Sunday, May 24, 2009

Becoming A Courageous Church

This morning I had the opportunity to preach at my guy Aaron's church, Living Hope Neighborhood Church, in Richmond CA. I felt led this morning to preach about what it means to become a courageous people of God. The preparation and the delivery of the message really convicted and challenge me in my own cowardice. Here is the outline of this morning's message.

Becoming A Courageous Church

“Courage is acting (or moving forward) on conviction in the face of fear.”
-John Perkins

The Church Needs The Courage To…

(1)Communicate the Gospel
• 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 = …But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Ask God for “divine appointments” this week.

(2)Compassionately Care for the Needs of Others
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 =…Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
• Luke 10:25-37 “the parable of the Good Samaritan”

“In the third century AD, a terrible plague struck the city of Alexandria, claiming many lives. The pagans interpreted the event as the gods’ punishment and refused to help the sick since they “deserved” their calamity. Alexandrian Christians responded differently. Out of love for God, they nursed the weak and buried the dead – often contracting fatal illnesses. These brave souls won the nickname “paraboloni” which means “one who takes a risk.” Today, we should make it our aim to earn this title of honor.”
Amy Sherman “A Call For Church Welfare Reform”

(3)Cross Lines
• Acts 13:1; Acts 11:25 =…the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch
• John 4:1-26 “Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well”

“Love for each other across racial and class barriers still remains the most powerful testimony to Jesus Christ and the gospel. The local church must demonstrate fellowship to communities turfed by gangs, divided by political corruption, and ruined by financial exploitation.”
-Ray Bakke in “The Urban Christian”

(4)Our courage must come from Christ!
Acts 4:13 = When they saw the COURAGE of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Burdened For The Fatherless

Last weekend I got a voice message from a friend of mine, Jake, who graduated from Moody with me. He lives and works in Des Moines, Iowa and is very involved in ministry there at his church and at his job. Jake definitely has the gift of encouragement. It is hard to have a conversation with him and not feel encouraged in some way. On this particular phone call he left a question for me. He told me that he recently had become involved working with fatherless youth. He then asked me how we could be praying together for the fatherless. I was really challenged by his question and the obvious intent of his heart behind his question. Although I have definitely prayed for young men and young women over the years who don't have their fathers involved in their lives, the size of his question really caused me to think.

Fatherlessness has become an epidemic in our nation. I see the effects of it in the urban context, but fatherlessness exists in suburban and rural contexts at an ever increasing rate as well. Young people that grow up without a father are more likely to be impoverished, less likely to graduate from college, and have an increased chance of incarceration. I will refrain from sharing the statistics on this, but they are definitely disheartening. What makes fatherlessness so challenging to tackle is that it is caused by both systemic injustices and personal sin. It is a complex challenge. Materialism and chasing the American dream plays a part. Economic injustices and lack of opportunity plays a part as well. The reasons or causes for fatherlessness may vary, but the effects don't change.

But back to Jake's question, "how can we be praying for the fatherless?" First and foremost, God is referred to throughout Scripture as the defender and the helper of the fatherless. It is evident that the fatherless are on God's heart. I am reminded what the founder of World Vision, Bob Pierce, once said - "Let my heart be broken with the things that break God's heart." We need to allow God to break our hearts for the fatherless. I think that is the best place to start.

Secondly, I am reminded of the prayer that Jesus challenged his disciples to pray in Matthew 9:36-38 = When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." We can therefore be praying that God would raise up laborers with a heart for the fatherless.

The interesting thing about the Matthew 9 passage is that right after Jesus tells them to pray for laborers, he sends them out as laborers. We need to be the laborers with hearts for the fatherless. There is an African proverb that says, "it takes a village to raise a child." The church can be that "village" for the fatherless. The church can and should be the family for fatherless children. So what does this look like? If you are married and have a family, although your primary ministry is your wife and children, you can still reach out to the fatherless. In fact it should be a natural, as an increasing number of your children's friends may be fatherless. You have a great opportunity to have them over for dinner, take them to church, and take them on family trips. Singles within the church could and should be involved as well. Although singles don't have the connection through their kids like married folks do, there are endless opportunities for singles to mentor and disciple fatherless young men and young women.

We can also be praying that fatherless young people will find their identity in Christ - that they will find their identity as a child of God. Young people need the strength, protection, affirmation, and love of their father. When they don't get that, they look to fulfill that legitimate need illegitimately through relationships/sex, gangs, drugs/alcohol, etc.

In conclusion, let's be the village for fatherless children, let's be the family of God for them, let's be the Church.

Psalm 86:5
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 82:3
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Deuteronomy 10:17-18
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Chicago Peace Campaign Kickoff Rally

Chicago Peace Campaign Kickoff Rally
Saturday May 23rd
11am - 1pm
Washington Park - just east of Garfield Blvd & King Dr

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Proverbs 27:17

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Boston, Massachusetts for my friend Ben's graduation from Gordon-Conwell seminary. Ben and I practically grew up together. I call his mom and dad, aunt and uncle, and he and his two sisters cousins. Over the years I have learned much about friendship from Ben. It was during my sophomore year of college that he introduced me to the concept of being accountability partners. His transparency with his own personal sin struggles allowed me really for the first time to be completely honest and vulnerable with a brother in the Lord about my struggles and my fears. In the spring of 2001 he cried with me as I shared my surrender to follow God's calling into urban ministry. Over the years there have been times where he has cried for me as he has prayed for things that I have gone through in my life. He has modeled what it means to "be" a true friend and brother in the Lord.

Over the course of the weekend I also got to observe he and two of his closest friends from college. These guys connected at Wheaton college and have invested in each other's lives over the last 9 years or so even as distance and family have made it challenging. These brothers love to laugh and have a good time together. They also intercede for one another, seek counsel from one another, and lovingly challenge one another when necessary. Spending the weekend with them reminded me of the importance of friendships and the importance of community.

In the book the Disciplines Of A Godly Man,the author Kent Hughes states that only 10% of men have true friendships with other men. That is a sad statistic, especially for the body of Christ. I am still learning what it means to "be" a godly friend. I still struggle with being transparent and vulnerable with my brothers, but by God's grace I am growing in this area. I am thankful for the solid brothers that God has placed in my life.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sharing A Need

The conclusion of this school year (last day of school is Friday June 12th) marks our second school year of ministry in our new building. Praise God for all that He has done during our short time here in this community. When we first moved into the building in January of 2007, only the office section of the building was usable. Over time, the all-purpose room and the community technology center were finished. In June of 2007 we finished 1 of the 6 apartments located on the 2nd floor of our building (it has been home of the Blodgett family ever since).

We still need to finish the other 5 apartments as well as the remaining storefront on the first floor. The vision for the last storefront is to transform it into a community cafe, that will be open to adults in the morning and then be used as additional youth programming space in the afternoon and evening hours. The vision for the unfinished apartments is to create affordable housing (4 units) and staff housing/office use space (2 units).

Praise the Lord, we recently were able to get our zoning changes finalized at City Hall. This enables us to secure our building permits and move forward with the above mentioned rehab projects. However, what that means is that we are now in the position to raise the funds necessary to complete the project. The financial need is $150,000. Please pray with us that God would provide for this need!! The completion of the building would be a huge blessing as we enter into our 3rd school year of ministry here in the fall.

Pictures: the top picture is the inside of the unfinished storefront, the 2nd picture is the outside, the 3rd picture is a view of our building off of 61st St