Friday, December 26, 2008

If You Miss Me Sunday Morning...

The Good New of God's incarnation among men is easily reduced as system of religion complete with rules, membership rosters, and committees. Adhering to things the group has deemed as good and avoiding those things it has deemed bad provides an easily measured marker for religious health. The frequency of participation in scheduled services and activities is a quantifiable measure to determine religious commitment. Leadership and belonging to a task force assembled to maintain or to expand the prominence of the group easily fills the time slots of one's religious responsibility. In the end the group can judge that because a person does not drink alcohol or visit the boat; because a person attends two services and one activity a week; because a person leads the coffee and donuts ministry and participates in the classroom painting ministry they're a model member in good standing. That member is spiritually healthy.

The problems arise when one realizes that the gospel preached by Jesus is unfit for the spiritually healthy. The Good News of God's Kingdom is left for the bottom feeders and the sick. This poses a dilemma for the religious body since no model of church growth is based on algorithms that attract the sick and broken. Religious success demands a new gospel, one that is quantifiable, one that attracts the kind of members who will support the bottom line and provide the resources necessary to maintain the building and employ the staff. Careful demographics to promote a homogeneous growth attracts the correct target group to increase the prominence, showcase the talent, and achieve results that out perform competing bodies and previous internal numbers.

How did we get here? Why does the current religious climate prevalent in our churches look so different than Jesus' gospel? Who is initially responsible, and what is our responsibility individually to the current situation?

I propose 3 answers that I am pursuing personally.

Luke 3:10-14 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
When the people of Israel were convicted by the reality that their membership in the right religious circle was of no spiritual value and therefore asked what did have eternal value, John responded with a model of lifestyle that reflected a new economy where food, clothing, and provision were equal among all. John proposed they stop pursuing the quest for more stuff, and instead pursue more satisfaction. John as well as Jesus in his preaching demanded a whole new alignment of our finances, and gospel alignment.

Mark 12:29-33"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
When tested as to the marker of spiritual health by a religious professional of his day, Jesus responded with an unachievable commission that God's people are to live in a community of complete dependence on His nature that then manifests itself into loving others out of the same surrender each is surrendered to God. That is an all consuming command. That takes a commitment of every hour, and every thought. That takes a commitment of surrendering my rights to God, my rights to the people I am in community with. I am seeking out people and making space to be intentional in vulnerability, dependence, and responsibility. This is God's desire for our relationship with him, and his desire for our relationship with each other. This requires time daily in community with him, and in cooperation with other members of his body, so that we can mutually be Jesus, and experience Jesus in one another.

Matthew 8:18-22 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him,he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
Jesus reminds these would be disciples, that "Follow Me" is a radical realignment of the entire life structure you had previously known. Your old home is no longer your home, your old family is no longer your family. There is CHRIST and CHRIST ALONE! "Follow Me" is a challenge that requires new senses. My touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing must change so that I can feel the living God, I can experience the sweetness of his work, I can inhale the fragrance of his business, I can respond to the callings he gives. "Follow Me" requires my listening, and responding to the fact that God cares enough to desire every thought of my head be captivated by his majesty. "Follow Me" requires I am continually going alongside God to the places and communities he wants me to be a part of, it requires I am listening to his guidance to what is beneficial and what is harmful to our relationship, it requires I am a part of his Kingdom, working where he directs my hands to be. In short, "Follow Me" requires that I respond to the Holy Spirit in my body, in my mind, and in my spirit.

So that is the answers I am being led to. I am done cleaning the outside of the cup. I am accepting Christ grafted into my Spirit, being changed by His vision of a community of a new economic reality realized through committed following of His Spirit. If you miss me Sunday morning, please know I miss you too. I would love to sit down, share a meal together, and talk about our glorious Lord and where he is calling me, and where he is calling you to be more conformed to his image. If you miss me Sunday morning, know that I am obeying my Lord who demands that my god be CHRIST and CHRIST ALONE.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Being the Body You Were Born For

The classic story of the ugly duckling tells about an abused duckling, who is run off the farm by his friends and his family to live outside his home. This duckling is too different from his peers to be accepted. So he wanders about for a long time, being rejected by crowd after crowd until he finally decides to approach the beautiful swans. The duckling figures that being such a beastly sight these kings of the birds will peck him to death, but instead as he approaches them, he looks into the water to see in his own reflection that he has matured into a beautiful swan as well, and he is accepted and finds peace finally being among his own.

Since my high school years, through college, working in a church, and my time since then, I have always felt like an ugly duckling in church. I relate to being pecked at by the people I thought were family. I am used to being discarded and patronized as a radical who doesn't understand the way things really work. I am thought of as being fringe and crazy. Yet, I can not change because I think the Christian faith IS CRAZY!!! As Andrew Shearman says, " Of course we are crazy, we believe in someone we haven't seen. We follow dreams. Either you're all crazy... or else God is actually trying to do something." I have never been fit in with those who are well domesticated.

The problem is not the people in the institutional church, it is the very institution itself. I had a high school teacher who told us, "institutions are threatened by movements which become institutions that are threatened by movements." The church is an institution, make no mistake it is not a body, it is not a branch of a vine. It is a hierarchical system of power that promotes those that succeed, and goes to war to against those that threaten the power base of the system.

Christ's church is not to be an institution. Christ's church is not to be a movement. Christ's church is not to be a religious system. Hans Kuhn wrote, "Christ came to start a Kingdom and all we gave him was a church" His church was never meant to be anything but the body of Christ on earth. The church when she pretends to be anything other than a body, with Christ as it's head has lost her way and become a family a squabbling pecking domesticated ducks, when she was meant to be a glorious band of swans.

I won't be an ugly duckling anymore, I am the adopted prince of the King of Ages, an heir to Kingdom of Heaven, with all authority given to me to claim a crown of righteousness. There is no place for a swan in the farmers duck pin. I will not be fed the farmers grain, when there is a world of lakes for me to feast in. I will not be kept in a pin, when soaring is my creator's intention. The institution that has replaced the body of Christ feeds people a cheap white bread version of Christianity and keeps them safe in fences of their creeds and doctrines. The duck patch is a safe place for ducklings, but it just won't do for those who want to rise up and seek out the richness of their destiny.

I am going out from here to live out the nature of Christ. I am going to be crushed by the word of God, to have my limited nature wrecked by the magnitude of a limitless God. I am soaring through the skies to hear God speak. I do not want the protection and scholarship of the institution, if it keeps from from being in the heavens of intimacy with my God.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it, we must act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. - Soren Kikergard

I believe Andrew Shearman wraps everything I am trying to say up perfectly in the next sentence of the sermon I quoted earlier, "If we decide to actually cooperate with him it will happen" I am finished trying to fit into the duck pin, and ready to cooperate with God, to be a people who reflects his present incarnation on earth.

I will by the grace of God, BE the body I was born for.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Like You God, LIke You

My soap box does not look like my God's. In Hosea 13:4 - 14:4 he sends a warning needs to be read. I am highlighting a few of these verse, but you need to read the entire lecture to get the full point of the message God is bringing.

Hosea 13:12-15 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up;
his sin is kept in store.
The pangs of childbirth come for him,
but he is an unwise son,
for at the right time he does not present himself
at the opening of the womb.

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from Death?
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

Though he may flourish among his brothers,
the east wind, the wind of the LORD, shall come,
rising from the wilderness,
and his fountain shall dry up;
his spring shall be parched;
it shall strip his treasury
of every precious thing.
Hosea 14:3-4 Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, 'Our God,'
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy."

I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
God is on a roll, convicting Israel of the consequence of their sin. God is disciplining these people, not punishing but disciplining. I love this about God, because in the midst of this tyrate about the outcomes of their decisions he stops to remind them of his awesome provisional love. Read 13:14 again and you see that he reminds them that He is one who will DESTROY DEATH. He is the one whose love is freely given.

I want my words and my thoughts to be like God's when I rant. You see, it is out of the very death destroying love of God that he sends correction. His warnings to them are not angry screams, but passionate calls for a course correction. His jealous anger is not motivated by a petty need for self gratification, instead it is love so pure it is holiness. My anger is rarely motivated by anything more than lazy self seeking convenience.

About 4 years ago one of my coworkers lost a young family member in a terrible train accident. After the accident he talked about how his cousin called to her son to stop him as he was walking toward the oncoming train. My heart breaks, as I remember this story, feeling the mothers pain, crying out of her love for her son hoping her words will intercede and stop the tragedy about to be poured out on him. This is the heart of God's cries.

This is his holy love as he rants. His love causes him to stop. He stops to remind himself, that there is hope! He stop to remind them that death and all it's power will be swallowed up by love. He stops to remember the price, the price any good parent would pay, to save his children from themselves. He stops, to consider again incarnation, and it's power to unite all things back into perfect peace fellowship with the unity shared among the Godhead.

Perfect love has great cost. Any love that has no element of suffering is not God love. Any love that does not cost us our very lives is not incarnation love. As the boy's mother would have taken the hit of the train upon herself, our precious God showed us what real love is through his suffering to make all things right in himself, to destroy not just the consequence of death, but the very institution of death itself.

We worship a God whose love has turned away the anger of our apostasy. We worship a God who has healed us so that all things may be made new in him. We worship a God who promises that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.(Heb 2:9) We worship a God who invites us to become like him in this radical love. We are invited to the mystery that by losing every right to our lives in this old kingdom that we are awakened to a new kingdom with an abundant life that continues perpetually as we together become his new incarnation body.

Psalm 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I just want to be like my father, my God!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Discipleship of the next Generation

You want to continue to be my people you do two things. Number one, you gladly receive these blessings I give you called children. Number two, you disciple them in your homes so that they don't look like the culture around them. The minute you stop receiving the gift of God through the womb, and the moment you stop disciplining them in your home they begin to look like the culture and the community of God begins to vanish before your eyes.
Voddie Baucham - The Centrality of the Home

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wrecked: God's Multiple Personalities

It was my first Sunday in the bigger kids class. Our family had returned from three years in Europe just in time for me to be promoted the big kids class. We had been back in the US long enough to choose a church, and I had made a couple friends already, but still I was the outsider, and now as an incoming seventh grader into the "teen class" I would stake out the identity I would hold from the next six years of my life.

The text for our study that first morning as we welcomed the newbies into teen issues was Galatians 5:19-21.
Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I really understood the message of the verse; after all I was raised in the church. God didn't want me participating in any of the things in this list. I wanted to be liked by God, so I therefore did not want to do any of these things. However I had a problem sitting there in my seat this first Sunday in the teen class, already uncomfortable as the new kid: I did not know what one of these words meant. How could I be liked by God if I was negligently participating in this word of which I had never heard. I raised my hand, waited to be called on and asked, "What is an orgy?"

Continue Reading At Wrecked For The Ordinary

Friday, November 28, 2008

You Are My Portion

Here I am Lord
Falling on my Knees
Fasting in your presence
Feasting on you,
Meeting all my needs.

You are my portion
and my all.
You are my good
Both great and small.
You are my portion
and my all
Wanting no more than you
This is my hunger call.

Here I am Lord
Hands out to receive;
In this meager offering
Emptied for you to fill,
Christ you form in me

You are my portion
a living spring for free.
Longings quenched by you alone:
I will never be thirsty
You are my portion
a living spring for free.
You are my deepest filling.
This is my gluttony!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random Childhood Memories MeMe!!!

Elysa tagged me for a meme and I thought it sounded fun so here goes my recollection of my top 15 random childhood memories:

15. I peed on a boys stuffed teddy bear at camp, because he peed outside the tent and that was not allowed.
14. I was a member of the Young Astronauts, Junior Mensa, and Future Problem Solvers when I was in seventh grade.
13. I pretended to be a spy and my secret name was Mark Mathis.
12. I fell off a zipline that was about 20 feet off the gound because the older kids were shaking it and I could not hold on. (Pansies in harnesses today)
11. I stole two pieces of beef Jerky from the 'shoppette' in Landstuhl and still have guilt over it to this day.
10. I agreed not to 'break up' with a girl at camp because she showed me that our church camp had a no dumping sign.
9. I once tried to cook an unopened can of Dr. Pepper on the stove top.
8. I got stuck with my brother in frozen mud in a farmers field, that my brother had told me NOT to go into, and he only came into to get me unstuck.
7. I woke up on an overnight bus ride to Holland screaming about worms and bugs...
6. I constantly told people my surgry scar was a knife wound where I had been stabbed in the hallway at school.
5. I snuck into the woods with a girl at camp to kiss, while we were in the woods I found another guy's lost football that had floated down the creek. She returned him the football after we got back from the woods and from then on she was only sneeking into the woods with him.
4. I lit my sister's bedroom on fire, and then pretended I did not know where the burning smell was coming from.
3.My brother told a guy he would fight him on a scheduled date. It was 2 days after we were moving back to the states.
2. My mom was sick and I made grilled cheese sandwiches. I poured oil in the bottom of the pan and dropped the bread with butter and cheese into the hot oil. Each sandwich weighed about 2 pounds.
1. I forged my mom's name to a progress report sent home by a teacher my mom saw everyday when she dropped her kid off at the daycare my mom worked at. (This is a great story and you should fly me into your next children's day at church to entertain your students with it, while teaching a valuable lesson)

Ok, so that was fun, I am probably laughing much harder than any of you, since I lived through them. If you are wondering why I think they are funny, you'll have to have me tel you the whole story, everyone of them is a riot.

So on with the tagging! Well actually I'll do that over on FB! Except for my brother, you're tagged Randall!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Andrew Peterson - The Good Confession

I don't know I would have believed it possible for AP to write a song better than Holy Is The Lord. I really felt it was a once in a lifetime masterpiece. AP's Holy Is the Lord was on level with Rich Mullins' Jesus.

On his new album Resurrection Letters Vol 2, AP has done just that. In the vein of Rich's own statement of faith 'Creed', Peterson has given us 'The Good Confession.'

All I know is that I was blind but now I see
that though I kick and scream,
Love is leading me.
And every step of the way his grace is making me;
with every breath I breathe,
he is saving me. And I believe.

I believe He is the Christ
Son Of The Living God!
I believe He is the Christ
Son Of The Living God!
I believe He is the Christ
Son Of The Living God!

My Lord My Savior
I Believe!

I truly believe this is the song, more than any other he has written up this point, AP will be remembered for. It is beautiful, mystical, and worshipful. AP truly ends his best album to date, with his best song to date. I would think he could go nowhere but down from here, but I thought that after "The Far Country" too, so here's to you Andrew, keep making music!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Encountering God At The High Places

Frank Viola has a series of books that I have mentioned here before. The first Pagan Christianity is an amazing deconstruction of the modern church congregation. The followup is entitled Reimagining Church which inspires the reader to find the kind of church community reflected in the New Testament. Both books put skin on tensions that I have felt for many years now. Both books are having a transformational affect on our family. Even as I read and am inspired to be a part of this kind of organic all consuming community of believers, there is another balancing pressure in me holding me back to my roots in the traditional model of doing church.

Here me correctly, I do believe the primary model of doing church in American Christianity is broken. I do believe that in many ways Christianity has "thrown out the baby and kept the bathwater1" Even still, I have a love for her that is more than just a clinging to the familiar. Augustine is often credited with saying that, "The church is a whore, but she is still my mother." This is the level of deep emotion I have for the very entity that is the church, despite her harlotry that is so conformed to this world.

So in essence I agree that the church does not remotely live out the community God desires to create in her, and so I am left to wonder if God even desires to work through the traditional church congregation anymore. Those people who know the situation I am involved in within my own family, know how seriously and personally I am taking these considerations. This is not a theoretical exercise, but a prayer filled journey of direction seeking from God.

Last night, as I was reading in 1 Kings God revealed true north on this trek. All the good Bible school kids can tell you that God met with Solomon in a dream to grant him any desire of his heart, and Solomon chose wisdom. What I don't think we discuss in the classroom is where Solomon was, and what he was doing when this encounter with God took place.
1 Kings 3:3 Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, "Ask what you wish me to give you."(NASB)
When the Hebrew people entered the land of promise, God had instructed them to among other things destroy the High Places. It was never God's desire for his people to worship in the places and ways that the Pagan nations around them worship. God wanted his people to be a peculiar people, and worship him only in the way he prescribed. Yet the people did not follow God's will in this matter. The people did not destroy the High Places, and those centers of pagan worship were synchronized into their worship and became a snare to the demise of the people's relationship with their God.

So here we find Solomon, outside the will of God, worshiping not in the tabernacle, but instead on the High Places of Gibeon, a particular favorite of the people of his time. Although the place and method of his worship is harlotry with nations God had driven out before them, his heart and offering is genuine to worship the Lord. So this night, in this place, God shows up to encounter Solomon.

God wants to encounter us so badly that he will do that in spite of our failure to recognize his best will for us. Even when we build institutions that more closely resemble the High Places of the Greek and Roman world, God will still arrive with his good gifts to those who are seeking him in genuine worship. These institutions are the same snare to our relationship with God as the High Places became to people of Solomon's time, and yet God still encounters his people in them.

I must confess I have been limiting God. I have limited his desire to shower good gifts on his precious people. I have limited his ability to pass through the doors of an institution that claims his name, yet rarely reflects his character. I have doubted the hearts of many true worshipers, who are seeking God in the only places and way they have ever been shown. I believe there CAN BE rebirth in our church congregations to the abundant life of church community. I believe God desires to encounter his true worshipers. I believe God is uniting them in the places they are to the form of people they need to be.

I desire the community of the Acts church with everything in me. I do not believe we can see systemic economic racism eliminated in this country until we learn to live in God's community. I do not believe we can meaningfully impact slavery and oppression until we live out the kind of love that will get us killed by the kingdom of this world. For our family, I do not believe we can succeed in the Nsoko orphan village without an Acts model of community. I believe God wants his people to live this way, to be marked by this radical love. I believe God wants his people back in absolute community.

God did not hand me a road map to this journey, he pointed me back to true north. I still don't know what the future looks like, but I am overwhelmed and humbled to be seeking a God who seeks to encounter us.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Never forget Justice is what Love looks like in Public!

In the trailer to the new rockumentary Call+Response Dr. Cornel West, a philosopher and composer states, "Never forget Justice is what Love looks like in Public!" These words could never be more true than this time. A quote like this must come from the Isaiah and Jeremiahs of our time.

The post, Three Year Old Sex Slave, on another blog, brings to light just how horrific this industry can be. To look away from the horrors of the slave industry is to see our brother or sister in need, and tell him to be warm and well fed. There is possibly no message I could make more sure of myself to the American church than that this, the epidemic of slavery in our time is the relevant question of Jesus in Matthew 25.


Choose this day whom you will serve, Either the God's of consumerism in whose land you live.

Choose your chocolates, your clothing, and your home decor that exploits humanity even to the youngest children. Choose the comfort of ignorance of the dirty streets of our urban communities where small girls and boys are imported from destitute countries for the perverted sexual pleasure of a few. Choose the skewed reality of our entertainment companies, who preach exploitation as normative behavior.

But as for me an my house, we will serve the Lord!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Webkinz Autologin

I have two children who are avid Webkinz users. However I am often bothered by the fact that I have to come log them into the system, and if they get booted, I have to come repeat the process again. So today as I was working on some Windows automation stuff for a work project, I decided to see if I could write a small Automation script for an autologin to Webkinz.

So here is my tutorial to how to use this.

Step 1: Download and Install auto-hotkey. Don't worry about the name, we are creating a shortcut not a hot key.

Step 2: Open Autoscriptwriter (recorder) which should be under your start menu. and copy the following text into the run line:

C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe
C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe
Step 3: Click the red Record button and after the login Window opens, Click on the Username field and type in your child's username. Then TAB down to the Password field to type in your child's password. Finally, click on the Begin Playing button using your mouse.

Step 4: In your upper left hand corner is a stop button. Click stop and wait for the generated script to appear.
Delete any extra code from bottom after your mouse click, that may have been generated while waiting for page to load. Change Sleep value from 100 to 1000. Your script should look almost identical to this one, with only the "mouseclick" coordinates being different for your screen, and the username and password belonging to your child.

Run, C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe
WinWait, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Mozilla Firefox,
IfWinNotActive, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Mozilla Firefox, , WinActivate, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Mozilla Firefox,
WinWaitActive, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Mozilla Firefox,
MouseClick, left, 504, 487
Sleep, 1000
Sleep, 1000
MouseClick, left, 504, 607

Run, C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe
WinWait, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Windows Internet Explorer,
IfWinNotActive, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Windows Internet Explorer, , WinActivate, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Windows Internet Explorer,
WinWaitActive, Welcome to Webkinz® - a Ganz website - Windows Internet Explorer,
MouseClick, left, 836, 449
Sleep, 1000
Sleep, 1000
MouseClick, left, 836, 567
Step 5: Save file to Desktop as Webkinz.ahk and close Autoscriptwiter.

Step 6: Teach child to double click icon to go into Webkinz World.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Thousand Questions

I was overwhelmed last night as I watched this video. We had gone to Willow Creek and they showed this video at the end of the service.

When the video was done I was so wondering why God still has us here. Please join us in passionate prayer that the Lord will move miraculously and sell our house despite this market so that we can get busy in the work God is doing in Swazi.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Crowd & A Cripple

Mark 2:1-4 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
There are two sets of people in this story. The first set, the majority, is a crowd that has gathered at what seems to be someone's home to listen to Jesus teach. The second set is a group of ragamuffins who were committed to any length, including digging a hole through a roof, to realize their NEED for the very TOUCH of Jesus to heal their broken crippled friend. Jesus loved, and gave to both crowds the need they had come to have fulfilled. To the crowd he gave teaching, the cripple he gave a new life.

There are two sets of people in the story that is God's church. The first set, the majority, is a crowd that gathers in what seems to be a public facility to listen to the teachings of Jesus. The second set is a group of ragamuffins who will go to any length, including digging their way out of the world around them, to realize their NEED for the very TOUCH of Jesus to heal their broken crippled lives. Jesus loves, and gives to both crowds the need they come to have fulfilled. To the crowd he gives teaching, the cripples he gives a new life.

Set around Capernum that day is a world that needs Jesus' touch. This story is about poverty. It is about the poverty of the crowd, the poverty of their neighbors, the poverty of broken lives. The crowd can not see their own poverty, the crowd can not see the poverty around them. That motley crew seeking Jesus' touch feel the pulse of poverty. They feel the poverty of their friends crippled legs. They tear the roof off the status quo of the crowd around them, to bring that poverty before Jesus. Jesus doesn't see a ruined roof instead he touches and heals the poverty.

Set around us is a world that needs Jesus' touch. Our story is about poverty. It is about the poverty of the churches, the poverty of our friends, the poverty of our world. It is about the broken lives in the parts of town good Christians avoid. It is about the brokeness hidden behind the shuttered windows of good Christian homes. It is about the hopelessness that leads to an AIDS epidemic, and a nation of orphans in Swaziland. It is about the economic inequality that leads to Jihad in the Arabic world. It is about the oppression of girls in the Asian sex trade industry. It is about the forgotten children enslaved to produce our chocolate and our apparel. It is about the lepers dying on the streets of Calcutta. It is about... Poverty is the all pervasive state of a fallen world. The crowd can not see their own poverty, the crowd can not see the poverty all around them. Those seeking Jesus' touch feel the pulse of poverty. They feel the poverty of an entire world fallen from life, community, and peace with it's God. These vagabonds tear the roof off the status quo of the church around them, to bring that poverty before Jesus. Jesus doesn't see a ruined roof instead he touches and heals the poverty.

Which set is your life in? Are you the crowd who goes to church on Sunday and Wednesday to get a dose of Jesus' words, or are you a rouge to this world, who is willing to dig through the barriers separating you and the brokenness of an impoverished world around to altogether get to the abundant life that comes from the healing touch of Jesus? Which set reflects your church? Are you a crowd of listeners, or a brotherhood of friends willing to carry each others brokenness to Jesus?

One set got a goodly lesson that day, the other got a new life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Depravity In Adulthood

"I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
You Know I had to laugh that the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still"
- Caedmon's Call

I would like to tell you that after facing the humbling reality of my depravity in my teens years I went on to stop chasing the slavery that I was in bondage to. Although it was on that day, I decided to stop the diet pills and caffeine, I did not let go of the myriad of other addictions that had led me to abuse the substances. I certainly had a problem with speed, but I had a much bigger issue with this unyielding desire to impress people. The addiction to being admired was entrenched much deeper than any substance abuse. Admiration fed the demons of control and social position. These three formed a mighty beast of self satisfaction in me.

Unfortunately, that beast was not slain as easily as the substance addiction. That beast slipped back into the recesses of my mind where he still preys on my fears and insecurities. My carnal nature is never further than the recesses of my mind which I have not yet let the Kingdom of God be formed in.

To give you an example as recent of a few weeks back. I spoke on Saturday afternoon at camp. After my sermon was dinner time. The closing prayer was concluded and the entire camp went off to line up for supper. Not ONE person came over to make any compliment what so ever of the message. Even my own wife, did not give me a "Great Job!" My depravity crept out of it's cavernous abode and began to torment me. Feeling unappreciated and socially diminished I was blessed by God with a vision to illustrate the damage I was allowing in my mind. There stood this dragon pulling me apart, one limb at a time. I had to choose in that moment to let my enemy lure me back into the danger of his self promoting cave, or to let the Kingdom be formed over the wound. I had responded to the Spirit's leading and preached the message he gave me, so this was should never have been about my pride in anyway.

I give this example because it is visible, still I struggle everyday with my needs for appreciation, control, and social struggle. The recognition of our depravity, is not a one time obstacle that once overcomes raises us to a higher place in the journey, instead it is a parallel road that appears less treacherous and more appealing.
Matthew 7:13-14 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
I have seen the hell my mind becomes separate of the redemptive forming of God's Kingdom. I therefore recognize my depravity daily and choose to walk through the gateway that leads to life. This narrow road leads me to the alien, the cripple, the beggar, and the orphan because I acknowledge that in my own power I can be nothing more than they are.

"Lord God, let me never see my self as anything other than a stranger, given citizenship in your Kingdom; a cripple made to walk in your light, a beggar living off the wealth of your grace, and an orphan adopted to be a prince of the King. Let me also never forget that you are always found in the midst of these peers."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Depravity of the Good Kid

I was a good kid. I got good grades, was involved in extra curricular activities, held down a job. I did it all, and maintained a good relationship with church and parents. I was a good kid.

I also had an addiction. It isn't the kind of seedy addiction you are expecting in this confession. I am a speed addict, but by that I mean I was addicted to high caffeine drinks and diet pills. I used them to maintain all the good I was. I wanted the good grades, the praise for my accomplishments in theater, and the spending money from the job to look the fashion of the world around me. I wanted all this, and all the praise I got at church and from my family for being such the good kid. So I took diet pills, and slammed them down with super caffeinated beverages. Still, I was a good kid.

In my mind, at that time, I would have never called myself an addict. In fact, I thought I was the very model of youth perfection. I had it all together, I was the kind of kid other parents used to shame their own. I was proud of my life, my accomplishments, my faith, my perfection.

The minister at the church I spoke at on Sunday came out after my message and asked me how to connect the principles of my message to the people who have never done anything really bad. I found this to be an intriguing question, since had you asked me even the day before I was forced to face my depravity, I would have surely let you know I was that person.

Then came that lunchtime where I faced my blackness. Between the work of advanced placement classes the production we were working on for theater, my job at the movie theater, and watching late night television; I was not sleeping. Adding to that stress, I was out of money, and therefore had not purchased my daily supply of diet pills and Nitro. I was strung out and stressed out. Sitting at the table behind me was a mentally disabled student who laughed incessantly the entire lunch period. The laughter grated against my strung out nerves like nails on a chalkboard. After twenty minutes of this I could not take another moment. I grabbed the closest metal utensil to me, and proceeded to propel it backward to stab him in the back. As the fork and my hand flew toward his back, one of my table mates grabbed my arm, and stopped in midswing I dropped the fork to the ground.

I sat, stunned with a groundswell of shame and guilt. There was nothing in this moment that looked respectable, admirable, or in control. I had tried to injure a person most of society strives to protect. In one moment, I stood toe to toe with my depravity. I stood face to face with what my need to be the model of the good kid had led to. I looked as pitch black and broken as all the people who lives looked very different than my own. One second difference in my life, and I would have been on my way to juvie.

My addiction was respectable, in fact my entire catalog of addictions were encouraged. Yet here I stood in their wake with nothing to cling to. The grades, honors, clothing, church standing, parental approval it all meant nothing as I looked at the depth of brokenness I held inside me.

The "good kid" looks good because he has spent his entire life building a castle of cards on the praise of men. The "good kid" looks honorable because everything he does revolves around holding onto that honor.
Luke 10:39-41 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.
God's plan to clean us from the inside out starts when we realize how dirty and stained the inside is. So long as a person is basing life on what the people around him call goodness and success, they can not see that God starts his healing and release from bondage when we venture out to join him from the home of depravity. When I am able to see myself as broken and poor, I can join God in his Kingdom of paupers, whores, and cripples.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

RCC Columbus Day Audio

I have the talks from our retreat this weekend. If you would be interested in what we were doing with the teens this past weekend, this would be the place to find out.

  1. Stephen Lamb – A Brief History of God
  2. Glen Fitzjerrell – Jesus Mission & Ministry
  3. Kevin Bowman – A Master and A Slave
  4. Rob Carris – A False History of God
  5. Glen Fitzjerrell – My Limited Belief
  6. Glen Fitzjerrell – Salvation In Our Context 1
  7. Rob Carris – Salvation In Our Context2

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why God Wants All of Me

A friend of mine texted me today to let me know that he had not been fired over a poorly made decision at work. His decision was not malicious, it was just poorly thought out. It was the end of the day on Friday he was worn out and his blood sugar was low and in a moment of lesser thought he made a decision he regretted only moments later, and was thankful today to let me know the consequences were not more outstanding. Like my friend, my body often causes me to act contrary to how I know I should behave. Likewise my Spirit and my mind do not always agree.

Our body, mind, and spirit are all realized perfectly in the 3 persons of our triune God. In the person of God the father, we see the very mind of God. In the person of Jesus, God the son, we see God's physical presence. In the person of God the Spirit, we see the dimension of God's spiritual manifestation. We are truly made "like us in our image" as the Godhead agreed to do in Genesis 1.

Yet, in the perfect triune nature of God, He is always in agreement. There is no challenge for control in God. The father does not usurp authority over the son, the son does not act independent of the father, and the spirit too aligns perfectly the will and activity of the father and son.

That fact inspires me to understand why God leaves us with the words of the greatest commandment. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD (YHVH) our God, the LORD (YHVH) is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart (Spirit) and with all your soul (Mind) and with all your might(Strength). " Since there is no division in God and his body does only that which is in perfect agreement with his mind, which is at perfect peace with his spirit. That means that all of God loves me with the radical love that caused Jesus to give up the wealth of heaven for less than the poverty of humanity, but a humanity destined for death to self. God loves me with the kind of love where the master becomes the slave. God loves me with the kind of love that cost heaven it's beloved on a gamble for the earth. God loves me with all his heart, soul, and strength.

The invitation is to allow my lover to come in to me, and prove his love by placing the seed of his love to be formed as a new life inside me, a life that loves him with all my body, mind, and strength.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Economic Bailout & Ethics

Ron Paul the last serving constitutional sentinel posted an editorial that attempts to shed more light on the mortgage crisis bailout and made argument that this kind of government meddling only worsens the problem. Although the editorial is fabulous and informative, I am struck by the fact that even Dr. Paul does not see the ethical quagmire this bailout creates.

The real issue to me is that the Federal Reserve bankers are asking the government to bail out banks and investments institutions that are ultimately tied to their own portfolios with money borrowed at interest from the same banks and financial institutions. In essence they are saying, "Please pay us to bail us out of our mess."

For those of you who do not understand how a fiat currency and the central bank system works you will probably think I am a conspiracy nut, but I personally would like to see a real conspiracy nut trace out the money and prove I am right.

UPDATE: The central bankers will make over $4 million dollars a day in interest on this loan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Services For Unwed Homeless Mothers

The intermittent volunteer shared a concern in her post "Pregnant and On the Streets" about a street family who were denied services and ultimately lost their pre-born child because of the reality that the church provides most all homeless services and therefore the unwillingness to house an unwed couple.

Although I believe it awesome that from her experience the mantle of care for the homeless is rightly placed within the church. I am concerned by the ideology that our service is based on the morality of the recipients rather than on the morality of the church. Better stated, the church should serve not based on the merit of those being served, but on rather on the Biblical mandate to serve.

I imagine the consequences of my life story if God reversed the roles we have filled together. In every stage of life God has based his saving grace on his own merit, and the receipt of that merit has compelled me to be changed into the moral vision he had for me. Imagine how differently the "woman caught in adultery" would have played out if Jesus had based his decision about the stoning on the code of a moral life that she had never sought to be bound by. Instead, Jesus calls her as a response to him to live under a new vision of moral hope.

I had this similar fight at our church when our work with the children of the migrant families at the Arlington Racetrack was bullied out by those who felt that it did not value the vision of the church, since we were not gaining numerical attendance results from the work. This is not our motivation.

All our decisions and motivation towards acts of service must be based on our responsibility to be participants in God's moral vision for our participation in bringing His kingdom to earth. It is our morality, as the representatives of Christ on earth that most concerns him, since after all his good name rests on our shoulders. Perhaps we should be wholly concerned with the vision of healing the sick, and preaching the good news to the poor that he called us to, then we'll let God take care of the rest.

Mark Moore - Another Great Post

I don't get the haters of the world, I just don't have the energy. Mark Moore has responded to them, and to their meaningless boycott this time against Wal-Mart.
If you want to hate Wal-Mart, hate them for this: they continue to seduce our society, including Evangelicals of all stripes, into a rampant materialism that is so grossly at odds with compassion, generosity, and global welfare, that it can only be contrary the core message of Jesus Christ.
Read The Full Post: Why Republicans Hate Wal-Mart

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mark Moore on Pacifism

Pacifism is not a spineless resignation—it is a deliberate methodology which calls attention to the injustices of this world. Pacifism is not quiet or nice—it is deliberately aggressive ideologically while refusing any right to retaliation; it deliberately provokes response (often violent) to force the "enemy" to put all his cards on the table for the watching world to witness.

If you have not seen the video of police at the Republican National Convention last week brutally attack a peaceful protester as she is visibly attempting to surrender to arrest then you might not have the context to understand why a principled, reasoned explanation of Christian pacifism is so necessary.

Please visit Mark Moore's Post to read the entire context of the quote above.

Entire Bible In 13 Weeks

The primary business I must attend to every day is to fellowship with the Lord. The first concern is not how much I might serve the Lord, but how my inner man might be nourished. I may share the truth with the unconverted; I may try to encourage believers; I may relieve the distressed; or I may, in other ways, seek to behave as a child of God; yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, may result in this work being done in a wrong spirit.

The most important thing I had to do was to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, and instructed. - George Muller May 7, 1841

I read somewhere last week that George Muller was committed to read the Bible 4 times a year. I thought that was an ambitious, yet impressive commitment to time under the tutelage of the Lord. I know that the Bible In 90 Days is a popular resource, but I am also self aware enough that this program would fail the first weekend I started it. Our weekends are incredibly busy and we are often out till very late. I needed a program that was built on the 65 work days each quarter, so that I could make it a part of my daily regimen on the more predictable routine of work nights.

I searched and could not find such a program. So I decided that if this was a commitment I wanted to make, it was up to me to develop the resources. I developed a web page several months back to help us with our oldest daughter's reading. This page displays the Bible In Basic English combined with the Dolch word list. All Dolch words are highlighted green, while all other words are red. So I already had the underlying table data for the full text of the Bible. From here I divided the total number of verses by the 65 days. This method naturally broke chapters unevenly, and had no respect for distribution of the text, it was just a simple query. So from there I manually went through the 65 days and decided to round the "break chapter" either forward or backward based on where it broke in the chapter. In a few days I had to do just a little more massaging than that to even out a couple days over chapters that were particuarly long and fell right on the day breaks.

All of that is to say, that I invite you to join me in the 13 Week Reading Challenge. Already in the first three days I have completed God has spoken deeply to my heart. The first day I was inspired to greater reflection of becoming more like Christ through new insight into the difference between Abraham and Lot. The second day, I read about how God used his manifest presence as bookends to the time Jacob spent in Laban's house. I was reminded once again that part of God's destiny for us is filled in the monotony of the seasons of life. Last night, I was able to see how Joseph was for his brothers, and archetype for the greatness Jesus prepared for us when we fully realize our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

I am so excited about the great truth, and inspiring changes God will bring in my life as Christ is formed in me, through the discipline of this challenge. This is not an excercise in academic accomplishment, but instead an invitation to see God's entire story unfold in all it's flowing glory. I hope you use this page, and are inspired to greater love and service in God's Kingdom.

My Heart is Not Negative

I was told recently by a good friend that all my posts of late have been negative. I do not want to come off as negative, condescending, or accusing. I am none of those. I am passionate. I want people to want more. I want people to hear an invitation from God to live in the mansions Christ prepared for us, in the here and now. I want people to understand that abundant life is promised, and our destiny is being fulfilled right now, in the place God has placed us. I have a destiny, today in this place, in this city, in this time. So do you!

We do not need to go to a far away place, to a remote people... but we must GO! Here where we are... The good news CAN be lived out in the places we are going everyday!

Please know I say this from a heart exploding with love as an exhortation!

Destiny & Tension

God has great news for you! It is amazing exciting news and you need to hurry out to share it. The news was so amazing, that it was determined before time. In fact there is a lot of background work that had to be done so you could receive it, but all that has been taken care of already, the prep work is finished!

That is the message Joseph's brothers received when they arrived in Egypt. God had a prepared a destiny for them... God had engineered the system so that their living in peace and abundance was already handled on account of the work Joseph had done.
Genesis 45: 7-9a And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father...
This is the same promise we receive when we appear before God in starving desperation. Jesus was sent ahead to be our salvation. Jesus prepared the way to preserve us that we could be saved, that we could be living. Jesus' prepared work compels us to GO! in celebration of the peace and abundance that is prepared for us.

There is a bigger issue at work here than first meets the eye... The question of why? What is God doing in the world? What is my place in the work God is doing? Israel must have had these same questions.
Genesis 46:2-3 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here am I." Then he said, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.
God answers Israel, and addresses him by his given name. God speaks into Jacob's carnal worldview and assures him that he has a destiny. He and his family will 'soar on wings' to be the very people of God. His family will become not just a nation, but THE nation through which the world will see God. His children, their tribe, is being crafted by the very hand of God.

The answer of God is the same into our carnal realities. God is making us, in the place we are in, in the moment in time and space we occupy into the very people of God. God has a destiny for us, we too will 'soar on wings' when we accept the destiny of citizenship in the people God.

Jesus' work was spent to prepare a place for us, a purpose for our existence. Jesus' life was given to give us life that is abundant, full of His manifest presence through us. Jesus sends us to proclaim this nation, to be this people. Jesus invites us into our destiny.

Our destiny is where the tension lies. Our world, and sadly often our churches too wants to pin us down by the famine of hopeless reality. College students tell me they want to do God's work after they get their degree. Graduates tell me they will GO after their college debt is paid. My peers tell me that GOing is on the horizon, after the kids are raised. Then it is the impending retirement, the grand babies, and so on! WE MUST GET WITH IT!!!! There will never be a safe time to GO! We must choose to soar, to fulfill our destiny in Christ; or we choose to be held down, pinned by the god's of our pagan famine.

The Kingdom of God has invited you to the feast on the best, will you eat or starve?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bart Campolo Interview

My friend Jeff interviewed Tony Campolo's son Bart on his blog. He had some great things to say that are definitely worth reading. Here is an excerpt of my favorite part...

"So, why should people who follow Jesus care for the poor? Easy. Why should an organization trying to get a thicker chunk of the American cultural landscape care for the poor? Gosh, I don't know. They probably shouldn't. You don't see the Democratic or Republican parties bending over backwards to give to the poor, because it's not really going to help their movement very much. Those people don't have anything to give, [and] they'll suck a lot of your resources. Organizationally, it's not really a good move."
Check out the whole article.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kingdom Doors

The Kingdom doors are rusty
They don't see that much usage
Few people go looking for power
In the places that call the bottom tops
Scant a crusader quests for glory
In the world's skid row kitchens.

Our church doors work much better
Clear glass where we can see the other side
Power to those who yearn for titles and offices
Glory & Positions for the earnest
Jesus wants to give you
Everything you work hard to attain.

The Kingdom doors are rusty
Yet still they invite me in
For His Power and To His Glory
The strength of emptiness they take to open
Jesus stands to make you
Everything you were created to attain

The Kingdom doors are rusty...

I saw this picture by one of my former campers, Lisa Curry, in an album on Facebook. It was a moving picture to me, with so much depth and contrast. The first stanza to the poem materialized in my head as I looked the picture. I rarely blog poetry, since to me it is a deeply personal activity, between myself and God. I made this exception.

Homeschool - Stuff We Needed

I have spent most of the day today preparing worksheets for my wife to use this week. With the move to Africa we decided to just go ahead and start homeschooling now, so as to separate some of the shocks in the kids lives.

If any of you are interested, I wanted to link to the things I created.



I also some time back wrote a small program for making random math tests quickly. It is a very useful project that we use each day. You can put in the highest and lowest number to use, and also choose between addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and a few combinations.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

R.C. Thompson

I come from a heritage of great men who have been mentors and shepherds to my life. Today one of those men, R.C. Thompson has gone forward to rest until the resurrection.

I met R.C. Thompson in 1982, I was seven years old and he was the preacher at another church in our fellowship a couple towns over. In 1984 we moved away from that area and when we returned in 1988 R.C. had moved to a different church, and that is the church my family started attending upon our return. Mr. Thompson was my minister from those first days of junior high through high school.

In 1989 R.C. started a training program at our church called Camp Timothy. It was a week where several of us boys stayed over at his home in the evenings, and during the days spent time on learning how to prepare a sermon, and others duties of a minister. I accepted Christ and was baptized at Camp Timothy. I also wrote my first sermon in Camp Timothy. Although I don't know I still practice a single lesson we learned in that camp, I strive to practice the love for people and sense of servanthood I learned in watching R.C.

R.C. loved singing praises to Almighty God. In fact he loved it so much that he was the choir director for both an adults group and a children group. I spent 3 years in the Sunbeams. We toured local nursing homes bringing the joy that a group of children can bear in places like that. I will always remember his booming voice that overshadowed the entire choir of children as he would get going.

More than anything else however one must pay honor to R.C. not in the classes he taught, in the songs that he sang, or in the years of his ministry but in the character of the love he displayed. I NEVER felt unloved by R.C. In every stage of life, whether a junior high monster, a high school rebel, a visiting college student, or an adult returning with my own family; R.C.'s love always poured out.

Please pray for his wife Lenora, for his children, and for his grandchildren. He was a man of great stature and great love, he will be deeply grieved in their lives. He also will be mourned by so many more of us!

Rest well my friend, you will rise again in the great Resurrection.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Two Years Old and Alone

At about 10:00 this evening we got a knock on our door. The village police had found a two year old naked and alone at the gas station about a block from our house. Our neighbor, who had been out working on his car had told them we had small children. After talking to the police for about a minute my wife snuck into our babies room and got them a diaper and pajamas. About an hour later the police knocked on our door again to return the pajamas, the boy's parents had been found & he was returned home safely.

Here I am an hour later running the journey of this little boy over in my head. He crossed a major road in the dark and found his way to the gas station. The whole event was so surreal and unbelievable. How does a 2 year old escape the house and walk two blocks...

It seems so crazy, and at the same time I remember watching these children, some even younger than two show up at the carepoints while we were in Swazi. These kids had not walked two blocks, they had walked miles. This was not an anomaly, this was daily life.
This should not be the norm. We should live in a world where a vulnerable child would shock us on every level; yet there are millions of orphans in an area of Southern Africa about the size of Texas. These children live life alone and stripped of every identity of childhood.

This is not a rarity to knock on every door of the neighborhood, this is daily life. I hurt for the torment of this mom, only a few doors down... I hurt for the Swazi moms who know the future of their children of their children's daily walk for food after AIDS claims their life.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Learning To Love: Even Church People Too

One of the young ladies who used to be in my youth group when she was a young teen posted this as a note on Facebook today.
So who cares if I smell like baby shampoo?
And if I wear flat shoes and an ankle length skirt from India? And a beaded necklace made by a five year old? My favorite bead is the Polar Bear one...
Who cares if I only sing repeated worship song verses ONE time?
Am I not as Christian as the woman in front of me?

Does it matter that the tech boys in the back think I'm weird for slipping my shoes off whenever I pray?
I drink Lemonade instead of coffee. I hate coffee. Wait, am I suddenly un-fellowshiping? Every Sunday morning Christian I know drinks coffee.

Doesn't everyone say that we should "come to God as we are...."?
God loves me that way I am, right?
Then why do we try so hard to look like every other christian we see?
How many bible studies are cliches?
My hardest christian struggle is not having my devotions every day. How about you? Yours is probably the same; at least in front of all the other devotions-struggling Christian you smile at every Sunday it is.

Perhaps I'm the only one who feels like we are all faking it.
It's like everyone I see is asleep. What is wrong with our brothers and sisters? For some reason, the passion of David, the strong will of Nehemiah, the devotion of Noah, the Patience and Faith of Abraham, the strength of the Martyrs, the very background of our family's gone.
Since when has becoming an heir of the kingdom of God become a back burner project we turn to on weekends?

I feel like grasping the entire intensity of following my King in my hands and burning myself. Forget the back burner, I want a consuming fire for our nation, for our world.
WOW! That is the only thought I could think when I finished reading it.

I certainly had some of these exact same feelings at twenty years old. I did not respond like she did. When I really pressed into God at 18 I became so angry at the duplicity of the weekend pew warriors. I tried by 21 to pull away from God, but he would not let me go. He never let me go. Still, I always kept a distance between me and them. Their "safe Jesus" was way too dangerous for me. I needed the "unsafe Jesus" to give me comfort. When I was 25 I left paid church work mostly because although I had a depth of love for God and a love for the least of these worthy of any reading of the greatest commands, I just could not find a way to love "the Sunday saints."

So for years I have accepted the distance between me and them. I have accepted that myself and the majority of them are cut from very different fabric. I have preached to inspire. I have screamed passionately that they might catch a vision bigger than they have known. Yet always, when I stepped down from the stage, I have kept my distance to hide that I could not love my "fellow saints." I have celebrated the flashes of Kingdom in people's passion, only to watch them return to their normal mediocrity.

Then comes this past summer. Everything has changed. I find myself listening to the Spirit's leading and asking people if I can pray a blessing over them. I find myself weeping for people, rather than preaching at them. I find myself in love with these church folks, I have tried to keep so safely from. God is good, and I have been humbled to see how "least of these" applies to those with only religiosity. So now I go, and want to see them, see Kingdom come.... on earth (their lives, their homes, their minds personally) as it is in heaven.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Do You Really Think It's God's Will For You...

If you had asked me back in April how my summer was supposed to go it was something like this. "The house will be on the market by mid June. We will close on the house by the middle of August. Then Friday the 15 will be my last day at work. We will then go to the wedding in Texas and drive back to Georgia for training. The support that is not quite raised by that point we'll get while we're down there."

Instead, it is now the August fourteenth and my painter has not finished painting the house so the "For Sale" sign is not even planted into the ground. I checked my support account and I have $0 in committed monthly support from 0 supporters. All this would be OK except for the fact that I have now spoken and handed out support cards at our home church where we attend, the church I served on staff at for 4 years, the church I grew up at, and a couple others where I had friends. After tapping my family, my friends, and my connections the result has been a goose egg.

This is not a pity party! Instead it is a definitive answer to the question I hear most these days, "Do you really think it's God's will for you to go to Swaziland?" The answer is an affirmative "YES! We are going!" Although the sale of my house is not in sync with my time line, I still say, "Yes, we are going." Although my friends have decided so far not to be our monthly support, I still say, "Yes, we are going." Even though all my personal connections have come up nil, I still say, "Yes, we are going."

When I hear the question, "Do you really think it's God's will for you to go to Swaziland?" it feels like my friends have become my foes. As they are asking it I am hearing, "Why can't you just be good Americans, with good jobs, and a good retirement?" As they are asking it and I have no house contract to show them, and no monthly support commitment to defend my radical calling to uproot my wife and children to the take care of third world orphans, I feel their condescending victory over my refusal to "just be normal."
Psalm 13
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The Lord gave me this passage today as an assurance to His calling. Although the nay-sayers are more numerous than the supporters. Although the people who want us to "just be normal" are pleased by our seeming to fail in the time line we both felt God led us to. Although it seems to those looking with only physical eyes that God hidden his face, forgetting his commission to us in this endeavor we look with different eyes, we listen with different ears, we touch with different hands, and we trust with a different faith.

I trust in God's provisional love for our family, and for the Swazi orphans. I rejoice in God's saving us from the commodity of trudging forward as merely good employees. I sing because I have been filled with a bounty of more purpose and vision than I dreamed to be worthy of. I rely on the faith that caused Abraham to say, "WE will come back to you," as he departed in solidarity to the task of sacrificing his son.

Abraham walked his path in fraternity with God alone. We unlike him, walk this in fellowship with our friends, our family, and our church connections. Abraham did not hear the repeated jeers of his nay sayers, "Do you really think God meant kill Isaac? Maybe God was speaking figuratively." We walk seeking the unity of partnership between us who will go, and those being called by God to send.

We move forward with the same faith that caused Abraham to have "reasoned that God could raise the dead" and caused David to sing for the Lord's goodness. It is God's will for us to be ministering to the orphans in Nsoko Swaziland. As Paul said, "We live by faith, not by sight." We proceed by the promises of God knowing that we will be moving in Swaziland in January.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wrecked: Dare To Hope

Wrecked For The Ordinary is an E-Zine and one of the highlights of my week. As I stated a few months ago when they published my article, I wait for it with anticipation each week, because each week it inspires hope and challenges my comforts. This week did not disappoint.

Dare to hope, and you will be called naive. Reach out to someone people love to hate. Pray for someone forgotten and trampled over. Minister to someone stuck in their own impossible muck, and believe that God will finish the work He started in that heart. People will aggressively push you to lower the bar of your expectations and will remind you persistently why they are not worth it; do it anyway.

That is by Karen Swank, a regular contributor at Wrecked, and the entire article is even better than the excerpt. Surf over and read it, aand once you're there stay for a while, it's worth your time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Nsoko, Swaziland? Why The Bowmans?

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. In 2002 the country had a population of 1.2 million people, today it stands at 860 thousand. By 2012 the Swazi population will be hovering round 500 thousand. Of that over half...nearly 250 thousand will be orphans. In the remaining adult population the HIV/AIDS rate stands at 42% today and that rate is continuing to climb. The country itself is one of the poorest nations on earth. 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day with no access to clean water and improved sanitation. 40% of the population is suffering from starvation. Most of these are orphans, being raised by older siblings in orphan led households.

Because the community knows these are orphan led household it is commonplace for these unprotected children to be forced into oppressive labor or worse but no more uncommon for the girls to be repeatedly sexually abused. 80% of Swazi girls have been raped by their fourteenth birthday.

Those children who escape the terrors of oppression and abuse must still face the daily task of walking from their family homes to a care point where they will receive one to two meals and clean water. This process which can be distances as much as six miles each way occupies the children's entire daily life leaving no time for education, agriculture, or economic opportunity.

We do not believe this is God's will for the children of Swaziland. We believe that God meant it when he claimed that he would be the Father to the fatherless. We believe that God takes his title of "defender of orphans" most seriously. We also believe that God has staked his reputation on the church, and we as a family feel therefore called to make good on his promises to the fatherless orphans.

So after establishing the problem, and God's desired response of his church to the problem comes the question of why our family. In January of this year my wife and I traveled to Swaziland on a one week vision trip. While there our hearts were captured by God for His purposes for our life intersecting with these children. This led to an amazing chain of events upon our return home through which we came to be partnered with our sponsoring organization Adventures In Missions and their sister ministry G42 whose plan was to plant a village designed to raise these children in a safe enviroment. God has shown myself and my wife that our pasts and our skills indvidually will be joined together for his unique glory in the roles we will fill within the Nsoko Orphan Village.

In the security of the village the children will recieve food, education, agricultural and economic training, and most importantly be discipled so that when they "age out" of our program they are equipped with the skills, and love neccessary to partner with the Kingdom of God in caring for more of this overwhelming orphan population. Our plan is live among these kids and to love them in a way that instills the love of God for orphans into these orphans so that our work is recreated in their lives as they mature into young adulthood.

This vision will bring the hope of New Creation to the hopless realities of the Swazi orphans. That is why some one must go, that is why we must go.

Friday, August 08, 2008

10 Years - A Marriage Celebration

To say that I have the greatest marriage on earth, would probably not be incrorrect. Ten years ago my lovely bride and I, spring chickens that we were, exchanged our vows and began this adventure that is marriage. In ten years I can count the number of times we have had screaming fights on one hand. In ten years, it would take not even a single finger to count the number of times we have carried a fight into lingering silence. Don't get me wrong, we both get mad at each other, but our complementary personalities, and commitment to God's kind of marital love always work the problem out quickly.

Successful marriage is a lot more than a void of volatility, it is also a mutual passion for the same purposes. I have heard many times that the secret to a great marriage is comprimise. I disagree, because I have only rarely comprimised with Christi, and it has always been over minor decisions like dinner, an outfit, or meaningless things like that. The secret to our success is our communication and willingness to come to a shared vision for any decision. By buying in together into an idea or decision we have no reason to look back regreting and wondering if we made the things we gave up were worht the outcome.

This year, in addition to being a milestone, is even MORE EXCITING as I watch Christi in her new stage of life, as God has brought her an amazing freedom from her past addictions and the abuse that caused them, and opended the door to new oppurtunites for her to be a support for others who have shared similar pain. Even more than that, I am excited by the healing power this transformation will have as she invests into the women and children of Swaziland. It is so clear by her own healing, and my skills and passions that God has brought us together from the very begining to fill this purpose.

I think this post rambled a lot. So to summarize, I love my wife more than you can imagine, and am excited for the adventure God has in store for us. May the next 10 years, be even better than these first 10!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Partnership - An Invitation of Support

This message was preached at Cardinal Drive Church of Christ on Sunday, July 27th, 2008. It is designed to present a compelling presentation of the realities of the need in Swaziland, and as an invitation to join our family as partners in the work to these orphans.

Partnership - Joining With God For Nsoko from Kevin J Bowman on Vimeo.

If God is calling to partner with us in our work in Swaziland, please visit to give.

Water For Nsoko

Revelation 21 as it descibes the conclusion to this season of God's creation opens by saying, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." The evangelist, John, is not stating that the New Earth will be the recreation of Pangea, but instead is speaking allegorically about the end of division. John is reminding us, that in the New Creation there is no separation between God and man.

Water plays an important role in the Biblical narritive. On the ford of the Jabbok Jacob wrestles with God and becomes Israel in his crossing. On the western edge of the Red Sea God divides the sea to complete his rescue of the Israel clan from the Kingdom of Egypt. Forty years later the priests of God stepped into a flooded Jordan river and the Lord stopped the waters upstream so His people could cross into their promised Kingdom. Over and over waters and seas are seen as symbols of the division between man and God. Even Jesus himself crossed into the Jordan and upon his baptism by John was raised from the water confirmed by the proclamation of heaven as Christ the Lord. Peter teaches in his first epistle that we too, cross the epic divide through water, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Water is more than just an allegorical division. It is also a physical division. The United Nations and The World Bank define extreme poverty among other things as having no access to clean water. Water divides the classes of people in this world. From those of us who have an endless supply in our city taps, to those who must transport water from community wells, to those most impoversihed who must fend off sources such as dirty puddles, rivers, and rain collection for their water.

A person must first have water before any other need such as food, shelter, and rest. Yet, in a world with to much wealth for this to be a reality, nearly twenty percent of the world population, that is one billion people, do not have this access. Their constant need to find suitable water sources further deepens the divide of their impovrished reality by leaving little time for educational oppurtunity, agricultural oppurtunity and economic oppurtunity to improve their situation. Their lack of accessible clean water divides them from the remaining 80% of the world.

This reality is not suitable for our work in Nsoko, Swaziland. Through the diligent work of Gary Black, Gift Dlamini and Jumbo Gerber there is a well today at the future location of Nsoko orphan village. We celebrate that the orphans we will raise up as sons and daughters of God will not be burdened by this divide. The separation of their current situation will be replaced by oppurtunities to learn, grow, and develop. This well will serve like the a bridge between the despair of today and the hope of the Kingdom, not only for the orphan village, but for Nsoko, and for Swaziland. Praise God that the new creation has come, and there is water for Nsoko.

The verses quoted were Revelation 21:1 and 1 Peter 3:21

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Trip Into The City

Last night our family traveled to "The Bridge" as we do each Tuesday night. The service is located at a church near the corner of Cermack and Ogden in a neighborhood known as Lawndale. This is a very urban area with a great deal of poverty very apparent.

On Monday night we had bad storms come through Chicago. I slept through them, but many of my co-workers reported the winds bending the trees in their lawns. As we drove toward the city we passed a cemetary that had fully uprooted trees lying on the ground, and a great many branches shaved off the tops of the trees that had remained standing. It was the kind of storm that keeps electric and road crews busy.

I had an all new experience with the reality of disparty between the classes even right here in America as we were approaching the building for the service. As we were travelling down Cermack a full 20 hours after the storms, a giant tree still lay across 2 of the 3 lanes of the street. Now let's be fair, this is a major thouroughfare. It is a six lane divided road with 3 lanes in both directions. Even still, after nearly an entire day the city had not arrived yet to clear the impass.

I was puzzled, and bewildered once again by the realities of a whole different world only twenty minutes from the house.