Friday, November 27, 2009
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.
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
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 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
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.