Friday, March 28, 2008

Shorter, but Straighter

Today I let Eric drag me out onto the golf course for two hours. I needed this because my tendency is to keep working from sunrise to sunset, six days each week. We played with Mr. and Mrs. Swan. They were a lovely couple. Mr. Swan smoked us. He shot 39 on the front nine from the championship tees. Here's the thing. I can out drive him by 50 yards. He is at least 35 years my senior--probably 45 years though. When he holds the flag pin he shakes. Some kind of degenerative disease is slowly taking away his freedom to move about as he wants to. But, again, he smoked us.

I didn't play my best golf, but he still beat me by 9 strokes. The difference was that I hit one fairway to his 7. He hit 5 less puts than me. He didn't have to do anything twice (like hitting past the green only to have to chip back).

What's the moral of this story? The next time you are going to play in a 4-man scramble make sure you call Mr. Swan to be on your team.

This afternoon I'm working on the curriculum for our first new member's class. The focus of the class will be on taking new members to City-Wide Redeemer and giving them the biblical truth, and personal awareness about how God has made them, that are both needed in order to equip them for the ministry that God has prepared for them. We'll be taking our first two classes of new members through this track beginning sometime in late April. It should be fun.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I just came in from our neighborhood park. Angie is out for the evening getting some much needed time to recharge her batteries. The kids have been full of energy all afternoon, which means that getting them to bed might not go as smoothly as I had hoped. That is why I asked them if they wanted to have races at the park. They each did the equivalent of 12 wind sprints. That was a win-win. I was making them tired without having to move and they were having fun. Parenting rarely is so easy.

Eric told me today that God led him to another person who was being brought into the kingdom this morning. Eric and this man found themselves sitting next to each other at Starbucks this morning while Eric waited for his folks to finish a visit to the doctor. They spoke for a while and Eric was able to share the gospel with him. Seeing broken people find a ray of hope in the gospel as they give themselves in faith to the God who made them has got to be the best part about this calling as a church planter. I'm looking forward to meeting this man for the first time this weekend at worship.

We are expecting several other first-time visitors again this Sunday. That too is a great encouragement. It is also scary because we are heading into uncharted waters in terms of our size. It appears that soon there will be so many people that Eric and I cannot experience the closeness in relationship that we have been able to enjoy to this point with everyone at City-Wide Redeemer. We are thankful that already many people at City-Wide have shown a giftedness and willingness to know and love new people well. This too is a great joy to witness.

I'm off to see who wants to have races to get into their pajamas and get into bed. "Who wants to be the first person to sleep?" I'll have to declare the winner in the morning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Every Tuesday evening we host a community group bible study and discussion at our home. Because the group has been expanding, two weeks ago we asked a high school student from our old neighborhood to begin watching the youngest children upstairs each week.

Last night, though, two families with children weren't able to make it, so we encouraged her to take the night off. This meant that only our youngest two children could be set to play with their toys upstairs while we adults chatted downstairs. Great plan, not so great results.

Angie was really looking forward to the study, and she was able to join us minutes after we had begun. But, fifteen minutes later our youngest came down to ask his mom for something. Everyone in the room could smell him. He looked like a powdered doughnut and smelled like a Johnson and Johnson scratch and sniff 3-d sticker. Angie ran upstairs to discover what 2/3's of a bottle of baby powder can do when left in the hands of a 4 year-old for 10 minutes without restraint.

What followed was nothing short of a large scale environmental clean-up. Angie was able to clean up the children and our bedroom and our bathroom in time to join us for the last minute of our study.

Lesson learned? It's obvious, isn't it?

Later on last night I said to her, "I'm sorry that you weren't able to join us. We had a good discussion and I know you would have had lots to contribute." Then I asked her, "What made him decide to do such a thing?" Without flinching Angie said, "It was the devil."

Has our awareness of spiritual warfare become too routine? It seems that besides trying to discourage us, the enemy's other favorite weapon these days is distraction. This is just one example of many.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Weekend Debrief

I hope that all of our friends from around the country had an encouraging resurrection weekend. At different times during the day I had flashbacks to other Easter Sunday moments that we have had with friends in St. Louis and in Phoenix over the past several years. I would like to have been able to see the faces of our many friends so that we could have reflected together on the incredible news of Jesus' resurrection.

This year, though, we had an amazing afternoon with several of our new friends. Eric and Annette Phillips hosted a lunch in their home after worship. The nearby park served to be a great venue to an Easter egg hunt. I've posted the group picture. Before walking over to the park Eric gathered all of the children and used the "Resurrection Eggs" to again tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. He did a great job!

Somebody made a sweet potato dish with brown sugar and pecans. It was so good that I skipped desert to finish the potatoes. I'm hopeful that Maria will give me her recipe soon.

Our worship yesterday morning at Findlay Middle School was also incredibly encouraging, and I trust pleasing to our God. A few more musicians joined "dangerous" Dan McCaslin to provide a very full accompaniment as we sang.

There were too many guests in worship to recount. Needless to say, we hope to see many of them back again for worship next week so that we can begin the process of building relationships with them.

We've just sent out our first quarter newsletter to update folks from around the country on our progress. I probably should have waited to send that out until after Easter so that a few more photos could have been included. I just didn't want to put it off any longer. I know that many people pray for us regularly--prayers that are being answered in ways far exceeding our expectations.

Along with our update we've included a brief word about the remaining financial support that we have yet to raise for this year's budget. I'm hopeful that God will be pleased to help us meet the remaining budget needs soon. As I reflect on the desire that I have to be free from worries about finances for this year I'm immediately reminded that Christ is the reason I can be free from those worries, not our bank balance, or pledge commitments. God is our provision! Growing up is hard to do!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


It is Easter Morning. What joy has captured my heart this day! Our hope is real. Our Champion has returned from the battle field victorious. All our enemies lay slaughtered, left to rot in the sun.

As I gather my thoughts for today's service of worship I have just taken a few minutes to read a sermon that Charles Spurgeon preached concerning the tomb of Jesus. The line that lingers in my head reads something like this: "The tomb of despair and sorrow has become the gate to heaven." My heart is ready to worship.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Downtown Salt Lake, Visiting "Zion"

My trip on Wednesday after our Church Planters Conference to the center of Salt Lake City was very interesting. My first stop was the Olympic plaza. Every half hour the fountains erupt to the beautiful orchestra playing the theme song from the 2002 winter Olympics. It is quite an inspirational experience.

I was intrigued by a section of wall near the fountains where individuals are forever recognized with steel engraved portraits for their generous donations that helped bring the Olympic Games to Salt Lake. There were a couple of "gold level" and "silver level" donors. And then there were thousands of "stone level" donors who had their names engraved on paneled sections of granite. It was only after photographing this section that I turned away to realize that I was stepping on other names which were engraved in the pavers that encircle the fountain. It's odd to me that we do this as humans.

My next stop was the family history library. Family history (genealogy) is very important to Mormons because of certain doctrines related to eternal progression. The place is huge. It is a six or seven level library committed to the sole purpose of helping people trace their roots. I couldn't believe how busy the place was. It bustled with activity as mostly Mormon people from all over the world sat busily at work. I sat down at a computer for a few minutes to search their database and see what I could find on a whim. After about two minutes I was looking at the 1930 census record for my great grandfather and his family. I printed it off for 10 cents and brought home a souvenir.

From there I crossed a plaza to the LDS Church History Museum. A self guided tour there gives one the opportunity to understand the romance that pulls Mormons to their history and doctrines. The guides were very helpful in explaining different items on display. If you want to get a very clear snapshot into every facet of the Mormon Church you should plan on giving two or three hours to this museum. It's all free and photos are permitted.

Across the street from the museum is the Temple Square. I entered in the West Gate and came upon the famous Mormon Tabernacle. Parts of the orchestra were rehearsing for a concert that evening. This allowed me to appreciate the incredible acoustics of the building. It really is a construction marvel. I tried to envision what it must have been like the night in 2004 when Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias stood and presented Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life.

Of course, I was not able to tour the temple. It is closed to all gentiles, and even Mormons who are not yet temple worthy.

On my way back to the airport I had a conversation with a woman to told me her story of leaving the Mormon Church. Sadly, she didn't leave it for a biblical faith in Christ Jesus, but rather simply fled from a husband who treated her harshly and drove the whole family on a moralistic treadmill that would lead any of us to despair. She said, "There was no joy in what we were doing so I figured that the whole thing must not be of God." That is an interesting insight indeed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dangerous Dan

This Monday, the night before traveling to Salt Lake City, Eric Phillips and I received an invite to a free concert in one of the hotels on the strip. Our music worship leader, Dan, invited us to come see him in one of the shows he does five nights each week. He is the lead guitar player in a country music tribute show.

It's a very family friendly show. We had an incredible time. Ron Keel, the lead singer (impersonating Dunn of Brooks and Dunn fame) and producer of the show puts on a great act. My favorite portion of the show was the introduction to the different musicians in the band. From this point forward we will know Dan as “Dangerous Dan McCaslin.”

After his name was announced he proceeded to impress the crowd with four bars of awe-inspiring finger-work on his guitar. The man is incredibly talented. He is a dear friend. He follows Jesus. I still can’t believe that God led us to each other to labor together in gospel service to Las Vegas. I’m glad that he did, though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Weekend Debrief

I meant to write yesterday, but realized at 8:30 last evening that I would be better off putting together some clothes for an early flight to Salt Lake City this morning. What a beautiful area! The mountains climb right up out of the city and show off their snow-covered beards in every direction. Tomorrow I'm going to take in Temple Square before heading back over to the airport.

I'm here for two days in order to meet with other church planters from the West to talk about how we can better do what we've been called to do. When the host of our meeting welcomed everyone he said that this was a meeting for "church planting network leaders and for influencers." Funny, I'm not a church planting network leader and I have trouble influencing my children to rinse off their plates after dinner. I'm still not sure why I was invited here! It has been good, though, to hear ways that God is working in different cities, especially in this area of Utah. In Las Vegas we share many of the same demographics and other cultural circumstances, so this has been very encouraging.

Now to the weekend. What a weekend! City-Wide Redeemer received its first members, including John, who came to faith just before the New Year. More than one tear was shed as he shared some of the details of how God has been at work in his life.

We'll be hosting an inquirers dinner in a couple of weeks as we prepare to receive what is shaping up to be yet another group of families into membership by late April. God is continually before us.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Windy Sanctification

Our vegetable garden continues to be a living metaphor for me. Yesterday I went outside to see that half of the carrots I transplanted last week had broken at their base and were dying. There had been just a little bit of wind, but even that was too much for our young veggies.

After doing some reading I realized that their demise was due to a lack of being hardened off. This is a process where young plants are set outside for a few hours each day. Because they are grown in a nice warm, stable environment they have lacked the God-given resistance that makes their stalks/stems strong and able to bear the forthcoming weight of branches, leaves, and fruit.

I remember that this happened in the biosphere experiment of 1990's fame in Arizona. A dome with "ideal" conditions was erected and six or seven people were sent to live inside, with no supplies given from the outside world. When their first harvest of bananas and other fruits was half mature something terrible happened. The branches broke off and their food tumbled to the ground, not yet ripe enough to eat. Again, this was due to a lack of wind to strengthen the trees.

The writer to the Hebrews speaks about discipline from our heavenly Father that leads to an increase in the fruit of righteousness for each of us under his care. His discipline is not pictured as a raging father running toward us with a switch or a belt. Rather it is the compassionate ordering of circumstances in our lives that continually re-orient us and strengthen us in faith.

When I'm golfing I hate the wind. When I'm trying to play with a Frisbee I hate the wind. When I'm riding my bike I hate the wind. When I eat food, from now on, I'll be thankful for the wind. As I seek more and more to be conformed to the image of God, toward being truly human, I am increasingly thankful for the "wind" of God's sanctifying work in my life.

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010