Sunday, September 30, 2007
STRIPPING AWAY SECRET IDENTITIES: Why Your Church Isn’t a Superhero
Worship as Evangelism
What is Injustice?
Take a look when you have a minute.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The headline below says it all.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Governor Jenn Jenn issues 35000 layoff notices
Foolish Politics ruins state editorial
Casinos can stay open Yippee!
Day of Reckoning? Hardly
Be grateful if you live somewhere else. The Banana Republic of Michigan is going dark this Monday morning.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
The video clip below is dated, but still carries a powerful message. There are many missing and runaway children in this country. Some have run away because of abusive situations. Others for "love" or because of drug habits. Some have been kicked out by parents for various reasons. But they all have worth in God's economy.
What can you do?
1. Get to know your neighbors. If you see a child that seems to be drifting or in a bad situation, befriend the child. Let them know they are loved, and that you can provide an ear or a safe place for them. We have done this with a neighbor family that was held together by an abusive, alcoholic parent. When he died, the wheels came off the train. We did what we could to help the kids we had befriended get into stable situations. Did it turn out perfectly? No, but we did what we could and shared the love of Jesus with them.
2. Go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and sign up for their Amber Alert service. It will notify you when children go missing in your area.
3. Support or volunteer at local agencies working with at-risk youth such as Vista Maria, which provides educational opportunities for abused and neglected girls, or Covenant House, which provides shelter and education for children living on the streets. There may be similar groups in your community. Check around and see if they need volunteers or mentors for kids.
Lastly, pray. Pray for these kids. Pray for your eyes to be opened so that you can see the invisible people in our communities. And pray that your heart be softened toward them so that the Holy Spirit can guide you.
Jesus had a soft spot for children. We should as well.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The startling comment to me was by one of the "Little Rock Nine" African-American students who said that the person who acted most like Jesus was an agnostic, and many of the leaders of the anti-integration movement were ministers and Christians. This is truly a sad chapter in our history.
Pray for these people. This is a horribly repressive government and the cause of Christ is a struggle there.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Before we became Christians, we probably behaved a bit differently than we do now. Suffice it to say, we probably had different friends then as well. Then Jesus changed our lives. Some Christians manage to stay in their same circle of friends and become salt and light to the lost. They influence those around them in a positive manner. They show the love of Christ to the lost and hurting, and lead them into faith through their example.
Others cloister themselves into groups of like-minded people, largely cut off from the rest of society. Just ask yourself or your Christian friends how many non-Christian friends they have. The numbers will probably be small.
Goat is like the second group. He left for 5 years and now doesn't speak the language of those he left behind. His mom's comment that you have changed, and not for the better, should be a cautionary word to those of us tempted to isolate ourselves from the world. We need to be in, but not of, the world. We need to bring salt and light to a lost and hurting world. Otherwise, we will not be able to communicate effectively with them.
Pray for God to show you those opportunities. Pray for courage to go where He leads you. Pray for strength to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who do not know him.
Don't be a goat.
1. To ransom us from the Devil's grasp (Christus Victor) as the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel laments "...and ransom captive Israel"?
2. To satisfy God's need for justice by becoming our substitute (satisfaction or penal substitution) punishment?
3. To be an "exemplar" for us to call us, by virtue of his example, to obedience?
In some ways all of them are correct. None is complete, but two of the three have dominated Christian thought for a millennium each. The first, the Christus Victor, was dominant until the medieval era. The second, the satisfaction or penal substitution has held sway since then. But there is movement in the church back to the Christus Victor position, and it catches my eye. In my own life I have gone from Penal Substitution as my main view to that of Christus Victor as I have grown in the faith. I can't explain why, but it just seems to me that my early Christian days were so focused on sin and how awful it was, and how Jesus took that punishment for me.
But the Victor really rings true for me right now. Victor = Victory. Seems logical to me. Victory over what? Sin? Yes. Death? Yep. Bondage to the past, addictions etc? Sure thing. I see victory as what so many people need in this hurting world. Victory over fear. Victory over addictions. Victory over the past of abuse, hurts, losses. Victory that brings peace. Victory that stitches together the whole biblical narrative from beginning to end. Victory that liberates.
Jesus clearly spoke about the
God is also a liberator throughout the Bible,. The Resurrection of Christ is his greatest act, because it allows for a new kingdom to take shape in territory formerly occupied by Satan. The
The Christus Victor view held sway in the early church for more than 1000 years until the satisfaction theory took hold. It is the unifying theme of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and cogently holds his teaching on the kingdom, as well as his healing, exorcism and other miracles together. It ties Jesus’ resurrection and death together. He could have died for us and paid the price. The Resurrection broke the back of Satan’s power throughout the Universe, not just here on earth.
This view does give Satan a great deal of airtime. But the centrality of the intervention of God into the affairs of man to free him from Satan’s bondage shows the compassion and love of God for us. Christ came to not manage sin by restraining Satan, but rather to mark the beginning of the end of Satan’s reign by conquering death, the one thing Satan’s deception ushered into the world. Adam’s fall brought death into the world, and Christ’s resurrection ended death’s dominion over us.
Given that Christ is Victor over sin and death, what do we need to let him have victory over in our lives? He has broken Satan's power over this world. We need to let him break Satan's grasp of things in our own lives. He has won. Use the victory Jesus won to bring victory in your own life.
Monday, September 24, 2007
I keep going back to the movie As Good as It Gets, when Jack Nicholson's obsessive compulsive character asks a group of depressed psychiatric patients "What if this is as good as it gets?" That is the question that haunts me. I'm an optimist at heart, and firmly believe that the best is a head of us. But I have nagging doubts that I may be wrong. And I'm just struggling with that. I don't think its the seasonal blahs, it's just a nagging doubt that hangs in my head.
If you sense a despondent tone in my posts, feel free to drop me an electronic kick in the pants. I probably need it.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Some friendly advice. NEVER let the insurance company choose your contractor. Get someone you can trust. It is a lesson I have learned the hard way.
BTW - I do not see an oncoming train.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tackling the Michigan Problem
Rich Karlgaard 10.01.07, 12:00 AM ET
Is there any link between the struggling state of Michigan’s economy and the University of Michigan football team’s shocker loss to Appalachian State, called “the greatest upset in the history of college football” by sportswriter John Feinstein? Call it a metaphorical stretch, but I think there is. Here are some commonalities:
--Insularity. Why were the fifth-ranked Wolverines, with their glorious football history, playing an NCAA Division 1-AA team? Sure, majors often warm up with a patsy. But dropping down a whole division smacks of an unwillingness to benchmark against one’s peers.
For years Detroit’s Big Three automakers used to benchmark only against each other and not against the Europeans and Japanese. If you spent any time in Detroit in the 1970s through the 1990s, you discovered how insular it was. My colleague Jerry Flint, who has forgotten more than I could ever learn about the car business, says Detroit needs car guys running car companies. I’m not so sure. Outsiders like Alan Mulally at Ford and Bob Nardelli at Chrysler might be just what Detroit needs now.
Here’s another contributor to insularity. A perk for Big Three brass hats is use of a new car, always washed and perfectly maintained. It’s easy to think your own cars are the best in the world when your personal chariot is kept in showroom condition.
--Lack of Innovation. A favorite memory of mine is the 1972 Rose Bowl, when underdog Stanford kicked a last-second field goal to beat highly ranked Michigan, 13 to 12. What made the upset delicious was the complaint of Michigan fans that Stanford didn’t play “real football,” i.e., Stanford passed the ball and used trick plays, while Michigan, predictably, ran the ball. As if innovation were somehow unfair.
Similarly, the Michigan economy is locked into the Old World era of union labor and high taxes. Unions protested the new technique of flexible manufacturing pioneered by Toyota and embraced around the world. Michigan’s high taxes created a vicious cycle: Investors and entrepreneurs left the state, thus eroding the tax base, thus fooling politicians into raising taxes on those left behind.
--Loss of Talent. The Wolverines and the Big Ten had one huge advantage during the 1920s–60s. Most Southern colleges were segregated. African-American high school stars from the South would head north for college. Today they don’t have to, which is why the Southeastern Conference has become the country’s top football league.
The state of Michigan has suffered similar losses of talent: Google cofounder Larry Page; Sun Microsystems cofounders, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy; and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, all have Michigan roots. All departed.
By now you might be ready to depart this column because I’ve stretched the football metaphor too far! Okay. Let’s move on and look at what Michigan must do to revive its economy.
--Benchmark From the Best. While it might be useful to study hot spots like Boston, Seattle and Silicon Valley, Michigan’s more relevant lesson can be found in nearby Minnesota. The Minnesota economy hums because it is remarkably diverse. Its anchor companies span the range from agriculture and food products (Cargill, General Mills) to medium tech (3M) to aviation (Cirrus Design) to health care (Medtronic) to retail (Best Buy, Target) to a cluster of tech startups in the southwestern suburbs of Minneapolis. Such diversity protects Minnesota from industry slumps.
As in Michigan, Minnesota is not lightly taxed. But in Minnesota the taxes don’t all go to waste. Minnesota’s public schools consistently rank among the top in the nation. Biking trails, wellkept lakes and other public amenities make life nice for its middle class. Corruption in government is rare in the Gopher State. Of course, if neighboring Wisconsin were to lower its taxes, Minnesota would have to do the same or feel the pain.
--Practice Ichironomics. Think Detroit has it bad? Consider the fall and comeback of Spokane, Wash. In 1974 Spokane hosted the World’s Fair, its theme being “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment.” President Richard Nixon opened the fair, but his and Spokane’s fortunes soon went south. The 1982 U.S. recession hit Spokane especially hard. America recovered by early 1983, but Spokane, dependent on old industries such as forestry and railroads, struggled throughout the 1980s.
Today Spokane is ranked by FORBES as the 20th-best business city in the U.S. How did the city do it? My colleague Mark Tatge profiled Spokane in our Apr. 23 issue. Tatge wrote: “Cheap electricity, cheap land and favorable taxes are luring entrepreneurs from the coasts. … Five years ago the economy began to surge. Washington State has no personal income tax, no corporate income tax (corporations pay on gross receipts only) and relatively low property and sales taxes. Electricity from the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Spokane rivers is 50% cheaper than in California.”
Spokane, like Minneapolis-St. Paul, refuses to bet the economy on one or two industries. Rather, it practices what one city booster calls “Ichironomics. Like the Seattle Mariners’ center fielder, Ichiro Suzuki, we try to hit singles and doubles. We want to improve the overall conditions for small businesses, not chase the large employer.”
Good lessons, Michigan. Now, about those Wolverines …
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
So the new pastor comes in and decides that they can still be very effective, just not as a megachurch. The process of change is wrenching, but it can lead to great kingdom growth as the congregation reaches out to the lost and hurting world around us.
I've been thinking about this article as I watch the circus in our state capitol. In many ways, Michigan is like this church. It isn't what it once was, nor what it dreamed it would be. So where do you go from here? I offer some suggestions from the article that are applicable to many churches, the state of Michigan, and individuals who are dealing with the disappointment of a life that didn't turn out the way they had hoped.
1. To be honest about our current condition. This can be hard for a church with such a storied past.
People kept asking: Why have our long-term members left? When are things going to get back to the way they were? What's wrong with us? (Translation: Why have all of these people and businesses left?)
Such questions can squelch even the most sincere brainstorming sessions. The hard truth we've tried to communicate through all of this is that the glory days of the past are exactly that—past glory days. We're not to try to return to them. Garnett will never again be the church it once was. We have to do the difficult thing of letting go of our former glory in order to allow God to do a new thing in us.
2. To relinquish our rights as members to a church building that we are no longer able to pay for by ourselves. The Garnett Church of Christ building is becoming the Garnett Event Center.
Already, several other churches are using our facilities on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon: a Messianic Jewish community, a charismatic Hispanic church, a rock church called Rolling Stone, and a new church plant.
Throughout the week, a number of other events, some church-related and others not, are held at our building. Not only is the rental income from these events helping to pay the bills, but it's also giving us a hospitable presence in our neighborhood. (Translation: No longer will we have a dominant position with a dominant industry fueling our state coffers. We will have to go out and compete for each and every business that we hope to lure here.)
But not without some difficulty. Everyone, myself and all ministry staff included, must reserve any classroom or meeting space equally with those in the community who are using or renting space.
The way we're trying to see it: this building no longer belongs to us. It belongs to our community. This isn't easy to explain to a charter member who's been helping to pay off the building for 20 years!
We've started a bi-lingual preschool that has grown to 50 students, half Anglo and half Hispanic. We've projected beyond our ability to speak Spanish, putting "Bienvenito" (Welcome) on the front doors and asking Spanish speakers to help us translate for different events.
We made it our goal to pray for every family that comes into our weekly food subsidy ministry and to invite them to serve with us.
3. To recognize that the most life-giving activities of our church aren't necessarily going to happen in our facility. Church leaders in event-driven and personality-centered churches tend to gauge success by headcount, the number of people who show up. This is what leaders talked about, and subsequently members tended to judge success by how pews and collection baskets were filled.
With Michael Frost (author of Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture) and Alan Hirsch (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church), we have been forced to ask new questions: What if events of church, personalities of church, and Sunday assembly went away? What would be our view of the Christian life? What would we do as Christians, and who would we be?
We're working with the local fire department to arrange Spanish classes for them so they can better serve and communicate on daily calls. We're partnering with Habitat for Humanity and our city to build and renovate houses and help people to get back on their feet again.
We are learning to see our community, and individuals, not as needing handouts but as valued people who can together with us serve our Lord and our community. (Translation: Not everyone is going to move all of their operations here. We may have to settle for a tech center and the manufacturing will be done in a lower-cost environment.)
4. To learn to be missionaries in our own culture. Across the street from us, Fire Station 27 is the busiest station in the city. Fire Chief Michael Baker said, "This is a big church and the neighborhood is waiting … waiting to see what you are going to do for this community."
This comment has been forcing us outward, while we are at the same time redesigning our space for community groups to enter. Church Shepherd Robert Garland replied to Chief Baker that "we want to be a better neighbor to you and this community." (Translation: Treat the people we have more hospitably instead of crying about what we used to have or didn't get. Don't stomp on the businesses that are here as we chase our next "fix" of a large employer that is using us as a negotiating ploy.)
And really, that's the first step to becoming missionaries: getting to know our neighbors' needs.
Todd Hunter of Alpha-USA articulates well what we want to do: "I want to help people become the cooperative friends of Jesus, seeking to live lives of constant creative goodness through the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world."
That's what we're determined to do: equip our congregation to be Christ to neighbors, co-workers, and family members, rather than trying to coax people into signing up for every church program possible and burning families out with church involvement.
We've had to ruthlessly ask of each ministry venture, "Is this an energy drain? An event without purpose? A building-centered program that determines success by how many populate this building?"
Anything aside from a Christ-centered approach is out in favor of teaching one another how to be incarnational presence of Christ, in practical ways in our jobs, neighborhoods, PTAs, and sports teams.I know it isn't all directly applicable, but it does ring true for our elected officials, and many pastors and leaders of churches that are not where they dreamed they would be.
For the churches, fix your eyes on Christ and his dreams and plans, not yours. Remember the conversation between Peter and Jesus in John 21:
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?") 21When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
22Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." 23Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
24This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.If you are Peter, the prospect of crucifixion is not something that he relished. Jesus was making the point that it isn't about him, or Peter, but about God, who sent Jesus and called Peter. We would do well to heed that advice. I know I would.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Jim Croce had it right:
You don't tug on superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old lone ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
They are spitting into a pretty strong headwind, that is quickly turning into a downdraft. All the while the band plays merrily on in Lansing.
If you live outside of Michigan, praise God for your good fortune. If you live in this mess, here are links to contact your state state House or Senate elected officials to voice your thoughts on this situation. Rendering unto Caesar is getting a bit old.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Many of them are lured into it with the promise of a legitimate job when they arrive in the U.S. They then have to "work off" the cost of transporting them here. They never manage to earn enough to pay off their trafficker/pimp. And if they go to law enforcement, they face deportation. This is truly sickening and it happens here.
For more information, go here and watch the short video. There are literally millions of people forced into this business. Pray for their safety, advocate for their release, and do what you can to help. Lives may depend on it.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I know for me, part of it is my love for dogs. I'm rather Franciscan in my love for animals, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. But I would never equate treatment of animals with treatment of humans. Especially defenseless humans such as children, the elderly, immigrants, widows and the poor. It absolutely sickens me when you hear stories of children being abused. Here in Metro Detroit we just completed the trial of a disturbed mother who stabbed her children to death and nearly decapitated one of them in the process.
I know children who have been removed from their families because of the abuse in the home. God does provide for them, but there is an element there that can never be recovered for them. It breaks my heart when I come across it.
What links these in my mind is the cruelty and callous disregard for life. People who take pleasure in watching animals destroy each other have problems. There is a proven link between animal abuse and anti-social behavior as adults. I'm not saying Vick et al will become serial killers, but people who idolize them are certainly receiving the signal that someone who has everything the world has to offer thinks this is cool.
I know this is an incomplete thought, and there will be more later. I'm just struggling with the topic right now.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Today is the 6th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. There will be solemn ceremonies marking the deaths of nearly 3000 Americans who went to work on a beautiful day and did not return home through no fault of their own, other than working in the target buildings. Take a moment to pray for the families that were left behind on that day. The grieving still goes on for them. Their loved one's death will be back on the news again to remind them of that awful day.
As you remember those horrific events, take my colleague Sandra's suggestion and do a good deed today and every day. I don't know if doing good deeds will change the hearts and minds of those bent on our destruction. But it will help us fulfill the Golden Rule established by our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the one we will answer to, not Osama Bin Laden or his Allah.
God help us all.
Monday, September 10, 2007
This isn't perfect, and it isn't political. It is directly aimed at the way the modern media comports itself.
The other bizarrity is that the Lions looked good and are undefeated. I think I'm going to sell all my possessions and move to the mountaintop. This is so odd. The clip below encapsulates my thoughts this morning.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
I do have good news. If you so desire, you can opt out of receiving these offers. All you have to do is go here and follow the instructions. It takes about 2 minutes and you can choose to opt out for 5 years or permanently.
Consider this an early Christmas present from me to you.
I think it is time for a change at the helm. And please, do not promote any of the current staff to the head job. We need a winner in Ann Arbor to offset the mess that is the Lions.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
I just have a hard time believing that there are people who are so cruel to animals in my own community. I'm a softy toward animals, especially dogs. To imagine the fear and pain that they go through in this process is something I cannot process. Here is a video clip of a dog fight (warning - it is a bit graphic). I show this only to appeal to you to keep your eyes and ears open for dogfighting. Call the police or the Humane Society if you suspect something is amiss. Don't let them suffer any more for the amusement of some very sick individuals.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
However, I don't want any of the following :
The European beater.
The American War Wagon
I would love a low-rider, but I'm not sure the rest of the family is on board with that.
Seriously, if you come across something you might think I would be interested in, I'd appreciate the heads-up.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
Here is a memorial site dedicated to Dr. Kennedy.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
As a church, the one daughter's statements should be cause for serious introspection:
"I've wanted kids since I was 12," she said.
"I was sick of babysitting other people's and wanted one of my own.
"Gavin, my boyfriend at the time, and I weren't using contraception, and I was aware I might get pregnant. But I knew I'd be happy if I did."
She continued: "I never found it hard being a young mum.
"Both my children were good babies, so I always got enough sleep.
"And I wasn't worried about it changing my lifestyle. I never did anything but stay in and watch TV anyway.
"There's nothing to do around here, so having kids keeps me busy.
There is a significant portion of the population in the Christianized West who have a very odd moral compass. This is quite simply about self-gratification, not in a sexual sense, but in a "babies bring me joy" sense. There is a lot of work to do in our own backyards, as well as the mission fields. Pray for workers who will see the fields "White for harvest" and respond to the Lord's call. They are certainly needed.
Right before we left to go to Colorado in July we had a toilet overflow in the 2nd floor bathroom that destroyed the living room ceiling. On July 13 (a Friday to boot) we left to go on vacation as the emergency contractors hired by the insurance company were ripping out our living room ceiling. As of September 3, we still don't have use of that room, and all of our furniture is stacked in the dining room, including the TV. Needless to say, we are unhappy with the insurance company's "PREFERRED CONTRACTOR", and we hope to have our living room back soon.
I tell you this not to evoke sympathy for us. Yes it has been a hassle having 1/2 of the first floor virtually unusable. When Deb and the girls are sleeping, I have very few places I can go and read. I do miss my couch and recliner. But I am getting some reading done. The girls have been reading quite a bit, which is something we wanted to encourage anyway.
I'm also going to bed earlier, which is one of the goals of my "Rule of Life." I tend to stay up later watching television, and then am groggy in the morning.
The greatest benefit was this weekend. Not having TV kept me from seeing the greatest debacle in NCAA Football history. The #5 ranked team in the country, the University of Michigan, lost at home to a Division 1-AA team. This is akin to the Washington Generals beating the Harlem Globetrotters. Except that it counted.
I am thanking the Lord for Prevenient Grace, which kept me from throwing something through my television when that happened.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
It's a good, quick read, and an inexpensive paperback book to pick up. I'm enjoying it immensely, and it presents a very different, action-based, not intellectual, form of discipleship.
Your local library probably has a copy.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Thanks to Dan Doktor for sharing it with me.