some major adjustment in the days ahead.

Where there is tragedy, God is glorified. In her email, Lynn said that she knew God was in control and she was glorifying Him. I'm sure the coming days will be difficult, but she is choosing to praise Him in the midst of her trials. God is bigger than our circumstances! You see people's true beliefs and character when they are in the middle of hardship. Lynn, we see your trust and faith in God, and we hurt (and rejoice) with you!

I have not heard of any other specific names of church family who have lost their homes. I'm sure there are many that we will hear about in the coming days. Please keep all of these in prayer as we seek to meet the needs of others and bring glory to the Father.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fire...Bad!

As my good friend Frankenstein would say...."Fire....bad!" The SOCAL fires have been crazy. While most of the world waits for the day that California breaks off into the ocean, we are sitting in the smut of what once was a very picturesque scene here in Southern California. The fire is not an immediate threat to my neighborhood. However, we are under a voluntary evacuation. That is mostly due to the fact that the winds could change and bring it our direction. Though, at this time, that doesn't seem to be the likely scenario.

Our area is covered in a dense fog of smoke and ash. The air quality is horrible, and many of our church family have evacuated. Coming into the office this morning was very interesting. As I entered the building I could see smoke hovering at the ceiling and the place smelled like a fire-pit. The decision to close the offices for the remainder of the day has been made, and all events on campus for this evening have been cancelled. But, even as I write this, the smoke seems to be lifting a little outside and is already beginning to look better. Hopefully, this trend will continue and tomorrow will be a brand new day.

Please continue to lift all of the evacuees, firefighters, and families that have been effected by the fires in Southern California. If anything crazy happens, I'll let you know.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Immanuel - God is With Us

The Immanuel Choir and Orchestra are preparing for Sunday evening, December 16th, for a night of worship...celebrating the birth of the King. It is going to be a great night of music, worship, and celebration. The songs we have picked are incredible, and I can't wait to share them with our church family. Each one speaks of hope, salvation, and the joy of knowing Him. We may even do an original song called "Bethlehem" that personifies the city. In all, our desire is to bring glory to the name of the One Who came as a child, walked with us as a man, and gave His life for us on Calvary. It is going to be a great night! I'm sure the choir and orchestra will do an incredible job, as always. I love Christmas! And this year, there is even more reason. If you are not there on December 16th, you will wish you had been.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sick Day

If you know me at all, then you know how much I look forward to Sunday. Sundays are what I work all week for. That is the day that I get to "enjoy" the fruit of our week-long labors. It absolutely kills me to miss on Sunday. So, today is that day for me. That rare occurrence when I just can't make it. It hit me about 4am this morning and I've been unable to shake this feeling of nausea since then. So, I'm hanging out on the couch today. Hopefully this will go away soon and I can make it to the evening service. But, at this point. I'll be happy just to be able to sit up for more than 5 minutes at a time. Oh, well. I might as well make the best of it and get some rest. I wonder if I am just sick to my stomach that Rich Franklin lost his title shot last night early in the second round? Is there any reason to ever watch UFC again now that he's lost his opportunity? Hmmmmm.....yeah...I guess I'll press on.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Music Reading

Thursday night I hosted a music reading with Lifeway Worship. I partnered with Roger Byrd, California's state music representative, and we hosted it at California Baptist University . We held it in their music building...what an incredible, state of the art, location. Stan Loyd from Lifeway was there along with several other ministers of music from various churches. Though a small crowd, we had a great time and made some great connections. Hopefully, these will be connections that we can expand on in the future as we partner together to make the name of Jesus known.

Lifeway

A representative with Lifeway Worship has requested I pitch some of my music to them. I am hoping that a door will be opened there for having something in print, but also for future opportunities to take our ministry around the world. Perhaps churches all across America will be worshiping the Lord through our music as a result of our ministry. That is my dream. And it's something that I can't make happen on my own. It is a God-sized dream. He will have to work out the details if it's His will. Meanwhile, I'll try my best to be faithful in every aspect of my life.

I'll keep you updated on the status with Lifeway. Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, October 19, 2007

10 Years

On January 10th, Jody and I will be celebrating 10 years of marriage. Wow. Those 10 years have flown by. 11 different homes and 3 children later, we are taking a dream trip together. We considered going to Hawaii, but Jody has always dreamed of being in a place where snow covers everything. So, without her knowledge, I started investigating different "snowy" locations. We've decided on a place in CO. I've lined up some things like a horse-drawn sleigh ride and dinner, snow tubing, and snow-mobiling...just to name a few. I can't wait for January.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Leading Worship

I had the awesome opportunity to lead worship for the FAITH Training and Equipping Seminar that was held today by Lifeway. What an honor! I love the opportunity to lead worship anytime I can. As a result, I was invited to lead worship in April at the Inland Empire Baptist Associational Meeting. I can't wait. There is nothing as sweet as leading people in worship of our Almighty Father. What could be any better than that?

I am also leading worship again in the morning (yes, on my BIRTHDAY - hint hint). We're going to be meeting the Lord with You, You are God, You are God Alone, and Made to Worship. It will definitely be a sweet time of praise.

Happy Birthday to Me

October 16th is my birthday. That's right. And I will be 33 years old. You know, Jesus was 33 when He died for me. That really helps me to put everything into perspective.

Jars of Clay

The Jars of Clay concert was incredible. They rocked out some of my favorite "old school Jars" songs, in addition to playing some of their newer ones. They also played some new songs off their brand new Christmas CD which is hitting stores tomorrow (October 16th). We just happened to get a sneak-preview of the CD and the chance to buy it early for only $10. Pretty awesome. I bet 2/3rds of the audience were not Immanuel people. This proves my suspicions that we need a venue in the Inland Empire for christian concerts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Heart of Christ

A prayer that I have been praying lately is "Father, let your holy heart beat within my chest. Give me the passion and love that you have for lost people. Father, let me see with the very eyes of Christ. Allow me to see people as you see them; lost and undone with you." I am living with a song that we sang last week at Catalyst. A friend of mine beat me to the post...so you can link to him by going HERE.

Imagine if we all lived our lives with this passion and understanding; shedding tears over the lost and unsaved. I'm sure this song will impact you as it has me. Leave me some comments and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jars of Clay

I am very excited about the band Jars of Clay being in concert here, at Immanuel. They will be here tomorrow night, October 11th. If you are not familiar with the band, go to itunes and do a search. You will recognize a ton of their music if you listen to Christian radio at all. Tickets will be available at the door, or you can purchase them online at ticketforce.com .

Get your tickets and be a part of the "JARS" experience at Immanuel tomorrow night.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Catalyst Debriefing 2

Craig Groeschel had to have been one of the highlights of the entire conference. In fact, I'm in the middle of reading one of his books right now, Confessions of a Pastor . It is an incredible book. Very real. If you have the opportunity...get it.

Another thing that was absolutely hilarious was that there was a caveman walking around the stage at Catalyst, with a video camera. He finally ditched the video camera for a little still photography. Pretty funny seeing a caveman working a little technology. Did they invent the camera right after the wheel?

Catalyst Debriefing

The Catalyst Conference was everything I had hoped it would be. It was a great time of connecting with other Pastors from around the country, former co-staffers from past churches, and friends from seminary and college. It was also a wonderful refueling time for me, personally. I was challenged by the speakers, encouraged by friends, and led to the throne in worship. What a privilege!

One of the things that really spoke to me the most was something that John Maxwell said. It is something that all of us know. In fact, it is something that I've taught our people in various ministries for years. But, it was the way he put it that gave me a whole new perspective. He asked "what are you doing that is making an investment in the lives of others?" At first I thought "well, I minister to numerous people on a daily basis." But, then it hit me. How am I intentionally touching lives and making a difference?

My mind was flooded with the remembrance of missed opportunities over the past few days. I was convicted, yet challenged to do more. When my time on earth is done, I want to have made a huge impact in the lives of others...for the glory of God.

Can you imagine the change we would see in the lives of others if we were all INTENTIONAL about making an investment in people's lives? It only takes a word of encouragement here. It only takes a prayer there. Be intentional!

I'll share some other things that I picked up at the conference over the next few days.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Time to Refuel

I have the awesome opportunity to be fed this week. I am at the Catalyst Conference this week and I can't wait for the sessions to begin. I am actually using a friend's laptop tonight and won't have access to it later this week. If I can steal a second or two on someone's computer, I will give you an update later this week. But, no matter what, when I return I'll give you the full scoop. I love weeks like this one when I have the chance to sit under the teaching of anointed men of God who are serving in similar ministries in various parts of the country. Pray that the Lord will teach me by the power of His Holy Spirit this week. And that He'll fill me with passion and zeal to serve Him in creative ways like never before.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Things We Do For Our Kids

The San Francisco Giants have made it clear...they are not going to re-sign Barry Bonds after the end of this season.

Caleb and I were invited to tonight's Dodgers/Giants game at Dodger Stadium by a friend and his son. We were to sit in box seats near the Giants' dugout. I was to have the chance to see Barry Bonds play live and boo him with the rest of the Dodger Blue faithful. Father and Son bonding time. Baseball under the lights. One of the game's biggest rivalries. I talked with Caleb and pumped up my presentation. Then something flew out of left field and into my line of vision as he responded with: "But Daddy. That is the same night as the fall festival at school."

What? You would rather get a piece of candy for picking up one of 30 rubber ducks out of a mold covered wading pool than to go to a Dodger game? You would really choose to win a tattoo for throwing a plastic ring around a stuffed animal? You would pick the chance to throw a bean-bag through the mouth of a wooden pumpkin that is being held up in the wind by a broom duck-taped to it's back? For what? A 3 pack of sweet tarts? Are you serious right now? Where is Ashton Kutcher? Am I being punked?

Those were all of the thoughts that went through my head. Of course, my real response was "are you sure? Okay then. We'll go to the fall festival...and we'll have fun." But, inside I was dying.

The things we do for our kids. In reality, we did have a great time at the festival. It was a lot of fun. And the cool thing was that our kids had a blast. So did we...just watching them.

But, oh what it would have been like in Dodger Stadium tonight....

Catalyst Conference

I'll be at the Catalyst Conference next week. This is a creative church conference. A lot of fellow bloggers are going to be there and I'm looking forward to meet all of you in person. Though, through the amazing world of Al Gore's invention (the Internet) I feel as though I know you already. I'm really looking forward to the breakout session with Mark Batterson. I'm sure that will be amazing. Be ready Immanuel. I'm sure I'll be returning with some incredible ideas for reaching people for Christ and enhancing the ministry God has called us to. To God be the glory!

New Song

Every song has its foundational story....or does it? One of the more recent songs I've written has its foundation in scripture. God's word tells us that there is none righteous. In and of ourselves we have no hope, no identity, and no future. However, God loved us so much that while we were sinners, Christ came and died for us (Rom. 5:8). Through that scripture, and others, God brought me to a realization that I couldn't get to Him. Though I may have needed a Savior, I didn't seek Him...He sought me. He also tells us that we love Him because He first loved us. Therefore, my relationship with Him was made possible by Him, and was initiated by Him alone.

With these truths in mind I wrote a song entitled "He Came to Me". Here's the chorus:

He Came to Me
Now My blinded eyes can see
He forgave, and set this prisoner free
He died, and He rose, and that's all I need to know
When my sin was all I could see
He came to me

Senior Adults

I had the awesome opportunity to lead worship at Immanuel's Senior Adult Luncheon today. They are always so encouraging to me. Far too often senior adults are forsaken as we put our ministry efforts in other areas. However, we would not be where we are today as a church had it not been for this generation of heroes. Every moment I have with them is a blessing from the Lord. Today, we sang some of the great hymns of the faith together, and I debuted a new song the Lord has given me to write. Good times!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Encouragement

No matter who you are, you like to be encouraged. Whether you're in the valley or on the mountain top, encouragement is a welcomed visitor. All of us want it, and all of us need it. Sometimes it's what drives you, and other times it's what helps you survive.

I have been blessed to have had incredible people in my life. In every church I've served, God has placed people there strategically to encourage me. And His timing is amazing. Just today I received a telephone call of encouragement. In addition to that, I received 2 cards of encouragement. 3 encouraging contacts in one day. Needless to say I was on cloud 9 during choir rehearsal tonight.

I am so blessed to serve the Lord in the capacity to which He has called me. And He's called all of us to some sort of service. Whether it be in full time vocational ministry, or to play the roll of an encourager, all of our roles are important ones. Stay focused, know that He will never leave or forsake you, and keep your eyes on the prize. Eternity is just around the corner.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Washington D.C.

We're setting things into motion on the Washington D.C. High School Choir tour for 2008. We have some connections at the National Mall and are attempting to set something up there. Possibly a concert...or at least an opportunity to sing a few songs. What an awesome mission field that would be. People from all over the world come through that mall.

We're also looking at possible lodging. One of the vitally important things about a trip of this magnitude is keeping the cost down. It is very difficult to make such a big trip with a large group of people while also making it affordable. If you have any connections in D.C. that could hook us up with transportation while we're there for the choir, it would potentially save us big time in the finance department and make this trip affordable for many of our students.

We're believing God for a huge year in High School Choir. We believe we're going to take one of the biggest groups ever on this tour, and that God is going to use us to impact the world for His glory!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday Rewind

Sunday, September 16th, was a kickoff day for many different facets of the worship ministry at Immanuel. The high school choir kicked off with a bang. Root beer floats, $5 Starbucks cards, and the reveal of this year's choir tour destination topped the list of favorites. The students discovered that we are taking Washington D.C. by storm this spring, and the trip is going to be an exciting one. We are already putting some things into place as we prepare to win people for Jesus.

We also began our Sunday afternoon Immanuel Choir rehearsals. This rehearsal is an alternative to the Wednesday night rehearsal. There are many whose schedules do not permit them to be at choir rehearsal on Wednesdays, so we're making it a little easier for them. This is a trial run. We are planning on giving it until the end of the year to see if it will warrant the participation necessary to keep it going. My hopes are that it will. Though we usually run upwards of 100 on Wednesday nights, this very first Sunday rehearsal brought us nearly 20 people. Hopefully we'll see the Lord grow this rehearsal from here as more people learn about the opportunity.

The orchestra had a retreat this weekend and saw much success. Ken Hughes was our guest clinician. Ken travels with the band "Denver and the Mile High Orchestra", and has also worked with artists such as TRUTH, Jaci Velazquez, Rosemary Clooney, and many others. His insight and leadership really made the weekend a success.

So, there you have it. Another blessed weekend. God is good.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Magic Numbers

Just so you know, I am a big baseball fan. I love everything about it. I especially love to be at the games. I've never been happier than when I'm sitting in a baseball stadium. The crowd, the energy, the noise, the food. The whole experience drives me to want to do it again and again. But, even as a big fan, there is still a line that I consider "too much".

I saw that line crossed when Mark McGuire passed the single season homerun record and the ball sold for $3 million dollars. Yes, you read it right. $3 million dollars. For a baseball. And, once again as Barry Bond's record breaking career homerun record ball sold for $752,467. Now, that does not seem so bad in comparison. However, it is still outrageous. Wow. Wouldn't it be nice to have that kind of money to blow on a baseball?

By the way, I finally broke down and got a myspace site. I had refrained for many years, but it seems to be the only place that I can keep up with old college friends, choir members from former churches that I've served, and friends from seminary. I've had the page for 2 days and already I've spoken with 7 people that I haven't had contact with in over 10 years. Amazing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where does your Passion lie?

I am now in my 15th year of ministry. I know what you're thinking. "You're too young to have been in ministry that long." On the surface it would seem that way. But, God was using me at a very early age. At the age of 18, I began leading worship at my home church. In these years of ministry, I have learned a lot. As a result, God has now given me the opportunity to share those things with others.

I am currently mentoring 2 young men. Both of them are very talented and I am sure God is going to do mighty things with them...if they'll stay committed and focused. One of the first questions I ask when meeting with someone is "what is your passion?" We should all be passionate about something. It doesn't have to be preaching, or leading worship, but we should all have a passion. My reaction to their answer is always "follow your passion!" Whatever you are passionate about, give it to God.

When we follow our passions, we give them all we have. Our time, our money, our thoughts. They all go into our passion. Give it to God, and in turn, you are giving all you have to him in that area of your life.

Let me put it like this: Think about the parable of the talents. Whatever God has given you, don't return it to Him without pouring all you have into it. Pour yourself, all that you have, into all that you give Him. As a result, you'll honor Him with an offering that brings Him glory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Family Updates

I thought it was time for some updates on the family. Since we have so many family and friends that are on the other side of the country, I wanted to post some recent pics.

Our first born. Caleb celebrated his 7th birthday in May at Chuck E. Cheese....where a kid can be a kid. He can flat play some Skee-Ball. He is a video game junky, loves the computer, enjoys school, and is a spelling and math wiz. He is hilarious and continually keeps us laughing. (I hope this isn't sounding like a resume.)

I absolutely love this picture. It is great to catch these moments so that you can go back later and show the kids that they really did love each other at one time. For the most part, they do get along well. I can't get enough of hearing them make each other laugh.

This is Abby at Chuck E. Cheese. She is now in kindergarten and is loving it. She had to miss today for the first time because she was sick (bad sick). She hated not being there. She's that kid you made fun of at the school awards banquet because she won the "Perfect Attendance" award. Not that Abby will get that now...but she wanted it.
Yep. It's official. She's a nerd.

And now, for Ella Kate. Ella is just a happy baby. She has enough teeth now to kill a jaguar. Don't ask me how I know that. I just do. She can totally beat up her brother, and pretty much rules the house.





We have absolutely been blessed beyond anything we could have ever imagined. God is great, and continues to do incredible things in our lives. Continue to keep us in your prayers. As you can see, we have our hands full.....and we're loving it!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Publisher Demos

I just received the latest demos from the publishing company of the 2 most recent songs that I've written. I am investigating ways to post them here on thechiefend.com. When I get that figured out, I'll post them for you to hear. It is weird to hear the demos. They don't sound like what is in my head. However, I've learned that you are not pitching an arrangement of the song. Instead, you are pitching the song itself. What constitutes the song? Well, basically it is the melody, rhythm, and words. The arrangement is left up to whoever picks the song up. So, the demos are basically a keyboard, a little bit of percussion, and the vocals. Again, I'll post them if I can find a free, easy-to-use player to put on the site. Thanks for your prayers and support in this area of ministry.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sugar Highs and Lows

Last night was another great rehearsal. However, I had been suffering from a really bad headache all day. Toward the end of rehearsal it became apparent to me that my sugar was off. So, I quickly made an exit and went home. I'm so thankful to have a staff that can just pick up things for me and run with them. They always do a great job. So, I've been recovering since last night. The headache is still with me, but overall, I'm feeling much better. Crazy huh? Maybe the government slipped something in my water. Hmmmm?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Air Conditioning and Government Conspiracies

I.......I did survive.

My family survived the latest record setting heat wave of Southern California. Yea! Temps hit as high as 117 over the past 10 days, and we were feeling every bit of it. Our air condition went out on August 22nd, so we've been sweating to the oldies for 2 weeks now. Thankfully, friends of ours went out of town for Memorial Day Weekend - thanks Craig and Lisa - and they allowed us to stay at their house. Others - Mark and Gretchen - took good care of us as well by giving us an all expense paid stay in their daughter's bedroom. But, the part came in, the repair was done, and the air kicked on at approximately 10:09am this morning.

So, this guy shows up to fix our air. He seemed like a nice guy and everything, but when I started telling him about Christ he said "oh, I am a born again believer out of the Catholic faith, but I have a problem with preachers". He went on to bash Billy Graham, whom he told me had died (sorry Billy), saying that the Presidents knew him so well because of all of the indictments against him. When I said "I've never heard of any indictments against him" he told me "and you won't. The government is embarrassed that they gave a criminal access to the White House as a spiritual advisor, so they've erased all of the records of it." He then preceded to tell me about all of the government conspiracies that are currently going on in our country. He told me that George W. Bush is the CEO of Valero Gas Stations, and passes laws to ensure he continues making money at his gas stations. That was just a portion of the things he shared. The rest of his rantings I can't post here because "they" are watching. If I post them I could be taken from my bed during the night and forced to watch old re-runs of Good Times until my memories of the information that has been shared with me is flushed from my mind. And the thought of that is not so dy-no-mite, if you know what I mean.

Crazy Cat Video

Wow! The response from the crazy cat video was "crazy" itself. Let me give you the report back. Even though I put the disclaimer on the blog, it seems that just enticed many to watch the video anyway. Not my intention...but it is apparently human nature...so I've learned. I had 7 complaints about the video. 7 people who felt that I shouldn't have posted it. Let me say that I really do appreciate those opinions. In fact, my parents were 2 of those. So, Mom and Dad....when I put a disclaimer on the blog in the future and the video makes you sick...don't continue to hit the play button and watch it more than once. I promise, it won't get any better. (That was a joke, by the way). My decision to post the video was not purely based on the content, but instead the fact that it had been caught on camera. Dead cats are on the road every day, but how often does that get caught on film like that. It was that shock that I thought would make everyone want to see the video. My bad.

As a result of the complaints, I decided to pull the video down so that no one else could potentially be offended. After having done so, I received 17 complaints about the video being gone. Many of whom had told others about the video and wanted access to it. So, it seems you can't please everybody.

SO, on behalf of those who were offended...my sincere apologies.

On behalf of those who want to view it more...my sincere apologies.

On behalf of Fluffy the cat with no more lives....well, I didn't shoot the video, and I wasn't driving the car. I just posted the results.

"Cat" we all just get along? (Meow)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sunday Rehearsals

Wow. I didn't realize that yesterdays blog would generate such great response. "Thanks" to each of you for your input. Some were unable to log on to comment and sent me emails instead. Cool. But, on to a different subject.

The Immanuel Choir has been so blessed over the past several months. We've been the recipient of so many new people into the ministry. Praise the Lord! We've also been doing some research among our congregation and have come to realize that there are others who say they would love to be a part of the choir, but that their mid-week schedules keep them from attending rehearsals. Well, we've just fixed that for them. Beginning Sunday, September 16th, we will be adding an additional rehearsal to Sunday afternoon. That rehearsal will start at 3:30 and will be a condensed version of Wednesday nights. If you've been unable to attend previously, this will give you the opportunity to still be a part of the work that God is doing through the Immanuel Choir.

I hope to see you there. In the meantime, each of our choir members are working on bringing one person into the ministry. I believer that there are numerous people within our church that need to be connected and make an investment in their own ministry. What better place to be than in the choir? I'm praying for God to add 50 new members this fall. Join with me as we believe God for huge results.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sad, But True

Please make sure your sarcasm detector is turned on and tuned up for the following:

It is amazing how many people in the church know so much about so many things. I can't tell you how much advice I get from people based on their...well, based on nothing. I am not complaining, mind you. I am simply stating a fact. In a church with nearly 2500 in attendance each weekend, can you imagine the amount of input I get on music? Now, I am not writing this because anyone has been mean or un-Christlike in an email or letter. On the contrary. Most people simply state their request(s) and leave it at that. But, the worship ministry is not KSGN. We don't have an all request line. How could we?

Let me explain it like this: In any given week I may get 10 requests for a specific type of music. In addition, I may get 10 different requests for certain songs. Along with that, I may get 10 requests for a specific type of music that is in contrast to the previous 10 requests for a totally different kind. (Sarcasm alert) And just for the record, I love having people "thank me in advance" for fulfilling their requests. "No problem, sir. In fact, I had no idea what we were going to do for music next week until you approached me. I'll be sure to get right on that."

Okay....now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me say that there is absolutely nothing more that I would rather be doing than worship ministry. It is my heart. It is my passion. It is my calling. I know that people have their favorites. But, ask yourself this question: Is your favorite more important than someone else's? We can't possibly be successful as a church and as a worship ministry by going in so many different directions to meet the needs of everyone that we miss the needs of everyone. Over the past 15 years of ministry, I have learned that if you try to please everyone, you please no one.

In a nutshell - here is the vision of the worship ministry. This statement will not give you the details of how to accomplish this - it is simply a broad view. The worship ministry exists to glorify God, to lead and encourage, teach, and mature believers in worship. But, part of our purpose also involves attraction. We desire to attract the world to the church by glorifying God through whatever means possible. If you have a Kingdom vision, then the details of seeing that vision realized will not distract.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just another Day

I hung out with Caleb and Abby yesterday at the pool. We had a good time. I was the shark...they were the minnows. Needless to say, I won. But they tired me out. So, I don't know if that was a victory or not??? Jody was suffering with another one of her infamous migraines, so I hung with the kids most of the day.

Today, I am going into a writing session in about 2 minutes to work on some new song ideas. Song writing sessions are so strange for me. I usually spend that time working out ideas that I already have. Rarely do I get an original idea during these times. I usually get those original song ideas at weird times. Driving down the road, cutting grass, walking. I guess I need to do those things a little more often. Well, off to write.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Phone Calls Home

I don't know about you, but I love hearing the stories of what God is doing in the lives of our soldiers who are fighting around the world. Recently, my Minister of Instrumental Worship (orchestra guy) shared the following story with me. This is not one of those passed around the Internet stories with faulty origins. Jeremy, is actually the son of a co-worker of my orchestra director's father. Does that make sense? Okay. Just read the story below. It's pretty cool. It makes me think of battles in biblical times.

I haven't updated you recently on my son Jeremy, who is serving with
the 82nd Airborne Army Division in Afghanistan. He has been involved
in many firefights with the Taliban as he and his buddies are high in
the mountains near the Pakistan border and are attempting to stem the
flow of Taliban recruits from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

He called me 10 days ago and said that he thought he was going to die
in a firefight the day before. His 5 man patrol met up with another 5
man US patrol to make camp for the evening. After establishing a
perimeter defense around their camp, they eventually ate dinner and
settled in for the night.

All at once, enemy small arm fire and rocket propelled grenades began
pouring into their camp from the hills surrounding them. Jeremy is
the Fire Control guy and he dove into the Humvee to get to his radios
to call in some artillery fire on the enemy. Unfortunately, neither
radio worked, either because of technical problems or being destroyed
by small arms fire. With a night vision camera, they scanned the hills
around them and counted 75 enemy raining fire upon them. 75 against
10 is a tall order, even for the 82nd Airborne.

Jeremy said everyone started firing back with everything they had.
The battle went on for over 3 hours. Jeremy said he manned a machine
gun on one of the Humvees and fired until he eventually ran out of
ammunition. They could see the Taliban moving toward the camp to
attempt to overrun the small group of men. Jeremy said they all threw
all the hand grenades that they had with them, then began firing their
last weapons available, their rifles. Eventually, Jeremy's supply of
ammunition dwindled from 12 clips to just 1. He had 30 rounds left
and decided that he would save the last one for himself because he
chose not to be captured and tortured by the Taliban. He said he knew
that he only had a few scant moments left and he was praying to God
for all that he was worth as he carefully shot his last ammo.

Then, miraculously, all firing ceased....both from the Taliban and our
guys. As the soldiers waited, the sun began to peak over the tops of
the mountains as a new day was beginning. Jeremy said that,
afterwards, they came to the conclusion that the Taliban must have
thought the U.S. soldiers would call in an air strike on them once
daylight appeared. Who knows what really happened... I believe God
answered prayer and supplied a way out for our guys that goes beyond
human explanation.

Eventually, Jeremy and his guys walked through the hills where they
had returned fire and found the bodies of 30 Taliban troops. I was
fighting tears as I asked Jeremy how many brave American troops lost
their lives that night. He started crying and said, "Not one, Dad.
No one was killed, no one was even injured! All of our equipment was
destroyed by enemy fire, but not one person was injured!" Praise the
Lord! Jeremy said, "Please ask everyone back home to continue praying
for us! It is, by far, the best protection we have!"

Folks, no one is THAT bad of a shot! This is proof to me that angels
were protecting our troops that evening, just as millions of Americans
are praying! Please, please, keep it up.... Our heroes are depending
on you to be Prayer Warriors! Thank you so much for your
faithfulness!


Pretty cool, huh? Now, get off of your computer and go pray for our troops!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Music Reading

We had PRISM Music with us at Immanuel today. BJ Green led the event and we had a really good time. He listened to two of my songs, All I Need and I Believe, and said that he was going to pitch them around to some people. I'm not holding my breath for anything, but it would be cool to have someone pick them up. (Still living the dream).

One of the things that has helped me the most in songwriting, is to base some songs on scripture that is not being used as much for inspiration. We all know tons of songs based on God's forgiveness, and Jesus dying on the cross, and the blood covering our sins. While those subjects are definitely part of the foundation of our faith, they are everywhere. I have written on those subjects, as well, and they are some of my favorite tunes. However, why not write on subjects that others are not writing on. I've got one that I'm working on now.....but, sorry, I'm not revealing the scripture source just yet. I'll let you know when I'm done. Hey, I gotta keep some secrets.

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Day

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Some of you have been asking about Abby's first day of school as a brand new kindergartner. Well, all is well. It was more emotional to send my little girl off to her first day of school than it was with Caleb. When he started school, I felt more like "that's my boy. Go conquer the world." But, with Abby, it was more like "not my little girl. Where have the last 5 years gone? My life is nearly over now." So, other than my emotional state, it was pretty uneventful. Her teacher did say that "Abby is the perfect student." But, whose to say that she doesn't tell all the parents that? All I know is that she loves school and can't wait each day to go back. I know that will possibly change over time...but for now, she is crazy about school.

Caleb is in 2nd grade this year and is really enjoying his class. I can't imagine any teacher not liking him. I know that he is energetic, but he has a heart of gold and loves everybody. We're praying for another great year from him.

God has blessed us with three incredible kids...and I'm proud of everything I'm seeing them accomplish. Even Ella....who now says "please"......well, those two times that she said it.

Hurricanes

Wow! Have you been checking out this whole Hurricane Dean story? Can you imagine something so powerful that you have absolutely no control over coming at you with such force? I have never experienced anything like that. I have been very close to numerous tornadoes in my life-time, but never anything like that. So, why do people think of California as the wild wild west with earthquakes and wildfires? Well, first of all, it's because there are earthquakes and wildfires....ha! But, I'd rather face a potential earthquake...and I know where wildfires are before they get to me. A tornado can come down from anywhere. Now, I know I'll be singing a different tune should I ever fall victim to either of these. But for now, I'll take my chances on the west coast.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Few Loose Ends

I've got a few loose ends to tie up today for worship in a couple of weeks. I try my best to stay two weeks ahead. It really helps our staff to have plenty of time to prepare. It also gives me more time to live with the songs, the scripture, and the worship concept as a whole before leading our people in worship.

Wednesday night, I challenged our people to bring just one person into the Immanuel Choir by our fall kickoff date in mid-September. They all seemed to accept the challenge, so I'm very excited to see more people invest in this ministry. One of our altos even gave me two names and phone numbers of people that she has been talking with about joining. I called both and as a result I believe that they both might join soon.

As I explained on Wednesday night - it's not about seeing how many people we can get into the choir. It is so much bigger than that. The more people that come into this ministry, the more people there are that are investing in the life of the church. It also enables us to accomplish greater things. Our circle of influence is also expanded. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. We all get so much out of being a part of this ministry. Why not get others involved, allow them to make the investment and enjoy the rewards just as we do?

I'm so excited about what God is doing and is going to do.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hangin' with the People

I love people. Yes, where there are people there are problems...but I am people too. So, it comes with the territory. Today, I got to spend some time with two guys in our ministry and just listen to where God has them. I met one for breakfast and the other for lunch. (I'm really into meeting over food.) I am amazed to hear the stories of people's lives. It is also cool to see God develop friendships out of ministry. So often, I look to spend time with our people thinking that I'm going to get to minister to them...but it always works the other way around. I am the one who gleans the most from spending time with our people. I only hope that one day the world will see how great the people of Immanuel are. I am convinced that I serve at the greatest church in the world.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fall Kickoff

The Immanuel Choir will be having our Fall Kickoff in September. We are encouraging every current member to invite and enroll one other person. If that were to happen, can you imagine the blessings we would receive from doubling the size of our ministry. Think of the number of families that would be directly involved in the ministry, in addition to the new abilities we would discover and see God use in our church and community. Share the blessings! If you fill blessed to be a part of this choir, then allow others to share in those blessings by involving them in the ministry. I'll be posting more details as we get a little closer.

Monday, August 13, 2007

BLOG NUMBER 200

That's right. This is blog number 200 - so you are here for a momentous occasion. This would have happened much sooner, but I have been busy with other tasks the past couple of weeks and have not had the drive to blog. However, here I am now.

I went surfing last Thursday. It was pretty interesting. I was actually able to stand 3 times, which I was told was good for the very first time. Overall it was a great experience. I will definitely go again.

I've got some things that we're working on with the choir as far as additional rehearsal schedules. I will be posting more on that in the coming days.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

National Television Appearance

I am going to be on NBC tonight (Tuesday). Make sure that you are watching. "How?" Well, I went to a taping of America's Got Talent on Saturday. The show airs tonight on NBC, so make sure you look for me. I was wearing a light grey shirt. The guy beside me in green is Jody's cousin, Josh. We are sitting over the left shoulder of David Hasselhoff .

I could tell you who is eliminated and who moves on, but I signed a waiver that gives NBC the right to sue me for $50,000 if I reveal anything, so I'll stay quiet. Just watch the show and look for me. Oh yeah....and if Cas Haley gets voted through, make sure to call in and vote for him. He is really the only one there with the talent that would really be worth buying a ticket to see....in my humble, yet accurate opinion.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Contract Signing

I signed the contract on my first publishing deal today. It was an amazing feeling...having a dream come true. I had to have someone sign as a witness that wasn't related to me, so I chose my Pastor. He has been very supportive and encouraging ever since I've known him. So, I asked him for the honor of having him on my first publishing contract. He actually left his house just to meet me for it. Be in prayer for him this week as he is going to Decatur, AL to preach. He asked me what business casual looked like in Alabama. I laughed and told him that it looks about like it does out here. He is going to get to preach in a Tommy-Bahama shirt and slacks. He was so excited!

Alright Immanuel Choir. It is time to start inviting and encouraging others to join us. We are gearing up for our fall kickoff and enrollment campaign in September. Get an early jump on it and get people thinking and praying about joining us now. I'd love to see an influx of new choir members this fall. I'll give you some goals to shoot for over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday Night Rewind

Tonight was amazing! It was awesome to see God's people come together to worship Him. We implemented a new look, a new focus, and a new sound to the evening worship service. What an incredible difference! Tonight confirmed my suspicions about Sunday nights. Sunday evening has seemed to be the watered-down version of Sunday morning, with no true identity of it's own. We were intentional about tweaking that service and saw the results. People were buzzing before the music even began, simply from seeing a new stage design. When the band began and the praise team kicked into gear the energy from the congregation was unreal.

I saw, for the first time, the Sunday evening crowd excited about worship. Distractions came come in many forms. It had come in the form of complacency among our evening service goers. People used to come in expecting nothing exciting, and as a result, they got nothing exciting. That alone took our eyes off the Lord on Sunday nights. We simply created an exciting atmosphere, refocused our attention, and true worship took place. Praise the Lord! From this point on, we have to be intentional about tweaking and adjusting on a regular basis.

Refocus, retool, and you'll be reformed. Immanuel has quickly become the place to be on Sunday nights. See you there next week!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Movie Night

It is awesome to see the church reaching the community and providing for needs. Every Friday night in August we are providing food and entertainment for the community in our softball field. Each Friday night there will be a free movie and food. The all you can eat food is just $3 and includes hamburgers, chips, drinks, snowcones, popcorn, and cotton candy. One mother said that she brings her family because "where can you find entertainment for your family for so little money?" Tonight's movie was Facing the Giants and it was great. After you get over the fact that the acting is bad, the story takes over and is truly inspirational.

Tomorrow I am going to a taping of America's Got Talent in Hollywood. It should be pretty cool. I love tv tapings.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy Birthday Madre

Today is my mother's birthday. I have been on the phone a minimum of 5 times with her today. There are sacrifices you make when moving all the way across the country from your family to follow the will of God. One such sacrifice is being with your family on important days like today. Happy Birthday Mom! Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do for us. I am who I am today because of you. (I'm not sure if that is a compliment or not.) I'll see you at Christmas!

Spring Cleaning in July

The Worship staff and I spent all day cleaning out the choir room and music library. We are not yet done, but it was a very interesting day. I found music from 1942, 1957, 1963, and the like. I could not believe how much unneeded stuff was taking up space. Anyone who knows me well knows I am not one for keeping unneeded items around. I'm the guy that throws out the first lost tooth from my children because.....well, who needs a nasty tooth laying around? They aren't going to need it anymore. So, needless to say, the staff had to really challenge me on some of the music. I was ready to chunk all of it.

We still need some boxes broken down and put away, so if you are at rehearsal Wednesday night, perhaps you can get in on a little spring cleaning yourself!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Guest Blog: J.R. Lee

I have had the privilege of serving in churches with many great people. J.R. Lee and Todd Lollis are two of them and they are following the call to plant a church in Acworth, GA. J.R. is serving as Lead Pastor, and I am so excited about what God is going to do through their ministry. I've asked J.R. to write a guest blog today just to give you a little insight into the vision that God has given them to reach Acworth and the surrounding area for Christ. I'm hoping that God will use this to put your heart and mind into a prayerful mode for FREEDOM CHURCH and help us to focus on our need to reach people where we are.

Writing on my own blog seems strange at times. Writing on someone else's seems even stranger.

I have always heard that church planting is the "extreme sport" of ministry. Now that we are fully engaged in the process - I agree! There are a million things I could write, but for now I will just simply try and communicate this...

A lot of people are "far" from God. In our city there are 108,000 people within a few miles of our house. 95,000 of them NEVER walk through the doors of a church. It is going to take all kinds of people and all kinds of churches to reach them. Whether you are at a "traditional" church or a "contemporary" church does not concern me. What concerns me are the churches that are not passionate about doing whatever it takes to reach the people who are disengaged.

Rather than isolating ourselves - let's consider it an incredible opportunity to live, work, and/or go to school with people who are far from God. God has us where we are for a reason. Whether a church planter, worship pastor, business person, construction worker, stay at home mom, or student - let's partner together to reach our communities.

Effectively reaching people is a messy process. Jesus gave his life to reach people. So should we...

J.R. Lee
Lead Pastor
www.freedomlive.net

Saturday, July 28, 2007

List of Things

1) Painting the kids' bathroom today. Joy Joy.
2) Abby woke up in the middle of the night last night with a sore throat. I now know where those bags under my parents' eyes came from.
3) Vacation Bible School ended last night on a high note - 41 baptisms! It was incredible.
4) Took the car in today to be worked on. It needs a new alternator. We'll see if I'm going into debt on Monday:)
5) New Sunday Night layout, praise band and praise teams, kicks off next Sunday (August 5th). I can't wait.
6) We've had over a dozen new guests in choir over the past 3 weeks. God is still growing this ministry!
7) We started making practice tracks for the praise team each week. I hate hearing myself sing on CD. Wow.
8) Jody's cousin, Josh, is coming out to visit next Thursday for 10 days. We're going surfing at least one of those days. I'll post some pictures of the shark bite in my board as soon as I can.
9) We've got several new things we're working on in the Immanuel Choir. If you're not a part of this ministry yet, what are you waiting for? Wednesday nights - 6:30pm - BE THERE!
10) Only 2 1/2 weeks left until school starts back. A 2nd grader and a kindergartner - I have officially become my parents.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Appaloosa Pete

We have been blessed here at Immanuel with some incredible talent. One such talent, Jessica Botas, is a member of the Immanuel Choir and has written a great children's book. If you have kids, you will want to buy into the latest craze of Appaloosa-Pete and the whole gang of wild characters. Jessica has self published the book, so you won't find it in most stores near you. However, you can check out the latest happenings or order a copy for you and your children by logging on to appaloosa-pete.com . This book is an adventure your kids will want to go on time and time again. She also gave me the freedom to post her phone number on here if you want to order some copies direct. You can reach Jessica at 909-338-4913. (Tell her I said to give you an autographed copy. It will be worth a lot one day!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sunday Nights At Immanuel

Beginning August 5th, Sunday nights at Immanuel are undergoing a change. Until now, Sunday night has been a miniature version of Sunday morning. Our desire is to give Sunday night its own identity. The stage will have a new look, we'll have a new worship band, even the praise teams are a new mix. The purpose is to put more of an emphasis on worship and to raise the level of excellence, as opposed to giving Sunday night very little attention.

Make sure that you bring your family and friends to Sunday nights at Immanuel. It is an intimate worship setting with an incredible time of the preaching of God's Word. I can't wait for August to get here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vacation Bible School

This week is a very busy week, yet a very exciting week. It is Vacation Bible School at Immanuel. We've only had one night so far, but it has been amazing. My kids have had a blast, and I must admit....so have I. During our worship times together in the sanctuary we've had an indoor blimp flying around. VBS is a sports theme this year (Lifeway) so we've had the blimp flying overhead. It is a remote control model and is awesome. We hooked it up with a camera and have been projecting the "Blimp Cam" on our center screen as it flies over the kids. In fact, last night we had it rigged up with a ping-pong ball dropper that...well, dropped ping-pong balls over the kids. If a kid got one of them they could turn it in for a prize. The kids went crazy and loved every minute of it. The blimp has been a huge success already. Even as an adult it pumps me up to see it zooming around.

I can't wait until the end of the week to find out how many gave their lives to Christ. I know of so many adults whose lives were radically changed by Christ at Vacation Bible School. I'm excited to hear of a whole new generation being changed the same way.