Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why is this blog's url "CzarThoughts?"

Well, its a great question I'm glad one of you asked! one asked BUT I figured I'd share anyway.

Czar is defined as "any person exercising great authority or power in a particular field."

The goal of this blog is to be a place that people who are exercising great authority (czar)in their respective arenas - ministry, culture and leadership, etc - can meet, converse, engage and exchange ideas (thoughts)as these worlds collide with the rest of culture for the purpose of promoting Christ. (TALK ABOUT A RUN ON SENTENCE! Jeesh!)

Plus, another definition for Czar is "an emperor or king." 1st Peter 2:9 declares that those that are in Christ are royalty. So Christ made you a Czar.

So for all of you Czars (and future Czars) out there, I'm glad you're hear. If you are reading this, then you are a Czar, so share your thoughts. I'll discuss cultural issues (music, movies, race, TV, technology) , ministry topics as well as some leadership stuff that I learn along the way. So again, share your thoughts, I'll be sharing mine.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Music!!

Not mine (though I DO have some new music I recorded recently :) ) Instead, I figured I'd share with you the new Gnarls Barkley Song "Run." Just remember, after the song has been BLASTED all over the radio that you heard it on MY BLOG first!

And don't fret, new music coming from The Czar VERY soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Miracles still happen

Folks, God is MAGNIFICENT!!!

I had a REAL lift of my faith Sunday morning with a true to life miracle. Not like something you see on inspirational TV and then you find out the person was never really healed. No, this is a medically verified miracle.

We have a young lady that goes to our church that was born with a heart defect. Not just any normal heart defect but a MAJOR heart defect. With her heart being enlarged and the numerous holes in her heart, at the age of 25, the doctors said she has the physical heart of an 86 year old.

Well...HAD the heart of an 86 year old.

She joined our church last year and gave it all over to God. We prayed for her healing a few months ago. Meanwhile the doctors scheduled for her to have one of her valves replaced about 1 week and a half ago. She held on to God's word and continued to believe for her healing. Now, she's know about God her whole life, but she dedicated her life to him just last year. She's had her heart issues since birth and even has dealt with cardiac arrest and even cardiac FAILURE.

When it came time for the surgery she kept telling her doctors that she was healed and didn't need the surgery any more. The doctors told her not to get her hopes up and that they were going to do it "just in case." Remember the doctors told her she HAS the heart of an 86 year old.

But like I said, she HAD the heart of an 86 year old.

The doctors went in to do the surgery on Jan 15. They cut her open and found that her heart - that had been damaged and getting worse since birth - had been completely healed. No holes, no enlargement, nothing out of the ordinary for a 25 year old female.

Her PHYSICAL heart was made new!! She had been COMPLETELY healed. The doctors were amazed at what they found and the DOCTORS told her "You were right, God DID heal you!" GLORY TO GOD!!!!!!!

Normally, stories like this end with a nice little wrap up. All I can say is - GOD IS GOOD!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pop Goes the Church - DON'T READ IT...

... if you don't care about reaching the lost. If your church is only concerned about the saved - don't read this book. If your church is not concerned about fulfilling the marching orders given to us by our Savior via the Great Commission - don't read this book. If you don't care that the people in your community are dying and going to hell without ever having heard the truth about the Savior - don't read this book. If you are happy with your church being an ireelevant relic, hoping that the town's conservation committee will spare your building by considering it a "landmark" instead of touching the lives of people who are in desperate need - don't read this book!

This book, ultimately is anthropology for the church. It helps the reader to study the culture of the community to reach that community for Christ.

Before reading the book, I was concerned that the book wouldn't be cross cultural. While the book is about crossing the culture of the church with the culture of the people it hopes to reach, I wasn't sure if he would present principles that could translate in urban, suburban, rural or beach communities. Since Newport, RI is kind of a blend of all 4 of those, I was DEFINATELY looking for something I could apply in Newport, RI and not just South Bend, IN. Well, I found them! This book can be used South bend, IN, Detroit, MI, Newport, RI, Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Fargo to Fayetteville and Portland, ME to Portland, OR. Its not something confined to the luxuries of suburban large churches. These are ideas you can use no matter your church's size or location.

The day you can, preorder it for your entire church staff, youth staff, staff infection what ever staff you have - order it for them!

Can he do it????

Well, today is the day. The deadline for the Tim Stevens book was moved up to today and I still have roughly 40 pages to read...and I'm at work...and I have a hockey game to take my wife and brother in law to after work...and my brother in law is sleeping over (he's 12 and I love the kid to life!).

Can I do it? Can I finish the book by the deadline and still have a productive day at work?

Think I can? Think I can't?

Place your bets!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Last Night

Last night's youth service was GREAT...mostly. We actually hit conference level type energy during our song section (I would call it worship time, but aren't our lives supposed to be acts of worship?). It was great. The youth seemed to connect with the message. I wasn't necessarily excited about the prospect of doing a 2 part series about The Bible, but I think god gave me a great way to communicate it in a way that young people can grab it and run with it. So far, its working.

BUT, I always say you never know the true impact of a message until its a month after you've preached it.

Another great thing I'm seeing is that new people are STAYING and some of our kids who don't usually invite people are inviting people. Momentum is brewing, I beleive.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Christians say the darndest things part 2

OKAY! This one is a doozy! I discovered this on Mark Shilling's blog and figured I'd share this with you. has put this product up for sale. Tongues Shirts!! That's right folks, shirts with tongues written on them! And check out this description of the t-shirt:


Best known for its wide exposure and Pentecostal Flava by “HolyRollers”. Kids and adults can find an inner connection to this popular phrase and its charm.

And all this for only $37! That's right folks, $37 for this tee-shirt! And $8.95 shipping and handling.

WOW!! Just plain fun or blasphemy? What do you think?

Happy MLK Day

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. (I know, I know, I'm a day late.) I figured in recognition of the day, I'd share with you all the speech that moved a nation. As delivered on August 28, 1963.

What's your dream?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jesus vs Culture?

I just started reading Tim Stevens' book and so far (the introduction) is GREAT! On his blog, there is a fantastic discussion going on about Jesus, the Bible and culture.

This is my favorite topics of discussion. The reason being is because in the urban church, this debate is ongoing in the context of hip-hop. Should we run from culture? Should we be just like the culture? Should we use the culture to reach the lost?

Its especially been a strong debate in the context of musical styles for a long time. Should the church use instruments? Should the church use rock music? Should the church use r&b music? Should the church use rap music?

Now, with churches like Willow Creek, Northpoint, Granger Community Church, Life Church, Fellowship Church, NewSpring, Elevation and others- the debate has increased. These churches use all out cultural references to preach the gospel. Want to do a sermon series about sex, have a series called "Sex in the City" and have each week titled after one of the women in the show. Want to do a series about idolitry? Do a series called "American Idols" - Simon Cowell impersonations included!

Now, before you get judgemental - read here for some Biblical examples I brought up at Tim Stevens' blog.

So what do you think? Have we become too "worldly" in reaching the world?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pop Goes The Church

I am friggin' PUMPED! One of my favorite bloggers and a very creative church leader Tim Stevens is writing a soon to be VERY controversial book called "Pop Goes the Church: Should the church engage pop culture?" Controversy; the church; pop culture; that's all right up my alley. So asked for leaders to help him review the book. Out of over 100 people - I WAS CHOSEN! I'm incredibly excited to see what he has to say about the subject. The church he is the executive pastor of, Granger Community Church, does a great job of reaching the culture with Gospel in terms that the culture can understand. They are actually considered one the 10 most innovative churches in America!

The book is even forwarded by another one of my favorite creative leaders - Ed Young!

I should receive my secret copy of the book today in my email and I have 14 days to review it. I can't wait to read it and share the highlights here with you all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Music Week - Lauryn Hill - Its been 10 YEARS!!!!

Remember Lauryn Hill?? She put out one of the best albums of the 90's in my opinion. I can't believe its been 10 years. Most of the kids in my youth ministry couldn't even tell you ONE song from this PHENOM of a CD.

Most people don't know this, but its been reported that CeCe Winans lead her to the Lord when they collaborated on a record together. She then went on a very interesting journey through the faith, some of which was expressed in "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill."

Outstanding CD! I wish she was focused on rapping and singing again. Oh well, we still have the classic material she released. Remember this song? Enjoy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Music Week - Cash Hollistah

(PLUG!!!) GO TO CASH HOLLISTAH'S MYSPACE PAGE AND LISTEN TO HIS MUSIC! He is one of my favorite emcees (that's "rapper" for those not in the know). His music skill as an emcee and his command of the english language is fantastic. He can paint a word picture like no other.

Arguably, pound for pound, one of the best rappers around (secular or not!)

Check the link on my "Folks I Dig" section. Cash Hollistah - great music and a GREAT guy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Music week - William Murphy

If you like some energetic, powerful, soulful gospel music like I do - you'll LOVE William Murphy. The William Murphy Project is a quality music experience AND a quality worship experience all at the same time. Its easy to allow your heart to focus on the Father when the music is THIS good.

The musicians are outstanding, the singers are great and William Murphy is somewhere between Kirk Franklin and Israel Haughton. Check out "You Are Awesome." Fantastic song to wet the appetite for worship AND some really good music at the same time.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Music week!

I'm going to take the next week of posts to cover one of my favorite topics - MUSIC! But this won't be some deep, theological discussion about the cultural and spiritual importance and impact of music. This is simply going to be some posts about some of the music I dig. Let's talk it up about these artists or some of your own faves.

First up, a group that I just recently started listening to - One Republic. I know, I know...I'm late on these guys. But these guys are friggin' dope! Now, while I will admit that I don't exclusively listen to Christian/Gospel music (we'll argue the merits of that discussion on a later date), I do put a bit more support into my Christian brethren that are involved in the arts. ESPECIALLY (almost exclusively) when they are REALLY GOOD!

I'd heard the song "Appologize" before, but I never gave these dudes a second ear. Then, I discovered that these dudes were Christians. Then I discovered these dudes were fairly serious about their faith. Then I discovered these dudes went to Oral Roberts University. SO, I gave them an ear...WOW!

I know its a shock to some that I actually like music outside of contemporary worship and hip-hop. But I did most types of music - STILL can't get into country!

Let me say this, if you are looking for music to answer questions about the deep things of the spirit - don't waste the space in your ipod. BUT, if you like good music with a Godly influence in it - then these guys are the way to go. I actually like these guys better than Switchfoot and Pillar (and I dig Pillar). Check out the song below "All Fall Down." You may find songs by them that are better than this one, but this is a good one. Enjoy.


Monday, January 7, 2008


Reading the "Parable of the talents" taught me a lesson that will forever change the way I view EVERYTHING.

It taught me about maximizing what I have. Or better stated, using what I have to the best of my abilities. God has entrusted me with certain things: A ministry, a wife, money, leaders who serve under me, a job and a community. Am I using those things to my fullest potential?

That one question shook my world a bit because I couldn't honestly answer that question. Are there people who seemingly get more than what I have? Yes. But I'm not responsible to God for the things that they have, I'm responsible for what I have. Would I like to be in full time ministry (salary and benefits) and have big budget and youth facilities like some of my other youth ministry friends? ABSOLUTELY! I could think of TONS of things to do with them all. Unfortunately, I find myself thinking too much about what I could do with what THEY have instead of focusing on what God has given ME.

As I review this parable, I find myself thinking that I am more like the person given 5 or 2 talents. In actuality, I've been more like the person with one talent than the other 2. I WANT to say that I've been maximizing what I have and not imagining what I could do if I only had more. But if I said that I'd be lying.

So, from here I plan to be MORE like the person with 2 talents (I'm sure I'm not the guy with 5). Then I can maximize what I have and allow God to trust me with more.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Quotes that made me go hmmm...

Silence is the virtue of fools. - Francis Bacon

Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is. - Jonathan Herron (I think)

What are you your favorite quotes?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Buzzword Bingo - A church lesson from Google

I found out how Google runs their meetings and I think the church could take a cue from what they do. Whenever they have a presentation meeting, everyone is giving a bingo-type of card. But they aren't filled with numbers, they are filled with buzzwords. As the presentation goes on, everytime the presenter says a buzzword, cliche or jargon (i.e. "At the end of the day", "the bottom line", "win-win situation", "in the 11th hour", etc.) that's on your card you mark it off until you get 5 in a row, diagnal or 4 corners. When you win you just shout bingo right in the MIDDLE of their presentation! You don't win anything, but the presenter realizes they are speaking in jargon.

I think we should use these cards in church! They would be cards that read church buzzwords like "Sow a seed" or "stand in the gap" or "intercessary warrior." Or what about random statements like "It was the blood." If you don't quickly explain that one, you should have NO questions as to why people call your church a cult! Just a thought... I bet if we'd hand those cards out, preachers would stop confusing the crap out of people and stop speaking in Churchese. Most people think "standing in the gap" has something to do with buying clothes. Lots of people will sit confused if you talk about sowing seeds. Most of us begin to envision a needle, thread and sunflower seeds and making some type of strange necklace for Jesus or something.

Why not just say "give" instead of "sowing seed?" Why not just say "pray for someone" instead of "standing in the gap?" Why not just speak normal english language instead of churchese? The average person won't understand what you are talking about and the rules of sales say confused buyers won't buy. Now, while we don't "sell" salvation, a person does mentally and emotionally have to "buy into" what we are saying to apply it - and confused buyers won't buy! Then we wonder why noone answers the altar call when we use the infamous churchese statement: "The doors of the church are open." The doors of the church are open? Well close them because its cold outside and somebody might leave out the door before we ask them if they want to give their life to Christ! Oh...wait...that's what you meant? WELL THEN SAY THAT!

So, the next time your at church on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night and you hear someone say "Bingo!" mid-sermon - just know that I came to visit your church.

What are some of your favorite church cliches or buzzwords?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Looking for a few good books. Help

Okay, I said I would read more books than I normally do this year. I put 10 but its more likely going to be closer to 20 (books I read by myself and books and read with my wife.) There are a few books I'm going to read with my leaders this year, but most of those will be books I've already read. I'm looking for books I haven't read.

So far, the books I have earmarked to read in 2008 are:

In a Pit With A Lion by Mark Batterson
Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley
Simply Christian by NT Wright
Simple Church by Thomas Rainer and Eric Geiger
5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Soul Cravings by Ervin McManus
Love Beyond Reason by John Ortburg

Any suggestions from any of you out there?

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of you out there in blog land! ITs going to be a wonderful year and I look forward to all of us sharing great ideas this year.

For all of you who enjoy listening to music from my music label Sungate Records, allow me to say Happy 200G8! (That's two thousand GATE! Its going to be a GREAT year for us.)

For my first OFFICIAL announcement of the New Year, I announce that my album will be released April 2008! So, stay tuned for some snippets and exclusives that I'll release here before I even reveal them on my Myspace.

I look forward to a fantastic year fiscally, physically, mentally and physically.
This year I plan on:

Reading ATLEAST 10 new books (that's something special for me, last year I think I did 8)
Taking a vacation (didn't really get one in the last 2 years)
Going skydiving
Doubling the size of our youth ministry
As previously mentioned, releasing my solo debut called "Life Support"

Have a great year, looking forward to this one.