Wednesday, November 14, 2012

3 Rules to follow by Dhati Lewis

Learning from Dhati Lewis today.  One of the things he said that was really good was:

“…We believe the Gospel changes people, and people change the world. You see I really believe the reason why we don’t see more transformation is because we haven’t really been transformed and changed by the Gospel. We can speak it in theory. We can speak it in word, but we don’t really understand how to incarnate that thing in our heart. So the reality is that there’s this tension that we live in…You see I talk to my people and I tell them we have three rules in this church:

1. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength
2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself
3. Do whatever else you want to do.

You see the reality is this, the restriction is in the first two. If we can show and model and teach people how to incarnate God’s love and embody it by loving other people then we don’t have to talk all the time. We don’t have to talk about the dos and the methods in which we spend most of our time. I really believe the apologetic of our day is authenticity. People really just want to see something that’s real, that’s genuine. They’re not looking for the polished person anymore. They want to see something that’s genuine and they can say “I want that! What you have is what I’m missing, what I need!”

Friday, November 09, 2012

My Faith Story

I spent the first portion of my life knowing there was a God, without having much knowledge about that God, or having a personal relationship with that God. I always knew that Jesus was something that should be important to me; I just did not understand that it was of greatest importance. I had been living what I thought was a good moral life, and thought that paired with my years in church and Sunday school had me covered.

The theme of my faith journey is that God works in unexpected ways, and one of the ways in which he was working in my life was I was placed with a strong Christian as my roommate in college my freshman year. Through him and some of our close friends, I began to understand that I did not have the relationship with Jesus that I needed to have. Their faith and support brought me into a relationship with Jesus and fostered in me an interest that has not since been quelled. I began to ask questions of them. I dusted off my Bible and began to read. For the first time in my life I was excited to learn about the Bible and Jesus Christ. I went on my first mission trip just a month after coming to Christ, and followed this with a month long missions trip to the same location in Mexico the following school year.

I spent the next six years learning and growing in faith. Early on in those years I was not as focused on my faith as I wish I had been, but I was going to church regularly, and usually was part of a Bible study or small group, though I wasn’t serving with any regularity. When I moved to Mitchell, S.D., and began to attend Northridge Baptist Church, I entered into a period of fantastic growth in my personal faith. I was challenged by the teaching in sermons. I joined the praise and worship team, something I would never have imagined previously (my parents didn’t believe it until they saw me sing). I joined a Men’s Bible study that taught me volumes on being a Christian, friend, and leader of a family.  I was also a member of a small group Bible study while at Northridge. I could not find enough time in the day to learn and grow in my personal faith. It was during this period that I began to listen to God's call on my life towards ministry. I also worked with the High School youth group for a couple of years while at Northridge Baptist, filling in in-between youth pastors. This gave me my first real taste of teaching about and through the Bible.

I left Northridge Baptist and this season of ministry to enter full time into Seminary at Bethel Theological Seminary, Arden Hills, MN. I have completed a Master’s of Divinity in the Greek Track with a focus on Transformational Leadership. While in seminary I grew enormously spiritually. I was regularly challenged to re-evaluate what I believed, and forced to think through many areas of theology I had never approached before. It was a greatly challenging and enlightening time. Some who go to seminary find their enthusiasm for spiritual things waning by the conclusion of their education, but not me. My faith is far stronger, and deeper because of my experiences in seminary.

Seminary was also a great training ground for ministry for me. I had the opportunity to be the teaching assistant for the Preaching department for 2.5 years (serving under Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church, Phil Print of Crossroads Church, and Dan Rotach), and then spent another year as the teaching assistant in the Transformational Leadership department (serving under Justin Irving). The leaders in these departments were greatly influential in my personal development. I also served on the Student Senate for three years, and was the President of the Student Senate for school year 2005-06.

Following completion of Seminary I began to serve at Crossroads Church and had again the wonderful opportunity to learn under some incredible men of God. Having served as the teaching assistant to Pastor Phil Print while I was in seminary gave me the opportunity to see the inter-working of this large church first as an outsider, then as an insider. I had the opportunity to write bible study lessons and daily devotionals for some church wide projects. I continued to grow in faith and leadership as a small-group coach as well as a small group leader. I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the team that transitioned the church from being a church with small groups to a church of small groups. In May we had something like 150 members in small groups, and when we re-launched the following September we were just shy of 700! This was a great opportunity to see God’s blessing first hand.

We were “blessed” in March 2008 to be called to a small church in Southern, MN. I say that a bit tongue in cheek because coming out of seminary I knew that I wanted to be on staff at a multi-staff church in a large city and that I did not want to be a Senior Pastor, and my long term goal was to be an executive pastor. Thankfully God knows best, and indeed He blessed me with an opportunity to do everything I didn’t want to do – I’m a solo pastor in a small church in a small town that I had never heard of before applying for the position! And indeed God has blessed me and my family in mighty ways through this experience. I have experienced tremendous personal spiritual growth through my having to preach roughly 55 times a year the past 3 years (that includes holidays, special services, weddings & funerals). Additionally, I’ve been leading & teaching (and team teaching) Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups and Bible studies for adults, so my time in the Word is greater than ever before! Thankfully God is God and I am not, He knows best.

I continue to grow through personal study, study related to ministry, and through various church conferences. I regularly listen to other preachers’ sermons to allow them to feed me, teach me and challenge me. I read regularly to continue to add to my knowledge base. I also read from a wide range of blogs and online resources to keep current with trends in our churches and our culture. I practice personal devotions from the Bible, and am growing spiritually with my wife as well. I am still being formed, am not where I would like to be, but am amazed at where I have come from. God is indeed gracious.

If I were to sum my faith up in one sentence it would be:
I am a Christ follower who is seeking to serve God, hoping to bring Him glory, desiring to be used by God, and thankful God is great enough to use me in spite of me.

My Bedrock Beliefs:
That Christ is my personal Lord and Savior and is the only solution to my (and the world's) sin problem.
That we need to honor God in everything we do.
That people matter to God.
The Bible is God’s Word.
That the local church is the hope of the world.
That the truths of Scripture should be communicated in meaningful and relevant ways.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Baldy's BBQ - A Review

If you know me, you know that my love languages are football, wings, and BBQ.  :-)  So when my wife suggested we visit a new BBQ place, you know I was game.  We had to run to the Twin Cities for some school supplies, and stopped in Lakeville, MN for dinner.  The review follows...starting NOW!

Baldy's BBQ
11276 210th St W
Suite 103
Lakeville, MN 55044
PH: 952.469.3343
(it's in a strip mall just behind the truck stop/McDonald's East of I-35 on the Southern most Lakeville exit)

What we ate:
Appetizer - Trio with Corn Poppers, Fried Green Beans, Cheese Curds
Entrees - The Beast (wife) and Mixed Grill (me) with Brisket, Pulled Pork & Baldy's Sausage.
Sides  - Cornbread, Fries, Coleslaw, Five-Cheese Corn with Ham
Sauces - tried all they had.

I'd call it "hole-in-the-wall-strip-mall" with a bit of sports bar thrown in.  It was a slow night I suspect with it being Halloween.  Room was dark, a few TV's, a handful of booths along one wall, and tables seating 4 or 8 taking up most of the floor space.  Dining room was clean, bathrooms were clean.  Nothing special, but on par for most BBQ joints.  No concerns on cleanliness anywhere - most of the food prep areas are within view.

We dined in, though take-out is available.  Our server was pleasant and knowledgeable.  With this being our first visit, that is important.  Answered all our questions well, and weathered a fidgety 3-year-old.  Kept our glasses full and paced our app and entrees well.

Corn Poppers are always incredible.  The Fried Green Beans tasted like Onion Rings, which was a minus for me, a plus for my wife.  The Cheese Curds were a bit over cooked resulting in some loss of cheese.  Our son loved the Fried Green Beans, eating about 80% of them.  I'd do it again, though I'll personally pass on the green beans next time.

Brisket - they use a very thin sliced brisket.  Flavor was pleasant, though not nearly as flavorful as I like.  A hint of smoke, so if you don't like a strong flavor, you'll like this.  I found it lacking.  I also don't like the think slice nearly as much as a thick slice, or my preferred of chopped.  Meat wasn't dry, but I wouldn't call it juicy.  I chalk that up to the thin slicing. Beef was tender, but again, this might be a result of the thin slicing since there was little to offer resistance.  My benchmark for Brisket in the Twin Cities is Dickey's, and this isn't up to that standard.  I'd eat it again, but I've had better.

Pulled Pork - Great flavor, a bit chewy.  The pork had the flavor I was hoping the brisket would have.  I'd order it again, with the hope it was a bit more tender next time.  One of the better pulled porks I've had.

Baldy's Sausage - first bite was surprisingly mild with great texture.  And then about 20 seconds later a gentle heat started to build.  Nice.  Didn't see that coming.  The overall flavor is mild with a noticeable but not overpowering hint of fennel seed (which is important, because I generally don't like fennel seed) and then a slowly building bit of heat that is about 20% less that I like, but probably about right for most customers.  Juicy while not being greasy.  The surprising highlight of my meats.  If pushed, I'd still take Famous Dave's Hot Links or Dickey's Spicy Cheddar Sausage, but only by the slimmest of margins.  You can't go wrong with this sausage!

The Beast - Smoked Brisket sauced in their original sauce,coleslaw,bacon and two onion rings. On a 5inch Kaiser Bun.  First impression - holy cow!  Can a single person eat this beast?!?  It is huge.  You definitely get your money's worth on this.  My wife said the coleslaw was exceptional.  She doesn't eat coleslaw often, but almost always on a sandwich when we eat BBQ.  She was definitely pleased and would order it again.  And she only ate 1/4 of the sandwich and was stuffed (with app earlier).  She'll get at least 1 more lunch out of this plus my leftover pulled pork.

Cornbread - best cornbread I've had North of Nashville.  Outstanding.  Crunchy outside, moist and dense inside, with awesome flavor.  Pan cooked like it should be.  Easily the best cornbread I've had in a LONG time.  I'd stop here just to eat that alone.

Fries - best fries I've ever eaten.  While I don't eat a lot of fries, and nearly never order fries (never at fast food places), these were awesome!  Special seasoning, and batter fried = pure potato deliciousness.  I got them on the recommendation of our server, and he didn't lead me astray.

Five-Cheese Corn with Ham - think of a really rich creamy/cheesy sauce poured over sweet corn with a few thin slices of ham thrown in.  Really good.  Thankfully no onion in the mix.  The creamy texture was nice, the corn was sweet, though I think it could've benefited from a bit of heat and salt.  A dash of white pepper or cayenne pepper would've really pushed this over the top.  If they added a breadcrumb topping for texture you'd have fights breaking out at tables for who gets the last spoonful.  Really tasty and a no-brainer to order again.

Sauces - I tried all that were on the table.  My favorite by far is the Original.  While I didn't sit and think about the flavor profiles a whole lot, this was a very nicely balanced sauce with nothing too strong in any direction.  The Spicy was probably my least favorite, and definitely not as well liked as Devil's Spit from Famous Dave's.  The Gold was a honey-bbq sauce that was really tasty and is good with the pork and would pair well with chicken too I'm guessing.  The Sweet was too sweet and fruity for my liking, though not bad, just not what I was looking for, and certainly not as good as the Original.  There may have been a fifth sauce, but if so I'm forgetting what it was.

Would I do it again?  Yep.  If Dickey's was next door I'd stop there first and grab my brisket there though and then finish at Baldy's.  Very good value for the money, and next time I'm trying ribs and/or turkey!