Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Their Way?

Joshua and Lydia are glad school is almost over. It leaves more time to play on the playground, goof around with Barkley, and ride bikes!!! Lydia permanently ditched her training wheels recently. And Joshua snuck onto the roof of the playground playhouse [apparently with Aunt Anna's permission!!! Yikes!!!] to pose for this picture. If you're still reading this post and not yet thoroughly bored, you can click the play button below to watch a riveting [not really] vid of the kids walking to school. It only takes 30 seconds and they're STILL sometimes late. How this is possible boggles the mind!!!

Praising Or Pleading?

I really resonate with the prayers of my children. They're so much better at praising God than pleading with God. So much so that at dinner time if I'm really hungry, I just do the prayer myself because who knows how long Josh or Lydia will go before they're done praising God for spaghetti, for making clouds, for doggie shampoo, for passing his 12's times tables [they can go on and on and on]. But recently I learned something else about prayer as praise. The authors of Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus [a great little book I recommend reading this summer. Click pic for more info] point out Jesus was using a classic rabbinic technique in Matthew 21:16 by quoting part of a verse and leaving the rest unsaid.

The verse he was quoting came from Psalm 8:2 which says, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." And that sounds wonderful and encouraging when we hear our kids [or anyone's for that matter] praising God. Their sincere prayers and praise can and should bring a smile to our lips. But that's not the primary way Jesus was using this verse. Because the people hearing him would have known what the rest of Psalm 8:2 says: "Because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger."

In other words, the prayers of children are precious. And can teach us much about what it means to praise God. But the prayers of those children were also a stern rebuke to the Pharisees who knew the rest of Psalm 8:2. And maybe they're a rebuke to us as well when we continue to approach God in a "Coke machine" kind of way, pleading with him to answer our prayers the way we want them to be answered instead of praying like Jesus did in Gethsemane, "Let this cup pass from me, but if not, your will be done." For what do your kids or grandkid praise God? What do you?

Living Like Crazy?

Nearly 2 million people have seen this 16 minute award winning short film entitled "Validation." It reminded me that when we know God loves us like crazy, we become willing to live like crazy. Which often helps others do the same. [This vid could start a great discussion in youth class or any small group. Big thanks and WTG to Dave for sharing it with me @ Connections last week!!!] Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pacifism In Palestine?

In addition to her duties as Youth & Children's Pastor at Toledo First, Rachel Davies blogs for Spectrum. Recently, she interviewed Treye McKinney and Janelle McIntyre—two extraordinary young Walla Walla alums committed to non-violence through active engagement with the needs of Palestinians in the West Bank [click pic to read article in its entirety].

After tackling questions about pacificism and conscientious objectors and if they think modern Christians of any denomination will ever return to their non-violent roots, she concluded the interview by asking Treye if he had any hope for peace and wholeness in our battered world. I loved Treye's response.

I suppose that I will continue trudging on with peace work at some level or another, not because I believe I will always see results, but because God has called us to be peacemakers. Jesus said that the poor will always be with us, but he didn't add to that, "So, don't help the poor." Instead, he spent all his time helping them. Similarly, Jesus said that in the end there will be wars, but that he and we should spend our time loving our enemies, praying for them, and working against all forces that plant seeds of destruction.

Paradoxical Commandments?

Thirty years ago a 19 year old Harvard student first penned what he thought would be a little booklet on leadership. Since then, Dr. Kent Keith’s book Jesus Did It Anyway and specifically the paradoxical commandments it contained have been shared far and wide [WTG to Duane for sharing them with me!!!] Mother Teresa even hung them up in her home for the destitute and dying in Kolkata, India. Here they are:
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness makes you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway
  6. The best men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
Aren’t those great? Since he wrote those, I understand he added an 11th commandment based on the Old Testament prophetic book of Habakkuk. The world is full of violence, injustice, starvation, disease, and environmental destruction. Have faith anyway. Click pic to read how I used them in church last week. What's your fave paradoxical commandment?

"Trapped" On A Broken Escalator?

This thought provoking vid about a couple people "trapped" on a broken escalator could be used as a metaphor for any person, church, or organization not interested in "putting first things first." Enjoy and tell me how YOU could use this vid in your world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joy After Genocide?

I meet weekly with a small group of dedicated leaders serving in the church. We pray together. Listen to each other. And occasionally, challenge each other. Recently, one of the challenges we embraced was whether we could "find God" [as if He ever hides!!!] in a magazine we would never ordinarily read. I was gonna pick up Vogue [just couldn't do it] or something about quilting [started dozing standing up], so instead I settled on Oprah.

Despite her new age crush on Eckhart Tolle's teachings, I found the rest of her magazine quite interesting. And the picture inside the April 2009 magazine of parentless children in Uganda still playing and laughing and even dancing in the after math of genocide jarring. Made me want to read the book by Richard Dowden entitled "Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles" [click pics for more].

All of which reminds me that God can be "found" by us [Jeremiah 29:14] whether we're slum dogs in India or orphans in Africa and that there can be joy—even after genocide. For more on this, click the top pic of the kids playing.

Breakfast of Champions?

A few weeks ago I posted the wildly popular vid "Breakfast Song." I'm glad so many of you enjoyed that. I did too. It still cracks me up. But this time I thought I'd show you what else I'm having for breakfast now instead of all the stuff in that vid.

I make 2 glasses of juice [one for me and one for Jackie] using my L'Equip Pulp Ejector Juicer model #110.5 [I bought mine @ Sam's Club for less than $100 but I think you can also purchase it here]. Here's what's in my juice: a bunch of carrots, celery, and apples. And a spoon full of Barley. That's it! [Lydia said I should throw the strawberry on top to make it look "pretty"].

When you pour the juice into the cup, the apple juice is red, the celery is white-ish green, and the carrot juice is brown. After that, I usually pour it all into a tupperware thing, add the barley, and [singin' along with the Cars] shake it up!!! You know you're done when the mixture looks like the water from Lake Erie [just joking — a little]. Which looks nasty I know. But trust me, tastes very good and gives me LOADS of energy!!!

What have you stopped eating / drinking for breakfast? What have you started eating / drinking for breakfast that is better for you? What's in your breakfast of champions?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Don't Disciples Keep Learning?

Nick is done. Reveal is almost over. And Kumar is waxing eloquent about velcro for some reason. I'm in the back posting my last entry from the 2009 Reveal Worship Conference. I hope you've enjoyed reading my take on what's happening here. But before I go, I wanna leave you all with some more resources you can take advantage of from the AMAZING speakers at the breakout sessions. For more info about any of them, please contact New Hope @ 301.854.1866. Enjoy!!! And keep learning!!!
  • Church Media: How to do a professional job on a limited budget. Contact David Brillhart to learn more about how to produce top-quality video.
  • Church Drama without the drama / Finding God in Pop Culture. Contact Rajeev Sigamoney to learn more about the effective formation of drama groups.
  • Creating Flow in Worship / Running an Effective Morning Rehearsal. Contact Brian Wright to create a flow sheet that guides worship participants
  • Creating an Environment of Innovation. Contact Lauri Preston to use the book of Revelation to see that worship is filled with creative imagination.
  • A Gospel Centered Approach to Creative Media / Incorporating Video into Your Worship. Contact Stacia Wright or Paul Kim to learn how to incorporate this medium into your service without losing spiritual intergrity.
  • How to Select the Right Songs and How to Get People to Sing! See my previous post about this or contact Katina Chappell.
  • Introducing Contemporary Worship to Your Congregation. Contact G. Kishore Carey to learn what to do and what not to do to introduce contemporary worship into your congregation wtihout splitting your church.
  • Multi Cultural Worship. Contact Robert Kennedy III to learn how your church can be come less segregated and more integrated in its worship so it better represents the inclusive kingdom of God.
  • Leading Worship in a Small Church. Contact Rick Anderson to learn how to build and maintain a functional worship ministry in a congregation with 75 people or less. Be sure to ask him about the software he recommends too!!!
  • Preaching Grace Centered Sermons / Creating a Theology for Worship. Pastor J. David Newman's series on "Making Adventism Relevant" gets downloaded thousands of times each month. Have you read it yet?
  • Rejoice in Story: Listen and Tell to Share the Word. Gail Rosen is a professional storyteller, rereavement facilitator, and hospice volunteer. Contact her to learn how to tell stories better. Especially God's story.
  • Reaching the Next Generation. Adventism's premier church researcher, Monte Sahlin can help you learn how to engage new generations of young adults in worship and mission.
  • Worship Journey. Dave Gemmell can help you unpack the metaphor of journey to better understand the rich meaning of the corporate worship experience.

What's An Accidental Theology Of Worship?

Nick Zork is a songwriter, recording artist and director of the Andrews University Music and Worship Conference. He regularly leads worship and is currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. He's talking about some accidental theologies of worship right now. The first is consumerism. We know we're falling into that trap of worship when we ask things following the service like: "That was SO good for me! Was that good for you?" But that kind of worship is not compatible with the image of the lamb that is sacrificed in Revelation 5.

Then he talked about a couple accidental theologies of worship that can be consistent with the worship of a sacrificial lamb such as worship that builds community and making worship evangelistic. And when these theologies minus consumerism occur in the same worship service, we're closer to building a wholistic worship as a "work of art."

Nick then offered a picture of wholistic worship based on Isaiah 6:1-8. Because it begins not with Isaiah but with a vision of a holy God [v3]. It incorporates humility and cleansing and forgiveness [v7]. Which sends the worshiper from that place into the world [v8].

How Do You Get People To Sing?

Katina Chappell has been using her voice to praise the name of Jesus since she was three years old. For the last 10 years, she has been a dedicated member and leader of a praise team at New Hope. I joined her breakout group yesterday at Reveal to learn more about how to get people in worship to sing. Here's what I learned:
How do you get people to sing?

1. Teach them chorus first
2. Invite them to sing it back slowly
3. Teach them verses line by line
4. Adding the chorus each time
5. Then speed it up
6. Don’t be complicated with parts and solos
7. Don't choose new songs every week
8. Bring old hymns into contemporary music
9. Plan song set as a sermon in itself
10. Narrow song selection by message and pace
11. Know the flow for the rest of worship
12. Create teams that fellowship [her team eats lunch together at her house once a month after church to debrief]
13. Rehearsal required
[she likes WED so changes can be made if necessary]

Katina also shared some great resources for where leaders can find a variety of music for worship [concerts, iTunes, YouTube,,,, Worship Leader magazine, and people in church just needing to be asked!!!]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is God Interested In Small Talk?

Denise Van Eck, author of Leadership 101 designed for youth and students and former pastor of Community Life at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI suggests that God IS interested in small talk. But she added that He's also interested in courageous conversations with each other and with Him! Because the conversation is the relationship! It's our way of telling God, "You know me so well. You love me so much don’t you!"

If that's true, the role of leadership in worship then is about guiding and initiating and leading conversations to God through worship. Could worship become the most beautiful "gold medal round" of conversation that there is to be had with God? What would that look like? Would such a worship servie be worthing creating? Would you like to be coached into moving beyond the small talk? Either personally or corporately? Click the pic for more on what Denise does now and offering to YOU!

Should We Be Christian First?

The median age of the Adventist church in North America is 52. The median age of the population is 35. The median age at New Hope is 26. "People are attracted by our non-judgmental approach" said senior pastor J. David Newman on day 2 of Reveal. "Because we do not enforce or even require the traditional Adventist teaching on jewelry and do not tell people what they can do or not do on Sabbath and because some of our members will bring Starbucks coffee cups into church with them, some Adventists call us the “lite” church. But these critics miss the whole point of what we are trying to do. We are trying to follow the counsel of Jesus in John 13:35 when He told his disciples 'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples by how you love one another.'"

Which became the desire of the co-founder of the Adventist Church. Click the pic to see what I mean.

What Makes Worship Good?

Is it the latest greatest music? The coolest lights and sound? Both speakers at the 1st session of Reveal said no! They reminded us that the people in Genesis 11:4 building the tower of Babel were all about "declaring their own wonders." But the praying church in Acts 1 and 2 was all about "declaring the wonders of God" [Mike's paraphrase].

One of the key ingredients in "good" worship therefore is that whatever happens there declares the wonders of God. Katina Chappell and friends definitely did that this morning prior to our first session at day two of Reveal. What else makes worship good? A unified congregation? Engaged worshipers? Lifting up Christ? Please comment below to weigh in.

Psalm 92 says, "It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is Worship A Way of Knowing?

According to songwriter, producer, and writer Charlie Peacock worship IS a way of knowing and telling the story of God. Since his career began in the early 1980s, first as a pop musician but now as a Christian Contemporary Music producer, this 5 time Grammy nominated artist and 3 time Dove Award winning producer reminded us that, "Worship is a way of giving yourself away."

So if we're not giving away local stories of the amazement of God and we're relying on the latest greatest downloaded songs of other Christian musicians, could it be because we aren't giving ourselves away or because we really don't know God?

Parting shots and good advice: Know the old stories and cultivate the new. Tell both in many different ways. Not to be cool but to represent the creativity and diversity and inclusivity of the kingdom of God. Then he sat down on the piano and sang the song he wrote but dc Talk made famous "In the light" as a benediction and example of how anyone can express what they know as a way to worship God.

What's My Initial Impressions of Reveal?

Friendly welcome from a small army of volunteers taking the first of three days off work!!! VERY cool. Well organized. Met a dude from Germany. And another pastor from Pennsylvania. And while this is a large space with plenty of people filling it for worship on Saturdays, there doesn't seem to be as many seats filled as hoped for...Glad to know mics at a worship conference sometimes don't work either [couldn't hear the opening prayer]. Thought maybe it was because my ears hadn't re-adjusted to life here on earth...

What Precedes Good Worship?

Prayer!!! Dr. David A. Anderson, author of Gracism: The Art of Inclusion [click pic for details] is senior pastor of a multicultural congregation called Bridgeway Community Church located in Columbia, Maryland. He's the first speaker @ Reveal. He's talking about how churches full of every tribe, nation, language, and people are fueled by prayer!!! What a concept!!!

People in his church pray on Tuesday night touching the seats and sections and aisle ways where people will be worshiping later that weekend so "They'll be ambushed by the love of God before they even take their seat."

Why do we so quickly forget that the prayers of Acts 1 precede the worship and outreach and baptisms of Acts 2?

Let The Blogging Begin?

So I left Toledo this morning @ 6:45am [thanks Yvonne!!!] and made it to Maryland where I'll be blogging live throughout the Reveal Worship Conference the next few days.

Quick recap: I was frisked by TSA after receiving my boarding pass @ Detroit Metro this morning. And then on my way into the plane, they pulled me out of line and frisked me again!!! I guess the pasty white guy on his way to a conference about worship looked more like a menacing terrorist than any of the 8th graders on their way to DC for their class trip LOL!!!

Stay tuned to for all the latest details including my initial impressions of Reveal or follow me on Twitter by searching and adding "mike4tune" after you join.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Is God A White Man?

The Michael Gungor Band doesn't think so. Enjoy this thought provoking song about the many misconceptions involving God. [The music video BTW was constructed entirely of felt and was developed and directed by Goodwin Films.]

Did You Pray Hard?

We did. Me and a bunch of other pastors and musicians led about 100 people gathered in International Park last night from 7-9:30pm in a public event entitled "Reclaiming God: Honoring Conservative Values" on the National Day of Prayer. Todd Hostetler, station manager of YES FM 89.3 in Toledo was the emcee. I talked about Family Values. How as parents and grandparents we can be proactive in passing along to emerging generations the values of Praying [as praising not pleading], Reading [for a relationship not research], and Sharing [what YOU read and hear God saying through Scripture]. I made everyone do the motions to my "God loves you when you're good, God loves you when you're bad prayer" and reminded them that though God does love you like crazy, there are still consequences. And one of the consequences we're facing as a nation is an increase in the number of people who call themselves Christian but don't live like it. The good news is that 2 Corinthians 3:18 [KJV] says if we "behold Him", God will change us. But not just us. Our children and grandchildren as well. Malachi 4:6 [NIV] promises that before Jesus comes again, the "hearts of the fathers will turn to their children and the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers." Click any of the pics to read up on my new friends Anna and Scott from the Children of Liberty and click the triangular play button below to watch a nice segment CBS 11 in Toledo aired with me praying in the background.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Little Help From My Friends?

Not this weekend but next, May 16-17 2009, I could use a little help from my friends. Why? Because two teams from Haven of Hope will begin make-overs on two bedrooms inside the Aurora House. Volunteers [with their tools!!!] are needed to paint and especially sand furniture. If you or someone you know is willing to share any of your time, please contact the church office @ 419.882.6200 and leave your name, number, time commitment, and skills you're volunteering.

A hard copy survey of basic skills is also available in your box or on the table in the back of the foyer in church. Completing that survey, whether you think you have any skills or talents or not, would be greatly appreciated!!! Jesus said in John 5:17, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working." Well, we will be too!!! And YOU'RE invited!!!

You do not have to be a member of the Toledo First church to participate. Spoiler alert: 13 ABC news may be there to interview you so be sure to smile and show people that God loves them like crazy!!!

Could Christ's Kingdom Come?

"If there is a point in this book where readers might be tempted to slam the cover shut and say, 'This is ridiculous. This is unrealistic. This is a pipe dream. Nothing like this could ever happen,' this would be that point. But what do they have to look forward to if they're right? Simply more of the same in human history. More of the cycle of offense and revenge. What would it mean if, at this moment, many readers actually began to believe that another world is possible, that Jesus may in fact have been right, that the secret message of the kingdom of God—though radical, though unprecedented in its vision, though requiring immense faith to believe it is possible—may in fact be the only authentically saving message we have?" —Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p.128.

If you read no other book any time soon about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, please read this one. Or at least Part Three of this one. Or at least chapters 17 and 18 of Part Three. Because there you will find plenty to blow your mind and fill your heart. I'm in a group of mostly men [though Pastor Rachel has joined us] that is reading this book together. We meet once a month to talk and pray and eat and in between, we blog our thoughts and questions [though guests are welcome to weigh in too!!!] over at S-T-R-E-T-C-H Cafe [click pic for more].

Here's some of the stuff we're tackling soon: Why does Jesus speak in riddles [cf. Mark 4:11]? Why does The Truth hide truth [cf. Matthew 11:25]? Is following Jesus unrealistic in a world full of terrorism? Should Christians settle for merely "preliminary violence reduction" [ie-"just" war theory]? Can any meaningful kingdom, including the kingdom of God, exist with no boundaries? If not, who decides what they are and who is in and out? What's so good about the good news?

What Can't You Do Through Christ?

Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father-and-son team from Massachusetts who together compete just about continuously in marathon races. And if they’re not in a marathon they are in a triathlon — that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America. It’s a remarkable record of exertion — all the more so when you consider that Rick can't walk or talk. Click pic for more on the excellent article by David Tereshchuk or the triangular play button below to watch a vid about them. Enjoy!!!