Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 In Books

This past year I read some great books. I thought I would share the books that impacted me this past year:

1) You See Bones I See An Army by Floyd McClung
2) Generous Justice by Tim Keller
3) The Complete Book of Discipleship by Bill Hull
4) Radical Together by David Platt
5) What Is The Gospel by Greg Gilbert
6) Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married by Gary Chapman
7) The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb

What book(s) did you read this past year that really impacted you?

In the coming year I have my sights on...
Biographies: Deitrick Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and Frederick Douglass Autobiographies by Frederick Douglass and Henry Louis Gates
Race/Culture: Yellow by Frank Wu, Being Latino In Christ by Orlando Crespo, Living In Color by Randy Woodley
Church & Mission: Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper, Oneness Embraced by Tony Evans, Bloodlines by John Piper, Operation World by Jason Mandryk, and The Trellis & The Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Bible Study/Theology: How To Read The Bible For All It's Worth by Gordon Fee

Monday, December 26, 2011

Who We "See"

I was recently at Home Depot to buy paint for our house. While we were standing in line for our paint, another customer approached the paint counter with a Home Depot sales associate right behind him, trying to keep pace. This customer was noticeably irritated by the sales person, and was evidently coming to the paint counter for "outside assistance." It became evident that this man, and the man who was trying to help him were having some communication struggles. The sales person was of Asian descent and his English was not the best as he spoke. However, the man who was shopping (and irritated) acted as if he didn't even see the salesmen. He dismissed what he said, got the answer he needed, and quickly walked past him to get back to what he needed. Now let me say, that I understand that sometimes communication can be difficult when someone's English isn't that strong. It can be frustrating when you feel like you keep "missing" each other in communication. However, the thing that really made me upset as I observed this interaction was how the salesperson became seemingly invisible to the customer. He chose to not see him and to not acknowledge his efforts to help him. The sales associate became worthless to him once he no longer saw him.

That same weekend, a man came to our Saturday service and breakfast with a large "Jesus" tattoo in the middle of his forehead. This man and his tattoo got my attention, and so I made it a point to get to know him and hear his story. I learned that he was staying at the rescue mission here in Richmond, but that he was originally from Seattle. Without going into great detail, he was recently divorced, relocated, and out of work. I began to ask him about life at the mission (homeless shelter). He stated that he greatly appreciated both having a place to stay, and a consistent meal. However, he said he was greatly disappointed and disturbed by the way the staff treated the men who came there. He shared that many of the staff "talked down at them." He further added that they seemed to lump everyone into the same category - drug addict, lazy, mentally challenged, etc. - rather then seeing the uniqueness of each person and each person's story. In other words, the issue with the staff at the mission is that they don't "see" the individual residents. It is because they don't truly see them that they feel compelled to talk down at them.

Whether or not we "see" people is critical. How we view someone, greatly affects how we treat them. When we lump people together (stereotype), seek to avoid certain people, or look down on people, we won't truly see them, and we will be unable to converse or connect with them in any type of meaningful way.

My good friend Aaron often says, "we cannot minister to someone who we think less of." Therefore, lack of sight and condescension go hand in hand. I love reading the Gospels and observing the way Jesus interacted with people. He interacted with all types of people. No one was above or below his compassionate reach. He saw people: tax collectors, women, Samaritans, lepers, politicians, etc. His sight always stirred compassion rather than condescension. Matthew 9:36 (and others) states, "When He saw the crowds, he had compassion for them..."

It was this "compassionate sight" that led him to the cross. Romans 5 says that "while we were still weak (helpless)" and "while we were still sinners" Christ died for us. That's the beauty of the Cross, and the beauty of the Gospel. It is the Gospel that then transforms how we "see" others and compels us to love everyone. Peter lost sight of this new "Gospel vision" in Galatians 2, and his brother Paul had to lovingly get in his face to remind him of his new eyes.

While we're at work, at school, in our neighborhoods, out shopping, etc. let's be mindful of the people who cross our path each day. May we be a people who "see" everyone with our Gospel eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Our Great High Priest

This past Saturday & Sunday I preached a message entitled "Consider Jesus: Our Great High Priest." It was a challenging study for me. I read through the book of Hebrews, some chapters several times. There is so much in that book! I still don't know if I fully understand all the priesthood entailed, but I was definitely encouraged in the study as I thought about all that Jesus is! Here is my outline. You can also listen to the message here.

Consider Jesus: Our Great High Priest

The office of priesthood was instituted by God in order to maintain fellowship between the holy God and the sinful nation. Priests were...
1)Chosen from among men and ordained/appointed to minister on behalf of his fellow man before God.

2)Offered gifts and sacrifices for sins.
-In offering sacrifices, they showed that sin was very real and deserving of death!
-The priests went before God as the people's advocate and intercessor.
-A blood sacrifice had to be made (usually bulls or goats).
-Sacrifices had to be made over and over, each year.

3)Supposed to be compassionate with sinners, because they themselves were subject to weakness.

4)Offered sacrifices for themselves as well as those of the people, for they too needed atonement.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Since then we have a great hight priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I. A Greater Priest

a)His Selection & Term
-Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 7:23-24

b)His Intimacy with the Father
-Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 10:12

c)His Sinlessness
-Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 7:27-28; 2 Corinthians 5:21

II. A Greater Sacrifice
He gave Himself...once and for all...he sat down!
-Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:25-26; Hebrews 10:10-14

III. A Gracious Savior & Sustainer
"Jesus can both sympathize with and deliver us!" - Mark Driscoll

Sympathize mans to feel or suffer with.
-Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 2:18

"It is Jesus our priest who knows every hair on our head, day of our life, longing of our heart, and thought on our mind. At this very moment, Jesus is brining our hurts, suffering, needs and sins to the Father in a prayerful and loving was as our priest." - Driscoll

Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas Giving Opportunities

Christmas is a reminder of the greatest gift that this world has ever received, God's Son, Jesus Christ. The Gospel Of Jesus Christ compels us to be a people marked by generosity. During this Christmas season, here are two good options for gospel motivated generosity...

1)Sunshine Gospel Ministries' Annual Christmas Store
Each year Sunshine collects donated gifts (store bought gifts) for kids ages 0 through 18. They then set up an actual store, where parents can shop for their kids. Everything is marked down 75%. This gives parents in the neighborhood of Woodlawn a more affordable way to do Christmas shopping. Each year the store is a blessing to 50-80 families. You can buy gifts online at Target for the Sunshine store here. If you want to read more about the philosophy/theology of the store, check out this blog entry.

2)Africa Revolution's "Compassion Needs Wheels" Campaign
Africa Revolution is doing an amazing work alongside local churches in Swaziland: making disciples, caring for orphans, and doing medical missions. They have an urgent need for a new van for transportation for ministry outreaches. Their executive director Allan says, "We have come to realize that a reliable, sturdy vehicle is our primary tool to facilitate all our ministry. It enables us to to get the job done! Whether our team is doing rural medical missions or community outreach, we are totally dependent on our vehicle." To donate towards a new van click here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

December Praise & Prayer

It is safe to say that November flew by, with the wedding, honeymoon, and Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for! Here is our December Praise & Prayer...

(1)For an amazing honeymoon in Hawaii, and for the financial gifts that made it possible!
(2)For the provision of our home (which is next door to the church)!
(3)For a great start to our Wednesday night Praise & Prayer service at church!
(4)For a successful surgery for my brother-in-law Ray. He had a tumor removed from his ear canal!
(5)For community and mentors here in Richmond!
(6)For working out the final details I needed to begin volunteering at Richmond HS!

Prayer Requests
Please pray with us...
(1)That our love for God and for our neighbors would grow.
(2)That God might direct us to and provide housing that we (the church) could use for transitional and discipleship housing for men and women.
(3)That the Lord would direct us as we consider becoming a satellite location for World Impact's "TUMI" (The Urban Ministry Institute www.tumi.org). This would give us the opportunity to offer seminary level coursework/training to men and women in Richmond and the East Bay at an affordable rate.
(4)For direction as we prayerfully consider (and move towards) partnerships with local school(s), the Boys & Girls Club, and other non-profit/social service agencies here in Richmond.
(5)That our church would leverage the ministries of Safe Families and Youshare in a way that would bless our city and the Bay area, and would mobilize churches.
(6)We own a condo in Branson, Missouri (where Josie lived before we got married). Please pray with us that we would find a renter soon!

*Let me know how we can be praying for you! Email me at pastordave@lhnchurch.org
**Also, don't forget about our podcast on I-tunes under "Living Hope Neighborhood Church"!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It is Thanksgiving Eve and Josie and I just had coffee and cereal together and are now cleaning our house (all of that still seems crazy to write and say!). I was struck with all that I have to be thankful for!

I am thankful for my relationship with God through Jesus! His grace in my life is humbling! As a kid growing up the Lord began planting Gospel seeds in my life through my parents, key Sunday school teachers and AWANA leaders, and other Christians who we did life with. Then my freshman year of college, during the fall of 1996, the Lord brought me to a place of full surrender to Him. He then surrounded me with men to disciple me, Christian peers to walk it out with, and numerous godly examples. God then began to show me, over time, how the way He had wired me was according to His purpose, and that He had work for me to do. Ephesians chapter two, verses eight through 10, says it best! I am amazed at the LORD's faithfulness, His steadfast love, and His never ending grace and mercy (Lamentations 3:22-23).

I am thankful for my wife! Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." That is exactly what has happened. God graciously directed me to my "good thing." He did it. If you want to read our story/testimony of how He brought us together, you can read it here. We have now been married for 18 days, and I still can't believe what the LORD has done.

I am thankful for my church where I serve as an under shepherd! Every time someone refers to me as "Pastor Dave" I am reminded of God's grace and am humbled that He is using me. God is doing some amazing things at our church! Yesterday's marriage was just one example, of how God is redeeming people and restoring lives and families. Our church is a beautiful picture of Christ's diverse bride. We come from different ethnic backgrounds and different socio-economic backgrounds to find family together underneath the banner of Christ. I am so thankful for how God used my neighborhood and community in Chicago to shape me, and is now doing the same thing here in Richmond.

I am thankful for all of the family and friends and supporters that Josie and I have. It was an amazing thing at our wedding to walk out and see such amazing support and love! We have "family" (some biological) all over the country, and in other parts of the world! This loving community is just another evidence of God's grace.

I am thankful for the legacy of faith in Christ that has been passed down from our parents - James & Gwendetta Albright and Dave & Coleen Clark. I am thankful for their faithful support, love, encouragement, and wisdom.

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

3 Blog Entries Worth Reading

Although, I have a few different blogs "in the hopper" that I plan to write soon, today I want to direct your attention to other blog entries that I think are definitely worth checking out.

(1) Today we had the opportunity to witness the marriage ceremony of a couple from our church. The three of us pastors took them to the county clerk to get legally married, with plans to have a church ceremony in the near future. God is doing an amazing work in the lives of Kevin and Karen Saechao. My good friend and co-laborer Curtis Zackery blogs about it here.

(2) As many of you know I serve on the board of a ministry in southern Africa called Africa Revolution. My good friend, Allan Greig, is the founder and executive director of this ministry. He and his wife recently spent 3 months in Swaziland serving the local church there, and pouring their lives into a team of vision year interns. As Allan prepares to return to the states, he had these challenging and thought provoking thoughts to share on his blog entry entitled "Plugging Back Into The Matrix."

(3) I recently began listening to the podcast of Pastor Bryan Loritts, and then shortly thereafter began following him on twitter. He pastors a multi-ethnic church in Memphis, TN. He recently shared his "Top 10 Books On Multi-Ethnic Ministry." I have read a handful of these, but was definitely encouraged to check out some of the others. You can see his list here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

November Praises & Prayer

It is safe to say that the month of October flew by! It was a busy month of ministry, and of preparing for our wedding! This last week or so especially has been a whirlwind. I have woken up the last few mornings just in awe of God's faithfulness and goodness and grace. I have been struck afresh with the amazing truth that God is my Father, and loves me as His son! I am so humbled as I reflect on all of the ways the LORD has answered prayers in this unique season of my life, and our lives (I'm married now!!). Here are our praises and prayer requests, as we head into the month of November...


1)This past Saturday we got married in Chicago!!!!! I still cannot believe it! (Our web site, www.davidandjosie.com tells our story. God's grace is so evident in everything!)

2)For all of the friends and family who have shown us so much love and encouragement as we celebrated our marriage, and as we move into this next season of life together!

3)We both prayed that Christ would be lifted high in our wedding ceremony, and we feel that He honored our prayers on our wedding day!

4)For God's continued provision for our financial support needs! We have such faithful and generous supporters!

5)We have begun two small groups for married couples at our church, and are studying "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas! We are so blessed to be able to be in community with these other couples!

6)For the opportunity to disciple my brother Nick here in Richmond!

7)For key relationships and opportunities to serve at Richmond High School!

Prayer Requests

1)That Jesus would be our first love, and the foundation of our marriage!

2)For safe travels and and a great time on our honeymoon in Hawaii! We will be gone November 11th through November 18th. (We are also so thankful for the financial assistance that made this trip possible!!!)

3)Every Wednesday we fast and pray as a pastoral team for the needs of our church and our city. Would you pray with us and for us on Wednesdays?

4)This month we will be starting a Wednesday night Praise & Prayer service from 6-7:30pm! Pray that God would give us a passion to seek Him on behalf of our church, our city, and the nations! Pray that God would teach us how to pray as a church! We are excited to see how He will answer prayer!

5)Pray that the Lord would direct us as we consider becoming a satellite location for World Impact's "TUMI" (The Urban Ministry Institute). This would give us the opportunity to offer seminary level coursework/training to men and women in Richmond and the East Bay at an affordable rate.

6)That we would be a church centered on and passionate about the Gospel and making disciples of all nations!

*As always, please let us know how we can be praying for you! Email me at pastordave@lhnchurch.org

We, now have a podcast! You can subscribe on I-Tunes, and listen to our messages each week. You can search "Living Hope Neighborhood Church on I-Tunes.
If you don't do the I-Tunes thing, you can also listen to the messages on our web site, www.lhnchurch.org

1 John 3:1 = See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Priority & Power of Prayer: Part 2

Four Prerequisites For Powerful Prayer
(Taken from a message given by Jackson Senyonga and found in “The Power Of A City At Prayer” by Mac Pier & Katie Sweeting)

1.Prayer must be desperate.

We must see our own need for God – out utter dependence on Him – and cry out to Him from our own impotence. Only when we realize that we can do nothing of value without Him will we come to Him in desperation.

Psalm 142:5-6 = I cry out to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me!

1 Samuel 30:6 = And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his own sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

Mark 9:24 = Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

John 15:5 = I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

“Christ’s power is best displayed against the backdrop of human weakness.” - unknown pastor

2.Prayer must be united.

We need to pray in our own prayer closets in solitude at home, but we also need to pray together. There is great power in corporate prayer!

Acts 1:14 = All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer

Acts 2:42 = And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

3. Prayer must be sustained.

Prayer is not a practice that we pick up today and drop tomorrow in favor of some new spiritual fad. Prayer is essential to our lives! Prayer must be a day by day practice sustained on a personal level and on a corporate level

Psalm 105:4 = Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!

Ephesians 6:18 = praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 = Pray without ceasing.

4. Prayer must be inspired.

The Holy Spirit inspires our praying, and we need to listen to the leading of the Spirit as we pray.

Romans 8:26-27 = Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Ephesians 6:18 = praying at all times in the Spirit

Notable Quotes On Prayer

“Prayer breaks all bars, dissolves all chains, opens all prisons, and widens all straits by which God’s saints have been held.” -E.M. Bounds

“Behind every work of God you will always find some kneeling form.” - D.L. Moody

“It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.” - Hudson Taylor

“Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.” - John Piper

“The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all, in prayer.” J. Oswald Sanders

“One should never initiate anything that he cannot saturate in prayer.” - unknown

“sometimes we have to push through until duty becomes delight” – unknown

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer.” E.M. Bounds

Monday, October 24, 2011

Living In Harmony

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at LHNC. We have been working our way through the book of 1 Peter. You can listen to my message here. I would also encourage you to listen to the first two messages in the series preached by Pastor Aaron & Pastor Curtis. (We also have a podcast on I-Tunes, if you look up Living Hope Neighborhood Church.)

Here are some of the points of emphasis from this Sunday's message...

1 Peter 1:22-2:10
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame." So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

“We have a living hope in Jesus Christ that that compels us to live in holiness and harmony so that we might demonstrate and declare His excellencies.”

This supernatural rebirth has made it possible for us to obey the truth, to purify ourselves, and to love our brothers and sisters (v. 22-23)

The Cornerstone determines the design and orientation of a building is the most significant stone in the structure. The Cornerstone is the visible support on which the rest of the building relies for strength and stability. We are the building & Jesus Christ is Our CORNERSTONE!

Our unity affects our outreach
Our oneness affects our witness

John 17:21 = That they (believers, disciples) may all be one, just as You Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Priority & Power of Prayer: Part One

One of the themes that the Lord is pressing into my life since moving to Richmond is the importance of fasting and prayer. These are disciplines that all of us as Christ followers would say are crucial, and yet we often struggle to consistently and persistently seek God. One of our first decisions as a pastoral team (and probably are most important decision) was to devote Wednesdays to fasting and prayer - to pray for our church and pray for our city. Wednesday has honestly become my favorite day of the week here. I feel like I am learning to pray afresh, and I am seeing God answer prayers and reveal Himself through our times of prayer.

We have also met some brothers who have unknowingly impacted us with their intentionality and devotion to prayer.

First, we met a pastor who began volunteering at Richmond HS when his son was a student there (I believe 6 to 8 years ago). He started volunteering with the basketball team as an assistant coach. The Lord gave him a real burden for the students of Richmond HS. So he began to look for other opportunities to volunteer and to have a presence in the school. In addition to helping with the basketball team, he began substitute teaching, and then volunteering as the school health officer. He eventually was hired as the school health officer. This position probably pays next to nothing. However, that is not his aim. He is doing it so that he can maintain a presence within the high school. He takes prayer walks and prays for the school in the morning before the day begins. Sometimes during the day he walks the halls and prays for the students. He invited us to come and pray with him anytime. He is praying that God would move upon the hearts of students, faculty, and the administration. He believes in the power of prayer.

Second, we met a man who is the executive director of an inner city para church ministry in San Francisco. His ministry is located in the Tenderloin District, which we were told is probably the poorest area in San Francisco. He started this ministry 29 years ago. When he first began, he left his corporate job because he felt God calling him to respond to the needs of this particular neighborhood. He was able to initially rent a storefront, but he knew the ministry would need more space - if they were to provide housing, and be able to do wholistic ministry there. So he rented an office space in a very spacious four story building that was owned by a company. He chose this building because He had begun to pray that God would give the ministry the building. By renting an office space inside this building, he was given keys to the building. He would wait until all of the employees went home for the night, and then he would walk the halls and pray and ask God to give them the building. The building eventually went up for sale, and near that same time he received a call from a man who lived in Chinatown. The man asked him to come and meet with him. When he went to the man's house, the man told him the Lord had told him to give towards the ministry. Interestingly, the man gave him a large amount of gold coins. The gold coins were enough to put a down payment on the building, and the rehab project began. Today they have a homeless shelter, food pantry, thrift store, weekly worship service, offices, and Christian school within the building! More recently, a wealthy businessman bought the building next store to the ministry building and turned it into a strip club. The director of the ministry recognized the danger of this. Yet he knew that he needed the city to take legal action if the strip club was to be shut down. So he decided to fast and pray for 40 days. Not only that, but he decided to sit in front of city hall in a chair while he fasted and prayed these forty days. He invited others to pray with him that the city would move to shut the strip club down. On the 36th day, they invited him into city hall, and after speaking with him decided to answer his requests. The strip club was ordered to close its doors! His son also told us that once a year he walks around the perimeter of the city and prays for revival in San Francisco. He believes in the power of prayer.

I am thankful for what the Lord is challenging me with in the "school of prayer." Lord I believe, but help me in my unbelief.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bloodlines Documentary: Race & Grace

John Piper has a new book out entitled "Bloodlines." You can read more about it here. He also made a short documentary film, introducing the book and his personal story behind it. I really appreciate his transparency about the "deep inconsistencies" he saw in his own life, his family, his church, and the "system" in which he grew up. I also love his emphasis on the Gospel and how it cleanses, forgives, and puts to death the "old racist nature." I encourage you to watch this short documentary...

May we be a people and a church who devote our lives to "Christ exalting racial harmony" and who contend for racial justice, and may it all be driven by the Gospel!

Monday, October 10, 2011

October Praise and Prayer

Here are my Praises and Prayer Requests as we head into the month of October...

1) God's faithful provision (spiritual encouragement, finances, and relationally) throughout this major life transition!

2)God is pushing me out of my comfort zone and stretching me!

3)For safety as Josie and I moved her stuff from Branson to Richmond. We had a challenging journey, but God protected us and provided for us throughout the trip!

4)For encouraging connections and relationships being built with other pastors, coaches, teachers, non-profit leaders, etc.

Prayer Requests
1)For an increasing passion to seek God in prayer and the Word

2)For Josie and I as we continue to plan our wedding and do premarital counseling long distance

3)For discipleship relationships to continue to be developed here

4)I will be sharing my testimony at our Saturday service this week (10/15). I will be preaching on Sunday 10/23 and Saturday 10/29. Please pray that the LORD would direct those messages, and that Christ would be exalted in what I share.

5)Every Wednesday we fast and pray as a pastoral team for the needs of our church and our city. Would you pray with us and for us on Wednesdays?

6)Financial Needs: I have made two major moves in the last month and a half. First, I moved all of my stuff to California in late August. Then, Josie and I moved her stuff from Branson, MO to Richmond. Both of these moves were expensive. I am so thankful for the support we received to cover the costs of the first move. However, we are in need of financial assistance for the second move. If you are interested in giving a one time gift towards this, please email me at pastordave@lhnchurch.org

Please let me know how I can be praying for you! Shoot me an email.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Heart For The City?

On a blog that I now frequent (Ed Stetzer's blog), I came across a series of posts entitled "You Can't Love A City If You Don't Know A City." I have been in Richmond now for a month, and I have tried to do all I can to "get to know Richmond." As many of you know I lived in Chicago for ten years. During that decade, especially following my urban ministry training at Moody, I devoted myself to learning Chicago. Dr. Fuder challenged us to not only be passionate about exegeting Scripture, but also about exegeting neighborhoods, cultures, the city, etc. My learning never stopped in Chicago! I anticipate that my "city education" will be ongoing here as well.

I (along with my teammates) have been visiting various ministries and social service agencies (rescue missions, transitional housing, health clinics, recreation centers, etc.). I have been researching and reading all I can about the history of Richmond. I have tried to get my hands on local newspapers. Wherever I visit, I try to ask a lot of questions. I even find myself taking drives just to observe different neighborhoods, or trying different routes just to see new scenery.

Richmond is a unique city. It has a population of about 100,000 people, yet it is very close to too larger urban centers (Oakland & San Francisco). It is also surrounded by smaller cities, which almost seem to be viewed as "greater Richmond." It is diverse - approximately 40% Latino, 35% African American, 20% white, 5% Asian (with a growing Asian and Southeast Asian population). Yet within this diversity there is not much segregation along racial lines. Although, there are neighborhoods within the city that are primarily low income and primarily upper class, it seems as if the majority of the city is mixed income. It is a place of great beauty (natural beauty and beautiful people). It is also a place of challenge and pain (homelessness, violence, crime, etc.). The city's slogan is "Richmond: A City of Pride and Purpose."

As I continue to learn and build and learn some more, I have been challenged by something the Lord has exposed in my own heart. We (the pastors) have been telling the church body that we love Richmond, and that we - as a body on mission - have to love our city. However, the Lord has challenged me with a convicting question "do you really love ALL of Richmond"? You see my heart gravitates towards the more "challenging" areas of the city - ie the Iron Triangle, North Richmond, etc. I love building with, listening to, praying for, and learning from homeless men and women. I am excited and passionate about engaging the public school system and contending for educational justice.

Yet, if I'm honest when I say I "love Richmond" the affluent areas of Point Richmond and Hilltop aren't included in that statement. My heart doesn't break for the residents of Richmond who seemingly "have it all together" externally, yet are lost apart from Christ. I am asking God to break my heart for the whole city.

I want to have the same compassion for the prostitute and the professional. I want to be burdened for the homeless man and the "high up" executive. I'm asking God to break my heart for the muslims who attend the mosque at the end of my street, the first and 3rd generation immigrant, the politicians and the powerless.

I'm thankful that God has highlighted this blindspot in my heart. I'm asking Him to continue to stretch me and break me in this area. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Discipleship Through Dance

This is actually my second post about the D3 Movement, but I just have to talk about it one more time! Below is a video of my good brother, Mike Avery, and two of his young apprentices, Devonte & James. Mike is using a God given talent and passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ. It is more than just dance classes/instruction. Mike is spending time with young men, teaching (Doctrine) and modeling (DNA) the truth. Discipleship is not just taught (Doctrine) it is also caught (DNA).

I'm proud of my brother Mike! Check out this video...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God Is Compassionate

I had the opportunity to preach for the first time this past Sunday morning, in my new pastoral role at Living Hope Neighborhood Church. I really enjoyed this opportunity to share this message. I am excited to see what God is going to continue to do in and through His Church here! Although Sunday's message wasn't recorded (because it was an outdoor service), we do upload our sermons to our web site each week, and you can listen to them here.

God Is Compassionate

Luke 10:25-37 “The Parable Of The Good Samaritan”

What is compassion?
Compassion = splagchnizomai (splock-knee-zho-my) is to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)

Compassion is derived from the Latin words “pati” and “cum,” which together mean “to suffer with.”
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.
Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.
-the above were taken from Henri Nouwen

Compassion is to feel someone else’s pain in your heart.” – Pastor Ford

Compassion starts in our eyes --- we see someone in need
It then moves into our hearts --- we feel the pain of others
It then compels us to move our feet ---we act on what we have seen and felt

Compassion is risky, messy, and requires sacrifice!

(1) A Compassionate God

a) The Compassion of His Character
-Exodus 3:7-8; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14/Mark 6:34

b) The Compassion of the Cross
“Jesus is the Great Samaritan” – Tim Keller
-John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8

(2) A Compassionate Church
In order for us to move with compassion we first must be moved by the compassion of Christ. The compassion he showed on the Cross for us, should compel us to show compassion to others.

May we be a Church that is known in the city of Richmond for our Christ-like Compassion!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Glen Kehrein"s "The Stuff Of Urban Ministry"

One of the most impactful classes I ever took at Moody Grad school was "Urban Anthropology & Sociology." It was co-taught by Dr. Fuder, Moody's former Urban Ministry Director, and Glen Kehrein, long time Executive Director of Circle Urban Ministries on Chicago's west side. The Lord really used this class to give me a passion and desire to learn cities: their history, cultures, political systems, city systems, etc. At the time I felt (and I still believe) that EVERY Moody student should be required to take the course, regardless of their major.

During one of our last classes together, Glen shared his Top Ten List, entitled "The 'Stuff' of Urban Ministry. I recently found my notes from that class, and was greatly encouraged by it as I am seeking to learn my new city, and asking God to break my heart for Richmond. I thought I would share these valuable insights from Glen, one of my heroes in the faith.

The "Stuff" of Urban Ministry Top 10

(1) Personal Integrity
-be totally honest with yourself and others
-personal honesty & time will lead to trust

(2)Spiritual Commitment
-Pray, understand God's heart, and follow it

-Know yourself in order to build God's Kingdom not your own
-Sacrifice = to give up a lesser value for a greater value

(4)Personal Support & Accountability
-From spouse & committed friends

-Learning from experience without quitting
-Faithful to the calling throughout ups and downs

(6)Define your vision (it is a process)
-Find out where you are going
-Mission + Philosophy(Theology) + Strategy = Vision

(7)Commitment to relationships over structure
-Structure is not the engine, nor is it the caboose either

(8)Resources follow commitment
-People give (time, talent, & treasure) to what they believe in.
-People give resources where they see commitment.

(9)Education (degrees, pedigrees, & OJT's)
-Spend your life learning, formal & self study

(10)The "Need" does not dictate "the Call"
-Even Jesus didn't do it all and get it all done...and He was God

Please be praying for Glen and his family as he battles cancer. He continues to give updates on his treatments as well as what God is teaching him on his blog.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bye Bye Bye

Some of you may know that it has always been a dream of mine to sing in a boy band. Well, at my YAFR (young adult fellowship) going away bbq I had the opportunity to perform one of my favorite N'Sync songs with some of my close friends. Hope you enjoy it...

With a little bit of practice, I think we can do something more like this...

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

September Praise & Prayer

I have decided that each month I am going to post a praise and prayer blog entry. This will be a way to chronicle how God is at work throughout the year! It is also crucial for me to have people praying with me and for me as I begin this new season of pastoral ministry. Here are my praises and prayer requests for this month...

1) Engagement!
On the evening of Sunday August 21st I got engaged to Joanna "Josie" Albright! I still can't believe it! Lord willing, we will be getting married in early November!

2) The Move
After 36 hours of driving, we made it safely to Richmond, CA! I am thankful for all of God's provisions throughout this time of transition.

3)New Church Family
I am really thankful for my new church family at Living Hope! They have welcomed me with open arms, and many of them worked hard to get my home ready.

4)New Ministry Team
I am thankful for my new team here who I will be serving with and doing life with. These brothers are going to sharpen me, encourage me, and hold me accountable.

5) Saying Goodbye
-The Sunshine staff gave me two wonderful send-offs. We went on a Spirit of Chicago cruise on Lake Michigan as a staff. They also had a going away party at Sunshine on the Thursday evening before I left. It was a very emotional night for me, and I will never forget that time and the words of encouragement that were given.
-My young adult ministry at Christ Bible Church also threw a send-off bbq for me. It was a great time with my friends, and I left feeling very encouraged!

Prayer Requests
1) Moving Josie
Lord willing, on September 29th I will be flying to Branson. We will be driving a moving truck from Branson to Richmond, departing on Saturday October 1st. Please pray for safety and for provision with all of the moving costs.

-Pray with me that the Lord would give me new discipleship relationships in Richmond!
-Also, pray that I would consistently continue to check in and encourage the young men I was discipling in Chicago.
-One of my responsibilities at the church will be building networks with other social service agencies and churches in Richmond. Please pray that the Lord would give me favor and authentic relationships with community leaders.

3)Richmond HS
Pray that the Lord would give us open doors of ministry at Richmond High School!

4) Preaching Opportunities
I will be preaching at our church on Sunday September 18th and Saturday September 24th. Pray with me that the Lord would give me the words to say, and that Christ would be lifted high in my messages!

5) Support Raising
I am still in need of monthly supporters. Pray that I would trust God to provide for my monthly support needs.

6) Making Disciples
-As a church, it is our hearts' desire to stay focused on our mission, that of making disciples. Pray that we would not become distracted from this, and that the city of Richmond would be impacted with the Gospel!
-This has been a violent summer in Richmond. There was a shooting again this past weekend. Pray that God's peace would reign here, and that our church would be active in working for the peace of the city!

Please let me know how I can be praying for you! You can email me at pastordave@lhnchurch.org

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pray for the Greigs

My good brother Allan and his wife Annie are currently in Swaziland serving the local church and local orphanage through the organization that Allan started, Africa Revolution (AR). AR currently has five interns serving and learning in community there!

I am excited about the things that God is doing in Swaziland and in and through the team of interns there. If you want to read more about AR or the work of the interns, check out the web site and blogs.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Words That Have Stuck With Me

At the end of July, I attended the Legacy Disciplemaking Conference in Chicago. I attended a workshop on church planting. I figured since I was going to work for a 3 year old church plant, it would be good to hear what these pastors from Atlanta had learned and what insights they would share. One of the pastors shared a simple statement that someone had shared with him before he began pastoring a church plant. The man told him, "In a few days people are going to begin calling you pastor. They are going to assume that you have an authentic walk with God." That statement is simple and yet profound. It has stuck with me ever since I heard it. As I begin to serve my new church as an undershepherd, the authenticity of my walk with Christ is crucial. It reminds me of other words of counsel that mentors in my life have shared over the years...

After college, I served as a program director at a Bible camp for a summer. When I was heading into that experience, my mentor at the time (Kelly O'Rear) shared, "Ministry is going to drain you. It is crucial that you drink deeply from the fountain (Christ and His Word). You cannot lead others where you are not."

During grad school my urban professor (John Fuder) used to emphasize the tension of "being vs. doing." He shared there will always be a tension during busy seasons of ministry between being God's man, and doing God's work. He asked the challenging question, "if you could no longer do ministry, would you still seek God's face?"

Most recently, my mentor and friend from Christ Bible Church (Russ Knight) consistently emphasized the importance to me of "being God's man." When I shared with him that I was moving, he again stated that regardless of geography or place of ministry, that being God's man is most important.

As I enter into this new season of ministry, I recognize the importance of guarding and developing my "first love." I want to be faithful to Him and to what He has called me to do. I know that if I follow close (Allan Greig), that ministry will flow out of that.

Pray with me that I would work out of rest in Him.

Friday, September 02, 2011

10 Year Reunion

This year marked our 10th year of the Montana trip!! I have had the privilege of being on every single trip, and have enjoyed every year! This year was our biggest group of students. We took both teen guys and teen girls, and we also took a group of "Montana alumni" - guys now in college who had gone on the trip before.

Although every year is different, the same thing happens every year! Let me explain. The beauty of the yearly experience between Sunshine (Chicago) and Springhill Presbyterian (Montana) is that it is cross-cultural, intergenerational, multi-racial, and cross-geographical (not sure if that is a word, but it is now!). For one week each summer, we do life together. We learn from one another. We pray together. We laugh together. We study the Scriptures together. We have amazing shared experiences together (mountain hiking, fly fishing, Yellowstone, camping, etc.) Our family bond in Christ takes the forefront!

Our teens our impacted in a powerful way. They enjoy seeing the different states, and experiencing a new place. It is a blessing to get out of the city for a week during the summer. They are also impacted relationally. Their host families become family. We are all impacted by the love and hospitality we are shown by those who host us. We also get the opportunity to experience God in a unique context, and return to Chicago refreshed and encouraged to follow Christ.

Those who are involved at Springhill are also impacted in a powerful way. Our teens faith challenges them. The host families also feel that family bond that develops throughout the week. They begin to view the kids they are hosting as "their kids." At the end of the week tears are often shed as we say goodbye and as we reflect on the week. The Lord has also used this week to encourage and challenge the Springhill church to live "on mission."

We are both better Christians and have a bigger view of God because of our partnership.

I am now on staff at Living Hope Neighborhood Church in Richmond, California. Therefore, I won't be making the trip from Chicago to Bozeman next summer. However, I have been invited to come out once again. This time I will be making the trip from the west coast to the big sky. Lord willing, in future years we will be bringing young people from Richmond to Montana to share this experience with long distance family from Chicago and Bozeman.

I am so thankful for this partnership in the Gospel. It has been such a beautiful thing. If the Lord wills, I hope it continues for many years!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Moved By Majesty

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at New Hope Fellowship in Lawton, MI. I preached from Isaiah 6:1-8, which is a very weighty passage. I was really challenged in my preparation to think hard about how I view God in His Glory, His Majesty, and His Holiness. It was a very encouraging and humbling time on Sunday morning. Please pray for me, as I will be preaching this same message at Sunshine this coming Sunday (July 10th).

You can listen to the sermon here. I have also shared my sermon outline below...

Moved by Majesty
Isaiah 6:1-8

(1)He saw His Glory (v. 1-4)
-John 12:41; Psalm 93:1-2; Revelation 4:8

“The word ‘majesty’ when applied to God is always a declaration of His greatness and an invitation to worship.” -J.I. Packer

(2)He saw his own sinfulness (v. 5)
-Ezekiel 1:28; Job 42:5-6; Revelation 1:17; Romans 7:24

“The vision of God’s Majesty, Holiness, and Glory made Isaiah realize that he was a sinner.” - Walvoord & Zuck

"As long as our gaze is fixed on the horizontal plane of this earth, we have no problem with ourselves. When we contemplate who God is, we will be broken." R.C. Sproul

(3)He experienced His grace (v. 6-7)
-1 John 1:7-9

God provided the forgiveness and cleansing that Isaiah desperately needed!

(4)His Grace compelled him to Go (v. 8)
-2 Peter 1:16 = …we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty

Glory --> Grief --> Grace --> Go!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Goin Down

In addition, to this blog I also update Sunshine's blog. I recently posted a cadre of blog entries from some of our staff. It is exciting to see God at work as we serve together and learn together! You can check out the blog entries here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Discipleship & The Arts

A good friend and co-worker of mine, Mike Avery, recently started a movement, called the D3 Movement. Mike is a very talented dancer. He specializes in the following dance styles: krump, hip hop, pop locking, waving, and lyrical hip hop. He uses his art form to proclaim the good news and to give glory to God. Mike is also a disciple maker, so his heart is to use dance to disciple this generation of young people. I am excited to see how God is going to continue to use Mike in ministry! You can check out this web site here.

The name D3 stands for:
Deliver the Gospel
Deposit a new Mindset
Disciple this generation

In the book of Acts, chapter 13 verse 36 it says of King David, "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers...." This verse I think communicates Mike's heart behind the D3 movement. May the same be true of us. By God's grace, with the days He gives us, may we serve the "purpose of God in (our) own generation."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A Soldier On Mission

On Mission

I recently read an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette that was written as a tribute to a young man who had given his life as a soldier in Iraq. His name was Gabe De Roo. His parents go to my parents church, and our families went to the same two churches throughout our growing up years. I never really knew Gabe well, but the article makes me wish I did. Gabe, age 25, died August 20, 2006, killed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq. He had stooped to reassure captured Iraqi gunrunners that American soldiers intended to arrest, not kill them. As he rose, a sniper’s slug struck his neck in an area exposed between his helmet and bulletproof vest.

Gabe’s father, Dave, shared with the Gazette that he had initially dissuaded him from enlisting in the military. De Roo’s parents had urged him to take classes at a local community college instead. He came home one day and told his parents that he had enrolled two weeks prior to his conversation with them. He wanted to be in the infantry, front and center. He wanted the physical challenge. He wanted to serve his country. He left for basic training on January 30, 2003. He assured his dad he would find a church when he left.

During his service in the military, between 2003 and 2006, he wrote numerous letters to his wife and family back in Michigan. He consistently communicated his love for his family and how much he missed all of them. Some letters ended, “Be good and godly,” and were signed ‘Chummer’ a name his father had bestowed on him years earlier. Among the pictures he mailed home were several of smiling Iraqi children sitting next to the grinning, sunburned American soldier. He was intent on learning the language and considered someday returning to Iraq as a missionary he told his wife.

By Gabe's second deployment, Iraqi insurgency had escalated and US base commanders urged departing soldiers to “make sure you have closure with all your friends and family.” His mother shared that he was keeping a very short list and keeping his conscience clear during this time. He had been promoted to sergeant when he returned to Iraq in June 2006. Messages to his parents began to change during this time. “Please pray for us…that we would be godly parents who will teach little Gabriel to love God,” he wrote in a postcard to his mother and father. “I can never thank you enough for raising me with a firm foundation in the Scriptures,” he wrote in another letter.

What struck me the most as I read this article containing his letters home was his focus on "The Mission." Gabe was a dedicated soldier. He loved his country, and he served his country sacrificially. However, Gabe realized that ultimately he was sacrificially and selflessly serving the Lord that He loved. His most important orders came from the real Commander in Chief, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Gabe never lost sight of the fact that he was first and foremost "on mission" for Him. He was a soldier for his country, but he was a Soldier in the Lord's army. He wrote in one of his letters to his parents, "pray that I live as a godly example to those around me and that I give 100 percent all the time.” In another conversation he told them, “If there’s a grenade, I’m going to be the first one on it. These other guys need more time to get right with God.”

After a stirring military funeral and prayers of support, Gabe's father David De Roo was able to share a private moment with the soldier who accompanied his son’s body back to the US. The soldier explained that Gabe’s military friends had nicknamed him “John 3:16.” He had willingly done dozens of extra push-ups, the soldier told De Roo, because he had refused a drill sergeant’s order to utter a swear word. “What kind of person did you see in my son?” David De Roo says he asked the soldier. “Sir, I want to be like that man. I want to be like De Roo,” he remembers the young man responding.

Gabe's life made an impact and brought glory to God! He didn't separate his vocation from His Mission, and neither should we, regardless of what our vocation or profession is. God strategically places us in unique families, neighborhoods, jobs, cities, etc. so that we might be ambassadors for Him. I love the way Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." What a privilege it is to go on mission together (that's what we do as the church)! We collectively 'proclaim the excellencies of Him'.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Big Move

I recently made one of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my life. In mid-August I will be moving to Richmond, California to join the staff of Living Hope Neighborhood Church as an Associate Pastor! This coming transition is both exciting and difficult.

I have been serving with Sunshine Gospel Ministries in varying capacities since the fall of 2001. I began as a volunteer and intern while I was a graduate student at Moody Bible Institute. I have been serving full time with Sunshine since January of 2004. I have grown up in ministry here so to speak. Sunshine has been so much more than just my employer these last ten years. They have been my family. I have truly been blessed to have served at such a great ministry with so many great people! In addition, Chicago has become a place that I love. It is very much home. I love my neighborhood, and I love the youth whom I have worked with. I think the hardest think about this transition is saying goodbye to the youth. I know that I will return and visit, and that I will be able to stay in touch via the telephone, email, and facebook, but it will be different.

Yet I feel compelled to take this step of faith and enter into a new season of ministry. Over the last few years God has been doing a new work in me, and leading me towards pastoral ministry. Although there is still uncertainty, it is time to prayerfully move forward. Living Hope Neighborhood Church is a multi-cultural, urban church. It is a three year old church re-launch. By 2007, the membership had dwindled to roughly 10-15 members. My good friend, Aaron Roy, moved to Richmond in January of 2008 to pastor this new work in Richmond. Over the last three years, this nearly closed church has seen God transform lives and neighborhood impact is taking place. There is a need for additional laborers to make disciples and develop leaders. Another good brother of mine, Curtis Zackery, and his wife Monique will also be moving to Richmond (from Franklin, TN) in August to serve with the church.

As Associate Pastor, I will be assisting with the teaching and preaching at the church: Saturday morning service, Sunday school, Sunday morning service, and small groups. I will also begin an elder ordination process soon after I arrive. My main focus will be discipling men. This will include, but will not be limited to, working with teens. We are hoping to engage the local high school, Richmond High, and Lord willing I will be taking a leading role in this. In addition to my duties at the church, I hope to begin taking seminary classes again at Golden Gate Theological Seminary. My intent is to pursue a master’s in “missiology” – the theology of missions.

Richmond is a city of approximately 100,000 people. It is located in the bay area, near the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. It is a diverse city, both culturally and socio-economically. It has similar challenges to Chicago, including poverty, homelessness, gang challenges, educational inequity, etc. Yet, as in Chicago, God is using His Church in Richmond to draw people to Himself and to spread His fame amongst the Nations. I am humbled to have the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing there.

This position with Living Hope is not a paid position. I will once again need to raise financial support for my salary! I am excited to see how God will provide for this. I am asking that you would prayerfully consider supporting me in this new ministry adventure. My monthly support goal is $2,500. If you are already supporting me monthly, and you would like to continue to support me in Richmond, you can actually begin sending my monthly support to the church beginning July 1st.

Over the course of my time at Sunshine, I have been blown away by the team of people whom have come alongside me! I am once again in need of “teammates” who will support me both financially and with prayer. I would love to speak to you more about this opportunity, either on the phone or in person. Please let me know if you want to hear more!

Thank you for walking with me during my years here in Chicago! I look forward to continuing to be an encouragement to one another in this new season of life and ministry.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Radical Together

We are going to be reading this book together as a Youth Outreach team this summer. I am really looking forward to it.

I love two quotes from this video...

"(In light of the Gospel)Now it just makes sense to show that type of mercy to others!"
"We've got a King who deserves praise from every people group on the planet!"

I hope to begin reading this book while I'm on vacation, so I anticipate more "Radical Together" posts in the weeks ahead...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Persistent Prayer, Person, Promises

On Sunday April 3rd I had the opportunity to preach at my home church, Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church. I was asked to share from Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the persistent widow. I really enjoyed both preparing and delivering this message. As I re-visit it today, I am still challenged by the things the LORD taught me in this text.

You can listen to the message here. Below are some of the key thoughts that I hit on...

The Parable of the Persistent Widow
Luke 18:1-8

Persistent prayer is fueled by an ever-expanding view of the Person & Promises of God!

(1)The Need for Persistent Prayer

Widows were helpless and vulnerable…they were completely dependent on others for provision and protection!

“Prayer is the expression of man’s dependence upon God for all things.” - New Unger’s Bible Dictionary

Luke 18:1-8 = …there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him…yet because this widow keeps bothering me…so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming…

Luke 5:16-->Acts 1:14; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

“A man should pray as often as he has an opportunity; should be constant and assiduous at the throne of grace, and continue putting up his request to God, though he does not presently return an answer.” - John Gill

(2)The Person & Promises of God

(a)His Compassion & Justice

Two of the key qualifications for a judge at that time were the fear of God and the love men!

“This parable is a standard Jewish “how much more” argument: If an unjust judge who cared not for widows can dispense justice, how much more will the righteous judge of all the earth, who was known as the defender of widows and orphans?” - Bible Background Commentary

Psalm 68:5 = Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.

(b)His Coming Judgment
The Just Judge is coming back to judge the earth. Those of us who have believed on the Gospel should not fear His return, but rather long for his return. Maranatha!

Luke 18:8 = …when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?

Can you see the beauty of the Gospel in this parable?
We are like the widow: vulnerable, needy, helpless, dependent. We were oppressed by our sins, unable to save ourselves. We were dependent upon outside intervention! The Righteous Judge, the Just Judge intervened on our behalf in the person of Jesus Christ. We stood guilty before the Just Judge (for all have sinned and fall short), and God's justice demands that our sins are punished. If God doesn't punish sin, then He is not just. Christ took the penalty for our sins. He took the punishment that we deserved. Christ death satisfied the justice of God. His death on the cross and His resurrection are our source of hope! This work of redemption brought us back to God. We were fatherless, but He is now our Father. We were husband less, but we are now the bride of Christ. Christ is coming back, and because of the Gospel we can long for His return! So let's be steadfast in prayer and faithful service to the King until He comes back to get us!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cardboard Testimonies of Transformation

My parent's church did a "cardboard testimonies" service similar to the one in the video, and it was a powerful time. This video will definitely make you well up!

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Support Japan

I have been looking into how to support Japan during this time of crisis. There are several relief and development organizations on the ground there now. I just wanted to highlight a few of the options that you can send money through:

Samaritan's Purse
For over 40 years, Samaritan's Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ's command by going to the aid of the world's poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. Read more here...

In Japan, Samaritan's Purse is "delivering emergency relief supplies, including heavy-duty plastic shelter materials, blankets, water, hygiene items, and first aid kits, to survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan's northeastern coast."

World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Read more here...

In Japan, World Vision is "is distributing relief supplies to thousands of people devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11. An emergency response team is on the ground in hard hit areas, providing water, blankets, and other urgently needed supplies to survivors. Ongoing efforts will focus on the unique needs of children, who are the most impacted."

Churches Helping Churches
Churches Helping Churches is a global partnership of church communities who seek to rebuild other churches in the wake of a catastrophic natural disaster. Read more here...

In Japan, Churches Helping Churches is "getting behind a local organization called CRASH Japan, which comprises Japanese missionaries and churches who know each other and know Japan."

Our junior high students at Sunshine are going to begin collecting money this afternoon. We are going to donate the money to Samaritan's Purse, to support their efforts.

Let's all continue to stand with Japan in prayer! Let's pray that God would use this to draw people to Himself there.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Month To Live

This video is very inspiring and puts things in perspective!

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gospel

All of us need the Gospel. We need it every day. It exposes and crushes are notions of self righteousness and it reminds of our utter dependence upon the grace of God through Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

I have shared this quote before on my blog, but I think it is worth reposting...
"The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of those who trust him is old news. It is really old, really good news. So what are we aiming for in hearing again and again that which we've heard before? The hope in hearing the old, good news is that it would perpetually break new ground in our lives. Our hearts are like a jungle. There is untamed wilderness and darkness that has not yet been brought, as it were, under the rule of the One who has laid claim to it all. We need to hear the gospel again and again so that the old, good news of Jesus Christ would reach into these uncharted territories of our lives and fly the flag of its dominion. This is how we are "being saved." This is what it means to be overcome by the gospel." - Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God blog

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Faithful Eternal Investment

This past year I went to several funerals that have caused me to think on the frailty of life and the shortness of our time here. I feel a renewed sense of urgency to "maximize" my days. During my message on "Faithfulness" I looked at the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:16-30. It emphasizes faithful service to the King while he is away. The 24th & 25th chapter of Matthew reminds us that the return of our Master is certain and is on the horizon. He has entrusted us with an incredible treasure in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and He has given each of us varying abilities, skill sets, and spiritual gifts to be used for His glory and for the good of others. His instructions were to take the precious message of the Gospel and to invest it in the lives of others, that we might multiply ourselves and gain a return on our investment for the enjoyment of the Master.

We see these instructions given to us in the first chapter of Acts, and in the last chapter of Matthew. Prior to Jesus' ascension in the book of Acts he states, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had finished saying this, "as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight (Acts 1:8-9)." He gave similar instructions to us in the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 where he said, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age." The question now is, are we heeding His instructions to us? In the Parable of the Talents, the servants were to faithfully serve their Master in His absence. Brothers and sisters, are we faithfully serving the King while He is away?? Are we giving our lives away, pouring ourselves out, making eternal investments in the lives of others?

In mid-October my Grandpa Clark passed away. I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at both his graveside ceremony and later at his memorial service that we had here in Lawton. His memorial service especially impacted me. You see my grandpa accepted Christ in his early 20s, and by God’s grace faithfully walked with the Lord for nearly 50 years. Many of those years, my Grandpa faithfully served as a pastor. During the course of his ministry years, he served at five different churches. So at his memorial service, men and women from all of those different churches stood and testified to the impact my grandpa’s life had had on theirs. Many shared that he had led them to the Lord or that he had encouraged them in their faith. It was such a powerful service, and it spoke loudly to me of importance and of the call to all of us as followers of Christ to live of lifestyle of eternal investment. We are to give ourselves to making disciples for as many years as he gives us.

In early January one of my former basketball players, Trevell Martin, was shot and killed outside of a party. His tragic death has pained me for several different reasons. I can’t fully explain all of the things it has caused me to think about. However, one message that the Lord spoke to me through Trevell’s funeral was loud and clear. At the funeral during the open mic time, a man in his 50s took the podium. He said this, “I first want to give respect to Trevell’s mother and his family who are present here today. However, Trevell was also a part of a much larger family. Will all of the Roc Creek family please stand up.” When he said this, more than half of those present in the church sanctuary that day stood up. That experience made my stomach churn, and challenged me in a great way. You see in a sinfully distorted way, the gangs are faithfully present in the streets and they are faithfully “making disciples.”

God spoke the same message to me at two very different funerals. His message was clear and concise: Make disciples! Our time is short, and only faithful service to Christ truly matters. Again I ask, are we giving our lives away by investing them in the lives of others? Are we faithfully serving the King, by making disciples, while He is away? May we be a people who will one day here the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant! Come and enter into my joy.”

Friday, March 04, 2011

Faithfulness: See His & Serve Him

The last Sunday in February I had the opportunity to preach at New Hope Fellowship in Lawton, MI. I was given the topic of "faithfulness," and it proved to be a very timely topic for me to study, prepare, and preach on. I am grateful for the way the Lord worked in my own life through the process. This is my outline, and some of my key sermon notes.

Faithfulness: See His & Serve Him

I.See His Faithfulness
• Lamentations 3:23; Psalm 57:10
In the midst of pain, grief, calamity, and the consequences of sin, the author of Lamentations says, "But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!

1)In His Salvation
• Hebrews 10:23; 1 Corinthians 1:9

Hebrews 10:23
-->Let us hold fast (cling to)

-->The confession of our hope
Jesus is our hope! The confession of our hope is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 10:9-10)!

-->for He who promised is faithful (completely trustworthy)

The assurance of our salvation is based on the fact that God is Faithful!

2)In His Sustaining Grace
• 2 Thess. 3:3, Philippians 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:8

II. Serve Him Faithfullly
1) Examples of those found faithful
• Abraham (Galatians 3:9), Moses (Numbers 12:7), Daniel (Daniel 6:4 & 16), Paul (1 Tim. 1:12), Timothy (1 Cor. 4:17)
*God counted these men faithful, having made them faithful by His grace.

2) Will we be found faithful?
• Matthew 25:16-30; Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20
“Well done, good and Faithful servant”

Are we faithfully serving the King while He is away? Are we giving our lives away, pouring ourselves out, making eternal investments in the lives of others?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Standing With Brian

My sister's husband's brother was recently diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. His name is Brian Schnurstein and he lives in Kalamazoo,MI with his wife Lindsay and their daughter Kylie. This video tells a little bit of their story, and of the battle that they currently face.

Brian suggests ten different ways that you can get involved at the end of the video. He also has a blog that he updates regularly to raise awareness about ALS and to give updates on his progress and perspective.

Please stand with me in prayer for Brian Schnurstein and his family!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Not Safe But Good

Today I enjoyed a rare thing in Chicago...a snow day. It was much needed actually. It gave me time to read and pray and reflect. January flew by. It was full of activity. Overall, it was a good month - in ministry and personally. However, it was also a challenging month in some ways. I consistently battled anxiety and some depression over the course of the month. As I look back on it, I'm thankful for it, as it caused me to press into God. God has proven Himself faithful once again over the course of the month.

I consistently journaled over the course of the month. The interesting thing is that the notebook that I am using to journal in, is actually an old notebook that I partially used back in December of 1999. That month was also an anxious month for me. I graduated from college that month, and stepped out into the "unknown." I didn't have a job lined up, and I wasn't even sure what my "career" would be. I was both anxious and fearful about so many unknowns. I was reminded by the notebook that I attended a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference that year, that December. One of the main sessions at that conference was given by Pastor James Ford (He is now my pastor here in Chicago at Christ Bible Church!). The message he gave that night was entitled "Hope For The Hood" and it was a call to college students to prayerfully consider giving their lives in service to Christ in the hood. I took a lot of notes during that session, and it spoke powerfully into what God was already doing in my life, and the things He had given me passion and compassion about. Over the course of the next year (2000), I would progressively have an increasing sense of the Lord's leading towards urban ministry. God would continue to reveal this to me in spite of my anxiousness and fear. In the fall of 2001, I would head to Chicago, to Moody, to study Urban Ministry.

I love how in the midst of a period of anxiousness, entering a new year (2011), I would grab an old notebook to remind me of God's faithful presence and persistent pursuit of me over the last ten years or so. God is stretching me and pushing me out of my comfort zone as I head into a new year with Him. As I continue to seek to follow close after Jesus, I'm reminded that He is not always safe but He is always good. A co-worker reminded me of the following dialogue in the Chronicles of Narnia.
Lucy, the little girl, when speaking of Aslan to Mr. Beaver, says "Then he isn't safe?" "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."

So as we continue on in this new year, let's seek the King and His Kingdom even when it's hard and uncomfortable. And may He be "the stronghold" of our lives (Psalm 27:1) as we face the inevitable coming unknowns.