Sabbatical 34-36 (Atlanta, Georgia)

Passion City Church and NothPoint Church, Atlanta

This weekend, I had the awesome opportunity to attend two of my favorite pastors in the whole world-Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio both in Atlanta.

Highlights of the weekend:

Saturday night:

Ate some Coca-Cola grilled chicken! It was so delicious! The hotel was pretty cool. It was located in the College Park area, which is an older part of town. I really enjoyed the hotel and the surroundings.

Sunday morning:

9:00 am-Attended NorthPoint and heard Andy Stanley teach. His morning service is all about being a church that unchurched people love to attend. The place was crowded. Had a hard time finding a seat. The building and lobby areas were huge! Andy taught about killing our appetite for being known. His key take-away was to take what God has given us and point it back to Jesus. His example was John the Baptist. “Remember who it’s from and who it is for.”  Music was very professional and definitely was designed for an unchurched person.

12:30 pm-drove over to  Passion City Church. It was a totally different feel. Louie’s church was more of an old warehouse. It was still very nice-just not as polished. Chris Tomlin and Kristian Stanfill led worship. Pretty good line-up for worship. Louie’s talk was awesome. He focused on the shepherds in the Christmas story and how God came near to us. How awesome and exciting Christmas is: we celebrate that God came near us! Want to see something cool: google Migdal Eder. The Gospel of Jesus has been working throughout history!

2:30 pm- Found a Buffalo Wild Wings only to see the Dolphins playoff hopes vanish for the season. Found other Dolphin fans and watched the Fins lose another game that mattered.

4:30 pm-Drove back to NorthPoint to attend the student worship service for high school students. They had over 500 high school students. They had no chairs-everyone stood until the youth pastor spoke.  The band was amazing as it was a professional adult band. The majority of the students were engaged but there were quite a few that talked the entire service or played on their phones. After the youth pastor spoke, everyone went to small groups. It was a good service!

7:30 pm-Had some of the best bbq I have had in a long time. Walked from the hotel to Tony Morrow’s BBQ. I had some lemon pepper ribs and brisket and some sweet tea! The meal was delicious and everyone was very kind!

9:00 pm-Went back to hotel to work out at the fitness room-had to burn the ribs off!

Monday

Drove to the airport and took the longest flight back to Dallas. My flight went from Atlanta to Washington, DC and then onto Dallas. It was a long day but finally made it safe back home. So glad I made this trip to Atlanta! I love this city more and more each time I go. It is a beautiful city with trees and plenty to do!

Things about each of the churches:

1) Greeters were everywhere! There were people everywhere at both churches greeting: parking lot, lobbies, clearly marked welcome centers. If you needed something or had a question, there was someone to help! At Northpoint, the greeters inside the church had I-pads to get information. Northpoint had clearly marked t-shirts and Passion City had small name tags.

2) Buckets were passed during the service. In both churches, they passed the bucket for offering.

3) The greet time was very short. It was less than a minute. It was just enough time to say hello to two or three people around you and then, it was over.

4) Announcements were brief. And if there were announcements, they were both more video driven than spoken.

5) In both services, there was no guest card to fill out. The next step was clearly outlined for the people but the next step was up to the people. You could easily slip in and out of a service and no one would ever know. No push at all to get people to give information.

6) Both churches had stores filled with resources from their ministries.

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Sabbatical Day 32 and 33 (Smith and Hubbard Family)

Hubbard and Smith family

Today, I had the awesome privilege of helping some of our friends watch some really special young people.

There were four kids in our youth group who lost their grandma a few years ago. They had no other family members to take them. For months afterwards, they stayed in a group home. Then, they landed in a home that wanted them. That turned out to be a bad decision. It seems as if all hope was lost for them in staying together. Then a family from FBC Frisco stepped up to take them in. This family already had 2 kids of their own and they took these four other teenagers in. It has been an up and down process but I think things are really smoothing out now. What a huge sacrifice the Smith family has made for these kiddos!

The Smith family took a trip and needed someone to watch the kids while they were away.  So I stepped in to help! The kids are all teenagers and super busy. I basically had to make sure they all ate and give them rides to their places.

Francis Smith said we could make hot dogs for dinner on the first night. Instead of hot dogs which I think are yucky, I took the kids to McDonald’s. Not very healthy but super easy.

The next night, I told them we could go anywhere they wanted and they chose Chinese food. So we all took them out with my family for Chinese food. What a site we must have been. Shanda and I with 8 kids at a Chinese place.

It was a pleasure hanging out and watching these awesome kids!

Perhaps the hardest part was watching Little Jimmy–a bulldog who isn’t very little. He is a sweet dog who needs a lot of attention. In the photo, he feel asleep on the table trying to jump to the chair to sit with me.

For more on their story, check out this link and feel free to contribute.

Sabbatical Day 31

John Simmons at Church at Rush Creek

Tonight, I had another opportunity to visit another former student doing ministry. I made the trek over to Mansfield tonight to see John Simmons, student pastor at Rush Creek. I served as John’s student pastor in middle school before his family left to attend another church.Don’t worry, it all worked out. He met his wife at his new church and we still remained friends.

We served together at Super Summer on executive staff last summer so we were able to connect again.

John has done an amazing job in growing a student ministry. God has really been at work in his life at this church. He did a great job of teaching tonight and you can tell he has such a great passion for his students.

Again, one of the best things about staying in student ministry is seeing what students do later in life. And when they end up in ministry, it is always so cool to see.

Great job John! Glad I had the chance to see you in action!

Sabbatical Day 29 and 30th

The past few days have been an amazing time of rest and relaxation. Really, this week is one of the only weeks I have to just do nothing. I do some sleeping. I did some napping. I did some family things. Chandler had a band concert and that was fun to see him drum.

It has been hard to know exactly what I have done because I have had no real plans.

But one of the best things I have done each morning is to have an extended time of prayer and Bible reading with the Lord.

I think this is what the Sabbath is really all about.

Sabbatical, Day 28

Today, we drove home from Amarillo. The drive never gets better or more fun. It is such a long drive!

One good thing about this road trip was that we got to listen to the Texas Tech vs. Baylor football game on the radio. We both thought that Texas Tech would get destroyed by Baylor. Turns out, it was a great game. Tech came back in some fourth quarter heroics and had the opportunity to tie the game and go into overtime. They missed the 2-point conversion with only minutes left in the game. It was still a loss but they did a great job of making a comeback and gave us all hope for what next season might bring us.

In life, you may have seasons of not winning or not achieving your goals, but you can always turn things around with some hard work and the Lord on you side. Here’s to you Kliff and the rebuilding of Texas Tech football.

And here’s to getting back to ministry in 2015 and making some things better! I am so glad that driving is over for the Thanksgiving break!

Movie Review: Unbroken and the annoying couple next to me

Tonight, Shanda and I got invited to a screening for Angelina Jolie’s new movie, Unbroken. It was a bunch of ministerial type people getting to take a sneak peek at the film so we could pass it on our churches.

The movie house was completely full as we were all excited about what this film would be.

We sat right next to the most annoying couple. I know, I know. I’m not supposed to talk about my Christian brother and sister but they were annoying. This couple talked throughout the entire movie. They talked to each other. The woman talked out loud to the movie. They both went to the bathroom and upon each of their returns, they had to catch each other up on what they missed. And of course, since we are all believers, I couldn’t lean over to them and tell them to shut their yappers. That wouldn’t be very Jesus like. I guess I could whisper, “hey, be quiet or Jesus will smite you.” But that didn’t seem appropriate. They constantly were lost in the plot and had to talk.  This isn’t your living room, people!

Anyway, about the movie.

Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini who served in our country during World War II. He was taken as a prisoner of war in Japan. The Japanese beat him many times and forced him to work alongside other Americans in hard labor. It is a great story of forgiveness and being resilient in the times of tribulation.

Hers is what I liked:

1) It showed a glimpse of what faith can do! Louie made a promise to God and He fulfilled it with his life. Jesus is mentioned early in the film by a preacher giving a sermon. It was nice to hear the name of Jesus in a film not taken in vain.

2) It was intense and really showed the reality of war. What our grandfathers did to protect us from Germany and Japan was so sacrificial. That generation truly was the greatest generation of our United States history. The movie did a great job of showing the horrors of war and what many of our young men had to go through. How did I know the movie was intense? Because the lady next to me would talk to the movie after every hit and every beating. “Stop right now.” “Oh no!” “I said stop!” Every hit, every beating, this is what she would say. By the end of the movie, I considered breaking her. The younger generation needs to see this film just to see the reality of war.

Here is what I thought was lacking:

1) There were parts of the film that seemed to drag on a bit. Some of the torture scenes lasted a little too long.

2) It never really focused on Louie’s life after the war. I would have loved to see some of his life and what exactly he did for the Lord after the war. Of course, you can google that yourself and find all kinds of articles and videos. But the best thing is that Louie accepted Jesus at Billy Graham crusade. (Many are upset that this didn’t make the film) After the war, Louie struggled with depression and alcoholism. But through Christ, he was able to heal and give forgiveness to the Japanese who tortured him.

Why see this film?

This film isn’t the best movie you will ever see but here is why I think you should see it.

1) This story will hopefully lead many people to dive into his story and discover that he gave his life to Jesus. Louie tells everyone about Jesus at every opportunity. Perhaps many will come to know Jesus through his story.

2) We need to support films that reflect our values.  If we can get a superstar like Angelina Jolie to produce a film about a Christ follower, who knows what can happen next. Angelina and Louie became sweet friends before his death and I would like to think that his story has an impact on her and Brad and their family. After all, Shia LaBeouf accepted Jesus not long ago on his last movie with Brad Pitt. (click here)

3) It shows the power of forgiveness. And I think all of us could learn to forgive.

4) The acting is really great! No cheesy acting here.

So this Christmas season, go and see the movie. Just be careful you don’t sit next to some annoying people. And yes, I forgive the couple next to me (see, the movie did have some power)

Fun in Atlanta

While at the NYWC, Shanda and I did take some time to do some fun stuff!

1) World of Coke

This is the official Coke museum and it was awesome! There was a video at the beginning of the tour where people shared their Coke stories (wedding engagements, baby announcements to parents, surprise party) and Shanda and I were in tears. we are such saps! The tour ended with being able to drink from over 100 Coke products from around the world. Coke is it!

2) The Varsity

We ate lunch where Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio used to skip church as teenagers. They would walk from FBC Atlanta and eat and hang out at this famous landmark. The food is not all that great but the atmosphere is quite fun!

3) Hunger Games

My wife recently watched The Hunger Games on NetFlix. The new movie came out over the weekend so I took my wife out to see Mocking Jay. I didn’t see the second one so I was a little lost but it was a good movie.

4) Ruth Chris Steakhouse

Shanda and I had some extra money in the budget as we didn’t eat several meals. So I took my lovely bride out for a great steak. It was a great evening and the steaks were awesome!

Atlanta is a cool town and I love coming to it!