Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Fun Pass

This is a phone prank done on the Steve Harvey Morning Show. It too is a "fun pass." Try listening to this mean usher without smiling.

Fun Pass

Try watching these clips and not smiling at some point. You can't do it!

12 Days of Christmas Remix

This Is How We Do It (inspired by Montel Jordan)

Stand By Me (live at Burger King)

The groups is called Straight No Chaser. Does anyone know where I can find a cd?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Keeping CHRIST At The Center Of Christmas - Part 5

5 more reasons to celebrate Christmas for WHO Christ is...

21. Christ is our security.
John 10:11 = I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

22. Christ is our access to God.
1 Peter 3:18 = For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

23. Christ is at the place of highest honor.
Philippians 2:9-11 = Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

24. Christ is the center of heavenly worship.
Revelation 5:12 = ...saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

25. Christ is our soon returning King!
John 14:3 = And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How do you celebrate Christmas?

More than any other Christmas (or Christmas season) that I can remember, I have thought much this year about how I (and my family celebrate Christmas). I was challenged at the beginning of the month to have an exalted view of Christ, especially at Christmas time. As I reflect back on previous Christmases and on what my focus has been, I'm not sure that Christ has been at the forefront of my mind during the Christmas season. My parents raised me in the church - First Baptist Church of Paw Paw to be exact, so I have known from a young age that Jesus is the reason for the season. I could still sing you a children's song or two that proclaims this. However, even though I have always known the "real Christmas story," I can't say that my thoughts, conversations, affections, and activities have celebrated Christ. I don't say this to discount all of the wonderful Christmas times that I have spent with my family. I treasure these times, and I have greatly enjoyed my time with my family this year. I also enjoy many of the traditions that we have. Every Christmas Eve we eat hodge podge soup at Grandma Wilson's house. We usually watch a few Christmas movies - Elf, Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, etc. On Christmas day we usually go to the movies together. We exchange gifts amongst one another. I am not "anti" any of these things. I am not anti-Santa Claus. I am just really thinking about how I (and my family) can inject more of Christ into all of these activities of the season.

This year, for the first time that I can remember, we went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. I think that this must become a regular thing in our family.

I spent time throughout this month reading the Scriptures that focus upon who Christ is as well as the passages that describe his birth and the events leading up to it.

At our tutoring program's final night (before Christmas break), we watched the "Nativity Story" with the kids. It is a powerful movie. It does a great job in creating a sense of anticipation for the birth of our Messiah.

As a ministry staff this past month we have read about the historical and theological significance of the various symbols of advent. This was very new to me, and is definitely something I want to further research and celebrate in future years.

One thing that I have thought about this Christmas season is how the life of Christ was such a life of sacrifice. Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial gift - He gave His life. I think this is where we got the tradition of giving gifts on Christmas. But I wonder how much sacrifice is involved in the gifts that we give (and credit card debt is not considered sacrificial giving). Is giving gifts to only those that we are related to or have a relationship with what it is all about? Should we instead focus on sacrificial gifts (could be of love and service) to those whom we expect nothing in return from? Isn't that what Jesus encouraged/exhorted us to do when we host a "dinner party?" Maybe our Christmas parties should look more like this? Maybe we should invite those who don't have a family to celebrate with, maybe those who can't afford to buy gifts, maybe those who are going through a tough time? Wouldn't Christ be more exalted if this was how we celebrated Christmas?

Does anyone else have an idea (or ideas) of how we can better exalt and exemplify Christ during the Christmas season? Please share them if you have them. I am definitely learning and looking for ideas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's Not About Stuff

This is a very timely message by John Piper that someone forwarded to me. As we all feel the commercialization of Christmas, this video really resonates.

Keeping CHRIST At The Center Of Christmas - Part 4

5 More Reasons to Celebrate Christmas for WHO Christ is...

(16) Christ is the SOURCE of eternal salvation
Hebrews 5:9 = And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation.

(17) Christ is the mediator of a new covenant
Hebrews 9:15 = Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

(18) Christ is the founder and perfecter of our faith
Hebrews 12:2 = looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(19) Christ is our advocate.
1 John 2:1 = ...But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

(20) Christ is our sanctification.
Hebrews 10:10 = And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Keeping CHRIST at the Center of Christmas - Part 3

5 More Reasons to Celebrate Christmas for WHO Christ is...

11) Christ is the light of the world.
John 8:12 = ...I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

12) Christ has all authority.
Matthew 28:18 = ...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

13) Christ is full of grace & truth.
John 1:14 = And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

14) Christ is the Lamb of God.
John 1:29 = The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

15) Christ is our sufficiency.
John 4:14 = But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Every Life Counts...

Earlier this month a University of Chicago graduate school student was robbed and killed just a few blocks east of where I live. He was originally from the Senegal and his plan was to return to his home country once he had earned his PhD. It is a tragic story and a tragic loss.

At the end of last month a young woman's body was found (about 8 blocks west of where I live). She had been raped and killed and her body had been burned. She was also pregnant. Again, it was a crazy story and sad to think of not only her life, but also the child that was in her womb.

Earlier this fall, a 14 year old 8th Grade student was shot and killed across the street from my condo. (I blogged about this a couple of months back). Everyone said he was a young leader, full of potential. I watched as family and friends mourned his loss.

All three of these situations are tragic. My heart goes out to everyone that knew them and that miss them. However, one thing is glaring about these 3 deaths is the media coverage that was given to each of the losses. I think you can probably guess which of the 3 made national news. I am not trying to juxtapose these tragedies against one another. I believe that each life is just as valuable in God's eyes, and that each loss is just as tragic. Therefore, it is interesting why one story is a "metro brief" on page 21 of the paper, and one is a story on CNN.

A reporter for the Tribune recently did an article on the top two events and how the neighborhood is responding given the dynamic between the neighborhood and the University. You can check it out here...,0,6589395.column

Shortly after that, the Executive Director of Sunshine blogged about it. Here is his perspective...

One of our neighbors left me a message last week saying “Hi Joel, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune would like to visit with us at the ministry center about the recent murders in the community and the rift they evidence.” I knew what she was talking about, we had discussed it at a staff meeting the previous day. The whole thing had me thinking about the parable of the good Samaritan and Micah 6:8. Let me first tell you what happened.The most recent murder in the neighborhood was a tragic scene (as they all are) that occurred midway between our ministry center and my home. Amadou Cisse was a young Senegalese student at the University of Chicago. He was killed by a few young men looking for some money. 3 weeks previously he had successfully defended his dissertation for his PhD, but with one gunshot wound to the chest his brilliant life was brought to an end.People of reputation responded. The police, local politicians, and media (local and national) responded strongly. We have a new police station set up with 24 hour monitoring as a result just a few blocks from here. It was covered nationally and locally. Community bulletins were circulated. Money was raised for the family in Senegal. The case was pursued and the culprits were apprehended. A well attended memorial was held and the doctoral degree awarded posthumously. A good overall response to a serious calamity.What stings about the whole thing, however, is that Mr. Cisse’s murder wasn’t the first one this summer. It was just the first one that “counted”. A few weeks ago the body of Theresa Bunn (21 and pregnant) was found burnt and stuffed in a dumpster 4 blocks from here. A few weeks before that 2 people were shot and killed. A month or so before that a 14 year old young man was murdered a block from the home of one of our staff members. But none of these were students at a prestigious university. None of them bore a reputation. Therefore none of them garnered comparable attention or proactive response.In Luke 10 Jesus tells about a man of no reputation, beaten and left for dead. Those who came along had means to respond but didn’t. Then a Samaritan man (a man of ill-repute!) came along and saw the beaten man as a neighbor worthy of response, worthy of love, worthy of attention. The Good Samaritian responded in a personally costly way to someone no one else wanted to help and in a way that was virtually invisible to the outside world.It is interesting to me that in this story Jesus was not primarily asking his disciples to come up with a crime prevention strategy (there is a place for that and people to do it!) but rather to be Micah 6:8 people. To LOVE MERCY and give it in abundance, especially to those of no reputation, those who are outcasts, those who you never hear about or from. Our neighbors.As we pursue our calling to live out the principles of Micah 6:8 and Jeremiah 29:7 here in the city we needn’t become hardened toward those of reputation who respond vigorously to others of reputation in need. Instead we must thrive at responding to those of no-reputation with loving-kindness and even those of ill-repute with great mercy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Words Of A Young World Changer

Right now one of my roles at Sunshine is coordinating our after school program called Club 2-5-2. It is a 3 day a week tutoring program for 2nd through 5th graders. I tell our students all the time that they are world changers and scholars and we talk about what that means. Today one of our 5th grade students brought me a poem that he had written at school. This is the evidence of a young world changer.

“In My World”

In my world, you got to stay strong
In my world, a lot of things are going on
Killing, murdering, I hear it all the time.
People who do it, they get away by lying
Drinking and smoking, some people think its cool.
That stuff is not really good for you.
Don’t take drugs, that will mess up your life.
Being on the streets, you might lose your life.
This is all I’m sayin…
Get an education or you’ll be on your knees prayin’.

Keeping CHRIST at the center of Christmas - Part 2

Here are 5 more reasons to celebrate Christmas because of who Christ is...

(6) Christ is the head of the body of Christ
Colossians 1:18 = And he is the head of the body, the church.

(7) Christ is the hope of Jews & Gentiles
Romans 15:8-13

(8) Christ is our liberator
Romans 6:1-14

(9) Christ is our way to peace
Romans 5:1 = Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(10) Christ is THE WAY
John 14:6 = Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Keeping CHRIST at the center of Christmas - Part I

This past weekend I was at our camp (Sunshine Cove) for a retreat. The speaker for Saturday was by brother, Aaron Roy. He really (especially in the 2nd message) challenged us to have an exalted view of Christ. In other words, we must see Christ as high and lifted up. We must see Christ in His full splendor and might. This is important especially at Christmas as we celebrate His birth. On the Sunday of the retreat, we visited First Baptist Church of Elkhart where my friend Pete's dad is the pastor. He hit on some of the same points, as the title of his message was "Why Do We Celebrate Christmas?" His first main point was that we celebrate Christmas because of WHO CHRIST IS. I want to elaborate on this point with a 5 part blog, as I give 25 reasons to celebrate Christmas because of who Christ is. So here are 5 to kick this off...

1) Christ is God
John 1:1 = In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2) Christ is preeminent.
Colossians 1:18 = He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.

3) Christ created all things.
Colossians 1:16 = For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

4) Christ is the Wonderful Counselor.
Isaiah 9:6 = For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,...

5) Christ is the divine one.
Isaiah 7:14 = Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God with us).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Spiritual Urgency

I have been reading through Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret the last week or so. It is the book of the month for the learning community that I am in. I actually read the book just before I began Moody in the summer of 2001. It is hitting me in some different ways now that I am 6 years into ministry. I just wanted to share a quote from the book that was convicting and challenging to me. Keep in mind that Hudson Taylor lived from 1832 to 1905. He was one of the first missionaries to China. He wrote, "We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those who went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate." That's a "spiritual punch in the chest."

I thought I would share one other quote that might encourage my fellow "support raisers" out there. He wrote, "Let us see that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small. Depend upon it, God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's supplies."

Who's Ministering To Whom?

We recently had a game night at our ministry center. We had about 20-25 kids and 6-8 adults there. We played spades, Taboo, Monopoly, and the Nintendo Wii. We had popcorn and chips and eventually ordered pizza. We concluded the night by watching a video together called “Invisible Children.” It is a documentary film that tells the story of thousands of kids in Uganda who are on the run from rebel soldiers. The rebel soldiers are looking to kidnap kids from various villages in order to violently force and train them to be killers. Every night thousands of kids walk miles to sleep together in large groups in bus garages and hospitals. They do this as a matter of survival, and many of them have seen siblings and friends abducted and/or killed by the rebels. It is the type of movie that really grips your heart and makes you wan to get involved somehow. After the movie had concluded we split the kids up into groups and all of the leaders took a group to discuss the movie and to pray about what they saw. I took 7 guys with me into one of the side rooms to discuss the film. The guys I had ranged in age from 10 to 14. I watched most of the kids as they viewed the film, and I really wasn’t sure if the film had impacted them very much or if some of them had even paid attention. My assumptions were definitely wrong. I began the time by asking them basic questions about the details of the film. They answered every one of my questions with more detail than I had even asked for or expected. I then asked them if we should care about people who live half way around the world from us. They were very adamant that we should care, because we would want people to care about us if we were in that predicament. I think they especially were moved by the fact that most of the kids that were portrayed in the film were the same age(s). I then asked them what we should do about it. One of the first responses was from Rakeem who said that we needed to be praying for them. Daronte added that we should send them some money. Darron spoke up and said that we needed to make sure that whatever we sent them was given to Thomas and Nicolas - 2 of the boys that the video focused on that had lost their parents and had a brother abducted. The fact that someone his(Darron’s) age was without either parent and without a place to stay really struck him. The other guys agreed with him, but pointed out that if we did that it wouldn’t be fair to the thousands of other kids that were in the same predicament. Rakeem then spoke up and said we needed to load some airplanes with some supplies and drop them off in Uganda. I was a bit taken back by the “largeness” of his idea and started to tell him that his idea was a bit too “aggressive.” But then I was convicted. Kids have big ideas because we serve a big God. They have a childlike faith. We need to encourage their big ideas not thwart them no matter how big they are. My conversation that night with those guys really ministered to me. We decided that we need to do 3 things together: (1) continue to spread the word about the invisible children (2) to collect money during the month of December that we will send to them at the end of the month, and (3) pray. These young guys got it. They were more compassionate in their response, and had bigger ideas than I did. Over the years, I continue to be amazed about how much I learn and am encouraged in my faith by the young people. Sometimes it makes me wonder, “Who’s ministering to whom?”

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pushing Through

Right now I am in a weird place somewhat. I just turned 30 years old! A few years ago that seemed "really old" to me, and I wasn't looking forward to reaching that milestone, but now I have embraced it and "I feel great." I am as busy as I have ever been with ministry, and I am loving what I am doing. I love the new tutoring program that I am coordinating, I love the guys that I have the opportunity to disciple right now. I have been living in the Woodlawn neighborhood for just over a year now, and the south side for almost 4 years, and I love where I live. Although I have my moments when I am really frustrated in my singleness, overall I feel pretty content and confident that God's got me, and that marriage and a family will come when it is time. I am surrounded by some great friends and co-workers

However, sometimes in the midst of all of this I feel unsettled. Sometimes I feel anxious. Sometimes I struggle with doubt. Sometimes my faith isn't that strong. Lately, I have been feeling a sense of spiritual weariness. My devotional life lacks a sense of passion. I feel like I am doing it more out of a sense of obligation rather than because I am thirsty for it. I am reminded of a quote that Dr. Fuder used to share. I think Stephen Olford said it. He said, sometimes that you have to "push through until duty becomes delight." Last week I was reading through the Psalms where David repeatedly says that he "delights" in God's laws, or his precepts, or his truth. I was convicted, because as I read it, I knew that I couldn't make those same claims right now.

I think this is what faith is really all about...."pushing through until duty becomes delight."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


This morning I listened to a message by Efrem Smith and Phil Jackson that they preached together at the CCDA conference this past weekend in St. Louis. The theme of the conference was "Show Me Jesus Beyond the Walls." The title of Efrem and Phil's message was "Beyond The Wall of Paternalism." The text they focused on was Acts 15, and they prophetically challenged the church to pass the baton so to speak to the next generation and across racial and cultural lines (which is a power issue at its core). I could write many pages on the message but there was one particular thing that Efrem said that I really heard. He said that we (the church) must not get "stuck in an age based (elder dominated), race based (whites always in leadership, always holding the reins), class based (excluding the poor), suburgan funded systems that will no longer work in an ever-increasing, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural world." He added, "the systems that we uplift to fund and sustain churches and para-churcheswill have no relevance in 2025 (referring to our world radically shifting toward urban and multi-ethnic)."
This isn't necessarily the first time that I have been challenged by a message such as this, but it hit me in the chest so to speak this morning. Let me explain why. I am a white male. I live work, and worship in an African American community. I work for a para-church ministry with a white executive director (who I love and respect) and a predominately white (great people) board. As a part of Sunshine as an organization, I am challenged by a few things: 1) Are we serious about doing all that we can (working with intentionality and fervent prayer) to see our board and staff better reflect the community? 2) Are we burdened that the majority of our donor base is white and suburban? I am not saying that we do away with our current donor base - praie God for our donor base. What I'm asking is are we being intentional about seeking new and addtional donors in minority communities and churches? 3) This one relates closely with number one - Are we serious about indigenous leadership development? Not, do we talk about it...are we doing all we can (again working with focus and fervent prayer) to see God do it?
I am also challenged by this message on a personal level. As a white male who feels called to leadership (I have tried to run away from leadership like Jonah, but God won't let me), what does that mean for me in an increasingly urban and multi-ethnic world. Let me share a few foundational things before I share how I am challenged. 1) God is sovereign. He made me white - fair skinned, blond hair, blue eyes, tall, somewhat burly:), etc. He placed me in Paw Paw for my growing up years, in Albion for college, in Grand Rapids for transition, and now in Chicago. He has a purpose in my "white maleness" in this increasingly multi-ethnic world. 2) I have heard many white brothers and sisters of mine in conversations about race and culture say stuff like this: "oh what do I know I'm just white," or "I'm just a dumb white guy," or "I'm just ignorant and white," etc. I think you get the idea. I reject that. We (white brothers and sisters) need to quit saying stuff like that. Do we really believe that? And if so, how is that helpful. We need to be HUMBLE and we need to be LEARNERS, but we are not dumb, and our perspective and our culture is not irrelevant. 3) I recognize though that because I am white (and especially a white male) that I am a benefit of "white privilege." The systems in this country are set up to benefit me (and people that look like me). I never have to look to hard to see positive images of people that look like me. When someone is referred to as the "all-american boy" they usually look just like me. I am not followed around in stores. I am never asked to speak for my whole race. I have no problem in financial institutions (they rarely ask to see my id). I am treated fairly by the justice system. The student life activities on college campuses are catered to me. I think you get the idea (I could keep going). I think it is important to recognize this and be honest about this.
So here are some things that I am challenged to do individually...
1) I must be intentional about seeking mentors who do not look like me. I have done this, but I have not been consistent enough with this. I need to sit at the feet of minority leaders/mentors and learn from them.
2) I must continue to read books, newspapers, magazine articles, etc. by African American and other minority authors. I must continue to listen to African American and other minority speakers and preachers. My learning must never stop.
3) In ministry (in Chicago and beyond), I must be committed to indigenous leadership development. I must continue to evaluate and reassess how I am doing in this. I have got to truly be burdened by this.
4) I must be a voice in the white church, celebrating what God is doing in the neighborhood and the nations. I must celebrate the beauty of the history and culture of the community I am currently living with the community that I came from. I must be transparent of the way God has changed my perspectives and challenged my prejudices in order to challenge people to self-examine their own perspectives and prejudices. I must be a bridge builder.
5) I need to ask God for wisdom in whatever position and ministry he has me. I must be certain that He is leading. I must seek godly council who will point out blindspots and check any hint of paternalism.
I am excited to see what God is doing in the neighborhood and the nations. He is at work. I hope that He continues to challenge me to slow down to process and then press.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A New Start

Two weeks ago my lap top computer was stolen out of the ministry office. It was stolen in the early evening, but it was discovered as missing until the following morning. I was definitely mad and frustrated when I noticed that it was missing...and realized that it had been stolen. Now I know that stuff is just stuff, and I like to think that I am not materialistic (at least I try not to be). But it wasn't just the missing computer that made me upset. I was most upset about the things that I had stored on the computer: pictures, music, Bible studies, messages, etc. Much of my work over the last 5 years or so was saved on that computer. I later discovered that I had some of my work backed up on my flash drive, but not everything could be retrieved. I have prayed that my computer might be returned. I have prayed for the young man who I think took it. I have also asked God to show me the lesson in it. I'm not trying to over-spiritualize the situation, but I think this circumstance is an indicator that it's time for a new start. It's time to seek God and to create some new stuff...some "fresh manna" as Dr. Fuder calls it. It's time for some new Bible studies and some new messages.

Thank God for insurance. I was able to purchase a new lap top yesterday. Therefore, I hope to get back into blogging on a more regular basis...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life & Death & The Village

Last Friday night a 14 year old young man was shot in an alley a few blocks away from my condo building. He ended up dieing on the sidewalk directly across from my building. All of this happened around 8pm on Friday night (the 14th). I had ran home around 9pm or so to check something, and it was then that I discovered what happened. There was yellow tape blocking off the scene of the crime, and there were cops everywhere in the street. I had to run the van back to the office, and then walked back to my house thinking about what had happened. As I walked I prayed for the family and friends that were effected, and I prayed for peace (shalom) in the streets that night.

Saturday morning I was off to Ann Arbor for a football game, but the reality of what had happened hit me again on Sunday when I returned from church and saw young people (some of who I recognized from Sexton school) gathered near a memorial they had created for the young man. His name was Dalvin Miller. He was 14 years old, and in the 8th grade at Sexton School. This past week - Thursday - I attended his funeral. I had never seen so many young people at a funeral as probably 75% of the attendees were kids. It was hard to listen to his siblings share poems about how they were going to miss their big brother. It was hard listening to several community leaders (principal, coach, etc.) talk about the potential that this young man had.

One thing that has struck me is how young people process their grief in various ways. Some of them seem to be numb, others very emotional, some stoic. I wonder who they talk to to help them process this. I wonder if adults are making time to listen. I wonder how an event like this shapes a young man or a young woman's life as they process experiencing the loss of their best friend, classmate, or teammate. I also wonder if those who talk about retaliation, really know what that could mean.
At the funeral, the principal from Sexton shared an African proverb that I have heard many people quote over the years. She said, "it takes a village to raise a child." I really like that proverb. The thing that troubles me is that I think the church is supposed to be that village. I think it is supposed to be the "village of Christ" so to speak that is supposed to raise a child. It's ironic that on that Friday night his body ended up on a sidewalk outside of a "commuter church" located within the community. Another sad fact about the events of that evening is that eyewitnesses say that shortly after Dalvin was shot, as he lay there on the sidewalk, a man walking by bent over to look at him, and then stepped over the body and kept walking. (It somewhat reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan.) As I think about it tonight, I'm challenged by what it means to have a "village mentality." What does it mean to truly be a neighbor? What does it mean to "go and do likewise?"
I'll admit that this concept of neighboring is somewhat new to me (where I grew up there weren't really that many neighbors period - Paw Paw). I'm challenged as a Christ-one though to think through more of what it means to be present - a ministry of presence. I am convinced that when violence occurs in the neighborhood, that it's not the time to retreat. It's not time to stay inside. It's not time to withdraw our families. It's not time to move our churches. It is time to be salt and light. It is time to be present. It is time to get to know our neighbors. It is time to speak to the guys on the corner. It is time to is time to pray while walking through the neighborhood.
I'm still processing all of this...I'm learning...

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I was asked to submit a write-up about the Legacy Conference for our e-newsletter called "The Flashlight." I thought I would share what I submitted...

We recently co-sponsored a discipleship conference called the Legacy Discipleship Conference. The focus of all of the workshops and general sessions was to grow as and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. More specifically, conference attendees were able to choose from four different workshop tracts: Basic Doctrines, Hermeneutics, Evangelism, and Community Impact. All of the general session speakers focused on what it means to “make disciples.” We were reminded that the command within the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is to “make disciples.” We are instructed to “go,” but this is not a command. As Herb Hodges puts it in his book entitled “Tally Ho The Fox,” “The verb means ‘as you are going’ or even ‘since you are going (pg. 39).’” What that means is that we don’t have to “go on a trip” in order to fulfill the Great Commission. We should be fulfilling the Great Commission “as we go” to work, to school, to the store, etc. “As we go,” we are commanded to make disciples. The question then becomes, “what is a disciple?” A disciple is a student, a pupil, a learner, a follower. In other words our command is to make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ with a vision for impacting the world. The Great Commission reminds us that God has “the nations” on his heart. It is truly an amazing mission and vision. Hodges later asks, "Christian, is your vision God-big for his glory? Where are the plans, the dreams, the visions, the strategies for total world impact that truly tax the miracle resources of God? Where is the strategy that requires ongoing miracles for its sustenance? Where is the vision that is so big that human resources (whatever the kind or amount) cannot possibly sponsor it? The only eternity-sized vision any of us will ever need is in the Great Commission given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ (17).”

At the Legacy Conference it was evident that God is doing a work within the urban centers of our nation, raising up world changers for his Name’s sake, who are committed to the Great Commission and who have the neighborhood and the nations on their hearts. I was humbled and challenged over the course of the 3 days there. There were approximately 350 youth and young adults in attendance at this multi-site Chicago based conference. Please pray for all that were in attendance as we continue to build on the momentum that the work of the conference created. For more information you can check out The conference is scheduled for August 14-16 in 2008.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A God Sized Vision...

The Legacy Discipleship Conference just ended last Saturday (the 11th). I think that it went really well, and that people were both impacted and challenged. I could probably write 6 or 7 blogs about it. Shortly after the conference I revisited a book that I had started previously but never finished. The book is entitled "Tally Ho The Fox" by Herb Hodges (I am still not far enough into the book to discover where that title comes from.) The first chapter focuses on having spiritual vision. I just wanted to share few quotes...
"The Creator-God of the Bible never lacks giant creative ideas, but where are His common saints who are seeing from His viewpoint strategically, and getting on their hearts strategically what God has on His (pg 8)?" Hodges later asks, "Christian, is your vision God-big for his glory? Where are the plans, the dreams, the visions, the strategies for total world impact that truly tax the miracle resources of God? Where is the strategy that requires ongoing miracles for its sustenance? Where is the vision that is so big that human resources (whatever the kind or amount) cannot possibly sponsor it? The only eternity-sized vision any of us will ever need is in the Great Commission given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. If your pulpit is not obsessed with the terms "make disciples" and "all nations," how can God possibly be expected to put Heaven's approval upon it? Without this magnificent obsession, the pulpit of your church is marked by "no vision (pg 17)."
Father God, strengthen my faith. I want to be a man that dreams dreams for You..."God-sized dreams for Your glory."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jesus on the street

In Matthew 25 verse 40, Jesus states, "...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Could it be then that we can have face to face encounters with Christ on the street, in prisons, at shelters, in food lines, etc.? If Matthew 25 is true, and I believe it is, then what does that say about me when I don't have time to acknowledge one of my brothers on the street. What does that say about churches who don't have any type of consistent and intentional ministry to the poor, but yet "have church" Sunday after Sunday?
Yesterday, I took 4 men from Pittsburgh up to the Uptown neighborhood to engage people in conversation on and around Wilson Avenue. We split up, and we had been on the street nearly and hour, before I met Tony aka Papa T. I was walking by the dollar store that he was sitting in front of when I heard him say something about 63rd and Cottage (the intersection that I live near). I stopped and asked him if he was from that neighborhood. He then explained to me that he had grown up in that neighborhood. He had been drinking, so not everything that he said made a lot of sense. However, as the conversation went on I asked him what he believed about Jesus. I told him that in the last few weeks I had talked with people who think that Jesus was a good man, a prophet, and/or a good teacher - but not the son of God, and not God in the flesh. As soon as I finished my question, Tony's eyes got big and he got very animated. He passionately stated that Jesus is Lord, God's Son, creator of the heavens and earth. He then looked me in the eye and told me that it doesn't mean anything for me to live off of 63rd and Cottage if I am not there to be involved in and serve the community, and if I'm not there because of the Lord. He continued, saying that if I truly believe in Jesus that I have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be ashamed of at all. I told him that I worked with young men from the neighborhood, and I asked him if he had any advice for me. He once again looked me straight in the eye, and told me passionately to tell them about the Lord.
My conversation with Tony really messed me up. I told him that it was nice to meet him and that I hoped to see him again. I walked back to the van challenged, and encouraged, and in awe. I am convinced that God spoke to me yesterday as I sat there outside of the dollar store. Could it be that I had a face to face encounter with Jesus Christ right there on Sheridan (Matthew 25)? Who needed to be ministered to or Tony?
I want Jesus and the gospel to continue to mess me up in this way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Challenged At A Mosque

The last few weeks I have had the opportunity to lead our various Bridge Builders groups (missions teams) on outreaches throughout the city. This past Friday I accompanied the group to the South Asian Friendship Center located on Devon St. in the neighborhood known as "Little India." Whenever we take groups there on Friday, the staff from SAFC take us for a mosque visit. We attend a Friday service and then have the chance to dialogue with a leader from the mosque. On this particular Friday the person who spoke to us was a 60ish year old woman named Mary. She spoke to us for probably 20-30 minutes on the core beliefs of Islam - without looking at any notes. After she finished, she allowe us to ask her questions. Several of the high school and college students that were with me asked her some challenging questions regarding her convictions and core beliefs. Although, at times flustered, she answered the questions with conviction and passion. Even though I obviously didn't agree with everything that she said - I was really challenged by out time with her. I asked myself whether I could stand before a group of Islamic high school and college students (and their leaders) and articulate the core beliefs of Christianity with Scripture to back it up. And then, would I be able to field challenging questions from the students? I left thinking about these questions.

Do I know what I believe and why I believe? I'm not questioning my faith. This is not a doubt session. I'm challenged when I consider how well I could articulate what and why I believe. I say that the Word of God is the foundation of my faith, right? Well then, why does my passion for the word waiver? Why is my discipline in it weak at times? Am I thirsty for it? Do I long to share it with others?

My Biblical negligence should spark a sense of urgency, and a greater desire to be in the Word and really soak it up. God help me on this journey.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Continuous Transition...

I was talking to my dad on the phone tonight about different things going on at the ministry I work at (Sunshine). He made the comment, "You guys are always going through continuous transition." I agreed. I have felt that way ever since I came on staff full time in January of 2004. I know that there are certain things that have made this constant sense of transition a reality: moving from one community to another, moving from one office to another, and staff coming and leaving. I wonder sometimes though if all of this continuous transition is a good thing. Is it a sign that God is at work? Or is it a sign that we need to tighten things up? And going beyond the ministry that I work for, will I always feel like I'm in a state of transition? Since the fall of 2000 I have lived in 9 different places. I have had several different roommates. In my time of ministry, I have done many different things, been many different places, and seen young people come and go. Is life just a continuous transition? Does it always have to be like this? Thinking about this, makes me grateful for the "neverchangingness" of God. He is constant. He is faithful. He NEVER changes. He continues to walk with me through each and every transition. He is steadfast, immovable.
God help me to lean on You and truly trust You through each and every transition.