Who to Vote For & SPUR

The subject of politics challenges me in a monster way. The question of who will be the next President, the process of picking said President, and the leadership issues attached to it always fascinate and sometimes frustrate me.

Watching the state of the union address earlier this week, I was struck by a unique blend of disdain and gratitude. The disdain is for the ideas and ideals held by some of the people in that room (on both sides of the aisle) with whom I respectfully disagree. Strongly. Passionately. The gratitude is for the fact that for all of our issues as a nation--and we've got issues--the vast majority of us exercise those issues peacefully and orderly. Our democracy is loud, expensive, and frequently messy, but it's the best thing going on the planet.

Possibly the greatest challenge for me in the arena of politics is to maintain the political purity of the pulpit. It's a challenge because I hold strong opinions rooted in strong convictions. But, we're called to something much higher than donkeys or elephants.

(We have never considered this, but I've often wondered how fast LHC's tax-exempt status would be threatened if we hosted a conservative candidate in our pulpit on Sunday morning--just a thought I've had as I've watched other pastors endorse other political candidates from their pulpits. It's an interesting question.)

The only political endorsement I will make is to affirm the responsibility of EVERY Christ-follower to guard and exercise the privilege and responsibility of influencing the democracy God allows us to live in and to pray for those who hold political offices regardless of whether or not we voted for them.

Jesus' words to his disciples seem especially relevant to this political season: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.


SPUR Influence

This coming Sunday can't get here fast enough. As I announced yesterday, we're starting a brand new series that we are JACKED about: SPUR ~ Living a Life of Influence (if you didn't see the intro video we rolled, you really should go check it out at www.lhc.org -- it's worth 45 seconds of your time. John Fones shot and edited some of the best stuff we've ever seen).

If you had to capture the essence of the church's purpose in one word, it would be influence. That's why we're here. It should be what we do. Individually, there's nothing more fulfilling, joyful, or satisfying than influencing or leading someone (or a group of someones) to accomplish something of significance.

So...this weekend, we need to do a couple of things:
1. Invite, Invite, Invite someone you know to encounter the love of God this weekend in our services.
2. Please--especially if you have children birth-kindergarten and you've been going to the 10:15 service--move into the 9:00 service. You'll enjoy the extra room in the parking lot and in the Basecamp area, and in addition, you'll be making room for guests and newcomers to find parking and seats at the 10:15 service.

As I was walking out the door to go to lunch today, I had just finished three morning meetings and looking forward to an all-afternoon planning session, I just started laughing because I love my job just that much. It is a very real JOY RIDE.


Runaway Freight Train

This past week, someone I hadn't seen since before Christmas asked me how the holidays were for our family. I answered with a knee-jerk, "Great," but when pressed for details I had to press to remember the details! The Christmas-New Year reload seems like a lifetime ago already.

That's because of the incredible opportunities that God has put in our path as a church, as a family, and as a teacher. I feel like my faithfulness with the gift of 2008 really hinges on how I manage my time over the next three months.

First up on our radar screen is a message series that kicks off NEXT Sunday, Feb. 3. This is a series that was conceived 17 years ago and is just now ready to be birthed. I'll announce it at tomorrow's services and then we'll be talking about it throughout the coming weeks and months since it also will mark the launch of two new huge ministry initiatives for LHC.

Second, I'm going to be speaking at Fellowship Church's Creative Church Conference, Feb. 21-22. Julie and I were on staff there when the first one drew 199 attendees in 1997 just before we moved to Austin. Now that they annually bring in over 3,000 pastors and church leaders, I'm grateful for the invitation and really focused on the responsibility and the chance to learn and steal ideas from other people around the globe.

There are other things out there on our radar screen, but those are the big ones in our immediate trajectory.

I'd love to hear from you: What's on your radar screen that only God can accomplish? What are you working on that creates a combination of excitement and fear?



Just last Sunday, we looked at the mission critical role that friends play in helping us experience real joy. And, this week, I've gotten to see it play out in my life in such incredibly obvious ways.

Over the last couple of years, God has brought some incredible people into my life who are friends in the best, deepest, and strictest sense of the word. One is Buddy Cremeans who pastors Northway Church in upstate NY. Buddy's church is absolutely killing it in an area not exactly targeted by church planters for its long list of growing, healthy churches. But they are doing it strictly by sharing the Gospel of Christ in a loving, compelling way with incredible joy.

Last summer, our family got to visit Northway and to know Buddy and his great wife Deb and their kids. As we were coming home, I asked my daughter Emily what stood out to her about the trip and the people. She looked out the window for a second, and then said, "OH! That's easy: the power of joy! Those people love God, they love the church, and made us feel loved when we got there."

It's the same experience I had yesterday with Buddy (and every time I talk to him) on the phone. Love and joy.

God orchestrated Buddy's path and mine crossing. But we have intentionally invested in the relationship since then and keep feeding the fire.

What relationship fires in your life need to feed? Or, extinguish?


Guest Blogger: Teri Brown--CommUnity

When you look at both the women and men of LHC, I believe this body is kicking it out! Yes, we will always be a work in progress, but when we come together as a church, we are not only capable of doing amazing things, but we have a blast doing it. And in that, God is honored and blessed, looking down on His kids with pride.

Consider the men behind the scene of the Burgers and Baptism Bash in November. Those guys planned, bonded, and provided one of the best burgers in Austin that evening. They can’t wait until the Chili Cook-off! The Middle School overnight at Gatti Town- adults stayed up the entire night Friday playing games with the students, and showed up again on Saturday afternoon to play Guitar Hero with kids who had the time of their lives doing something extraordinary. The team of women that comes together and the excitement that erupts as we begin to plan details for Destination Retreat, our women’s retreat in April where we hope to have 200 women attend and spend the night together at the Horseshoe Bay Marriott.

There is a place for U at Lake Hills Church. We need U here. We are a body, and we have to have all of our parts up and functioning. What part are you? Are you performing your part?

Our Spring Bible Study sign ups are starting right now. This is the perfect entry into the body if you are not yet a part, but if you already are, it is also the perfect way to stay connected and grow on a weekly basis. Bible Studies at LHC are designed to meet many needs, from spiritual growth to building community, to a place where you can use and practice your spiritual gifts, as well as all the many other good things that happen in the process. I invite you to look at our options, and join the fun. Together, we get it done.


Last week, every member of the LHC staff gathered for an all-hands-on-deck (AHOD) staff meeting. In addition to our weekly staff meeting of pastors and ministry directors, we hold these AHOD's every month so that every single member of our team knows what's going on, why it's going on, and what's coming next.

In addition to a weekly staff meeting with pastors and directors of all ministry areas, I meet--formally and informally--with the more senior leaders on our team on an almost daily basis. But, the AHOD is something I've come to really enjoy because of the caliber of people we have. Every single person on our staff (about 33 or so) is deeply committed to Christ, exceptionally gifted in their area of service, and unfailingly joyful to be around.

That's not to suggest that we don't have room for improvement in every area, from the teaching to the grounds and all points in between. And we do talk about those opportunities to improve--no one is exempt from loving criticism of their performance. But, the AHOD is more about vision-driven community: keeping the vision out in front of our leaders at all times and strengthening the community of those who serve and lead to make that vision reality.


An Intervening God

by: Alex Alexander - Pastor of Family Life

Aloha! Wendy and the kids and I just returned from the most amazing, once in a lifetime trip to Maui, Hawaii. We were fortunate enough to be there for 2 weeks celebrating the marriage of my younger brother and the fortieth birthday of my older brother. What’s even more amazing is that this “family reunion” of sorts would have never happened if God hadn’t intervened.

The short version: My biological father left when I was four. My early childhood years were painful and difficult being raised as an only child by a single mom. While there was much love and caring in our family of two, I remember longing for a “normal” family with two parents and siblings. The year I turned twelve God intervened and charted a new course for my life. My mom was remarried to a loving man who had two sons and I was introduced to Jesus. I now had the earthly family I had always dreamed of and a spiritual family (the church) for nurture and support. My life would never be the same.

It’s not ironic that out of my misery God provided a ministry calling. It’s providential. That’s the way He works. As Pastor of Family Life, it is my job to make sure that we provide ministry opportunities that make a Kingdom impact for the children, teens, students, and parents who come across our path – regardless of their shape, size, or description.

So, on behalf of the Basecamp (birth - Kindergarten), Summit (1st-5th grades), Quake (6th-8th grades), Rush (9th –12th grades) and Ethos (college) ministries, we know that 2008 is going to be a great year as we strive to provide a great spiritual family for your earthly family.


Quake: A Ministry of Lake Hills Church, dedicated to Middle Schoolers...

by: Matt Williams - Director of Middle School Ministries

Most people write off Middle Schoolers as crazy, out-of-control, unreachable, mean, self-centered... the list goes on and on and that's why I love getting to do what I do. Having the opportunity to minister to these students has been an absolute blast, because once you dig through all the junk in their lives, all the walls they have been taught to put up, you begin to see and love them for them.

At the end of the day everyone just wants to be loved and accepted. They want some one to sit there and say, "I care" and it's no different for these students (no matter what they might say). That is "Why" we do what we do... we let these students know that the God of everything, the One who knitted together all of existence, loves them, accepts them, and sent His Son for them. That He alone knows them inside and out, walks with them everyday... He puts His arm around them in the tough times, laughs with them in the good times, and smiles when they do the same for some one else.

With all that said, redefining Church for the Middle Schoolers of Austin and beyond has been our vision from day one, but the methods and manners of attaining that vision change daily. Our lives are a series of events, a collection of choices, that set us on the paths we walk everyday. My hope and dream for this ministry, for these students, is that we might create memories today that will set us on paths to redefine Church for the people around us.

So, "How" might we do it in '08? Video? Worship? Teaching? Relationships? Ministry? Candy? Programs? Quake? Beach Week? Mission Trip '08? Attention? The "How" will always change... the "Why" will not...

Tell a Middle Schooler they are awesome today!!!