Monday, October 29, 2007

Adopt-A-Block Update

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the staff at our church had decided to Adopt-a Block. We want to get to know our neighbors and simply shower them with the love of God through conversation and service. I am proud to say that this has been taking place.

For the first time since I have been at Asbury, we are actually caring about our community enough to get to know the needs and try to make a difference. We have been meeting our neighbors every week now for about a month and it has been great. This past week we all raked leaves for two of our neighbors who might have had a hard time doing it themselves. Tomorrow, on the day before Halloween, we are going to do a reverse Trick-or-Treat, where instead of collect candy, we will go door to door passing out candy and getting to know our neighbors even more.

Pray for us as we seek to develop into people 'of' mission rather than simply people who 'do' mission.

the Overhaul

I few months ago I noticed this ugly, white delivery trucked parked in our parking lot at the college, and since then have not been able to stop thinking about it. My mind instantly began to process the many sorts of ministries and missions that could be done out of this vehicle.

Well, on Saturday afternoon I bought it. After jumping through all the hoops necessary at our church, the youth ministry has purchased this truck and we are now in the process of brainstorming ways that we can serve our neighborhood, community, and city through the use of this truck. We plan on helping people move, doing service projects like leaf raking, feeding the poor, and serving free ice cream to underprivileged schools in town. If you have any other ideas for ways this truck can be used, I would love your input.

The truck looks exactly like a U-Haul, so, to play on words, we are calling it "the Overhaul". We are praying that this truck becomes a tool to overhaul people's lives and our culture's way of thinking about the poor and the oppressed. God calls us to a complete transformation, an overhaul, and we want to be people who are not only being transformed, but are also transforming others and our society.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Busy November

In addition to all the other things that keep me busy around Asbury during this time of the year, Mandy and I will add to our busyness by traveling all over the country. We will be flying out to Seattle on Nov. 15 to visit Mars Hill Graduate School. I know that at some point along my journey I want to be trained in ministry, so we are beginning the search of where that may take place. Don’t worry…this doesn’t mean we’re leaving! We’re just looking.

On our way home we fly into Denver to change flights, where my parents will be waiting for us. We are going to skip the second half of our flight home and spend the Thanksgiving week at my aunt and uncle’s condo at Breckenridge, CO. Pray for us as we seek God’s direction for the future and for safety and relaxation as we travel, spend time with family, and hit the slopes at Breckenridge.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Play the Lottery for Me!

My friend Jerry recently posted this article written by John Piper, a pastor in Minneapolis. I thought it was incredibly interesting at the time and I continue to think about it today, so I thought I would post the article to get your opinion on this topic and other money obtained via questionable methods. Let me know what you think!!

Don't Play the Lottery for Me! by John Piper

The West Virginia pastors who accepted Jack Whittaker's tithe on his $170 million Powerball booty should be ashamed of themselves. One of them said, "That's a blessing to have that kind of backing." I don't think so.

Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor. The engine that delivers his righteousness in the world is not driven by the desire to get rich. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not advanced by undermining civic virtue. Let the pastors take their silver and throw it back into the temple of greed.

In 2001 Americans wagered $57 billion dollars on lotteries, $18 billion on horses and dogs, $592 billion in casinos, and $150 billion on other gambling. This is a blot on American life. Break it down to individuals. Massachusetts sells more than $500 worth of lottery tickets each year for every man, woman, and child. Think how many do not gamble, and you will begin to imagine what thousands are throwing away to have a 1-to-135,145,920 chance for the jackpot.

The American exploitation of the poor with lotteries muddies the conscience of many legislators. Statistics abound that "the government-sponsored lottery continues its shameless exploitation of the poor" (James Dobson, April, 1999 Newsletter). This exploitation is explicit in some of the advertising bought by the $400 million spent annually by states to promote lotteries. For example, in Chicago one sign read: "This could be your ticket out." That is shameless. Other promotions mock the virtues of hard work and serious study as a way to make a living. Plan A: Study hard, save money, get old. Plan B: Play the lottery.

Only a few, it seems, are willing to say how far and how manifold are the corrupting effects of the lottery. How many have pondered this insight from Richard Neuhaus, "In a democracy, the need for popular consent to tax is a powerful check on government growth and irresponsibility. A government that raises money by encouraging and exploiting the weaknesses of its citizens escapes that democratic mechanism of accountability. As important, state-sponsored gambling undercuts the civic virtue upon which democratic governance depends" (First Things, Sept., 1991, p. 12).

Is it a "blessing" for the church of Jesus Christ to have the backing of a social sickness that "destroys marriages, undermines the work ethic, increases crime, motivates suicide, destroys the financial security of families . . . and dupes people into believing [it] will benefit the children" (Dobson)?

Don't play Powerball for me. And don't play it for Bethlehem. I go on record now that I will not knowingly take any money won from gambling. And I will do my best to lead the elders of our church from accepting any money offered to this church from the proceeds of gambling.

We are followers of Jesus. He had no place to lay his head and did not accept the demonic temptation to jump off the temple for the jackpot of instant recognition. The Calvary road is not paved with Powerball tickets, but with blood. The Church was bought once by One who refused the short cut of instant triumph. It will never be bought by those who dream of riches.

The lottery is another opportunity to pierce your soul with many pangs, and lead your children into ruin. The Bible says, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. . . . Some by longing for it . . . and pierced themselves with many a pang (1 Timothy 6:9-10). In other words, the desire to be rich is suicidal. And endorsing it is cruel.

It is wrong to wager with a trust fund. And all we have, as humans, is a trust fund. Everything we have is a trust from God, to be used for his glory. "[God] himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). Faithful trustees may not gamble with a trust fund. They work and trade: value for value, just and fair. This is the pattern again and again in Scripture. And when you are handling the funds of another, how much more irresponsible it is to wager!

Don't play the Lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money.

Pastor John

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good Intentions

Lately God has really been shaping me and I have regularly felt my heart breaking for the poor, hungry, and oppressed. I want so badly to partner with God in his work in the world by serving the least of these. My thoughts are consumed with what it would be like to suffer with and help end the suffering of those cast aside by our society.

At the same time, though, it is easy for churches to either focus on the spiritual life and neglect the poor, or to serve the poor and neglect the spiritual life. The temptation is to sway either way because it makes it easier. We usually focus on only one of the great commandments, either loving God OR loving our neighbor. The challenge is to serve our neighbor BECAUSE we love God first and foremost.

I want to be someone who cares about the things God cares about, but I don't simply want to be another 'program'. I want to care for God's creation as a result of my profound love for the Creator. May God continue to mold me into the man he wants me to be.

True Beauty

I was at a high school variety show the other night and was privileged to hear a teenage girl sing who had an absolutely beautiful voice. The thing that got me though was that I truly saw this girl as a beautiful creation of God, despite the fact that the world would not normally call her "beautiful". I was just so proud of her and saw her as incredibly special, even though I don't even know her.

I really felt like I should approach her after the show and tell her my thoughts, but I decided against that for fear that she would think me creepy. I pray that she has people in her life that will tell her they love her for just who she is and that she is beautiful inside and out. I fear she won't and I will have missed my opportunity. Do you think that would be creepy for a 24 year old guy to tell a teenage girl he has never met that he thinks she is beautiful inside and out and that God loves her and has a plan for her life? It is sad that people would look down on that kind of language, but they might.

I pray that as my relationship with God continues to grow I will begin to see even more people through God's eyes. I could almost literally SEE this young girl's worth. May it be that way with everyone I encounter. May I see them as God sees them.