Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nsoko G42 Village Art

I hopefully very soon will be building a website dedicated to the Nsoko orphan village. The site concept is to have an interactive "map" of the project with buttons that teach the visitor about the needs and goals of the village. I wanted to however put up 3 of the pictures we have done to whet your appetite, and also to invite you to check out Gary Black's blog post where he talks about the fiscal ways you can be involved in Nsoko today.

TOP:Each Orphan Pod will support 8 double orphans and a young Christian woman from the Swazi culture who will raise the children as their mother. BOTTOM: Each child will be responsible for a portion of the community life. One portion is the garden which will produce fresh produce for consumption and sale. Drip irrigation will be an important part of the success of these gardens.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'll Cover You

A few weeks ago my wife and I went to go see one of our camp kids perform in Rent. This is no chore for me, since Rent is one of my absolute favorite productions. It is amazing the places where God will speak to you.
Live In My House
I'll Be Your Shelter
Just Pay Me Back With One Thousand Kisses
Be My Lover
And I'll Cover You
It was the I'll Cover you quote. That just got deep down inside me. This speaks so deeply to the relationship God wants us to understand we have in him. God offers us a home and assures us that our love returned to our Him our lover is enough. I can not offer anything to God. Paul reminds us, "Who has given to God, that He should repay."

God's promise to cover us as a devoted husband frees us from the cycle of work based religion. I rub lotion onto my wife's feet not to gain her love, but because I am deeply loved by her, and love her deeply in return. This is the same with God. My wife willing follows me on this journey out of the American dream, because she knows I am her lover and will cover her despite the challenges of third world ministries. I follow God off the cliff of logic and reason, because I am deeply loved by him and deeply love him in return. I know he too will cover me.

As a husband and father covering is such a beautiful tender illustration. I have walked the house many evenings to insure everyone is covered before I goto sleep myself. I have reasoned with my wife who has fallen asleep on the couch to get up an walk into the bedroom so that she can sleep on the comfortable bed and be warm and covered. It is my job as "dad" to pour out love for my family like this. One of my most special moments is recovering one of my daughters who I find without a blanket when I check on her.

A few days ago, Lisa Black wrote about this covering idea on her blog:
I wonder if Pastor Gift feels alone and overwhelmed. I wonder if Jumbo is beside himself with work, all of us knowing he will never give up, because he truly loves the kids. I wonder if the children are getting cold at night now that it is nearing winter in Africa. I wonder if anyone will check to see if they even have covers to kick off.
How I hurt with her heart over the instinct to see blankets, and more importantly to BE God's covering over these orphans. How deeply I am touched remembering that God himself desires to be the Father who checks each of these children, and provides the shelter and security. So here is our lover, we are His body. Will we respond to be fathers to his children? Will we be mothers? Will we be so overwhelmed by the gratitude of our love from Him, that we will enact his will in the world, and cover these orphans?

When we understand the depth of our lover's passion for us, we are motivated to be changed at our core. We are changed to care about whether a nameless orphan in a unknown village in an obscure country has a blanket to cover up with for the winter. We brown bag our lunch, we skip the new movie at the theater, we don't buy that new outfit; in a week we have saved $80 and by our hands 10 of the orphans are covered by a blanket that is God's covering for them. We invite a friend, we challenge our spouse to join us; soon 10 orphans becomes 30.

I invite you to look at how God has blessed you with resources and change how you value them. I encourage you to indulge him in partnering with him to care for these children. I know you did not read this post to be guilted into giving money, and guilt is a pretty weak emotion anyway. Instead, if you have been motivated by God's love poured into you to participate with him, please listen to him. Here are two places you can give to support the work in Swaziland: Nsoko Project" anf 5For50

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

God Gives Us People

I stole this off Scot McKnight's blog, who reported it as being written by Nancy Lewis pastor of congregational care at the Oakland Covenant Church in Oakland California.

It’s always about the people in your midst. Who is God bringing to you, giving you opportunity to shine His light for them, needing God’s presence in their lives through you? Who needs to hear a word from God that comes through your lips, who will God use to speak to you? I have found that the most valuable commodity that God gives us, beyond Himself, is time with people. While this can be the most draining and frustrating part of ministry, I truly think God wants us to focus on His people and the people He desires to woo unto Himself. God’s greatest message came in the form of His own son who came to live with and among people.

When we invest in people there is often a great perceived risk for us but there is not for God. It helps me to remember that I am only called to “plant the seeds”, He is the Lord of the harvest. When I have prayerfully been given a tough message to deliver I need to always remember that it is His message. When there is an opportunity to speak words of comfort I need to focus on His words for the person. At times no words are necessary and it is more important to just be. Practicing the presence of God with someone is a powerful thing to behold.

I am deeply challenged by her insight on two levels. First she challenges us to be deeply permeated by the Spirit so that we are aware of God's ordination in every relational moment of the day. Secondly she sends a warning for us to heed, to not take responsibility for failure to these people God invites us to into relationship.

Well spoke and well warned!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Redemption - Joining With God

Here is a sermon I preached last week at a church in West Chicago. I invite you to watch the first 11 minutes of the sermon, and to download the entire file as an MP3.

Redemption Intro from Kevin J Bowman on Vimeo.

Download Audio File Here

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brighthope 5K

Thanks to everyone who helped my daughters with their fund raising pledges for the Brighthope 5K. They raised $430 which I was very proud of!

Mystical Perfection

Perhaps I looked only at the mountain's summit without a glance into the valley's beneath, but the only phrase for "the church" gathered in the loft above the Adventures headquarters that day was mystical perfection.

Back the beginning of April when we went to meet with the staff at Adventures for the possibility of joining their staff as part of the Swaziland team it was World Race training week. We were only there for the weekend, and were only present at a few of the worship sessions and yet I have never felt more alive in any worship setting.

I am not a "praise and worship" kind of guy. I was to make clear that I worship God, just singing songs is rarely my style. However the worship, no the entire gathering was different. I certainly sang out more openly, connected more openly, and participated more openly in the music: yet that was not the mystical connection.

This gathering, these students and leaders were all truly "Ekklessia" the "Called Out." I had never been in a large community setting, where our common thread was not a doctrine or a philosophy, but instead it was a desire to be the presence of the real living God on the earth. We were all united, despite strangers, by our commitment for the dynamic expansion of Kingdom of God. In that loft in our worship together the Spirit's presence permeated our bodies, our minds, and our spirits in a way that created a sense of community I have NEVER experienced in Church.

It has been six weeks now, and I find the longings deep inside myself needing to reconnect in that setting among that kind of people. I NEED to be a part of a community committed to being called out from the world for the expansion of God's Kingdom which is when the incarnational body experiences mystical perfection.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Jesus Loves Thugs!

NewsMax magazine published an article "blasting" Otis Moss, the young associate pastor and future Senior Pastor at Trinity UCC in Chicago. The humor to their assault is that EVERYTHING Reverend Moss says in the sermon is correct. Here is their list of offensive lies that Rev. Moss is perpetuating.

  1. “Jesus has a soft spot for thugs.”
  2. “God is always using thugs to do God’s work.”
  3. “Everyone has a little bit of thug in them.”
  4. Noah was a “thug” who “was drinking much gin and juice and got drunk on the eve of reconstruction.”
  5. Abraham “pimped his own wife.”
  6. Jacob was a “hustler” who “stole his own brother’s birthright.”
  7. Moses was a “thug” and “if he got mad would give you a royal beatdown.”
  8. Sampson was a “thug” and a “player.”
  9. David was a “thug,” a “shot caller,” and a “player,” and a man after God’s own heart.
  10. “Jesus is on the cross being lynched between two thugs. The moment of execution, the moment of murder, Jesus, the son of God, is hanging out with thugs.”
The problem with their accusation is that ALL of these statements are Biblically true. Jesus affirms his soft spot for thugs in Luke 5:31 in fact the entire Bible story affirms Jesus' passion to take the unlikely failures of this world, and empower them to be key instruments in his kingdom. These Newsmax writers do not get that highlighting the failures of the Bible's Heroes is not controversial, it is included in the text of the word by God himself, to demonstrate the very point that Mr. Moss is making,, "Your condition does not dictate your conclusion." God's Lost n Found is filled with those people he would later use to revolutionize the world. It seems the author of this article is so trapped in the power methodologies of the fallen kingdom that he can not see the beauty of God's kingdom that uses the foolish & failures of this world to shame the wise & winners.

Here Is their Excerpt From The Sermon: Seems Right On To Me!

Can A Balloon Change The World

I ordered 3 bags worth of balloons today for our Memorial Day retreat programs. They are Fair Trade balloons! Seriously! You might laugh at me, being naive enough to believe that a balloon can change the world. Yet the truth is, I DO believe a balloon can change the world. In order for them to change the world, we have to change the minds of people, the heart of Christians, and even the connotation of certain words.

Let's start be redefining the connotative implications of a word. Sacramental. Classically, this words pertains to any object created by the church to aid in devotion. Items meant to assist the user in preparing their heart and mind to receive the sacraments. Catholics would place holy water, the rosary, and saint cards in this category. Evangelical churches have sacramentals as well, they just do not refer to them as such. In our church we use music and a meditative thought, and even some iconography occasionally. In both of these cases this word sacramental is disconnected from everyday life. I "GO TO CHURCH" and use an object or an activity to prepare my mind and heart for the Communion meal.

This is the idea that needs to be changed. Recently the phrase a "sacramental lifestyle" has been used in many missional and emergent conversations. This idea, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is that we are called to live in such a way that our LIFESTYLE is constantly engaged with God in his redemptive work. The sacramental lifestyle understands that we do not prepare to participate in a sacrament of atonement bust instead we are perpetually participatory as the incarnation of God's atonement.

Buying a balloon is a sacramental decision! The decision of where I spent my fiscals resources is FUNDAMENTALLY SACRAMENTAL! I can not be honoring with God in my heart as a eat a piece of cracker and take a shot of grape juice, if I am not honoring to God in the places where I buy my food, my clothing, and all my purchasing. When Christ states that the love of money is the root of all evil, he challenges the distribution of all our resources! Am I searching for the "Best Deal Available" at the expense of ignoring the slave labor in it's manufacturing, or am I purchasing responsibly to participate with God who "hears the cries of the oppressed."

There is SO MUCH available now that one can buy responsibly. Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Fruit, T-Shirts, Socks, Flowers, and more I am forgetting. Yet, this is only the beginning! For love to change the world EVERY PURCHASE must be God honoring! The more products we the people of God insist on buying only when they are life affirming rather than life destroying, the more products that will be available.

I recently heard Rob Bell point out that Solomon's great mistake was to use forced labor to build the temple to the God of the slave and the oppressed. Once Solomon lost sight of the identity of his God, and his identity in God's Kingdom, his own kingdom was on a ripcord toward collapse.

Our hearts and minds must be changed. We must understand that our God is not a god like the corporate demigods of comfort, convenience, and consumption! He is the God of the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. He is the God who hears the cries of the slave, who feels the pain of the orphan, who longs for the release from bondage to the sex addict, the alcoholic, and the crack whore. He is the God who proclaim Jubilee, the redemption of all that needs to be restored.

A sacramental life can change the world because it is in that lifestyle that we align with God in his redemptive work, even in a purchase as simple as a pack of balloons, or maybe your mother's day flowers.


Trade As One
Bright Hope

Monday, May 05, 2008

Come Alongside Me!!!

  • I say this prayer, "God, get us to Swazi so I can come alongside you in your work with the fatherless." God replies, "Come alongside me here!"
  • I say this prayer, "God, the house needs to be sold, the support needs to be raised; so I can come alongside your love for these orphans." God replies, "Come alongside me now!"
  • I say this prayer, "God, download your wisdom into my mind so I am qualified to be a teacher alongside you in raising these forgotten babies." God replies, "Come alongside me today!"
  • I say this prayer, "God, make me a boundless wellspring of love and service so I can come alongside you to these abandoned." God replies, "Come alongside me! Come alongside me! Come alongside me!"

I really must tell you the truth, I'd like to already be in Swaziland, working at the orphan village, pastoring and discipling these precious fatherless children. Since God has confirmed this calling in our lives, the path from here to there can seem discouraging and irrelevant.

Yet I know that is NOT God's way. To God no step along the path is irrelevant. I feel more than ever before I need to curl up close in the Father's side, and use my hands to join his work Here, Now, Today!

A Prayer: Holy God, I am so thankful for my precious second child and her love to work alongside me in our kitchen. I need to get my step stool out and join my daddy in his work. Thank you Lord for showing me that if I am alongside you, I am right where I need to be. Your Kingdom Come - On Earth As It Is In Heaven - In My Hands as they are guided by you!