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Yes… In our backyard

April 30, 2009 1 comment

I think that we forget sometimes that missions is an every moment, every where, every person kind of thing.  Its easy to forget it especially when we are overwhelmed by conditions that we see our foreign workers facing that seem so alien to our comfortable existence.

Nearly a year ago, my family got involved with an inner city children’s ministry that involved helping them conduct worship for the children and feeding them a warm, nutritious meal.

Last fall a group of our teens were working with one of our church families to start a similar ministry on the other side of the inner city.  I taped our prayer walk around the new neighborhood and spliced in some footage at the end of  us working with the kids at the existing ministry.  You will also meet Bill who lives among the homeless helping them get some much needed supplies.

Please forgive the graininess of the video – I had technical difficulties with YouTube.

As you can see, missions for the impoverished can happen in our own back yards.  My family goes down every month and we have invited members of our adult Bible Fellowship class to join us.  We have been blown away by the response that we have received from our church family to this need.

Where are you doing church?

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What not to call the hoo-ha

April 29, 2009 10 comments

I am unequivocally convinced that we do parenting backwards.  By the time we have learned from all of our mistakes, our children are grown and on their own.  So I am creating a new category for Parenting Lessons that I will write about from time-to-time.  This is my first installment.

When our daughters were young and being potty trained, my wife and I decided that a code word should be used to refer to their girl parts.  We had so many to choose from that have been around for awhile but for some unknown reason we chose to go out on our own and used the term ‘monkey’.

This worked well until one fateful day that my wife had to take both girls to a school function by herself.  Lauren was 7 and Brianna was around 2 or 3 and still needed some assistance when going to the bathroom.

While my wife was busy with our older daughter doing some type of craft in the classroom, our youngest needed to go potty.  Lauren had a classroom aide because of her physical limitations and this lovely lady offered to take Brianna to the bathroom which was connected to the classroom.  The bathroom was a single unit just like you would have in your home so the aide let Brianna in and closed the door behind her so that she could have some privacy.

I wish I could have been there to see my wife’s face when our darling daughter exited the bathroom with her pants around her ankles and loudly demanded, “Wipe my Monkey!!”

I am not sure what name would have been better in that circumstance but monkey should go to the top of the list of names not to use.

Tenth Avenue North

April 28, 2009 7 comments

I heard this band recently and was really impressed with their message and maturity.

Take a listen to the words.

Do you ever find yourself trying to earn grace?

I go out walking…

April 28, 2009 4 comments

Our church got involved with the Rescue Event this past weekend in order to raise awareness about the Invisible Children (Joseph Kony’s child soldiers).   The event started at 3pm at the Ohio State campus and included a march of about 2 to 3 miles to an open field where those involved would spend the night under the stars.  This was a symbolic act that represented the forced march that the children abducted by Joseph Kony would have to endure.

When I say our church, I mean our youth in the 7-12 grades and some adults that were necessary to chaperon them.  The leadership decided that a more representative march could be realized if we all started from the church and walked to the event.  That is an 18 mile walk that had to be completed by 3pm.

We started at about 8:40am which means we had to average close to 3 mph if we were to reach the event in time.  That is a tough pace to keep up for 6 hours.

I was very proud of all those involved because they DID it!  At a cost.  I don’t know if anyone escaped blisters, sun burns(87 degree sunny day), and aching muscles.  And that was just in the first 18 miles.  We had an hour break to rest up once we got to the actual event before making the last 2-3 mile trek around the campus of Ohio State.  That has got to be one of the longest 2-3 miles any of those involved ever walked.

Our ending point was a soccer field where we would all sleep beneath the open sky.  I can’t speak for everyone, but that was a rough night of trying to sleep.  Imagine waking up lying on wet grass and its cold enough to see your breath.  That happened around 1am – after finally falling asleep around midnight.  That was kind of depressing because at that point sleep seemed impossible and morning was an eternity away.

This thought kept going through my mind during the walk and during the long sleepless night…

I can check out anytime.

I had access to water and food anytime I needed it.  I had adequate clothing and bedding for my 24 hour inconvenience.  But the biggest difference between myself and those children in Uganda was that I had the ability to get on my phone and call my wife to come and get me anytime I was fed up with the experience.

I cannot imagine the hopelessness that those abducted children experience or the terror.  I kept praying throughout the experience that God would comfort those children and bring hope to their lives that no matter what they had been forced to do that they could always return home.

One last thought before signing off.  Here are 6 P’s that I compiled while walking.  These P’s can be applied to our Christian walks.

  • Purpose: 70 people didn’t show up at 8am on a Saturday morning just out of the blue.  They came together for a purpose that provided focus for the hours ahead.
  • Preparation: Its great to have purpose but without some preparation it would have been impossible to realize the goal we had set.  Imagine trying to make that walk in 87 degree weather without water or a good pair of tennis shoes.
  • Participation: I know that there were some people who had good intentions about being part of the event.  They were in agreement about the goal and they may have even made some preparations for the walk. But, they never showed up.  They checked out before they ever began.
  • Partnership: Imagine with me if only one person had showed up that Saturday morning for the long walk expecting that others would be there to share the journey.  They may have been so disillusioned that they would have just turned around and gone home.  Paul had Barnabas or Luke on his many rough travels.  I wonder how he would have fared if he had tried to go it alone.
  • Perseverance: I got to admit that there were times I wanted to check out during that long walk.  The sun had burned every inch of my exposed skin, each step felt like it was being made barefooted in broken glass, and my muscles were aching from being pushed harder than they had in a long time.  Here is the funny thing… it wasn’t the last few miles that were the hardest, it was the middle miles.  I kept thinking about how much I hurt and how far I still had to go.  It was very disheartening.  I could hear Paul exhorting Timothy to continue in the walk, to strive for the prize.  There were two miles that were pure torture for me but I wanted to keep going, to keep striving, to keep pushing toward the prize. One. Step. At. A. Time.
  • Prayer: This last P was done in conjunction with all the others but it was especially important in persevering.  AND… it was done on the behalf of other people.

Have you applied any of these to your life?  I would love to hear about it.

Paul, for example.

April 26, 2009 1 comment

3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. — Acts 28:3-5 (NIV)

Some time back, I was reading through Rick Warren’s book on building community. In one particular chapter he instructs the small groups that are reading the book to seek godly examples as a source of encouragement.

Now, I realize that Rick’s meaning was to look for these examples in the people that live their lives around us. Some of these people may be co-workers, some may be fellow Christians in our church or they may just be the little old lady that lives across the street. It didn’t matter where we found these examples as long as they were strong followers who could be a source of instruction and encouragement to us as we continue to walk our daily paths. Isn’t it easier to make a long journey when you have someone to share it with?

I am blessed to have several such people in my life who I can go to and confide my frustrations and my celebrations. These are people who will not whitewash the truth to make it easier for me to swallow, but they are also people who will not beat me up trying to prove a point. They understand God’s grace.

At the same time, I can’t ignore the examples that have been given to us in God’s word. There have been many times that I have found hidden manna in the lives of the Bible. My two favorite men to read about are David and Paul.

The little David that watched his father’s sheep and became the king of Israel. David who wrote the Psalms and went out to war for the Lord. David who tried to cover over his sins with Bathsheba by having her husband killed. The same David who went to war against Israel while he fled from Saul. David who slew Goliath because he had unfathomable faith but this same David wasn’t allowed to build God’s tabernacle because of the blood that he had shed in battle.

His whole life is put on display before us – the good and the bad. We see him when he is strong in the Lord and we see him when he is trying to escape from Him. Nothing is hidden and nothing is excused. Yet this David was a man after God’s own heart.

Now I don’t want to overlook Paul because what I have to say today concerns him. Was there ever a man that had such a drastic turn around in their lives? This Paul who was called Saul persecuted the early church, he was at the stoning of Stephen holding the coats of those that cast the stones. The man who was fervent in his desire to destroy the church became one of the greatest missionaries for Christ that the world has ever known.

The verses listed at the beginning of this essay depict a moment in time toward the end of Paul’s trips. He is on his way to Rome because God has directed that he should go there. Even though those that are in charge have made bad decisions about when to sail at the cost of losing their ship and everything on it, God has promised Paul that He would keep everyone safe and that Paul would make it to Rome. Take some time to read Chapter 27 of Acts – it is a riveting story.

So here we have Paul, in total obedience to God, trying to get to Rome. He has just survived a ship wreck and is trying to build a fire to stay warm when a nasty snake jumps out and bites his hand. Not only does it bite him, it hangs on for good measure. This wasn’t your friendly backyard garter snake – this was a poisonous viper. A one-way ticket to the dirt bed express. And what do the people have to say about this whole matter?

They jump to the conclusion that Paul is getting what is coming to him and he is going to die for it.

Ever been there? Trying your best to live in obedience to God and everything around you seems to be falling apart. Your ship tossing from wave to wave comes crashing against the rocks of life. You drag yourself out of the water to dry ground thinking things can’t get worse, but Satan has one more insult to go with the injury. And of course, those around you are saying its all your fault. If you’ve been there, then you know where Paul was on that day.

Now here comes the important part of this whole thing: What did Paul do in the middle of all this? What does the verse say? – But Paul shook the snake off in to the fire…

Did you READ that?

Paul shook the snake off. He didn’t stop to complain or question the Lord. He had been given his marching orders and God had made him a promise that he would make it to Rome. It didn’t matter that the snake was poisonous any more than it mattered that the ship had broken apart. It didn’t matter what the people around him believed. God had made a promise and Paul trusted Him to keep it.

Therein lies the faith to shake off a snake.

What snakes have latched onto you?

Its time to:

  • Shake off the worries
  • Shake off the addictions
  • Shake off the excuses
  • Shake off the hurts
  • Shake off the lies
  • Shake off the pretenses
  • Shake off the masks

God has made you promises and He is faithful to keep them.

Take Paul, for example.

Victory out of Defeat

April 25, 2009 2 comments

I suppose that it is the human condition that causes us to stumble and then to wallow around in self pity or despair. We look at moments in the past or sometimes we get stuck on something in the present.
— Something that we feel is too terrible or ugly for God to ignore
— Something that surely will cause us to be separated from His work forever

We quickly forget what He has already done for us and what He has promised to do. I know I fall into that category from time to time. Its so easy to listen to Satan’s whispers when we are already full of guilt or shame.

“Give it up, you are not worthy.”
“Its easier to live life for yourself. No one else cares anyway.”
“If God loves you so much, why does He let you continue to struggle?”

The questions or feelings continue to pour into our minds and hearts like stones thrown at a wall. Some of them will bounce off and some will cause a chip or scratch. If enough of them are thrown and hit directly, a crack can form that jeopardizes the integrity of the wall.

When that happens, it is not long before we live a life feeling incomplete. We desire to please the Father but fear to do anything because we feel unworthy and unfit. The truth is – we are unworthy and unfit – except for the fact that Jesus has justified us to His father. We are co-heirs because of the work He did on the cross.

I was reading the first part of Matthew on Sunday and was stuck in the part that I usually skip. I am sure you are aware of it. Its the part that goes on about who begat who. Its funny how sometimes the most mundane thing can have such a spark of encouragement. Hopefully I have your attention now, because I want to show you how those begats became a message of victory out of defeat for me.

I want to take you back to a scene from the Old Testament first.

The Israelite army had just destroyed the Ammonites and were setting a siege around Rabbah. King David had sent Joab out in his place to take care of the army while he stayed home in Jerusalem. We know that David was supposed to be with the army because 2 Samuel 11:1 states – In the spring, when kings go off to war.

So here we have David, someplace he is not supposed to be – even if it is home. And of course Satan starts his work. Across from the palace a certain Bathsheba decides its time to take a bath. I don’t know if is customary to do so, but she does her washing on the roof of her house. Maybe she thought no one was home in the palace because the war was on and everyone was supposed to be off to battle. We can only speculate at the reasons why she was where she was.

What we do know is that David is where he isn’t supposed to be. As Bathsheba bathes, David becomes restless in bed and decides to go for a walk around the roof of his palace. Is it me, or does it seem some plan is motion here? Anyway, as he walks around the roof, he sees Bathsheba taking her bath.

The bible says that she was very beautiful and David must have agreed because he sends someone to find out who she is. If you are keeping score, that is strike three. One for staying home when he should have been at war, one for staying and taking a look-see at naked Bathsheba, and one for acting on the desire to know who she was. Three strikes and you’re out.

So it was with David. You can read for yourself in the 11th chapter of 2 Samuel how David proceeded to have an adulterous affair with Bathsheba. An affair that caused a pregnancy while her husband was away at war. David conspires to hide the affair by having her husband, Uriah, brought back from the war to sleep with his wife.

Unfortunately, for David, Uriah is a man of honor and will not sleep comfortably with his wife while his comrades are still at war. David makes the ultimate bad decision to have Uriah killed to cover up the affair. He does so by having Uriah carry his own death sentence back to the war. The message is for Joab and instructs him to put Uriah in the middle of fiercest battle and then to withdrawal from him so that he will die. After Uriah was dead, David brought Bathsheba to his palace to be his wife.

Chapter 11 of 2 Samuel ends with these words: But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

Imagine how Satan must have been dancing around with glee. Here is God’s annointed, hand-picked king brought to this lowly state by design of his own lust. He must have been celebrating the victory over one of God’s chosen like there was no tomorrow.

How many times had Satan been there whispering in David’s ear? “You’re the king, you make the rules”. “David, if you take this step nobody will know what you did”.

How many times had David second guessed himself? Had he ever given up on his relationship with God? How many times did he feel that he was unworthy to ever sing another psalm?

David was a defeated man more than you or I have probably ever known. Let me show you now what caught my eye in Matthew chapter 1.

1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
4Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,
6and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
8Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah,
11and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[a] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
14Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud,
15Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

You caught that didn’t you? This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ and right there in the middle of the whole thing is Solomon. And who were Solomon’s parents? None other than David and Bathsheba. The adulterous couple from the old testament.

I thought that Satan had the victory in that relationship. How could God use this situation to ultimately bring His son to this earth? When I read this part of the genealogy, I had to stop and go back to see what had happened. I knew God had held David accountable for the sin that he had committed by taking that first child that Bathsheba had been carrying within a week of its birth.

But why would God use David and Bathsheba instead of David and one of his other wives to fulfill His son’s coming to earth?

2 Samuel chapter 12 verse 24 says this: Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him;

I believe that while Satan celebrated David’s defeat, God planned a victory. …and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him. God specializes in using the things that confound the human mind. He held David accountable for his actions but His grace was so great that He used David’s mistakes to His glory.

Those four words tug at my heart – The Lord loved him. Just as He loves you and me. We are going to mess up every day. That is the curse of Adam that is on all of us. Sometimes we are going to mess up big and Satan is going to tell us that he has the victory. Fortunately, we have a Father whose grace shines on us.

God has used drunks, murderers, liers, cheaters, prostitutes, convicts, and many others to accomplish His plans. You probably know someone who used to be an alcoholic or drug addict that is now a minister. He can use you too, you just have to turn to Him and in the turning God will make a victory out of defeat.

My Children Sing

April 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Maybe you are like me and you find yourself flipping through the channels with no thought to what you really want to watch. Its just another mindless night in front of the television. But there is that moment when you hit a station that shows the bloated bellies of what appears to be African children. You have an instant to decide whether or not to change the channel or stay and watch for a few minutes.

The problem is, even if you decide to fly on by, you have already been impacted by that singular image and it haunts your thoughts.  I wrote the following poem over a year ago but was reminded of it as I thought about the children that I will be walking for tomorrow.

My Children Sing

Forgive me.
I ponder why
my children sing
and your children lie…

They lie among the midden heaps,
cast offs of humanity.
A matter of fate’s consequence
is all the difference that exists.
My wealth is not deserved,
no more than their suffering.
I question why.

Forgive me
while I lie.
My children sing
and your children cry…

They cry full tears into empty hands.
Wellsprings of pain are born
from bodies too empty to hope.
I lie on my couch and try to empathize
but how can I understand a life
that is more alien to me than it is to death.
Comfortably, I lie.

Forgive me
while I cry.
My children sing
but your children die.

They die.
Thin-armed with bloated bellies
they watch the inevitable approach
of the final horseman through crusted eyes.
No one gives to them
but they give to the flies.
I attend their despair and simply cry.

Forgive me.
I watch them die
while my children sing
and yours question why.

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