26 May 2006

Wow!

Well, I'm back in Indianapolis now. LA was amazing. I almost wish I wouldn't have boarded the plane to leave. It was such an awesome experience. The conference was amazing and the whole experience was awesome. Wednesday night was really cool. While everyone else in America was watching the American Idol finale, I was there. I didn't get to be inside the Kodak Theatre during the live performance of the show, but I was at the Kodak Theatre while it was going on live inside. I also was around for the after party outside of the Kodak Theatre when all the stars were interviewed and such. Here's a few pics from there:







I also walked down Sunset Blvd. after the American Idol stuff. That was a trip, hanging out in Hollywood for the evening.

Well, back to Indiana.

22 May 2006

LA is sweet!

Hey from the west coast! LA is awesome! When I was landing in LAX Saturday night, I looked in all directions, and all I could see in any direction was masses of lights--all the way to the horizon. It was unbelievable. My flight arrived around 9:30pm (which was 12:30am to my body). The staff's flight got in around 10:50pm (which was 1:50am). We picked up our rental car (red Sebring Convertible) and headed towards the hotel. Within one mile of our hotel is an In & Out Burger (has the same cult-like following as Cookout does in NC) and Starbucks (all you need in life). So we decide to hit up In & Out before going to the hotel. It was 12:45am at this time, which to us, was 3:45am. Greasy burgers at 3:45am...that's just asking for it. So we finally went to bed around 1:15 or so (4:15 to us).
Sunday, we spent all day traveling to the three different sites for Mosaic services to see how they did them all. So we went to the 9am service in Pasadena. It was awesome. They had a great setup, kickin band, great message (Erwin McManus), and the spirit of God definitely was moving there. Then we drove over for an 11am service Beverly Hills site (which they do in the auditorium of Beverly Hills High School). It was cool too, although the atmosphere was quite different (same message by Erwin). Then we went to In & Out Burger for lunch (animal style!) and walked around an art fair in Beverly Hills while Bentleys and Rolls Royces drove beside us. I also drove down Sunset Blvd. through Hollywood. I saw a lot of different places that are really famous and stuff, including the Hollywood sign and the sidewalk of the stars.
In the evening, Mosaic has two downtown LA services at 5pm and 7pm. The location...a place called The Mayan. What is "The Mayan?" A nightclub. They get to use the place on Sunday nights (except one Sunday night they had to do the service on the roof because CSI:Miami was filming a scene inside there that night. But, anyways,...yeah...a nightclub. It was so sweet. The whole building was Mayan themed. The sound system was sick nasty! The service was great. They had a guy painting on a small side area (not on the main stage area). That was interesting. At these services and at the Pasadena services in the morning, they have a DJ from the congregation scratch with some beats. How cool. This is our generations "prelude" music. I love it! I hope God blesses the congregation that I have the opportunity of leading with DJ's and people who will use their artistic abilities to bring glory to God. One of the greatest experiences during all of these services was when I looked around (on stage and in the crowd) and saw people from every continent, of every color of skin, and not many white people. 50 nations are represented in Mosaic. Just take the band for example. Hispanic, Asian, Black, and White (only one white person). It was so awesome to worship in that kind of environment. The majority of all the Mosaic staff and volunteers are minorities of ALL kinds (mostly Asian and Hispanic). It was so cool. I loved it. All I could think about was: He has brought the nations to us. Now it is our responsibility to meet them where they are. And where are they? THE MAJOR CITIES OF AMERICA.
The Origins conference started this morning. Great stuff. So far, it has mostly been re-hashing the same stuff that was written about in "The Unstoppable Force." I finished that book on the plane Saturday night, so it's still fresh on the brain. By the way, anyone and everyone (ESPECIALLY pastors and those training for vocational ministry) NEEDS to read that book. I read it in a week, went through a highlighter on it, and plan to read it again hopefully in the fall. I plan to go through some key points from the book on the blog for some discussion. That walk through the book on here will hopefully take place during the fall. Origins is great so far though.
I started reading "Under the Overpass" today. It's starting off to be a good read. It's about a college student who, with his buddy, lived with the homeless for six months to make sure his faith in Jesus was real. Wow. What a step forward.
Another quick comment: The church has done a great job of making everyone become a majority member. We do not step out of the mold, live above minimum standards in morality (while living as lavishly above minimum as possible in possessions and lifestyle). We have created an environment that squashes all possibility of dreaming, having visions, being creative, showing devotion to God in creative or artistic ways. Look through the history of the world. The great thinkers, innovators, composers, writers, etc. came from a Christian society which nourished creativity and innovation. However, a shift in the Church happened at some point when we stopped creating an environment that invited creativity and innovation. We don't want people to think or create. We have created a church of spectating and passivity. Where are our great poets? Where are our great composers? Where are our great thinkers? Where are our great innovators? Where are our visionaries? Where are our dreamers? Where are those who will shape the future? Where are those who will create culture instead of just try to keep up? Let's create an environment that will nurture these artisans, innovators, and visionaries. The imagination and creativity are the abilities that God gave us that are closest to having the power of God. If we squash or hinder that, are we destroying part of God's ability to work in mankind? How dare us.

Today, strike up a conversation with someone that you have never talked to before. In the conversation, make sure to ask them this random question: What plans do you have for the next five years? I really don't know why I decided to write this, but maybe you should do it anyways. Awaken individuals to what God meant for them to be by faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

20 May 2006

City of Angels

My flight leaves in four hours. At 9:30pm (Pacific Time), I will be in Los Angeles. I'll be back Thursday night next week. Until then, adios!

19 May 2006

Poster Child of the Prosperity Gospel

Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, is the poster child of the prosperity gospel. By the prosperity gospel, I mean the teaching that health and wealth are certain, guaranteed, and the most important outcomes of God's work in a person's life--it is guaranteed in Christ to find health and wealth. This is why Lakewood Church was running around 46,000 attendees each Sunday in 2005 and meeting in the 16,000 seat Compaq Center, former home of the Houston Rockets.
Joel Osteen truly does believe this prosperity gospel, and doesn't seem to show much compassion outside of wealth. He lives in a home that is appraised to be worth $2.5 million (in the same subdivision as former president George H. W. Bush). Osteen advertises his best-selling book multiple times each time he speaks on his television broadcasts. Lakewood Church refused its stadium facilities (which can house thousands) to evacuees from the Katrina tragedy. The core statement of Lakewood Church is "Discover the Champion in You." Click this link to his profile on his church's website. Tell me, what is he all about: the need for Christ's love and grace for the redemption of mankind for the glory of God or the motivation of people to gain worldly success on their own, without the need of help, gifts, or blessing from God to do anything?

Can you imagine a church of 800,000? Is that crazy or what? Well, it's true. The Yoido Full Gospel Church is estimated over 800,000 in 2006. (Click here for their English website.) It is the largest Christian congregation ever (even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records). It is based out of Seoul, South Korea. The city is split into numerous cell groups and now there are cell groups beings started throughout Korea, Asia, and the world. The church has 171 ordained pastors and 356 lay pastors. The lead pastor, Dr. David Yonggi Cho, founded the church in 1958, and has been its lead pastor since. Early in the ministry, he began preaching what he called the "Three Fold Blessing" or the "Full Gospel." This theology of his says that physical health and financial prosperity are as much a part of God's will for Christians as the salvation of the soul. (Excuse me a second...I had to go the bathroom and vomit.) No wonder people flock to him in the hundreds of thousands. I would too if a guy promised me, with divine authority, health and wealth. Too bad those are not the words of God.

People don't want to hear that they must take up their cross, die to themselves first, and live for the sake of Christ. They don't want to understand baptism as a water grave, a death of the self and a rising of the self in Christ. I am sickened at the thought that the biggest church in America and the biggest church in the world are preaching a false Christ, a disillusioned hope, and a selfish need for Christ. I am disgusted that they would use Christ, who lived in poverty while on earth, to preach faith and reliance on worldly wealth, which points to humanity's ability, rather preaching faith and reliance on the love and grace of Jesus Christ, which points to God's glory and majesty. We have made the center of Christianity our own well-being, when all along it was all about God's glory. The Church must create an ethos that relies on God, does not seek happiness in wealth, and sees success through the eyes of Christ.

16 May 2006

Experience of a lifetime

It's 1:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. It's finally not raining for once, but the sun is still shy, hiding behind the canopy of gray that has covered me since I arrived here last week. I'm sitting in Panera Bread on my lunch break, eating a great lunch and enjoying their wireless. The internship is awesome as always. Yesterday was my day off, so I ventured around Indiana. I first went to IWU in the morning to check out the campus. WOW. They have so many buildings. Their student center was really sweet. They have a sweet prayer chapel. The religion division basically has their own building for offices and classrooms. They had a pool, nice gym, racquetball courts, nice weightroom, all the sweet stuff. It was really cool. I still love SWU though! No doubt! While I was at IWU, I made a point to meet at least two people: Ken Schenck and Steve DeNeff. Over the past semester, I've been in email and blogging conversations with Ken about seminaries and such. So I wanted to finally meet him in person (Ken, even though it was only for ten minutes, it was still good to meet you). I also wanted to meet Steve DeNeff in person because I've heard far too much about him to miss the chance and I also read two of his books ("More Than Forgiveness" and "Whatever Became of Holiness") this past semester. It was cool to have a few minutes to connect with him about his books and stuff. I also met Charlie Alcock while I was up there. From IWU, I went further north to Plymouth to surprise Josh Woods at his office at Plymouth Wesleyan Church. I found my way there without him knowing and I strolled right into his office. The look on his face was priceless as he stared at me speechless for about 15 seconds. I ended up staying up there for dinner with Josh and Jess. It was good seeing them again.

The internship is great. The service Sunday morning was great. Daron did a great job unpacking the idea that God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others. The worship center has a great atmosphere. The music was also a great time to show love and honor to God. The Erwin McManus book is so sweet! Erwin's ideas are exactly where my heart is; Erwin is just able to unpack it in a way that I couldn't in my own thoughts. I am so excited about seeing him speak in person when I go to LA. I'm still not sure if I have fully comprehended that I am going to LA on Saturday. I don't think it's soaked in yet.

My last words for this post: So much is rolling through my head right now. All kinds of thoughts and philosophies on ministry are pumping through me right now and I'm trying to sort and filter it all to gain a better perspective on life, ministry, the Church, and serving God to the fullest.

I do firmly believe that: The next purposeful mission that the Wesleyan Church HAS to undertake is reaching the cities. I don't have time in my lunch hour to really dig into reasons, but here's the basic premise: Millions of people are in the cities and the world is exponentially becoming more urbanized. We HAVE to not just become students of God's word, but also students of culture. We HAVE to shape the church (without losing integrity or the message) to meet people in the culture that they are in. We HAVE to pour tons of our resources (including most of our students) into the cities. We HAVE to risk it all, spend and be spent, in the mission of the cities. The Wesleyan Church has done an amazing job of preaching a rural gospel and reaching the rural areas. NOW IS THE TIME to go to the harder places and reach multi-cultural areas, the cities. If the church takes a hit financially or in resources or whatever, at least we risked it for the sake of the gospel, the glory of God, and the chance to reach MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of people that we are CURRENTLY FORSAKING. Even martyrs didn't reach the goal and survive. But we don't consider them failures. Better to die serving out of love where it is needed than to live in survival mode on Easy St. and forsake the mission and purpose of the Church.

There's my rant. Please let the Holy Spirit move in your heart as He is in mine right now. Please comment with your own thoughts.

God's love be with you all!

13 May 2006

Another rainy day...

I still haven't seen the sun in Indy. Quite sad. However, things are awesome up here. My first few days have been amazing. I have had some eye-opening experiences at the church. It's great to pick these guys' brains to find out what makes them and what makes this church tick. All three guys on staff and all the people I've met on leadership here are just great people. I'm so glad that I at least get a few weeks up here, although I'd love to have more. Daron bought me "The Unstoppable Force" by Erwin McManus. He wants me to read it before I leave. I read through chapter two today in Starbucks, and I have to say that book is awesome. What Erwin is saying resonates with my own heart so well. His passion and vision for the Church is amazing and his insight in explaining how the Church should be working is mind-blowing. Speaking of Erwin McManus, he is the leader at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. Mosaic puts on an annual conference called "Origins." This year the conference is May 22-24. The staff at The Crux go to this conference every year. Erwin McManus has been a huge inspiration for Daron and his theology of the Church and how it should be done. Well, as of Friday morning, I was not going to LA next week. As of Friday afternoon, I booked a flight to LA next week and The Crux is paying my registration for the Origins conference. Heck yeah! I'm going to California next Saturday! How crazy is that! So sweet! Maybe I'll get to see the sun out there...

Well I'm done eating at Panera Bread and using up their free wireless internet. Talk to you later!

12 May 2006

Rain, rain, go away

At 8:30am on Wednesday, I left home (SWU, I mean) and went on a quest for a new frontier of opportunity known as Indianapolis, Indiana. Against my mother's wishes, I only made one stop for gas. I just didn't feel like stopping. So I arrived in Indy around 5:30pm. I arrived at my new home for the next few weeks. I'm living with Ryan Shepherd's family. It's...huge. One of the houses in their neighborhood makes me think of the huge house that Tony "Scarface" Montana had in the movie "Scarface." I've been here since Wednesday evening, and I still haven't seen or met Ryan's parents. Something else I haven't seen since I arrived in Indiana is the sun. It has been rainy since I crossed into Indiana. What a downer.

"The Crux" is the church that I am interning at. It's really sweet. The church just moved into its current location last month. It was meeting in a movie theater. Now they meet in a leased space in an industrial building. I had time to connect with the staff and some of the leaders here. They all seem to be awesome people with big hearts for God and people. I'm learning how The Crux is structured around small groups and I'm beginning to really like the idea. One thing Daron explained last night at the Lead Team meeting was that some churches don't have small groups (very traditional), some churches have small groups (moderately traditional church), some churches are built around small groups (The Crux model), and some churches are small groups (cell/house churches). I think The Crux model is really innovative in its method of building all of its ministry and leadership around small groups. Later on I'll get into their mission and vision as a church. Basic rundown: This will be a great three weeks.

P.S. - I don't have internet at the house I'm staying at. So, if you need me, call the cell.

08 May 2006

Vision Become Reality

It was July 6, 2005. I was traveling with "The Difference" ministry team for SWU. I was at NC West Clubhouse camp. I was sitting at a picnic table near the snack shop. It was just like any other day. I was reading out of "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers as I did everyday that summer. However, this day was about to turn me upside down. I came across that highlighted page again today as I was scanning through some books during packing. I felt as though I should share it with you.

"Visions Become Reality"

The parched ground shall become a pool . . . —Isaiah 35:7

We always have a vision of something before it actually becomes real to us. When we realize that the vision is real, but is not yet real in us, Satan comes to us with his temptations, and we are inclined to say that there is no point in even trying to continue. Instead of the vision becoming real to us, we have entered into a valley of humiliation.

Life is not as idle ore,
But iron dug from central gloom,
And battered by the shocks of doom
To shape and use.

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.


God, I beg that You continue to batter me into the shape of the vision that You have for me. Do not let me try to do it on my own. I also beg that you would batter others into the shape of the visions that You have for them. I pray that these visions would be God-sized visions, not puny man-sized visions. Man-sized visions are too small, too easy, too comfortable. Break our comfort so that Your glory will be known everywhere, even in the places that we do not want to go.

06 May 2006

Finalized Summer Plans

So here's the news everybody has been waiting for so they can now plan their summer (just kidding). But, seriously, here's the rundown of my summer:

May 10-June 1 - Interning with Daron Earlewine @ The Crux - Indianapolis, IN
May 20-25 - Origins Conference at Mosaic with The Crux staff - Los Angeles, CA

Ministry Team Schedule:

June 4 (AM) - Memorial Park Wesleyan Church - Thomasville, NC
June 4 (PM) - First Wesleyan Church - Wilson, NC
June 11 (AM) - First Wesleyan Church - Kannapolis, NC
June 11-16 - Camp Wesley - Kannapolis, NC
June 16-17 - Campus Challenge - SWU Campus
June 18-24 - Indiana North Jr. High Camp - Somewhere, IN
June 26-July 1 - Shenandoah District Camp - Snowshoe, WV
July 1-2 - Vinton Wesleyan Church - Vinton, VA
July 2-8 - Hanover Friends Camp - Somewhere, VA
July 9-15 - Camp Rockfish - Parkton, NC
July 19-22 - South Coastal District Family Camp - Auburn, AL
July 24-29 - Eastern NY/New England District Camp - West Chazy, NY
July 29-30 - Community Wesleyan Church - Baldwinsville, NY

03 May 2006

Sacred time

From 1 Maccabees (from the Apocrypha):

1:20 And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he returned again in
the hundred forty and third year, and went up against Israel and
Jerusalem with a great multitude,
1:21 And entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the
golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels
thereof,
1:22 And the table of the shewbread, and the pouring vessels, and the
vials. and the censers of gold, and the veil, and the crown, and the
golden ornaments that were before the temple, all which he pulled
off.
1:23 He took also the silver and the gold, and the precious vessels: also
he took the hidden treasures which he found.
1:24 And when he had taken all away, he went into his own land,
having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly.
1:25 Therefore there was a great mourning in Israel, in every place
where they were;...
1:29 And after two years fully expired the king sent his chief collector
of tribute unto the cities of Juda, who came unto Jerusalem with a
great multitude,
1:30 And spake peaceable words unto them, but all was deceit: for
when they had given him credence, he fell suddenly upon the city,
and smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel...
1:37 Thus they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary,
and defiled it:
1:38 Insomuch that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them:
whereupon the city was made an habitation of strangers, and
became strange to those that were born in her; and her own
children left her.
1:39 Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were
turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach her honour into
contempt.
1:40 As had been her glory, so was her dishonour increased, and her
excellency was turned into mourning.
1:41 Moreover king Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should...
1:45 forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in
the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival
days:...
1:47 Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice
swine's flesh, and unclean beasts.



I apologize for the freshman and others who took it all too seriously (granted, your intentions weren't perfectly clear and our sacred time was being invaded). I'm sure you never wanted to make us mad, and none of us should have done anything on purpose to make you mad. The majority of us that were stalling at school weren't mad and were only playing along with your little game.

Touché. Nice joke. Lighthearted and all in good fun, I'm sure.

BUT, do not get mad when one prank is met with another in return.