Friday, August 20, 2010

Clark The Runner

On the early morning of September 12th I will be running the Chicago Half Marathon on behalf of Sunshine Gospel Ministries! I am looking for people to sponsor me in this endeavor. All of the money that I raise will go directly to Sunshine!

The race is 13.2 miles long. So you could sponsor me per mile (example of $1/mile), Or you could simply pledge a lump sum (example $100) of money.

If you are interested in donating towards this, go to and click on the “Donate” link. Then click on “Donations To Sunshine Gospel Ministries.” Make it a “general budget” donation, and please indicate that it is “Clark Half Marathon” or “Clark The Runner.” All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you for supporting me in this worthy endeavor!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tragic Urgency

(This is a picture of OJ, 16 years old.)

(This is a picture of Damian Turner, 18 years old.)

On Saturday evening I was driving home from a BBQ with my roommate CW. A block away from our house we saw what is sadly a familiar scene on weekend nights during the summer, police cars and police lights. This particular scene included not only police cars, and several of them, but also an ambulance. I said to CW, "somebody got shot." It wasn't until the following evening that I discovered what happened. The shocking part of the news was that the young man who was shot and killed was a former player of mine, 18 year old Damian Turner. He had played for me on three different summer teams. Even after his playing days I would see him all the time, as we only lived a block or so apart. He was a cool kid, liked hanging out with his friends, like to write and record music, and was active in a local community organization called STOP. He had so much potential! He was shot in the back on Cottage Grove around midnight on Saturday, and he died shortly thereafter.

Tragically, Damian is not alone. Earlier this summer another one of my former players, OJ, was shot multiple times in the head and his body was dumped on some remote railroad tracks. The number of young men (although young women are dying too) who have died in the streets this summer alone is alarming. Chicago has now surpassed New York and Los Angeles as the youth homicide capital of the United States. At a funeral earlier this spring, Pastor Corey Brooks was quoted as saying, "hurt people, hurt people." This is where we are at right now in Chicago. We have a lot of hurting young people, who are acting out of that hurt. There is a conditioned hopelessness that sets in, creating an emotional numbness, and leading to acts of desperation.

Whenever there is a string of shootings, all of the experts chime in. Sadly, oftentimes, there is a lot of finger-pointing that happens. I read and hear statements like this:
We need less guns on the street.
Parents need to parent their kids.
We need more police on the street.
If we could just get the gangs under control...
The kids need more positive activities.
The church no longer has the presence and impact that is once has.
We need less drugs on the street.
The mayor needs to allocate more funds to youth programs.
The interesting thing is, I would agree with all of these statements. We need all of the above! We need involved parents, less guns, just police, more outlets for youth, more engagement from local churches, less drugs, and more funding for after school activities. The underlying factor in all of this is the need for long-term, preventative, life on life investment. We don't need more marches, we need more mentors - coaches, teachers, parents, police, block club leaders, and especially pastors and Christians all working together on a long-term consistent basis. The cry after each shooting is for Intervention, but really the call needs to be for more long-term investment in Prevention.

What about the Church? I think we need to re-think how we do church in our American context. As my friend Allan would say, "we have made it too much about the Sunday morning show!" The city and suburbs are full of "drive-in spiritual service centers" where we "fill up" and then retreat to "normal life." I really believe we need to re-think how we can BE the church Monday through Sunday on our blocks, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and on our jobs. The service on Sunday then is only the beginning, it is only the huddle, but we should look forward to "breaking huddle" each Sunday and heading into the battle of the coming week. We have lost this sense of battle, this sense of mission, this sense of urgency!

This recent shooting has also reminded me of the eternal weight of the Gospel message that we possess. Our blocks, neighborhoods, and cities need us to both proclaim the Gospel (Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God) and portray the Gospel message (justice & mercy). It must be a both/and commitment on our behalf. To put it simply, people need Jesus!

Tomorrow morning I will be attending Damian's funeral. Please lift up his family and friends in prayer.

Continue to pray for Churches and Christ followers here in Chicago, that we would work well together for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of our city.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Horizontal Transformation

Red Revolution from Threads on Vimeo.

(The following video was done by Adam Thomason of Red Revolution. I met Adam at the Legacy Conference this year. He taught a workshop I attended called "Living Out Biblical Community." I am still unpacking all that I learned!)

During my time at Moody Graduate School I became aware that historically and currently in America we have bought into and lived out a very individualized, "me and Jesus" Christianity. It is focused primarily on the vertical reality of what Christ accomplished on the cross (reconciling us back to God), while either excluding or minimizing the horizontal reality of the cross (reconciling us one to another). When this happens, the church mirrors society's emphasis on individualism and materialism. The church than also becomes infected with our cultures "caste system" built around race and class.

Although, this "one-sided" Christianity has unfortunately plagued the Church, it is not found in Scripture. I like what Mark Dever says in his book entitled "What Is A Healthy Church." He states, "It should be no surprise then that Jesus said that 'all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments': love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. The two commandments go together. The first produces the second, and the second proves the first. Through Christ, then, being reconciled to God means being reconciled to everyone else who is reconciled to God." I am thinking a lot lately of what it means than to practically love our neighbor as ourselves, and exploring afresh what it means to truly be this new blood-bought family of God. How can we best reflect Christ to a watching world as His covenant people? How do we sacrificially love and bear with one another the way it is described in Acts 2?

I would love to chop it up if you have thoughts, questions, etc. Also, do you have any books you would recommend on Biblical community? I just purchased "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Let's chop...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who Is Our Family?

We just returned from our annual discipleship trip to Montana. For me it was my 9th “pilgrimage” west! Over the course of these nine years, I have developed some great relationships with the people of Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, MT. I have come to view many of the people there as my “Montana family.” However, just before I departed on the trip this year, I was reminded of the impact of the Gospel on our horizontal relationships. In the opening verse of the book of Philemon, Paul refers to Timothy as his “brother.” In the Gospel of John (11:21), Mary refers to Lazarus as her “brother.” The difference between these two passages is that Lazarus was Mary’s biological brother, while Timothy was Paul’s brother in Christ. The interesting thing is that both passages use the same Greek word, “adelphos.” This word literally means, “of the same womb.” Take a second and think about the significance of this! Mary and Lazarus were biologically related, while Paul and Timothy were Blood related. The Gospel had caused a radical paradigm shift in Paul’s life. Remember Paul was of Jewish descent and was very proud of his ethnic stock (Philippians 3). However, when God rocked him with the Gospel on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), his perspective of horizontal relationships was radically altered. He became the “apostle to the Gentiles.” He confronted racism/ethnocentrism (Galatians 2:11-14). He acted compassionately on behalf of the poor (Galatians 2:10). Paul’s new birth in Christ caused him to view all believers as “family.” This family perspective superseded any racial, ethnic, or economic differences that existed. That is true Gospel transformation!

So when we travel to Montana, we realize that there are geographical, cultural, and economic differences between us, but we quickly recognize that we are family. We get to know each other, we sharpen each other, we laugh together, and throughout the year we pray for one another. As followers of Jesus we are adopted into a multi-national, multi-ethnic family! Lord give us the grace to be family!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Great Legacy

The last Thursday and Friday in July, just before departing for Montana, I attended the Legacy Discipleship Conference here in Chicago! I have been to every one thus far, and I have to say that this year's was the best. The workshops I went to were so meaty and the main sessions were challenging! I will be doing some additional blogs on the content that I am still chewing on from the workshops.

Thabiti Anyabwile did a great review of the conference on his blog. Much of what he said resonated with me!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Clinging To Him

In Sho Baraka's song, "Kobe Bryant On Em" he has a line that says, "When life throws you curve balls like Nolan Ryan on em, don't give up in the field...Detroit Lions on em!" During the months of May and June, I feel like I got thrown a curve ball. Honestly, it felt like a bad dream that I wished would end. What made this "curve ball" particularly challenging was that there was nothing I could to to change things. I cried, I cried out to God, I sought counsel. My circumstances didn't change, but in and through it God has been changing me.

It is now August, and in some ways I am still struggling. However, in the midst of this I have experienced God's grace, faithfulness, and love in powerful ways. It is always amazing how during painful circumstances/seasons, there is an intimacy with Christ that is stronger than that of sunny days. He is chiseling me and challenging me in different ways. He seems to be asking me two questions: Do you trust me? and Do you love me?

I recently came across some verses in the book of Joshua where he exhorts the Israelites to "cling" to the LORD (Joshua 22:5, 23:8). I love the imagery of "clinging" to the LORD as my Father, my Rock, my Refuge, the one in whom I put my trust. The word cling means to adhere to, to follow close, to pursue hard. The Israelites were still struggling with the uncertainty of the future, despite the promises God had given them. They needed to hear Joshua's words of "cling to Him." As I wrestle with concerns of "the future" I need those same words - cling to the LORD. By God's grace I want to learn how to cling to Him a day at a time, and to cultivate a "crazy love" relationship with Jesus, where He is my first love.