Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I guess the WWJD? bracelets aren't "in vogue" anymore. I used to see them everywhere. But, like any good (or bad) fad or fashion statement, it has apparently hit its pinnacle and begun its decline.

The other day, I saw WWJD? somewhere - can't remember if it was a bumper sticker, magnet, or bracelet - but for the first time I stopped to actually think about this question: "What WOULD Jesus Do?"

Now, I'm certainly not minimizing the impact or significance of these 4 letters in peoples' lives. But, as I read WWJD and thought about it, I realized something: When we're faced with a dilemma, decision, or circumstance, we probably have NO IDEA what Jesus would do.
Let me explain.

You see, throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, no one was able to predict his next move. The things Jesus said and did made absolutely no sense to man. Why? Because Jesus took after his Daddy.

God is - and always has been - rather unpredictable. That's not to say that there aren't certain things we can count on. We know He's faithful, just, and merciful. But, the way these attributes are manifested - and have been manifested since the beginning of time - are truly mind-boggling.

God wanted something that would give him immense pleasure. A mansion? Luxury automobile? An iPhone? Nope. Man. Human beings with whom He could have a relationship.

God would continue to preserve and sustain that relationship, even when we tried our best to shatter it. We chose sin. We turned from Him. We worshiped idols that we made with our own hands. We chose fleeting pleasures of sin over His everlasting goodness.
But, God is unpredictable.

While we turn our backs on those who do us wrong, He chased after us when we did Him wrong. He still does. So, to keep this relationship, what does He do? Scold us? Abandon us? Say, "Oh well, I guess that was a bad idea." No. He sends a Savior. His one and only son. Because you can't pin God down. You can't figure Him out.

This boy - Jesus - is a chip off the ole block. Hebrews says he is an "exact representation" of his Daddy. And, when He enters earth, it's not in a palace. It's in a stinky, musty stable surrounded by animals. When he grows up, he doesn't cater to high society. He hangs out with the dregs of society - the outcasts, the ordinary, the dirty, the unclean. And, when he makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem near the end of his life on earth, our King doesn't enter on a chariot or on the shoulders of men. He rides a small donkey. Why? Because Jesus is unpredictable.

In the final hours of his life, Jesus was mocked, tortured and crucified. In the midst of this torment, what did Jesus do? He prayed for those killing him. And in his final moments, he even found time to save a criminal hanging next to him. Jesus was shamed and abandoned. But, what did he do? He loved. He is unpredictable.

Time after time, God the Father and God the Son have done things and said things that man would never think of. And, that's OK. God says, "my ways are higher that your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts." He doesn't expect us to do what He does or think how He thinks.

But, there's one predictable part of both the Father and the Son. A common thread that binds them together, just as it has drawn us to our Savior. And, it's the simple answer to the question that often perplexes us.

What would Jesus Do?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Most-Watched TV Programs of All-Time
(by percentage of households in the U.S. who were watching)

1. M.A.S.H. Series Finale (1983) - 60.2%
Dallas - "Who Shot J.R.?" episode (1980) - 53.3%
Roots mini-series finale (1977) - 51.1%
Super Bowl XVI: 49ers vs. Bengals (1982) - 49.1%
5. Super Bowl XVII: Redskins vs. Dolphins (1983) - 48.6%
6. 1994 Winter Olympics: Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding - 48.5%
Super Bowl XX: Bears vs. Patriots (1986) - 48.3%
Gone with the Wind: Part One (1976) - 47.7%
Gone with the Wind: Part Two (1976) - 47.4%
Super Bowl XII: Cowboys vs. Broncos (1978) - 47.2%

Bonus: What's the Most-watched cable TV show of all-time?

High School Musical 2, which aired August 17, 2007 and had 17.2 million viewers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bars of Soap Needed

I remember as a kid that my mom would threaten to wash my mouth out with soap if I ever cursed. I don't recall her ever doing this to me, so it must have worked pretty well. If she did wash my mouth out with soap, I must have blocked it out of my memory. I've tasted soap before, and it's not pleasant.

But, as effective as the deterrent was for me personally, I get the feeling that tactic didn't work too well on many people. Let's face it - cursing, profanity, foul language, 4-letter words - whatever you prefer to call it - it's all around us. And, to be perfectly frank, I loathe it. It truly upsets me. It makes me cringe. But, more than anything, it saddens me.

Now, I am not talking about what comes out of your mouth when you hit your thumb with a hammer. I'm talking about people using foul language in casual conversation, or even in a professional setting. It just baffles me.

Our family recently was on a flight, and there was a group of men on the plane who were headed out west for a hunting expedition. A few of them were seated in the row behind us and got to talking. Before I knew it, expletives were flying out of this one dude's mouth left and right. I finally turned around and hit the guy's boot with my hand and asked him to watch his mouth. He apologized, but I got the feeling that I put a damper on his story since he felt he couldn't use 4-letter words.

I also recall a trip to the beach back in September. I was disturbed one afternoon when I heard a 12-or-13-year old boy repeatedly using the "f" word - and he was hanging out with three girls his age. Nothing says "I think you're hot and I want to get to know you better" like the "f-bomb." I was about to say something to him, but he walked out of the ocean and disappeared.

I hear stories from others who work in places where bad language is the standard - even in meetings with other teams of executives from outside companies. I've been told that those who are offended by this are reluctant to speak up because they are in the minority and are afraid it could hurt their career. How crazy is that?

Believe it or not, I have had debates with other Christians who feel like cursing is no big deal. If it was not a big deal, would James (Jesus' brother) have penned these words?

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3:9-11)

And, for the record, there are many times in the Bible where we're told not to use foul language and obscenities - read the Book of Proverbs, Ephesians 5:4, Colossians 3:8.

In the end, I suppose I just don't see the need for it. One of the best quotes I have ever seen appeared in Reader's Digest a while back. I do not remember the author, but it said this: "No one has ever sounded more intelligent by using foul language." That is the truth!!

I think it's time we put the bar of soap back to use!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Digging Under the Surface

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a friend recently. This wasn't your ordinary, everyday chit-chat. This was a discussion filled with questions, personal conviction, and challenges. It was one of those occasions that makes you stop and really think through why you believe what you believe. While it was uncomfortable at times, I must admit this time together really did three things.

First, it reinforced my personal belief system. Unfortunately, many people are never put into a position where they are challenged to really think through why they believe what they believe when it comes to their faith. But, for me, the discussion was something that strengthened me, and it really strengthened my roots. So many people want to avoid tough questions about their faith. They feel like it may cause them to lose faith. But, facing the tough questions only increases it. It doesn't mean you won't have to wrestle with things; but, in the end you'll be even more grounded than you were before - if you seek God in the process.

Second, the conversation gave me an even greater appreciation for what we do at NorthStar Church. By closely examining what we do at NorthStar - not only on Sunday mornings, but each and every day - I was able to put it all through the filter of our Mission Statement. That's one thing we do consistently on staff at the church - any idea or endeavor must be filtered through the Mission. If having an event or program doesn't carry out the mission to "show God's love" to others, we don't do it. And, sometimes even if it DOES support the mission, we don't do if it's going to compromise us in another area. It's always wise to examine your own motives, and put them up against your mission.

Finally, the conversation reaffirmed the idea that each church has its own calling. The church (not NorthStar, but the church as the body of believers) is constantly under indictment, not only from the secular world - but even from churches themselves. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard pastors of churches talk about how "the church" has gotten it wrong. Or, that "this church" is so much better than "these churches." Or, "our church needs to be more like that church."
The fact is we need all of them.

Rick Warren once said, "It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people." That is not an opinion. That is absolute truth. The Church at Corinth was not the Church at Ephesus. The Church at Ceasarea Philippi was not the Church at Thessalonica. Your church should not be my church. And, my church should not be striving to be another church. Each church should be called to a specific mission in a particular area. We all need each other.

That is why I am so thankful that NorthStar partners with so many great churches - locally, nationally, and internationally - to live out the Great Commission.
NorthStar cannot reach the entire world. We can't reach all of Atlanta. And, as much as we'd like to, we can't reach all of Acworth and Kennesaw. It takes all of us.

In the end, I guess my advice to someone would be to embrace the tough conversations. You'll never know what God has to say through you - and TO you - if you avoid them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving
Source: History News Network (Rick Shenkman)

HERE to read Shenkman's intriguing commentary

1. The Pilgrims Held the First Thanksgiving
2. Thanksgiving was about Family
3. Thanksgiving was about Religion

4. The Pilgrims Ate Turkey

5. The Pilgrims Landed on Plymouth Rock

6. The Pilgrims Lived in Log Cabins

7. Pilgrims Dressed in Black

8. Pilgrims, Puritans - Same Thing

9. Puritans Hated Sex

10. Puritans Hated Fun

Very interesting stuff - click to read all about it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

'Tis the Season for Giving

I am privileged to be a part of a church that really lives out its mission. Our mission is to "show God's love in such a way that people would exchange ordinary living for an extraordinary life through the transforming power of Jesus Christ." Showing God's love.

Perhaps the greatest way NorthStar Church shows God's love is through community service and acts of kindness. And, with the holiday season upon us, NorthStar is once again kicking into high gear to give, serve, and love on the Acworth and Kennesaw communities. Last Sunday, we witnessed great evidence of our belief in being others-focused.

For the second consecutive year, we partnered with Redemption Baptist Church to help provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need - families who live just a few short miles away from NorthStar's campus. In 2006 - our first year being involved with this outreach - the church delivered 600 grocery bags full of food items.

With the drought and housing market in a rut, we weren't too sure how things would go this year. But, God's people responded in an amazing way! Last Sunday, we collected more than 800 grocery bags full of food! And, not only that, but some NorthStar folks also wrote checks totaling $3,500, enough money to purchase turkeys for all of these families!

Immediately after Thanksgiving, we will continue to give to our community in many ways. On, Saturday, December 8, we will once again partner with the JOY Foundation and several area churches and organizations to support Shop with a Hero, where more than 1,000 children will go shopping with firemen, policemen, and members of our Armed Forces.

The following Saturday, we will also be a part of Shop with a Warrior and Shop with a Mustang, where students from North Cobb and Kennesaw Mountain High Schools will take disadvantaged children shopping for Christmas.

We also are working with counselors from all the area schools to identify children and families in need for our Adopt-a-Family program. Each year, hundreds of NorthStar families come together and purchase items for families in our area who wouldn't have Christmas gifts otherwise. In fact, last year we had a waiting list of NorthStar families who wanted to adopt a family because all the families in need were immediately adopted the first week we promoted the program!

It's such a blessing to be part of a thriving church body that understands that receiving joy is directly proportionate to how often we are putting others ahead of ourselves. I thank God for the opportunity to be a blessing to someone else - someone who may never know God loves them until they are served the way Christ served - humbly and selflessly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Technology as a Substitute?

Over the past couple years, much has been said and debated about the advent of sermon podcasts and video technology in churches today. Across the country, video venues - both on campus and off-campus - are spreading like wildfire. And, with iTunes' ever-increasing popularity, thousands upon thousands of sermon podcasts are available for download.

Sounds like a great thing, right? Well, there are certainly some positives to this. For churches who are trying to reach communities in new and exciting ways, video venues have been increasingly popular. And, studies have shown that most people really do not mind watching a video message, as long as its message is relevant to where they are in life.

Further, most churches do not have the financial means to continue to build facilities to hold more people for worship services. Having smaller, more intimate video venues - both on and off campus - has been an an effective and less costly method to creating space at ideal times.
In addition to coming up with new and innovative ways to conduct worship services, the vast majority of large churches now put their Sunday morning messages - either video or audio - on the web.

On the surface, this seems like a fantastic idea. In fact, we have two primary reasons we do this at NorthStar: (1) for people who could not make it to church on Sunday (sick, vacation, business, etc.) and (2) as an outreach tool that our people can share with others.
But, for some, a podcast or video online has become a substitute for church.

And, if your idea of church is listening to a sermon each week, then I guess it doesn't change much in your life. But, as a friend of mine said recently, "Jesus didn't lay down his life for the podcast."
The church is the Bride of Christ. This is mentioned repeatedly throughout scripture. And, the church is the institution God put into place for His people. Peter was the Rock upon which the church was formed, and Christ himself is the chief cornerstone (read Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 2:20).

In Acts 2:42-47, Luke explains the purpose of the church - how the body was completely devoted to one another, how they all sacrificed for another, prayed together, broke break together, how they met in small groups daily in homes and weekly as a corporate body in the Temple courts. He said the church - the body of believers - were together and had everything in common.

Pretty tough to accomplish all that with a podcast, isn't it? And, as much as I enjoy listening to sermon podcasts - from my church and others across the country - I wholeheartedly believe that each and every believer should be a member of a local body. That isn't my idea - it's God's.

A podcast is informative, and can be engaging. But, it has little depth. It cannot evoke the depth of emotion of a live corporate worship service. Sermon audio alone cannot possibly replace the feeling you get by being among God's people. And, sermon audio alone is typically all about the listener. A Sunday morning (or Saturday evening) experience is less about the one attending, and more about humility - a surrender to and worship of God, and a servant's heart for others.

I could go on for eons, but at the end of the day, the church was the God-ordained institution for accountability, belonging, care, and community. Can you be a believer and not go to church? Absolutely! But, it's like the difference between watching TV on a small, fuzzy black and white screen with an antenna, or watching it on a huge crystal-clear Hi-Def plasma widescreen.

If you are given the choice between the two, and they are both the same price, which would you choose?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The 2sday 10

The 10 Tallest Buildings* in the World
*buildings (not structures), which means they contain occupied floors throughout its full height

1. Taipei 101 - Taipei, Taiwan - 1,667 feet
2. Petronas Tower 1, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - 1,483 feet
Petronas Tower 2, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - 1,483 feet
4. Sears Tower, Chicago - 1,451 feet
5. Jin Mao Building, Shanghai - 1,381 feet
6. Two International Finance Center, Hong Kong - 1,362 feet
7. CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China - 1,283 feet
8. Shun Hing Square, Shenzhen, China - 1,260 feet
9. Empire State Building, New York - 1,250 feet
10. Central Plaza, Hong Kong - 1,227 feet

Monday, November 12, 2007

Slow Down

Why am I in such a hurry? Why can't I slow things down a bit and appreciate what is happening all around me?

To be quite honest, it all begins with my morning. I am not a morning person - AT ALL. I usually prefer to avoid conversation until at least 9 or 10 a.m. And, because I am not a morning person, I try to squeeze in every last second of sleep that I can before I finally moan and flail my way out from under the covers. It has become a daily ritual.

But, while this ritual may seem relatively harmless, it actually has become very destructive for me and likely those in my path each morning. When I allow my laziness to get the best of me, it sets my day on a fast downhill slope. What is a better word for this slope? HURRY.

I hurry to get a shower, shave, and get dressed in 10 minutes time. I do this so quickly because I have to then hurry and make up the bed. In turn, I then have to hurry to wake up my 7 year old, and get him dressed. Then, I have to hurry to make up his bed and put away his pajamas. Then, I have to hurry to get him breakfast (there's a reason Kellogg's created Pop-Tarts). I then have to hurry back upstairs and wake up his 3 year old brother. Then I whisk them both down to the basement, where I then hurry to get 7 year old to school and the 3 year old to Nana's house. Man...I'm out of breath just typing this!

All because of an extra 10 minutes of sleep. All because I am selfish and unwilling to change my routine. And, there's honestly few things I loathe more than being in a hurry. I get stressed. I get in a panic. I can't enjoy life.

John Ortberg, perhaps my favorite author, says in order to truly live the life God has planned for us, we must "ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives." Those are some strong words.

Recently, I can remember packing for a vacation. It was the night before we were leaving, and I found myself almost hyperventilating as I was trying to untangle some wires and cords for our kids' portable DVD player. I suddenly recalled Ortberg's words of wisdom, and I stopped. I took a deep breath and began to actually untangle the knots rather than making them worse. I felt like I was moving in super slow-mo. And, it was great. My heart rate slowed, my breathing became regular, and my mind was sharper.

What if I could always live this way? What if I didn't have to hurry all the time? What if I gave myself a cushion of a few minutes throughout my day so I could enjoy the company of others more?

I now realize that when I am in a hurry, it doesn't just affect me. It affects those all around me - my kids, my co-workers, the other drivers in my path. I need to slow down. Because life already happens too fast, and I don't want to miss any more of it than I have to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The 2sday 10 (almost)

I was traveling back from Jackson Hole, Wyoming all day Tuesday, so please pardon the delay of The 2sday 10. So, without further adieu...

The Last 10 Atlanta Falcons First-Round Draft Picks
Source: Wikipedia

2007 - Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
2005 - Roddy White, WR, UAB

2004 - DeAngelo Hall, CB, Virginia Tech

2004 - Michael Jenkins, WR, Ohio State

2002 - T.J. Duckett, RB, Michigan State

2001 - Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech

1999 - Patrick Kerney, DE, Virginia

1998 - Keith Brooking, LB, Georgia Tech

1997 - Michael Booker, CB, Nebraska

1995 - Devin Bush, S, Florida State

Click HERE for the complete list of Falcons' first-round marvels

Monday, November 5, 2007

The God of Wonders

I once heard Rick Warren say that it takes a lot more faith to believe that God doesn't exist than to acknowledge that there is, in fact, an incredible Creator who intricately wove together this amazing earth and the surrounding galaxies.

I have spent the past four days with my family driving throughout "God's Country" - aka Northwestern Wyoming, which includes Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. Words and photos cannot possibly suffice when describing this truly majestic and breathtaking landscape. I believe we have taken nearly 300 photographs on this vacation - and that was being conservative with the camera!

I was reading in the guest book in our condo, and one woman wrote that "God really outdid Himself when He created this area." I couldn't agree more. And, not only is the beauty of this area so amazing, but there's so little outside "noise" that you can truly get an idea of what God likely intended when He created earth - to have our undivided attention in the midst of his awesome creation.

For example, when we were unloading the car this evening, we all noticed how many stars were twinkling in the sky - it appeared that there were billions, and they were all so bright! My son asked, "Daddy, do we have this many stars in the sky at home?"

What a great vacation with my family! But, perhaps even greater is the reminder that we have an amazing, creative God who puts His splendor on display constantly...if we'll just slow down, get away, and take it all in!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Learning from the Best - Part Deux

I had the chance to meet and talk with Jack Llewellyn earlier this week. If you don't know who he is, just think about John Smoltz. Jack Llewellyn is largely credited with "saving" John Smoltz's career several years ago. Llewellyn is one of the world's most renowned sports psychologists. For 17 seasons, he has worked with the Atlanta Braves, as well as many of the sports world's best athletes.

For more than an hour, a few of us had a gut-splitting time with Jack. He was telling us some of the funniest stories I have ever heard about professional athletes. After all, he worked with Mark Wohlers, John Rocker, Chuck Knobloch, and Macky Sasser (among others). We were all in tears by the end of the morning!

At one point when the conversation died down for a minute, we asked Jack what the most surprising thing would be from all his years working with the best of the best. His answer silenced the room. "Most of them (the athletes) are just miserable," he said.

It was a great reminder that "success" that is defined by the world's standards often times isn't success at all. Without naming names, he told us stories about broken families and marriages, and athletes who just couldn't overcome the poor choices they had made in life. The glitz and glamour of their celebrity couldn't buy them the thing they lacked: joy.

Llewellyn was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three years ago. And, while you'd think he may have just thrown in the towel, he now uses this debilitating and frustrating disease to his advantage. He travels the country and speaks 40 times each year encouraging others who have MS.

He has found they key to joy: using what God gives you - good or bad - to be a blessing to others!

I can't wait to hang out with him again. He's a piece of work!