Oct 30, 2009

Kiva...an opportunity to help!

Have you ever heard of Kiva?

Kiva (from their website) "is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe." Their mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Isn't that in part what followers of Jesus are called to...to help any way we can to take care of the poor all around us? Poverty is such a huge issue, sometimes it can seem so overwhelming. I mean where do we even begin? But here is one opportunity that we can participate in, helping others in even the smallest of ways. And hopefully a discipline as small as this, can train us in ways to have our eyes and ears open to other opportunities to help those in need around us. After all we don't have to just help people halfway around the world, because there are poor in our own backyards. But, this is one way we can be proactive and choose to try to make a difference.

If you don't know much about it...check out their website: www.kiva.org

It's a great opportunity to use what God has blessed us with to be a blessing to others!


Oct 23, 2009

Flash Forward

There's a new show I've gotten sucked into on ABC called Flash Forward. The premise is that one day a mysterious event causes everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for 137 seconds, during which people see what appear to be visions of their lives approximately six months in the future - a global “flash-forward." Some people respond to their glimpse of the future out of fear. They are afraid the visions will actually come true and their lives will be dramatically and even negatively altered forever. Others are filled with confidence as they look forward to the exciting possibilities the future apparently has in store. Either way, everyone starts to make decisions about their lives based on what they believe is yet to come. They act in ways they might not normally (both good and bad), because of the information they have received. The whole world in one sense is united because of this shared, common experience as they wait to see what the future will reveal and how it will continue to change everyone and everything.

Would you want to see a vision of your future? How do you think you might respond? Do you think the information would change the way you live?


In a way as Christians, we live in the context of our own "Flash Forward." God has given us a glimpse into the future. And it is a future that boldly proclaims God's victory over Satan, sin, evil, and death...a future of restored relationship between God and his people...a future where the kingdom of God is fully established on earth as it is in heaven. The crazy thing is that knowing that "insider" information doesn't seem to change our lives. For whatever reason we don't believe the "vision" is true. Somewhere in our head we know what the future holds, but we get too easily caught up in ourselves to allow the outcome to shape the way we live into the future. In talking about the book of Revelation and the idea of the "end times," Randy Harris sums it up this way: In the end "God wins. Choose wisely. Don't be stupid!" I think that's about as simple as it gets. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the simplicity.

Do we live in ways that point people forward to a future of God's reigning presence on earth? If not, we better be careful, because anything else might lead us to look back on the emptiness of our lives and see that it was all gone in a flash!


Oct 16, 2009

Choose This Day...

(It might be helpful to view the video available through this link before continuing).

Choices. Every day we are faced with all types of choices. Those choices can lead us down a road to any number of outcomes. Whoever broke in to our building the other night had a choice. They chose to act in a way that might give them temporary satisfaction, without much concern for the negative implications. They will only continue to be faced with choices as they move forward wherever they go.

As those who have been wronged, we also have a choice. How will we respond in the midst of unfortunate or frustrating circumstances? The world would expect us to be angry. Maybe in some way we might actually be justified in that feeling. But, should we choose to feel that way? Or do we have a responsibility, a calling even, to choose to respond differently than those around us might expect? Sure, the initial feelings are ones of frustration. It's a hassle. It's inconvenient. There's immeasurable value in what was taken...it's more than just the price tag on the box. Even still, in the end it's just stuff. What does it really matter? What matters is how I choose this day to respond, whatever the circumstances...whether good or bad...mountain or valley...victim or thief. What matters is that I have a chance, I have a choice, to act redemptively even when I'm not at fault, even when there is an obvious someone else to blame, even when an enemy chooses to spit in my face.

After all, Jesus did. And he's the one I choose to follow. He's the one I decide each day to try to imitate. So don't be angry. Life's too short to chase that train. Instead, take a deep breath, and be reminded of this simple refrain: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." -Deut 30:19-20.


Oct 14, 2009

Night Time Visitors

Had any night time prowlers lately? Not the ones that invade your home without an invitation. I'm talking about people and happenings that invade your sleep. Come to think about it, I guess dreams do invade our homes without invitations. Like an intruder they can interrupt sleep, cause restlessness, and even create fear and dread.

In my lifetime I've had three very troubling dreams. Sure, I have the same dreams lots of people have, like falling off something only to awaken startled just before I hit the ground. And I don't know what this one means--I'm sometimes getting up to preach only to realize that I'm not fully dressed. O how much I hate to share that one since no doubt someone is bound to conclude something about my sexuality that cannot be positive.

The first dream that really troubled me came maybe 20 years ago when I dreamt that my wife died. I awakened crying with real tears in my eyes. Even after I collected my senses and checked to make sure mshe was beside me, still breathing, it took several minutes for me to calm down. I still fell those emotions. Nightmare it was!

A second dream came several years ago that really troubled me; only my wife knows about it and she has probably forgotten. I'm glad. And then last night another interloper trespassed my rest. It was really bad. I've told no one about it. May never.

I'm not superstitious. I don't believe last night's dream will happen. But I would truly enjoy studying dreams more thoroughly. Maybe someday I will.

So, what are your thoughts about dreams? Does God still speak to us through them? Might they reflect some inner struggle? Do they reflect reality as we'd like it to be? Or maybe they are expressions of our greatest fears? How can God use dreams?

Come on now, don't be shy. How about sharing one of your dreams with the rest of us? And what do you think it means?

Oct 9, 2009

"A Sense of Responsibility"

The title above was a quote from an interview in TIME magazine with the President and First Lady, addressing the need for more 'volunteerism' in America. The interview overall was fairly interesting because of the emphasis on the good that comes from opportunities of service, both for those being served and those doing the serving. It was suggested though that volunteerism is probably down in large part because of the prevalent worry that exists during these unsettled economic times. Many people might be thinking they need to focus on taking care of themselves which apparently makes it more difficult to give your time, money, and energy to others. However, President Obama argued that this is exactly the time that Americans should offer a helping hand to their neighbor and their communities. You can read the full article by clicking here.

This got me thinking about a few things. As Christians we are supposed to be identified by how we love God and love others. In doing so, we are to live differently from the world around us. Almost everyone recognizes that serving others is a good thing. Even non-Christians find value in giving of yourself to others. So, how are we supposed to live different than the world around us when it comes to service? What makes us unique in this area as Christ-followers? We as Christians can be just as caught up in the economic instability as everyone else. It's hard not to. The reality for a lot of people is that times are tough. Plenty of people are losing jobs, money is tight, and religion isn't even a deciding factor. Believers and non-believers are both affected. Yet there is tension there. As people who follow the way of Christ in this world, we are called not to worry...is that possible? Most of the time our worry doesn't look much different from those who don't profess a foundation of faith. Sure, I have a little bit of security...it's "easy" for me to ask these questions. I'm not trying to judge or belittle other people's struggles or difficult circumstances, but I think we have to wrestle with these questions.

As God's people, how are we leading the way when it comes to living our lives uncontrolled by worry and insecurities? As God's people, how should we be out front leading the way in living for others and not for self? President Obama is right...NOW is the time to reach out a hand to help someone in need, not reach in to clutch what "precious" things we have left. NOW is the time to offer who we are and what we have to others around us, not circle the wagons and fortify our own economic standing. Tough words, I know. But, shouldn't we feel our own "sense of responsibility" to live as reflections of the One who continually gave of himself so that others could share in a new way of life? Shouldn't the church be providing everyday evidence that "volunteerism" will always be alive and well in the world through the lives of God's people? Shouldn't our lives as Christians be so defined by service and trust, that we buoy whole communities struggling to stay afloat in the waters of uncertainty, by offering hope and inspiring love?

At the very least, it's something worth thinking about...


Oct 6, 2009

Crazy Love

I'm hooked. Francis Chan has hooked me with his Crazy Love. And you'll love the subtitle: Overwhelmed By a Relentless God. Chan's style is simple and his words are powerful. His questions are provocative. There should be a huge warning sign on the front cover. Here are some of his thoughts:

"How many of you have read the New Testament and wondered if we in the church are missing it?" (p. 19)

"God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything..." (p. 22)

"But know this: God will not be tolerated." (p. 28)

"Worry implies that we don't quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what's happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional." (p. 42)

In his discussion of the Parable of the Soils, Chan asserts: "Do not assume you are good soil." (p. 67)

Commenting on Lk. 14:34-35: "When salt is salty, it helps manure become good fertilizer...but lukewarm and uncommitted faith is completely useless. It can't even benefit manure." (p. 81)

"Leftoevers are not merely inadequate; form God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one who matters), they're evil. Let's stop calling it 'a busy schedule' or 'bills' or forgetfulness.' It's called evil." (p. 92)

So, maybe some of these thoughts struck you; maybe not. One thing is certain--if you read all of Crazy Love you'll find yourself more excited about your relationship with God and more challenged to love him in return.