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

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.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Leading Worship

In talking with church musicians in various churches around the country, one thing that I've noticed is a new found understanding of our role as lead worshipers. Church musicians seem to be coming back to the realization that we are worshipers first, musicians second. Without a true biblical based understanding of our role as worship leaders, it doesn't matter how great of a musician we are.

We've got to get back to the basics. Our leading others in worship is all about God, not about the music. It goes without saying that the music has to be well rehearsed, filled with excellence, inspiring and God honoring. However, our primary focus should be on uplifting the Lord, creating a worshipful atmosphere, exemplifying true worship from the platform, and facilitating worship among God's people. We are leading the Bride of Christ in worship. The magnitude of that responsibility alone should have us on our faces before the Lord on a daily basis in preparation for that moment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Church Growth 101

Anyone who knows our Pastor knows that he has a heart for lost people. His desire is to see as many people saved as possible. He believes in growing a church by winning the lost to Jesus. I had the privilege of having lunch with him today. As we were pulling into the church parking lot he said "I can't wait to see a new worship center right there", as he referenced the area of land that is destined to be the new worship center site. My reply was "if we could just get everyone on board, we could see this church grow to over 3000 in attendance in the next 3 years". His response was simple yet profound. "If each family in our church would reach JUST ONE other family...."

Can you imagine what would happen if each of us became INTENTIONAL about reaching one family and plugging them into the life of Immanuel? Just one family! That is not some crazy number that is so unattainable that it goes beyond the realm of possibility. JUST ONE FAMILY! We each say we want to reach our community for Christ. We each would say that we want to see our church grow. But will we rise to the challenge and pursue our neighbors? So many people make the initial effort of inviting a neighbor or friend, but when that family never shows up at church, we drop the ball. BE INTENTIONAL! Continue to invite. Continue to share with them what God is doing in the life of your family and in the life of Immanuel.

Together we can see God do things that we could never imagine. BE INTENTIONAL!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dreams Really Do Come True

For me, part of the fun of chasing a dream is the pursuit. As far back as I can remember I have been writing music. And while it has always been a dream of mine to one day be published, I have never pursued it because I didn't know how. I had no contacts. However, the Lord recently hooked me up with a great arranger who works closely with a publishing company in Nashville. Through him, I have been able to get my foot in the door with Peck Music Group. As a result, they just picked up 3 of my songs for publishing; I Believe , All I Need, and My God Is . Wow! A dream realized.

I definitely will be riding on this high for a while. However, just because one dream is realized doesn't mean that my dreaming comes to an end. It has actually lit a fire under me to pursue dreams even harder and to be more intentional.

Dream God-sized dreams. Chase God-sized dreams. Live God-sized results.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Crazy List

1) We're taking the kids swimming today. Where's the lotion?
2) Starting in August, Sunday nights are undergoing a major shift. You'll see a new band, a new stage set-up, and a new focus on worship. Come be a part of it!
3) Praise Team auditions are this Sunday. Laid back - relaxed - yet raising the bar.
4) Mark Rush , our minister of education, is coming back in town today from a week long vacation in Yellowstone. It's been kinda quiet without him here.
5) Tonight my soccer team, "The Stampede", will be attending our UPWARD Awards night. My last official night as "Coach" for this season. Kinda sad.
6) Check out this incredible video of a baptism service at a Church in Washington DC. They meet in a movie theater, so their baptism service is at the bay. Once you get there, you'll need to click on Baptism at the Bay on the right hand side. It is inspiring!
7) I'm working on a new song. At a stand still on it right now. Geeeesh.
8) How hot is it outside?
9) Did I mention we're going swimming?
10) Our hamster looks like he's losing weight. Alex, I'm taking your exercise wheel away.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jars of Clay is Coming to Immanuel

That's right! The Christian Band Jars of Clay is going to be at Immanuel on October 11th. Make plans to be here that night. It is going to be a great opportunity to worship together with one of Christian Music's greatest bands. I've put in a clip of one of their live worship concerts. Check it out!

The Greatest "Job?" Ever

I can't believe God allows me to do what I do on a full-time basis. I get to work with the greatest people daily, I have an awesome choir and orchestra that make me look good, and I get to tell people about Jesus. Today, I had the honor of making hospital visits. I went by one of the retirement homes and visited with one lady. She couldn't talk due to her condition, but she could give me hand motions and I could read her lips (most of the time). As I finished praying with her, she gripped my hand and wouldn't let go. She just laid there smiling at me and squeezing my hand. She didn't have to be able to talk for me to understand. She was just so appreciative that I had come and taken the time to pray with her.

Witnessing our prayer time together was this lady's roommate. I met and talked with her, as well, and told her about Jesus. She began to cry when talking about her family and how she has no one to visit her. But, she got a thrill out of the fact that I was paying her some attention.

I have opportunities all around me to tell people about Jesus. I've got to be more sensitive to the open doors the Lord constantly presents me with. I have the answer to all of their problems - I can't keep it to myself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chasing Dreams

I've blogged recently about our view of God. Our view is shaped by how close we are to Him. Just to clarify, think about how objects appear smaller the farther away we are. We can't truly touch it, examine it, or understand it until we are up close to it. And when we're close to that object we can finally attest to the size of it. It's the same with God. We can't truly know Him for Who He really is unless we're up close to Him. And as a dreamer, that is when our dreams take flight. As Mark Batterson puts it, our dreams will never be bigger than our view of God.

I've got a huge dream that I've been living with since childhood. However, I never believed in it until I grew closer to the Lord. I've always dreamed of being a song writer and having something published. Now, I know, many of you out there have already lived out that dream. But, to me it is one of those intangibles. One of those dreams I believed I'd be chasing for a life time. I might still be. However, I'm taking a big step today towards seeing that dream lived out.

I'm pitching three songs today to a publisher. It's a weird feeling putting yourself out there. But, what do I have to lose. If they reject all of them, I'm no further away from being published than I was. (At least that's what I keep telling myself.) So, we'll wait and see what happens. Hopefully I won't receive that letter that says "don't call us, we'll call you". That wouldn't be good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lisa's Song

Anne Johnston-Brown, just one of many of our awesome Immanuel Choir members, recently wrote a song called We'll Be Alright, dedicated to Lisa Lyons . Lisa, our Outreach Productions Coordinator here on our Worship Staff, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is facing chemo, beginning this Friday, and possible surgery later this year. We're trusting God with this one, and we know He loves Lisa far more than any of us possibly could. Trust His hand!

Anne has also given this song another title that I like even better, Lisa's Song. Check out the music video she made for it below. We love 'ya, Lisa!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Night Rewind

- Our Pastor preached an incredible message out of John tonight.
- We had a lady share her testimony about how God delivered her from the cult of Jehovah's Witnesses and saved her. She now is coming to Immanuel and is interested in starting a ministry to bring people out of the cult religions and into a relationship with Christ.
- I am exhausted. Come Sunday night, I have very little left. Whew...long days.
- Praise Team auditions are next Sunday.
- I am leading worship at a funeral tomorrow. Old Rugged Cross - Amazing Grace. I've never heard those at a funeral before (just kidding).
- We're praying about a television ministry. Our own, that is. Pray that the Lord gives us direction. I met with the finance committee this afternoon concerning the possibilities. We don't want to go on tv just for the sake of being on tv. We want it to be a ministry that's worth the time and expense.
- Frank Salgado was back at church this morning. Frank had a major heart attack a couple of weeks ago. His comments to the choir this morning? - "Thank you for your prayers. All I have to say is....My God is a Mountain Mover!"

Saturday, July 07, 2007

UFC 7/7/07

Tonight's UFC is definitely lives up to its name - it is STACKED. I have watched one fight and it was off the hook. The second fight is going on right now - I have it paused - I love TIVO. Going now to watch the rest. I just had to post - I love the UFC.

I'm Melting, I'm Melting.........

Okay, it is just flat out hot. I don't care if it's summer. I don't care if it's Southern California. I don't even care that it is a dry heat. At some point - hot is hot. With the heat comes the concern of electric bills going way too high. This in mind, we went out and bought a tower fan today. It is really cool. We found this thing on sale, and it has a remote control, a temp control, a timer....anyway, it is awesome. Ahhhhhh, finally cooling down. I think I'll go now and just lay in front of it.

Twice as Nice?

One of the issues we are facing as a choir is that God has been blessing us to such extremes that we've outgrown our current rehearsal facility. Leading up to the summer, the room has been packed out...and when I say packed out, I mean packed out! What a great problem to have. Every rehearsal is high on energy and that makes for an incredible worship experience. We are praying that the Lord will carry this momentum over into the fall. However, with this comes a need to create a solution.

We are seriously considering creating a second rehearsal time. Sunday afternoon seems to be the obvious solution. I'm thinking that those involved in other Wednesday night activities that keep them from participating in rehearsals may be free to attend a Sunday afternoon rehearsal. It may also lend itself to be more convenient for some of those currently attending Wednesday night. The chance we take is in diminishing the energy level and excitement of Wednesday's rehearsals.

Part of being a leader is making those decisions that have the potential for both success and failure. That's my role, so it is ultimately my call. I'm totally trusting God on this one!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Crazy List

Here's another list of things that are on my mind right now:

1) I absolutely love our Pastor and the direction he is leading us. (Pastor, you owe me $20 for that one.)
2) Ella figured out how to get her hand into her diaper. I found this out today when I picked her up and she put her hands on my face. Not a good moment.
3) I'm finding out everyday just how amazing God is.
4) Jody's cousin, Josh, is coming out to visit the beginning of August. I'm taking him surfing. Neither of us have ever been. If I survive, I'll give you the details.
5) A friend of mine, Matt Hall, has seen 14 people join the church that he pastors and 4 saved in the past 2 weeks. Praise the Lord!
6) I serve the most amazing church on the planet.
7) My dad just sent me an autographed book by Sonny West. Sonny was the bodyguard for Elvis Presley. Elvis fired him. How much might that go for on EBay? Hmmmmmmm.
8) I am sending in an application to be on ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER. I figure even if I only win 5-10 thousand, that is more than what I have in my bank account right now anyway. I can't lose.
9) My cell phone is still not working. Why - even when you have insurance - do they still figure out a way to get money out of you? I just found out I have to pay a $50 deductable. I should have known.
10) Jody is the most amazing cook. Even though it's 10:55pm, I'm thinking about going down for a little snack. 2nds anyone?

Does It Float?

Yesterday was quite a day. I had some down time, which was good, but we also got together with some friends for a 4th Bash and Fireworks show. They had a pool so I went out to sit with some of the guys and keep an eye on the kids. Everything was cool until the ladies decided to join us...which normally is a great thing...but that is usually the time in any party when things can go a little crazy. You know as well as I do that any party involving a swimming pool always ends up the same way. Some poor unexpecting soul ends up fully clothed at the bottom of the water. Well, this year, that poor soul was me. I had gone to the deep end of the pool to check on one of the kids, and that's when it happened...I was pushed from behind by one of the women.

Normally, things like this are fine and I'm cool with it. I am one who likes to play practical jokes, so I don't mind being the recipient every so often. However, I had my cell phone in my pocket. That's right! Everyone always thinks little pranks like this are funny until they realize they didn't think it through. I've tried everything. Taking it apart, drying it out with a hair dryer...but the fact of the matter is it is fried.

Again, I like practical jokes. Just make sure before you push that next fully clothed adult into the deep end of the pool that you play that scenario out in your mind. I use my phone to record all of my new song ideas...you know - themes, lyrics, etc. All gone. Hopefully, the Lord will recall most of them to my memory.

Now, for the good news. I do have insurance on the phone. So, I'm going down later today to Verizon in Redlands to get it replaced. My KRAZR has been the best phone I've ever had. It will be sad today when I put it to rest. It's okay Teresa - it was funny...I guess....but payback is coming.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Have a great 4th of July with your families. We are planning on going to a friend's home for dinner, and then swimming. Later we'll catch some of the area fireworks from a nearby park. It should be a good time. Happy 4th of July!

(Make sure you check out today's previous post for a much needed prayer request.)

In the Words of the Prophet M.C. Hammer

M.C. HAMMER had a song that I often quote just because it seems to fit in every situation. "You Gotta Pray Just to Make It Today" was a hit song many years ago, but that plays out to be true in our lives on a daily basis. Prayer has to be a central focus of our walk with Christ. Not just prayer for ourselves, but also prayer for others.

I have been blessed to have LISA LYONS on my staff as our Outreach Production Coordinator. Lisa is responsible for everything from sermon skits to the three major musical productions we do each year. She ALWAYS does an incredible job yet shifts the glory off herself onto those around her. She is the ultimate staff member. Lisa recently was diagnosed with breast cancer and desperately needs our prayer. To talk with her about it, she is very upbeat and positive. Almost as if she doesn't want others to worry. (She's still protecting all of us) But, she will soon begin chemo for 18 weeks and will need us to lift her up.

Please be in prayer for her and for her family. We're all in this together. Whether you live in Egypt or in Highland, as believers we are a family. When one celebrates, we all celebrate. When one hurts, we all hurt. Let's join together as the body of Christ and pray for Him to do an amazing work in the life of Lisa during this time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Leading Worship

I can't tell you how often I am involved in conversations about our role as worshipers in the church. Many often want to make it about our individual issues about musical preference and style, when the reality of it is that we were created to be worshipers. It needs to cease being about us and focus in on Him. Now, with that being said, I do believe God has made us musical for our enjoyment as well as His. If we don't like the music we're singing, it throws up a huge road block in our ability to lead others through that particular style or song. Therefore, we must constantly be aware of the people we are leading in worship and choose music that will both honor God and facilitate worship among His church.

I'll be talking soon about our role as worship leaders and the 1 Year Commitment we are asking our people to make at Immanuel. Check back soon and give me your input.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Creative Teams

I'm excited about tomorrow's staff meeting. We're going to be looking at doing ministry in creative ways that will impact lives, help people to grow in their faith, connect our people into the life of the church, and offer tons of ways for people to serve the Lord and others through ministry opportunities. I'll give you a list of things we are going to implement soon. I believe that we must constantly be experimenting and devising ways to reach as many people as possible while meeting the needs of the people God has blessed us with. I agree with Mark Batterson when he says that the church should be the most creative place on the planet. Pray for our worship staff as we seek God's face in planning for His bride.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Night Rewind

It seems that there is always something happening at Immanuel. Tonight was our Patriotic Celebration. It was absolutely amazing to see Jordan Smith back with us, and he carried the Navy Flag tonight during the worship service. For those who don't know, Jordan was involved in a road-side bombing in Iraq 3-4 months ago. After sustaining injuries and experiencing paralysis, Jordan experienced something supernatural as God touched and healed his body. Jordan - thank you for risking your life for me and my family. We love you and are glad you're home!

I've never seen a church family get so "pumped" over God and Country. Immanuel lit up tonight as we celebrated together. I've already got HUGE ideas for next year...and yes, they will be accomplished. The more I get to know God and the closer I grow to Him, the bigger my dreams are. We are going to accomplish huge things in the coming weeks, months, and years. I am convinced that we are going to see the hand of God upon us as we win Highland and the surrounding communities to Christ.