Thursday, June 15, 2006

So what do I believe about that?

Lately my blogging has been relegated to posting other people's opinions. It's not that I don't have opinions. I've just been more in a pattern of reading than writing. However, I realize that if someone happened to stumble onto this blog, they might really have a lot of questions as to what I believe.

So here's where I've been lately...

First a little background...

After I finished seminary Mandy and I moved to San Leandro, CA. A few months after we moved there, we had the opportunity to go to a meeting of young nonprofit leaders. I was deeply encouraged by what I saw there. The passions and visions I heard about were just awesome. I left that night feeling like much of what God wanted me to do was somehow connected with this "people group." As you can imagine, there are many like this in the bay area. In fact, most know that the bay area has fewer churches than almost anywhere in the U.S. What they don't know, however, is that the bay area also has more nonprofits than just about anywhere in the U.S. At least I was shocked by that. The more I listened to this group's passions and visions, the more I realized that I had so much to learn. Specifically, I began to be convicted that I knew little about the world. My heart would not begin to hurt for the things that hurt God until I first educated myself. At the same time, I felt bad for many of these young nonprofit leaders. Last October Jason and I went to the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in S.F. Again, there was a great deal of activism and passion. However, I also saw a lack of power and authority. There was so much activisim and desire to see change, but where was the power to see true change? Here's the frustrating part. The church, through Jesus, has this power. However, we often don't use this power, in part because we lack the passion and activism.

This is why I've been drawn to Christians and churches who are not content to simply be blessed, middle-class, white American Christians. They are like Rick Warren and Saddleback, who are tackling the AIDS epidemic both here and in places like Rwanda. Or they are like Blood Water Mission. I first learned about them through Donald Miller. They are working to build 1000 wells in 1000 African communities, believing that clean water will go very far in helping to bring about an end to AIDS.

This journey has now led us to Cooper-Young. We continue to be drawn to people whose desire is to see our world changed for the better. On Tuesday night we went to the neighborhood association meeting. The topic for the evening was safety, and Inspector Mark Collins of the Memphis Police Department was the guest speaker. Some people wanted the police to do more. However, others wanted to step up and be part of the solution. They wanted to do something to help.

Let me bring some of this to a conclusion, since it's beginning to be a long post. I believe that Jesus is concerned about the world. He is concerned about the poor, the dying, the neglected, and the marginalized. His Church is his method for doing something about these problems. As his Father sent him, so he has sent us. Many of these young nonprofit leaders have never seen the Jesus who is concerned with the things that they are concerned about. The sad thing is that we're often what is keeping them from seeing this Jesus. We at times haven't done a very good job in representing him. But what would happen if people began to see this Jesus? What if they saw him through us? For that to happen, we have to educate ourselves. We have to ask God to break our hearts over the things that break his. We have to get our hands dirty. Then we simply get to watch God do what only he can do.

I just heard a message by Ed Stetzer. He made a statement that I thought was very key, and that I'll attempt to sumarize (and add to a little) as best as I can.

People in your culture are asking questions that the Gospel has answers for. The task of the missional church is to discover what these questions are, and then to proclaim those answers through both word and deed.

In my culture/community one of the major questions is, "how do we make this neighborhood a safer and better place?" Does the Gospel of Jesus have an answer for this question? I believe it does. How would a new community of Christ-followers here in Cooper-Young respond to this?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Let's get on with task of really saving marriage

Here's another article by David Waters at the Commercial Appeal.

An excerpt...

It's hard out here for a married couple. Just look at the divorce rate. One of every two marriages fail. If one of every two incumbents failed to get re-elected, Congress would have passed the Incumbent Protection Amendment years ago.

About the only thing harder than being and staying married in this society is being and staying married with children. Instead of making it harder to get married, Senator, how about finding ways to make it easier to be married?

Instead of giving tax cuts to the wealthy, give them to married couples in any income bracket, especially those with children at home. The longer you're married, the lower your tax rate.

Instead of rewarding unwed teenage mothers with government benefits, reward those who don't get pregnant with college scholarships or living-wage jobs after they graduate from high school.

Instead of forcing single mothers to get jobs or lose benefits, guarantee living-wage jobs and benefits (including job training or college) to all married fathers with children.

How about sending married soldiers home sooner, and for longer periods of time?

How about lower interest rates or zero down payments for newlyweds buying their first home?

There are a lot of amazing single mothers and fathers out there who are better and more responsible parents than many of us who are married.

There are children out there who are better off after their parents divorce. Divorce should be safe, legal and less common, but not forbidden.

This isn't about them. The divorced, widowed or responsibly single among us should not be treated as second-class citizens.

But the married among us should be encouraged, supported and protected because healthy marriages are good for all of us.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rift Opens Among Evangelicals on AIDS Funding

This article comes from Christianity Today. I want to read more on the issue, but it's pretty troubling. You know it's crazy when Pat Robertson and Jim Wallis are on the same side of an issue.

Here's an excerpt:

As the world marks 25 years since HIV and AIDS first appeared, a clash among high-profile evangelical leaders over an international relief foundation threatens to take center stage.

The dispute also lays bare a faultline among American evangelicals, who have been divided over the treatment and prevention of AIDS because of the disease's perceived connections to homosexuality and sexual promiscuity.

The clash, which centers on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, may have long-term ramifications, both for those suffering with diseases and for the reputation of American evangelicals, activists said.

If the U.S. fails to extend help because of objections from conservative Christians, "we will look on this as a very mistaken time," said Tony Campolo, a prominent sociologist and Christian activist.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Spiritual Transformation

I spent a little time this weekend organizing my office. I ran across this quote that a friend of mine gave me awhile back. If I remember correctly, it's from Dallas Willard. If it's not verbatim Dallas Willard, it's definitely inspired by him.

Spiritual transformation into Christlikeness requires conscious, clear-headed and public commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. That is, to a decision to give our lives to him as his constant students, learning from him how to live all aspects of our lives as he would live them. Evangelism should be understood as a call to receive the gift of such a life.

25 years on, AIDS is the 'worst, deadliest' epidemic ever

Today's cover story in the Commercial Appeal was on the AIDS epidemic. So far it's estimated that the disease has killed over 25 million people - that's since 1981!. Some believe that by 2025, the disease could kill 31 million people in India, 18 million people in China, and 100 million people in Africa.

From a Wikipedia article: In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed between an estimated 2.8 and 3.6 million, of which more than 570,000 were children.