Thursday, January 31, 2008

Any Lifesavers out there?

A Parable:

Once upon a time there was a dangerous seacoast, where shipwrecks often occurred. ON that coast was a little lifesaving hut, very crude and with only one boat. But there were a few devoted members who gave themselves day and night, at the risk of their own lives, to rescue those who had been shipwrecked.

Soon this little station became famous because so many were saved. Others wanted to become associated with this very famous enterprise and gave time and money and effort to buy new boats and to train more crews. After a while some members were unhappy with such a poorly equipped center, so they enlarged the building and put in better furniture. The lifesaving station became a popular gathering place and the members used it as a club.

As time went on, fewer members were interested in the dangerous lifesaving missions and instead hired crews to do the work. But lifesaving motif’s were prominent in the decorations and there was even a liturgical lifeboat in the room where they had initiations!

About this time there was a large shipwreck. The hired crews brought in the cold half-drowned and dirty people- some with dark skins- and the club was messed up. The property committee had a shower house built outside, where victims could be cleaned.

A split developed among the members at the next meeting. Most of them wanted to stop the lifesaving activities which were a hindrance to their social life. Some members insisted that lifesaving was their priority. The majority prevailed and the minority was told they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast. They did. As the years went by the new station went through exactly the same changes as the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History repeated itself, and on that coast today visitors find a number of exclusive clubs along the shore.

Shipwrecks are still frequent. But most of the victims drown…

Entry taken from Transforming Leadership: Jesus’ Way of Creating Vision, Shaping Values & Empowering Change- Leighton Ford

Not much to say on this because it says so much in itself. If you are reading this I am sure you catch the harsh parallel. Are you a lifesaver or club memeber? Make things better or keep the same crude station? Tough choices!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cave dwellers

Having hind sight while reading the bible is a beautiful thing. We often get down on the disciples or any other person in the bible that has doubts, fears, or little faith, but don’t realize that we would act just as they did, if not worse, given the chance to. My favorite story of a man who knew God, who had experienced God in huge ways and still fell into deep depression, is about Elijah hiding in the cave. Basically Elijah and the Prophets of Baal have a God-athon to prove who is the true living God. Elijah wins, God conquers the sacrifice and many come to believe in the God of Israel. Great victory story here. Check it out in 1 Kings 18-19. Well Elijah finds himself in this cave wishing death upon himself and God simply asks, “Why are you here?” There are many applications we could pull out of this text, but let’s focus on why he was in that old dark smelly cave. He had just shared in the revealing of God’s glory and seen many come to know the God of Abraham! What a great experience, I can’t imagine having an encounter like that. Well, after that Elijah starts fearing for his life because of a mad woman (that’s why I never want to make a woman mad, they go on rampages…lol). Elijah started focusing on his circumstances and forgot all about what great things God had done.

My friends recently moved away from Indianapolis and I was talking to one of them and she was just stressing about all the negatives about the move and I told her to stop being Elijah and climb out of her cave. I personally focus on my circumstances too much, I think we all do. I keep a journal to remind myself of all God has done so I won’t end up in a cave. My thought here is that many of us end up almost depressed and down in the dirt because we worry about what is happening now or we let one thing distract us from all He has done. What if we focused on those glory moments and His splendor rather than circumstances? What cave are you in? Are you looking for God? May you remember God and all He is and has done in your personal life and live in a way to avoid living in the cave. He is good, we must remember He is always God and circumstances will not change that. May be learn from Elijah. May we stay out of caves.

Marley Sounds...God Smiles

I’ve been listening to Marley pretty heavily lately (yes part of the reason has to due with the inspiration from I Am Legend). I have the song off of his legend cd, exodus stuck in my head. I’m sure you can hear it in your head even now as you read. Marley was great, still is, music that transcends generations is powerful! Well, I was reading the news the other day and came across this story about the border wall between Egypt and Israel being broken down and thousands of people fleeing into Egypt! Here is a great couple of lines out of the article:

Egyptian guards stood by without intervening, and Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that the nation would remain open to the needy "as long as this is a humanitarian crisis."

"We are not opening the Rafah crossing just for everybody to cross -- we're opening it because it's a very dire humanitarian situation," said spokesman Hassam Zaki.
Earlier Wednesday, wave after wave of people -- cheered on by children chanting "God is great" -- washed over fences along the border and into Egypt. They left on foot, in cars and atop donkey carts.


Exodus 2008? Really? I never thought I’d see that. What’s awesome is that these people in Israel, God people, were running through the wall saying, “God is great!” The spokesperson for Egypt was allowing these foreigners to come in because of the needs not being met over in Israel. I bat God’s face is shinning today because of this news story. I know it makes a ton of sense and reflects a lot of what happened in early biblical times with Moses and the Exodus and Joseph positioning himself in Egypt to provide crops for his family. Good story, made me think, I thought you’d enjoy.

The Bible is NOT red, white, and blue, it IS black and white!

Jesus doesn’t wear the American Flag!

Sorry folks, forgive me for being forward, Jesus is not democratic, the kingdom will not be, our current government (republican or democratic) is flawed and will always be because it is full of sinful men and women. The bible does not talk a ton about democracy, it is an establishment built by men…

If you know me, you know how much I enjoy getting into spiritual conversations that force you to think and reason. I love to mix things up a bit. As much of a fan of passionately discussing issues with fellow brothers and sisters, there is one area that I loathe touching. I think I’d rather have my tongue staples to the ceiling than talk about this. Anything but this….

What is this…this is politics! I love going to school because I get to be in a room full of men and women passionate about Christ. We feel open enough to talk to each other about our opinions and we always question each other, it is a very challenging atmosphere that promotes tons of growth, I love it. However, off the wall comments are always made that can bring up disputes and strong disagreements. Last night the professor brings up the question that based on the impression made or decisions a leader makes will it affect his ability to lead in the future? He used two examples, Bill Clinton and George W Bush. The answer in itself was simple, yes! Clinton and Bush will be greatly affected as leaders and their futures as leaders due to the choices they made. That is a simple thought, but because people are so passionate about their political stances we had a 2 hour debate on what the war was for and how good or not good Bush is. We would take turns and when it came to my final turn of saying my piece I said, “Can we take a break, I feel like we have wrapped the bible in a flag and this conversation is going no where.”

I am always game to hear different opinions and such, but not within politics. I noticed within listening to my classmates last night that no matter what we have pledge our allegiance to our democratic party or republican party first and Jesus fits within that somehow. I noticed that they were backing up their opinions about there particular political stance with the bible, that’s called isagesis, it is what tears apart the body and creates false teachers. Isagesis is man looking into the bible for backup of his own view rather than allowing the bible to create his view, exegesis. We stand up at sporting events, in schools, and at government meetings and pledge our allegiance to a country that is ONE NATION UNDER GOD, but forget that we are not a nation under God any longer, we have removed God from our courthouses, schools, and are attempting to remove Him from our money. So where is our allegiance? Mine is with Christ first! I am registered as Republican, but I will be the first to say that the Bush administration made poor decisions. My view of government is shaped by the bible, not the other way around. So next time you read the bible or get into a political debate with someone, remember where your allegiance starts, with Christ!

Coffee Shop Break Down

I felt the walls closing in, the music fading, the smell of coffee seemed to dissipate, things ion the room seemed to move in slow motion, and all of the sudden my head felt like it was on fire. This is what happened this morning as I was sitting at our staff meeting for church (I now that sounds fancy, but it really is just a group of guys getting together seeing how we can be more effective with the things God has given us as a local church). What was this feeling? I ate some White Castle at 1:00am earlier that morning or later Mon night, whichever way you look at it, but I felt okay, like not sick. It was in the 20’s outside so I know I’m not hot. What in the world?!

It is 7 am so I am very tired, I didn’t go to sleep until 2 anyways, and I’m just in one of those silent moods. We begin the meeting by talking about different prayers request we have and praying over the prayer request people filled out on Sunday. So everyone prays and finally it comes to me and I don’t know what to say, it’s like one of those moments where I honestly believed God was praying for me because I didn’t know what to say. This is when my world starts to spin and I feel weird, then I open my mouth, and just cry out to God. I say I don’t know what to say, but I know I’m broken hearted and I know I really wish to see Him use us, Indy Metro Church, to not just be another church, but an active force of Christ that changes the community of Indianapolis. I was really hurt over all the things I see and hear around me, within this community. I was really broken hearted about the state we find ourselves in.

Shame on me, but it has become so easy to be religious. I show up early to help set up, I give ideas for what should be preached about, I lead this small group, promote community service things, attend this meeting, tell so and so that I am praying for them and on and on… It has become easy to be a part of this church, Indy Metro, and just be a leader. I haven’t felt really broken hearted for the city and for what God can and will do through Indy Metro Church since the early months of us officially meeting on Sundays in a corporate setting. Where has that fire been, where has that passion been? It seems it was hidden behind the curtain of religion and organization that can come with the local church. I feel like I’m excited about he local church again. Thank God for the gut wrenching humility and brokenness He gave me this morning! Do you ever find yourself just going along with things? Do you just do what is asked of you within the local church or do you have a burning passion to see the bride become beautiful?

A view from new shoes

“They say, ‘we can beat the rate, we can beat the rate,’ but in a time of need can you help me?”

This was the statement made by an insured of a large insurance company.

The insured was led to believe she had the broadened form on her collision coverage for the state of MI, which she didn’t. Broadened form insurance in the state of MI states that if the insured party is less than 51% at fault the deductible would be waived. The insured was rear ended by another party who fled the scene. I had to inform her that she will be responsible for her 1000 collision deductible. The other party is not cooperating and she was not able to find his insurance policy. The claims department will not make the call for her pursuing the claim through the other carrier unless we are subrogating, which requires her to pay her deductible. Aside from the insured’s responsibility to check her policy and know what coverages she has, the insurance company has a greater responsibility to help her. She has a gold policy, which mean either agents pay the insurance company to service the policy or the policy was originally bought offline or via phone call. Generally is a person needs help getting along in a process, especially reporting a claim with another carrier, I refer them to their agent for help because this is what an agent gets paid to do. In this case she had no agent so there was no one I could send her to. So now I sit on the phone with a woman who has paid an insurance company several thousands of dollars over the years, telling her that there is nothing we can do. I told her even in my own desires to help her I could not because I work in an incoming call center and would not be able to devote time to her case individually because I have time goals I must meet in order to be perceived as a “good performer” that will help make our company an “indispensable” company among insurance providers. I say the numbers mean nothing in this case and see that we totally blew this one as a company.

I had no response to her saying how dissatisfied she was with our insurance company and actually agreed with almost every point she made. I really meant I was sorry to hear that she was going through this; I was embarrassed to represent a company that wouldn’t help and could not respond to her threats of cancelling her policy because in all honesty I would cancel mine if the tables were turned. I think often times the insurance company forgets what it is like to be a consumer and thus focuses on the company rather than the reason for the company, the insured. We forget to take a look at what we do from their shoes.

My concern here is that there is no outlet for her to get assistance with her need, she may not understand what she is supposed to do or what if the other party doesn’t have insurance, then what or just being there for her in general the entire time while this claim is still open. The company that she invest in that she has poured her finances into is now saying, “Sorry, you don’t have the coverage, we cannot help you.”
Does this sound indispensable to you? I really believe to become indispensable from competitors, a company must really see what the consumer desires long term, not short term and meet these needs. Look at the competition in the industry and look at how much we are like them, change the similarities and do things differently, that in itself would set the company apart, but by then providing excellent customer service within these new parameters. I think it is possible, but we cannot keep trying to same things looking for different results (that is the definition of insanity), we need to see needs and meet them, that is how one become indispensable. This one unmet need should not be acceptable, but it is a trend, a very unfortunate trend that impedes the process of indispensability.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Backwards

As you saw in my blog about going home I had a great experience. The only thing that I walked away with that really hurt me was a little comment said almost in jest, but I know that it came from a deeper opinion rooted in what they really thought about me (well, Christ really, and what He has called me to do). I went over to see my grandma, I call her Nana, she is in her eighties and is the sweetest little thing ever. She used to be so bitter and mean, but I think as people get older they become sweeter. Although she is sweet she has not lost her back hills Kentucky opinion and brutal honesty. So my mom told me this hilarious story about Nana going to the doctor, I cried it was so funny. So my mom asked Nana to tell me and she refused to tell me, she had told other people in the family, but she said she would not tell me this story because I am backwards. At the moment I just laughed it off and told her it was ok, she did not have to tell me the story. So on the way down to Tampa I was riding with my mom and I was telling her how this hurt my feelings. Then I asked, “they all think I’m crazy don’t they?” I was asking about what the rest of my family thought of me. My mom answers back reluctantly and says, “yeah, they think you are radical, over the top…” I don’t think anyone can understand how much that hurts to hear. I have always been the golden boy of my family. I always cause people to laugh, they think I am going great places with my life, I am a great student, I had a long term girl friend. This was all before I decided to give my life to Christ when I was 21. Not much has changed though, I have a 4.0 in school right now, have a good job, have the same personality, but I decided to follow God no matter what, which brought me to Indianapolis. They say they respect me for being so dedicated, but they really don’t understand why and apparently I am seen as backwards by my family. Ouch!
I was telling my friend Kente about this the other night ad he says, “That’s good man; they should see you as backwards!” He is right you know… Christ causes us to be reborn into a new spiritual life, our hearts are changed forever, and because of this we should do things differently from the rest of the world. My family is not full of people who love and follow Jesus, so what they see me doing for Jesus seems backwards in their world, which maybe sometimes it is. So I guess I am embracing this whole backwards thing now. Living for Christ changes how you do things and I think it is healthy when people notice the change. I am encouraged though, Jesus says that no one who has left their home on account of Him will fail to receive a hundred times the blessing of this life, basically becoming backwards will not go unrewarded (Mark 10:29-31).
So may you become backwards and be encouraged in those moments of pain when people tell you that you are backwards, take it as a compliment, because they notice the change Christ has had on you.

That smells nice!

Have you ever walked by someone in the mall or other social environment and just fallen into this trance like stated because of how good the smell, like they walk by and you catch a hint of whatever kind of cologne or perfume he or she is wearing? I live in a pretty cool apartment building downtown; it used to be an old hotel built in the early 1900’s. Because of that we have many residents using one main elevator and some mornings or Friday or Saturday nights I get on an can barley breathe because whoever just got off or was in it before I was had on so much perfume or cologne that it is overwhelming. We’ve all been in the gym and walked by that one guy that makes your nose hairs curl up. The point is we all have a smell or scent to us.
I was reading 2 Corinthians the other day and came across this beautiful little idea of followers of Christ smelling.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)?”

We are to be an aroma of Christ among those being saved and those who are perishing. That’s great Paul, thanks, what in the world does that mean? The Corinthian church is and was infamous for their immorality. Paul is writing them to remind them of their salvation in Christ and focus them on the life of following Christ should look like. Paul is talking about how we live our lives, our actions, our speech, and our interactions with other people, make us smell. We can be an aroma to some and a stench to others, but we are to always be a pleasing aroma to God. On a daily basis how do you smell (spiritually)? May you be an aroma pleasing to God, like the aroma of a fresh cherry pie from grandmas!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday the nation celebrated one of the most influential men in our history, Martin Luther King, Jr. On this day you always here the comments that make you want to smack yourself because you believe it cannot be true. Abe Lincoln did more than King. Why don’t other people in history get a day? People like to minimize Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy he left. When we were growing up, we were taught in schools that MLK was just a social activist and that educational faux pas has carried into our adulthood. To only say MLK was a social activist is to drag his name through the mud. We forget the man and focus too much on what he did (although what he did was tremendous for this country and African-Americans everywhere). The reason King could not stand to see racial discrimination was not because he was an undeserving black man wanting a piece of the white pie, it was not because he felt superior to the white man, it was not because he was a fight the power type of man. The only reason King did what he did and stood for what he stood for was because he was a follower of Christ. He could not stand to see people of any color discriminated against because he knew God created men in his image and that means none were superior to the other. In his letter from the Birmingham jail, King pleaded with his fellow clergymen to stand up for this great injustice. King knew that Christ followers and injustice could not stand together. As Christ followers we were to attack injustice. Too often churches stay away from “social problems” like drugs, community violence, racism, and AIDS because they feel it is only their job to save souls. In writing that sentence my stomach turned and fingers went numb. This is impossible! Jesus Christ touched people by touching their social problems! It is our responsibility as Christ followers to stand in the face of injustice and demand justice, for Christ’s sake, not ours. The difference in the way civil rights was handled between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X is very apparent. The difference was standing for these rights and injustices for Christ’s sake. King could not stand to see people cut from the same cloth, God, isolate each other, segregate each other, and tear apart at the very human fibers we are built from. Thank God for a follower like Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t say this because I am African-American and it is in my heritage to say, I say this because I am a follower of Christ and it is my duty to support and honor any movement that promotes Christ and stands in the face of oppression.


I know one day I will meet Dr. King because he is in my Father’s house, he has been completed and I know that he wears a crown of victory and is honored and blessed because of the impact one person, one man, had on the entire world out of a deep conviction from God that he stood for and eventually died for. Thank you Dr. King for following Christ and may we all strive to be followers of Christ with great passion and vigor as you were. It’s not just a good day to get off work or not go to school; it’s a day to celebrate the accomplishments of one man who stood for Jesus Christ. I think we can all see Jesus in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. May we show the world Jesus by what we do, by our actions, what we stand for, what we die for, the legacy we leave behind…


Monday, January 21, 2008

Cloverfield

Saturday night, after almost a years worth of anticipation from watching ambiguous previews and internet trailers, I was finally able to unwrap this mystery of a movie called Cloverfield. If you have not seen this movie, please do. It is cinematography and suspense masterpiece. There is not one movie out like it. The whole movie is based upon this love story really. A guy falls in love with a girl and before he moves to Japan they have that awkward see you with another person deal and parted ways on a bad note. Well the city was evacuated and he refused to leave her behind. The entire movie is based around this one guy going after his girl that he loves and finally realizes in this circumstance of tragedy that he cannot live without. She calls him from a cell phone and says she is laying under a wall, the monster is right above her apartment building and the military is going to bomb that part of the city sooner than later, but he still goes after her. I remember when I thought I was in love a few years back. I let her key my car, steal things fro my apartment, disrespect me, and downright use me all because I loved her and then after all of that went back to her because I loved her. You here all these crazy romantic stories of people doing outrageous things for those they love. We are enamored by these stories, they do something within us, they evoke emotions that we can’t quite explain. Why do romantic stories of love touch us so much? Why do we even want to love or be loved?

They say that amputee patients often have phantom itches. These are sensations of itching on the appendage that was removed from the body. Like if I were to have my left foot cut off, I would ask the nurse to scratch it for me because it itches. They are missing something they were born with, something they were meant to have. Because they know it was there and is now gone. What does that have to do with love or as the great Tina Turner would sang (not sing because the girl can sang!), “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”

In Ecclesiastes the author says that God has placed eternity in the hearts of all men (chapter 3). This brings forth the idea that we have things in our heart that have been covered or darkened by sin. We were created in a certain way and because of sin we have fallen from this original make up. We still have this deep longing to be loved or to love within us though. This desire came from God. We were created to have a relationship with God, like Adam did before the fall, walking in the Gardens. This relationship was ripped apart by sin and now thousands and thousands of years later we are missing something we were born to have, love. We search far and wide for this love, but can never quite fin it. The closest love we know to the love that God created us to know was a mother or father’s love for their child. We do not rest until we find this love or we begin to die. In the midst of all these great chick flicks and love stories we forget the first act of love, the original, most epic one of all:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17, NIV).”

Jesus came as a sign of God’s love. God crushed Jesus because He loves us! God offers a way to feel that lost love, through Christ. That is some crazy love! The kind of love I cannot fully grasp in my little mind. A perfect God would send Himself as Son, Jesus Christ, leave perfection, leave any boundaries or limitation, leave the Holy Throne, to live on earth, be rejected, and eventually brutally killed. Talk about a man chasing his love through Chaos. Talk about a bridegroom (Christ) doing anything for His bride (church)! That love is amazing and it is that love that we all yearn for.

As I walked out of Cloverfield I thought, what a beautiful love story, what a great way to show one man going through what seemed chaos and hell to find his love, to save her. Then I thanked Jesus for loving me and rode off into the night…

Music...it's good for the soul

Friday night I was a part of a community event called Faith, Soul, and Rock-N-Roll. It was a community outreach event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. I am highly involved with this organization and really believe we can change the city and statistics for a future of young children put in unfortunate circumstances. We had two bands play, Complete (the worship team from Indy Metro) and Brian Reeves & Heart After God. Complete has a rock sound to it and Brian Reeves has a soulful, R&B vibe to it. The audience consisted of a wide array of culture, African-American, Caucasian, Latin, etc. All kind of different music tastes I’d bet. I noticed something and a big picture got put together in my head. As I was sitting at the lighting board at the back of the auditorium Sunday I closed my eyes and just listened to everyone in the audience worship through singing. As I rode home, I noted people in the cars passing me by (Indianapolis drivers are crazy!) singing and banging on their steering wheels, in Starbucks I noticed feet tapping, in the library I noticed rhythmic movements of shoulders to a beat of some music they were listening to on their iPod. We are musical creatures; we pay lots of money to go to Orchestras, concerts, and musicals. Look at all the movies about dance competitions coming out this year, we really enjoy seeing anything that has to do with music. American Idol and Making the Band are reality shows that rule the ratings because of our inner connection to music. Music is in our DNA, it is part of who we are. I am convinced that every human has some kind of musical rhythm within them because we were made to do what will happen when Christ comes back. He is a God of redemption, which means a return to what once was. Take a look at chapter 7 of the book of Revelation. This is a dream God gave John of what Heaven would be like. In Heaven there will be singing and worship of God forever! Since that is how it is in the end, I must believe that in the beginning we were made as musical beings, made to worship Him, the creator, the Savior.

Dancin’ and Singin’, we’ve got soul because we were made to worship Him. Look around a room with music next time you are in one and notice the finger snapping, foot taping, lip synching, and any other type of musical interactions, we all do it.

T-shirt blues, milk carton passion


I’ve come to realize I am a nerd! I used to make fun of my brother because he enjoyed reading. I now find myself wanting to read more and more. I can’t read like fictional novels or things like that, but I love news and things that can educate me more. Because of that I read a lot of little magazines online during my down time at work. I read Relevant Magazine a lot too. I came across one article that really affected me in a deep way. It scared me and excited me all at once. The author starts off by saying how exciting his first experiences in a church were and how vivid his passions for God were. Well, over the years of doing and being a part of the church it has all become uneventful for him and his passions that once plagued him are now missing. I am a very passionate person anyways, but I remember specifically what gets me going, what starts my passion machine, gets my motor pumping out some serious horsepower. I wonder if I have lost my passions, if I have let them wander off into the deep roughage of life and the world. I wonder if my passion is on the back of some milk carton screaming for me to find it. It isn’t home anywhere else but within me. God made me for a specific purpose and has a plan for me, without me acting on my passions, if I just loose them, they are lost and not at home. Is there some annoying pager going off that is mispronouncing my last name as they call me over the intercom system to pick up my poor lost passion that has been searching high and low for me in the 60,000 department store of life. We cannot loose our passions! Have you?

Our exciting Christian journey has turned more into a post car or a t-shirt we get from vacation. We remember going there, being saved, having a change of heart, but it is just a souvenir of our past experience. Why have we lost our vigor and passion for the Lord, when did it become so boring and routine like? How can we break free from this milk carton, save our passions and dreams from the Lord from becoming mere mementos that we parade around in like Disney World t-shirts? It is through prayer I believe this can happen. It is also through a community of other passionate believer to keep you encourage=d and reminded of what you have been made for, your passions.

Hatred?

I was watching the news and came across one interview with a city official that really pulled me apart, one side of me was cheering with his view and another part was crying for his view. There was a quadruple murder in Indianapolis last week, 2 moms and 2 infants were slaughtered. The sheriff said in an interview, “There is a special place in hell for these people,” concerning the murderers who committed this appalling crime. I agreed with him! I want whoever killed these human lives to die, they deserve to burn in hell. CNN is now tracking Omar bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son. He is trying to promote peace in contrast to his father’s reign of terror on America and the rest of the world. In one interview Omar admits that his father was afraid that if he were caught he would be hung or killed somehow. Can you blame him? Almost the entire population of America would like to kill him personally. When Hussein was sentenced to death in 2006 there was celebrating in the street. When I blogged about the parents who killed baby grace, I wanted to see them die too. They deserve it!

Do you see how much one can spin himself into a web of vengeance and hatred? We actually want to kill these people. It is easy to pray for the families of the victims isn’t it? How easy is it to pray for the murderers, the terrorists, or the tyrants? Forgiveness is something else isn’t it? How hard it can be sometimes… To pray for those we feel deserve to burn in hell is more difficult than most things in life…to wish these people good and want to see them know Jesus’ love and forgiveness seems hard as “good people” right? Wrong! We all deserve hell; there is a place in hell for all of us. It is only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ that we have been saved. Shouldn’t we pray for this same grace to be extended to those who are just like us, sinful? Shouldn’t we extend this same grace?

No Fist Shaking/Thank You!

I live next door to the place I work at. My morning commute is about 3 minutes which is lovely on most days. I love the spring, the summer, and the fall, my walk to work is cool, sunny, and delightful. January, February, and March are different though. I do enjoy my walks some mornings. There is nothing like walking through what looks like a snow globe, watching snow sit on my jacket and support me under my feet. Those days are exceptional though. The general winter commute to work consist of me wearing several layers of coats, a scarf, gloves, long johns, hat, and another scarf worn as a face mask almost (to cover my nose and mouth). The cold cuts right through you. I was walking this morning and thanked God for the cold, because it helped me appreciate the warmth. Every time I visit home (Jacksonville) I am always amazed at how beautiful the city is, you fly into what looks like water world, with the beach on one end and the rest of the city sits between rivers and intercostals waterways. It is beautiful. When I go there in the summer or anytime really, I request to go to the beach, to which I get the reply, “it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too windy.” They do not appreciate their beach or city because they haven’t experienced something not as beautiful or harsh winter winds or almost falling on ice in the morning. In those moments of my winter work commute frustrations I am completely aware that I would not love the summer like I do without having to go through the unbearable cold. This can parallel what James writes about trials.

“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4, NIV).”

The idea is that testing makes you stronger. A man does not know how strong he is until he lifts the weights in front of him. You cannot appreciate the summer without the winter. You cannot appreciate the fall without spring. We could not fully appreciate Jesus until we learn more about God through testing. He only pushes us enough to know that we will push back. God will not tempt us more than we can handle, but just enough to make us sweat (1 Corinthians 10:13). So I am thankful for those hard times in my life, for it was in those moments that God help me grow into more of the man He created me to be. It is always easier to remember to be thankful for temptations and testings after the fact, but I was reminded this morning to be thankful in those bad circumstances for there is always a way out and God will not give us too much, but just enough. So may you stop shaking your fist and God and thank Him for your troubles, for it is through these times He is creating a beautiful person.

Isolation breeds Death

Yesterday, my friend Aaron taught on accountability as a biblical principle for a healthy walk with Christ. We are doing this series called Disciple at church and this week Aaron chose to preach on accountability. The creative element of the sermon was marvelous, very affective! Aaron got to talking about how isolation separates you and makes you uncomfortable and hinders your walk with Christ and we shut off all the lights in the building except a spot light on him. Then he started talking about community and we cued up another spot on an extra on stage. Then he started talking about how we were created for community and the lights came up again. It was a really good way to illustrated how without seeing other people we become really uncomfortable. We were made for community, without others in our lives we begin to die, mentally, spiritually, and sometimes physically.

My favorite movie is Crash. If you can look past some bad language and one scene of brief nudity, it is a really powerful movie.

Graham (Don Cheadle’s character) starts the movie with this quote:

“It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Even though this is a fictional movie with fictional characters, I wonder how much that quote is non-fictional and painfully true.

I was doing my morning routine of checking sports and local and international news and came across a story that really stirred me up. I read this story and was just broken over the fact that this is possible. It is possible for people to die and not be noticed, go missing and not be missed. Police found 3 dead children in an apartment. It took a neighbor to complain about a bad smell from the apartment before they were discovered. The neighbor said he knew that a mother and her 3 little girls lived there. The smell was from the bodies decomposing! A human body decomposing, that sounds like something that should happen in the ground, not in an apartment. They estimate the bodies had been in there for several weeks before being discovered! How is this possible? How is it possible that no one missed them or questioned where they were. How do we miss our neighbors for weeks until we become agitated with the smell of their apartment only to find it was decomposing human beings? This outrages me! This isn’t a new thing though. In 2006 a man road a subway overnight in NY and was discovered to be dead in the morning. I am not sure if you have ever been to NYC, but subways are crowded and there are always more people than you’d like there to be on them. How did this man get missed? You may have seen the movie Collateral, with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. In the end when Tom Cruise is killed they place him on a subway to ride. Their thought process was that no one would find he was dead for several hours or days. People die and no one notices! Lives are lost without being missed! Is this how humanity should be? This is not how we were created!

The bible says of man that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). God created us to live in communities. The Jewish culture of the bible was community based. The Acts 2 church was community based. People thrive when they are in communities; they thrive when they are intersecting with other humans. It saddens my heart deeply to think that these news stories are real, but they are.

It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to break down this wall we have built of independence. We cannot live alone, we cannot live isolated, we were not made to be this way, we need people. When I was in NYC, one of the most staggering realities I walked away with was people don’t talk, there is no community in this world that we live in currently, or at least it is very small and hidden. NYC is a city of 20 million people. Walking down the streets everyone has on sunglasses and iPods. They are blocking out 2 huge communication variables. We are dying to be touched; we are all dying for community. Will you sit still and watch our world die or will you bring them the living touch of Christ and be a part of His redemptive plan to bring about community that humanity was made for?

Leaving No Fingerprints

Last week I went home and was fortunate enough to see some fruit of prayer. Every time I visit home it is weird because it is like I am reentering a zone of my old self and because I have been changed every thing is different, friends, family, etc. I go down and visit but don’t ever see anything overtly encouraging or memorable; it is just hum drum, “glad you are home” business. This trip was different. This trip I left Jacksonville with a full belly, I left satisfied, I left encouraged, and pretty pumped about what God had been doing while I was gone from that beautiful city. My brother lives in Tampa now and has a very nice job. So I flew in Thursday night and was able to go see my grandma (I call her Nana) and eat some Krystal’s (Like White Castle, but not disgustingly greasy or soggy). Friday morning I got up and was able to spend more than half a day with my step-dad, Danny. We met my little sister for lunch at Bono’s BBQ! There is nothing better than some good ol’ southern food when I go home. I love fried okra, but people think I am speaking another language or from a different planet when I mention it up here in Indianapolis. After lunch we ran out to the town center. It is a really high end outdoor mall in Jacksonville. We went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to get some Jaguars gear for the game the following Saturday night. Lucky for us Jacksonville went crazy and over ordered Jaguar apparel so we found a heck of a sale. I got an authentic jersey that is normally $309.95 for $49.95 and a nice official NFL Reebok hat for $17! I was all geared up and ready to go watch the game on Saturday night. The whole day Danny and I were able to talk and just spend some good quality time together. I had wanted to restore my relationship with him, since we didn’t really always have the greatest relationship anyways. It was good to see how much God has changed him and how soft his heart had become. I was able to talk to him a little about Jesus and the difference between really following Jesus and practicing a religion (Consumer Christianity).

Friday night we left and drove down to Tampa to see my brother and his family. It was about a 3 hour drive. I rode with my mom. We had the best talk I think we have ever had. We talked about everything from how to handle fear of getting hurt in relationships (I’m horrible about getting involved at an arm’s length) to how God has been moving in her life. Anyways, I am sure it was the most memorable moment and one of my favorite moments with my mom! It was amazing to see how much God has softened her up and given her more of a desire to seek Him. Anyways, as we were talking I was just looking out the window thanking God for showing me this (I was laying back in my seat relaxing while she was driving, that is how I was able to look out the window). I got goose bumps because of just listening to her speak and just being able to bond with my mom.

After we got home from Tampa on Sunday I decided I really wanted to talk with my sister about some things that concerned me about her life. We ran up to a Starbucks close to my mom’s house and talked the entire way there and back. We didn’t just talked about surface things either, we talked about some deep stuff. She has been reading Proverbs and praying for God to show her things so she can know what to do or where to go in her life right now. God is actually showing up too and she acknowledges it!

All in all it was a great trip, an unforgettable one for sure. The reason I write any of this is not to give some kind of chronological progress report but to expose a greater truth I realized after reflecting on all this. Often times I find myself only praying for things that I have a direct contact with, a way to get involved with or touch. I’ve been praying for my family for almost 2 years now. I would find myself really discouraged because I couldn’t see what God was doing, it’s like I didn’t trust it because I couldn’t see it. I was very fortunate to see a little fruit of my prayers last weekend. It made me realize how faithful God is and how praying for others to come close to Him is a prayer He will always want to answer. Blind faith in prayer is difficult, but God gives us these brief moments to see what He is doing as a gift and thus should make us pray all the more (even though we do not have direct contact). So next time I pray about things I will pray, step back, and trust in Him, trust He is in control and will do what is best. Do you ever feel like this, like praying for things you don’t have contact with or are not directly affected by is pointless? May you continue to pray and trust God is listening and always active and in control. We do not always have to leave fingerprints on our prayers, but we must always trust God will leave His on the situation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Greedy Disciples

We were having a conversation/debate in class the other night and a gentleman made the comment that he wanted God’s justice. As holy and righteous as that sounds, my initially reaction is my eyes open really big, then my eye brows lower, my mouth opens and I let out a huge, “paaaahhh-leeeease!” The issue we were discussing was one in which a lot of church folks think they would rather see justice than grace because they are not willing to give grace. I am reading through 2 Corinthians right now. It is beautiful when you read the Word of God and you are reminded of something that you’ve seen that acts out or reminds you of the principle taught. I saw a modern day illustration or example of what Paul must have been talking about in the beginning of 2 Corinthians though.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (2 Corinthians 1:3-6, NIV).”

The idea put forth here is that we are given compassion from Christ so we can give it to others; much like grace and forgiveness. We take the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, and all the other great benefits that we DO NOT deserve that Christ gives so freely, but are not willing to extend them to others. There is something wrong with that picture. That is why Jesus raised up disciples, so they could learn to live kingdom minded like He was and teach others to live like they were already in the Kingdom. We have a hard time giving away what we are given. We are greedy little disciples. In regards to forgiveness, Jesus says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV).” God expects more from us, He expects us to give what we receive, in fact, I would gamble to say, the only reason we have anything is to give away (or serve).

Do we want God’s justice, really? I don’t! I am thankful for the grace given freely to me, without reason, I can’t understand why He loves us, but he does and I accept the grace He gives! Shouldn’t you, if you do, you are obligated to give whatever he gives you, especially love and grace, because out of these flows an abundance of life!

Customer Service…no thanks!


I work in a customer service contact center, so customer service is pushed frequently here. Things like scripted openings and closings are not uncommon. Having a pleasant tone, almost cheesy tone is something that is taught. Buh-bye, I hope you had a very satisfied experience (what is very satisfied anyways, I don’t know the difference, that is like 110%, it doesn’t exist, you cannot go beyond excellent or 100%!), thank you for calling this is said at the end of every conversation, even one’s where a customer may be mad), I’m sorry to hear that, is everyone okay, etc. These are all terms we are taught to use in our conversation with external customers. Although telling someone you are sorry to here about something or asking if anyone is hurt is okay, being taught to say these things in every conversation becomes more mechanical than human. Like automated services, the automations began as helpful but now annoy more than help.

A brief example of this customer service that drives me mad and drives any company into the corner of mechanical professionals rather than warm blooded human beings trying to help for your entertainment: I call my cell phone provider (their name will remain anonymous because I’m not into dragging people under the bus) to pay a bill. So a gentleman answers the phone and asks for my cell phone number and some verification info and the conversation continues as follows:

Customer Service Rep: Hello Mr Anthony Sloope, do you mind if I call you Mr Anthony, by your first name?
Me: No, please do.
Customer Service Rep: Thank you Mr Anthony, how can I help provide you with excellent customer service today?
Me: I need to pay my bill.
Customer Service Rep: Ok I understand you need to pay your bill is this correct?
Me: Yes.
Customer Service Rep: Thank you, I understand you need to pay your bill, I will now transfer you to our billing department to help you with this, is this okay Mr Anthony?
Me: Yes.
Customer Service Rep: Ok Mr Anthony, I have Susie on the phone in our billing department and I have told her you need to pay your bill is this correct.
Me: Yes, thanks.
Customer Service Rep: Hello, Mr Anthony Sloope, my name is Susie, do you mind if I call you by your first name?
Me: No, please do.
Customer Service Rep: Ok Mr Anthony, I understand you need to pay your bill is this correct?
Me: Yes.
Customer Service Rep: Ok I understand you need to pay your bill, how will you be paying?

The conversation continues but you get the point, right?!

We confirm that you confirmed that we confirmed you confirmed that we confirmed…What? Does this type of customer service drive anyone but me crazy? I want to speak to a human with a personality, who understand that I just need to get something simple done and will help me get it done quickly and efficiently. I understand the point behind all the scripting and cheesy machine talk, but it has become annoying just like the automated phone services that make your fingers bleed because of all the buttons you have to push! I was at lunch with a friend today discussing this and my frustrations with the company that I work for and decided I’d let you into my mind for a little bit. At my company we have this phrase, “Becoming an indispensable company.” How are we to become indispensable if we look, sound, talk, and walk, just like the other competitors in our field?
So to all you customer service people out there, I feel your pain, you can be human!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Gap

Is it possible to not grow because you are stuck on what you want to be instead of who you are?
Living in that Gap can be toxic to one’s walk with God.

I know where I’d like to be. I know where I should be. Am I happy where I am? Am I stuck where I am? Is it possible to not grow because you are stuck on what you want to be instead of who or where you are?

I call this are the gap; living in this mentality of, “I wish I was there.” This is living in the gap. Living in the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It is healthy to aspire to succeed or grow; it is good to have goals and dreams. You see this in academic studies, teenagers graduating high school, in dating relationships, and in the journeys of people following Christ. I remember when I graduated high school I was ready (or at least I thought I was) to take over the world! After the month of celebrating my new found freedom from high school all this excitement came to a screeching halt at the destination of this gap. I was so caught up with what I would do with my life, where I’d go, where I’d be, how would I do this or that, etc. that I was stuck frozen not moving forward like I wanted to in the first place. I find this to be a common reality in dating relationships, especially Christian dating relationships. The guy or girl get so excited of what the relationship could be and where it could go that the final destination or fantasy of that relationship is all they focus on and thus do not move forward but continue living in this gap between reality and fantasy. I also see this happen in the lives of those who follow Christ.

I’ll give you an example of how this could start; it almost started in the bible with some of Christ’s followers after He ascended to heaven. “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven(Acts 1:10-11)." So after Jesus ascended to heaven you can imagine what you would do, I know I can think of my response. Wait, come back here, when will you come back, man I can’t believe He is gone, I guess we should wait here until He comes back… These would all be running through my head and I am sure at least a few were in these disciples heads too. Could you imagine if they did just keep standing there hoping for the return. What if after Paul had this experience with Jesus in Acts 9, what if He just stayed there thinking about what he was going to do, what he could do, or where he would go? What if after I gave my life to Christ I just stayed knelt before that stage at church and kept thinking about what was going to happen? God requires action from us, our faith is to be an active faith. We cannot get stuck on living or becoming the man or woman of God so much that we become static in our faith. Dynamic is the name of the game folks! We should accept where we are, because God does, flaws and all, and just keep pursuing the goal, to be more like Christ. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize(1 Corinthians 9:24-27).” God wants us to move, run, run like we want to win a race. Paul captures this idea brilliantly!
Are you stuck in a rut, the gap of who you want to be? God wants you to be something great! The more you pursue Him and become more like Him, the more you become the great man or woman He created you to be. You cannot become anything by just sitting there. Don’t be discouraged by something you are not, you will get there, just keep pushing and running that race. Get out of that gap. I pray you will come to accept yourself for who and where you are and leave the gap and start living the life f beauty He offers.

For Sale by Meanest Mom Ever!

Thank God for good parents!

What a great way to deal with a child’s disobedience. I remember when I was a teenager I thought my parents were the meanest on the planet, but if it were not for their consistency in teaching me the right things, I would not be the man I am today. In Proverbs 22:6 it says, “Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I can see why my parents did what they did and appreciate it now that I am mature and older. So will this boy, but I love this story, kudos to this mother!

It is always refreshing to see stories like these on the news and in the media.

Judging Justice

A woman who was found guilty of murdering and torturing a 12 year old girl back in 1992 recently tried to get her guilty sentenced over turned. The judge justly denied that motion and the woman will still have to serve her 60 years. She was 16 when she did this crude crime and she is not 32, so she has already served 16 years of that sentence and will serve 34 more years, basically releasing her from prison when she is 66. The story itself bothered me but the end of what I read bothered me even more and got me to thinking about our “justice” system, or lack there of. “Of her three co-defendants -- Hope Rippey, Laurie Tackett and Toni Lawrence -- only Tackett also remains in prison. Rippey was released last year, while Lawrence was released in 2000.” That’s what I read that disturbed me. That means Rippey was released in 2006 only 16 years after she murdered and tortured this little girl. Lawrence was released in 2000, only 8 years after the crime. Now the last guilty party is trying to over turn her guilty plea?

We have defense attorney’s that get paid money, really good money too, to defend guilty parties. They know their clients are guilty and yet defend them and try to lessen the blow of punishment for them. In some cases, defense attorneys are so good they actually get their guilty clients off and free from any charges. I would be very interested to do a report of journalism documentary about how they feel about defending people they know are guilty. That would be pretty intense, but interesting indeed. I think letting a guilty person go because of a person who is sly with words (attorney) is not just. Nor do I think serving 8 years for torturing and murdering a little girl is just. Does what I think is just really matter though?

God is totally just, but totally love. It is hard to get my mind around that. I don’t think any of us can know what complete justice looks like outside of the one example of the cross. God was completely just and loving in the crucifixion of Christ. I was talking with a co-worker the other day about this principle in Indianapolis that was pulled over for a DUI. He is a principle of a school, so in the community this offense was escalated. Check out the story for yourself.
So my coworkers asks, “Adam, what do you think, should he lose his job?” I didn’t have a response because I was torn between two opinions within myself. My one opinion was of grace and in agreement with the Hamilton County community. The other opinion was one of “justice” that made me think he should lose his job because he is a public figure that is impacting children.


The whole point of me bringing up that story is not to get into what should happen, but my own ideas of justice. They are flawed. We dogmatically stand firm on our republican and democratic agendas and forget often times that both sides are wrong, both sides are operating off a flawed justice system. The only justice system that will ever be perfect will be the one Jesus runs when He comes back. Justice is an interesting thought in this world, we try hard, but fall short don’t we? So whether you are an elephant or donkey, jsutice seeker or grace giver, Christian or not, one must agree that justice doesn't seem to be just. That is because the jsutice we seek here on earth is without God for the most part.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Steps

“Prosecutors allege Chander used gasoline to start the fire late Saturday. The India native told police he disliked his son-in-law because he belonged to a lower caste and had married his daughter without his consent, said Cook County First Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan.”
"His son-in-law was beneath him in his opinion," Milan said.

Seriously? His son-in-law was beneath him, he belonged to a lower caste… Are these real statements in the year 2008? This is appalling to most who read it who are not of this culture, the Indian culture. I was appalled immediately and started thinking all kind of things that actually confirmed my thought being established in this blog. The idea is that every society has a caste system somehow and it is only through Christ that we are set free from this bondage and thinking. As I tried to resolve this story in my own mind I found myself thinking how much more advanced our American society is and how I would never be like that and eventually found myself feeling above this man or the culture he comes from. That is so wrong of me and extremely unhealthy!

What is a caste system? Wikipedia defines it like this: In a caste society, the assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is fixed by birth, justified by custom, law, or religion. This classification is based on social occupation, endogamy, social class, and social group. The key main attribute is, it is a Religious social class system.

Have you ever walked by a homeless man and thought to yourself, “just get a job!”? Have you ever not wanted to be seen hanging out with a certain person. Does it make you feel weird to hug a person who has a disease like AIDS. Would you touch a leper? The point is not these specific things, but the overall thought of humans being created equally. Jesus saw it this way. He spent time with whores, lepers, fisherman, and tax collectors. Look at the civil rights movement. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was not just a bored person who wanted a piece of the big pie, he didn’t feel like he deserved something he didn’t. Dr King was brilliant, he said that he had seen the mountain top, God had revealed to him what equality within the African American community looked like. Dr King was tired of this caste system within America. Today in 2008 that caste system has been abolished within the racial world (for the most part). Any system, society, organization, establishment that operates on levels where men and women can become more important or less important than the next is a caste system. Jesus came to demolish this caste system idea! “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).” As children of God through Jesus Christ a caste system should offend us and we should seek to inspire others to know Christ and know the freedom found within Him. Dr King gave his life to see the caste system demolished, he could not bare to see men that say they love Jesus or a nation that says they are one nation under God live in a caste system. Jesus was killed for it, He hated the caste system the Pharisees had created with their religion. So may you see the caste systems of our day and turn from them, educate those in them of The Way out.

Forgive (yourself)

Why can we not forgive ourselves?

No one ever says, “I cannot forgive myself.” Nothing is what it seems on the surface is it? You notice things by watching a person or people act or live or talk or breathe. I saw something within a couple of friends the other day that really made me hurt. It didn’t hurt me as in my feelings, but I could feel their pain and I didn’t like it, I didn’t like to see that in them, I wish I could take it away. They applied for something and were rejected by an organization for what they applied for based on something that had happened in their past. They had already been formally punished by society and the court system. They said that themselves. So this is what hit me the most, when I heard them say, “We’ve already been punished by society, we live the consequences of our past every day, and now we have to prove ourselves to a company.” They said this with such sincerity and had tears in their eyes.
They are children of God and have been saved by Jesus, so they know they are forgiven. They know to forgive others. But when I heard them talk about this issue and their past I couldn’t help thinking that they have not forgiven themselves. Could this be the case with so many people around the globe? God offers forgiveness and we continue to drag ourselves back through it all. People carry baggage with them for years; they have an intellectual knowledge that they have been forgiven, but never quite come to forgiving themselves. So I wonder if a person has not forgiven themselves if they can truly understand God’s forgiveness completely. I realized that Jesus forgives me of everything, He is a merciful God, full of grace and love. But it is when we get caught up on others view of us, what we look like compare to a society as a whole, that makes us not want to forgive ourselves. A person may have been a crack addict prostitute before coming to Christ. I would imagine if she or he did not see themselves as equal or important or forgiven in the eyes of the society they were indulged in then they may not have allowed the forgiveness of Christ to become real, liberating, and transformative then they may never be allowed to forgive themselves. The hardest par of forgiving is forgiving ourselves isn’t it? I am not saying my friends in particular have this problem but it made wonder how many people haven’t forgiven themselves, haven’t allowed themselves to be impacted by the blood of Christ that atones for all wrongs. May accept the forgiveness that is in Christ and forgive others and forgive yourself.

The Persecution Box

When I first devoted my life to Christ I remember I was caught up in this romantic (or at least I thought it was) illusion of wanting to die a martyrs death. I thought it would be some kind of great thing that I wanted. As I have matured I realized that not are all called to die a martyrs death, there are a certain number that God has selected to die this death until he comes back. I don’t want to die a martyr’s death; I don’t think my faith is that strong honestly. I once had this dream that I was walking down the street with a friend talking about Jesus and some guy kidnapped us and held us in his garage outback. I remember how vivid this dream was. Each day he would come out and pull a tooth out of my head with a crude pair of players and tell me it would all be over if I just said that I would not follow Jesus. I cannot say with confidence I would not deny Christ, Peter said he wouldn’t…
“You will leave up out of here with some scars if you are a follower of Him.”
This is what someone said in regards to Christians being persecuted. Another gentleman in this conversation responded by saying he doesn’t think that he has ever been persecuted and thinks he should be. His basis for saying this was we started talking about those being persecuted in China, Asia, Africa, Russia, for their faith in Christ and he said there is no persecution in America. I think this can be a fair statement, but not one to be taken at face value. There is no persecution in America that looks like it does in China. In China it is acceptable to show someone your disdain for them and their religion by cutting off a hand or two. The government does not protect human lives when it comes to things like this. In America we cannot show hate this way legally, so it has evolved into different types of persecution, like not being able to get a job, lower pay, ostracism, and ultimately separation for society. Although this persecution may not be as grisly as it is in China, it is still persecution. Any time one is affected negatively by the society in which they live for the sake of Christ, that is persecution. As America Christians, we should not and cannot continue to live wanting to become like another society, even though there are tons of stuff I hate about he American culture. We must learn to adapt the message of Christ and how we apply that in our lives to the culture we have been placed in. We cannot place persecution in this little box of violent oppression of God’s people, because that puts Him in a box and God does not live within boundaries.
We may not be facing death for the sake of Christ, but we will be persecuted and should expect it, we should expect rejection for the sake of Christ, He was rejected. So instead of wishing we could be persecuted like our brothers and sisters in China and other parts of the world, we need to pray for those that are being persecuted in this malicious way, that God would grant them grace and peace in this time and He would be glorified through their suffering. Have you faced persecution? Remember, James says to be joyful for these things, because God is doing something in us, preparing us, completing us, pruning us, He is doing something for His sake and we should be grateful.
I have added Fox’s Book of Martyr’s to my daily reading and think we should all pray for those being persecuted around the world for Christ’s name.

Coercing Leaders?

Leader Coercing…oxymoron isn’t it? I’ve been reading this book by Leighton Ford called Transforming Leadership. He examines the life of Jesus and how He lead and pulls out principles that can help us become great transformative leaders. Last night in class we were discussing several principles Peter Drucker had come up with for great leaders. We were split into small groups of 2-3 and assigned a certain principle to tackle. Well, our principle was, “If someone expresses interest you have an obligation to lead/help, but if one lacks interest you are under no obligation.” In simple language a friend and I say, “Move with the movers!” Meaning within everything, but more specifically the Christian journey and creating disciples, we are not obligated to pour ourselves into those who are uninterested. That is a Drucker principle, not a biblical quote. However, the principle itself is alluded to by certain things done in Jesus’ ministry. When the rich young ruler asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answers by saying, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me (Luke 18:18-23).” There is never any indication that Jesus ran after the young man when he left. Jesus spoke the truth and was very aware that not everyone would accept it. Jesus chose to invest in those who wanted to be discipled. Look at the example of Peter. Peter was a disciple that got a lot wrong, he spoke before he thought, he based his view of Jesus on a human view sometimes. Peter wanted to learn though, he wanted to become what Jesus believed he could be. So we see Peter who just confessed openly that Jesus was the Messiah in one breathe and in the next was sharply confronted by Jesus to ,”get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Mark 8:27-33).” Peter was always trying, sometimes too hard, to follow Jesus and ultimately we can read in 1 & 2 Peter that he gained great knowledge and become the man Jesus wanted him to become. Jesus is a great example for moving with movers.
Naturally the question arose, “What about a leader coercing someone into doing something?” My immediate response is no true leader should ever coerce. By definition on dictionary.com, coercing is as follows:

–verb (used with object), -erced, -erc·ing.
1.to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition: They coerced him into signing the document.

2.to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact: to coerce obedience.

3.to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.: The state is based on successfully coercing the individual.

No true leader within the will of God should ever coerce. We were asked to think of things within our local churches that pastors may try to coerce people into doing. Examples ranged from working in the nursery to attending a special service. The one that created the biggest discussion and uproar was tithing. One man made the comment that one time his pastor published in a bulletin those who had not tithed. There will be a separate blog about this issue, but the fact is that if any man or woman is trying to bully followers into anything then those followers should turn the other way, because Jesus never coerced and would never desire us to. If we are to be disciples and create disciples based upon His discipleship program with the 12 then we can never coerce. Try to reflect within yourself things you may be tempted to coerce people into doing, what are your motives in this? By leading we should be able to influence people to want to desire things that we desire. That is what Jesus did wasn’t it? I never wanted the things I do now until I began to become conformed into His image.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Boiling Noodles

Besides throwing a noodle against the wall to watch it stick, another way to find out if your noodles are done when boiling is if they all come to the top, if they surface (at least that is what I do).
A great friend and a personal hero of mine and I met this morning for coffee. We have been talking about this idea to meet with people we see potential for as leaders or fire starters (people of influence in their community who want to do something) around the city. We want to see what God will do with a bunch of people fired up to do something for Jesus by meeting together and discussing how to be a leader, developing ideas or dreams, and generally making a bigger impact for Christ in this city, Indianapolis. But how? One of my thoughts this morning was to boil them and bring whatever passion it is inside them God has placed to the surface and then work on that, develop it, and put it to action. What does that mean? Well, every one of us have something inside that we feel, that we are passionate about, some kind of dream or vision. When I first met Christ he put some particular passions in me and has gifted me in a certain way. I think this is true of everyone who follows Christ. Unfortunately, life gets a hold of us and we get busy and it is easy to let all that passion and vision sink to the bottom of us. It always takes something or someone to bring that back to surface. The other week I reconnected with a friend I had kind of lost contact with over a couple months. It is rare for me to find another person to connect with spiritually that is on the same page as I am and will be honest with me. Well he was and is. So we both set aside some time to get together and just talk. We talked about tons of stuff, but I walked away from our time together all fired up about what God had placed in me, I was motivated, on fire, and ready to do something! That talk brought up those passions and visions. We all need that to motivate us, we all need something to boil that mess to the surface. So we plan to start meeting maybe once a month or occasionally with other people around the city who have big passion and dreams and help get that fire started again, motivate, or boil that passion to the surface so we can see this city changed for Christ. What is with you God has placed to do? What are your passions that have subsided? When you started following Christ what were you ready to do, what were you fired up to do? Spend some time in reflection and try to figure it out and then try to act on it. If you didn’t have to worry about money or anything else in life but what you wanted to do for Christ, what would it be? Find that out and act on it, God has placed that within you for a specific reason and when you act on it, then you experience this life abundantly Jesus talked about. May you find your passion and act on it this year.

Looking for a good book to fire you up about this stuff? I’ve been reading Holy Discontent by Bill Hybels, it’s got me all jaked up like I’m on mountain dew! I’m ready to jump on my passions like a spider monkey! Check it out, it is a short easy read, about 150 pages.

Invest in Kids!

“Christianity began in Palestine as a relationship, moved to Greece and became an idea, went to Rome and became an institution, then came to America and became an enterprise.”- Richard Halverson

This is one man’s thought about what we see as the church here in America. An establishment rather than a radical movement spawned out of relationships. The church that we all love to read about in Acts seems like only a utopian fantasy to us now in 2008. For some reason we like the idea but don’t believe that kind of exponential growth can happen, well at least that is what our actions say we believe.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

This movement that created a huge early church that was more like an organism than an organization was because they were living, breathing, eating, praying, crying, praising, serving, they were doing all these things together. Because of their devotion to this movement the Lord added to their numbers daily. The Jewish culture in that day was very family oriented. When Joseph and Mary left Jesus at the temple at the end of feast of the Passover they were not irresponsible parents (Luke 2:41-44). They traveled as a family and thus presumed He was in their company. Eating a meal together in that culture was considered an intimate setting. To be invited to one’s home for dinner was a great honor. Family meals were not on special occasions, they were a normal practice and way of life. Community was great. You can imagine because of this that there was tons of investment going on in the youth. The children would listen to stories from mom, dad, or grandpa. They would be taught and brought up in the way. The idea here is that generations were invested in and thus could carry on these traditions. This culture continued into the church of Acts. That is why the church grew at such an phenomenal rate. Can our local church become like this? I believe it can. Can our youth of today become leaders of tomorrow, continuing to spread the Gospel of the living God, Jesus Christ? I believe they can and will. So consider for yourself, how can we, in America in 2008, become more like the church of Acts. There will be dramatic differences because we do not live in the same culture or have the same traditions, but how can we spread the gospel of Christ and create authentic community of growth in our world, in our communities?

Personally, I believe it is by investing in our youth, bringing them up within the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Update 01/02

Greetings from the snow globe I call home! Last night it snowed a lot, only about an inch stayed on the ground, but it snowed quite a bit, big white snow flakes, the pretty kind of snow you see on movies. Today it is a grand total of 4 degrees and with windchill it feels like -11! I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas up here with my friends who have become my family. Christmas morning I woke up on The Bunso’s little love seat stuck to the leather to see their whole family asleep in front of the fire place. Carl and Danae allowed the kids to sleep downstairs like that as a treat, they really enjoyed it. We read the true meaning of Christmas and watchesd as they created a tornado of wrapping paper and little toys that will eventually be stepped on by a bare footed Carl or Danae at 3 in the morning at some point. Pat, Suzie, and Ashly came over for Christmas dinner. Basically we had all starches and green bean casserole. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos, bread rolls, macaroni and cheese, filled our plates. After dinner we all sat on the floor in the front room of their house and sang Christmas songs and others like Magicman, Stairway to Heaven, and Time For Me To Fly. Suzie is a great guitar player. It was a great day. I did miss my family in Jacksonville though.
Speaking of Jacksonville, how about those Jaguars! Playoffs again finally! Pittsburgh here we come! I am really excited about how the team has played this year, with Gerard putting up big numbers now plus our defense, we are truly a threat in the playoffs. Saturday is a big day for Jacksonville in the football world.
For New Years I spent it with several friends. Allen & Kristen Bunch, Ryan & Jessica, and Ashly. We all went out to eat at Texas Roadhouse. After that Ryan, Jessica, Ashly, and I went to Robyn’s house to drop in on her party. I was stuffed, but since there was food just sitting there, I continued to eat and almost made myself sick. Then Ryan and I got to acting goofy and were laughing so hard I really thought I was going to get sick, we actually had to pull over to the side of the road at one point after we left the party. Jessica made the comment that we are the 2 most sober people she knows but appear to be intoxicated by the way we were laughing and carrying on. Basically this is what we were laughing at: Ryan made the statement that he was a man and based off that we began making statements like these, ”I am a man, my toothbrush is wood, I am a man, my lufa sponge is a brillo pad, I am a man, I use bleach as soap, I am a man, I eat concrete” We just continued that ridiculous thought on throughout the night. Then we got to joking about disciplining our kids. Jessica said that when I have kids they are going to be crazy because of how I am, so that is what got us started on disciplining children because I said I will beat mine (just joking though). Ryan continues that with, “I’ll just call the police and say, ‘I am about to beat my kid you better just come on because I know the neighbors are going to call!’” We are all just joking about this. So I make the comment that his daughter would always be missing a patch of hair too. That just had us dying laughing for the rest of the night. I am not sure why we choose to joke about those things but it was funny if you were there. After our hilarious ride we arrived at Ryan’s house where we played a couple games and I ate a ton of grapes, it was refreshing to change from sweets to a nice fruit. We went back to the Bunches and played Scene It and watched the ball drop, dip a sparkling grape juice toast, and made New Years resolutions.
Here are mine: Be a better listener, be more considerate of others, get on top of finances, pray more, get my weight up to 185lbs, get into a house, and go to Africa. These are all very doable things and all rely on prayer. The most important thing to me would be going to Africa. I have been looking at this missions agency that sends people to Africa for 6 months to up to 2 years. I need to pray that God will allow me to go and that I would begin to prepare right now by saving money and raising support. I am going to make a prayer card/financial support car that I am going to mail out to everyone that I know and pray that God will use others to help finance going to Africa. I am not sure what all of it looks like, I know there are risks, but I have not been able to get the thought of living in Africa for at least 6 months out of my head since I started following Jesus. I must act upon this impulse that I feel is from God. So I am sure you will be getting a card in the mail of handed to you soon, but please join me in prayer as I see what God will do as I surrender to something I have ignored for so long, this Africa thing.
I am also looking at this sweet house on the near East side of Indianapolis. It is a 1924 Colonial style house that is 45,900. It needs a little work, but I am going to have a friend of mine look at it and if he can have all the work contracted out under a certain price then I will buy it and fix it up to live in and really become a part of the community I would like to reach. Again this is just one of those doors that has opened that I am going to walk through and see what God does with it. Please join me in prayer about this as well.
Other than all that things are going really good for me right now. I am working tons of over time at work (God always provides when I am in need) and staying busy with school, church, and my social life. I have a girlfriend now, so that is something else I have thrown into my juggling act. I miss you guys in Jacksonville and am happy to be in Indianapolis where I know God has me for a reason and always affirms that He wants me here for now. Questions or comments leave them on here, I check my site every day for updates, leave your email address for me so I can keep in touch!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

We are ready to die...

“At least 124 people have reportedly been killed in violence sparked by allegations of vote-rigging in Kenya's disputed presidential elections.”
“The streets of the Kenyan capital were almost deserted Monday as the government deployed riot police to quell opposition supporters, some of whom said they would risk death to protest what they called a stolen election.”
"We have been rigged out, we are not going to accept defeat," 24-year-old James Onyango, who lives in Nairobi's Kibera slum, told AP. "We are ready to die and we're ready for serious killings."


As I read this story my mind and soul were wrestling with the thought of these protestors zeal and vigor for their cause. They felt so strongly that the election was taken away from them that they were willing to die to fight the cause. What cause am I willing to die for? Would I really die for this cause? Is there something in your life that would push you to the brink of death in order to defend it? I cannot imagine the feelings and commitment within a person who will die for a cause. Obviously ever cause is not worth dieing for, sometimes the cause is vain or empty. To submit your very life and be willing to die for a cause still fascinates me though.



Disclaimer: God cannot contradict Himself. No one would ever be called to die for God at the expense of innocent lives (suicide bombings).


I am not sure if you have ever read Jesus Freaks or Foxes Book of Martyrs, but both are powerful books containing stories of folks who were willing to die for the cause of Jesus Christ. Not everyone is called to die a martyr’s death, I am thankful for that. Those of us who do follow Christ are called to die to ourselves though (Matthew 16:25). Now, carry the thought from those African protestors, they believed their cause so much that they said they were willing to die. For those of us in Christ, are we willing to die to our old selves for His cause? The only reason Christ says that we must die to ourselves to follow Him is because ourselves, the natural sinful man that we are will not follow Him because we are selfish. Am I excited to die for Christ? Not like actually get killed with a gun because I fear that (not because I fear death, but I fear my lack of faith exposed by this circumstances), but am I excited to see my old self die, my old habits die, my old thoughts die? As I develop my relationship with Jesus Christ and am molded more into His image I will become excited about dieing for the cause right? What are you willing to see die? Are you passionate like the protestors to die to become your new self in Christ?