Thursday, November 26, 2009

What if Jesus Really Meant All That Stuff

The following is an article from Shane Claiborne (from esquire.com)
If you have not read this...you need to.

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.
The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn's Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn't quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don't know Jesus.

Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, "God is not a monster." Maybe next time I will.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, "I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ." A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.

Now for the good news.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our "Gospel" is the message that Jesus came "not [for] the healthy... but the sick." And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.

One of Jesus' most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan... you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I'm sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine... but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.

After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: "The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you." And we wonder what got him killed?

I have a friend in the UK who talks about "dirty theology" — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, "Nothing good could come." It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society's rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you." If those of us who believe in God do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world... well, we should at least pray that it is.

Your brother,
Shane


THOUGHTS?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Review Coming: Donald Miller


I love books. I just received this one in the mail to review! Give me a week and you will have it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another Viewpoint


After a tragic event in our city, the following is a letter from someone from the Soul community:
Warning: the following is explict and may not be for younger folk.

Today, the headlines read “Bathhouse Blaze”, early Sunday morning a fire broke out in one of Winnipeg’s two bathhouses. Aquarius, a two floor bathhouse, was a low light place to connect with other men for the sole purpose of having sex. The facility also hosted co-ed nights for women to also come and “hook up” or go there for a date night, as one female patron said, a safe place to go.

Having graced the rooms of Aquarius, I know full well what went on behind the entry way. Bathhouses were at one point my friend. A place to have as many encounters with other men as possible, to explore different avenues of sexual pleasure and it played into the excitement of voyeurism. Aquarius was no exception to this fact. The basement of the facility was the dungeon so to speak, with a round bed in a large dark room where I saw men in bondage. Opposite that room was a maze of chain link and a blackened maze of corners, small rooms where one could go and have sex and not see the other person.

Realizing the destructive behavior of the facility, especially in the degrading acts being played out on men as well as women, it became evident that Aquarius was a glorified whore house, only money was not exchanged apart from the entry fee, and the availability of poppers (a drug which induces a person to put aside all inhibition, placing that person in a position of potentially dangerous activity).

I write as a writer who has been to some pretty rough places to get the high of a sexual encounter. What is sad today is that two men died in this fire. One of these men a 23 year old aspiring drag queen, wanted to go into the entertainment biz. When I saw his face, I saw the face of a clean cut male, young and pretty, yet deeply masculine. A face with hope in his eyes. Yet his hope won’t amount to anything, as his life was taken far too early. But the deeper issue with his death is the correlation between his life as a drag queen and his issue with the bathhouse. A drag queen often is one to do fundraising, is looked upon as someone who lives in the public realm. Is often the voice of those in need. Today that voice is no longer speaking, singing or entertaining.

This brings me to the issue of pride. Pride is the big quintessential word of gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered people. The Pride Parade is all about being proud of who you are, and yet, there is a deep seeded, dark issue of sexual addiction in our midst, that is being normalized in our culture today.

“We are proud of who we are, we want rights…we demand them, and we will take down every voice that is against us. Because being against us means you are full of hate.”Are words that at one time, I used, and heard other gay people speak out loud, and full of force.

Yet having been to bathhouses and having to look at the destructive behavior of my own sexual addiction, I wonder, what kind of pride that was? I wasn’t loving myself, I was actually feeding my addiction and couldn’t see past not getting a sexual fix, the next guy who would turn me on. It was all about sex. Not pride. Pride would be taking care of myself, honoring and respecting myself and others, not using them, for the sake of my own pleasure. Pride is not taking away my inhibitions with poppers and putting myself at risk of disease, or injury. Pride is learning what the roots of sexual addiction are, that are causing us to go to all lengths to get off. Pride is looking at our behavior and or allowing someone in to speak life to us, rather than encourage us in behavior that is hurtful to both ourselves and to others. When did we first come to understand that multiple sex partners are okay, good or healthy? Why isn’t the gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered community standing up in Pride and shouting enough is enough? Treating each other as objects, as sexual toys, as a way to get our needs met, is exactly what Pride isn’t. When will the community that demands respect and pride and the “same” rights as everyone else realize they have a long way to go to “get there”, if they continue to applaud sexual addictions, drug use, and criminal activity.

It is a quiet secret regarding the realm of sexual exploits and the areas of town these exploits happen in our city, where gay men hang out, late at night or during the day, all in the hopes of having sex. Men congregate in bathrooms across the city, to meet someone to have an orgasm. Putting at risk, young children, teens and others who would rather not see what is going on. Sure, you can be as safe as you think you are, but you never know who will walk in, who will see. Why do we sugar coat the issue of sexual addiction?

It is easier to turn a blind eye, to stay silent rather than speak the truth. Maybe it has to be someone who has been there, done it, who has received help regarding his sexual addiction, who needs to stand and speak. So today I speak. I say, “when is enough, going to be enough.” How many lives are we risking when we stay silent? To disease, to injury, to death? How many souls are we actually killing when we don’t say anything? Lives of men and women, struggling with sexual addiction, not knowing their worth apart from the buzz of the moment, only to wake up, empty and alone or empty in the arms of a stranger they just met a couple of hours before.

I know that I have pride in who I am as a man, who I am as a husband, who I am as a father. Would I want my child to grow up desperately hungry for love and affirmation and a sense of worth, so much so they have sex in a bathhouse, in a dark, dingy, smelly cage, inhibitions gone, not knowing how many people are having sex with them? Hardly, the thought of that actually makes me feel sad. So why would we want our friends, our co-workers, our family members, our loved ones to go to those lengths? When will we say enough is enough and stand for human rights, respected and honored?

Bobby Rogers, President and Acting Manager of Gio’s stated…“Thank you to everyone who came out tonight to help start our community's grieving process. As part of this process, CJOB 680 AM Richard Cloutier respectfully invited members of our community to discuss some aspects of our culture. After consulting with some community members, Chris Vogel was asked to help us out. Chris Vogel , one of the founders of Gio's (The Oscar Wilde Memorial Society Inc.) and leader in Manitoba and Canada with LGBT rights will discuss some of the unique aspects of our community with Richard, Tuesday at 9am. This is such a sensitive topic and troublesome time for us all - please trust that Richard and Chris will help sort through the stereotypes and homophobia that have been drifting in and out of media comments as a result of this tragedy.”

Key words used here are:
Unique aspect of our community
Sensitive
Troublesome
Stereotypes
Homophobia

This is a sensitive matter. Two men died, in a senseless fire. But what are the bigger issues here? Is there one? What about the reasoning of Pride, and the oversexualized…unique aspect of the gay community? What about sexual addiction? What about respecting oneself and others? This is rather troublesome.

I listened to the interview with Chris Vogel who stated a few misinterpreted facts. 1. He stated that Aquarius was renovated and was a great establishment. Unless it was renovated in the last 5 years, it was a pretty dark and dingy place.2. He stated that drugs and alcohol were not used on the facility, and it is a known fact that Poppers are sold and drugs and alcohol are ingested on site (brought in by patrons).3. He did however say that they needed to have installed fire detectors.

I found that an odd statement, “no fire detectors?”, is that not mandatory at all licensed established businesses. Yet, in the radio broadcast, it was stated that bathhouses do not need a license to operate? So a tragic event took place, 2 men died in an establishment that was not regulated by regular fire and health inspections. So regarding the establishment being a great place to meet and greet, it really was an accident ready to happen. It was irresponsible for the owner as well as the city to allow the establishment to open and operate.

In our city, our motto is “Take Pride Winnipeg.” How is this taking pride? How is this being committed in raising citizen responsibility?

In the end it comes down to citizens making a stand to what is allowed in their neighborhoods, parks, businesses. We live in a free country in which we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion and the right to say “enough is enough.”

Today, I have had enough.

A concerned citizen of Winnipeg.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Paying Tribute


REVEREND WILLIAM (BILL) PETER MICHALSKI
January 13, 1930 – October 5, 2009

Dad, was born January 13, 1930 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On Monday October 5, 2009 he passed away peacefully with me at his side. Dad was predeceased by parents Fred and Mary, infant daughter Pearl Hope, brother Fritz, sister Ann, and nephew Kevin. Dad is survived and remembered by his wife of 58 years Elizabeth. After a lifetime of dedication to his wife and family, and service to his Lord and Savior, dad leaves an indelible legacy to us and our families; Ron and Jill (Elise and Fred, and Todd and Rayael with their children Brendan, Andrew and Chloe), Bruce (Jessica and Joel) and myself and Sharon (Joshua, Jordan, James and Jesse). Dad is also survived by his brother Ed, sisters Olga, Eleanor, Jennifer and Lydia as well as many nephews and nieces.

Dad was a North End Winnipeg boy who graduated from St. John’s High School, with great stories. He quickly went to work to help support and care for his family as times were tough. As a young man he excelled at swimming, diving and gymnastics. He was a lifeguard and swimming instructor at numerous camps in Manitoba and City pools. Dad came to faith as a teen and never waivered from the call of God on his life. In his early twenties he got the courage and asked a particular woman out for a coffee at the end of a church service and the rest is history. He married Elizabeth Sedun and together they devoted themselves to their family and building a home based upon a foundation of faith, love and support. Newly married, they moved to Swan River to attend Bible College. Later Dad would begin his ministry at Living Word Temple in the North End of Winnipeg where he served for 27 years as pastor. In order to provide sufficiently for his family, he held a full time position with the City of Winnipeg, ending his career as a Supervisor for the Waterworks Department after 35 years of employment. Dad’s initial retirement was but a brief intermission. He resumed his calling upon invitation, by Rev. H.H. Barber to serve as Visitation Minister for Calvary Temple. At the same time Dad acted as the Supervisor of Phone Counseling Services for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He thrived in ministry! Throughout his lifetime, many people were influence by his ministry. His gentle spirit, genuine compassion, and earnest concern is still remembered today.

When we were about to start Soul Sanctuary, Sharon and I approached both my in laws and Dad and Mom. After explaining the vision that GOD had given us to start this new church we asked for their blessing on us. This was not your traditional type of church and one that was going to be out of their paradigm of what church ministry was all about. One statement that rings through our head after that meeting was that it was dad who said “We will know by the fruit.” Well, Dad would often share with me his concerns with the way we “did church,” but he was always supportive. One Sunday dad saw an older man sitting in a wheelchair crying after the service. As dad told me the story he said “I approached him and introduced myself and said, “I cannot help but noticed you are in distress, is there anything I can do for you?” The person responded by saying his name and then added “it’s the music.” To which dad said to himself, “the music makes me cry, as well.” But then the older man responded to dad, “I absolutely love it.” Dad walked away from that encounter with trying to figure out how can an older man like this type of music, especially in church! Eventually, the gentleman would commit his life to Christ. I would say from that point on dad worked really hard with trying to understand the way we did ministry to people in a form that he was not used to. There were times that Dad, and mom, have been more than stretched but Dad would occasionally comment on the “fruit” that he has seen. People committing to Christ, “young people” (I guess when you are 79, most everyone is a young person) in attendance and numerical growth.

A week prior to Dad’s passing I received an email from someone at Soul that I was able to share with him. It reads:

It really resonated with me when… Gerry said on Sunday that Soul would not have been possible without the blessing and prayers of his parents. I firmly believe, without any exaggeration and all the honesty that I can muster, that Soul saved my life. So, in that way, I guess your dad and everyone involved with the making of Soul are greatly responsible for getting me back on track in my walk and with my ministry. The Bible says you can tell a great deal about someone by the fruit of their labor and by that reasoning, your dad was an incredible man. I know it wouldn't mean much coming from me, someone he barely knows...but tell him, "thank you".
A loving husband, a proud father and doting grandfather and great grandfather, dad delighted in the joy of family. This past December, I moderated a special interactive service at our church on “A Father’s Legacy” featuring Dad and the three of us boys. Dad has always referred to that day as “That service was the crowning moment of my life.”

If you still would like to help leave a legacy I would encourage you on your way out to make a donation of any amount, in his memory to the orphanage work that we sponsor in Indonesia, called Wisma Kaseh. It was important to dad that these kids were cared for and this was his request. You can make a donation off our website using paypal! www.soulsanctuary.ca





Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lovin the Church!


I am very familiar with a number of people who feel that they need to De-tox from church. The current craze in our “christian culture” is to embrace a Churchless Christianity and for quite awhile I have been bugged by that thought and I finally understood why I was bugged. I can understand people tired of religion and rules but the church is the body of Christ…so in my head when I hear someone saying we need to detox from church, are we in reality detoxing from Jesus himself?

Some people seem to never tire of attacking the church. If it is not from those who are outright hostile because of their own lack of belief or ex-members who complain about the Church’s organization and its institutional quality with its rules an regulations. There are bad churches out there…we have a record of that from Revelation, but because a few are bad doesn’t mean all are.

I have personally struggled against the mainstream organization of our church community and what I am realizing is that an organism needs organization in order to survive, not to mention all the legal responsibilities that our government has placed on faith communities. Those who leave the church because of its organization often fail to recognize that all the other causes they rally behind also demand a certain level of organization. For instance, someone will leave the church mad at its buildings and programs and paid staff and go they go serve at the local homeless shelter instead. Personally, I say fantastic, but some of these people never stop to think that someone pays the bills for that building, someone turns on the heat in the morning, and someone maintains a calendar of events every month, not to mention that someone is on payroll to raise funds!

I am of the mind that people need to truly love their local church no matter how imperfect it may be and serve in it faithfully for the long haul. There is a tension that clearly exists for a church from being an organism and functioning as an organization, a community and an institution, a living entity with relationships and even some rules. There is no need to pit organism against organization, community against institution, or relationship against rules. These things are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, both exist in a healthy church. The problem is not organization, but bad, life-crushing organization.

Christ clearly taught that his mission was to build his church (Matthew 16). Christ is the head of the church, his body. Christ loves his church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). In almost all cases, those who choose to leave the church out of their faith experience can point back to a negative encounter with another believer. Communicating is not easy, talking is not easy, especially in this culture…and yet to be a part of community we all need to take a risk and attempt to communicate, care and allow people into our lives. If you think about it, it is even more difficult if things are tense in your life…

In our humanness there are times when we hurt each other and the tendency is to pull away and go it alone. I believe that we must resist that tendency. Psalm 17:6 GOD understood that humans are imperfect and make mistakes so scripture challenges us to go to GOD. All of us struggle in life at once time or another and all of our struggles are different for us. To be human is to be want to be listened to, to be cared for, to also be able to care for others…

God didn’t leave us on this planet to improve our understanding of Himself, huddle people into groups, create more effective worship services. Those are merely means God uses towards a much greater end. God left His church in this world so that followers of Christ might be made through the vehicle and power of the gospel for the purpose of drawing near to and worshipping the one who matters most: God. Out of this nearness to and love for God will come a group of people who have developed a heart for what He loves most. God’s heart is set on pursuing His glory, empowering His people, and reaching out to the broken and lost in this world. The church must reflect God’s love in reaching out to the hurting world around us, calling them to become followers of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:4ff).

Someone once said, and I believe it, that “we need to be reminded that the church that Christ loves is not a supermodel, but rather, a flawed and broken bride.” It may be messed up but it is still the Bride of Christ. So in a true cliché fashion. "Drop the ideal…live the real." Bonhoeffer said it best "Anyone who loves the dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter even though the devotion to the former is faultless and the intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September Thoughts


So, I posted this on Facebook. “Is thinking that in of all the stupid things that keep churches from growing, the common denominator is leadership! Ouch.”
So, is there anything wrong with that statement? Some would say “NOPE, you are bang on” while others would say…”what are you talking about…everyone has a part to play when a church is not growing.”

So here I am reflecting and planning for the fall and this is what I am coming up with. As a church I believe that we should be in a growth mode. The church of Christ should be growing but there are a number of hurdles to growth. One is when a Pastor or paid staff member tries to do it all. Many pastors, myself included, have been known to have a Martyr/Messiah complex . We feel that “no one else will do a job or could do a job as well as I could!” This is made more hilarious when I try to picture myself in charge of women’s ministries!!! Many pastors feel that the success of any church rests on them and thus they want or need to be in a place of control. Many times pastors have a hard time releasing control because of the fact that many feel that they are the hired guns to do the work and they have a hard time asking people to volunteer. Or it is simply an ego thing. Regardless of the issue it is safe to say that leadership is the “common denominator” when it comes to different areas that keep churches from growing. Even in Exodus 18 Moses was dealing with people and people were getting frustrated and Moses was getting burnt out until Jethro stepped in. It is a timeless principle when we deal with people on any level life gets messy real quick. Things that appear black and white at times turn out to be very grey and then add emotions and person preferences to the mix and it is a no win situation.
I believe that I am at the point where we must ask some hard questions and find out what the reasons are in which the church keeps people away rather that growing and discipling it. The first question we must ask is what is the purpose of a Sunday gathering? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we focusing on just the saints? Are we there to carry on tradition? Are we trying to entertain visitors who may never come back? Are we driven to make GOD famous and bring honor to His name in whatever way it takes? I guess the question lies in who are we trying to reach? Who has GOD placed in our path that we need to reach with the Good News? Do we really see Sunday morning through the eyes of a first time attender?
I have numerous thoughts rambling through the brain that will begin to pour out on this blog, but I will leave you with an interesting concept from a book called “Made to Stick.” This is for all the CHURCH people out there. It is called the Curse of Knowledge and the basic idea is “you cannot know, what you already know; and once you know it, it is very difficult to remember what it is like not to know.“
I say all that to add that many of us have been in church so long that we have completely lost touch of what it is like not to know.
Thoughts?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mid Summer Thought - Twitter Will Kill You

So, I have been off the blog for a while. Just taking some time to clear my head and process the future. I stumbled across this add...thought it was fantastic...


video

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rest….Sabbath….Seriously…that is old school!



Being tired has become an issue in this generation. People get sick, complain about too much work and bills piling up or jobs that they hate or don’t have and, relationships are in turmoil. Add to that, those health problems that are associated with the above like; colds, migraines, weight problems, headaches, gastro-intestinal discomforts, and other body pains, what about those times you have sleep insomnia, when you simply can't fall asleep?

It has been a while since I last posted, simply because I did not make the time or I didn’t have the physical or intellectual energy (don’t go there)! So this is what I am trying to learn….myself.

It is important to re-energize to be functioning properly, simple as that. It doesn’t matter how strong or tough you (I) think you are, we all need to rest. As a matter of fact we need more that rest, we also need sleep and a form of relaxation. These three elements are often taken for granted, we usually practice one, maybe two, but never all three. What I am experiencing is that our body begs for all three of them, but as we struggle to cope with busy lifestyles and wanting to earn more, or in order to cope with endless monthly bills to pay, thinking that the work will never get done unless we do it ourselves…and the list goes on…combine this with other environmental stresses like chemicals and other pollutants, and the list goes on nothing is left but stress and reduced energies.

Sometimes even a night’s sleep may be inadequate, probably due to a particularly stressful day, an emotional crisis in life, or a strenuous physical activity. When you become drowsy, you certainly need rest. A nap, even for five or ten minutes, will help you revitalize, but really doesn’t solve the problem.

What I have learnt is that our body has limitations and we should never take this for granted. How often we neglect to respect and appreciate the fundamental law of life – that bodies have a finite supply of energy. What I did not know is that nerve energy is used up by all kinds of activities and can be recuperated by rest, sleep and relaxation. Under normal conditions, nature forces people to rest sufficiently to thoroughly recuperate from daily grinds. Nowadays, with everyone striving for wealth, social position, fame, dominance, or simply trying to struggle for survival, the regard for nature’s signal to stop and re-energize is often neglected.

Instead, everyone has been driven to self-destruction, opting for stimulants such as coffee, tobacco, alcohol, and tea and whatever... To maintain a balanced physical, mental, emotional and spiritual best, a bodily store of energy has to be abundantly sustained. In order for this to happen our lifestyle should be improved, which means doing things to excess should be avoided, including overeating, overworking, and overplaying.

I have found out that it is important to cut down on the late nights, or at least minimize this activity. Set aside significant portions of your days off or take that needed vacation to re-energize. It may not always be easy, but it can be done.

In Genesis 2:4 GOD took a rest. Some have interpreted these words to mean "he ceased to perform all His creative work." So, the question comes, Why the need to rest? Obviously, it wasn't because of tiredness, He is GOD! But GOD’s resting from creation teaches us that as human beings created in the image of God, we too need to make time for rest and purposely abstain from interfering with creation one day of the week. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. The passion to work, to create, to accomplish or finish can sometimes be dangerous — especially for a society that prides itself on its ability to create, manipulate and control the world around it!!

Why did God need to rest? Rabbis teach us that work is not an end in and of itself. To be healthy, to be free from the problems of earning a livelihood, we must have rest to renew our strength and spirits to catch our breath and to become a living being once more. When GOD rested he created the possibility of renewal or regeneration, maybe rejuvenation.

For hundreds of years the Jews were ridiculed for being lazy for resting on the Sabbath. For the past 500-600 years, the world was seen as one gigantic clock. The universe was seen as an inanimate machine. Even human beings are considered by the likes of some behaviorists as nothing more than a machine. We have to remind ourselves that we are not machines. Each of us has a soul. Rest teaches us that each of us needs to have some sacred space to enjoy ourselves with our families and friends. Biblically rest provides our tired spirits with nurturing and healing and time to enjoy the world in silence and respect and sacred time to feel one with our Creator.
Some of the best ways of resting is actually stop doing work. If you were to die today, your work will be carried out by someone else…eventually. We need to renew our bodies and soul weekly by resting. And one way to do this is to add GOOD FOOD! No kidding! Even in the toughest of times, the Jews made every effort to buy the special food and candles that mark keeping the Sabbath. The table became a holy place where the family shared their joys and wishes together.
How is your table?

One of the most terrifying aspects of the technological society is the loss of intimacy. We are always wired and connected. Many people in our culture are desperate for affection, and most do not know how to give it or receive it, but they Facebook/Twitter or email it! Taking time to rest actually gives us a special time to deepen our relationships, especially when we unplug.
We/I need rest especially in our wired, turbulent times, perhaps more so than ever. Rest is not a luxury; it is a necessity for a long, healthy life.

Thoughts?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Growing Pains

Seth Godin blogs (http://sethgodin.typepad.com) and he writes about business and marketing principles, not too mention that he is so smart that he frustrates me!

I am in the process of evaluation and one of the things that Seth writes is:

Growth is frightening for a lot of people. It brings change and the opportunity for public failure. So if the astrological signs aren't right or the water is too cold or we've got a twinge in our elbow, we find an excuse. We decide to do it later, or not at all.

But uncertain times, frozen liquidity, political change and poor astrological forecasts (not to mention chicken entrails) all lead to less competition, more available talent and a do-or-die attitude that causes real change to happen.

If I wasn't already running my own business, today is the day I'd start one.

From my perspective there is no better time for the church then now. We have a great opportunity to partner with God and have a huge impact on our community and our world.
How can you partner with God to make a huge impact. God wants to use you to change your world and there is no better time than now! What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pick a Side?

As I sit and reflect, I find that many groups within Christianity seem to pick a side and stick with it. For example: many feel that churches need to be downtown and working/living with the poor. Or churches need to be traditional and stand apart from culture. Or others feel that churches need to be cool and technologically hip. Or others feel that churches… and the list of comparisons can go on.

Why does it have to be either/or? Can't it be both/and?

So can a church gathering be both relevant and bathed in prayer? Can a church leader both fast regularly and decide to use an entertaining video/culture to communicate truth? Can a pastor both care very deeply for others to be in biblical community and create a series with the very purpose of drawing a crowd? Can a church reach both poor and rich? Better yet, can a pastor use his volunteers and staff to give care to the whole community or is it the pastors soul responsibility? (Add more here….)

It is true that we can find plenty of Scriptural examples of fasting, prayer, personal confession, repentance and biblical community. But we can also find New Testament examples of Jesus, Paul and others being relevant, creating inviting environments, using humor and entertaining stories and preaching to large crowds. So, why is it that people pick sides?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Things that make you think?


Last weeks post raised a lot of questions as to what we can do...stay tuned as I am working with someone to figure out something....seriously!
I just came across this on someone else’s blog. What do you think?

Sometimes it helps to know the kind of churches that you never want to go to. Here are five actual, real churches that I have visited and that I would never go to again. And I hope you won’t either.
1. I will never go back to the church that exists for itself. So many churches just simply exist for their own members, their own comfort. They never seem to care about those who are far from God and yet close to the doors of their church that they could reach. They have a mission-blindness because they are so focused on self-preservation.
2. I will never go back to the church that resists change. It’s the church of Jesus Christ that understands what never changes and what ever-changes. The message of the gospel is timeless, but the methods with which it is delivered are and must be timely.
3. I will never go back to the church where everyone is not welcome. It’s hard to believe even in our day that there are churches that are prejudiced; prejudiced against race, mixed marriage, and a hundred other issues. The truth of the matter is I would never go to a church that just simply doesn’t exist for people. It’s been my contention the church doesn’t exist simply for Christians, it exists for everyone so that anyone and everyone should be welcome. But we all know that’s not true. One of the biggest sins churches commit is when they put up signs reading, “Everyone Welcome” when we all know they are not.
4. I will never go back to the church whose basis of authority is tolerance and inclusion. The basis for authority in any church are the Scriptures. God’s revealed word is the truth on which we are founded. The gospel is the story of redemption based on truth, justice, mercy, grace, and love. So I want to be part of the church whose foundation is not tolerance, but truth; because tolerance without truth is just sentimentalism. I want to be quick to say that I also want to be part of a church who speaks the truth in love; who doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear, but tells me what I need to hear in a way I can hear it.
5. I will never go back to the church that preaches a works salvation. So much of what you’ll hear tomorrow in churches across this land is based on a works salvation; a redemption by being better. How many sermons will we hear about being more like Paul or Peter, or John or Moses, or David or Joshua, or even like Jesus? The good news of the gospel is not that God came to make bad men better, but that He came to make dead men live.
Relationship with God through Jesus Christ is based totally on the work of Christ on the cross and through the Resurrection; not on the basis of my good works or my promise to be redeemed. Christianity is not a sin-management program. It is a life-transforming relationship that you enter in through Jesus Christ to the Redeemer and God of your life.
These are churches I would shy away from. If I were looking for a brand new church, I would simply turn these upside-down and make sure I go to a church tomorrow that is mission-minded, that receives people with joy no matter who they are or where they’ve come from; that proclaims the truth of the Sacred Scripture and elevates the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope for the world.
Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How are you feeling now?


I wonder if GOD wants us to love others so much that we would go to extremes to help them?
I wonder if GOD wants the church to be known for giving...of our time, our money and our abilities? In doing so, we can begin to alleviate some of the suffering in the world and change the reputation that the church has in our culture.

"I believe in GOD, just not in organized religion." How often I hear that...I am not sure that people would say that if the church really lived like we are called to live.

So, I had a coffee today with someone who is in the process of calling the church and the rest of the country to stand up for the rights of children. In a nutshell this person is bringing attention to the issues of Child Pornography in our nation.

Did you know that the victims of child sex images are getting younger and younger and the images are becoming more graphic. 83% of those arrested for possessing child pornography had images of kids 6-12 years old. 39% had images of kids 3-5 years old. 19% had images of infants and toddlers under the age of 3. How are you feeling now?

Hey, did you know that most pictures involved children who were gagged, bound, blindfolded or otherwise suffering sadistic assault and 21% of those images depicted rape, bondage and/torture? How are you feeling now?

Did you know that in Canada some summary convictions of child sex crimes are only 14 days? Did you know that the sentences are often house arrest and community service or a conditional sentence (thus no jail time). How are you feeling now?

Did you know that these children who are victims will suffer life long trauma and life with the fact that these images will be on the net forever? How are you feeling now?

I wonder if GOD wants us to love others so much that we would go to extremes to help them?
How are you feeling now?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Are You Kind?


"I choose kindness... I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me." - Max Lucado
Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Help Wanted



So, a friend of mine had the opportunity to go to a conference and when I asked him what he was learning he had a hard time to define it all in a brief response. But as I sit back and analyze our community and where we are at and where we need to be at there are a number of things that come to mind, but let me make it brief.

We need to be reaching people with the sacred and life transforming message of Jesus Christ.

We need to use unlimited creative ways of doing so.

We must bring people intentionally along the path of discipleship.

We need to keep the Scriptures as the main source and focal point and then branch out from there.

We must be lead of the Spirit.

My question to you is, how would you expand on the points above?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Giving...a subject everyone has thoughts on, but not all participate in!


Relevant Magazine published a short article a while back regarding giving...

It said that "if Christians (US stats) had given the traditional 10% tithe of their income to their churches in 2004, instead of the 2.56% that they actually gave, there would have been an additional $164 billion available, according to a report released in October called :The State of Church Giving through 2004.” If the churches chose to funnel just $70-$80 billion of that additional income to missions and humanitarian works, the basic needs of every person on the globe would be provided.
What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pondering Soul

So, as we approach Easter I have been thinking…no really I have been thinking. Lately, I have had a few emails and phone calls as to what kind of church is Soul Sanctuary. What I find is that many people in our culture want to label or identify something, especially those things that are associated with faith and it sort of drives me crazy.

So, for those who need more of a definitive understanding of what Soul Sanctuary is all about…

Let me say that we teach and hold to the traditions of Scripture, that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus was born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, that He took our place on the cross and died for our sins to make us right with God. We believe in His resurrection, and there is a literal heaven and hell… and we believe God is Sovereign and reigns! So, I guess that makes us kind of traditional.

Soul Sanctuary was started so that people could feel comfortable to bring non believing friends and family members. “So, you are missional?” Um….the church is supposed to be missional! We are called to transform the community that we are planted in as well as make an impact around the world.

“So, you are seeker sensitive then?” This is a hilarious question, at least to me because whenever people ask this question, it is used as a term to attack the church! So, what is a church to be seeker hostile? I like to think that we as a community are seeker friendly because no one who is new to a church feels comfortable at all, they are all scared to death, so it is important that we are friendly. When people walk into Soul Sanctuary we try hard to make sure that the environment is friendly! We want people to come back, but at the same time we want to give people a lot of room to check things out without people looking over your shoulder.

“So, then you are an attractional church?” My first answer would be NO! But as I think about it, I would have to say that is a component to who we are. When a business attracts people we call it successful but when a church does it, there are morons out there who call it compromise! We do want people to come back, and we recognize that our style may not be for everyone but we work hard at trying to keep the environment clean, the kids ministry safe and the list goes on.
We have a purpose…we want people to experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We want to see marriages restored, addicts set free, we want to see the excluded included, we want to see teens and children make their faith their own. We want…well…I could go on and on. We have a purpose…and it’s not to be a group that gives our community the middle finger and tells them to go to hell because reaching them would make us uncomfortable! No, we invite all people to be a part…

So, here are some things I learned in our last five years at Soul.
Don’t say “we will never do _________.” BECAUSE…you probably will!

The more our church grows the bigger the target gets on our back. People who don’t even know you will form opinions of you based on something that they heard or thought they heard you said…and bloggers, pastors and such will make it their habit to read what you say/listen to you preach just so they can tear you down. May I quote Bono here “Christians are hard to tolerate, I don’t know how Jesus does it.” Thus, people will always misunderstand you…so I don’t waste a lot of time trying to explain myself.

I have also learnt that there is no formula for growing a church. In my case, the book and the movie are two very different things and comparing Soul Sanctuary to other churches will either lead to pride or feeling like a failure…I need to desperately seek Jesus consistently to see who HE has called US to be.

I need to learn from everyone…despite theological differences and I should spend way less time focusing on being “right” and way more time on being faithful. Add to that I don’t always have the best ideas. This list can go on but here is the bonus: the sleepless nights, the critics, the spiritual warfare, the long meetings, the frustration…IT’S ALL WORTH IT! When lives get changed, it’s worth it. When repentance takes place, it’s worth it! When hell becomes less crowded, it’s worth it. When marriages are restored, it’s worth it. When addicts are set free, it’s worth it. It is so worth everything we go through!!! SO…we won’t ever give up–EVER!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A breakfast speech you need to read...








Well, thank you, thank you Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah of Jordan, Norm [Coleman], distinguished guests. Please join me in praying that I don't say something we'll all regret.



That was for the FCC.


If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is -- is leather. I'm certainly not here because I'm a rock star -- which leaves only one possible explanation: I've got a messianic complex. It's true. And anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.


Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural, something even unseemly about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents -- and disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough to have Jesse Helms come to a rock show. This is really weird.


Now, one of the things I love about this country is the separation of Church and State and although I have to say in inviting me here both Church and State have been separated from something else completely: their -- their mind!


Mr. President, are you sure about this? It's very humbling, and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned: I am Irish.

I'd like to talk about the -- the laws of man, here in this city, where those laws are written. I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that once there's the other, that the laws of man serve these higher laws, but, of course, they don't always. I presume that, in a way, is why you're all here. I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us are here -- Muslims, Jews, Christians -- are all searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God. And some of us are not very good examples, despite what Norm [Coleman] says.


I am certainly searching, and that, I suppose, is what led me here. Yes, it is odd, having a rock star at the breakfast. But maybe it's odder for me than for you, because, you see, I've avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it's something to do with having a father who was a Protestant and a mother who was a Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, often a battle line; where the line between Church and State was, at the very least, a little blurry and hard to see.


I -- I -- I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God; for me, at least, it got in the way -- seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land. And even in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on their TV cable channels offering indulgences for cash. In fact, all over the world -- seeing the self-righteous "roll down like a mighty stream," from certain corners of the religious establishment. I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.
So, even though I was a believer, and -- and perhaps because I was a believer, I was cynical -- not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)


In 1997, a couple of eccentric septuagenarian Christians -- British, as it happens -- went and ruined my shtick, my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year; described this year as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a little more of a direct line to the Almighty. But they got together to declare the Year of Jubilee.


It's a "Jubilee." Why "Jubilee?" What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lord's favor? I’d -- I'd always read the Scriptures, actually, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus 25:35: "If your brother becomes poor," the Scriptures say, "and cannot maintain himself, you shall maintain him. You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit."


This is such an important idea, Jubilee, that this is how Jesus begins his ministry. Jesus is a young man; he’s met with the rabbis; he's impressed everybody; people are talking. The elders say, he’s a clever guy, this Jesus, but -- you know -- he hasn’t done much public speaking.
When he does, his first words are from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," he says, "because He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor." And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor, the year of Jubilee. I think that's Luke 4[:18]. What he was really talking about was an era of grace -- and we’re still in it.


So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, is now incarnate in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn’t a bless-me club. It wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions, making it really hard for people like me to keep our distance -- ruining my shtick. I almost started to like these church people.


But then my cynicism got another helping hand. It was a -- It was Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. [Weapon of Mass Destruction] of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. And the ones that didn’t miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behavior -- even on children, even if the fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.


Ah, there they go. Judgmentalism is back, I thought to myself. But in truth, I was wrong again. The Church was slow but the Church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.
Love was on the move.
Mercy was on the move.
God was on the move.


Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet. They had conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen from the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS. See, miracles do happen. And we had hip-hop stars and country stars.


This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy, crazy stuff happens.
Popes were seen wearing sunglasses! Jesse Helms had a ghetto blaster now! Evidence of the Spirit moving. It was really -- it was breathtaking. It literally stopped the world in its tracks.
When churches start demonstrating on debt, governments listened -- and acted. When churches started organizing, petitioning, and even that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying on AIDS and global health, governments listened -- and acted. I’m here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; and you changed the world. So, thank you.
Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may -- may well be with us in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree -- all faiths, all ideologies -- is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.


God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.


If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and the speaking of wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire even in scorched places.¹
It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. "As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." [I] believe that's Matthew 25:40.

(See, I've been doing my homework.)


As I say, good news to the poor.


Here’s some good news for you, Mr. President. After 9-11, we were told America would have no time for the world’s poor. We were told America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it’s true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.


In fact, you have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for the global health -- for global health. And Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support of the Global Fund -- you and Congress -- has put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided eight million bed nets to protect children from malaria.


Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive, I think you'll admit, but -- but -- but historic. You should be very, very proud.


But here’s the bad news. There’s so much more to do. There is a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.


And finally, getting to higher levels, higher callings: This is not about charity in the end, is it? It’s about justice. The good news yet to come. I just want to repeat that: This is not about charity, it’s about justice. And that’s too bad. Because we’re good at charity. Americans, Irish people, are good at charity. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.


But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties; it doubts our concern, and it questions our commitment. Six and a half thousand Africans are still dying every day of preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity: This is about Justice and Equality.


Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we would let it happen anywhere else -- if we really accepted that Africans are equal to us.


I say that humbled in the company of a man with an African father.


Look what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to the misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. Well, in Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month -- a tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.


It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates, aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain in the ass. Seriously.


I mean you think of these Jewish sheep-herders going to meet with the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh goes, “Equal? Equal?" And they say, "Yeah, that's what, that's what it says here in the Book, here. We're all made in the image of God, sir."


Eventually the Pharaoh says, “Look, I can accept that. I mean, I can accept the Jews -- but not the blacks. I mean, not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way.”
So on we go with the journey of equality.
On we go in the pursuit of justice.
We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans -- five million by the next election, I promise you -- united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.


We hear that call even more powerfully today, and we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King -- mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only really getting started, 'cause these issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and they cross the seas.


Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market, that's not charity: That’s a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents, that's not charity: That’s a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents, well that's not charity. To me, that’s a justice issue.
And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject. That’s why I say there’s laws of the land and then there's a higher standard. And we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, these laws, so that they say it’s okay to protect our agriculture but it’s not okay for African farmers to protect their agriculture, to earn a living. As the laws of man are written, that’s what they say. But God will not accept that. Mine won’t. I don't -- will yours?
I close this morning on very thin -- thin ice, probably. This is a dangerous idea I’ve put on the table, here: my God versus your God, their God versus our God, versus no God. It's very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity. And this is a town -- Washington -- that knows something of division.


But the reason I'm here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call "the least of these." It's not a Republican idea. It's not a Democratic idea. It's not even, with all due respect, an American idea; nor it is unique to any one faith.


"Do unto others as you would have them do to you." Jesus says that.²
"Righteousness is this: that one should give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and to the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives." ³ The Koran says that.


Thus sayeth the Lord: Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out -- then your light will be like the dawn and your recovery will be speedily and spring forth; then the Lord will be your rear guard. The Jewish Scripture says that. It's Isaiah 58 again.


It's a powerful incentive: "The Lord will watch your back." Sounds like a good deal to me, especially right now. (Right? The Lord will watch your back. [turning to President Bush] You like that. Okay.)


Alright.


A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life -- in countless ways, big and small. I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I - I'd be saying, "Look, I've got a new song...Would you look out [for it]. I have a family; I'm going away on tour -- please look after them. I have this crazy idea. Could I have a blessing on it."


And this wise man asked me to stop. He said, "Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing -- because it’s already blessed. Well, let's get involved in what God is doing. God, as I say, is always with the poor. That's what God is doing. That's what He’s calling us to do.


I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe: up to ten percent of the family budget. I mean -- I -- I -- How does that compare with the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Well, it's less than one percent of the federal budget.
Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America: I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing; which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor. And what is that one percent that we're asking for in the ONE campaign? It's not merely a number on a balance reader pulled out of the air. One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business, thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces. One percent must not be -- or don't give it -- money down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water...like I saw with Bill Frist, there, in -- Where was it? -- Uganda.


Okay, that's what we're after, folks.


One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa; a new partnership with Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from the boondoggles and white elephants that we've seen before.


America gives less than one percent now. We're asking for an extra one percent to change the world, to transform millions of lives, but not just that -- and I say this to the military men now -- not just transform hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of communities, but transform the way they see us, which might be smart in these dangerous times.


One percent is national security. One percent is enlightened economic self-interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.


Thank you very much.






(Delivered 2 February 2006 at The Hilton Washington Hotel by..... Bono)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oh HELP!


Southlake company 1in3trinity announced that it will soon make available what it claims to be the first faith-inspired energy drink. No SERIOUSLY! That's a shaky claim, of course, because every other energy drink depends on the faith of consumers that a few milligrams of vitamins and less caffeine than a couple cups of coffee will actually have a discernible effect on the body.
Nutritional information and ordering information are available at the company's Web site .

The Apostle Paul was not available for comment, but we can't help but wonder if he'd have approved using the slogan "fruit of the spirit."
Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Interesting Thought


Sometimes we don't need another chance to express how we feel or to ask someone to understand our situation. Sometimes we just need a firm kick in the pants. An unsmiling expectation that if we mean all these wonderful things we talk about and sing about, then lets see something to prove it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Thoughts?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Mind Dump That Leaves One Empty?


So, this week we looked at the song 'I still haven't found what I'm looking for' by U2, as we are walking toward Easter. Needless to say, it has been an interesting journey, even a tough one for me, in attempting to bridge culture and faith. The amount of emails and texts following the life lesson also, has been overwhelming...so, that got me thinking...here is a quote....

"I have never found anyone, however religious and devout, who did not sometimes experience withdrawal of grace, or feel a lessening of devotion. And no Saint has ever lived, however lightly rapt and enlightened, who did not suffer temptation sooner or later. For he is not worthy of high contemplation who has not suffered some trials for God’s sake. Indeed, the temptation that precedes is often a sign of comfort to follow. For heavenly comfort is promised to those who have been tried and tempted. ‘To him who overcomes,’ says God, ‘I will give to eat of the Tree of Life.’"

— Thomas A Kempis

Thoughts?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Cards People Play


I believe that there are a number of absolutely meaningless conversations that we should noty be involved in because…you can never win! What I have learned is that one cannot waste time arguing or even attempting to try to defend yourself (especially as a pastor) when it comes to certain accusations or claims. These topics will always exist in the church community but again, we should not waste our time with them. So allow me to introduce some conversations that I simply just avoid!
The Pride Card!
This is when people accuse you (me) of being full of pride or of just being arrogant….Now, I am all for people speaking into my life and give a few people permission to do so to rebuke and confront me when necessary, HOWEVER, when I hear this accusation it is usually in a time of vision casting especially to the direction of our community and some people just aren’t able to deal with it. I am convinced that a confident leader (and there are many in our city) will always be perceived by those who do not like the direction set or are not personally catered too in the decision making process, will make the accusation that the leader is full of pride. When someone tells you that you are full of pride, you simply cannot refute them–you just can’t, so don’t even try! Just walk away.
For me, what really adds to the fire is when people who are not even a part of our community begin to shoot down GOD’s direction for our community and when you refuse to give them an ear…you are considered arrogant! Whatever….walk way.
The Depth Card!
This card used to really bother me whenever it was played. I am a passionate person (contrary to popular misbelief) and my responsibility is to be faithful to my GOD and to be consumed with what he has place inside my heart. I have always attempted to show people just how real and even practical the scriptures are and when someone would tell me “you are not deep enough” it used to crush me, and get me into a Lou Ferrigno fit! I actually began looking at the type of people who play this card and realized that they were usually someone who was more obsessed with information but really cared little about transformation. Although I highly discourage engaging any conversation with people who play this card, there is one question you can ask before the conversation is over and it is… “Can you define ‘DEEP’ for me?” The response that you will get is usually a blank stare and a lot of “ummmmmms.” If I can make a judgment call here (oh, that word just sent a few of you off!): Many people who play the “deep card” are (READ CAREFULLY) actively doing nothing for Christ. They think that the more they know, the more like Christ they are becoming. If you think about it, Satan knows more about Christ…but he doesn’t follow through on what he knows.
So, the person who knows what they should be doing, but suppresses that by saying they want to go “deeper” and know more; aren’t they actually becoming more like Satan! (It is just a joke…relax). I have to realize that if people are not satisfied with the “depth” of my preaching or teaching, then I just have to be OK with that and also realize that most of us are educated way beyond our level of obedience! We can spend our entire life trying to impress those already in the Kingdom with our knowledge…what’s the point with that? Walk away.
The Discipleship Card!
Ask someone to define what making a disciple is and they will usually respond with a blank stare. Should we want to grow in our faith? Without question. Should the church provide an atmosphere for this to take place? Without question, however it is not the church's job to MAKE people grow, but rather to provide the environment for it. What I find bothersome are the accusations that the church doesn’t disciple. This is usually an accusation from someone who isn’t discipling anyone themselves and simply loves to sit around and complain about what they perceive to be the problem. Finally this person usually throws the argument out there like, “I’m not being fed!” Which actually is a reflection of their pitiful spiritual condition! I can understand if you are a baby...but even my preteens know enough to go to the fridge on thier own to get some food. Enough said….walk away.
The God Card!
This is when people say that God “told” them to do something, or said something to them and many times…you just happen to be involved in this conversation without your knowledge. Really?! How can anyone move beyond that card? So, if God is speaking to you, should He not also be speaking to me or the others that are involved in this conversation? I am of the mind that when GOD speaks to an individual it is purely subjective. It is a personal conversation between you and Him. However, if you are going to bring that conversation up to other people (publically) then at that point it is open to questioning; after all 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” So in the process of testing, we should have the ability to question what you believe God told you? If it concerns me or someone else, should we not also be hearing the same thing from God? If we are not, maybe it was the pizza and cucumbers from the night before 'speaking' to you? Unfortunately, many people use the God Card like a trump card…and you just cannot argue or win or even have an intelligent conversation with someone who plays it. So, when someone tells me “God told” them…I usually stand there and smile and realize that chances are, the conversation is over and I walk away.
Those are my thoughts! Do I really want to hear yours?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Random Thought


When God wants to bless you, how does He do it? He sends people into your life.

When the devil wants to destroy you, how does He do it? He sends people!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Looking in, Looking out, a different perspective

I am having problems embedding videos into this blog. Sorry about that. Click on this link and tell me what you think?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdrCalO5BDs

Thoughts?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Looking In, Looking Out, Looking back....

I had the opportunity to see how another part of the world operates and just how blessed we in North America really are. As we went down to Ecuador as sponsors of Compassion International, I have come back with many mixed feelings and many opinions. Sharon and I had the opportunity to share our experience this last Sunday and now, I am reflecting not just the trip but our stories.

I can honestly say how grateful I am for going on this trip and seeing how things are done and how the children are cared for, but again, I am startled by the fact that we can still do more. This is not a ‘guilt trip post,’ but one to get people thinking beyond themselves, especially in our culture.

I am still choked up by a text I received on Sunday that said “People say we can’t afford to do this (Sponsor Children), but how can we afford not too?”

Having compassion on people should be something that believers must be doing all the time. Having compassion on someone can be time consuming, expensive, and just plain hard—on everyone involved. Compassion just does not mean people in a third world country, but also those in our inner city and province who have found themselves in a bad position.

I am interested to know your thoughts when it comes to showing compassion to our society around us.

My prayer has been “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

Thoughts?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ecuador


Off to Ecuador for a little bit!
Big THANK YOU for Compassion International for making this trip possible.
If we have any internet access where we are at, I will add to the comments!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Commitment

Last week I said…
“Yet, a lot of people say they attend “church,” but few have made the commitment to a faith community. “So Gerry, what you are saying it is not enough to say they attend?” YES. I am, it’s a commitment to the community! And when you do that you are also committing yourself to be on a path to spiritual growth and accountability.”

There are many people who are just “dating” a church. It’s an interesting deal. We have a lot of first time people. It’s like the first date. People go and check other churches out then each side spends time trying to figure each other out. It’s even legitimate to go on a second, third, fourth, fifth, maybe even a sixth date! But there comes a point in dating a church, like there is a point in a dating relationship with another person, where you need to have to have the conversation. You know, where you have to Define The Relationship. It’s like—“are we just going to continue to date or is there more here than just us hanging out together?” I think it was a question Sharon asked me… Are we going to commit? I mean, there has to be some kind of give and take. So it is with the church. It’s okay to date the church for a while. But after a reasonable period, shouldn’t you just have this defining conversation? You see, a lot of people like to date the church because it keeps them positioned as “outsiders.” They are up there in the stands, they aren’t down in the game. They are just consumers. They’re not really contributors. They are observers. They aren’t participants. So, a lot of people like to stay in the dating area. News flash: The church is not better off because you come and occupy a seat.

I would like to know your thoughts…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy New Year


So, as you look ahead...what are your prayer requests?