The Trimmed Heart

    This is the 5th week in our current Sunday series- The Burning Heart: Unmistakable Fire/ this series is about reigniting hearts! The 1st week, we looked at the lost heart. The 2nd week it was the proud heart. The 3rd week, we considered the turned heart. Last week, we imagined the disciplined heart. Today,l we look at the trimmed heart.
As we continue to look at the book of Deuteronomy and experience the journey the heart takes- where will you find YOURSELF?
     Deuteronomy 30:4-6- “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”
     Circumcision- it was handed down to Abraham and his descendants as “a token of the covenant” made by God. Here, God expands that idea as He talks about circumcising the heart- trimming it to make it healthier, more receptive.
     My mom was the original organic gardener. I learned more things about gardening from her than any other human! Here are some trimming tips she shared with me.
1. Before cutting- assess the shape of what you are about to cut. Always make cuts with the overall picture in mind, and never cut unnecessarily.
2. Always keep your tools clean and your blades sharp so you don’t produce a ragged cut that is slow to heal.
3. Use the right tools- shears to cut small branches and a saw for larger branches.
4. Remove all that is dead, damaged or diseased- it promotes healthy growth.
5. The harder a shoot is trimmed, the more vigorous it will grow.
6. Place the trimming blade right next to the branch to get as flush a cut as possible.
7. Pruning paint is not recommended; a well-placed cut will heal perfectly on its own.
     This list of tips for trimming translates well to God trimming our lives:
1. Before cutting- assess the shape of what you are about to cut.
Always make cuts with the overall picture in mind, and never cut
unnecessarily. God never trims unnecessarily- instead He assesses our situation and keeps the overall picture in mind.
2. Always keep your tools clean and your blades sharp so you don’t produce a ragged cut that is slow to heal. God’s Word is clean and sharp, and when He trims, He does it cleanly, swiftly, and with complete healing.
3. Use the right tools- shears to cut small branches and a saw for larger branches. God knows the right thing to use at the proper time for our betterment.
4. Remove all that is dead, damaged or diseased- it promotes healthy growth. God wishes to excise all that is diseased or dead, to help bring about spiritual health.
5. The harder a shoot is trimmed, the more vigorous it will grow. The more we are trimmed by God, the stronger we will come back.
6. Place the trimming blade right next to the branch to get as flush a cut as possible. When God trims us, He will be as close to us as possible, offering us His support and comfort.
7. Pruning paint is not recommended; a well-placed cut will heal perfectly on its own. We don’t need anything but God, and any trimming God does will heal perfectly on its own.
There are 5 truths about trimming:
1. God is the trimmer. Be encouraged- He is not merely some stranger with no interest in you. He is your Heavenly Father, and you can trust Him.
2. God has a purpose for your life. When a man goes through the vineyard with his trimming knife, he doesn’t indiscriminately cut without regard. Instead, he has a purpose- to produce the best fruit possible. When God looks at our lives, He has certain expectations- He expects to see love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. Do you have love, joy, peace, patience and kindness? If not, what prevents you from those things? God wants to make us more like Jesus Christ. He wants to remove the things that don’t help us fulfill our purpose.
3. God’s trimming knife is sharp. It must be extremely sharp if His trimming is to be effective. A dull knife might cut, but it will also damage the wood. The most effective knife is as sharp as possible. What does God use as a knife? Our circumstances, our relationships, our trials, and His Word.
4. God only removes what is unnecessary. The dead wood must be removed. It harbors insects and disease, and it can spread to the entire vine. God moves among us with His trimming knife, removing the dead things from our hearts- bitterness, resentment, selfishness, anger, self-centeredness, arrogance, pride- anything that doesn’t look like Jesus Christ. 
5. It is essential we stay connected to the Trimmer. The single most important thing we can do is to maintain our connection to God.
     If we are pruned of denial and resentment, then we accept our situation, and our ceases to be a problem. We become more authentic and compassionate. So why does God sometimes do some serious pruning in our life? People think it’s because God is mad at them, has forsaken them, or forgotten them. But when trimming happens, God is trying to get our attention. But trimming is painful and so we’re quick to cry out, “Why does it have to hurt so much?” And what is God’s response? “My grace is sufficient. My power is perfected in your weakness.”
     Ultimately, trimming is God’s hand, preparing us for service. God cuts away the unusable to make us more…usable! His loving hand strips away the dead wood to reveal the healthy fruit of the Spirit. We must be trimmed before we can bloom, so thank God for pruning certain habits, thoughts and dependencies. It enables you to be more fruitful. But the trimming process doesn’t last just one day, or one week, or even one year- it lasts a lifetime, it’s ongoing. in what areas of your life is God’s trimming knife active right now?
Is it resentment? Or bitterness? Or anger? Just remember what the passage from Deuteronomy above said, that no matter where you are, you are never too far away- God will come for you, find you, restore you!
     Thanks for coming by today. Have a blessed day, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Those Niebuhr Boys II- The Serenity Prayer

     Yesterday, I wrote about “those Niebuhr boys”- brothers Richard and Reinhold. (In case you think Richard got the more “anglicized” first name, his ACTUAL first name was Helmut!) I mentioned in the piece that they are considered giants of 20th century theological thought. I would agree with that assessment. But what many people don’t realize is that MOST of us know, or at least have heard, a very well-known prayer that was actually written by Reinhold Niebuhr. You may know it as The Serenity Prayer. The earliest known version of the prayer is from 1937. It appeared in a Christian student newsletter called “The Intercollegian and Far Horizons”, which claimed to be reprinting the prayer from an earlier edition of the same newsletter. They attributed authorship of the prayer to Reinhold Niebuhr. That version, slightly different from the version most of us know today, reads like this:
     “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.” The most popular version reads like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Sometimes, these additional lines are added: “Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.” This prayer is frequently used by Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as other 12-step programs, as a centering statement. 
     Niebuhr recounted to interviewers on several occasions that he had written the prayer as a “tag line” to a sermon he had delivered on Practical Christianity. But he DID leave some “wiggle room” regarding authorship when he said, “Of course, it may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don’t think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself.” So, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that the dearly departed Rev. Dr. Niebuhr IS the author. If you read his prayer, you find a stunning request to God. Let’s break it apart a bit and see what we find. We will focus on the FIRST half- the half most of us have heard.
     1. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”- how marvelous is that?! Admitting that there are things we have no control over AND asking for serenity about that fact! The reality is this- we have control over a big grand whopping total of diddly-squat (a theological term- the Niebuhr boys would be SO proud!)…EXCEPT how we respond to life. Don’t believe me? Name ONE thing that you REALLY have control over…I’m waiting…nothing, right? We simply can’t control…things…but we can control how we react to those…things. How will YOU react to what life offers today?
     2. “the courage to change the things I can”- If how we react is the only thing we can change, then it takes REAL courage, in the middle of a world that is dead-set on getting everything we can and having it be all about ME, to stand up and say, “No. There’s a better way!” You CAN change the way you react to life- what you think and feel about things. And if you let God be the ruler of your life, you’ll be amazed at how GREAT that can be!
     3. “and the wisdom to know the difference.”-  All I can say to that is to repeat Reinhold’s last word- amen! Do you know what “amen” means? “So be it”! So when we end a prayer with “amen”, we are really saying, “So be it. I have said this prayer, and I want it to be so in my life.” So, where does that wisdom to know the difference come from? (And yes, I know I ended my sentence with a preposition. I am NOT being graded on this, at least not for school, so sue me…I like it!) That wisdom comes from NO WHERE but God.
     I have a challenge for you- say this prayer EVERY DAY for the month of February. Write it down, print it off this site, whatever, (I actually wear the “long play” version of it on a bracelet), and say it daily. And don’t just SAY it…but actually PRAY it…and mean it! God can do amazing things with a willing heart- how’s yours?
     Thanks for stopping by today. I pray you have a blessed day. Please share this with others, make sure and stop by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Those Niebuhr Boys

      I went to seminary in St. Louis. I think every seminary has a theologian (or two, or three, or four…) that seem to be their “favorites”. For any number of reasons, they focus much of their attention on that (or those) theologian(s). Nothing wrong with that, by the way. You can’t focus on ALL of them; why not pick a small handful who seem to lift up a theology that is congruent with the theology espoused by the seminary? Well, at my seminary, two of the theologians who were lifted up quite often were brothers Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr. Now, let me qualify- they were NOT the only theologians we focused on, by  any means. But they are revered in the hallowed halls of my seminary, to the point that they are forever memorialized in the stained glass of the chapel there. (I SERIOUSLY doubt I will EVER see me memorialized in stained glass. A DC comic book perhaps, but never stained glass!) You might ask, “Why them?” If you are like most people who haven’t attended seminary, you probably haven’t even heard of them. Here’s why- both brothers are graduates of this seminary, and Richard also taught there. They went on to be among the “giants” of 20th century theologians and Christian thinkers. They impacted and influenced a generation of national and world leaders. Pretty big stuff! Or so one would think! But read on, MacDuff!
     The Niebuhrs grew up in a small town outside St. Louis called Wright City. So, one day, two of my seminary professors decided to take a run out to Wright City and see where the Niebuhrs grew up. They found the town and drove around. They went to the house where the brothers had lived as kids. Then, they decided to go see the church the Niebuhrs had attended. They found the church, and they also found an elderly lady out in the church yard pulling weeds and planting flowers. They stopped and struck up a conversation with her. They asked her if she remembered Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr. Well…YES…of course…she absolutely remembered them! They told her they had come out to see where the Niebuhrs had grown up- to see their house, their church, their town. She listened to them, and when they were done, she looked them in the eye, and with a straight face asked, “What ever happened to those Niebuhr boys? Did they amount to much?”
     Let me say right up front- YES, the “Niebuhr boys” DID amount to much! But how often do we get to feeling full of ourselves, thinking we are all that AND a bag of chips, only to be knocked down a peg or two…or three…or twelve? I don’t know about you, but every time I start feeling like the world owes me something, that GOD owes me something, I get a great big heaping tablespoon of reality shoved down my throat! I sadly cannot count the times that has happened in my life! (I’m a bit on the slow, thick-headed side- it takes A LOT to get through to me!) Why do you suppose that happens? I have a thought. (Now THERE’S a surprise!) At least for me, I think that when I am getting a little “too big for my britches” (to quote my mother!), God has a way of stepping in and taking me down a notch or two- putting me in my place, as it were! That used to REALLY make me mad! But finally (remember, I’m hard-headed!) I recognized it for what it was- the correction or discipline I needed in my life at that moment to be a better, more productive, more loving Christian. When I am able to put it in those terms, suddenly it becomes much more palatable! So, next time you start having trouble getting your big ‘ol swelled head through the doorway…keep an eye out. My guess is…the correction is coming. It may not be pleasant. It may not be fun. It may not be ego-boosting. But it WILL be just the thing you need to re-align your perspective!
     Thanks for stopping by today and spending a few moments with me. I pray a blessing on you this day, that you will feel God’s presence in a real and tangible way. Please share this with others. Make sure and come back by tomorrow…we look at a WELL known prayer that one of these very Niebuhr boys wrote! Oh, and stick with Jesus!

Superman Theology

   I will admit, right up front, that I am a geek! I have claimed that several times in this very space. In fact…I embrace my geekhood! (Geekdomness? Geekitude?) I have been a fan of the Superman character since I was old enough to realize it! (In fact, at this very moment, I have, in my office at church, 1) an 8 1/2 X 11 drawing of Superman that my DAD made when he was a kid, and 2) a 10″ statue of Superman that “stands guard” over my office from the vantage point of a shelf!) Yep…I’m a geek!
     But have you ever noticed the amazing similarities between Superman and…ready?…Jesus Christ? Now, this is NOT like that joke where the Sunday School teacher says, “Boys and girls- I have a question for you. What’s brown, with a bushy tail, and lives in your yard?” The kids just sit and stare. “Come on, children, you KNOW this one- he gathers nuts and stores them for the winter. Anybody?” Again, they just stare. “Oh, you KNOW this one! He’s cute and furry and loves to climb trees. Come on, someone guess!” Finally, a boy speaks up from the back of the room, “It SOUNDS like a squirrel…but it’s PROBABLY going to be Jesus!” This is NOT like that, so hear me out!
     Superman is sometimes refered to as the most omnipotent hero ever invented- a legitimate Christ-like figure. Superman is the pop culture “God with us”.  Why? Take a moment to consider the Superman mythology- father Jor-El , from the distant, unknown Krypton, sends his son Kal-El (Kryptonian for ‘Star Child’) to Earth. This divine child from the stars” is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a space-age manger during the Kryptonian “nativity scene”. As Jor-El does this, he says, “I send them my only son”.  He also says his son is “the light to show them the way.” The baby is then rocketed into outer space, to begin his journey to his destiny. He miraculously arrives, preordained, on Earth, a blazing example of moral and spiritual light upon a darkened planet. He is raised incognito by Earthly parents, his childhood shrouded in mystery. And when he is about 30 years old, he arrives in Metropolis with a clear idea of his messianic mission to battle evil and save Earth from its sin. Superman’s costume consists of a blue suit, red cape and yellow accessories. Evildoer Lex Luthor facetiously refers to him as “the blue boy”,while a Daily Planet newspaper article refers to him as a “blue bomb”. Biblically speaking, blue is the color of the divine, of truth, and of fidelity. Blue is also a symbol of purity. But when the people first see Superman, they are skeptical about whether he’s the “real deal” or not, saying, “True or false? Miracle or fraud? Man or myth?” They eventually accept him, and he goes on to give his life for his people. His body is laid in a tomb, only the tomb can’t hold him and he comes back to life.
    Jesus and Superman. Superman and Jesus. Both had earthly family ties, both had heavenly origins, both were raised incognito on Earth, both were of “royal” blood, both righted wrongs, both acted as saviors, both displayed incredible powers, and both performed miracles. Both had normal lives, complete with “day jobs”, in addition to their miraculous deeds. Both exhibit humbleness, gentleness, goodness, and caring. Both, despite difficulties, doubts and anxieties, eventually accepted and fulfilled their earthly mission. So…Superman is the fictional, secular equivalent of the sacred hope we are promised in Jesus!
     But did you notice the key words in that last sentence? “Fictitious” and “secular”! Superman, while an entertaining, fascinating, well-thought out character with some obvious Christ-like qualities, is just that…a character. He is NOT real. Jesus, on quite the other hand…IS! I have people say to me, “You actually BELIEVE in Jesus?” And my response is always the same, “No, I don’t!” That ALWAYS gets their attention! Then I follow up by explaining that I don’t BELIEVE in Jesus…I KNOW Jesus. If you don’t really see the difference- look at it this way. What would you say if someone said, “Do you believe in your husband/wife/child/grandchild/grandparent/dog catcher/ milkman/paperboy?” You’d say, “BELIEVE in them?! What does THAT mean? I don’t believe in them…I KNOW them!” Exactly! If I “believe” in something, that implies that I think there is room in my understanding for the potential that it DOESN’T exist…I simply BELIEVE it does. I don’t have to believe in Jesus…I have had SO many personal encounters with Him as my Lord and Savior, I KNOW He exists!
     What do YOU think about all this? Is Jesus, like Superman, just a fascinated, albeit fictitious, character created in some ancient writings? Or, like me, do you see Jesus as the living, breathing, life-changing Son of God, sent here to take away our sin and offer us eternity with God? Is Jesus a lifeless entity forever captured in the pages of a book…or is He the 50-thousand watt, red-hot popping only begotten Son of the Father who came to rock our world? I think you KNOW what I think…what do YOU think?
     Thanks for coming by today- I pray you have a blessed one! Please share this with your favorite comic book geek, make sure and come by tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Prophets…and Other Strange People

      We hadn’t been in town long at all. They way it works in the United Methodist system is this- our Bishop, responsible for all the United Methodist churches in Illinois south of Chicago (roughly), along with the Cabinet, spend a great deal of time in prayer regarding which pastor is serving which church. If they discern God calling a pastor to a different church, then that pastor receives a phone call telling them of this discernment and their impending move. That is how my family and I found ourselves in central Illinois some 5 1/2 years ago! Anywho… we had basically JUST arrived here and we made a trip to Sam’s Club, to pick up a few things. While there, my wife, younger son (then age 3) and I were looking at books, while our older son (then age 16) was a few aisles over, looking at CD’s. All of a sudden, a rather….unkempt… gentelman approached our older son and started talking to him. We couldn’t hear what was being said, but we could SURE see the look on our son’s face as the guy walked away! Based on that look, we immediately thought this man had done something to him or at least said something WILDLY inappropriate to him. With my wife’s “mother lion” radar going off full blast, we hurried over to him. It took e second or two to actually get an answer from him as to what happened- he was kind of shell-shocked. Once he could speak again, here’s what he told us- the man, a TOTAL stranger AND a bit on the…shall we say…eccentric…side, approached him and said, “The Lord just spoke to me and told me to come over and tell you that you are going to be a minister.” And then…he walked away! Never saw him before…never saw him since!
     An interesting foot note to this story is that my wife and I have been saying, for YEARS, to our older son that we think God is calling him into the ministry. He has all the gifts and graces (unlike me, who gets by on sheer will power and my good looks! LOL), has a great knowledge of the Bible, is extremely talented musically, and has a real heart for people. He has, of course, denied and rejected that claim all along. But then, to have a total stranger come along, completely unsolicited, and tell him that…wow!!
     His call from God is yet to be subtantiated. I have shared before that my call from God was years in the making and denied by me at every turn. So…my question for the day is this- what is God callinjg YOU to? What important, powerful ministry is God wanting you to be a part of? Now, you may be saying, “Well, Pastor Smartypants, not EVERY Christian is in the ministry!” Au contraire mon frere! I believe that ALL Christians are called to ministry. It may not be formal ministry, where you go to school FOR EVER, stick “Pastor” or Reverend” in front of your name and serve a church as their spiritual leader. But we are ALL called into ministry. In fact, every Sunday, the bulletin at my church lists Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor, Office Administrator AND Minister. Under all the others is a name. Under “minister” it says “all who attend”. We are ALL ministers of the Gospel, called to help spread the Good News to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. Where do we do that? Wherever we are- at home, at school, at work, out in the neighborhood, at the grocery store, the local restaurant…wherever! Ministry isn’t only done in the church. In fact, often the BEST ministry is done everywhere BUT the church! This week, pray about this- what ministries is God calling you to? How does God want you to be involved in His project to save the world? If you pray sinecerly about this…be careful, because you WILL get an answer! What will you DO with that answer?
     Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today. I pray that you and your family have a blessed day. Please share this with other people, come back and visit tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Caramel Corn Chemistry

  Sundays are sacred around my house. If you aren’t dead…you’re in church! (The joy and curse of being a pastor’s kid!) Sunday evenings are also sacred- but in a different way! We have a Sunday evening tradition at my house that began about a year ago. I was involved in a Hospital Chaplaincy certification program that had me out of town from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening every week for 3 months. While I was gone, my wife and younger son began this tradition- popcorn and apples for dinner while watching a movie! Well, I never met a bowl of popcorn and a fresh apple I didn’t like, so I jumped right on that tradition when my schedule changed and I was home again on Sunday evenings.

     We have the Whirley-Pop (pictured here)- I HIGHLY recommend them! I picked ours up at a garage sale for $1, and it makes the BEST popcorn ever! They are readily available new for about $20 on-line (we got one for my in-laws for Christmas!) It takes 2 tablespoons of oil (I use the Orville Redenbacher oil) and 7 heaping tablespoons of popcorn. I pop 2 full kettles, dumping all of one kettle and a BIT of the 2nd kettle into a large DOUBLED (one bag inside the other) brown paper grocery sack, while the rest of the 2nd kettle goes into a 2nd grocery sack. Some melted butter gets drizzled over the lesser amount of popcorn, followed by some salt. Shake the bag REALLY well to mix it all together…and that one’s done- pour it in a bowl!
     Then I start on the OTHER bag, with the larger amount of popcorn in it. (Many thanks to my church Office Administrator for this recipe!) Combine a stick of butter, a cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of white (Karo) syrup, and a dash of salt. Microwave on high until all is melted. Stir together, then microwave on high for 2 more minutes. THEN comes the magic! Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the mix. As you stir it in, an amazing chemical reaction occurs, and the very nature of the…goo…in the bowl changes as well…into caramel! Pour that over the popcorn in the doubled bag, roll the top down tight, stick the bag in the microwave (turn off the turntable if you are able) and microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. When it’s done, unroll the bag and shake the daylights out of the popcorn, mixing it up really well. Pour it in a bowl and enjoy! (Because you have just made the easiest, BEST caramel corn you will ever eat!) I then slice up the apples, hit “play” on the movie…and away we go!
     The amazing thing to me in this whole process is when you add the baking soda. Baking soda is sodium hydrogen carbonate or sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, and it is the weakest alkali among sodium compounds. When baking soda is broken down by heat, a chemical reaction occurs which generates carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. It’s what make pancakes bubble as they cook, and it changes the color, look, AND texture of the mix you have created in the microwave. It turns the whole gloppy mess into caramel. When you make it, the transformation is truly amazing! (Although I am admittedly a geek of the highest degree, so your amazement level may not be the same!)
     As I made this wonderful concoction this past Sunday evening, I thought about the difference God has made in my life. Before God impacted me in a real and tangible way, I was just going through the motions, not really “doing anything” with my life. I was a decent enough person and all, but I didn’t really do anything that…mattered. I was the goo in the bowl, fresh from the microwave! Then God came along and acted as the baking soda. It didn’t take much, either. But once that “enhancing agent” got stirred into my life…amazing things started happening! I was active in church. I was leading youth groups. I was teaching classes. I was planning seminary. I was making RADICAL changes in my life that have made me NEARLY unrecognizable compared to the person I used to be. Now, I would LOVE to say that I have become as sweet and creamy as the caramel corn…but too many of you know me well enough for me to pull THAT one off! I am NOT perfect. I am NOT “all that and a bag of chips”. But I am also NOT who I once was…and I praise God every day that He stirred that heavenly baking soda into the raw materials that were me…changing me into something wholly (and holy) other.
     Have you experienced that? You can! Let God work a miracle in your life. Let God change you. Let God be the ruler of who you are and what you do. You will NOT be disappointed! Great things are coming…can you feel them?!
     Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today. I pray that you have a blessed day. Please share this with others, make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!


      I got to rock out Saturday night! Winter Jam, a touring Christian rock concert, came to my area on Saturday evening. So…my wife and I met a couple from our church, left OUR kid with THEIR kids (not quite sure who got the worse end of THAT deal!), loaded two packs of diapers in the car (NOT for me as I stood in line- the promoters were asking for diaper donations to aid a local women’s shelter), made a stop at the Atlanta Bread Company (Chicken/Sausage Gumbo and Asian Chicken Salad…oh… and a water, thank you very much) for dinner, and then off to the concert venue! The doors were to open at 5PM, with the concert scheduled to start at 6PM…BUT…there were NO tickets! It was open seating, $10/person at the door. SO…the line…check that- LINES- 3 of them, at different parts of the building, were LONG when we arrived at 4:45PM. Thousands of people were waiting to get in. Fortunately, the weather was pretty mild for January in Central Illinois, so we waited in line with everyone else. We made it into the building by about 5:35PM, found seats (not TOO shabby, by the way- a bit left of center and about 2/3 of the way up the venue. We could see quite well…and hearing was NO problem!
     AS we took our seats, Robert Pierre was already singing. I had never heard of him before, but the guy can SING! He finished up just before 6PM, and they made some changes to the stage while we watched a video. The next group up was Sidewalk Prophets, a GREAT band who did a dynamite version of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Following them was Fireflight, a high-octane band with a decidedly “metal” feel to their music. Next up was Newsong, the group who was sponsoring the tour.They are nearly legendary in Contemporary Christian circles, and they did NOT disappoint! Next was Newsboys, one of my favorite Christian groups of all time. Their lead singer rode a rather small, round platform about 25-30 feet into the air, while singing, then grabbed a cable that hung above him…and JUMPED off, riding the cable back down to the stage! (It was awesome!) The next group was Tenth Avenue North, who did a great set with several songs I knew- just didn’t know ahead of time it was THEM who did the songs! The “big dog in the yard” for the night, Third Day, closed the show with a great extended set. Got in the building at 5:35PM, paid $10 to hear SEVEN good bands and lots of ear-splitting Christian rock (my ears are STILL ringing! Of course, I have tinnitus, so my ears ALWAYS ring!), and was walking back to the car by 9:40PM! An aging Christian rocker’s dream!
    Two thoughts spring from the evening:
     1) Tenth Avenue North was a bunch of YOUNG guys…I mean, they were YOUNG…I have SHOES older than them! But their lead singer said something that really stuck with me. He pointed out that we DON’T go to church for God. THAT got my attention! Fortunately, he repeated it. “We don’t go to church FOR God,” he said. “We go to church BECAUSE OF God!” What a powerful distinction! We don’t go looking for God. We go because God has done so much in our lives that we HAVE to go and worship Him. That is something I can get my head around!
     2) I heard great vocals, awesome drum riffs, and face-melting guitar solos. I saw GREAT production values in a large concert venue. I saw pyrotechnics, special effects, and one of the most talented, efficient stage crews I have ever witnessed. I attended a concert that would rival ANY concert in the country. And I paid a grand whopping total of $10 to do all that! AND…it was an environment that, while we chose NOT to take him, I would have been perfectly comfortable taking my 9-year old son to. The musicians were awesome, God-loving people. The staff were awesome, God-loving people. The AUDIENCE were awesome, God-loving people. So…great values that offer…um…great values…still exist! There are STILL lots of things you can do with your family, AS a family, that won’t break the bank and will be great fun! There are things that ARE family friendly. Take your family to a concert. Take them to the art museum. Take them to the zoo, the park, the soccer field. There are lots of great things you can do with your family!
     Thanks for stopping by today! Have a blessed day, please share this with others, make sure and come back tomorrow, ROCK ON, and stick with Jesus!