Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christmas Check-in

I think the Advent Conspiracy was a success. I can't tell you how many people stopped me, emailed me or wrote me a Christmas card thanking me for changing their Christmas forever with my latest sermon series. Very gratifying! I don't know what the offering tabulation was from our Christmas Eve offering yet. But no matter what it is...I know that Cedarbrookers will make a difference this year by helping to fund a least a large portion of a well in some village. There's still time to give by going to

Changed Life; I just had the pleasure of visiting with someone that I met about ten years ago at Arbor Place Treatment Center where I teach three days a week. When people from Arbor attend Cedarbrook they often become friends, as this person did. She received much inner healing in the five years that Lisa and I knew her but continually relapsed back into her addiction in major ways. Then she moved and we felt sad that all of our investment into her life seemed to be for nothing. But we reconnected recently and we found out that she has been sober for the last four years. She's even helping other women in a prison ministry. It was great to see what God has done in her life since she moved on.

Christmas Movie Reviews; My family has started taking in movies on Christmas Day these past few years. Yesterday we saw the new Will Smith movie "Seven Pounds". I really liked it. It was kind of dark yet it was heartwarming at the same time. It had elements of mystery, suspense and romance. You will have a lot of questions throughout the movie but then everything comes together in the last two or three minutes. That's all I can say without giving it away. But I'd definitely see it.

Not so good...Tropic Thunder. We got home late from a Minnesota Christmas and thought we'd watch one more movie on Pay per View. The only thing that looked watchable was Tropic Thunder. I thought I had read a good review on it and I like Ben Stiller. But don't waste your time. There are some funny moments and the premise is fairly amusing (a war movie turns into the real thing but one of the actors is clueless to what's going on around him) but the good parts are too few to justify the bad parts. I REALLY dislike frat-house humor (fart and sex jokes) and this movie turns to that formula whenever they were too lazy to think of something truly funny. I normally don't mind foul language in a movie if it reflects the situation but again, the bad language was pure laziness on the screenwriter's part. So, save your money. There's better things to do with your time! (that goes for your teenagers too!)

I hope you had a good Christmas. I'm enjoying some true down time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Christmas Wish List

Thanksgiving seems to be the time that people start asking each other what's on their Christmas list. I know you are all eager to know what to get me. So to make this simple and fast here's the list...

1. clean water for villages with dirty water (give online here)
2. clean water for villages with dirty water
3. clean water for villages with dirty water

I think you get the idea. But seriously, I don't expect you to give me a gift. I'm writing this to give you an idea for YOUR Christmas list. You don't have to be so hard core. Go ahead, put the usual on your list...socks, a Wal-mart gift card, fudge...but add one more thing...clean water.

Learn more about Living Waters International and how you can change a village forever. Why be so radical? Learn about the Advent Conspiracy at their website or download my sermons to learn why you might join the conspiracy this Christmas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

God's Gift - Our Gifts

Have you considered the incongruity of our Christmas gifts compared to God's gift to us?

God gave us the most personal gift - Jesus.

But we often give each other impersonal gifts just to fill an obligation.

God gave Jesus to us because we were in desperate need.

But our gifts usually go to people that already have too much.

God’s gift was paid with blood and sacrifice.

But our gifts are often paid with credit.

God’s gift lasts forever.

But we are lucky if our gifts last a few minutes.

What's wrong with this picture? Is there a more meaningful way to celebrate Jesus entering this world?

taken from Advent Conspiracy, Part One: Enter the Story.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Finding God's Will for Your Life

How do you know when your thought or idea is something that God gave you? That's what I talked about at the University of Stout on Sunday. What a great event! Lots of people. And people texted in their questions after the sermon. Very fun.

I didn't have much time to answer the questions so I wrote them all out and answered them in the text to my sermon. If you'd like to hear what I had to say just download the text version. If you still need more information just shoot me an email. I'm happy to answer your question the best I can.

Download sermon text.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now, the Discussion Starts!

I want to use this space to update you on the research our facilities team has done over the last several months. Let me start with a little background for newcomers.

The History

Cedarbrook Church started in January of 2003 with about 200 people, meeting at the CineMagic Theatre. We outgrew that space and moved to the Shops Off Broadway mall in the Fall of 2006. This space has served us in many ways, giving us more meeting space and a nice Children's Center but for a church of 400+ we are really cramped, spilling over into other rented space with many of our staff "officing" out of local coffee shops. To rent more space in the mall increases the cost considerably and still only gives us a temporary site.
So we determined a few months back that our next step is to move...not rent more mall space.

We created a facilities team made up of our LEAD Team and added to it a number of people with backgrounds in building, real estate, business and planning. Our goal was to assess our options for a new church facility. We didn't want to assume that building on our land (we purchased 14 acres one mile north of Wal-Mart a few years ago) was the "right" answer if buying an existing building would serve us better.

The Options

We looked at every option that could potentially work for us, some good and some bad, and we came down to these options:

  1. Build on our land
  2. Purchase the former Leever's grocery store
  3. Purchase the former Lehman and Larson building adjacent to Wal-Mart
  4. Be open to any late breaking opportunity that might open up.
Most of our time has been spent on options one and two above. Option three is new to us but has some attractive possibilities. We have hired a capital campaign company to help us raise funds for this effort (targeted to start in late January). What we want to do between now and January is start a discussion and see what resonates with the congregation. What gets us excited? What option will move us to give to make it a reality?

The Plan:
It would be ideal if we all agreed immediately on the best option. But short of that kind of miracle we want to at least engage the Cedarbrook family in a discussion to find out what everyone is thinking. On November 9 and 16 we will invite focus groups representing different subcategories of Cedarbrook attenders (students, townies, rural, parents, etc.) to give us their thoughts and ideas on our options. We also hope to engage other community groups (the Chamber, etc.) to give us their input as well. We will process all of this information, along with other research that we hope to gather, to gain consensus for one of the options. If we can't gain consensus before we launch the capital campaign we will delay the campaign.

My Request:

I have a few things to ask of you;
  1. Pray. This is big. This is huge. This decision will impact the nature and direction of Cedarbrook for decades. We need God to be in the center of this decision making process.
  2. Participate. This is not the time to hang back. We need your input, whether it's through a focus group or email or face to face visit. Keep it positive but don't be afraid to speak your mind, even if you feel like you are in the minority.
  3. Stay open. Like I said, unless a miracle takes place, not everyone will agree on the final decision. This is a time for us to walk in humility and openness, respecting each other's opinions and trusting that God's voice will be heard through a very diverse group of people.
This is a historic time to be at Cedarbrook! This is a time that people will look back on in years to come and say, "Do you remember when ..." God has clearly been with Cedarbrook from the beginning and I know he will speak to us through this process to show us which way to go to best fulfill our calling. So join the journey as we seek God's voice together!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The With-ness Factor; Being incarnational

I want to expand on what I said in church yesterday about "serving others"...

I didn't have time to talk about the "Withness Factor". When I talk about the "withness" of serving others I'm not speaking with a lisp or writing a typo. It's a part of serving that is often overlooked.

The official term for what I'm talking about is being "incarnational". We talk about Jesus as being "God incarnate"..."carne" being the root word for "meat " (i.e. chili con carne which means chili with meat) or "flesh". So Jesus is God "in the flesh". God came to be
with us by being like us. The name Immanuel means "God with us". So, that's the theological side.

But it wasn't until I went to help with the Katrina Flood Relief that I experienced what incarnational ministry really is or what I'm calling "withness". When my team was in New Orleans for a week I was happy to be there helping but I really wanted to stay there and be with them and see them through the whole ordeal. There seemed to be something inherently wrong with coming for a few days...clean out a few homes...and then leaving. It felt a bit cold. A bit calculated and clinical.

I experience the same feeling when I teach at Arbor Place. Part of me just wants to move in to the treatment center and live with the clients. It seems too condescending to ride in, dispense my wisdom and then leave. I want to be there to walk them through what I taught as well as let them help me walk through my own issues. It's that
give and take of community that validates peoples humanity. No one wants to be merely the object of mercy. Everyone wants to give back as well.

Having these feelings was a bit of an awakening and helped me to understand the Mother Theresa's of this world who go to live in terrible conditions like the garbage dump in Calcutta. I used to think...I
understand helping them but if you live in the dump you will never get the rest you need to help them. In a sense that's true...but the validation she and others give by living with the people is powerful.

So what's the take home message? That when you serve you give more than your time and talent but you give your self as well. You hear what they hear, you see what they see, you feel what they feel so that when you speak or act it flows from a true knowledge of THEM and their surroundings and not what your textbook or stereotype says about them. Plus you give AND you receive. We don't have all the answers. The people you help can help you just as ways you never pay attention! (By the can practice this right in your home or dorm room with the people you live with).

When Jesus said, "Go into all the world and be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8) it might be good to add an "h" now and then to remind us that being a "witness" requires "withness".

(This is the text of my weekly email that I send out to people that want to take my sermons deeper. If you'd like to get that email let me know and I'll put you on the list.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Freeing Up the Bottleneck

In my sermon on Sunday I challenged people to not wait for someone on staff to start a Bible study or plan an outreach or even a mission trip. It's not rocket science! You can do it! Within just a few months after I became a follower of Jesus I was leading small group Bible studies at the University of Minnesota and by the end of the year the campus group I was with put me in charge of outreach for the entire campus. I didn't know much but I had a willing heart!

My point is that people tend to get intimidated by taking leadership...especially with anything they have to be a Bible scholar or something first. Not true! At a church the size of Cedarbrook we should have 30 small groups and be sending out ministry teams every week to help someone somewhere. Why don't we? We just don't have the staff to manage all that. But we shouldn't really have to. If people would merely grab a few friends and start something our ministry efforts would double over night!
(Maybe if you think of working with just your friends it won't be so intimidating).

Please think about if God is calling you to do that. I'm happy to meet with you to give you ideas and next steps. We've got six staff and 500 attenders at Cedarbrook. Let's not let the small staff bottleneck what God wants to do at church!

Monday, September 08, 2008

The ride of his life

Sometimes people do something so notable you just have to comment. Rick Gauger is a long time friend and a Cedarbrooker and he just set off on a 30 day bike trip across the southern states from San Diego to Savannah, GA. He's joined by Steve Brown and Jerry Porter from Menomonie and about 30 other people from around the country/world.

The Dunn County News did a nice piece on them Sunday that's fun to read (click the link). And
Rick is blogging each night (we'll see how long he hangs in there on the blogging!) in case you want to track this trio. It sounds exciting (but very exhausting!).

Confronting the addict in your life

Every month I get a few emails asking me for advice on how to confront an addict in the life of someone at church. I've given this advice out so much that I thought I should get the information out to more people who might be too embarrassed to contact me. This is some of the advice I've given out over the past few weeks...

1. Should I confront them? Yes, you have to. The scary truth is that if you don't confront them the next phone call you get might be from the coroner or the police because they killed someone while driving drunk. If you are uneasy about this contact Arbor Place or another treatment center for tips on how to do an intervention on an addict. Don't go into it with "guns blazing" because it is very shaming to be exposed in your addiction and you don't want them to shut down or run away. But don't use those fears to keep you from confronting them.

2. Should I help them even though I've helped them in the past and it didn't work?
Yes, if you can...if you have the emotional margin left in you. It's good to offer help if they sincerely want matter how many times they've failed in the past, this might be the time it clicks. I think that's how Jesus treats us. But on the other hand, in some cases their past failures may have burned you so bad that you are no longer able to help. If that's the case, you just have to respect your condition and say, "I'm sorry, I don't have anything left to give." Turn it over to God and let go of the guilt. Jesus is the Savior of the world, not you.

3. How do I keep from being dragged down myself?
That's a very important question. You need to engage with the person but only after FIRST establishing firm boundaries and communicating those boundaries in advance of engaging with them. Boundaries mean that there are specific consequences to their failure to uphold their end of the bargain. You have to be very careful not to let your helping them take you down because then you are no longer any help to them or others. Guard yourself emotionally and financially...even physically. If they impact you emotionally and financially it will eventually impact you physically. Educate yourself in the ways of an addict. Understand that they lie to minimize how bad things are. So don't take everything at face value.

4. How can I trust them?
You can't. Sad but true. If they have repeatedly broken trust with you you need to let them know that they will have to rebuild trust with you before you can extend it to them. And remember that trust is not forgiveness. You should always forgive their behavior but that doesn't mean you restore trust until they've proven themselves trustworthy. This is where boundaries come in. There need to be firm consequences (not punishment) for breaking trust. (The book Boundaries, by Henry Cloud, is very helpful).

5. Should they go to treatment or can they do this on their own?
Most of us underestimate the power of an addiction. Willpower isn't the answer in most cases. If you love them, get them into treatment and self-help. And I recommend in-patient treatment so there is no way they can use, plus they get the counseling they need. Self-help addiction treatment just prolongs the pain and rarely changes anything.

That's a start. I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to contact me with your questions. I love helping people sort through these difficult issues. Also, consider forwarding this post to a friend struggling with knowing what to do with the addict in their life.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Church: Is it about scarcity or abundance?

If you've hung around me at all over the years you know I have this love/hate thing going with the church. I love it because the church is God's idea to pull together his people into a family to offer the hope of his presence to the world. What could be more exciting than that? But I hate what we have done to God's idea. I hate how we often let our selfishness turn God's idea upside down and use it for our own pettiness and small agendas.

So...if you listen in to my thoughts through blogs, sermons, podcasts or just over coffee I vacillate between rants about how bad the church is and why the world has a reason to hate us to wide -eyed optimism about how the church can change the world. I know, I'm a little bipolar on this topic but I've found a number of people that share my same frustration and so I write and speak to give that common frustration a voice.

I've been thinking a lot this summer about how people and churches view life from either a scarcity mindset or a mindset of abundance. The scarcity mindset says that the pie is getting smaller while the pie eaters are increasing and so be very afraid. The abundance mindset says..."Who says there's only one pie? And if there is, who is to say that we can't make more? Or maybe there's something other than pies to eat if we think about it. If God is for us, who can be against us?" The scarcity mindset is petty, blaming, controlling and stingy. The abundance mindset is optimistic, innovative, generous and fun!

With so many things going wrong today (economy, war, hurricanes, etc.) it's easy to be drawn into the scarcity vortex...I've been watching it in the political conventions these past two weeks and I see it in the church as well. But as followers of Jesus we have to be careful to remember who we are and why we are here. God's got us here for a reason and he's not going to leave us with one "pie" to fight over. I think as God's family - here to reveal God to the world - we are to be known for our generosity because we are convinced that our Father is a God of abundance who can "meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory".

Okay, that's my vent for the day. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I'll be talking more about how to be generous come Sunday. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Memory of Art Katz

Back in my early days as a young believer I stumbled across someone I considerCarla a true prophet. His name was Art Katz. He was a Jewish man who came to faith in Jesus in his 20's and was radically apprehended by God. His book "Ben Israel" tells the dramatic story of his conversion. He immediately sensed a call to ministry and became quite popular in the Charismatic renewal. But he soon tired of the superficiality that he saw there and moved to northern Minnesota to live in a humble community of believers while he traveled the world sharing his unique message of being recklessly abandoned to God.

In my experience there was Art Katz and every other speaker was a distant second. He was not dynamic in a flashy way but spoke with a clarity and anointing of the Spirit that was riveting. I don't know if I ever left his presence without being deeply challenged in my faith.

Lisa and I were both profoundly affected by Art's ministry - so much that we seriously considered joining his community up north. We never did but through retreats, guest visits and tapes I sat under his teaching for years. He had a great sense of humor that tempered the intensity of his message.

It was through Art that God taught me what holiness is about and what it means to deny myself, take up the cross and follow Jesus. I know that without Art's ministry I would not be where I am at now in the faith, he meant that much to me.

I don't know if Art's ministry would impact you in the same way that it impacted me but I can't recommend his teaching highly enough. You can
order his books/dvd's here and download free sermons here (I recommend "And They Crucified Him"). I'd love to hear back from you what you think.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cedarbrook Baptism Pictures

We had a huge turnout for our baptism last Sunday night at Wakanda Pool and the picnic before it. A real Cedarbrook moment. About 30-35 were baptized (I lost count!). It was great to see so many people celebrating their being forgiven and having a new life in Christ. That's Andy and Jill Britz above with Jayne Rechtzigel and Byron Anderson looking on.

This is Greg and Cindy Ritchie.

And here is Stephen Gauger with Mark Deyo-Svendsen on his left and Chris Ehlert on his right.

And here are Kelley and Cecil Hayes.

There were many more of course. I'll be showing a powerpoint show of them all in late September at a Sunday service.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More Flood Work Pictures team is sending me their pictures. I've uploaded some below but the best work pictures in the house can be viewed here with a slide show.

Below is a before and after picture of gutting a child's room...

Karen Flodquist, Nikki and I are tackling the living room on the top picture below. Diane, Jordan, Nikki and Maddie are cleaning up in the street facilities on the bottom.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Report on Cedar Rapids Flood Team

I admit it. I'm totally self-centered. I love comfort. I dislike being inconvenienced. So I was quite at home sitting by the lake at our family cabin last week...probably the most relaxing place on earth for me. Then why did I agree to cut short my vacation to lead a team to do flood relief in Iowa? That's what I was asking myself at week's end!!

You see, four more days by the lake were sounding pretty good to me
while traveling 11 hours round trip to gut out a waterlogged house in 90 degree heat and humidity was rapidly losing its appeal! And then this little voice inside me said, "You need this more than you need more time at the lake." I'm familiar with that little voice. I have conversations with it all the time! Maybe you know what I mean.

ter a little attitude adjustment I was able to actually look forward to my trip and I wasn't disappointed. Without writing a book let me just give you some quick reasons why serving fills me up;
  • When I do it with a team, I get to know those people better and in a way I'd never get to know them. The 15 people with me on this trip were a treat to work with.
  • I get to see the country. The trip to Cedar Rapids was beautiful.
  • I get to meet new people in the serving site and hear their story. In Cedar Rapids, we heard their story of suffering and hardship (maybe life isn't all about me, huh?). Did you know that there were as many homes flooded in Iowa as there were in New Orleans?
  • I get a new perspective on my possessions. When you stand with a home owner and throw every material possession that he worked so hard for into a bacteria infested waterlogged pile of garbage, it makes you think twice about your pile of stuff back home. Maybe there are more important things to invest in.
  • I get the chance for people to give back. Our hosts in Iowa went out of their way to serve us, feed us, encourage us and house us. They even fixed my van for free when I dropped my exhaust pipe. It's a very rich and humbling experience to be with two groups of strangers that are working very hard to serve the other group.
  • I get to radically change someone's life that was hopeless. Our team of 16 gutted an entire house in seven hours...a job that would have taken the owner weeks to do on his own. We hit that house like a SWAT team and left him feeling like maybe things would work out after all.
  • I get to learn from people ahead of me. The church that hosted us just celebrated their 50th anniversary and were on the brink of moving into a 5 million dollar building. It was great to think about Cedarbrook taking the same steps in years to come if we follow their example of faithfulness.
  • I get to see God. I really think God is at the heart of service. He is also at the heart of rest. But he's nowhere to be found in selfishness.
I'll stop here. You get the idea. Our 30 hour trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa filled me up. If I didn't preach a sermon every Sunday I would love to do that on a regular basis. I can't...but maybe you can! Try it...just once and prove me wrong! But I think you'll find that serving changes your life in a way you never imagined. Here are some pictures from the trip...

To the left is John Anderson, Ryan Jensen, Darline Thompson and Karen Hofland looking very clean before the work started.

Below is our house with some of it's contents on the curb. Maddie and Jordan Wold are getting psyched up to start mucking out the basement!

These ladies are still smiling after some hard work...Karen Flodquist, Karen Hofland, Diane Colson and Nikki Schnell.

I'm still waiting for pictures from my team. The rest of the team consisted of Greg Wold, Tonya Anderson, Elli Hunt, Darlene and George Anderson and my wife, Lisa.

By the way, while we were in Iowa, we had two teams in New Orleans. Now read about their work on their own blog!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In Search of...a God-focused Mission

I've been thinking a lot about Cedarbrook's mission lately...
  • to first experience and then share the life-changing love of God.
That has been our mission from the beginning. The idea behind it is that we don't want to share anything that we haven't first experienced ourselves. We don't want to be religious, just sharing words and doctrine. We want to share something that not only changes lives but has changed OUR lives.

So, I heartily agree with our mission statement. But I think we might be able to improve on it. What I don't like about our mission statement has nothing to do what it says but what it does not say. There are two components that I'd like to somehow incorporate;
  1. God's mission. As I reflect on what is often taught in churches I hear us talking a lot about inviting God into OUR lives. I hear how bringing God into OUR lives will improve us and make us more successful. But I think we have it backwards. God wants us to join HIS life. He wants us to join what HE is doing and not vice versa. Any casual reader of the Bible can see that God has a mission. God has a purpose and a plan. So we need to be calling people to align ourselves with God's life and not simply encouraging them to invite Jesus to come into their life. It's too self-serving and ultimately robs God of his glory - like he is some cosmic servant who runs around trying to make people happy and feel loved.
  2. Community. Another thing missing in our mission statement is the sense of community. If you think about it you could fulfill our mission as it is stated all by yourself. You don't need others to first experience and then share the life changing love of God. I was shocked when I realized that because it is such a glaring oversight to something that I see as central to God and our humanity. And the thought of serving God in isolation is so far from the heart of God. God is relational. He's made us relational. And we will only walk in oneness with God when we are walking in oneness with his people.
So, in light of these things, I'm pondering an upgrade to our mission statement. How can we incorporate these concepts in one concise statement that will fit on a t-shirt? I'm open to suggestions and would love to hear your thoughts. There's no rush or timeline. But it warrants some thought.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Your Summer Pictures

I've already heard back from two folks with their summer vacation pictures. Plus I'll throw in one of my own. The first one is from Paul Warren. He says...
  • This photo was taken last summer on our trip to Banff . We were there for our ten year anniversary. It is a photo of Lake Morraine which is surrounded by 10 mountain peaks. (Remy says...WOW!)
The next picture is from Kate Nolin. Kate was a part of Cedarbrook for some time and is now a distant "member" since she lives in Rice Lake. (Although surprisingly she still comes down quite often to join us on Sunday.) Kate says...

  • These are the most meaningful summer vacation pictures we have. On May 27, (2008) my ex-husband Mark, and I re-married. The ceramony took place on the beach in Florida . It was a private ceramony with just Mark, our daughter Madisen, and me. Thanks to Cedarbrook, Divorce Care, and most of all God, this was the best summer ever! (Remy says, "Yeah God!")
The next picture is of Superior National Golf Course across from the Lutsen Resort on the North Shore of Superior. Towards the bottom of the picture is the tee and you shoot over the river to the green. I took my family here in mid-June for our annual family reunion (my mom, three siblings and spouses). I cheated with this picture. No, I didn't rent a helicopter to take it. My pictures were too small to post so I took it from SNGC's website. It's a very dramatic course, almost mountain like with a deep gorge and rushing river running through it.
Keep sending in your pictures. I think it's fun to see the ground we travel and learn a little more about each other.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fishing pictures

Dave Johnson built a house on a small lake north of Eagle River, WI that his parents now live in. About 8 of us from Cedarbrook plus a few other friends (including a fishing guide friend of Dave's) spent Friday- Sunday traveling, fishing, eating and sometimes sleeping. Here are some of the pics from the weekend. Send me your vacation pics with a brief description and I'll post them too.

We've got the whole crew here. Tony Pember has the nice catch on the left. Tony and Barry Maxwell show off our boat's catch for the day. And Mark (fishing guide) brought home the trophy fish for the day. And then there's me...I'm holding the large minnow!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Living Together Doesn't Add Up

I might be just a voice in the wilderness on this point but I'd like to share some thoughts about the idea of couples living together outside of marriage. There is a lot I could say but a few thoughts are enough for today.

People often point to the Bible or the church as being restrictive when it comes to sex out of marriage. Absolutely. And for good reason. It doesn't take long in counseling people to see the variety of destruction and fallout that comes from getting things out of order relationally.

For example, when two people live together the idea behind it is that they want to try things out to see if marriage will work. But the very nature of living together defies the ability to see what marriage is truly like. Why? Because people live together as independent agents under the same roof - more like roomates than husband and wife. They live with the knowledge that any time the other person can walk. Money isn't pooled. They often keep their own schedules, jobs and friends and children are off limits (though they manage to sneak in there at times - complicating things). This is not marriage folks. This is not becoming "one flesh" unto death. There's no way to simulate that.

The sad thing is that the longer people live together the more they ingrain an independent lifestyle into their relationship and so, if they do proceed to marriage, they undermine the marriage with independence. No wonder more marriages fail after people live together than without living together.

My point here is that a stance against living together is not prudish but practical. It forces people to seriously reflect on the viability of a relationship and actually work on it to prepare themselves for such a huge commitment rather than moving in together to "see if it works". I understand the fear that our younger generation has in light of divorce...but this is not the solution. In many cases it's just a matter of convenience and economics. But that's not the way to approach relationships that last. I've never seen high quality evolve from taking the cheap and convenient way. The best things in life take a high level of sacrifice and investment. There are no shortcuts.

It's not always true but too often men like living together for its low commitment and easy escape plan and women look to it hoping that men will "see the light" and ease the man into marriage. But why would a woman want to enable a man like this? That's a dangerous pattern to lead to marriage. I can tell you where that train is headed. She should be calling for greater commitment, not less, even if that scares him away.

I'm sure there are exceptions out there...stories where disaster was averted, fears were overcome, etc. I realize that. There are always exceptions that don't fit a generalization. But just because disaster was averted doesn't mean it's the best way and the marriage that exists today is as strong as it could be had a couple not lived together.

I don't say these things to cast judgment. I don't think less of people who make this choice. I just think our culture has duped people into thinking this is wise and harmless. It is neither. And so I say these things simply as a caution to young couples that trip into living together thinking that it's no big deal because everyone does it. But there are consequences, many that are irreversible. So, please, count the cost if you are considering this move.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Prince Caspian Review

Lisa and I took in "Prince Caspian" last night with some of our kids (as in married kids). I have to confess that I have never read beyond "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" (TLWW)in the Narnia series so that affects my movie experience. I'd imagine that most people go to a movie version of a book to see how it compares to the written text. I didn't have that comparison to make like my three fellow movie goers did so factor that in my comments. You should also know that I'm not big on fantasy or science fiction, so that also affects my perspective.

I thought this movie was much more interesting than the first movie. The first movie seemed too fairy talish for it was for small children. This movie had more depth.

Before you go, I'd defininely read TLWW (or see the movie) just to be up to speed with the movie's background. They don't do anything to help the uninitiated understand Aslan, Narnia, etc.

I was surprised at how little Aslan was in the movie. He doesn't show up until the last twenty minutes or so. The movie is primarily a variety of medieval battle scenes ala Braveheart but without the blood and dismemberment. It's almost comical to see people dying all over the field but every sword is spotlessly clean and shiny. I guess that's required to get a PG rating.

The spiritual analogy doesn't come into play much until the very end when Aslan shows up (although there is some mild reference to faith as Lucy sees Aslan while others doubt and appear to be willing to operate on their own power rather than wait for Aslan. Plus there is a general sense of the Narnians having given up on Aslan because they hadn't heard from him for so long). When Aslan arrives the message is one of salvation for believers and wrath for those who war against God's people. Plus there is a confusing offer of mercy in the closing moments.

The acting was better than TLWW. More believable. Maybe it helped the main characters to have two more years of experience under their belt. The special effects (talking animals, battle scenes, etc.) were also believable and not cheesy.

Would I recommend it? If you read the book I'm sure you'll want to see it. As is often the case, the movie wasn't as good as the book (according to Lisa). It put almost all of the emphasis on battle while in the book the emphasis was on finding Prince Caspian and the relational interplay. If you didn't read the book I'd only go if you have friends or family members who want you along! It's just too one dimensional. And if you don't want your kids to see lots and lots of people killed (albeit bloodlessly) then it's not a good pick either.

So, it's a ** movie for me out of ****. I hope this helps you decide!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What is the Baptism in the Spirit?

As I move into teaching the book of Acts we are going to get an up close and personal look at the baptism in the Spirit. It's a fascinating topic AND confusing! There is so much bad teaching in the church about it. My guess is that many of us have been hurt by people insisting that we do this or that in order to be baptized in the Spirit. I think the baptism is much bigger and much more diverse than people make it out to be.

Baptism in the Spirit is not a new concept. John the Baptist talked about it.
  • I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:11,12

In the book of Luke Jesus talked about how he longed for the day he could send his Spirit.

  • I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Luke 12:49

It's interesting that the metaphor both John and Jesus used for the baptism of his Spirit is fire. Fire cleanses. It burns up and eliminates what was - making way for what is to come. Think in terms of a forest fire that scorches the earth but is followed by new growth.

So the baptism isn't just power to do something for God. It's also closing the book on the past and opening a window into an entirely new era. Sounds like something we could use.

If you would like an email from me 2-3 times a week with thoughts on Acts, please email me and let me know.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Last Words to Cedarbrook

On Sunday I gave my "last" sermon - that is, the sermon I would preach if I knew I was going to die. When I closed I asked people to share THEIR last words for Cedarbrook. Forty five people responded (so far...I keep adding new ones). If you'd like to add your thoughts you can add a post at the very bottom or email me directly and I'll add it myself...

Thank you for the atmosphere of love and acceptance; growth and challenge; and worship and healing that we have experienced in your midst. It has been a breath of fresh air that was much needed in our lives. We have been blessed by the honesty, authenticity and humbleness of the people we have come to know at Cedarbrook. We look forward to seeing God work and move even more!

This church came into my life when I needed it most. God knew what trials I would encounter over the last few years. I thank him & Cedarbrook for helping lift me back up when I couldn’t do it alone. I can now be there to “lift” others and I praise God every day.

I really have enjoyed the past 2 months coming here. I got a divorce 23 April and have been blessed with a closer relationship with God/Jesus. God has worked through many people… Jesus has been carrying me through the deep water.

Healing upon healing, upon healing, upon healing. After 2 years at Cedarbrook, I ham barely recognizable. I can barely comprehend it. Very strong, very powerful, very real.

I look forward to coming here. I am facing my sexuality confusion by meeting with your prayer ministries. For the first time, I want to give my life to God. It’s scary, but I don’t have a choice. It’s the only way.

Thank you for inspiring me to live the life I have always wanted. I am connected with God. I am much happier since I have been coming to Cedarbrook. I enjoy Sundays. Thank you for being a loving and accepting church.

Yes – I pray Cedarbrook is ready for the next level! Thank you for amazing sermons and practical applications! Great things are happening and will continue to happen in Menomonie!

I never felt God’s love ‘til I got to Cedarbrook and now I realize I am a display of His splendor. You (Cedarbrook) have taught me to live intentionally, to make life changes, to live for Him, to love from the overflow of His love in my heart. Words can’t express my gratitude to Cedarbrook! Thank you, Remy, Christine, Jayne & Jane…to all of you sitting next to me!!

I am more on God’s track – deeper in His stream!

Please don’t build a building and become “another church”. As I leave, I ask this last thing. The mold that this group of believers broke will tend to reform if conformed to that shell. Focus on the eternal, not the building. I’ll see you on the other side.

The meaning of life has become deeper – the Spirit has been life-giving – time with people has been more meaningful.

This is the first series I’ve experienced at Cedarbrook. It has allowed me to reprioritize my life and change parts of my life that God has been trying to change for some time and I’ve been delaying hoping He’d change His mind. Thank you for helping me trust God in EVERY aspect.

I would thank Cedarbrook for giving me a joyous place to go on Sundays. Everything else and all the stress and difficulties of the week are put aside, yet faced and realized as I hand them over to God, if only for a while. Thank you for that gift of peace and acceptance.

Before I go, I need to tell you all how grateful I am for all the ways Cedarbrook was a blessing to me. Words just can’t express how much every song, every message, every smile, every kind word and every hug meant to me. You all accepted me at a tough time in my life, when you could have judged me. Many of you showed caring for me when you could have been indifferent. You prayed for me and held me when I cried. You helped me discover and get intimate with Jesus in a new amazing way. I had never experienced before. You helped to lift me to my feet again when I had gone down for the count, grow strong in Christ, find out who I am in Him, and believe in myself again. Always remember how precious you are to Jesus – each on of you. He can carry you through any tribulations in the world, and He will carry you into eternity and hold you in His arms forever. Love only Him and give His love to all.

I have felt completely accepted for who I am and have been embraced and helped along in all seasons of my walk here. Thanks!

Thank you for the joy – fun you’ve brought to my family’s life. We have loved the teaching, worship, opportunities to serve and incredible opportunities to grow through TPM prayer. Our lives have been enriched & strengthened in God here. We are so grateful!

You have changed my life in ways I never imagined. Thank you for your acceptance of diversity. Thank you for not judging people. My family values have always been strong but they are even stronger now. This church is awesome, and very community oriented. God bless you and the Cedarbrook family. I had a horrible experience at my church of almost 40 years. This church has made it FUN to come every week. My dad never went to church when I was growing up. It is so heartwarming to sit next to him and my mom every Sunday and see him want to go to church every week.

I have struggled with an addiction for the past 3 years after college. Although this road has been a tough one, I have truly learned how to love and appreciate all the people in my life. Most important, I have allowed God into my heart. Life is full of struggles, it’s how you handle what is handed to you that makes you the individual you are. I pray that everyone at Cedarbrook lives their life loving unconditionally, helping your neighbor, and living as though you only have 30 days to live.

I have been blessed by those who have selfless giving back to me much more than I deserve. Moreover, I have been blessed by the opportunity to serve others alongside loved ones.

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to reconnect with my faith and further explore the idea of always going deeper with God. Before I started coming to Cedarbrook I was just “going through the motions” of church and only calling on my faith when I thought I needed it. Now I am learning how to live in Christ in all that I do – and that has been a precious gift for me. Thank you!!

Inspirational books and topics stir peoples hearts; tickle people’s ears. The BIBLE deepens ones soul. The Bible is the foundation that can’t be rocked.

I want to say thank you to Cedarbrook for the good teaching and wonderful worship services. I’ve gotten my feet wet and am ready to jump in! Thanks!

Thanks for Cedarbrook Church. I feel like they are my extended family. Also thanks for our North Menomonie small group. What a life saved.

Just want to say thanks for offering this study and opening it up to the community. It has been a good study & good to look at how we are living our lives. Your talk today was very encouraging. It helped to see how we can bring heaven to earth in simple concrete ways. I loved the river picture.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7

Thank you for allowing me to open my mind, heart & soul to the Lord and creating an environment that is safe to let my guard down and completely turn myself over to Christ. Cedarbrook truly makes me so “thirsty” for more…. I feel so connected to God and constantly seek more knowledge about myself as well as Christ and how I can continue to walk on his chosen path. THANK YOU. .

Enjoy the details! If there’s one thing I’ve soaked up from God, it’s that life & joy & beauty & peace & all the riches of God are in the tiny, tiny places: a baby’s smile, chocolate cake with thick frosting, holding hands, sunshine on your back, the still sleep of your children. God made every bit of it for us! Enjoy it & enjoy a deeper place with God.

I know that if Pastor Remy died today, regardless of what he thinks, he has touched many lives, including mine and our family’s. A lot of food for thought has happened to us at Cedarbrook.

Be real, rejoice. Although people pass on, life goes on and so does the body of Christ. So grow, build, carry on. Thank you! Lord bless you. God is awesome. Cedarbrook is great. Give. Keep following Jesus and reaching out to his people. See you in heaven, I’ve been returned to sender.

Thanks for saving my life! For the first time ever, I crave church & having God in my life ever minute of every day. Thank you!

Remy’s last words were very heart touching. Great job, Remy. You will be missed. P.S. Did Remy say who will now be our preacher?

Death? What death? It’s a transition. Sadly I can no longer attend Cedarbrook, but I wonder, maybe I can come down in spirit form and visit, and watch out when that great resurrection hits, what a reunion! Thank you for the aim and focus you have given me….

I want to be a part of this community of God that goes deeper. Thank you.

I have truly been blessed by this whole set of lessons plus small group. I keep thinking it can’t get better but it does. I do have at list I want to change and have done some – the rest will happen. Cedarbrook – keep being obedient to Christ. You’re great.

I thought the concept of 40 years on earth equals approximately one hour in heaven was neat. To be able to say, “I’ll see you in an hour or two” on your death bed seems a powerful message to your survivors.

Live for Him. Die for Him. Bring others to Him! Do not mourn my passing. Celebrate it.

The One Month to Live series caused me to take more Christ/religious risks. Also it called me to trust God in every way with everything I do. Also love more completely!!

God means freedom. I’m finding it easier to let go and really put God first and in control of my life. Wow! What true freedom! Praise God!

Thank you for welcoming my family and I. We found the home we needed to worship. You have blessed us more than we can express. I hope you will continue to bless other lives.

Live boldly and courageously!! Love completely: God & others. Leave a legacy.

Please Lord, bring my son & daughter closer. Like they used to be. Watch over my family when I’m gone. Bring them back to your Son, Jesus Christ. I’m going to listen online to your entire series regarding my last words to Cedarbrook. I’m so worried about a young woman that took her own life. I met her a couple times and please, dear Lord, comfort her family – it’s so sad. She never got over the trauma of being mugged or raped. Watch over a friend now who is in rehab – strengthen him, oh Lord. Be with my brother and his family with all they’re going through. Grant your healing power to him. And to the wonderful woman battling ovarian cancer, grant her your healing power. Pastor Remy, you are a great pastor and I’m so glad I’ve gotten a chance to be at Cedarbrook & will watch your sermons online, too. God bless you.

This series has been hard for me and yet very good, too. It’s putting my focus back where it was once – God first! I have been doing some real searching of my heart and pray that God would continue to restore my relation ship with Him and others.

Pursue knowing God’s Word more and more.

I have gotten closer to God and friends. I used to hate going to church; now I love it. This is the best church that I have ever been to. I have never been to a church that is sooo uplifting! Thank you! Don’t stop worshipping life & Jesus. You can bring heaven to us but I hope one day I can bring heaven to other people as well.

The first time I attended – I felt at home here. I had moved back to the area from Colorado and hadn’t found a church yet, when someone introduced me to Cedarbrook. I love the worship music. After that first service I attended, Jane came up to me and told me my worshipping that morning impacted her. It took me by surprise. I am in my own world when I am worshipping. Cedarbrook is doing great things. I’m happy to serve at Cedarbrook. Two years ago I was at a low point in my life, then I went on the first New Orleans trip. God, through Cedarbrook, brought me out of that low point. It amazes me when I look back at where I was and where I am now. I now live in Hudson after getting married in December. I’m sure we could find a church closer and maybe one day we will, but Cedarbrook is home for us. So thank you, Remy and Cedarbrook. This is an awesome church and we are glad to be part of it.

Thank you for showing me the loving God that I always knew existed. Keep showing others the way and never give up on anyone. I love you all for giving HOPE!

I have been attending your church since August 2007. And out of churches I have been to, Cedarbrook is the best. I look at life so differently now. I feel a change in me. Getting to know Christian people. And now I have a friend from high school who is a Christian who is back in my life again. I love the band, and I get the sermons. I went to Sunday school and I got confirmed, but stopped going to church after being confirmed. Then tried other churches over the years – but never paid attention. So therefore, I am learning all over again about God, and I get it now, more than ever! I honestly want a no regret life.

My time at Cedarbrook has been the loneliest church experience that I have ever had. I love to worship God here and like the teaching, but would like to get to know people better.

A poem by Allen Crow

Thank you with all my heart for allowing me to serve you right here.
These are the greatest moments in my life.
These treasured memories I’ll always hold close and near.

Just the opportunities to be who I am.
Thank you for warmly welcoming my family and me.
It has truly been a pleasure and honor to serve in the capacity I do.
Serving God and Jesus are the greatest blessings, would you agree?

From ushering to praying for you and this church,
To greeting and welcoming you coming through the front door,
From helping with chairs, helping where I’m needed and helping at Thursday’s Table,
These golden opportunities allow me to enjoy life to the very core.

These experiences I will always savor from now until my very last day.
Most importantly God and Jesus –
Thank you for creating all of your precious brothers and sisters and me.
Thank you for creating them to serve others in their own unique way.

Thank you also to the men and women of our nation’s military.
These precious people that have bled, sweat and gave their lives
To protect and serve the red, white, and blue-
These people are blessings – they’ve sacrificed all, and have paid the price
So we may praise and worship God and Jesus the way we do.

So if my days on this earth are numbered and my time of serving others here are through,
I just pray that I’ve made an impact here,
Part of a lasting legacy just a simple man offering my word of thanks
And to all of you, I just need to say “God bless” and “I love you