Saturday, June 03, 2006

Spiritual Heritage

I recently (beginning of May) had the opportunity to take a week's vacation and hang out with my family in Simi Valley California. My grandpa and grandma Clark live there - as well as my Aunt Becky and cousins Matt, Alicia, and Emily. The trip was very refreshing for me, and I came back feeling very thankful for my grandparents. They are amazing people. Over the course of my week there we ate breakfasts, lunches, and dinners together, and had plenty of time to talk. My grandpa is now 89 and my grandma is 81, however, their faith and dedication to the Lord is as strong as it ever was. Spending time with them made me reflect on how I want to spend my life, what really matters, and what it takes to remain faithful to the Lord (perseverance). I don't ever want to retire in the typical American dream sort of way with golf, fishing, seniors resorts, etc. Lord willing, I want to serve the Lord in some capacity well into my retirement years. Seeing my grandparents lives reminded me of Paul's words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What Are We Gonna Do About It?

All of the recent violence in the community has made me think a lot and has challenged me. Part of me gets angry with the system, the police, the mayor, the media, the politicians, etc. Part of me gets angry about the one’s that pulled the trigger. I think mostly I’m upset with the church, and I’m challenged personally as a part of the body.
I read Ambassador’s article this morning entitled “From the Concert, To The Classroom, To the Corner.” I think for us (meaning us and the body of Christ) we could change the title slightly to “From the Program, To the Classroom, To The Corner.” Ambassador talks about how he feels they have unhealthily focused so much on the concert/stage that they have become unbalanced and have at times neglected personal spiritual disciplines and time on the corner (serving, evangelizing, and just having a presence). I think we fall into the same thing. We spend the majority of our time doing stuff (programs) or preparing/planning stuff. Now I don’t think we need to cut programs I know they are important, and I am not saying that we don’t need to plan and prepare well, because we need to be doing that with excellence. The problem comes in when we go weeks without sharing our faith with a non-believer who we often times walk by or drive by on the way to our “programs.” The problem comes in when we don’t have time to get to know the people in our building, let alone the people on our block. We have neglected the “ministry of presence.” We should know the police officer’s by name who patrol our block. We should be attending the local CAPs meetings faithfully, and we should be taking the youth with us to these meetings. We should be involved in our local block clubs, and if our block doesn’t have one, we should work to start one. We should be involved in the local schools. The principals and teachers should know our name. The local alderman should know us, or at least the people in his/her office should if he/she is not accessible. We should be shopping in our neighborhood, and getting to know the business owners. We should be eating at the local restaurants regularly. We should get to know the guys standing on the corner. We have got to be salt and light – we have got to have a presence.

All of this is going to take a lot of “knee work” (prayer) and disciplined and fervent study of the Word of God. And it is going to take a lot of discipline and accountability to maintain balance in our lives. Finally, it is going to take a lot of hard work (1 Cor. 15:18) in His strength (John 15). Why shouldn’t we be exhausted when we go to bed at night? Why shouldn’t we be working long hours 6 days a week? If we are serious about doing Kingdom work, I think this is what it takes.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Africa Revolution

It has been too long since I have posted a little somethin, so I thought I would make a comeback by givin a shout out to my guy Allan. He just started a new ministry venture called Africa Revolution. You can check it out by clicking on the link in the right margin.

Its purpose is to connect churches in southern African with churches in the States in authentic relationships in order to learn from one another, serve one another, and to work together in the fight against the AIDs epedemic, and to care for orphans. The method used to see this happen is year long internships for students from the states in which they live incarnationally in African communities/cities and work alongside churches there who are engaged in holistic expressions of the gospel in their communities. Another huge piece of this internship is to gain a deeper understanding of God's heart for the poor, the oppressed, widows, orphans, justice, and racial & cultural diversity.

Allan recently left a very secure position at another ministry in order to launch this ministry he feels God has called him to. He is in the process of raising funds, and is praying and working through the details of what God intends for this ministry to be. As I think about what Allan is doing I am reminded of something that I read this morning in "Spiritual Leadership" by Oswald Sanders. He states, "The greates achievements in the history of missions have come from leaders close to God who took courageous, calculated risks (p 127)." The wife of Archbishop Mowll said, "The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution."

I pray that I won't succumb to "comfortable American Christianity." I pray that God will give me the boldness to be a risk taker as I follow Him.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Amazing Grace

The following story was in a devotional book called Seeking Him that our staff is going through right now. It really made me think about the amazing grace of God...

If a young man is killed through some random act of violence, and his father tracks down the guilty person and kills him, we would call that vengeance. If, however, the father calls the police and the murderer is arrested, tried, convicted, and executed, we'd call that justice. If, at the trial, the father pleads for the guilty man's life to be spared and the judge and jury consent, we'd call that mercy.

Now imagine this: in addition to pleading for the guilty one to be spared, the father actually appeals to the judge to release the offender into his custody and care. Miraculously gaining approval, the father takes the young man into his heart and home, adopts him, and raises him and loves him as his own son...that would be GRACE!

Ephesians 2:1-9
And you were dead in the tresspasses and sins in which you once walked... and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Big Willie Style

No this is not "my lovechild from my former marriage" - this is my nephew Wilson. He will be 3 on April 2. He is a future football and basketball star. You can just sense it at a young age. He is also a future missionary of the gospel. I am not sure if he will end up in urban America like his uncle, but I am praying that he will one day come to know and love the Lord.

The Basics

At a recent Phat Friday service I was challenged by a Christian hip hop artist by the name of Tedashi on "the basics." He started with a sports illustration...Every great team does the basics well. For example a good football team blocks, tackles, and runs the ball well. He then flipped it to the spiritual side and challenged us with the reminder that in order to live victoriously as Christians, and to make an impact for Him we need to focus on the basics. The basics are...
(1) Prayer - talking to God
(2) Reading the Word
(3) Sharing our Faith
(4) Fellowship
He reminded us that God has not made it hard or complex, he just asks that we focus on the basics.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Beautiful Thing

During the month of December some things happened in my life and in my parent's life that reminded me of the beauty and the blessing of the body of Christ when we work together and care for one another. First of all, my dad was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer in November. As soon as we got the news, brothers and sisters in Christ both in Michigan, Illinois and all over the place began praying for my dad. Not only that but several couples from my parent's church who had gone through the same thing in their lives (meaning prostate cancer) either called my parents or went and met with my parents to encourage them and to give them wise council when considering the treatment options. Throughout this time my church here in Chicago has prayed for my dad and mom. Then, the night before my dad was to leave for Detroit for his surgery some close family friends from my parent's church came over and prayed with me and my parents. Someone else made us a food basket to take to the hospital. Several people called my dad as he was driving to Detroit to tell him they were praying for him. Two of my uncles and one of my aunts came to Detroit and stayed in the hotel and were there for the surgery. My parents have felt the love and support of the body and it has been a beautiful thing to watch.
Then during the month of December I got support gifts from several different people unexpectedly. God's timing always amazes me with these gifts, and people's generosity always amaze me with these gifts. Living on missionary support has definitely been a growing experience for me. It has been amazing to see God time and time again provide just what I need, at just the right time, and often times using His people, the body of Christ, to do it.
I have been reminded of 1 Corinthians 12, and I have been thankful for the body of Christ. Though as members we all have our issues, when we work together and encourage one another, it is a beautiful thing.