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Monday, August 01, 2016

Peace and Prosperity

As I drove from Summerville to Mt. Pleasant today, passing Goose Creek, Hanahan, N. Charleston and Charleston, I found myself both loving my city and burdened for our cities. 

So I spent some time just praying for the Charleston Low Country (aka "Chucktown"). 

Leonce Crump talks about a "Theology of Place" in his book Renovate. It's a good, biblical idea. Jeremiah 29:4-7 is helping me get comfortable with it too.


This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 
Join me in praying for the Church of Charleston that our efforts would include seeking "the peace and prosperity of the city."



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Police Violence: "Just The Facts"

I realize that just because you present "facts" that all problems just go away. But I found this information pretty strong, surprising and helpful in getting to what is happening. I wouldn't call a black Harvard professor biased towards law enforcement either. This rings true to me.

That said, I still pray that we'll move forward lifting up all lives and giving people grace and mercy whenever possible.


From Gary Bauer at Campaign for Working Families:

Just The Facts 

I understand that different people can have different perceptions of the same events, perceptions often shaded by the color of our skin. But it behooves everyone, no matter your skin color, to speak the truth. For example: 

  • A recent Harvard study found that police officers were no more likely to use deadly force against blacks than against whites. Consider this excerpt from the Washington Times:
    "'On the most extreme use of force -- officer-involved shootings -- we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account,' said Harvard economics professor Roland G. Fryer Jr. in the abstract of the July 2016 paper. Mr. Fryer, who is black, told the New York Times that the finding of no racial discrimination in police shootings was 'the most surprising result of my career.'"

  • According to data from the Department of Justice, and confirmed by a study conducted by a University of Pennsylvania criminologist, black police officers were 3.3 times more likely to use deadly force at a crime scene than were other officers.
  • According to Heather Mac Donald, a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black criminal than a police officer killing an unarmed black person. 
  • Friday, July 08, 2016

    Advisory | CEN ReadyDallas Responds

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    Christian Emergency Network
    ADVISORY
    CEN ReadyDallas Responds
    It's Time to Pray, Care, and Share in this Chaos
    July 8, 2016 (Phoenix, AZ) 

    "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you Hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

    While our nation is grieving today with those in Dallas, Texas where five law enforcement officers gave their lives and others were injured protecting citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to protest last night, CEN ReadyDallas is activated and responding with the Hope of Christ!

    And, as Dallas continues to mitigate this crisis, other cities nationwide beef up their local law enforcement in Phoenix and Denver to prepare for more planned anti-police protests today and in Indianapolis tomorrow, CEN Security officers are diligently responding by monitoring events to assist in Christian awareness, readiness and to offer a biblical response.

    During an interview CEN ReadyDallas Security Officer and National Chaplain Ed Smith said: "America saw a tragic milestone last night with a massive assault on Dallas Police officers. Emotions, fears anxieties, and hatred are running rampant alongside calls for peace, support for police, national calm, and love for their neighbors. In this crisis, Christ is manifesting in His people a spirit of unity in prayer, in lovingly gathering resources, and in responding alongside the fellowship of believers. Let us pray this violence, division and terrorism does not live on as the "new normal" in the United States of America and that His people will continue to lovingly and tangibly share the Hope of Christ."

    Respond with CEN ReadyDallas and Ed Smith Today! Here's how:

    Pray:
    • Pray for the Dallas officers' families who have fallen and those injured to be comforted, healed in their intense pain, and strengthened in the days ahead.
    • Pray for violence, division, and terrorism to be halted and for Christ to be the "new normal" in our nation.
    • Pray for those cities in which further protests are being organized to have peaceful, Constitutionally protected demonstrations free of harm to anyone.
    • Pray for Christians who will lead their family, church, and city for greater situational awareness, biblical readiness, and in courage sharing Christ in any emergency whether large or small.  Just as police go toward a crisis, so do Christians with the full armor of God!
    Care:
    • Care for your family, church and city by equipping them today to be a ReadyChristian, ReadyChurch or ReadyCity.  Learn More >>
    • Care for the CEN ReadyDallas team as they gather resources, mobilize prayer gatherings, and minister directly to the Dallas PD and the citizens of Dallas, TX.  Let CEN know how you are able to support ReadyDallas. Contact Us >>
    • Care for your Christian community by becoming a CEN ReadyCity or ReadyChurch leader. Get Started >>
    Share:
    • Share your Hopeful thoughts and prayers directly with the Dallas PD.  Be assured, CEN ReadyDallas lead Ed Smith will hand deliver them to the Dallas PD on your behalf. Contact Us >>
    Getting Started:
    1. Go to christianemergencynetwork.org
    2. Download CEN's FREE ReadyChurch online training
    3. Contact a CEN Advisor for assistance as needed
    Every Christian ready to respond biblically to emergencies large or small. Christian Emergency Network unites Christian volunteers, community leaders and emergency professionals in equipping the Church to be aware and ready to respond in emergencies large and small.  To learn more about how you or your Christian organization can be prepared to respond to emergencies big and small go to www.christianemergencynetwork.org.

    For interviews with CEN please contact
    (800) 260-5637 or mail@christianemergencynetwork.org 

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    (800) 260-5637

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    Tuesday, July 05, 2016

    Independence or Dependence Day?

    When Americans fought for their independence over 200 years ago, it was to be freed from tyranny and dependence on a monarchy that was ruling from afar. As a result, they rebelled and gained their independence from that rule and became a nation that ruled herself. 

    As Americans, we value our pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--our independence. This is good.

    When Moses heard from God, through a burning bush, Israel was not quite a nation as they were enslaved by an oppressive ruler king in Egypt. They cried out to God for freedom and he set them free from oppressive slavery and dependence on a foreign ruler.

    God gave them their independence. Independence from oppressive, tyrannical rule. 

    Yet, God never intended to communicate the myth that total independence was a good thing. God set Israel free to become a nation under God. A nation that depends on the Lord for everything. 

    America was founded on similar ideals. We were established with a sense of calling to live independent from oppressive rulers (like Great Britain) while dependent on a holy, gracious God. These sentiments are found in our Declaration of Independence and US Constitution.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” -Declaration of Independence

    When Christ-followers are enslaved by sin and death, they are ruled by an oppressive, tyrannical enemy, Satan himself. When we repent of our sin and turn fully to Christ, we're freed from that rule and become independent of that rule. (Depending on God is faith in action)

    Freed to do what? Freed to voluntarily become dependent on a new ruler--Christ our king. To serve at his pleasure as we forsake our own American rights. Delighted to gladly submit and serve at the pleasure of our king.

    New Americans voluntarily chose to become dependent on their own, newly established US government based on the US Constitution, Declaration and Bill of Rights. We consider ourselves free even though we’re dependent on our government. 

    Of course, many choose to remain independent from any rule. They see that as true freedom. Anarchists think this way. But it is not. It is slavery to our selfish passions and idols. It is seeing yourself as god.

    This Independence Day my hope is that you will resolve to gladly become dependent again. Not dependent on a self-serving prince of darkness but on a self-sacrificing King. Not even fully dependent on our US government, although some is appropriate and good. Dependent on our Lord Jesus Christ.

    On this day--this Independence Day--let us willingly surrender our rights as Americans and as freed people to a great, good, gracious and glorious king. King Jesus

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    God of Abundance

    “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”
    Psalm 50:10 NIV
    http://bible.com/111/psa.50.10.niv

    God speaks of his infinite abundance here. He doesn't need our sacrifices or anything else. As our Creator, he owns it all!

    He is speaking to his people, Israel, in this Psalm of Asaph. He's not too happy with them either. It's like he's calling court and speaking to them as judge, jury and executioner (which only he can legitimately do).

    Too often I think I forget that God is unlimited and that his resources are available to his people for his mission. 

    "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE ADDED TO YOU." (Matthew 6:33, emphasis mine)

    When we are on task and joining him in his holy search and rescue mission, God delights in resourcing us. We must remember this when we pray. We ask for his provision even as we ask for his vision and direction. 

    Rarely is provision what limits us, by the way. The challenge is usually our willingness to surrender all and fully rely on him in this great work.

    Lord, I confess that I forget that you, not only have the cattle on a thousand hills but that you, make your infinite resources available to your people when they share the good news that your kingdom is at hand. 

    Help me remember you're a great and good God just waiting for me to join you fully and faithfully in your kingdom work. Cleanse me and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Make me usable then use me up for your glory and our good. In Jesus' name, amen.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016

    We Are Immigrants

    “They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” Reuel asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.””

    Exodus 2:19-22 NIV
    http://bible.com/111/exo.2.19-22.niv


    Jethro's daughters explain to Jethro that Moses rescued them from the wicked shepherds and then served them by watering their flock. But they didn't invite him home. Jethro makes it clear that Moses' actions were certainly a good excuse to show him hospitality and welcome him. So they did.

    With nowhere else to go, Jethro invites Moses to stay and serve him and his clan. Moses takes him up on his invitation and eventually is given Zipporah in marriage. 

    Moses names his first son Gershom which in Hebrew sounds like "A foreigner here." Moses recognizes he's out of place in Midian. 

    What's interesting is that he probably felt that way in Egypt as well. He was a Hebrew, living in Pharaoh's favored Egyptian court, while his Hebrew kin were enslaved to that very court. He easily could have felt disoriented thinking about all of that. 

    Moses could have been experiencing a hunger for something that didn't exist yet--but would. Israel becoming free--becoming a free nation under God. 

    God would lead him to lead them deliver Israel. 

    So Moses was a foreigner. He was an immigrant both in Egypt and then later in Midian. A refugee.  He was valuable to Jethro's clan. He brought a lot to their family.

    Application

    This should move us to see immigrants and refugees in a better light. 

    No one chooses to be a refugee or immigrant unless they are fleeing very difficult circumstances. It takes a lot to leave your family, culture, and all that is familiar, for a foreign culture with no real relationships. Desperation is a powerful motivation.

    We must reach out to those in desperate need of a fresh start as they flee difficult circumstances. We must see past the fact that many far from Christ are a part of this group. Sure, our security is at risk. But so is theirs. Compassion calls us to consider more than ourselves.

    God calls us to "Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) This is risky in one sense. But it's even riskier to not live and walk in step with the Holy Spirit who leads us to serve the least, last and lost with humility and love. 

    At another level, we Christ-followers must also see ourselves as foreigners. We are not of this world. This is not our home. Yes, we were born here and have family here. Yes, we love and are very comfortable in our culture. Like a fish is comfortable in water, we are comfortable in our home country. Yet, we're only passing through. We're sojourners, travelers, journeymen, aliens and strangers in this world. And we must live like it. (See 1 & 2 Peter)

    Prayer

    Lord, transform our thinking to be more in sync with yours. Help us remember that this is not our home. We're here for a season to love and serve the least, the last and the lost In Jesus' name--those where we live, work and play. 

    Help us humble ourselves and generously give of ourselves to those who are far from God but close to us. Cleanse us from our selfishness and fill us with your generous Holy Spirit. Transform us from the inside out and help us lead others to do the same. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

    Humbly Serve Others in Jesus' Name

    “Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.”
    Exodus 2:17 NIV http://bible.com/111/exo.2.17.niv

    Moses has just arrived in Midian after fleeing Egypt and the consequences of his murdering an Egyptian. He rests at a well and Jethro's daughters arrive to water their father's flock. About that time, some unruly shepherds come along and look to make sport of these girls. 

    In that day, it wasn't unusual for men to take advantage of women. Law enforcement was simply men of character standing up against more wicked men. Moses' sense of justice gave him resolve to do just that here.

    What stood out to me was that Moses seems to regularly want to fight injustice. 

    His killing the Egyptian earlier was because he was beating a Hebrew slave treating him like a worthless possession instead of a human being. He saw the injustice in this too.

    His defending Jethro's daughters was to protect them from the shepherds who were wanting to harm them. 

    Then we see a more humble side. Moses serves these girls beyond protecting them. He waters their flock. That was no easy job in the heat of the day.

    Application

    Moses, we later learn, is known for his humility. He is a man who learns to fully trust and obey the Lord. 

    So how does he live? He humbly serves God and people.

    And so must we. 

    Jesus' version of this was most visible when he washed the disciples feet like a lowly, Gentile slave. The Jews wouldn't even ask their Jewish servants to wash feet. Yet Jesus chose to wash theirs on the night of his betrayal. Then he told them to go and do likewise. Humbly serve others in his name.

    Humbly serve others in Jesus' name. That's our job. That's what we "get" to do!

    Lord, forgive our spiritual arrogance. We talk about walking humbly with our God but resist actually serving others--especially the least, the last and the lost. 

    Forgive us and fill us with your Spirit so that we'll more faithful live as Moses and Jesus did. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016

    Doritos vs. NARAL

    Gary Bauer nails it when he calls out the NARAL for their anti-science, anti-common sense view on babies in the womb:

    The radical pro-abortion group NARAL is, once again, doing its best to prove that the left denies the basic science of biology. Doritos aired an amusing Super Bowl ad showing a husband eating the famous nacho chips during his wife's ultrasound. 

    Frustrated with her husband's inattentiveness, she has the expected reaction. But when her husband starts waving a chip around, the baby in utero starts following it. She wants one! Watch the ad here.  

    That was too much for NARAL, which tweeted its condemnation of Doritos for "using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses."  

    What exactly does NARAL think a fetus is? Fetus is Latin for "bearing young," "offspring" or "young while still in the womb," all of which means human unborn baby. 

    NARAL's reaction speaks volumes. The only way it can justify abortion is by first dehumanizing the unborn child in the womb. Once that is accomplished, destroying a blob of tissue is a lot easier. 

    The debate is over for when life begins--it begins at conception. This battle rages on because that argument still gets some traction with those who have not thought much about this issue yet. The reaction of the NARAL shows just how out of touch with reality this organization is. 

    I wish the NARAL would consider the "choice" of the baby boy or girl in the womb. I believe they would choose life every time. 

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016

    Oikos + Walmart/Coke Commercial (Stock Up on Joy)




    This young man sings a jingle that describes what an extended family (greek = oikos) or household is and has been for millennia. Despite the modern attempt to limit family to the nuclear expression (only family living under your roof), culture is pushing back to this God-given dynamic. Witness the success of shows like "Friends."

    In the Bible this extended family is called a household (oikos). It's what makes mission pleasing to God's people. Living on mission was meant to be lived out of extended families.

    Meredith Andrews – Soar (Live + Acoustic) Isaiah 40:31



    Lyric details+

    Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    Prayer Guide for our Gathering

    Sunday we'll begin a new journey as a church family. We'll actively seek God in making disciples who make disciples through extended families are mission with God. This is the basic prayer guide I'm following as I plan for this.

    Vision: To start a disciple-making movement of extended families on mission together. (Think 3-legged stool/table and UP-IN-OUT Triangle) (10 min)

    Step 1: Begin praying for our next step in implementing the vision by praying these four questions:

    1. Who is God? (<10 aloud="" answers="" ll="" min="" our="" pray="" question="" span="" this="" to="" together.="" we="">
    2. What has He done for us? (<10 aloud="" answers="" ll="" min="" our="" pray="" span="" together.="" we="">
    3. What is our identity (who are we) as a result of who God is and what he’s done? (<10 aloud.="" answers="" ll="" min="" our="" pray="" span="" we="">
    4. What do we “get to do” because of everything we’ve just heard/prayed? (5 min) We'll pray silently and possibly write down specific answers to this question.
    5. We share aloud together how God answered #4. We'll list these on the whiteboard. (20 min)

    Next time, we'll spend more time here, reporting everything! We'll share wins, losses, epiphanies, new thoughts, successes and failures so far in this process.

    Step 2: As answers to our prayers come in, we'll immediately begin putting them into practice. In the meantime (and as answers continue to come in), we'll continue to meet and pray through the above 4 questions. 

    Our hope is that as extended families on mission begin to form and meet that they will take this same posture on how they are to proceed as well.


    We are also asking people to hit their knees prayer each day wherever they are at 7:14 am each day to consecrate themselves (publicly if there). This is in light of our praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 for the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. A sermon will precede this where we'll preach through this passage so we better understand what was meant by this verse. 

    Covenant and Community

    Recently, I had a great conversation with some friends I've been talking with about forming missional communities (extended families on mission with God together). One asked how do we hold people accountable to do what they say they are going to do. I answered that a signed, detailed covenant is my tool of choice. That sparked an hour conversation about the pros and cons of covenants. I won't recount that fiery conversation here. But I will share my thoughts on covenants in churches and missional communities a few days after it.

    In no particular order...

    The Missional Community (MC) process lets the members who are “all in” shape their covenant. The covenant answers the question:

            “What are we committing to as an extended family on mission this year?"

    The covenant expresses and clarifies who’s “All in” and what they’re “All in” on. It’s clarifying the vision (for that church or MC) and how we’re going to flesh it out together. 

    The covenant is for those who are “in”. It’s not for anyone else. Like disciples showed they were committed to following Jesus, we show our intentions beginning with a signature or public acknowledgement. 

    Seth, my ministry coach, said, "It's funny that people will willingly sign a contract to get a mortgage but they won't sign a covenant for the mission amongst family."

    Yes, it does create categories or levels between those who choose to commit and those who don’t yet. I believe this is ok. 

    Jesus had levels of access as well. He had the 72, "the 12" and even the 3. This could easily have seemed like he was playing favorites. In fact, there are indications in the gospels that the other 9 disciples were jealous of the 3 (Peter, James and John). In Jesus' mind, he was simply giving more time to those who he perceived or observed were more committed or “All in.” The covenant has this clarifying effect. 

    It’s not about the signature. You don’t have to sign anything. But a visual nod or audible "I'm in" tells others making the same commitment that you’re “All in.” How else can we know who’s in and who’s not. I think this matters. 

    It's okay to have some who are still working through the concept of being a family on mission together and the associated commitments. If you are always bringing in new people to Christ, this will be a normal part of the rhythm of your missional community.

    A covenant clarifies what a “win” for our family on mission is. That’s why it’s specific. Vague covenants leave you wondering if you accomplished anything. 

    Specifics on the covenant should be things you have control over. 

    For example, you don't have control over how many people you lead to Christ in a year. But you do have control over how many times you attempt to share Christ's gospel with people over the next year. You can measure both but you can't control how many trust Christ. 

    Signing a covenant that includes something like, "I will share the gospel 12X/year" is simply a tool to help keep what's important in front of it. It's like coming up with your own goals for 2016 and then signing them. It just solidifies your resolve and adds gravity to something that you deem very important. The signature adds weight. (That's why we're talking about it.) Therefore, it has the power to add gravity to something that deserves it. 

    Sure it can become twisted into a legalistic hammer or source of religious pride. That's why we remind ourselves and each other that it's all about grace. God is the one who graces us to succeed. He gets the credit. Even in this, the covenant can reveal our heart and again be a good tool for leading us to holiness and obedience rooted in faith.

    We must be careful comparing a business (job) to the church. The church is a community of people linked together by the covenant of Christ. It is inclusive. It's NOT based on performance. It's based on being saved into the family of God by grace through faith. A business is not inclusive--it's exclusive. You apply, interview and are chosen to be hired. Then to maintain your employment you must perform. If you don't, you're let go. Accountability is important in both. But your place in the community is secure in one (Church) but not the other (job).

    At the end of the day, our life is living in such a way that we make Dad visible to the world showing him off in all his glory through the way we think, speak and live. Are you doing this? Is this your mindset? That's what it means to live for the glory of God. 

    We remember who we are (child of God, child of the King). We show Dad off. We show Jesus off. We shine the spotlight on him. That's what we do because that's who we are. We get to be his kids. My prayer is that we'll use every tool necessary, by God's grace, to become more faithful families on mission with God together.

    Saturday, January 02, 2016

    Are Others Noticing?

    “...that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”     -Paul of Tarsus, Colossians 1:6 NIV

    Is the gospel bearing fruit in my life in such a way that it's spreading throughout my circles of influence? 

    Are those around me seeing, hearing and experiencing the fruit of the gospel through me? 

    Would they miss this fruit if I left?


    What is God saying to you?

    What are you going to do about it?

    Who do you need to share this thought with today?