Tuesday, October 27, 2009
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
Saturday, October 10, 2009
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
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!