Monday, October 22, 2012

October Praise & Prayer

(A sister from our church gave us free tickets to a Cal Berkeley football game. We had a great day with Aaron & Isaiah Roy!)

(Family time outside of Chinatown in Vancouver)

Praises (Praise God with us for…)

A great start to our AWANA Club. We have been averaging 20 clubbers our first few weeks, and our volunteer turnout from our church has been very encouraging. (Please continue to pray for our club that meets on Thursday nights.)

A restful fall getaway with my parents to Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a perfectly timed get away, and it was very refreshing for Josie and I.

The opportunity to take Bible classes together through the Downline Institute. We are so grateful to have the chance to get this training together!

The “Red Letter Series” and how God’s Word has been challenging us, and showing us our need for Jesus. You can listen to the sermons here.

(Josie enthusiastically "sets the tone" for this AWANA night!)

(Some of our TNT boys at the end of Bible time at AWANA)

Prayer requests (Please pray with us for…)

Balance for Josie and I (time with the LORD, ministry, work, classes, exercise, intentional time together, community)

Our Halloween Outreach on Wednesday October 31st. We are going to stand on the street corners surrounding our church to pass out candy, and also organize games for the kids. We are praying that this intentional relationship presence on this high traffic night would be a great opportunity to serve our community, and build new relationships.

A Christ-centered unity amongst the leadership of our church that would be contagious in the body.

For unity in our Nation and in the American church as we head into this election season. Pray with us that we would all love democrats, republicans, and independents well!

The final two team meals and chapel talks with the Richmond High School Oilers. Please pray that seeds would continue to be planted, and that relationships would be built. Coach Merriweather and I will also be talking about other ways in the future that we can collaborate to build into the lives of the young men.

(Here are some of the Richmond Oilers after their first victory of the season this past Friday!)

(These are some of the teens that I spend time with and speak to every Tuesday night at the Bay Area Rescue Mission's Youth Outreach program.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Justified - That's Good News!

I need to hear this every day! I need to share this with others every day!

Monday, October 08, 2012

God's Restoration Work

Every Saturday (for the last 6 years or so) our church has hosted a short, simple worship service and served a free breakfast to the community. This service, which initially began as an act of mercy and compassion to one homeless man, has literally been the engine of our church. It kept the church alive when it was close to closing its doors (in 2007), it helped ignite the relaunch (in 2008-2009), and it continues to be our "first point of contact" with many of our brothers and sisters who are now active in our church. (I love that care and concern for the under-resourced has been and continues to be a part of the DNA of our church.)

In the last year I have built relationships with men in their 40s, 50s, & 60s who live on the street. Each of them have a unique story. Each of them have infinite worth in the eyes of God even though society might think otherwise. My ongoing relationship with these men reminded me of a short chapter in Bob Lupton's book "Theirs Is The Kingdom" entitled 'The Image of God.' You can read it below:

Behold an infant. A normal man-child in most respects. A kind-natured child. A child with promise and potential. Watch him as he enters a rancid, smoke-filled world that resounds with the shouts and crashes of parents in conflict. Listen to him as he begins to compete for affection and food, and find both forms of nourishment in short supply. His cries and soon his words become demanding. He pushes and grasps for strong boundaries that will assure him he is safe and loved, but finds only weak indulgence. No clear limits. No consistent discipline. Just impulsive beatings and permissive disinterest from parents preoccupied with their own survival. He begins to question his own worth. School confirms his suspicions. He drops out. He roams the streets at will, disguising his own fear as nonchalance.

Behold, a young man. A kind-natured, strong, undisciplined young man. Watch him as he falls in love, marries, and starts a family of his own. See his dreams begin to crumble as he loses one job, then another. He is evicted from a string of dingy apartments. His neighbors and "friends" spread rumors of child abuse and deprivation. The county takes four of his children. His wife loses respect for him. He is falsely accused of beastiality, arrested, and throw in jail. Watch now as inmates and officials violate him. Watch as the last glimpse of dignity is choked out.

Behold a man. A broken man, scarcely forty. Parents dead. Rejected by his family. He walks the streets alone, head bent, shoulders stooped, hair matted, teeth rotting, drool running down his unshaven chin. A kind-natured man now babbling foolishly a salad of loosely connected thoughts and phrases.

"Worthless, but good hearted," people say. Except when the volcano of hurt inside him erupts in rage. Then his eyes become wild. He claws and bats at his wife and remaining children. In time the wildness and heavy breathing subside, and he returns to his subhuman existence. He is prideless, worth less to his wife and children than the social worker that issues their food stamps.

Watch now as a miracle unfolds. A metamorphosis! The wind of the Spirit of God blows through and about Lester's life. A man made in the image of God and reduced to nearly animal form is slowly being restored. God begins to convince Lester that he has worth, that he is loved.

The message comes from many sources. A family who invites Lester and his family for a picnic. A business man who continues to hire, fire, and rehire Lester on a job, insisting on a standard of responsible work yet holding on to Lester with firm love. People who notice and praise Lester when he is bathed, shaved, or wearing clean clothes. A person who accepts a gift from Lester without chiding him for "taking food out of his children's mouths." A minister who prays with Lester. A counselor who intervenes to cool flaring family tempers and help Lester expose his festering hurt and anger to the sunlight of God's acceptance. The people of God, the Church, become actors in the unfolding drama of re-creation while the wind of the Spirit breaths in new life.

What potential is confined within the unattractive shell we know as Lester? Who knows save the Creator himself? But of this we are certain: when Lester prays or weeps with joy, when he caresses his baby boy, we see the image of God.

I see God slowly at work in some "Lester's" here. I pray that we as a church continue to rally around men like him with extended family, unconditional love, prayer support, true friendship, encouragement, job & employment networks, advocacy, Biblical truth & encouragement, family assistance, etc (Gospel in word & deed). I just know that God loves "Lester's."

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Praying for Brian

(This is Brian after a recent surgery on his lungs.)

Over two years ago my brother-in-law's brother (my sister's husband's brother if that's easier to follow) was diagnosed with ALS aka Lou Gehrig's disease. I will quote from my brother John's recent email that states,

"When I first heard the news of this diagnosis, I had no idea the severity of this disease. Literally, all I knew was that Lou Gehirg, the famous baseball player of the past, died from the disease that is now named after him. After finding out more on the disease and hearing from my sister, we all came to know that this diagnosis was very bleak. In fact, the average life of an ALS patient after being diagnosed is 3 to 5 years. Brian just turned 32 years old and has a beautiful wife and daughter.

He made a very profound video on his life and new circumstance which you can watch below:

IMAGINE (a film about ALS) from Brian Schnurstein on Vimeo.

Putting that into perspective is a very humbling thing. There is no cure for ALS, and at this time there is no known medicine to slow the disease process.

My brother-in-law, Ray Schnurstein, asked me this past winter if I'd be interested in running the Chicago marathon with him and his other brother Steve. This would allow us to show support for Brian, while at the same time, help raise awareness that this disease requires further research into finding a cure. I ran the Kalamazoo marathon a few years ago, but this is a chance to run and make a difference during an awesome event. If there is any way you could donate to this effort I would really appreciate it, and so would every ALS patient, like Brian Schnurstein, who are disheartened by the lack of progress that research has shown.

You can donate directly on my ALS page, by clicking on this link."

I recently donated towards my brother's run, and the money will go towards ALS research. I would encourage you to do the same.

I also ask that you continue to pray with me for Brian (and his wife Lindsey and their daughter Kylie)! I continue to ask the Lord (who is more than able) to heal Brian! Would you join me in prayer?