Church and Life and Other and Thoughts30 Nov 2015 10:13 pm

So I have long had an issue with White Elephants. That much beloved Christmas tradition of bringing a crappy gift that ends up donated, or thrown away almost immediately. Often people bring either a bunch of trash that no one wants, or some inappropriate gag gift that is laughed at, then hidden quickly out of embarrassment, and more often than not you get that one guy who brings the “iPod” (anyone seen that Office episode?).

Anyway, I was fed up, especially when I’ve been told for a long time that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus. I mean, if Jesus was all about Love and caring for your neighbor, why do I have to go out, spend $20 on some piece of garbage that is going to end up in a landfill, puts money in the bank for some rich corrupt CEO, and probably came from child labor in a third world country?

How about we turn this around, and make it about GIVING, instead of GETTING.

So here is my idea, it’s called the CHARITY ELEPHANT.

It works like this. You pick a theme (say DVDs, or candy bars, or books) for the swap. Then everyone is told to bring their favorite of that theme (or maybe not a favorite) along with a Charity that is related. The idea then is that people will be playing the Charity Elephant to steal and end up with either a dvd they want, or a candy bar they want, or book….. or the flipside, they are trying to end up with a charity that they really believe in, so that they can make a donation to that charity.

Example: The Theme is DVD
My DVD is Homeward Bound, so I print out a piece of paper that says the following:

Homeward Bound is the tale of three pets that take an incredible journey to find their home. On the way they get lost and face incredible obstacles. I picked the charity Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation because they provide much needed help to dogs and cats that have been abandoned, lost or become homeless. Check out their site here: and make a donation! (May I suggest $17 which pays for a dose of dewormer)

Other examples:

Example: (giving clean water to people in Africa)
Movie I’d bring: Finding Nemo (because it all takes place in the water)

Example: (making children at hospitals into nerd by providing video games and toys)
Candy to Bring: Nerds (because video games are nerdy)

Example 3: (they make superhero capes for children with disabilities)
Book to Bring: A stack of Thor Comics (because he wears a cape and is an awesome superhero)

The idea is that during the course of the swap people are fighting to get a favorite charity or item related to a movie. Maybe someone made a super compelling connection between their favorite movie Pinnochio because he wants to be a real boy, and the make-a-wish foundation because they had a friend who wished up a star for something and make-a-wish made it come true. Wouldn’t that be beautiful! You’d get to learn about them, and who wouldn’t want to then give to that charity!

I suggest doing this with the Movie theme the first time, it’s just so easy! Think of all the great movies that easily can have connections. Wall-E (Rainforest Alliance, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, etc), Star Wars a New Hope (National Space Society, The Planetary Society etc.), Titanic (Polar Bears International because they protect the arctic and sea ice), There are a million options and a million choices. There are charities for EVERYTHING.

Let’s make a difference this holiday. Have a CHARITY ELEPHANT instead of a WHITE ELEPHANT exchange.


1 DVD or CANDY or BOOK or CEREAL or GAME etc.
1 Piece of Paper with a Charities Name and website on it
1 Piece of paper with the explanation as to why you chose that charity and how it is connected to the gift.

Church and Life and Thoughts09 Nov 2015 05:23 pm

Romans 1:20

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (NLT)

Romans 11:30-32
Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[h] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Romans 14:8-9
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Acts 4:12
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Epehesians 4:4-13
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Does not the entire Bible teach a story of God redeeming and saving his people no matter how many times they fail, they fall, the sin, the leave him? Is God big enough to save everyone?
Does not the Bible seem to be saying in all of these passages (and many more) that he CAN and WILL save all?

If God says:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me
(John 14:6)

And in 1 Timothy 2:3-6
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

Then is He not saying He is the only way, but that He wants to save all, and if he wants to save all, can He not do that?

And what about Romans 2?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

This says God will judge all, and that even if people live outside the Law they will be judged fairly. But in 3:20 it says: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But here is the cool part:
Romans 5:6-11
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Is this saying what I think it is?
10 specifically
If while we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having BEEN reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Let us read on in 5:12-18 … pay close attention to 18:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and LIFE FOR ALL PEOPLE.”

What do you think? Am I misinterpreting?

I will leave you with Lamentations 3:31-33 and 1 Timothy 4:10

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone”


That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and ESPECIALLY OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE.”


ok, Another addition. Jesus, on the cross. Luke 23:34 ” Father Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

If Jesus forgives those who mock him, spit on him, beat him, and kill him, can he not forgive those that do not believe in him?

Finally, in Matthew 5:44-48 he says  “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

If God calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, does not he therefore love those who hate him, persecute him, do not believe in him, and are his enemies?

Therefore, His love is BIGGER than we could ever imagine.



Church and Life and Thoughts14 Oct 2015 10:39 pm

(FIRST DRAFT) Tonight I got a ride home from a great friend of mine after hanging out with my church. We had a good discussion, as we usually do when it is just the two of us, but one thing that he said particularly stuck out to me. I don’t remember the exact phrase he said, but it boils down to this:

“Confession should lead to repentance.”

See, I think we often feel that confession is the end.  We might hurt a friend, or a neighbor, or even ourselves. We might be living a lie, or living with an action or attitude that is hurting us or someone else. Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s a lie, maybe it’s being lazy, or maybe it’s something else, but I find that so often I believe the lie that confessing this wrong is all I need to do.

THIS IS A LIE. I can’t just confess that I’m addicted to porn, or confess that I’m an alcoholic, or confess that I lied or stole. I need to repent. What is repentance? Well according to Wikepedia: “Repentance[1] is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs.[2] It generally involves a commitment to personal change and the resolve to live a more responsible and humane life”

The key here is “it generally involves a commitment to personal change”

I think this is shown clearly in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

11 Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.

Hopefully when we are confronted with a wrong, whether by a friend, or by conviction in ourselves, we do feel sorrow, and then confess, and then repent, with that repentence leading to a commitment to personal change.

I for one do not want to believe in the lie that I can simply confess my sin and then continue living exactly as I was before.


If I am an alcoholic, then I should remove the alcohol from my house. That is repentance.

If I am addicted to pornography, then I should install web filters on my computer. That is repentance.

If I stole something, then I should return it or go pay for it. That is repentance.

If I lied to a friend, then I should go tell them the truth. That is repentance.

If I am lazy, then I should set a second alarm clock to get out of bed, or install time-monitoring apps on my computer to stay accountable.


See I could just tell people that I’m an alcoholic, or ask for forgiveness that I stole something, I could apologize for lying or admit that I am lazy. BUT, all that does is bring me a step closer to repentance, a step closer to changing my ways, in and of itself the act of confession does not lead to life.

Believing that I can confess my wrong, and then do nothing to try and change my ways, simply makes me weaker and more likely to repeat the wrong.


I will leave you with this. Ephesians 4:25-31
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”:Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”



In the end, it comes down to changing your ways, not just your words.


Oddly I believe I could turn this into a topic on belief, faith and action.  James 2:17 “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Don’t just have faith that you sinned. Don’t just admit it. Change your ways, show it in your works and changed actions.

Church and Life and Thoughts13 Oct 2015 09:07 pm

This is a thought process that could be totally wrong. I believe there are elements of truth here, but I think I might be over-complicating this also. I would LOVE feedback on this as I go through revise, edit, pray and contemplate it.


The picture of Christianity is often tainted by one question. Would a God who calls himself good (Mark 10:18), love (1 John 4:8), and righteous, (Psalm 11:7), truly send people to hell. To a place that is evil, of burning, of hate, etc. Likewise, how can a God who created the world and called it good (Genesis 1:31) allow evil to happen in it. How can he allow so much death?

Well I want to discuss a few realizations I have had recently about this.

First of all, we must remember that God also calls himself Savior (1 John 4:14, 1 Timothy 2:3-4). So How could God be our Savior if we had nothing to be saved from? Though that doesn’t really answer the question. In fact, this might just make you more upset, thinking, “why would God say he is our savior, when he is just saving us from himself. His creation, his evil that he allows in the world.”

This is why we must go back to the beginning, we must look at the whole story. We must start at creation.


Point 1: Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is critical. God created the heavens and the earth, in the beginning. This is followed by him calling it good (Genesis 1:31). So, at this point either God is lying because it is not good, but there is evil in it, or he is being honest, because God did not create evil in the world.

Point 2: Genesis 1:27 “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

God creates man in His image. We are created looking like God, being similar to him. This is crucial, for as we look further (once humans have eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil) we see God state this: “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!” (Genesis 3:22).

What does this tell us? What does this baffling statement and the preceding verses convey?

It tells us that God created man to be like Him, and it was His love (since he is love) that choose to create us this way, and that in our likeness to Him we had the ability to choose for ourselves to do right or wrong. What is my point? My point is that God chose to make humans like Him because of love. He also gave us choice to obey Him, or to disobey him. (SPOILER ALERT) We chose to disobey him and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This basic choice could be quite metaphorical (is that the right word?). See eating of a specific tree isn’t really evil, but it is the conscious choice to believe that we should disobey God, that we knew more than God, that we would become like God and taking action on that which is the sin.

What is Sin? Well in 1 John 5:17 we read: “All wrongdoing is sin…” Therefore disobeying God, which was wrongdoing, was sin. Thus sin was simply us doing wrong. And wrong was decided by God, since God CREATED the world. Therefore what he said was wrong (eating from the tree) was sin. Is this repetitive?

What really happened that day though? What did God tell us would happen if we ate of that tree?

Genesis 2:17 “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

Now. I want you to throw all your human knowledge into the air for a moment, and act as if you don’t understand what you understand. For if you don’t throw that off, I assume that when I say the word “die” that you picture someone probably with eyes shut, possibly with mortal wounds, or very old. You probably then picture graves, and either heaven or hell, or maybe the vast eternal void of nothingness. You might even picture nothing since you haven’t come to a conclusion of what death is.

Anyway, I want you to forget all that and consider something new.

I propose that when God said “you will certainly die”. What he is saying is “you will certainly be separated from me.”

Ok, ok, I hear the skeptics now. Yes, he does separate Adam and Eve from him immediately, but then they also “die” later. They die physically, therefore, God is simply saying that they will die a physical death and not live forever.

Yes, I wrestled with this too for a bit, then I realized something. What does God say he is? “Life” (John 14:6)


Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Therefore, if LIFE and ETERNAL LIFE are GOD, then DEATH can only be the absence of God.

So where does this leave us?

1: God Creates us

2: We choose to disobey and sin

3: We therefore are separated from God (death)
4: We now know the difference of good and evil.

5: We begin causing evil, since we know what it is. Thus Cain kills Abel.

6: Death has entered the world, thus death happens. Death in and of itself is simply separation from God (life).

7: God spends the rest of the Bible, and the rest of history, and even up to now, trying to SAVE humanity. He is trying to reconcile us to Him. He is trying to give us LIFE. He is trying to be with us!

Let us go back and dwell on 6. Let us look at death. So if death is separation from God, then “physical death” really is not evil. Physical death is simply something that happens in the grand scheme of things. Physical death is not the end, but we continue on past that. In other words, physical death is a moot point if we know that we are separate from God before physical death, and after physical death. Does that make sense?

Let’s look at this from the opposite side. If God is life, and has conquered death, then we know that we can be with Him, both NOW, and AFTER physical death.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

” O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power . But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sin (wrongdoing) results in death (separation from God), and that separation from God happens because God said if we eat from the tree, or if we murder, or if we steal, that we will be sinning and doing wrong and thus we will die (be separate from him). God created the law (the rules) and we can’t argue with them. If he is Good and Righteous and Life and most importantly, CREATED US, then we cannot argue with HIS laws because clearly he knows best for us, or He is a complete liar, and is not Good or Righteous or Life. Look at it this way again, if God is LIFE (which I assume we all want) and God promises us LIFE and we chose SIN (which leads to death, the absence of God, the absence of Life) then we therefore are choosing to say that we know better than God, and WANT DEATH.

Does that make sense? If death is the absence of life and God is life…. then when we choose sin which leads to death, we are choosing to not be with God. If God says that his rules are what we have to follow in order to attain life (to be with Him), then obviously choosing to disobey those rules will result in us NOT being with Him. This is as simple as it gets.

The INCREDIBLE part of this all though is this. That God sent His son JESUS CHRIST to save us from our sins (wrongdoings, breaking the law) so that we can have LIFE. John 10: 10 says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

If JESUS came to CONQUER DEATH and DIED Himself but was MORE POWERFUL THAN IT, I would think that we might want to listen.

Jesus says we can be with Him. Jesus says He is God. Jesus says he is Life.

If you want to be with life, you want to be with God, then you must accept that Sin is disobeying him.

You must accept that death (being separated from God) happened when we chose to disobey (sin against) Him and that only HE can reconcile that.

You must accept that physical death is NOT the END. You must accept that physical death is NOT EVIL, for our soul cannot be killed by earthly means. Earthquakes, Murder, Car Wrecks, Hunger, Drowning, Shootings, etc. all are PHYSICAL DEATH which is NOT TO BE FEARED. In and of itself PHYSICAL DEATH IS NOT EVIL.

The action of a human to kill another is evil because God tells us not to do that. BUT, we cannot therefore label all physical death as evil, since truly physical death is simply physical, not spiritual. FEAR THE SPIRITUAL DEATH!

Matthew 10:28 says “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Furthermore Genesis 35:18 says “And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” See the Bible is clear. At physical death our souls continue on. What happens after physical death though is again up to choice.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 says:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

The ending there is so fantastic. I don’t care about the clouds part. That brings to mind those dumb baby cherub in the clouds pictures which is NOT what heaven will be like. The part I love is this “so we will always be with the Lord.” WOW!

One last thing.

At the beginning God created man, from the dust. This is our PHYSICAL body. It wasn’t until he breathed life into us that we became living.

“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:7

Therefore, physical death, is not truly death. It is simply the fact that we cannot comprehend the difference between physical death and spiritual death that we label physical death as evil. Thus if physical death is not evil, God is not allowing evil when the world has catastrophes, this is simply us losing our physical bodies. It’s the spirit that really matters.

Regardless of all that. If God created us to be with Him, and sinning meant we could not be with Him (Isaiah 59:2) and that we would surely die if we sinned. Then isn’t EVERYTHING evil simply because of us? We did sin, we did cause death, therefore it is not God’s fault that death is happening, for death is simply the absence of Him (life).

Isaiah 59:2 “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”





Life19 Oct 2011 12:30 pm

It’s the Bible, living and changing. It is the Word which also happens to be God breathed and Became flesh. The Bible is not static, it is not simple, or standard. It is on the move and breathing. Always. I think the problem for me is that I so often forget this and assume it is just a book that never changes. A book that I already know too well. A book that no matter how often I read it will still be the same. Yet this is untrue. It changes every time I read it. But I must let it not only be read, I must let it speak to me. I must treat it like a conversation. Alive and Living. Me asking it questions and talking to it, and it talking to me and asking me questions. It is beautiful how God has given us this gift. His word, His living word. His living, changing, moving, breathing, challenging, fighting, pushing, pulling, alive, Word.

Life01 Jun 2011 08:56 pm

Lately I’ve had a lot of moments, experiences and run-ins with mission work pulling at my life. I don’t know what it all adds up too but it’s there. Three big things lately have been the movie, “The Human Experience”, Annie going to Haiti, and this article. I feel often that we think of missions as all about what WE can do for THEM. As in “I am in such a wonderful perfect amazing place and definitely in connection with God, and I should help them who are not.” When often it turns out that they are in a better place than us, heart wise, despite circumstances. All of the experiences I have been having lately make me want to go travel and do mission work not for what I can do for others though, but for what they can do for me. I see and hear all about how these people in other countries, these third-world countries, have joy, true joy. It doesn’t matter that they have 1 set of clothes and live in an orphanage, they love life, and have true faith in God.

It seems that every time I look around me I see that lack of joy in the U.S. of A. We seem to get so caught up in trying to make life perfect for ourselves that we forget to just en-joy what we have and where we are and life. I mean, you don’t need a big house and car and money to have joy. You can have nothing and have joy. Look at the third world countries.

It’s almost like the more we have, the less we have. Ya know? The more stuff I have the less true joy I have. Anyway here is that article I was talking about. 

I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me

When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in those same people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.

The images spilling out of my television showed circumstances that could seemingly only equal misery, and I was fooled. I bought into the lie that circumstance defines happiness. The truth is, in Africa I find hearts full of victory, indomitable spirits. In places where despair should thrive, instead I find adults dancing and singing, and children playing soccer with a ball crafted of tied up trash. Instead of payback, I find grace. Here, weekend getaways are not options to provide relief from the pains of daily life. Relationships and faith provide joy. Love is sovereign.

My new reality… I know now that my joy should have no regard for my circumstances. I’m ashamed by my lack of faith, but at the very same moment I am excited by my new pursuit. I’m forced to redefine the meaning of having much or having little. I’m uneasy with the prospect of change and of letting go, but just the thought of freedom is liberating. I want what I have learned to trickle down from my head into my heart – I no longer want to need the “next thing” to have joy.

I’m not saying that Africa does not need our efforts. It absolutely does need our partnership. But for me, I’ve come to understand that I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME. Why? Because it is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart. I’ve learned that I don’t need what I have and that I have what I need. These are just a few of this continent’s many lessons. I came here to serve and yet I’ve found that I have so much to learn, and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me.

Church and Life24 Jan 2011 08:36 pm

It seems God is making it pretty obvious where he is leading me, I just don’t know what that directly looks like right now. Here is an article from my Old Pastor’s Wife’s blog. He chimes in too during it.

Whoa. This got deep…


I’ve been wrestling with the idea of church. As some of you may know, we are kind of “in the business” of church. So, I guess some thinking about it would be good. The problem is, as I think about it, I’m not sure we’re doing it right. We come in and hang out with some peeps (usually the ones we know and are comfortable talking to), pour a cup of coffee (because we’re post-modern so coffee in church is all the rage), go sit in our seat (sometimes the same seat every week…and if anyone else sits there it almost visibly puts us into a tail spin!), we sing some songs (sometimes led by a good band, sometimes a quite mediocre/ teetering on sucky band…ok, honestly, sometimes the band just sucks and its too distracting to worship but we raise our hands anyway and try to get into it), listen to a “message” (which sometimes is filled with so much “and all God’s people said…?” and “Can I hear an Amen?” ‘s that it makes me a little crazy….I’m pretty sure I’m one of God’s people, but I never know how to fill in the blank. “I don’t know…what did God’s people say? Woot?”), then we end and leave (sometimes to find our car smashed in the parking lot without a note…that happened to us last week. I just thought I’d add that in. It’s ok to laugh). Let me tell you, sitting beside someone who might be coming to church for the first time, you pick up on the little things that might make them uncomfortable! How ARE they supposed to know what all God’s people said? I had a friend lean over to me during worship and ask why everyone was raising their hands. I think we get so comfortable with our churchy selves that we forget to see how church would look to a fresh set of eyes. I think it would look pretty weird. But, I think we’re comfy. I think we’ve been misled for the last couple of hundred years that there is a formula to follow, and as long as you’re following that, you’re good. You’ve done your duty, and someone’s life might be changed along the way. I’m wondering how much life change is happening in our churches anymore, or if its becoming our excuse for complacency during the rest of the week. But the fact is, why would someone wander into these churches? And what would church have to offer them? The church has been following the same “formula” for hundreds of years, but culture is in constant change…it’s time for “church” to grab a clue and change along with it!

So, here’s what I’m wrestling with: given all that, I’m tempted to think that in order to make a difference, or the ONLY way to make a difference is to start new and fresh. To say “screw this”, leave “church” as we know it, and forge our own way. To some extent, that is what we need to do. However, I was hit with this thought today. What the church really needs is for those of us with a desire for change to STAY and change. To allow the church to see a revolution beginning within its own walls. It only takes a couple of people with a vision to start a revolution. And shouldn’t that revolution be started in the middle of the people around us who have become complacent? To inspire people who are comfortable to step outside of that comfort zone? Can you imagine the impact if we start a revolution where a spark can trigger a fire? Where people who have the skills and resources can be inspired and encouraged to do something DIFFERENT than they are used to! To those brave visionaries out there: GO!! Start a revolution! But don’t hide what you are doing away from those who need to learn from you: the people that fill our churches. You could be that spark that lights a fire under those bums filling the pews, and rescues our churches from the complacent state it’s in!
Oddly enough, Micah and I were thinking the same thing when I started to write this blog and I invited him to chime in. Here’s Micah:
We can be certain that continuing in complacency, continuing the same traditional approaches, and perpetuating the attitude that the church exists for “church people” will result in the same discouraging results we are seeing today.
Recently I was at a church where a pastor friend of mine used a great deal of “Christian jargon”. I know this pastor has a tremendous heart for people outside of the church, but his practices communicated that church exists for church people who know the insider vocabulary. As it was bugging me (which I know is my own sin issue), I was tempted to give up on trying to influence him otherwise. I excused it saying, “that’s just his style”, but I was struck with the very challenging fact that to give up could result in yet another church drifting into it’s comfort zone with comfortable Christians. We talk about sharing the good news of Jesus and people applaud, but when changes are made to help us better share the gospel the feedback is of a different nature.
What will the uphill battle take? What will those revolutionaries have to endure to see the sparks ignite?
A number of years ago, I remember hearing a pastor of a new church that was effectively impacting its city say that their effectiveness was linked to really getting back to the gospel and repenting of their indifference for the world around them. At the time, I thought, “yeah that’s good, but what does that even mean?” Since then I’ve had a number of experiences that help me see what he was talking about, or at least what I think he was talking about. The future of the church and it’s impact in the world is directly connected to our understanding of the pure essence of the gospel. The challenge is getting at the pure essence of the gospel. When you think about how churches handle the gospel, there is so much added to it. A few examples: I remember hearing an individual say, “can a democrat even be a true believer.” A friend of mine in college was perplexed and concerned after a trip to Nepal. He was so concerned about these people who hadn’t heard the message of Jesus and asked one of his favorite college professors how to handle this. The professor’s response was, “good thing we don’t have to worry about it”. A popular pastor prescribing that Christians never dabble in yoga, lest they invite little demons into their life. These examples share a common thread, an enculturated gospel, a gospel of Jesus and….(political views, entitlement and judgement, separatist world views, etc…)
Another illustration came from a recent conversation with a friend who spent several years in West Africa. He was describing the polygamist practices in Mali. He said the men take several wives because of the work load of their agrarian lives (the wives do most of the work). He told me of several families that had come to know Jesus and started participating in the Mali church. Knowing how many of our stateside churches would handle a polygamist family attending their church, I was curious to know how the church in Mali handled this. His answer was simple, it’s a non issue. Coming to Christ is a free invitation that required no jumping of cultural hurdles. This practice, polygamy may change in future generations as generations of Jesus followers abandon the practice, but coming to know Jesus doesn’t first require the jumping of cultural barriers. The gospel is truly being presented as an invitation to people right where they are at.
So, back to the pastor, the talk I didn’t really get, and the discussion of igniting fires of revolution within existing churches. The call of this revolution is simple and yet I believe it will be a battle. The call is to simply present the true gospel (let’s call it Jesus 1.0) less all it’s cultural baggage and first let it impact our own lives in a way that creates a tremendous sense of urgency. Jesus’ gospel is an invitation to follow Him, find forgiveness, and be invited into a life changing eternity with God that starts now.
The call also means that we reflect Jesus in the way we invite others into this life changing eternity. Jesus left heaven and his perfect relationship with God to become one of us. Jesus, the Godman was sent and made His dwelling with us. That same kind of sending is what God is calling us to. To go into the world (not staying inside the church doors) and dwell with people, living the goods news and sharing the good news.
Let me give you a couple examples of people living this out, so that you can see what this looks like…and how easy it could be:
Family number 1 has extended family and friends who don’t know Jesus and are not comfortable stepping foot into a church. Dad is an elder at his church and tattoo artist. Seeing people who are far from Jesus and opportunities to care for them, they step down from leadership in order to open their schedules and home to people who are seeking and questioning.
Family number 2 decides to wake up early on a chilly Saturday morning to make breakfast burritos, meet up with friends and deliver said burritos to the homeless. 57 burritos are delivered along with hot coffee, and an eternal impact is made on their children in teaching them how to think outside of themselves to care for others.
A man at our church here in Seattle, after hearing and considering the story of the Good Samaritan, feels compelled to go out and search for people who need shelter, food, or medical attention. He goes out daily during the week to help those in need. He tried to get help from the church, and only one person offered to occasionally help with vehicles.
A local doctor has a vision to extend his knowledge and gifts to people in need. He starts a free medical clinic within a church with little recognition.
These people are revolutionaries. They are seeking to extend God’s love outside of the walls of the church.
Imagine for a moment the impact of existing churches turning the corner and using their strengths, assets, people for the sake of the world. Dream of the impact of abandoning our comfortable traditions and truly seeking to exist to present Jesus to the World. Conceive of churches restructuring around the idea of existing for people outside the church and willingly letting go of how this challenges their preferences.
Stolen from Kristen and Micah Dodson  at
Life17 Jan 2011 08:49 pm

For some reason I’ve been struggling a lot with the idea of being a pastor. Ever since I started school last Fall and began my “Pastoral Ministry” classes I really have started to question the role of “pastor” in church. For a long time now I have known that God has called me into “ministry” and into his service, but I’ve never known exactly what it was. I knew that for awhile I was supposed to be at Multnomah in the “Pastoral Ministry” program, but that never meant I was going to be a pastor. In fact the longer I was in school the more I felt that I might be a “pastor” for a while but that it never was the God intended goal for my life. Recently I have been questioning even more if there should even be such a role as “pastor” in “the church.” Personally I have been struggling so much lately with what the Bible says and what the “Christian” life is all about. I feel that in all I’ve read of the Bible I see a minimal amount of it being followed, obeyed, or even thought about by “Christians.” With that said I am really trying to figure out a few things.

-One: What is God’s call for my life?

-Two: What does following Jesus truly look like? Biblically, not according to other “Christians.”

-Three: What is “Church” really supposed to be like?

I feel that a recent article I read on answers part of the last question. Read it at

Here are some bullets from the article.

  1. Embracing the building
  2. Misrepresenting the tithe
  3. Ignoring the poor
  4. Over-emphasizing the role of the pastor
  5. Yearning for political power
  6. Business-minded ecclesiology
  7. Conversion-focus instead of disciple-making

I am especially connected to 1, 2, 3, and 4. I feel to many churches are stuck on the idea that they must have a building, a pastor, and a tithe. None of these are directly Biblical that I can find. As for the third, I really am struggling with how much God tells us to care for the poor, and how little we do it.

Just some thoughts for now.

Life14 Dec 2010 10:36 pm

John 12:25 “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Only You by David Crowder Band
Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting go
I lift it up to You who’s throned
And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down
before You Only You Lord
Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
You’re my delights, be my everything And It’s just you and me here now Only you and me here now
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:60Matthew 8:22 ‘But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” ‘

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62

Lord give me the faith to say “Yes Lord.” and then to follow, not “later”, not “someday”, not “after this”, or “but first”, but instantly.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Life03 Dec 2010 10:23 pm

I just decided. I don’t want any Christmas presents this year.

How can I accept gifts of things I don’t need when there are lonely, starving, tired, poor, miserable, cold, hungry, hurting people in the world?

If you want to buy something this year, in my name, give it to the homeless, the needy, the poor, the battered, broken, bruised, hungry and hurt.


These are some places you can give, or better yet go meet someone needy, homeless, starving, or hurting and just talk to them. Go talk to a homeless man or woman and feed them, or cloth them. Jesus calls us to care for the needy and hurting and lonely and lost. Everyone can benefit from a friendly face, and a friendly conversation. Everyone can use the love of Christ.

Share this Christmas. Share with the needy.

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