Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Surprised By Grace by Tullian Tchividjian

Let me say at the beginning that everyone needs to read this book (details below of how you can get it for free)! Of all the books that I have read this year, this has to be one of the best ones. As the subtitles states, Surprised by Grace is the story of God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. Many people might not know who Tullian Tchividjian is. He is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That might not mean anything to you,  but this might: he is also the grandson of Billy Graham.

In this book, Tullian recounts the story of the prophet Jonah, a story that most churchgoers have been taught since their youth. But they have not been taught this story. They have not been taught the grace of God in the book of Jonah. Most of us have not been taught the gospel that is taught in Jonah. Tullian says, "Jonah's story is God's message of sin and grace, of desperation and deliverance. It's a message that reveals how quick we all are to run from God and how quick God is to run after us. It's a message revealing that God's capacity to forgive is greater than our capacity to sin; while our sin reaches far, God's grace reaches farther. It's a message revealing the radical contrast between the sinful heart of mankind and the gracious heart of mankind's Creator" (143-4).

The story of Jonah is of course the story of a prophet of God that didn't want to go pronounce judgment upon his enemies because he knew that God might be merciful to them. He wanted them to be punished. He wanted them to suffer at the hand of his God. He did not want God to treat them like He treated His people, the Israelites. And so Jonah runs from God. Eventually through a great storm and a great fish, we see God aggressively running to get Jonah's attention. He does eventually go to pronounce judgment upon the city of Nineveh, but we see that his heart was never into it. When they repent, Jonah gets depressed. Tullian makes the point that "there's such a thing as running from God in our obedience as well as in our disobedience. Even when Jonah obeys God's call, it becomes clear that his heart's not in it" (122).

He does a great job of bridging the gap between an old-time story that most people have heard and what it means for us today. He showed me that I am not much different from this guy. I run from God. I want to be self-justified. He shows that the gospel message is just as important for the person who believes in God as the person who doesn't. God sought out Nineveh, but He also sought after Jonah. Maybe the book of Jonah is more about God being the rescuer than it is about a fish and a great city repenting. Maybe the book of Jonah is more about God going after His prophet than it is about God being merciful to a great city repenting. Maybe the story of Jonah is about you and me who know the gospel needing to be reminded of the gospel again and again. Maybe the story of Jonah is to show how patient God is with us!

"God never gives up on you. There's no one whose patience and forebearance toward you will ever be greater or longer-lasting than God's. Your wife or husband won't be this patient with you--your kids won't, your friends won't, your coworkers won't, your pastor won't. They'll all fail you at some point. You'll feel dehumanized, cheapened, discouraged, depressed, or radically disappointed by everyone and everything in this world. But not by God" (138-9).

In the end, I loved this book so much because it kept telling me the gospel on every page. It kept telling me about my sin and idolatry and the patience, grace, mercy of God. And in the end, it points me to Jesus once again. Jesus of course in the NT compares Himself with Jonah. He tells the people that the only sign He will give them will be the sign of Jonah (Matt 12:40) and that something greater than Jonah was in their midst (Matt 12:41). Tullian says that Jesus "went on this mission because he wanted to--not because he had to . . . Jonah is all about self-protection; this new messenger is all about joyful self-sacrifice. No wonder Jesus say that he is 'greater than Jonah'! Jesus is the greater-than-Jonah who succeeded where Jonah failed. Yes, Jesus is all over this story of Jonah" (181).

The only thing in the book that I did not really get was his continual commitment to the artistic dramatizations of Jonah over the years. It seemed that at every move of the story, he would describe another drawing or painting of Jonah from over the years. I guess what this proves is that I am not as well refined as I think I might be. There is a part in the middle of the book that he shows many of the artistic drawings he had made reference to, but I still did not get it. I wonder if it would have helped if the pictures would have been on the page that he was referencing them instead of all together in the middle of the book. In the end, this is a very minor issue and does not change the content of his message.

Want a free copy of this book? This book is so good that I want to give away a free copy to someone. If you want to win it, all you need to do is to post a comment as to why you would want this book. The winner will be chosen at random (not based on the comment) from those that post a comment. You have until 10 A.M. CST on Friday to enter the drawing. The winner will be announced on my blog post on Friday. Trust me, you want to win this book. So post away!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Morning After: Jesus-Centered Reconciliation

We are plodding our way through the book of Colossians in our ABF. The past two weeks, we spent our time dealing with the greatness of Jesus Christ. We looked at His greatness through who He is and what He has done. It was such a great study, very refreshing to my soul. There is nothing greater than to sit and study Jesus Christ!

Well, this week, we once again see the glories of the reconciliation that He offers and what He has accomplished. We spent the bulk of our time in Colossians 1:21-23, a study of Jesus-Centered Reconciliation.

As I studied this, I realized once again how much I need Jesus to reconcile me! In vs. 21, Paul tells my story (and the story of every person who ever lived). He says that we are alienated, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds. I am a sinner of nature, thoughts, and deeds. But when God created the world, it was not for that purpose. Mankind was created to be in a perfect relationship with God. Read Genesis 1-2 and you will notice that they were perfectly free and engaged with God. But Genesis 3 ruined everything for mankind.

If you know me, I am not much into modern day gospel presentation. I think they are often shallow and do not tell the entire picture. However, there is one picture that is often drawn to help people realize their separation from God because of sin. You know the picture, it is the cliff picture. This is actually a pretty good picture of what happens because of sin. We are separated from the One who made us. I was separated from Him.

I have heard Matt Chandler say that we are stuck in the cul-de-sac of stupidity (check out his sermon from 4.04.10 called "From Alienation to Reconciliation). He describes it as the pursuit of more of what does not satisfy in the hopes of satisfaction. This is me because of my alienation. I looked for happiness in all the wrong places. I was a living example of the book of Ecclesiastes. And I failed to find that satisfaction outside of Jesus. The problem those stuck in the cul-de-sac of stupidity is that they do not ever think they are looking in the wrong place, but they think they do not have enough of what already did not satisfy. They need more money, more friendships, more sex, more alcohol, more education, more laughter, more sports and so on. The real problem we know from the Scriptures is that we are alienated from God. This useless pursuit makes us mad at God (hostile in mind) and those thoughts come out in evil deeds.

What do I need? I need someone to come and rescue me and bring me into a relationship with God. That is what Jesus did in reconciliation. That picture is often shown with a cross as a bridge. I love that, this is why we need the gospel. We need it because we cannot do anything to bridge the gap that our sin has caused. We need Jesus to bridge the gap, and that is what happened on the cross. Paul says in vs. 22 that He reconciled us in his fleshly body through death. When Jesus was hanging on that cross, He was making it possible that my alienation, my hatred of God could be taken away. When the Father forsook the Son for those moments, it was so that my lust and my anger and my evil deeds could be changed. When the soldiers whipped, beat, mocked, spit,a nd ridiculed Jesus, He endured it so that He could take the hand that hated Him and put it with the hand of His eternal Father.

What I often do not like about that picture of the cross bridging the gap is that it is often told that Jesus made the bridge so we can walk across to God. That is not the biblical picture of the gospel. Jesus did not make it able so that I could walk across to God. He came across and took my hand and took me to the Father! What happened in the gospel is that I was once alienated, but now have been brought together with God. I was once hostile in mind, but now have been given peace of mind. I was once engaged in evil deeds, but now I should be producing good deeds.

This is how the gospel has changed my life. And you?

In vs. 21, Paul says that we prove that reconciliation has taken place when we find our stability in the faith of the gospel message. If I try to find my stability in my spouse and they do not act the way I want them to act, I could move one step away from the hope of the gospel. If I try to find my hope in a job and the economy tanks or I lose it or I cannot find one, I could move one step away from the gospel. If I try to find my stability in my kids and they do not become the athlete I want them to be or they disappoint me, I could move one step away from the gospel.

I hold onto the gospel as my stability because if I take one step and then another and another and another, I do not want to wake up one morning and ask myself "was this ever real? Did I really believe this? Has my life been a lie?" Look, we can be good fakers of reconciliation. We can play the game well. This is why I keep talking about the gospel. I need to remind myself that I cannot run even one step. I need to keep running towards Jesus, not away from Him.

To God Be The Glory!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Random Thoughts (Sept. 24, 2010)

Once again, another week is coming to a close. This week has seen for me the start of our Wednesday night electives at church, which means for me another time of preparation to teach. If you follow this blog, you know that on Sunday mornings, I am teaching through the book of Colossians. But now on Wednesday nights I am teaching through the book of Titus. If you want to, you can follow along with the audio HERE! And now to some random thoughts of what is going on in the world or other things in my life.

1. I have been finalizing some details about a trip to Russia that I will be taking in November. It looks like I am going to be leaving on November 26th (the day after Thanksgiving, which means no left over turkey sandwiches...I guess I will sacrifice for the gospel) and returning on December 4th. I will be heading with my good friend, Steve Balding, and I will be teaching a class to pastors on "The Family." I am really excited about that topic, since after all, I have a family and really love them! More details to come...

2. I have started to read another book which I will probably review and give away next Wednesday. It is the latest book by Tullian Tchividjian. I bet you skipped right over that name, didn't you? You didn't even try to pronounce it? Anyways, he is the grandson of Billy Graham. The book is called Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. It is his take on the story of Jonah. Since I have really enjoyed it so far, I want to give you a teaser. Here is one quote that I greatly appreciated:

That's why, if we're honest, we can start already to identify with Jonah. His runaway posture is our posture, every time we sin, whether in thought, word, or deed, whether it's something we consider big or small, whether it's doing something we shouldn't or failing to do something we should. Every time we sin, we're telling God, "My way of navigating this particular situation is better than yours. My wisdom and skill are more efficient and more effective in this moment than your wisdom and skill." It's not that we stop believing. It's just that what we believe has shifted (33).
3. As to the video for the week. I can honestly say my stomach was in my throat on this one. I was really scared. But check it out, maybe the world's scariest job?

4. Finally, my dad is coming to visit next week. I am very excited as we will get some time to spend with each other as well as do some projects around the house. What do I have waiting for him? Putting in a few new windows, some plumbing (I'm not telling him that till he gets here), and some time with the grandkids. They are looking forward to that as well!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Least Among You (DVD) by Lionsgate Publishers

The Least Among You is based on a true story of Richard Kelly, a young intelligent black man, who was arrested during the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles, California. He was able to avoid prison if he attended an all-white seminary. His mother had always desired him to become a pastor. Initially, the president of the seminary had hoped he would break the social barrier, but when Kelly's ideals come up against his funding for a new technology building, the president sides against him. Kelly finds friendship and counsel in the "gardener in the basement" as Kelly describes Samuel Benton. In the end, Kelly is forced to make a decision: should he stand for what he believes or go against what he believes so that he might avoid going back to prison. I will leave you to guess what he chooses.

Honestly, if this movie was not based on a true story, I would have not thought it very realistic. Who avoids prison time by being forced to attend seminary? It sounds like a Seinfeld episode to me. But beyond that, this movie certainly did not paint a very good picture of Christian leadership or seminaries. I am unsure what kind of seminary it was that he attended, but they certainly questioned the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Even at one point, the president of the seminary referred to himself as "the one who prunes the branches," a reference to John 15 (where Jesus is vine and we are the branches). Certainly it does paint a picture of a moral dilemma that Kelly is faced with. Should he do what he thinks is right or coward to save himself.

I have never been very fond of too many Christian movies and this one stacks right up there. The quality was not as bad as some Christian movies I have seen, but the plot line just left me bored and not interested. It is almost 100 minutes long, 100 minutes that could be put to something better productive for your Christian life and the Kingdom of God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Evangelism at the Kansas State Fair

As many of you know, last week was the Kansas State Fair. Our church, for the fourth straight year, used the fair as an opportunity to share Jesus. Here are my thoughts after the 120 hours that GBC spent at the fair.

First, I am so thankful for the gospel. I walked around the fair a lot this year. I spent one whole day with my son's fifth grade class. I saw just about everything the fair had to offer (even the birthing barns, wow!). And from my perspective, there were many cool things that were for sale. There were many technological items that would make our lives so much more fun. But there was only one thing that was given away for free that can change a person for eternity: the gospel!

I did notice there were a few other religious booths at the fair this year. I did not get a chance to talk to them. Maybe you did. I hope they were preaching a biblical gospel. I hope they were showing people their need for a righteousness not of their own. I hope they were telling people they cannot do it on their own. I hope they were offering grace and mercy as Jesus did upon the cross. I hope WE DID! I just can't talk enough about the gospel. I know for some of you, I sound like a dripping faucet. But as I spent several hours telling person after person about the good news of Jesus, my heart was renewed. How could God forgive a sinner like ME? How could He offer me something that I do not deserve? I do not have that answer, but after sharing the gospel again, I was driven to be so thankful for what He has done in my life.

Second, My heart is broken at the countless lost people we talked to. Maybe if you served at the fair you had more positive conversations with people than I did (I did have some good ones). But I was stunned once again how many people think they can work their way to heaven. I know it should not surprise me, but as I asked that last question: "do you avoid hell by living a good life?" almost every single person said "YES." I have heard it said before that all religion can be boiled down into two questions: What can I do or what has Jesus done? 
The tub of surveys that were filled out
Jesus says the road is wide that leads to destruction but narrow that leads to life. I saw that in living color the past ten days. So many people are deceived. So many people think that if they just live a good enough life, they can make it to heaven. That is not true. The standard is perfection! But we can receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus when we come to Him in faith.

We talked to thousands of people. We had almost 600 surveys filled out by people, which means that over 600 people went all the way through the gospel message. But I would be that we talk to 2 or 3 times as many people as those that fill out the surveys. In addition to that, we hand out 10 times as many gospel tracts as we do talk to people. The message was proclaimed loud and hopefully clear.

Third, I rejoice at the 60 people that served at the tent this year. That's right. We had 60 different people spend time at the State Fair Booth this year. Our church is just over 500 people, which means, that we had over 10% of our church serve this year. That is great! There were many people who did this for the first time and many who have done it every year. There are some who were scared and timid and others who are evangelism soldiers, not scared at anything.

One particular person I am so proud of is my son, Karsten. He is 10 years old and he thinks it is totally cool to go to the fair and pass out tracts. He is not talking to people, but he wants to pass out literature about Jesus. I suppose that he has not matured to the point to realize that it is a scary thing to give spiritual literature to others. He spent a couple hours with me on Wednesday afternoon. After we were done, as we were driving home. I told him my prayer for him is that he will never lose that desire to pass out tracts or tell people about Jesus. I am praying that he will be an evangelist that is eager to share Jesus with others every day!

Fourth, I am sad that many others did not serve. Sixty people is a lot of people, but I wish there had been more. Each year, there are so many new people that serve. But that means that those who have served in the past are not doing it again. I have tried to ask myself why that is the case. I know for some it was work, for some it was kid issues, and for others, it was just that this year was really just too busy. What was your reason? Was it a good one? Really, I mean was it a really, valid reason? I hope it was not that you were scared or timid. We all are. My prayer is that next year, you will do it.

Dean Fast talking to some young ladies that he had
talked to last year. He told me he had just taken her off
his prayer list, but that she was going back on!
Fifth, I am hopeful that many were brought to faith. We are not about getting people to pray a prayer as if it is some magical incantation. We want to be faithful to share the gospel, point them to Jesus, and let the Spirit of God do His drawing works. Don't get me wrong, we want them to get right with God. We do pray with many people. But we do not think that praying some sort of prayer is saving.

I know there were many people that we have talked to the past couple of years that have come back and told us how much they appreciated their time with us. One couple I talked to this year left saying, "I really needed to hear that. Thank you for sharing that message with me. I am so glad I walked into your tent." Dean Fast had a conversation with a couple young ladies this year that he talked to last year. It is our prayer that God does His work through us as we are faithful to spreading the seed of His gospel! I fully expect to spend some time in heaven with some that we shared with. I truly believe God will use us as a link in the chain to seeing others come to faith. We do not do this to expand Grace Bible Church, we do it to help others see the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sixth, I am sorrowful that we do not share the gospel like this every week. I hope I do not live my calling to be an evangelist only on the state fair. I hope I don't have the attitude "well, I shared with so many people, that's my quota for the year." I hope I take every opportunity that I have this coming year. Do you feel the same way?

Let me end with a copy of the letter that Pastor Rick read on Sunday morning. I have taken the names out as I am sure they were not expecting it to be broadcast on the internet. I hope this moves you to thankfulness as well as excitement for what we did and what we have left to do.
My husband and I were at the fair last Wednesday (19th) and just happened by your booth on our way out about 6:30 or so.  Your sign was so 'catchy' that I talked Jack into going in to find out if he was a good person or a bad person.  (He's a very good person) 

I didn't get the name of the young lady who was talking with us, but I certainly wish I had.  She was so pleasant and gracious.  I told her [my  husband] was hard of hearing so she moved her chair closer to him and talked right into his good, right ear.  I couldn't believe my ears when she asked the first question--'do you consider yourself a religious person?"   But her final question is one I have wanted someone to ask him for years!  If you died today, are you certain you will go to Heaven?  I could have cried at his answer--"I don't know". 

[My husband] and I have been married 56 years this November and he has always been faithful to go to church with me.  We have always been active in a church and Sunday school.  But all of that still hasn't penetrated into a living relationship with Christ that he will admit to. 

But I think your booth is ingenious.  There is no 'hard sell' and who knows what might happen to those who are not believers?  The seed is sown.  God bless each of your members who have put their time into your venture.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Morning After: The Heart of Jesus-Centeredness, pt. 2

Yesterday, I finished the heartbeat of the book of Colossians (1:13-20). If the book of Colossians is "all about Jesus" then this section is the theology of Jesus. I think at some points in life, Christians tend to drift and forget why Jesus should be first or central in all things that we do. It is in this text that Paul reminds us that ultimately, He deserves to have first place in all things because of who He is and what He has done. You can listen to it HERE!

I noted last week that this section is like peeling the layers of an onion. Paul begins and ends with the Saving Work of Jesus (vs. 13-14, 20). He then talks about the Personhood of Jesus, that He is the image of the invisible God and fullness of deity (vs. 15a, 19). But this week, we focused on just one main thought: the Creating Works of Jesus (vs. 15b-18). Jesus creative works include the world and the church. Let me tell you what I learned about Jesus and His relationship to the world.

First, Jesus is Superior to Creation (vs. 15b). When Paul writes that Jesus is "the firstborn of all creation," he is not saying that Jesus was born. It is not talking about temporal priority (chronologically), but superiority. He is the greatest to ever be born. He takes preeminence over all who have been born. He is the head over all that has been created.

Second, Jesus is the Agent of Creation (vs. 16a). We are told that it is "by" Jesus that all things have been created. The Father was the architect and Jesus was the builder. To think that all the amazing things of this universe were created by the One who came to this earth and died for my sins. He was born in a cave that He created. He ate food from plants that He created. He drank water from river systems and wells that He created. And He created the tree that would produce the wood that would become the cross that He would die upon. He created all the stars and the planets and the stars of all the galaxies--amazing!

Third, He is the Goal of Creation (vs. 16b). And He created all that for Himself! Paul says "all things have been created through Him and for Him." At first glance, we think that does not sound right because that sounds very selfish. But I have to resist reflecting my human concepts back onto God. For Him to do something for someone else would mean that there is something greater than Him that is worthy. That simply will not due. The creation as it was created by Jesus was designed by Him to give Him more and more glory.

Fourth, He is Prior to Creation (vs. 17a). He existed before all things. This makes sense since He created it all.

Fifth, He is the Sustainer of Creation (vs. 17b). He holds all things together. He holds the perfect amounts of oxygen in the air that my lungs need to breathe. He holds the perfect amount of gravity on this earth to keep me from shooting straight into space.

What does this all mean? It means that if He has created all things, if He created ME, then I stand accountable to Him. He created the world, but He also created the Church! He is the source or origin of our church. He is the true Senior Pastor of our church. And if we live our lives without being attached to our head (Jesus Christ, see Eph 1:22-23; 4:11-16), we are not living a Jesus-centered life.

Jesus is firstborn in creation. He is first in salvation. He is first in regards to deity. He is first in the church. And He should be first in my life! How can that happen? Here are six words of advice that I gave at the end that have helped me come to try to live a Jesus-Centered life. Maybe they will help you. I won't even elaborate on them, I think you can imagine what I said about each one. I pray they might help you live a Jesus-Centered life this next week (or maybe this next hour).

1.  Study the Greatness of Jesus
2.  Constantly Reflect Upon the Cross
3.  Maintain an Eternal Perspective
4.  Pray without Ceasing
5.  Repent Often
6.  Sell Yourself out for the Church.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday's Random Thoughts (Sept 17, 2010)

A few thoughts today of things going on in my life and in the world.

1. I spent some time this past week with each of my kids at the Kansas State Fair. As I spent time with my little girl (5 years old), I was reminded how important it is as a dad. I could tell that after those few hours with her, she was more sensitive and more honoring to me as her father. Paul says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). I wonder if the main way to bring them up without provoking them is to have a relationship with them. I want her to know that dad is there anytime for her. Dad is willing and ready to snuggle and read books with her. Dad will even get on the floor and play dolls with her. Dad will do anything to be there for her. I love them all, and was reminded once again how important it is to spend quality time with them alone!

2. I have started to read Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. I have looked through and read bits and pieces of this book in the past, but wanted to read it front to back. One thought that stood out to me at the beginning was one statement that could be the summary of the book. He says, "We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and hte beauty and the infinite worth that he really is" (32).

3. The video for the week I want to share with you is from Matt Chandler. It is a portion of a sermon he preached at a conference in North Carolina in 2009. The title of his sermon is "Preaching the Gospel to the DeChurched." I am not going to say I agree with everything and all the theology of this conference, but this sermon is one of the most impactful I have listened to in the past several years. If you have the time, check out the entire sermon HERE!

4. I hope you all enjoy the prizes that I have tried to give away over the past month. This week I went a different route and am giving away an ITunes gift card. I hope you use it to purchase Shane & Shane's most recent CD, Everything Is Different. The winner of this week's drawing is a good friend of mine, Jason Alligood. I can't believe you won, bro! Anyways, shoot me an EMAIL to claim your prize.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Moms

I wanted to take a moment this morning and highlight the new ministry blog my wife and a friend of her's has started. It is called book moms and can be found at For several months, my wife and I have been talking about what she could do to help the church universally. Her ministry at our local church is really great. She is so good with kids and other young moms. And so, over time, we came up with this idea of book moms.

Their purpose in this ministry is stated in their byline: to review Christian and secular children’s literature through the lens of the gospel. In her first post on the blog, she explains what they desire to do on the blog.

First, We Desire To Promote Awareness Of Good Christian Children’s Literature. Most public libraries or school libraries do not have many Christian titles for kids to read. We have been surprised at the volume of literature available for children from a Christian point of view.  But often times, finding these titles can be difficult for parents. We want to provide a place where parents and children can find these resources quickly and easily. 

Second, We Desire To Challenge Parents To Become Aware Of And Involved In What Their Kids Read. The statistics are overwhelming of the integral part that reading plays in the development of children. We all know that it is important to read to kids, and, as they get older, that they read regularly themselves. However, what they read should be of great importance. What are they filling their mind with? What are they being influenced by? We hope that we can raise the level of involvement that parents play in what their children are reading by providing these reviews.

Third, We Desire To Create Opportunities For Parents To Shepherd The Gospel In Their Kids Lives Through Literature And Reading. This is the very heart of what we desire to accomplish. The salvation of our children should be the most important thing. We live in a world where there are many opportunities to converse with our children about spiritual matters. We hope to help parents by assisting them as they select and dialogue with their children about the books they are reading. This can be done with both Christian and secular literature. Kids need to be taught discernment. By actively being involved in what your child is reading you create opportunities for discussion that can help them grow and develop discernment. When you are aware of what they are reading and filling their mind with, it provides opportunities to continually point them to the Bible and ultimately to Jesus.

I am so glad that she is doing this and would greatly appreciate it if you would promote this somehow. I think this is vitally important for the church as we teach kids how to be discerning and use what they are reading to show them Jesus! My prayer is that this ministry takes off and has a great impact for the kingdom of God. Check it out at!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shane & Shane - Everything Is Different

Today is giveaway day! For the past four weeks, I have taken Wednesday to give away some book that I had read and wanted to promote. Today is a slightly different day. Today, I wanted to share with you a musical artist that I have come to appreciate over the past several years (and yes, there will be a giveaway, check the bottom of this post for details). Today, I wanted to tell you why I like Shane & Shane, particularly their most recent album, Everything Is Different, which was released in November of 2009.

I have seen them in concert and have come to appreciate many aspects of their music. I really like their style, an acoustic harmony. But more than anything, I love their lyrics. They do not mask the words they sing as if they could mean anything to anyone. Most of them come right from the biblical text. This album expresses even the name of my blog, that the gospel changes everything. The title song from the album is of course "Everything is Different." Here are some of the lyrics.

Who am I to know your glory
Who am I to recognize your voice calling out
How could I be in your story
God who was and is and is to come who is one

I was dead in my sin
you came in, yea

You made a way when there was no way
You covered heaviness with garments of praise
You wrote a song and You're singing it over me
I feel a dead heart beating now
This revelation makes me wanta shout (Hey!)
That Jesus has been sent
And everything is different.

You turn ashes into beauty
You are for me, not against me now
You found me somehow now
You turned mourning into dancing
You turned weeping into a joyful noise
Oh rejoice!

Jesus has been sent and everything is different! That's the point of the gospel. My life is not the same as it would be without the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a changed person. I would ask you today to reflect on that thought. Are you different because of the gospel? Are you changed? Is everything different for you because of what Jesus has done for you? If so, then rejoice today!

If you want to find out what this song sounds like, I have provided a video below where Shane & Shane talk about it and then sing it. The song actually starts at about the 4th minute.

Now, as to the giveaway. This week, I am going to give away a $10 ITunes gift card. I would highly encourage you to use it to purchase this album. But of course, that is between you and God. :)

Rules to be entered: all you have to do this week to be entered into this drawing is to post a comment on the blog. If you want to win a $10 ITunes gift card, then please post away. The random drawing will take place at 10 AM Central Standard Time on Friday. Pass it around and tell others about it. Thanks for reading and post away!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LEE: A Life of Virtue by John Perry

This book is so far outside of the type of book that I normally read, but I wanted to read it because I know very little about certain individuals, like Lee, who have helped make our country what it is today. And as I read this book, I came to realize that many of my assumptions of Lee were wrong. I suppose I have always thought that since he was a southern general, he must have been fighting for slavery. But that was not true. Apparently, Lee thought slavery was a horrible and detestable. He did not fight for the south because he wanted slavery, but he fought for the south because he believed in states rights. He strongly believed that the U.S. government should not interfer with state governments. This strong view led him to fight for the south when his state, Virginia, left the Union.

He was a decorated soldier. He was one of the most incredible men our nation has ever known. He was a kind and compassionate leader. Towards the end of the book, the author states, "Lee's leadership gift was that he could inspire men to go on when going seemed impossible, to dig deep within themselves for the will to endure" (224). That seemed to summarize his life. He stood tall against the north when he was radically outnumbered in troops, money, and supplies. He was a brilliant planner. If some of those under his leadership would have been half as dedicated as he was, our country might be different today.

It seemed like most people liked and appreciated Lee. What I loved the most about Lee was that he was a compassionate husband and father. He loved his dear wife even when he was away from her. He wrote constantly to her. He would stop on the battlefield to pick flowers to send to his precious daughters. He trained his sons to be soldiers like him. This book does a great job of painting Lee, the man, not just Lee, the general.

The only negative I would have about this book is that it moves so rapidly through the battle scenes of the Civil War that it was difficult keeping track of the key people and places. I am sure for someone who knows names and places already, the overview that is given would be helpful. But since I did not have this information, it was difficult to keep track of who was who and where the battles were taking place. However, that might not be the fault of John Perry, but probably mine for not knowing more about the war.

In the end, I would highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading other books in The Generals series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Morning After: The Heart of Jesus-Centeredness, pt. 1

Okay, so maybe it is not the morning after, but maybe I should call this "The Night After" for this week. I have been busy all day helping with my son's class to the Kansas State Fair. It was a good, but long time all day today. But here is my thoughts from what I was able to teach yesterday.

Yesterday was a great day! As we progressed through the book of Colossians, we came to one of my favorite parts of the book as well as maybe the entire Bible. In Colossians 1:13-20, Paul writes in a hymn-like fashion to speak of the greatness of Jesus Christ. At the beginning of this study, I said that the overarching theme of this book is Jesus and that our goal is to live life with Jesus at the center of our lives. If Jesus is to be central, this passage is the central passage.

I say that because at the center of this passage we find vs. 18 which says that "He Himself will come to have first place in everything." That is the goal of all of life, to have Jesus first in all things. In my money, in my hobbies, in my marriage, in my home, in my parenting, in my Christianity, and so on.

But before Paul makes that point, he says many things concerning who Jesus is and what He has done. In fact, the heart of Jesus-Centeredness is found in his person and work. I have always seen this passage as an onion that is peeled back and only when we understand the outside of the onion can we understand the inside of it. The inside is of course, vs. 18, that Jesus would take first place. But before that, we are told of His saving work (vs. 13-14, 20). We are told of His personhood (vs. 15a, 19). We are told of His creating works (vs. 15b-18). It is only when those things are peeled back that we can get to the heart of the end of vs. 18.

This week, I talked about the saving work of Jesus and His personhood. Here are a few things that I learned.

First, Jesus is a great savior! We are told that in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. I was thinking last week why we always talk about sins. There are some who have gone away from talking about sin and the evil that corrupts the human heart. But as I thought about that, I came to the realization that if our sin is not that bad, then our redeemer is not that great. But because our sin is horrible, we can come to realize that our savior is amazing!

Second, Jesus shows me the invisible! The redemption of our sins cost greatly . . . it cost Jesus His life. It cost Him becoming man. But that was essential, because if Jesus did not come, we would not know God like we do. We are told that He is the image of the invisible God. God can't be seen, but Jesus was seen. But it doesn't mean that if God had a body, He would have looked like what Jesus looked like. But the point internal realities. His compassion, His righteousness, His perfection, His mercy--these are what we are told about God, but see in Jesus.

I look forward to next week as we get to deal with the rest of the passage. But for now, I am going to bask in the greatness of Jesus Christ and what He did FOR ME! If you were there or you listened to it? What struck you? What did you learn? How are you rejoicing in Jesus today (or tonight)?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday's Random Thoughts (Sept 10, 2010)

It has been another one of those weeks that you feel like there is not enough time to get everything done. I sure appreciate those that drop by to see what is going on and I hope that the book reviews and other articles are helping you think through different aspects of your Christian Life. Just a few thoughts today . . .

1. Today begins the Kansas State Fair. For the next 10 days, for 12 hours a day, our church will have an evangelism tent at our state fair. This is the fourth year that we have done this, and it has been very rewarding and challenging for all those who participate. We will have people weep in front of us and we have people that want to argue with us. Above all, we want to be faithful to the Lord and help people see that what the world is offering is not where happiness is found, but it is only found in Jesus Christ. So please pray for us. You can track updates and prayer needs at our church website, by going HERE!

2. Not sure if you are a Tim Tebow fan, but I am starting to become one. He is one of the best college football players of all time as well as seems to be a really good guy. It is no secret that he talks about the Bible and his faith. Well, I thought this video was really interesting and hope to catch the documentary once it is released. Enjoy (even you Chiefs fans).

Tim Tebow Documentary from FCTN on Vimeo.

3. I posted a book review earlier today about Max Lucado's new book Out Live Your Life. Heather Clabaugh, one of our admin's at church, showed me a blogger reviewer site, booksneeze, where they will send you free books as long as you review them. I normally would not have picked up Lucado's book, but thought it might be interesting. He is a very good writer, but the book really left me feeling empty and wanting more. Check out my review HERE!

4. Tim Challies on his blog every Friday has a "Free Stuff Friday's." He offers way better prizes to give away than I do here (but you have a better chance of winning here). Anyways, check it out if you want the opportunity to win a prize or two. And if you win, I will be bummed out, because I have been entering for a year or so and have never won yet! Check out his blog at

5. I am teaching on the doctrine of Jesus Christ on Sunday in ABF from Colossians 1:13-20. It is one of the greatest portions of Scripture on who Jesus was and what He did. So, because of that, a good Spurgeon quote today: "I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothign but hammer awaya on this one nail. With me it is, year after year, 'None but Jesus! None but Jesus!' Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner's trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you!"

6. And finally, the winner of this week's prize is Amy Conkling. Please send me an email HERE and I will respond with your prize. Thanks again to all who entered and hopefully you will all read Total Church. Check back next week as we will have another prize, maybe even bigger and better!

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

He is at it again. Max Lucado has written another book that will probably sell millions of copies. Out Live Your Life is a book that targets the complacency of those who call themselves Christian to make a difference in the world, and to leave a legacy behind. It is accurately subtitled You Were Made To Make A Difference because by looking at selective accounts of the early church in the book of Acts, Max tries to convince you that you can make a difference in this world. God used the ordinary people back then and He still does today.

Max is a really good writer. He is clever, holds your attention, paints pictures with words, and at times makes you think. But here’s the issue with his writing style. From the first book I read of his until today, Max tends to take extreme liberty with the storytelling of the biblical text. At times, I wondered whether he was relaying the biblical account or historical fiction. I realize this may help people see in their minds eye the biblical story, but it could be dangerous as people read details into the biblical account that are not there.

My biggest concern for this book was a lack of gospel message. It is a book about taking care of the homeless, feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and getting out of our comfortable life to live for something greater. While there was one chapter on Jesus and the gospel, it seemed as though it was a part of the process of fixing the world of its ailments, not the core of the process. In a lot of ways, this book felt like a watered down version of Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I pray the book does wake people up to care for the hurting and needy, but not at the expense of the gospel.

One part of the book that really bothered me was when he described the events of Ananias and Sappphira. When they gave their money to the church, they did so as an act of self-promotion. In his advice for taking hypocrisy seriously, he says to “give financial gifts in secret” (93). I completely agree with that, which is why I was confused when I read the back cover of the book which said: “One hundred percent of the author’s royalties from Outlive Your Life products will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion.” I am glad that Max is putting his money where his mouth is in this book, but to promote that feels like a plea to sell books.

There were other things that I struggled with this book. For instance, he quotes from nine different Bible translations. He says Jesus saw something in Peter, John, and others that was worth developing and saving (not sure that sounds like the gospel message I believe). And he continually refers to all people as “God’s children.” Is it worth a read? Maybe, but if you do, read with a discerning eye. Take the good, leave the bad.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Total Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis

This week I want to review a book by Crossway that I recently finished reading called Total Church. There seems to be a rage these days writing books describing the church. Recent books include: Simple Church, The Intentional Church, Transformational Church, Sticky Church, The Connecting ChurchDeep Church, and the list can keep going. All of them have their place and their view of how church is to operate or some nitch of how the church should operate. But this book, Total Church, was particularly appealing to me.

As you can tell from the cover, this book was written to teach everyone, but I think church leaders in particular, that the church should be reshaped around two things: the gospel and community. These are the two aspects in this book that are driven home in detail.

Overall, the book is really helpful and very insightful. There are a few parts of the book that I sort of wrinkled my nose, but they were very small theological differences. I really enjoyed it and think that it is a very helpful book for the church. They begin the book by explaining why the gospel and why community are so important that the church should be shaped around them.

For instance, in the chapter on the gospel, they very plainly show that without the gospel, we do not have a church. They say, "Christianity is word-centered because God rules through his gospel word" (24). That means the church needs to be speaking the gospel to people. But also, "Christianity is mission-centered because God extends his rule through his gospel word" (28). They make the argument that all Christians are missionaries, not just those who go to a cross-cultural part of the world. They end this chapter with these ringing words:

"The challenge for us is to make the gospel the center of our lives not just on Sunday mornings, but on Monday mornings . . . It means thinking of our workplaces, homes, neighborhoods as the location of mission. We need to plan and pray for gospel relationships. This means creating church cultures in which we see normal, celebrating day-to-day gospel living in the secular world and discussions of how we can use our daily routines for the gospel" (37).

Community seems to be a buzz word these days. They make the point in their chapter Why Community?, that we are not individuals, but part of a church body. They say, "to fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery: we can be Christian and do it, but it is not what Christians should do" (41). They try to ask you to make decisions thinking corporately. We should not think it is my money, my life, my future, but to "make decisions with regard to the implications for the church and to make significant decision in consultation with the church" (45-46). What would that look like?

From there, they spend the bulk of the book working out these two themes in many areas of the church. They talk about the gospel and community in practice in Evangelism, Social Involvement, Church Planting, World Mission, Discipleship & Training, Pastoral Care, Spirituality, Theology, Apologetics, Children & Young People, and Success. Let me share only one highlight of all this. In the chapter on Discipleship & Training, they say:

"Word ministry takes place in a variety of ways, not simply for forty-five minutes on a Sunday morning. It takes place through group Bible studies. It takes place when two people meet to read the Bible. It takes place as people are mentored through the word. In our experience, most character formation and discipleship takes place through informal and ad hoc conversations. This kind of word ministry requires relationships, time, and gospel intentionality. But being word-centered is more than how you teach and disciple people. It means governing church life by God's word. It means every decision, formal and informal, is explored through explicit reference to God's word. We ask, and re-ask, what God's word teaches about the issues and problems we face" (115).

In the end, it is a good book. I would recommend you read it! It may be generally for church leaders, but I think many of you would benefit from it. However, I am afraid if I give this book away to those who comment about it, not many of you will comment. For that reason, I am NOT going to give it away this week. But what I am going to do is to give something else away. Ready for this? This week I am going to give away a $15 Amazon Gift Card (that is about the cost of this book plus shipping)! With this, you can buy whatever book you want, but I hope you pick this one!

Rules to be entered: you must comment on this blog post. But please read this closely. To be entered, I want you to tell someone about this blog and help me spread the word. All you have to do is make a post on your Facebook or twitter account or some other place. Then tell me in your post where you told someone. That's it and you will be entered to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Sound good? Then start telling others and comment away!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Morning After: How the Body of Christ Helps Us

This past week our senior pastor, Rick Goertzen, was in Brazil. This means I had the opportunity to preach in church. I love preaching more than ever. I count it a great privelidge to open the Bible with our church body. And yesterday, I talked about the church body.

Whenever Rick has been gone this year, I have been working my way through a series I have called The Importance of Theology. My point in this series is to show how theology is practical. Theology or doctrine is not something that is meant to increase our minds only, but to help us live the Christian life. In this series, I have been trying to show how certain doctrines should impact us.

Yesterday, the title of my sermon was How the Body of Christ Helps Us. My main idea was "God gave us the church to help us grow to become like Jesus." When we come to faith in Jesus and are saved, we are placed into the body of Christ. In the sermon, we primarily looked at Acts 2:42-47. It was my thought that the closer we get to the early church, we see the purity of what it was called to do. In that passage, we looked at four components of their early church.

They were a Learning Church. They committed themselves to Apostles teaching. As a church, we can do the same when we commit ourselves to the Bible, that was written by the Apostles.

They were a Loving Church. They liked being around each other. They cared for each other. In reality, they were all they had. They sold their land and made sure there were no needs among them. They modeled what the body of Christ is all about. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 for a good description of the body metaphor that Paul uses for the church. That is how they functioned.

They were a Worshipping Church. They broke bread together (probably a reference to the Lord's Supper) and they prayed with each other. They praised the Lord together.

They were an Evangelizing Church. They were trusting the Lord to add to their number every day. But we know that God does not work without our actions. He uses us and He used them.

From the time that Monique and I have been married, the closest we have ever lived to our family has been four hours. I say that because in reality, the church has become our family. We look to our church family for help when things are tough. When we need help with our kids, we go to our church. When we need friendships, we go to our church family. Our church is our family!

I believe in the church. I know that sometimes the church is really messed up. I know that it is often filled with hypocrites, it is boring, it is steeped in rules, and it is unfriendly. I think that is unfortunate, for that is not the way God designed the church to be. He designed it to be a loving, learning, worshipping community of believers that shares the name of Jesus to those outside the church.

There are several application points that I learned as I studied the church last week. One is that we are helped by the church when we are fully engaged in the church. I want to be consumed with the church body and the relationships that are found by the people there. It does not necessarily mean showing up at every meeting, but it means that you are fully engaged with the church.

Another is that the church can't be the church unless we are willing to be helped. I know at times, I am hesitant to share with others what is going on in my life. But when I do that, I prevent the church from being the church. We are only helped by the church when we let our needs be known.

One final point is that we are helped by the church when we use our gifts in the church. It might seem like when we use our gifts, we help others. That is true, but you will grow as you use your gifts in the church.

I love the church that Jesus is building. I hope you do as well. Let's be the church for each other!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Preparing for Church, part 3

It is a busy day in the life of many of you men. It is the start of college football! I am as excited as you are, trust me. But I want you to continue thinking about what it means to prepare yourself for church. I want to give you a second word of advice on what it means to prepare. Ready for this? You can prepare yourself for church by coming filled!

What does that mean? What I mean is to come to church with your stomach filled so that you do not have to wrestle with the hunger pains right as the preacher gets up to preach. Read Exodus 15-16 sometime and you will notice that the Israelites were completely distracted because their stomachs were not filled. Their physical conditions of hunger and thirst dictated their ability to concentrate on what the Lord wanted them to do. In my book, Helping Johnny Listen, I write:

"When listeners of sermons become hungry, they lose focus as well. My kids often become hungry to the point that they are going to 'die' if they do not eat soon. I know they are not going to die, but they think they are. They become so focused on their stomachs that no matter what I say to them, they only think of food" (35).
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been thinking about what restaurant you were going to rush to after the service and that distracted you from listening to the preacher? Have you ever been wondering whether your wife has a great meal planned after church? Can you smell the potroast?

Do yourself a favor and take this distraction away tomorrow. When you wake up, eat what you normally do on the other days of the week. Prepare yourself by coming filled!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday's Random Thoughts (Sept 3, 2010)

I am going to make it very short this Friday since I have many things to finish today. Just a few things that have happened that I would like to point out to you.

1. Not sure if you saw it or not (I did post it on twitter and facebook earlier in the week), but Josh Harris & Mark Driscoll sort of cornered Francis Chan to ask him what he was doing with his future ministry. As you may or may not know, Chan has stepped out of the role of Senior Pastor at his church in California and has said that he is unsure what the future has for him. He just felt the Spirit moving him to move on. Watch this video, it is very interesting and I think Drisoll & Harris make some very important points.

What's Next for Francis Chan? A Conversation with Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris

2. My wife has been hard at work on a new blog ministry that she is starting with a friend. More information to come first of next week, but I am so excited for her as she seeks to minister to the body of Christ universally. It is very important and I think could really take off! Please pray for her!

3. I would also ask you to pray for me. I have had one of those weeks with lots of meetings and have lots to do this weekend. I have a wedding tomorrow (so also pray for Kyle & Meagan as they begin their life together as a married couple), and also preach Sunday morning and Sunday Night. I am way behind on these sermons, but really excited about them. You will be able to stream them at our church website on Sunday morning at 10:30 A.M. & 6:00 P.M. (CST). You can access it HERE. Sunday morning I am going to preach on the doctrine of the church and sunday night the doctrine of the incarnation.

4. Good Spurgeon Quote of the Day: "If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all. And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us."

5. Speaking of Spurgeon, that was this week's giveaway. I am pleased to announce that the winner of this week's book is Landon Taylor. Congratulations! To claim your book, please send me your information HERE! I hope you enjoy the book. As always, you have to post in order to be entered into the drawing. We will keep doing it every week, so check back next Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore

A few months ago, I accepted a challenge by Tim Challies to be part of an online book club. Tim is one of the foremost christian bloggers and if you  have never checked out his blog, you should. From time to time, he asks people to read Christian Classics with him, but this time, he asked if people would read a biography with him. He proposed that we read a biography about Charles Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. (And before I move on too far, details about how you can win this book will be below).

Charles Spurgeon was born in 1834 and died in 1892, and for the bulk of his life, he lived in England. He was reading from the time he was five years old and by the time he was nine or ten, he was consuming puritan writers like John Owen, Richard Sibbs, and Matthew Henry. His mind was extremely sharp from an early age. Even though he was consumed with theological truth, he did not give his life to Jesus until late in his teen years. You must read about his conversion, I will save you the details here, but it is one of those converstion stories that motivate you to share Jesus with others.

After giving his life to Jesus, Spurgeon began to preach. It seems to be what he was created to do. Immediately, people began to be saved under his ministry. Every place he preached, crowds gathered. "In February 1854, at the age of nineteen, Spurgeon entered his ministry in London. He came on a three months' trial, but his labor there was to l ast till his death nearly forty years later" (47).

His ministry grew so rapidly that the church he was at built a new church for him, the Metropolitan Tabernacle. It was from here that he would preach to thousands each week. In his first sermon, he said, "I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ'" (99).

I tell that story because I have a framed picture in my office of Spurgeon that has this quote. It has meant so much to me that I should never forget what this is all about.His ministry grew so rapidly that the church he was at built a new church for him, the Metropolitan Tabernacle. It was from here that he would preach to thousands each week.

The rest of the story goes something like this: Spurgeon trained thousands of preachers, helped thousands of orphans, wrote thousands of letters, and printed thousands of sermons. It has been estimated that the number of sermons that he had in print during half a century would have been two and three hundred million. Wow! He wrote more than 140 books.

On June 7, 1891, he preached his last sermon at the Metropolitan Taberacle. It has been estimated he preached the gospel to over 20 million listeners during his lifetime. He was a man that was faithful to his calling and God used him greatly for the cause of Christ in this world.

With that, I highly recommend that you get to know this man of the faith. Not because you should worship him, but because he stands as an example of someone who was faithful to his gifts. Because of that, I want to give away one free copy of this book!

Here are the rules. You have two ways to be entered. (1) You can comment on the blog. All those who comment will be entered into the drawing. You have until 10am (CST) Friday to comment on the blog. When you comment, you MUST at least leave your first name, or I will not know who you are. (2) You can tweet about the book review (twitter). In your tweet, you must make mention of the blog as well as @thadbergmeier (not because I am stuck on myself, but I won't be able to track it otherwise). The winner will be announced on Friday's blog post.

This is a really good book, you will enjoy it. So comment or tweet away!