Monday, December 28, 2009

From Hoarding To Generosity

Recently, a good friend of mine challenged people on his facebook status to give their stuff away now that they have received new Christmas gifts. He wasn't challenging people to give away their gifts necessarily. He was challenging people to give away stuff they no longer need as a result of the new stuff they received. He then took it a step further and stated to not just give away our "junk." I really liked his idea. It reminded me of a message that I had preached on "Hoarding" two years ago from James chapter 5. The word "hoard" means to amass or reserve or lay up. In America we have become very skilled at hoarding. We stack things and store things and organize things in our cupboards, closets, basements, etc. We have even made the "Storage Business" a VERY lucrative one (think about that for a second!). The problem is that as we "amass" things/stuff, there are people in our own families, on our blocks, in our cities/towns, in our country, and around the world who could be blessed by the stuff we once "needed."

So with just a few days remaining in 2009, I want to challenge you (& ME) to examine your closets, cupboards, garages, basements, storage units, etc. and honestly consider what you can (or even should) give away. I would echo what my friend stated, "don't just give away your junk." Be creative. Think about who could make good use of your stuff. Research places online that will distribute resources to others. Pray and think about someone who could utilize something you have been "sitting on." Let's all repent of our hoarding, and give generously! Let's all do it either before the new year is upon us, or to start the new year!

Here are some ideas of who to donate to...
(1) If you are looking to donate clothing, toys, books, furniture items, or kitchenware, 2nd Chance is a great place to donate to. 2nd Chance is a ministry located just off of 67th & King Drive. The first floor is a "second-hand" retail store. It is set up very nice, and has a great selection of clothing and household items. If they can't use your donated items, they pass them on to homeless ministries such as Pacific Garden Mission. The second floor of 2nd Chance is a transition home for women ages 19 to 25 and their children.

(2)If you have computers you are looking to donate (either lap tops or desk tops) our/Sunshine's Community Technology Center will gladly take them. We will either refurbish them for immediate use in our computer labs or potentially give them to one of our class participants. We also share donated computers with our partner ministry, Africa Revolution, who ships them to South Africa and Swaziland to be used in church based computer labs that are doing amazing empowerment ministry!

(3)If you don't live in Chicago, the Salvation Army is always a great option. Or contact your church and ask them for a list of places to donate your items to.

If you are interested, share who (non-profits, ministries, churches, nations, etc.) you have given your things to - in the comment section. This may spur our collective creativity in generously giving.

James 5:1-6
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Charlie Bit Me

First of all, I have to give a shout out to my good friends Josh and Christy Axe for exposing me to this. This video makes me laugh every time. Enjoy...

If you enjoyed that one, check out the "Auto-Tuned Version."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He Came Down

I have been thinking about the beauty of Christmas this month. I am thankful for attending a friend of mine's Christmas Bible study where he reminded us that Christmas is all about making much of Him! He is worthy of much celebration! Then this past Sunday, Pastor Ford preached from Like 2:14 reminding us that Christmas is about "Exalting His Person, Experiencing His Peace, and Exhibiting His Philanthropy!"

Here are some Scriptures worth thinking about during this season...

His Majesty
Isaiah 6:1-3
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

Colossians 1:15-20
1He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Hebrews 1:3-4
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

His Humility
John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Philippians 2:5-8
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

His Saving Work
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 6:23
23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thoughts on Christmas should humble us, place us in a state of awe, and make us want to celebrate Him! He came down...God in the flesh!

Follow Up On The Christmas Store

We hosted our (6th Annual?) Christmas Store this past Saturday. It was a great day! We spent ALL of Friday sorting, pricing, and setting up the store. When Saturday morning arrived, we were ready! We had a great staff this year of Sunshine staff, volunteers, and friends. One of my favorite parts of the store this year was serving together all day. Forty-some families were able to come and shop at the store. I was outside during the store hours, greeting people as they came in and helping them load their cars if needed. That gave me the opportunity to ask people "how it went." Everyone seemed to have had a great time at the store, and for that we praise the Lord. We really wanted the love of Christ to be displayed and felt by all who came through our doors, and by God's grace I think this happened! Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions...

What did you do with the proceeds from the store?We gift-ed the proceeds to five families whom are in need of a little financial assistance this year. Pete, our youth pastor, delivered the gifts yesterday.

Did you have leftover gifts, and what do you do with them?We invited additional families to come in and shop Monday through Wednesday. In addition, we will use leftover gifts in our "Sunshine Stores" for the children in our after-school programs. In all of our youth programs: AWANA, Club 2-5-2, Horizons, and ASM - we have a mini-economy set up. Our students earn Sunshine bucks through attendance, good behavior, saying memory verses, academic progress, etc. Then every couple of months we set up a store where they have an opportunity to spend their Sunshine Bucks. This not only serves as a great incentive for the kids, it also allows us to teach financial literacy in an experiential way!

I want to thank everyone who donated to our store this year and everyone who served at our store this year! You are appreciated! I hope everyone has a Christ-filled Christmas!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Sunshine Christmas Store

What is the Sunshine Christmas store?
Each year we ask for donated gifts from our friends and supporters. We then set up a "Christmas store" on a Saturday where we sell the donated items for 25 cents on the dollar. For example, an item that would cost $25 dollars in the department store, will cost $6.25 at our store. We invite families whom we have relationships with through our various youth and technology programs. This serves as a way we can tangibly share the love of Christ by lessening some of the holiday burden, and providing a way for parents to shop for their children and grandchildren in a cost efficient way.

What do you do with the proceeds?
We redistribute all of the proceeds from the store, by giving financial gifts to needy families in our neighborhood.

How can you(and your family or church)get involved?
Our Christmas store event will be on Saturday December 19th this year. This means we need your gifts to be collected and ready for delivery or pick up no later than noon the day before. If you can arrange drop off at our location (500 E. 61st St), on or before noon on the 18th, that would be greatly appreciated. We are asking that no gift cost more than roughly $30.00, and be purchased new. Please do not wrap the gifts. We are looking for items ranging from crayons and play-dough to clothing and gift cards.

For more information check out

Friday, December 04, 2009

Jesus Wants The Rose

This is a powerful reminder of the gospel of Jesus Christ! I had to pass it on...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

You Have One Life...Do Something!

Our junior high tutoring program, Horizons, is doing a Character Development unit called "Living A Life That Matters." We are basically looking at different ways in which we can put feet to our faith. We are talking about being "doers" of the Word, world changers for Jesus! We watched this video and had a good discussion on Monday afternoon. (I didn't realize this at the time, but our discussion coincided with World AIDS day.)

Some things to think about...

Many African women walk 6 miles every day for water.
On average Americans walk 6 miles every month.

Every day Americans spend 1 billion dollars DINING OUT.
Every night 799 million people go to sleep hungry!

American teens spend $101/week.
$101/week will send 2 African children to school for a year.

Life expectancy in the United States is 77.
Life expectancy in Zambia, Africa is 35.

Are you tired of people saying there is nothing you can do?

Are you tired of the excuses?…
The problem is too big!
One person can’t change the world!

Or are you going to do something?

You have one life...Do Something!

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Should We Invite For Thanksgiving Dinner

I found this short audio clip on the Desiring God blog challenging us to think through who we should invite to Thanksgiving dinner. It is a about a five minute clip, and it is definitely worth listening to.

Luke 14:12-14
12He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spare CHANGE for the LIFE House

Between now and Christmas all of our youth program students - Club 2-5-2(2nd through 5th graders), Horizons (6th-8th graders), and AWANA (1st through 8th graders) - will be undertaking a "fundraising campaign" to raise money for the "Life House" that Africa Revolution is sponsoring at Power House Church in Mamelodi, South Africa. The Life House will be a ministry of Power House Church that will care for abandoned babies in the township there. Abortions there are on the rise, and recently babies have also been discovered in dumpsters. Pregnant women are increasingly ensnared by various circumstances - poverty, HIV, etc., and thus feel inadequate and overwhelmed at the prospects of bringing a child into this world. The church therefore, wants to come alongside these women with a tangible expression of the love of Christ, and provide a place for these babies to be cared for and nurtured. The "Life House" is a fitting name for this courageous and compassionate undertaking.

We presented this project to the young people this week, and they really seemed to "get it." We have encouraged them to bring their spare change each time they come to Sunshine to give towards this worthy cause. We bought a clear container to fill with change so that they can see the progress/increase we have made each week.

The Africa Revolution web site states that this project will cost $3,000 to complete. If you are interested in donating as well, you can do so on their web site. I will do a follow up entry to let everyone know how much our kids raised.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


This fall I have begun taking seminary classes again. I was at the Moody Graduate School (now called the Moody Theological Seminary) from 2001 to 2003, where I earned my master's in urban ministry. Since the time I graduated I have been engaged in full time work with Sunshine. Over the past two years God has given me opportunities to preach (this is still crazy to me!!). I have greatly enjoyed these experiences - the studying/preparation and the time speaking. God has used these experiences, combined with my hands on work here in Woodlawn to clarify my vision for ministry. Part of this is definitely further honing and working on preaching/teaching.

I have been taking three different courses this fall (not all simultaneously). First of all, I have been taking a Homiletics course at my church's Maranatha Bible Institute. My pastor, James Ford, teaches it. It has been so good! Homiletics I was on two (lengthy) Saturday mornings in early October. Today I began the first week of Homiletics 2.

Secondly, I am enrolled in an online course called the Simeon Course. It is co-sponsored by Holy Trinity Church and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It is a 30 week course focused on expository teaching/preaching through all of the genres of Scripture. The first unit is focused on OT Narrative. I am taking this course along with my co-workers Vince and Pete. All three of us are really enjoying this course!

Finally, I have been auditing a class on Biblical Eldership that is offered through City Seminary. I read the required book and have listened to some of the online lectures, but because I am auditing, I don't have to write any of the papers. This class has been great as well!

I am looking forward to continue to work through the Simeon coursework as well as move into Homiletics 3 with Pastor Ford. I covet your prayers for balance as I add studying/homework hours to a busy schedule. Trip Lee in his song "Eyes Open" said it well,
"Now that my eyes is open,
gotta keep that Bible open
Not just so that I can quote Him,
I'm hopin that I'll behold Him
Until I lay in the grave, I'm praying I'll stay in motion"

Club 2-5-2 Fall Highlights

Club 2-5-2 is our afterschool program for 2nd through 5th graders. This is our 3rd school year running this program. This fall it is meeting on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. We have some amazing kids! My role is primarily teaching the "Money Matters" class. It is essentially a financial literacy class. We focus on coin & bill recognition, basic money math, making change, writing checks/balancing a checkbook, banking vs. currency exchanges, etc. I really enjoy it, and it is an ongoing challenge to teach these concepts in a way that connects with a 2nd grader & a 5th grader and every student in between. I am praying that God raises up some Jesus lovin, justice minded, community developin', pond owners!:)

We have a great group of volunteers assisting us this year. Roma & Pete oversee it, and they are doing a great job!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Call To Anguish

"A Call To Anguish" by David Wilkerson

It Takes A Village: Responding To Teen Violence

You cannot work with young people in Chicago (or in many other places) and not think about and be burdened by the problem (and really the crisis) of teen violence. Chicago recently surpassed Los Angeles and New York as the youth homicide leader in the US. According to a recent N'Digo article, "prior to 2006, Chicago averaged 15 fatal student shootings each year. That climbed to 24 fatal shootings in the 2006-2007 school year, 23 deaths in the 2007-2008 school year, and 34 deaths during the last school year. Just two months into the current school year, 10 students have lost their lives." This type of violence has rippling effects that are felt throughout the city by teens, young children, families, classrooms & schools, etc.

The question of "what is the solution?" is often asked. In other words, how do we stem this tide. In the aftermath of tragic teen deaths, there seems to be well-intentioned dialogue and often times emotion filled finger pointing. The problem with this passionate call to accountability is that everyone deserves a collective share: the parents, the police, the government, the schools, the neighbors, the teens, and last but not least - the Church. I recently read two articles that talked about collective accountability and collective action on behalf of young people in Chicago.

Toure Muhammed, in an article entitled "The Root Of Teen Violence" in N'Digo wrote,
"Everyone, including many young people, know exactly what needs to be done. In a nutshell, solutions include parents, law enforcement, religious and civic leaders working together to provide a nurturing community where youth are loved, encouraged, and supported. The question is whether or not the village will take collective responsibility for saving teens from senseless, thoughtless violence."

A friend and co-laborer of mine, Chris Butler, recently wrote an article entitled "Demanding More From Ourselves" for the Urban Faith web site. Chris and I both agree that the Church must take the lead in sparking this movement for peace. I like the way he "dreams dreams" as he shares, "Imagine the impact that we could make if every believer in Chicago truly began to pray for peace in our city, then allowed that prayer to motivate and strengthen us toward action. What if every school in Chicago was adopted by a handful of churches? What if believers in every neighborhood began to take responsibility for a block, a train station, a bus route, and went out to meet the people there, serve them, and act as a presence for peace? What if we turned the power of protest onto the drug dealers by coming to the hottest spots at the hottest times (usually nighttime) and exposing their activities done in darkness with bright lights, singing, and prayer? What if there was a prophetic voice coming out of the church that, through both its words and actions, could consistently afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted? That would be an appropriate movement for Chicago --- and for every urban community."

It is going to take long-term, sustained, life on life investment. We, the Church, must lead the way.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Is CCDA?

This past weekend I attended the CCDA conference for the 6th time in the last 8 years. CCDA stands for the Christian Community Development Association. It is an association that gathers ministry/church leaders and staff from around the country (and increasingly from around the world) who are committed to Christ-centered, wholistic ministry in under-resourced communities primarily in rural and urban areas. CCDA seeks to inspire and equip people to do the work of the ministry. I am always so inspired and refreshed at the CCDA conference. It charges me up to be with like minded people who love Jesus, and are committed to ministry to the poor, racial reconciliation, justice, etc.

I am still unpacking much of what I took in at the conference, but let me try to articulate some of the key things that I gleaned from my time there this past weekend...

I was greatly inspired by the life and legacy of Dr. John Perkins. At 79 years old, his life speaks. One of my favorite parts of the conference ever year is the morning Bible study time with Dr. Perkins. It is evident as he shares the Scriptures that he loves the Lord, loves the Word, and loves people. I received his challenge to make sure that my relationship with Christ, and time spent enjoying Him, is what fuels all ministry service for Him. Since getting saved some 50 plus years ago, he has devoted his life to Christian community development and to racial reconciliation. It was amazing to hear and see the fruit of a life lived to make disciples. I thank and praise God for his example and for how God has used him in my life.

I love the both/and emphasis of the conference. Meaning the emphasis of the Biblical mandate to "do justice" AND "do the work of an evangelist." In other words we are to reach the lost and serve the poor with equal integrity and fervency.

I was reminded afresh of the importance of life and ministry balance. Personally, I must be diligent (by God's grace) to carve out "unhurried" time to spend with God each day - reading the Word, praying, and listening to Him. I also need to keep exercise a regular part of my week, even if it means "scheduling" it in. Finally, I have to make sure I am not neglecting "social outlets" - ie time with friends, and just having fun.

Overall, I am just grateful for the opportunity to attend CCDA again this year!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Knock Knock

Psalm 68:5 = A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,is God in his holy dwelling.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bring Me What You Have

I am almost finished with the book "The Hole In Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns. It has been a sobering read, a thought provoking read, and a challenging read. I definitely recommend it. The chapter I most recently finished, entitled "How Many Loaves Do You Have?", really resonated with me. Several of the earlier chapters of the book brought to light the complexity and the immensity of global poverty. The concluding chapters are an encouragement and an exhortation to action. It is a reminder that when the challenges we face seem too big, God takes what we have and what we can give, and accomplishes the supernatural.

Here are a few of the quotes/highlights from this chapter...
"If the gospel is to be proclaimed, poverty defeated, racism overcome, the tide of AIDS turned back, or injustice challenged, it will be done by...ordinary people like you and me."

"But the very good news for those of us who ant to follow Christ and be part of God's plan for our world is that He uses what we have to offer, not matter how unimportant we think it might be."

The author, Richard Stearns, reminds us of the feeding of the multitudes recorded in all four gospels. In those passages, the disciples and Jesus saw the same scenario through two different lenses. "The disciples saw only a large problem (Mark 6:35-36). But Jesus looked at the exact same situation and saw an opportunity (he had compassion which led to action)...When we see poverty and sickness, hunger and famine, cruelty and abuse, do we see them as problems, or do we, like Jesus, filled with compassion, see their human faces and immediately begin to respond." Jesus then asked them "how many loaves they had?" The disciples responded that a boy had five loaves and two fish. Jesus told them to "bring them here to me." In other words, "bring me what you have." Those of us familiar with the story know that Jesus took what they had, multiplied it, fed the multitudes, and even had some left over. I like Stearns' insight on what happened here. He states, "Can you see the real miracle at work here? Confronted with an overwhelming problem, Jesus did not ask the disciples to do the impossible; He asked only for them to bring to Him what they had. He then multiplied the small offering and used it to do the impossible. The principle is so very important for those of us who are overwhelmed with the immensity of human suffering and need in our world: God never asks us to give what we do not have...But He cannot use what we will not give." (pp 250-253)

In recent days the challenge of youth violence in Chicago has been on my mind. There are thousands of hurting young men in our city, battling hopelessness, looking for identity. Sadly, Chicago now ranks as the youth homicide capital of the U.S. I am also a board member of a ministry called Africa Revolution. It partners with local churches and ministries in southern Africa to minister to those infected and affected by the AIDS crises. That AIDS statistics are staggering there! An honest look at both of these scenarios can be overwhelming. I am thankful for the timeliness of this reminder from Scripture and this book, that God Almighty takes what we offer, and uses it to do things that only He can do. I am reminded that His heart breaks for the young people who are being gunned down in Chicago. His heart breaks for the orphan who has lost both parents to AIDS. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, used to pray "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." We need to pray this, and ask God to give us the grace to respond with compassion and courage.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Song Time At Summer Blast - Please Sing Along

This past summer I was the song leader at Summer Blast, our day camp for 7 to 11 year olds. On the final week, I did a near 9 minute medley of all of the "favorites." You may find yourself singing along, and if you are able, feel free to join in on the motions as well. I dare you to try and sing these songs and not smile!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Balanced Political Perspective

The health care debate seems to have highlighted our nation's political divide. I continue to get emails, see facebook status updates, news reports, etc. - that make me cringe. Especially as Christians, I wish we could agree that the health care system is unjust. There are too many people who simply cannot afford quality health care. What saddens me in this is the ongoing ASSUMPTION that low income families and those who cannot afford health care are lazy. Where does this "I work hard for mine" and "they don't" mindset come from?! There is so much self-righteousness and so little grace in spoken and unspoken sentiments such as these. So whether we approve of a government run health care system or not, we should all agree that major health care reform is needed.

There are two blogs that I read frequently that recently posted write-ups on politics that I think are on point, well thought through, and gracious. Joel Hamernick at his blog entitled City Grace, wrote a post entitled "The Church Caused (and could undo) Big Government." Pastor Lance, at his blog entitled Blaque Tulip, wrote a post entitled "Divided By Politics."

I would love to hear feedback on these posts if you decide to check them out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Praise Report For Friday

First of all, thank you for joining in prayer for the event that took place this past Friday in Washington DC. I got an email update from one of the ministry leaders that traveled to DC. (Note: He asked that I not share his name or the name of the ministry. He is a dear brother, and they are definitely working "in the trenches.") Here is what he had to share...

"Thank you for praying for the outreach efforts at the Muslims’ Jummah prayer at the Washington, DC Mall on Friday, September 25th. The leaders of the event advertised that they expected 50,000+ Muslims to attend. The real number of Muslims who attended was between 3,000 and 8,000 at its height.

One person estimated that about 75% of all the Muslims that were on the mall on Friday were offered either the Jesus DVD, the More than Dreams DVD, or other Gospel materials (another person estimated that every Muslim there was offered Gospel materials at least once, and many had multiple opportunities). Our outreach director also thought that at least 60% of the Muslims accepted these Gospel materials, some with great joy and gladness. The More than Dreams DVD ( was particularly well received, sometimes even sought after by Muslims. We, and those we worked with, distributed over 2,500 packets of materials.

Among those our team worked with, and others too, there were more than 90 believers reaching out to the Muslims at this event with an appropriate attitude. Beyond the passing out of Gospel materials, there were many good and Christ-centered conversations with Muslims. Many on our team ended their day extremely excited about how they felt God was at work through their efforts among the Muslims. Truly, God heard your prayers. THANK YOU FOR PRAYING!"

I am thankful for ministries, churches, and missionaries that are burdened to see Muslims come to know Christ! Let's continue to lift these ministries up to the Lord!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Opportunity On The Washington Mall - Be In Prayer

This Friday September 25th, there is going to be an Islamic prayer event on Washington DC mall. It is anticipated that there will be 50,000 Muslims praying there and the website promoting the event says, "Our Time Has Come."

In light of this event, a Chicago based ministry (that we partner with) sees this as an incredible opportunity to reach Muslims with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are driving a van and an SUV full of people to DC for this occasion and are giving a copy of the Jesus Film DVD to as many Muslims there as will accept them. These DVDs are in 16 of the most commonly spoken languages among Muslims. There are other Christian ministries throughout the country who will have a similar effort going tomorrow.

I recently received an email from a ministry staff person sharing the following prayer request. "Please, sincerely pray for this outreach on Friday. There will be another group of people there who are planning on rudely inciting Muslims' anger and we don't want to be associated with these people - surely this would be counter-productive. I believe that evangelism is a high form of spiritual warfare and we intent to be fully engaged. Again, please pray for all those working to get the message of Jesus Christ to the Muslims in DC on Friday."

This event is yet another in a string of recent events that has brought the religion of Islam into greater media attention. Just to keep things straight, Islam is the religion. Muslims are those who follow Islam (In the same way Christianity/Christians). Sadly man of us here in the US, and especially Christians, do not understand Islam. Like most things we don't understand, we fear it. Therefore we not only fear the religion, we fear Muslims (if we are honest in most cases). However, we must keep things in perspective. As followers of Jesus Christ we should hate Islam, but we MUST love Muslims. In other words, we must hate the religious system that keeps people in spiritual bondage and distracts them from the true message of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we must love Muslims and must be intentional about building relational bridges in order to share the liberating message of the Gospel.

For years in our churches we have prayed for the "1040 Window." The 10/40 Window is an area of the world that contains the largest population of non-Christians in the world. The area extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees North of the equator, and stretches from North Africa across to China. Many of the nations and people groups within the 1040 Window are Muslim. These nations have been "closed" to the gospel, making Christian missionary activity illegal. We have been praying that God would open doors and allow missionaries to enter these places. I now believe that God, in His Sovereignty, is bringing these nations to us in the US. Acts 17:26-27 speaks to God's Sovereignty over the movement of people. It states, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." In light of this verse, could the fact that we now have an ever-increasing number of "Muslims living among us" be in His Sovereign plan. I think this is the case.

So then the question becomes, do we view this as an "opportunity" or as a "threat"?

Romans 10:14-16 states, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

This is not the time to send emails that evoke fear. This is not the time to work towards tighter "border security." This is not the time to retreat into our "Christian bubbles." This is the time to dig into the Scripture and to know what we believe and why we believe it. This is the time to live intentional Christian lives. This is the time to be the Church.

(I know that someone is asking/thinking, "but what about Jihad?" What about Muslims that view us - Christians - as the enemy? Should we not consider them our enemies?" My response would be to remind them that Jesus gave us instructions in how to deal with "enemies." He commanded us to love them!)

Thoughts? I really would like to have discussion on this!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Would You Still Seek Jesus?

Recently I have been reading through the book of Psalms. I have really been enjoying it! I love the transparency of David through all of his ups and downs. I also have taken note of His exalted view of God. He was a man who in spite of his issues and in spite of his circumstances truly sought after God.

It has reminded me of a message that Dr. Fuder gave at a CCDA conference a few years back. He asked a challenging and thought-provoking question to those of us serving in positions of spiritual leadership, those of us actively working "for Jesus." Here is what he asked, "If God (hypothetically) told us that (1)when we died we would go to heaven (eternal security/salvation) and (2)I will never use you again on earth, WOULD YOU STILL SEEK AFTER JESUS? Would you still seek to know Him? Would you seek His face? Would you still worship Him and to enjoy Him?" My response: Whew!

He then reminded us that Henry Blackaby defines spiritual leadership as bringing followers (those whom we influence & serve) into face to face encounters with Jesus. He exhorted us that "if we are going to take people deep into the things of God, it means that we have to be drinking deeply from that well." For those of us in spiritual leadership positions, we cannot call anyone to what we ourselves are not about.

In Psalm 43 David said that God referred to God as his "joy and delight." I have really been thinking on his words. Does my heart echo this? Does yours?

The thing that really challenges me is this. I know that I love to do His work, but I don't always love (and treasure, and cherish, and delight in)HIM with this same passion and devotion. By God's grace...

$3 Worth Of God

I have a subscription to Voice Of The Martyrs magazine(I highly recommend it!). Each month the magazine highlights various stories of Christians throughout the world who are facing persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. In the August 2009 issue, the opening article contains a quote that I thought was worth sharing. I am not familiar with the author or the historical context during which it was written, but I think it is relevant to us as Christ-followers today. Especially in this day and age within the American church where we have made comfort an idol. Here it is...

"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please. - Wilbur Rees

Monday, September 14, 2009

13.1 Mile Reflections

This past Sunday morning I competed/ran in my first half-marathon, the Chicago Half Marathon. I don't remember when exactly I decided to run, but it wasn't that long ago. I began training on August 13th, just after returning from our annual Montana trip. I began lifting and running on a much more consistent from that day up until the race. I actually really enjoyed the training, even though each "big run" was "the longest run of my running career."

I was nervous the morning of as I woke up at 5:50am. I couldn't believe how many people were there when I got to the start line - 20,000 runners. People had told me that the day of the race, "I would run on adrenaline," and they were right. It was really encouraging to see so many spectators out there cheering us on. The first part of the race felt great, but when I hit the 9 mile mark, things got tough. Thankfully, I was able to press through, and when I hit the 11 mile mark, I felt like I got my second wind. I finished with a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes, and 29 seconds. Out of 20,000 runners, I came in 2,989th place.

I am thankful for everyone that prayed for me! I am also thankful for everyone that made generous donations towards Sunshine Gospel Ministry's youth outreach programs.

Here are a few race memories/thoughts...

Most Memorable Sign: About 2 miles into the race, someone was holding a sign that said, "The Kenyans Are Behind You!" - classic!

Most Memorable Interview: I have to give a shout out to Brittney Rost and Nikki Blodgett for the live interview that they did as I ran.

Favorite Running Song In My I-Tunes: "Turning Point" by J'Son

Most Interesting Running Outfit: There were three guys that ran in a group that ran in "running skirts." These were not "kilts," these were skirts. Nuff said.

Devotional/Spiritual Thought: Throughout my month of training I was reminded of Paul's words in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 where he says, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Over the course of my month of training I disciplined myself to so many runs per week, and so many lifts per week. I changed my diet. I got up early for some runs, and others I carved out times in the evening. I was challenged during this process by the question, "am I training myself for godliness just as hard?" By God's grace, am I diligent and disciplined in my pursuit of Christlikeness? That is a convicting thought.

I am grateful to God for the health and the strength to run. I hope to continue to stay in this "half-marathon shape" and compete in future races.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Eleven Poorology Principles

I thought I would pass these on as I am working on a session for some trainings I am teaching this week. I have to give a shout out to my guy Dr. Fuder!!

Eleven Poorology Principles
Compiled by Dr. John Fuder – Moody Theological Seminary

1)God has special concern for the poor and neglected
-Psalm 146:7-9 = who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

2)The needy are seeking and receptive to God
-Isaiah 41:17 = When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is
parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

3)Scripture expects and commands us to help those in need
-Zechariah 7:9-10 = Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart."

4)Ministry to the needy is the basis in Scripture of true religion
-James 1:27 = Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

5)Poverty, or the poor, is a testing ground for Christian love to be shown
-Matthew 26:11 = For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
-Deuteronomy 25:11 = For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'

6)We show our love for the Lord by the way we treat those in need
-Matthew 25:40 = And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

7)Ministering to those in need is the very basis of knowing God
-Jeremiah 22:16 = He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

8)We should respond in ministry to the poor knowing that we could have been born poor ourselves
-Deuteronomy 24:17,18 = "You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

9)God will bless and reward those who care for the poor
-Psalm 41:1-3 = Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

10)We may end up poor ourselves if we don’t help those in need
-Proverbs 21:13 = Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

11)We will be judged for not helping those in need
-Malachi 3:5 = Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.

Reflecting on my Re-birth on my Birthday

From the time I was born up until about the 4th or 5th grade, my family was very active in our church – First Baptist Church of Paw Paw. My parents were youth leaders for a few years there, my dad ministered through music, and my mom was active in women’s ministry. I was faithfully in Sunday school and church. We also went to AWANA club (A Bible club for kids) every Thursday evening at the local elementary school. Church was very much a part of my life, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I loved the Bible stories. I liked the challenge of memorizing Scriptures. My life was impacted by several of the adult leaders at the church. I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ often – that He is God who became a man, lived a sinless life, and willingly died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of the world, and then raised from the dead 3 days later. I loved that story as a kid, and I understood that Jesus was the way to heaven (I wanted no part of hell.). At the age of 6 (approximately) I prayed a prayer of salvation, acknowledging that I was a sinner, accepting Jesus for who He was and his payment on the cross for my sins, and inviting Him into my life. My Sunday school teachers assured me that I was saved. However, in the next 2 or 3 years at a couple of different youth events – when they gave an invitation for salvation, I went forward again just to make sure that it had “stuck.”

Then in about the 4th or 5th grade the church we were attending “split.” There were sexual molestation accusations made by one family against another family. What was once a growing, healthy church was now split in half. Our family left the church. We began going to church in a neighboring town, but we never really got connected like we had been at our last church. If fact, our attendance became very inconsistent to almost non-existent at times. As I entered into junior high, although I considered myself a Christian, my faith in Christ had no impact upon my life. The things I cared about the most were sports, trying to fit in, and getting good grades – probably in that order. Those priorities carried over into high school. I had “hoop dreams” as I envisioned myself playing college and potentially even professional basketball some day. Then as I began playing high school football, I began to develop college football aspirations as well. I worked very hard, lifting weights, conditioning my body, working on my game(s) with a lot of intensity. I dedicated my high school summers to preparing for the football and basketball seasons that lie ahead. In the classroom, I pushed myself just as hard. At the end of my high school years, I had earned student and athlete of the year honors at Paw Paw High School. Those are great accomplishments. However, the problem was that my whole identity was wrapped up in who I was primarily as an athlete and secondarily as a student. God really didn’t fit into my equation. Oh sure, I thanked him after a good game and I prayed to him before a big test, but that is pretty much the extent. I had placed God in the backseat of my life, and only turned to him during emergencies. In spite of my distancing myself from God, I wasn’t necessarily living a “crazy, immoral lifestyle.” I was trying to be the “good kid.” However, I wasn’t trying to please God, I was trying to please my parents, my teachers, my coaches, etc. Truth be told, I was dead in my sins. I thought I was self-sufficient, I was giving into my lusts, and I was enslaved to people pleasing.

I headed to Albion College in the fall of 1996. The summer leading into that fall, I decided to give both basketball and football a try. I worked hard to earn a spot as a quarterback on the roster, only to have my position changed and to have a place on the “scout team.” In basketball, I came off the bench on the jayvee team (at Div. 3 Albion). In the classroom, I was challenged like never before and feeling very average. My high school girlfriend and I broke up. I gave the “party scene” a brief stint, but that just wasn’t me no matter how hard I wanted it to be or tried to make it to be. I even got caught with alcohol in my dorm and got placed in social probation first semester. I was broken and humbled and I was asking one main question, “who am I?” This is where God made the move on me. I believe that God in His Sovereignty removed the things in my life that I had elevated over Him. He brought me to a place where my notions of self-sufficiency were crushed. In the midst of this, he put key Christian brothers in my life. The guy across the hall named Donny really impacted me. He was a football player too. He could be found reading the Bible in the early morning, and sometimes in the late evening. He would also play his guitar and sing worship songs. In the football locker room he modeled integrity and character no matter what was being discussed. He was my same age, but he loved Jesus, and he lived for Jesus, and he stood out on campus.

I was at a crossroads. It was either time to truly follow Christ for myself, or to simply live for me. The faith of my grandparents and parents wasn’t going to cut it. My faith had to become my own. Jesus had to become real to me. That freshman year of college, Jesus rocked me. I didn’t do anything to earn my way to God, Jesus did it all for me. I began to learn that my true identity was “in Christ” – 2 Corinthians 5:17. My life has not been the same since. It has been an adventure. Jesus is so much more than a ticket to heaven, He is what makes life worth living. He has become and is becoming my life. He came down, He died for me, He forgave me, He raised me up, He adopted me as His son, and He has given my life purpose and joy (Ephesians 2:8-10).

I am thankful today on my 32nd birthday for all that Jesus has done and will continue to do in my life!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Professor Rah Interviews John Perkins

I am looking forward to this year's CCDA Conference in Cincinnati to hear both of these brothers preach and teach. If you have never read any of John Perkins books, I strongly encourage you to do so! I would start with his biography "Let Justice Roll Down." I also recommend "Beyond Charity," "Restoring At Risk Communities," and "With Justice For All."

Soong-Chan Rah, who is now a professor at North Park University here in Chicago, recently wrote a very important book for the Church here in America entitled "The Next Evangelicalism." I highly recommended it. It is a challenging and thought provoking read.

Christ-Centered Preaching

One of the blogs I follow is "Pure Church" by Thabiti Anyabwile. He recently had a post where he shared quotes by various men of God on Christ-Centered preaching. Here are a few that stuck out to me...

Martin Luther: "I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back tomorrow."

Charles Bridges: "Let Him be the diamond in the bosom of your every sermon."

Charles Spurgeon: "A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution.... When we preach Jesus Christ, then we are not putting out the plates, and the knives, and the forks, for the feast, but we are handing out the bread itself.... [Let us] preach Christ to sinners if we cannot preach sinners to Christ.... I wish that our ministry--and mine especially--might be tied and tethered to the cross."

For more, check out the rest of Thabiti's post.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Consistent Positive Pressure

This summer Pete and I went to visit a 13 year old young man in the hospital who had been shot in the stomach during a drive-by shooting. The gang violence this spring and summer has been challenging throughout Chicago. It is one of the unfortunate realities of both our neighborhood and our city. There is an epidemic of hurting young people who are hurting other young people. In communities where gangs are prevalent, as Pastor Phil Jackson puts it, “hopelessness and resiliency co-exist.” In other words, “the future looks grim, but I am going to be strong in the midst of this hopelessness.” Too many young people have been either directly or indirectly affected by violence. Too many young people have lost family members and friends to gun violence, some have even witnessed it. Young people are hurting, they are looking for direction, and they are looking for a place to belong. I recently heard Pastor Wayne “Coach” Gordon quote notorious former gang leader Jeff Fort saying, “We (the gangs) will always have the youth because we make them feel important.” That is a profound and troubling statement. Those are challenging words for those of us doing youth ministry in the city. Those are challenging words to the Church! Phil Jackson said this, “the only way you can really change it (the challenge with urban youth) is through consistent positive pressure for a long period of time.” We, the body of Christ, must give our lives to applying this “consistent positive pressure.” It will take much prayer. It will take intentionally investing our lives into the lives of young people. It will be hard. It will be messy. It will be worth it.

During our recent Montana visit I was reminded of 1 Thessalonians 2:8. It reads, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” Paul was saying that he not only shared the message of the hope of Christ, but through relationships and doing life together, he shared the love of Christ in tangible ways. Pastor Danny Lopez recently shared that one of the best practices for youth ministry is this, “practice loving God, then practice loving kids with the love of God, and watch God do a miracle.” Whether you live in Chicago, or Paw Paw, or Bozeman, or Mamelodi, or anywhere in between, let’s give our lives to Christ-exalting life on life ministry!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Running For The Youth

Believe it or not, on Sunday September 13th I will be running in the Chicago Half Marathon on behalf of Sunshine Gospel Ministries. Specifically, I am seeking to raise money for our Youth Outreach Programs.

I am looking for people to sponsor me. If you are interested, you can either sponsor me per mile (it is a 13 mile race), or you can simply donate a specified amount. Lord willing, I will finish all 13 miles!

To donate, visit our web site at Click on the “donate” link on the left margin. Please make sure that you specify “Clark - Half Marathon” on your donation. If you prefer to send in a check, you can make it out to Sunshine Gospel Ministries. On the memo line write “Clark - Half Marathon.” You can mail your check to:
Sunshine Gospel Ministries
P.O. Box 377939
Chicago IL 60637.
*If you need a receipt/tear off portion to send with the check, I can email one to you.

As the race draws closer, I will try to give you "training updates."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Montana Quotes

During our time in Montana, I had the privilege of staying with Dave and Sarah LeVea. One of the highlights of our time with them was our nightly gathering around the kitchen table. On our first evening there, Dave introduced the "quote of the day" journal. Each night he would ask us for the quotes of the day from whatever adventure we had been on that particular day. I thought I would share some of them...

On Monday, when Dave let Baby T borrow his study Bible, Baby T thumbed through the pages and smelled the Bible and then exclaimed, "it just feels Holy, Ahhhhhhh!"

On Tuesday night during the devotional session, Pastor BJ stated, "you never know when God will call you out of the pool."

On Wednesday, at the half way point of the fishing trip, when asked how many fish I had caught...I responded "our boat has 2 fish." I was attempting to hide the fact that I once again hadn't caught any fish!

On Friday as a storm was moving near, Devonta said, "I saw thunder."

During the Sunday morning service, Pastor Aaron Roy stated, "God doesn't take kindly to hustlers."

Finally, the guys and I throughout the week began to notice a common trend among men and women who have lived in Montana for a number of years. They all have PHENOMENAL calves, or as we call them "Montana Calves." You will notice the picture of the sample Montana Calves!:)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Montana Experience

This coming Sunday at 6am we will load the Sunshine van with 7 men and their luggage and head west to Bozeman, MT. This will be our 8th summer doing this trip. I have been blessed to be part of all 8 of them. Each year has been memorable in it's own way. God has done amazing things during this interchange as leaders and young men from urban Chicago connect with host families and church members of all ages from rural/mountain Montana. The relationships that have been built over the years have been a beautiful picture of what the body of Christ was intended to be as young and old, black and white and brown, rural and urban have learned from one another, prayed for one another, and shared laughter and tears.

For this year's trip I have undertook a "Montana Trip Alumni Project." I have tried to connect with every young person (many of whom are now young adults) who has been on the trip asking them questions about their current age, job/school, how the Montana trip impacted them, and what message they would give to the church in Montana. I thought I would share one of the responses from a young man who traveled to Montana with us in 2002 and 2004. Here is what he shared...

Name: Timothy Purdis
Age: 25

What are you up to now? U.S. Army - Combat Engineer currently returning from my second tour. Operation Iraqi Freedom

How did the Montana trip impact your life? Going to Montana with Sunshine Gospel Ministries gave me a chance to connect with Jesus in a different way, a different environment and a chance to build new friendships with people outside of Chicago - and keep it going over the years. I got a chance to go mountain climbing, fly fishing and float in a river, if I'm not mistaken.

If you could send a message to the church in Montana, what would you say? Springhill Community Church thanks for the prayer and support throughout both of my tours in Iraq - Spc (P) Timothy Purdis

1 Thessalonians 2:8 = We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Unexpected Appointment

As I mentioned in a previous post, whenever we host a Friday Night Lights outreach I ask the Lord to give me (& us) divine appointments (in other words, God-orchestrated opportunities to share the love of Christ with people). This past Friday night was no exception. God once again honored my request and provided me with opportunities to speak about Jesus in conversations. However, what made this Friday unique was how one of them came about.

It was about 10:30pm or so when a man named Tony approached me and asked me if I could give he and his wife and son a ride to 55th and Wabash. He explained that the neighborhood gangs were about to start shooting, and that he needed to get his son to his grandmother's house. I told him that I could give them a ride, but I was a little skeptical of his "the gangs are about to start shooting" comment. He then told me he was going to get his wife and son, and would return to our lot in a few minutes. About 5 minutes later he returned by himself. He told me that his son was embarrassed to have his friends see him get into my van to be given a ride somewhere. He asked if I could pick them up from the store up the street so that his one would not be embarrassed. The scenarios just seemed "sketchy" to me, so I told him that I was more than willing to give them a ride, but that they were going to have to come to the lot where my van was. He once again told me they would be back in a few minutes. At this point, I didn't think I would see Tony again. I was both skeptical and a bit cynical at this point. However, a few minutes later Tony returned with his wife and his son ready for the ride. It turned out that I knew his son from Sexton school, and that my previous roommate (J. Harvey) had built a friendship with Tony during his stay in Chicago.

I dropped off Tony's son at his grandmother's and allowed his wife to run him in. Tony and I had a few minutes alone in my van as we waited. I asked him what his faith background was. He told me protestant, and then added, "well just Jesus really!" He quoted a couple of verses. I shared another verse. He quoted another one. I shared one, and we went back and forth. It was such an encouraging conversation. He encourage me to continue to be a positive role model to the young people, and emphasized that they need the hope of Jesus. As I dropped he and his wife off, they thanked me and we exchanged numbers.

In spite of my cynicism, God provided a divine appointment. I am praying that God gives me the opportunity to connect with Tony and his family again.

Friday Night Lights Update: Although we got "lightninged out" at about 11:30pm, FNL was once again a huge success. We praise God, for the opportunities to connect with neighbors, to proclaim the love of Christ, and to make Peace happen!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Divine Appointments

On Friday night we hosted our second Friday Night Lights outreach. (For more information on Friday Night Lights check out my previous post entitled "Friday Night Lights.") I have greatly enjoyed both of these Friday nights. God has blessed us both nights with clear skies and decent weather. We have had a good team of people working together - working the grill, serving food, holding Peace Campaign signs, meeting and greeting people, ministering through music, "dj-ing", and setting up/cleaning up. We have also been blessed with a good turn out of neighbors. We have met neighbors whom we have never seen before, we have strengthened relationships with others, and we have discovered brothers and sisters in Christ. I give God all the praise for all of the above.

Going into this Friday night I told the other summer staff that I was going to pray that God would give me (& us) divine appointments on Friday night. I told them that I am convinced that when we ask God for opportunities to speak to others about Him, He always honors those requests. We just have to be ready and available to open our hearts and to open our mouths to share the love of Christ and the message of His love. He definitely honored my request for divine appointments this past Friday. Let me explain. Our ministry building contains a Community Technology Center that offers computer classes to adults & teens, and an internet cafe that provides access to computers. Over time, I have gotten to know some of the more "frequent" internet cafe visitors. Some of them I get to know by name, and others by face. I try to speak to everyone who comes into the office. On Friday afternoon I invited two of these "frequent guests" to come out to Friday Night Lights. They both took me up on it. During the course of the night I was able to have a separate conversation with each of them, Kevin and Anthony, about their faith background and about the person and work of Christ. Both of them were very open to conversing about Christ, and they come from diverse faith backgrounds (Catholicism, Islam, & Jehovah's witness influences). I am now praying that I might have an ongoing dialogue with them about the love of Christ when I see them and have an opportunity to interact with them at the center. God is good!

Another man came to the lot because he heard the music, and after listening to it intently discovered that it was gospel rap that was coming out of the speakers. A good friend of mine, Pastor Jay, had the opportunity to speak with this brother. He shared with Jay that he used to be a member of a gospel rap group, however he had left the group and had been living in "the far country." He recently came out of a drug rehabilitation program, and he asked Jay to pray for him that he would get back on track with the Lord and continue to live a life for Him. I watched, at around midnight, as Jay hugged him over the chain-link fence and lifted him and his family up to the Lord! That's God!

All of these conversations happened after 11pm, on a Friday night, in an empty lot, in what many consider to be "the hood." It is just a reminder that God is actively at work! The amazing thing is that He invites us to join Him in what He is doing. Let's continue to ask God for divine appointments, and then let's keep our eyes and ears open for how we might join Him in His Kingdom work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Warrior "7"

Last night we (the Sunshine Warriors) defeated Edgewater Baptist to complete our 11 game regular season. We finished the year with a 4 and 7 record. I am greatly encouraged from the way we finished the year! In one of our last regular season games we nearly defeated the undefeated first place team, Breakthrough Urban Ministries. We lost that game by a mere two points, and could have easily won the contest. That proved to me and to the team that we can compete with (and beat)anybody if we play together. Although our team may lack size and depth, we make up for it with heart. When we are at our best we play with a lot of intensity!

We finished the season with 7 players. Let me introduce them to you...
Baby T "Beat You To The Spot" Nimely - Baby T is one of the best on-ball defenders that I have coached. He loves to "lock up" the other teams point guard, and to apply relentless pressure. He then brings that same intensity to the offensive end, and penetrates with full force. Baby T will be a junior at Mt. Carmel High School this fall.

Cornell "All The Way To The Cup" Brandon - Cornell has a "nack" for finding his way all of the way to the whole. Sometimes he dribble coast to coast. Sometimes he catches it on the wing, and penetrates. He somehow slices through and/or by the defense and gets a lay up. Cornell graduated this year from Fenger High School, and will be heading to college in the fall.

Eric "I'm A Football Player" Nimely - Eric is quick to point out to teammates that he is a football player that is playing basketball to stay in shape. Eric brings that football mentality to the court. He crashes the boards, dives on the floor, and does the little things. He even made a couple of "and-ones" this season. Eric will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Pierre "And-One" Carr - I think Pierre has the Miracle League record for converting the most "and-one" three-point plays. He can penetrate past, through, and around just about any defender. Once he arrives at the basket, he intentionally positions his body to draw contact. He utilize the officials like few players that I have seen. Pierre was our leading scorer this season. He will be a junior at South Shore High School this fall.

Trevell "I Need More Touches" Martin - After one of our first games, Trevell told me and his teammates that we would be better off if he just "got more touches." As the season progressed I believed him. Trevell is a streaker shooter with 3-point range, and an ever-improving mid-range jumper. He models his game after his idol, Tracy McGrady, and he continues to develop his game each summer. Trevell will be a junior at Team Englewood High
School this fall.

Terrell "Big Baby" Martin - Terrell's appearance and game favors the Boston Celtic's Glen "Big Baby" Davis. Terrell has a wide body, that creates space within the lane. He continues to develop as a good rebounder and as a defensive presence in the paint. He also has a soft touch for a big guy around the basket. Terrell will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Wendell "Slash" Ambrose - Wendell was a new addition to our team this season. He did a great job handling the ball and playing calm even when the game got crazy. Wendell is at his best when he slashes to the hole. He does this through the use of a crafty jump stop, and through a cross-over dribble. If he continues to develop his jump shot, he will be dangerous. Wendell will be a junior at Team Englewood High School this fall.

Update, Update...
On Saturday we competed in the end of the year tournament. We entered the double-elimination tournament as the 5 seed. Our first round opponent was South Shore United Methodist. We lost a close contest to them, and during the second half we lost Pierre Carr for the rest of the tournament. After dropping into the loser's bracket, we earned back to back victories against Edgewater Baptist and the World Overcomer's. (In other words we lost to "the Methdodists" but were able to defeat "the Baptists" and "the Pentecostals." :)) Our final game of the day was a rematch against South Shore. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas (and lost another player to injury - Trevell Martin). We played hard all day long though, and I was proud of how hard we played in spite of our limited roster.

I continue to pray that the seeds that were planted this season will continue to grow, and that eternal fruit would abide in the lives of the young men. I am reminded of Isaiah 55 of the "lasting effect" of God's Word (Isaiah 55:11). Our final tournament devotional was a powerful gospel presentation shared by long-time youth pastor Danny Lopez. I am praying that these young men will seek and serve Christ in their youth!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's Soft Isn't It?

On Saturday I was able to spend the day with my family in South Haven. We got together to celebrate my sister Anne's 33rd birthday. After spending time together on the beach, we all went out to dinner at Clementines. Just after most of us had finished with our meals, my nephew Carson (age 3) asked me if I would take him to the bathroom. I grabbed his hand and we headed off to the men's room. When we got inside, he first walked towards the stalls - only to discover that they were occupied. Next he assessed the urinal situation - 2 full size and 1 "short urinal." This particular "short urinal" was technically still too high for him, but he would not be denied. He dropped his pants to his ankles, thus exposing his backside and most of his legs (this produced grins and chuckles from the other men entering the rest room). He then stood on his tip toes so that he could reach the urinal. He literally rested "his equipment" on the urinal rim. For those of you who don't know much about "urinal rims," they are not the cleanest or most sanitary surfaces. Nonetheless Carson did not want any assistance from his uncle Dave at this point. A few minutes in he turned to me and stated, "I think I need to sit down." So we headed for the newly opened stall. I wiped down the seat and made a "paper throne" for him. I then lifted him up, placed him on the seat, and then stepped outside the stall to wait for him. A few minutes later he announced, "Uncle David I'm done." I walked into the stall to find him with his pants still at his ankles, and with a smile of "a job well done" on his face. I could tell that he needed something, so I asked the question that I was hoping to avoid - "do you need me to wipe you?" He nodded yes. This is where the story really gets good. After indicating his need of assistance, he proceeded to bend over and grab his ankles with his hands. Apparently either his mother or father taught him this procedure to aid "the wiper." I then grabbed the appropriate amount of toilet paper and proceeded to wipe his tiny bottom. As I was wiping him he asked,"it's soft...isn't it?" I almost busted out laughing, but I kept my composure and just smiled at him. I then told him, "Carson you did good." He immediately responded, "no you did good."

It's great to be an uncle!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Warrior Update

We are just over the mid-season mark for the Miracle League Season. At this point the Sunshine Warriors are 3 and 4. Other than one lop-sided victory that we had, every game this season has been close. We once again started the season with a full roster of 13 players. However, various circumstances have once again trimmed our roster to the “Faithful 8.” This has posed challenges, losing a 6’5” shot blocker and low-post threat, a 5’9” 3 point “gun-slinger”, and some additional bench support. However, our remaining 8 leave us with a scrappy and determined 6-foot and under bunch. For 5 of the guys this is their 4th summer playing with us in the League.

We have 4 regular season games remaining, followed by a post-season tournament on Friday July 17th and Saturday July 18th. I am confident that if we are playing together and playing hard, we can make a run at the championship.

It has been great to have Pastor Brad helping as an assistant coach and driving an additional van to our games. Pastor Brown has also been gracious to us in allowing us to use First Baptist’s vintage gymnasium for all of our practices.

We have had some really good devotional talks with our guys. They are asking really good questions, wrestling with the gospel, thinking on who Christ is. I am encouraged especially by 2-3 of the guys who show evidence of growth and spiritual maturity developing. Please continue to pray with me for the team – that eyes would be opened to the gospel and that fruit would continue to grow.