Wednesday, February 28, 2007


On Monday I was asked to prepare a message/study on Psalms to help the pastor of our church meet all of his obligations. I was reluctant because I haven't been feeling well and it was short notice and blah, blah, blah, number of reasons that I wouldn't be up to the call of leading a group of our best Bible scholars in the church in a discussion on the Psalms. I stayed home sick yesterday and with plenty of rest and relaxation prepared my material for tonight's study. I gathered an outline on the theological significance, categorical classifications, literary significance, history, etc. and also pulled a couple of Longfellow's poems - A Psalm of Life and Cross of Snow. The whole thing kind of pulled itself together and I thanked God for his provision.

I had no idea what more was in store for me when I got to work. My boss was just down in Jamaica measuring up some building at a mission that we are going to design an addition for. He spent a long weekend with the CSI director and got to know many locals. He was having lunch with some locals and the director asked one of them if he'd like to sing my boss and his wife a song. Brad, the local, got up and sang a song.

My boss was so moved by the Psalm that Brad sang that after three tries he couldn't get it out amid the tears. He finally just emailed me the rest of the story. My boss just adopted a little boy from Kazakhstan less than a year ago and the hopelessness in the eyes of the other kids at the orphanage was more than he could take. I'll reprint part of the email that I got from my boss this morning:

So anyway, he continued to sing about how he has a gift to sing and with
this gift he tries to glorify God. But in the song he goes on about being a
boy who does not have the strength to carry the Lord’s message. As the song continues he asks the question about who will carry God’s message if he doesn’t have the strength. The rest of the song is about (him) this little boy asking God to give him the strength to carry His song…this orphan boy who, at the time, was growing up without anything but the boys around him.

The song was so powerful because I got to see first hand what it
meant for him to have nothing. To not have parents, to not have
opportunities, to not feel loved…God has blessed me with the opportunity to see that pain first hand in Luke and the other kids in the orphanage in Kaz. It was amazing that in the face of having nothing, the little boy in the song and, ultimately, Brad himself, struggles and feels real anxiety about not being able to carry God’s message through his song. At the end of the song the little boy prays for strength to carry God’s message in the face of this adversity because he worries that if he doesn’t God’s message may be unheard.

As I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see different
parts of the world over the last 8-10 months I’m amazed and brought to tears by this message. That people who have nothing worry more about disappointing God than about their own human condition. That is a message that I’ll be forever grateful that I got to experience. I’m thankful that I got a chance to hear the angels sing through Brad, really…I actually felt like I was sitting in God’s presence at that moment…I can’t wait to see Him and hear the choirs of angels because if that is an indicator of what it will sound like, I’ll be speechless and crying. I’m also thankful that I got to see a real example of how to serve Christ…to see how selfish and
self-absorbed I am…to see that serving Christ has absolutely nothing to do with us or how hard our day is or how much money we have…Serving Christ is about carrying His song in spite of all that. Serving Christ is about serving each other first and then looking for the next person to serve after that…Serving Christ has absolutely nothing to do with me, myself or I and that was good to see up front and personal.

Anyway, it was a really strong message and it was totally impromptu. Brad sang us that song after lunch with absolutely no prompting and preparation. It was amazing how the Spirit moved in that moment…it was really strong. And, to be honest I didn’t realize how powerful it was until I tried to describe it to you guys this morning.

There are Psalms to be received from the God that is Near. I pray they
keep coming.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I was thinking about neighbors today after reading a post by Steve Coan on another blog. I was reminded of my conversation with my daughter last night after a weekend visit at her mother's.

When my wife and I first married my daughter was 5 yrs. old. We were all fresh out of divorce, in debt, and poor as could be. She had purchased a house in fair condition in the lower west side of Grand Rapids (about 4 blocks from downtown, 4 blocks from the zoo, and 2 from the river). I moved in there after about 3 mos. before we were married because she is hot and it saved me 40 minutes of driving every day. At that time my kids were living with me one month and then with their mom one month. My ex-wife couldn't say too much about where I lived because she wouldn't even divulge where she lived. We exchanged the kids at a neutral spot. It was horrible but that is how divorce is sometimes.

Anyway, as it turns out my ex-wife had some trouble and I was given custody of my two kids. It wasn't because I was a good parent but I was the better of the two sorry parents that our kids had at the time. The five of us, me, my two kids, my wife, and her daughter, made that two bedroom house our home for three years. The school the kids had to go to was really one of the better elementary schools in the Public School system because we happen to be on the side of the street that went to what they call the "Park Place" of Grand Rapids Public Schools. It really wasn't a terribly bad place to live after talking to my daughter about it last night.

We had a small garden in the back yard and planted it with vegetables. Baby carrots, peppers, cherry tomatoes, etc. all small stuff that kids could pick and eat or wash and eat. We had a little patch of grass in the front that the kids played on and kept our backyard grass plush too. A farm boy needs something to do when he lives in the city. My wife loves to grow flowers so we loaded up the place with planters and filled them full of flowers. I wish I had a picture of that place. It stuck out of the grassless, trashy streets of that neighborhood like an oasis. As my daughter remembers it it was the best place in the whole world. Our yard would be filled with kids all the time. We'd have them in our house playing games on the computer (one of the few that had one in 1996 and only because I got it from work to work on), playing in the sprinkler, sitting on the steps - just plenty of life to go around. There were a few that didn't know much English, many more that had no one at home for them. There were two little girls whose mother was a single working mom and she tried hard to make ends meet but just couldn't do it by herself so she'd have a guy move in for awhile and then he'd be dragged away by the cops or thrown out by a friend. She was good people but poor. We all were.

The things you might see there weren't what I would now consider "good" for a child. About every third evening the uncle of one of the kids would walk up the street in drag headed uptown to prostitute himself. The cousin of one of the kids in the block behind us assaulted someone and ran away from the police and they caught him in our back yard after he jumped the neighbors fence. He was lying there with his hands on his head and his pants down to his ankles as often loose pants will do when you try to run in them. You could smell weed often while sitting on our front porch but we never really investigated exactly where it was coming from. The house next door had one of those tall fences with 4 dogs in it so it didn't smell so good. They'd start fighting and all hell would break loose, maybe some fir and dust waft over the fence, and then someone from the house would yell out the back door for them to shut up and they would.

Anyway, it wasn't exactly Disneyland but for some reason my daughter has better memories about that place than any other she can remember. I am going to try and figure that one out because places like that are fertile - there is so much shit that a seed can't help but grow and yes there are lots of weeds but at least the soil is fertile. You can live in a place like that very cheap. Housing is cheap and the kids don't have to have the latest trendy designer junk to fit in. Jesus would be in a neighborhood like that.

Moving Forward

The Holy Spirit has been at work shaping me and forming me. It has been painful at times but God took me to many places to teach me patience before putting me where I'm at now. Overall I believe that we do have purpose but I'm not sure that we can even begin to explore that until we've been like fresh shoots in the springtime of Hope in Jesus Christ, a strong stalk growing in the faith and knowing of the God of all that was, is, and will be. A blossom of jubilance in the inspiration of that purpose and then yes, death. Death to any of the tiniest thoughts of talent, wisdom, knowledge, value, aside from that finding its root in the creator God, saved by the blood of his spotless lamb and son, Jesus Christ, and being born anew and afresh in the power of the Holy Spirit. That pattern of birth, growth, death, and redemption is our lives here on earth. That's not to say that we remain in a window looking out on the world while we go through this transformation. There won't be any transformation if we did that. No, we are to go out, find wisdom in humility, faith in our unbelief, strength in our weakness and failure, life in our death.
I've been struggling with some issues lately that have to do with where I worship and where I give. My wife and I are very much against abortion for any reason and we've been part of a faith family that echoes our position. Recently I found that our denomination is in opposition to our position on this and has given money to pro-choice activism.
As I watched the story of this little girl, Amillia Sonja Taylor, surviving after being born at 22 weeks, I was again stricken with grief that I have let keep me from worshipping with my brothers and sisters in Christ for the past month. I have not wanted to go to church because I know that we have leadership now that is also pro-choice. When I brought this up with a long-established member the reply was "I've been going to this church for 40 years and about every 10 years there is another 'social issue' that threatens to divide the church, I wouldn't worry much about this".
Finally, after waiting upon the Lord I've got an answer. I was asked just this morning to speak about the Psalms at our Wednesday evening service. I found this poem in the search for commentary on the psalms.

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
We'll talk about the Psalms this week and we'll include one of my personal favorites, Psalms 139:13-16:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be
Its been 30 years since Roe V. Wade. William Wilberforce preached against slavery for 46 years. 30-40 babies like Amilla (after the 20th week) are aborted every day here in the U.S. 3700 prenates are aborted every single day in the U.S. yet people spend $30,000-$40,000 to adopt a child from overseas. I'm not againt the adoptions at all but I'm just saying it doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Schwarzenegger promised to veto another bill aimed at legalizing gay marriage in California. The popular vote shows that the people of the California do not want this bill to pass. The following is an excerpt from an AP article:

Geoffrey Kors, executive of the gay rights lobbying group Equality California, said Friday that he hoped Schwarzenegger would take the time to meet with gay and lesbian couples before promising another veto.
"How would the governor feel if his right to marry First Lady Maria Shriver had been put to a popular vote?" Kors said.

Why do people just expect that if you are not a proponent of gay marriage than you don't know any gay couples or are a homophobic? Maybe the reason people don't want gays to marry has more to do with the gays we know than the ones we don't. I'll admit I've only known four gay couples (only one of which is still together but I guess if you count the number of relationships there are 7 gay couples that I know or have known). There is only 1 that didn't have some kind of substance abuse issue and/or domestic violence issue. The couple that have been together so long? They don't care if they get married or not. Besides, single heterosexual couples aren't lobbying for being recognized as married - they choose not to be. Why do you need a bunch of idiots that don't even know you to give you the right to be called 'married'? Don't you see that it really doesn't matter all that much?

On the other hand, why do we even reject gay marriage? Our married people don't care much more about their marriage than the couples that cohabitate. The rate of divorce is climbing as well as the rate of co-habitation. Why have 'marriage' as a legally binding contract. Let's just abolish marriage altogether as a legal institution and put it back in the religious realm where it sprouted from. There is little or no benefit to Jesus for us to fight this way. Does it really matter? Please tell me why.

The Spirit of Collaboration

I listened to Breakpoint with Chuck Colson this morning. It contained some interesting information about the 'Clapham Circle' collaberation and William Wilberforce. It is really worth a reading. The concept is almost utopian but is REAL and resulted in much good being done in the name of Christ.

Love Your Enemies

I was listening to Gerry Bershears this morning preaching on Romans Chapter 9 at a Resurgence function and he brought up the fact that God had told Rebecca that she'd have two sons and that the older would serve the younger, Esau serving Jacob. Most know that Jacob tricked Esau out of his inheritance and his name Jacob means "deceiver". Gerry went on and asked rhetorically if Jacob could be trusted then answered no. Could you trust Jacob to serve you if you were going into mission? No, he'd put a knife in your back to serve himself.

I started thinking then about how many times in the Bible that the enemy or the "unworthy" is the one being served by ones that God eventually prospers, blesses, or otherwise makes much of. When I start looking at God's perspective on this and then compare it to the secular saying "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" it makes alot more sense to me. Its much more difficult for our enemies to destroy us when we serve them. We cannot serve with our backs turned, open to the knife that would be inserted, but we have to face people head-on, with a humble spirit and out-stretched hands.

I'm a Land Surveyor and as such I've had many confrontations with "hostile" dogs. Rarely does a dog fail to retreat when you hold your ground or actually approach a dog with out-stretched hand and gentle voice and without fear. Most of them just can't handle it and they'll run the other way in their insecurity. We can see this proof of this phenomena in any group of particulars. As soon as a leader starts walking away and says "follow me" they'll start getting spears in their backs the same as a hostile dog will bite his leg once his back is turned. If a leader serves as an example, ignites a group and then walks with them into battle as a fellow servant the cause of the group is advanced and the leader lives a legacy.

Jesus please put me in step with sound leadership. Help me to ignite those whose vision smolders. Help me to love and serve my enemies. Help me be lost in you. Hallelujah!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Megachurch Closed to Biblical No-Nos, Open to Others |

I've listened to every single Mars Hill podcast that has ever been posted, read one of Mark's book, "Reformission Rev" and have been working my way through the reading list of Acts 29 Network, a church planting and education organization funded largely by Mars Hill. We're talking about a 26 yr. old that was called to start a church based on fundamental, expositional Bible teaching that is contextually-based and speaks to the culture we find ourselves in. My wife listens to Mark and doesn't feel the least bit offended by him. I think Christian Post gives him a bad rap by taking some things he says out of context. Mark has mellowed some from when he first started pod-casting but, with a little grace, anyone who reads the Bible can benefit from his teaching.

In this day when we have so many religion leaders getting caught in immoral acts, trying to take over the government of our country, and/or preaching this self-help feel-good "Jesus is a massag-a-roma-therapist just waiting for you to walk with him through a maze to the brand-new car he is giving to you" message that its refreshing to listen to a preacher that teaches a controversial Jesus, a fierce-loving God, and a people that keep screwing it up. God is sovereign, he is worthy of our whole-hearted worship, and life is better when we allow him to lead us through life. What is so damning about that?

Mummified body found in front of blaring TV 




Just Like Me

You know us Jesus, yet still you call. I read Cathleen Falsani's "The God Factor" yesterday and I highly recommend it as insight into the universality of God's call to us. No, we don't all recognize it in the same way but we all deny it in the same way and try all the time to mold it to our own ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, throughout our lives. Ms. Falsani does a refreshing job of reporting the spiritual lives of several "famous" people. I found myself hopeful after reading it. Hopeful that God's grace will probably touch many more than I'd previously felt it would and optimistic that my own spirituality is still holding ground as the rising tide of pluralism remains less than satisfying for those seeking the meaning and source of all things good and beautiful.

Friday, February 16, 2007

You know what is liberating?

Realizing I don't know squat about anything and even if I did it wouldn't amount to much.
Thanks for leading me breath by breath Jesus.

What the?

When the cars a rockin' Jesus comes knockin'
This is thinking out of the box!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chickens Part 2

Some think of chicken as the fowl running in the hedges or along a barnyard followed by a bunch of chicks, all that is domestic and cute but not really anything more than the image of an bygone era replaced by chicken factories churning out leg quarters - nothing to be taken seriously anymore since truth is too difficult to pin down.

Another might think the only way to really know what a chicken is is to inspect it as it is pulled apart, disembowelled, the individual particulars then counted and analyzed and passed under a microscope until the fact that they began with a chicken is lost to the story of their own study of the particulars.

Still another group think of chicken in patties, buffalo wings, and tenders - it tastes like what they think chicken should taste like and sometimes looks like chicken and they are told it is chicken so they eat it and forget about it but somehow know, when they get to a really good plate of chicken, that what they'd been eating was not chicken anymore but what the chicken processors felt they needed from the chicken.

I read an article yesterday, written by a denominational leader, criticizing parachurch (not extra-church) organizations. He felt they should be considered apostate for going out apart from the leadership of the local church. I have trouble faulting a person or an organization that discovers that they can touch more people by NOT subjecting Christ's mission to the heirarchy set up in the local church (whose agenda is and should be the reaching and teaching the gospel to the context they find themselves in). I wonder how far Paul would have travelled if he had placed himself under Peter's authority after Christ spoke to him?

God Bless the revolutionaries who still see chicken as a beautiful bird God made to feed us! Much like the beautiful Word he gave us for the same purpose. Religion kills mission and the Gospel.

Chickens Part 1

I’m really stoked about what God might be doing. I don’t know how chickens play in that but I’ve been confronted with chicken messages 3 times in 10 hours so I know there has to be something to it. The first was at 1:00 a.m. this morning. I awoke (could have been dreaming of the Mayan blood-letting stuff I watched on “Digging for the Truth” on the History Channel) and wrote this poem down:

Soup Chicken
Into the Darkness
I reach
As a breath forces cool life
Into my chest
My hand clutches the hot scaly claws
Surrendered to my view
On the block staring up at me
As the axe falls through
Sinking deep into the sweet-sticky sacrifice staring up at me
A call uncried
An October leaf carried in the light of autumn fresh
A body, yet to give in to death, as it flops through the world
A soup chicken to be soup

I know its morbid. So is the process of giving up myself. Sometimes we forget that the richness of a life in Christ isn’t as easy as opening a can of soup. Something has to die. Something has to be cleaned.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Discipleship in Media

I was watching "Cars" with my preschoolers last night (one of our favorites) and noticed a very strong message of God's economy. Lightning McQueen is a self-important upstart rookie in the beginning of the movie who is transformed by the reality of his own mortality as he builds relationships in an all-but-forgotten, by-passed town on old Route 66. The fading blossom of former Glory is held together by the hope of town residents who believe that if only their road is improved "they will come" (the travelers up old Route 66) and their town will become vital once again. To make a long story short, McQueen grumbles through fixing up the road and learns some valuable lessons on looking behind the grill before dismissing the value of another automobile. His new friends join him in the "BIG" race as his pit crew and cheer him to a vict..almost, on the last lap the aging "King", a racer that is finishing his last big race before retirement, is maliciously run off the track and suffers a roll-over but lands upright in the infield. McQueen notices just before he crosses the finish line and gives up his victory to heroically push "The King" over the finish line to the astonishment and heralding of the mass of excited fans. It was a vision of what heaven must be like when a Christian finally understands God's economy. Lightning was offered the big sponsorship because of his altruism and the winner was shunned in his selfish victory. It was an awesome opportunity to explain how when we are weak we are strong to my children. It was equally cool to relate the reaction of the fans to the fan fair in heaven when we do the right thing and worry less about our own fame than the glory that God is given by a child exhibiting a humble spirit and a sacrificial love for others.

Start your engines!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sweet Video

I listen to mostly Christian music but today I thought I'd go through the top 10 pop songs of the week and I found this message from Nickelback that we should all check out

Old Church Model 'Killing the West'

Another voice calling in the wilderness. I truly love the Church. I'm excited about what Jesus will make of it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Social Issues

I am staunchly against abortion. I could go into a diatribe about it but it boils down to one thing, life. I'm into life.

I was reading last night and discovered that in the 1820's women developed many societies that instituted several movements for social reform. Abortion was outlawed as was birth control devices and information. Women were the first to speak against slavery, for prohibition, and against prostitution. Our society has come a long way. What is it now? The fight for "women's reproductive rights"?

I brought up the issue of abortion in our Men's group last week. I didn't know that the UMC national is pro-choice. Our congregation is predominantly pro-life. When I started celebrating there it was obvious. Now it is not so obvious. One guy in our men's group was very surprised to find out that national is pro-choice, the other that was outspoken has been going to the church for 40 yrs. and he muttered something about social issues coming and going and trailed off to basically say - lets get on with the self-help group shall we? Dilemma. I love my church but I cannot take one thin dime of God's money and put it in a plate that might send part of it to support the pro-choice agenda ($400,000 given in 2004 to pro-choice cause). I've got to wrestle with that. Our new pastor is pro-choice. This is where the rubber meets the road. Right or wrong I have to act. God will not be glorified if I don't stand or I won't learn a valuable lesson if I don't stand. I'm not going to leave, its my church family and I love them.

Just for kicks, check out the location of the Planned Parenthoods in your city. Rochelle Riley is worried about the black on black violence in Detroit - she should get some statistics on how many of her race have died since Roe vs. Wade.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Muslim, Jewish Scholars: More 'Jesus' Talk Needed |

Muslim, Jewish Scholars: More 'Jesus' Talk Needed

“For me as a Muslim, Jesus is the ultimate symbol in the Koran of compassion, love for humanity, piety, and simplicity,” said Ahmed.
He explained that, to Christians, Jesus represents the son of God; for Muslims, he is a great prophetic figure; and for Jews, he is a rabbi.
“Let’s use him as a symbol of love and compassion then automatically we have one figure that can bring all three of these three civilizations together.”

Jesus the symbol. Satan the confuser. No, Jesus said who he was and it got him killed. Symbols are erased and if we allow Jesus to be made a symbol he will be erased and replaced with a lie. I applaud the dialogue and the honest effort to reach understanding but I'm not stepping over that line. Why do we need a symbol when the living God is the God who is here?