Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can a Church be Changed?

Sang a song Sunday for the first time, and I'd like to share the words with you:

Can a nation be changed?
Can a nation be saved?
Can a nation be turned back to you?

We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.
We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.

Let this nation be changed.
Let this nation be saved.
Let this nation turn back to you!

We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.
We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.

As I was singing this song, I started crying, wondering why we're praying for the nation, when the church is in need of the same prayer.

I'm reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. On a side note, it's a long walk to the end of the book, over 600 pages, so I find it appropriately named. What I read this Sunday morning had to do with the way Mandela maneuvered between those loyalist in the ANC (his political party), and the new generation of protesters, that were mostly responsible for the 1976 riots, connected to the oppressive government, known as Apartheid.

The thing that intrigued me most about this part of his journey, was his steadfast determination that he would stand in the gap between the old guard, his comrades who had been in prison with him for 40 years, and the new guard, the active protesters, willing to use violence when and where needed. Not easy, considering that Mandela had taken many of his cues from Martin Luther King and Ghandi, who both insisted on the path of non-violence.

It was his standing in the gap, his unwillingness to let the younger "rebels" go unheard that caught my attention. He listened to and respected them. They were angry, didn't always think things through, and were very young. So, he listened to those that had been a part of the struggle on the outside, while for 40 years he was imprisoned for the same.

He wasn't near as concerned to convince someone that his argument was the right one, as much as he was that they remain together, because in the end, they all wanted the same thing; a unified, equal, and just government where every person had a vote.

I was checked and challenged at the same time, realizing we are at the same place in our church. Too many of our young voices have been alienated for the sake of proving someone right or wrong, when in the end, just like the struggle against Apartheid, we all desire similar outcomes.

So my prayer for myself today is that I am an ear, and not just a voice. That I'm in a conversation, not an argument. That I seek the common ground and unity, and not "theological pride", if I can quote a friend.

I believe there is more common ground than not, and my prayer is that for the sake of the Kingdom, and my church, that we hold fast to our core beliefs, but also listen for the new prophetic voices crying in the "wilderness". I don't want to miss them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Tried Again

I tried again, being at the same place for the second week in a row. I had people telling me that I looked familiar (couldn't be from the week before, since I didn't meet anyone), but they weren't sure if I was new, if regular, they just weren't sure.

That's okay, we have the same problem at my church. I'm not sure who is new, old, or indifferent. Just not sure that's how I want to do church.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Just finished this book by Greg Mortenson. It's a pretty fascinating read, and I'm more intrigued about the subject about which he wrote. He is raising money and building schools in the poorest locations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, places not to popular around here.

He was reflecting on his travels, how many of the areas he has been able to travel into both before and after 9/11, and how they have been war torn by both American carpet bombs looking for Bin Laden, and Taliban missiles killing their own. Here is what he says in regard to conflict and war:

""In times of war, you often hear leaders - Christian, Jews, and Muslim - saying, 'God is on our side.' But that isn't true. In war, God is on the side of the refugees, widows, and orphans."

Check it out yourself at

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shoe on the Other Foot

Had an interesting experience today; I went to a church I had never been to before. Got a very awkward greeting, you know, one of those that said, should I know you, have you been here before, but no direct question. No introduction. Just a handshake, and a hello.

I then proceeded to walk into the foyer, not knowing where to go. They had two services, no one explained the difference between the two, so I guessed. That didn't matter much since they had the sermon from the sanctuary simulcast into the venue I was in, which I figured was the contemporary option since there were guitars and drums in place of the piano.

I met no one, got no ones name, even after hanging around a while after the service. I got nothing.

It was intimidating and awkward, and I know the songs, the language, and even the slang. No wonder "they" don't come to "our" stuff much. I wasn't sure when I left whether I wanted to go back or not.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Balancing piety and justice

Again, Foster has offered some good words for me today, and I thought I would pass them along. I think it helps bring shape to what I was trying to talk about yesterday.

"We can no longer allow people to engage in pious exercises that are divorced from the hard social realities of life. Nor can we tolerate a radical social witness that is devoid of inward spiritual vitality. Our preaching and teaching needs to hold these elements in unity. If our teaching is centered in the Biblical text, we will find literally hundreds of examples to follow."

Thanks again to Foster for helping bring some shape to me, and some of what I've been feeling this past year. I've ranted about just this issue, and what I see happening on a university campus when students get these two out of balance. He says this much better than I do.

Is justice to be a part of who we are, you bet. But not at the expense of our inward spiritual life. The opposite is true as well. Like it says in James, "faith without works is dead". Or Paul in Corinthians, when he talks about love being spoken without being lived as just banging on a drum. I'm praying that these words come to life for me today.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What are we doing with sin?

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Romans 6:12

There is a lot of debate in our culture today concerning what is and isn't sin. The debate is also alive and well in the church. Again, I think we are asking the wrong set of questions. I read an excerpt today from Foster's book, The Freedom of Simplicity, and I'd like to share it with you. He says:

"Thomas Merton writes in the introduction to his Wisdom of the Desert, 'Society. . .was regarded by the Desert Fathers as a shipwreck from which each single individual man has to swim for his life.'"

He goes on to say, "They were seeking to revive true Christian devotion and simplicity of life by intense renunciation. Their experience has particular relevance, because modern society is uncomfortable like the world that they attacked so vigorously. Their world asked, 'How can I get more?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'What can I do without?' Their world asked, 'How can I find myself?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'How can I lose myself?' Their world asked, 'How can I win friends and influence people?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'How can I love God?'"

Sound familiar?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

6º Dia da Colheita

This is a video from our "Day of Harvest" in Campinas, at Brazil's NYC. The song is in Portugal, but thought you might like the pics.

Pretty cool, besides, I like Donald Miller.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Journey of the Hat

Thought I would have some fun with this. I was looking through some pics that Joice sent from the NYC in Brazil, and realized that the hat Pastor Obaulio gave me had made its rounds. Here are a few pictures to show what I mean.
Hey Alex, maybe that smell was more than just leather!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Luke off to Iraq

Our thoughts and prayers have been with our kids from the south, even more than usual today. We think of them often, with that sweet little boy down there, but especially on this day. It's the day that we haven't been looking forward too, but knew was coming. Luke leaving for Iraq.

His travels take him from Ft. Hood, to Maine, Germany, Kuwait, then into Iraq. He is going to prepare and set up a camp for the arrival of several platoons of ground troops. Luke's batalian, at least as far as I understand it, is ground support for the troops. He provides supply and service for all their vehicles and equipment. The above picture was taken on the family's last day before he left for his one year deployment.

Kristin and the family have big shoes to fill with "daddy" gone. Like Kristin has shown in her blogs, Luke and Brayden are, to use her words, "thick as theives".

We praying for protection for you Luke, as well as a year that goes by so fast your head spins. We look forward to your return, even though you have just left.

We're also praying for you Kristin, as you try and wear the hat of two parents for the next year. We'll help you check off days on the calendar.

We're also praying for Brayden, that your memories of the first year with your dad are lasting and deep. We're praying that pictures like these are ingrained deep in your mind, and when Luke comes home, you pick up right where you left off. Who wouldn't remember a dad like this one!

We're also praying for the Sanders side of the family. Our emotions are shared, although not equaled. Luke is the man for our daughter, the father of our grandson, and adopted by all of the Holcomb's. Thanks for the gift of your son to our family. You aren't walking through this alone.

We're also praying for both families as we work together to make life as easy as possible for Kristin and Brayden as their husband and dad are gone.

We love you Luke! See you soon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How do I know I'm right?

Had a conversation yesterday with some great people, about the church's response to the homosexual community. Almost wrote, "or lack of response", and caught myself, because we've not been short on our opinions, have we. The conversation revolved around all of our desire to be as convinced that we are right in our view, as much as the homosexual community is that they are. How do we know we are right?

I'm not sure that is the "right" question. Is being "right" all that matters these days? Don't get me wrong, I believe that there are some things that are core and central to what we are about, as Christians, that we don't need to apologize for, but also can't prove.

Can anyone prove the virgin birth; really?

Can anyone prove that Christ rose from the dead, or for that matter, if he was ever dead in the first place? Is there physical evidence proving that; really?

Can anyone prove that God literally created the earth in six days; really? Could he have created it in six days and made it look like it took thousands if not millions of years, you bet. Did he, who knows?

Can anyone prove that Jesus was as much God as he was man; really?

These are some of the questions that are core to shaping who we are, but there are a whole host of other questions that we ask as well, such as:

Did Jonah really live in the belly of a fish for 3 days; was there really a Job; were Adam and Eve's names Adam and Eve; did a donkey really talk?

Or how about, why is one person healed of cancer, while another, praying for the same thing, dies?

Or, why when a hurricane hits New Orleans, some statements are made in the name of Christianity regarding the punishment of debaucherous behavior, while injustices continue to occur in the Darfur with seemingly no response from the same God?

I'm sure you are thinking of your own list of questions as I've written just a couple of mine. The reason for these questions, is that how some of them are answered doesn't necessarily change what we believe, while others are core and central to who we claim to be and believe in.

See, if Jesus wasn't physically dead and raised, then I'm wasting space on this blog. But at the same time, determining how many were at the grave following his resurrection isn't ever going to be known, even though the account is told in all four gospels, nor will the number of angels present ever be clear. What is clear, is that he was dead, and was then raised; on that I have chosen to put my trust, and on that the four accounts do agree.

So, back to our conversation of yesterday; being right shouldn't always be what this is about. Being faithful is. What that means for me, is that for too long the church has failed an entire segment of the population in our attempt to prove ourselves right. Because of that, we have lost our voice to speak into their lives any message of hope and joy. We have failed to love in the name of Jesus. We have given a message that says there are some sins that are worse than others, and I think that goes against one of the messages that is pretty core to who we are as well; we've all sinned, falling short of God's glory.

So who is "right" is the "wrong" question, who will be faithful is the one we should be asking. I'm praying that God enable me to be faithful to his calling to every man; black, white, man, woman, gay, straight, single, married, young and old.

I confess to you there are some things I need to own about this issue, maybe even before my desire to be faithful in all things can happen. I sure am glad I don't walk through this alone. Thanks for the conversation, friends.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Power Supply

Heard a message this morning at a conference that made me think about how I live my life. I've been living reflectively since returning home from Brazil, and have a couple of thoughts today.

One, now I love my church, but man, I really struggled this past Sunday. One of our board members got up after worship, and talked more about the band, and the person leading worship, than the one we were there to worship. It was the _____ ______ show, not worship. Now, maybe our worship leader needed strokes this past week, but my re-entry didn't handle that well. Was I there to be entertained, to feel good? Is church just a show? I'm not sure.

I'm also growing tired of how stale my faith has become. Don't get me wrong, there are times I feel extremely close to God, and actually, this is one of those times. I'm not feeling down, not struggling, my marriage is great, my family is healthy, generally life is good. But I don't want my faith to be bland.

Have you ever wished that maybe your faith was actually a threat to the enemy, so much so that he had to come against you? Well, that's where I'm at. I'm not looking for a fight, I just want my faith to be on the map when it comes to the adversary. I want the enemy to know that Mark and Terry are out there. I want to be driven to my knees because of my need for dependence, not because of my independence and it's convenient. I want to need it. I want to "need" to pray!

This morning our speaker talked about 2 Peter 1:3, the fact God's "divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." Everything we need. Do I believe that? Do I live like that? Do I resemble that?
I watched a group of people who believe it, live like it, and resemble it. Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, but I want the faith I saw them live out. I didn't listen to them debate theology, not that there is never a place for that, but they don't have time for that. There's too much to do for the Kingdom, and they're about building it. They were delivered from alcohol addictions, the occult, witchcraft, so why would they debate whether they could flirt with destructive behavior, like we do. I didn't see them question God's ability to deliver someone from cocaine, witchcraft, alcohol, tobacco, or disease, they just believed he would. I didn't see them reading books about how to pray, I watched and heard them pray. I didn't hear anyone complain about the music being too loud or too fast, and it was; they just sang.

I want that in my life. I want to live from the reality of God's presence giving me what I need. I want it.

I've heard a lot of talk recently about how we shouldn't ask God to be active where we are, but we should look and seek out places where he is already active and join him where he is at. I think that is good, sound, theology. I know one place where he is active, I saw it, but my prayer is that I see another much closer to home.

Will you pray for that with me? Any takers?