30 May 2011

Amsterdam Trip - Day 1

At the moment I am sitting in a United Airlines lounge at Denver Airport looking at a flight board, waiting for our flight to Philadelphia and onto Amsterdam.
       I go on auto-pilot (no pun intended) on travel days. I have done the travel thing long enough that it's kind of old. This trip is different because Susy and I are traveling with 4 others from Denver and meeting up with 5 more people when we arrive in Amsterdam.     Our 11-person team is an awesome mix of people! I am looking forward to being with them for the next week.
       We travel for the next 16 hours and arrive in Amsterdam at 9am local time. Then it's off to The Shelter hostel in downtown Amsterdam to settle in. I'll write again once we arrive in Amsterdam.
       Thanks to all of you who are part of the Serve the City project - people in the U.S. who are supporting the projects, people in Amsterdam who will be volunteering, people around various places who are praying! We are grateful for all of you.

27 May 2011

I haven't been blogging...

As you can tell, I have not been blogging this week. It's a prep week for our Amsterdam trip. The combination of the logistical part and the teaching I will be doing next week has kind of "swamped the canoe."
I will be back to blogging next week when we leave for Amsterdam.

23 May 2011

Monday: One Week to Amsterdam, No Plumbing at Home!

We head to Amsterdam a week from today to work with Serve the City and to be with some of the dearest people in our lives! Can't wait, it will be a great trip indeed!
       A special thanks to everyone at Lookout Mountain Church who participated in the Silent Auction yesterday. More than $2000 came in for the trip, which is a huge blessing and help to the team.
       As much as I am looking forward to our Amsterdam trip, today I am living in the mundane of life. The plumbing in our house has been blocked up all weekend and I am waiting at home for the plumber. It would also be great to have a shower today! Ah the joys of life! HA.

20 May 2011

A Kingdom Theology for Isaac-Ishmael

People have rightfully asked me about the theology upon which the Isaac-Ishmael Initiative is founded. I find myself a bit lonely in my assumptions, as I mentioned to my friend Rob today while we were hanging out at a cafe. Rob happens to be the big cheese (president) of Christian Associates and is one of the few people who track with me on these assumptions.
       This has got me mulling over the people and books which inform me the most. They are all focused on a "robust Kingdom theology," to quote Rob from this morning. Here's a short list:
     * George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom
     * Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, and a lot of his other writing (found in The Reader)
     * Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
     * Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
       Ladd's thinking on the Kingdom of God is foundational/seminal for me. I re-read his little book, The Gospel of the Kingdom every year. It is profound and insightful while being written for the mission practitioner.
       Here is where I find myself in regards to the Kingdom and the children of Abraham (Isaac and Ishmael). If I truly believe that Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth and that Isaac and Ishmael both have a place in that Kingdom (see Isaiah 59 and 60), then I am called to be part of co-creating that diverse community here and now. What that means is that Jesus does not give me the option to hate and be punitive toward people who would naturally be my enemies (such as the children of Ishmael).
       I dream of the Kingdom of God so permeating cultures that Jews and Arabs will worship God together through Jesus Christ. In every place where people despise each other (Hutus vs. Tutsis in Rwanda, Catholics vs. Protestants in Northern Ireland, Kurds vs. Turks and Iranians and Iraqis, etc.) the gospel of the Kingdom penetrates and turns those despised into the beloved. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? It may just be crazy enough to be true.

19 May 2011

Summer Plans

Summer begins in Colorado right on Memorial Day weekend. Students finish up school right after the weekend and the pace of life change
Here's an update on some places I will be and dates I will be there:
  • 30 May - 7 June: Amsterdam (Serve the City team)
  • 5 June: Speaking at Crossroads Church of Amsterdam
  • 10 and 17 July: Speaking at Lookout Mountain Community Church in Denver
  • 16 July: Islam, Terrorism, and Jesus seminar with Crescent Project in Denver
  • 23 July: Islam, Terrorism, and Jesus seminar with Crescent Project in Fort Collins, Colorado
  • 29-31 July: Raquette Lake, New York retreat with Cortland State Alumni Association Board
  • 1-3 August: Visit friends in Cortland, New York
  • 4-9 August: Visiting universities with Steven in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
  • 10-13 August: Family vacation and wedding in Virginia
  • 14-16 August: Drive from Virginia to Denver visiting friends along the way

17 May 2011

Serafina Turns 20 This Month

My cousin Susan owns a couple of wonderful restaurants in the Eastlake area of Seattle. The first one, Serafina, has its 20-year anniversary at the end of May. I just LOVE this video of my cousin speaking about the restaurant. Priceless!

16 May 2011

Why I Don't Want the World to End on May 21st

Some folks are predicting the world will end on May 21st. This is pretty wacky if you ask me. It also flies directly in the face of Jesus' own words in Matthew 24:36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
        So before we are so presumptuous and build a website called wecanknown.com let's take Jesus' words very seriously.
       I was at a cafe with some guys the other day and one of them brought up this prediction about Judgement Day being on May 21st. Another guy did not miss a beat and said, "Oh shoot, that ruins my Memorial Day barbecue plans!" Everyone laughed at the comment. I chuckled also, but it got me thinking ...
       I know that Scripture encourages us to pray for the return of Christ. John's closing words in the Revelation are "Come, Lord Jesus!" I want to hold onto this deep longing and desire to "be with Christ which is better by far," as the Apostle Paul said.
       But if I could be a bit on edge, I have pondered why I DON'T want the world to end on 21st. Here's a few:

  1. I want to grow old with the wife of my youth. Ya, I know that we will spend an eternity together in heaven and it will be WAY better than earth. But Susy and I have known each other more than half our lives and I really look forward to being old farts together!
  2. The mandate/commission is not fulfilled. Jesus said that the gospel would be proclaimed everywhere and then the end would come. I'm holding home to that. There are millions and millions of Jews and Billions of Muslims who do not yet know Jesus personally. I'm holding out hope for them;
  3. The world is incredibly fractured in our time (politically, socially, spiritually) and we may be close to a breakthrough point where people throw themselves on Jesus out of desperation from the mess they are in. It seems closer than ever! (at least from my limited vantage point)

Jorge, can you spare 4,000 bucks?

Our mission team heads to Amsterdam to be part of Serve the City two weeks from today. Ten of us are on the team to serve a variety of people in challenging life situations - single parents, orphans, refugees, the homeless.
       We still need to raise $4,000 to pay for the trip. Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees is paid $79,000 per game of baseball he plays. I wonder if Jorge could spare a mere 4,000 bucks from his paycheck from today's game? What do you think? Anyone got Jorge's email address?

15 May 2011

I'm a Yankees Fan, but ...

I am a lifelong New York Yankees baseball fan. I grew up in the era of Thurman Munson (I remember where I was on that August day in 1978 when I heard that he had been killed in a plane crash), Roy White, and Bobby Mercer.
       I have endured the early 1970s when the Yankees were not very good, and before Steinbrenner made them into a powerhouse. I live with their inflated payroll even as I love the team.
        But after my post of the other day about CEO compensation, my friend Roger rightfully asked about salaries of professional athletes. And, lo and behold, now there is new drama in the Bronx with one of the beloved Yankees - Jorge Posada.
       It is just plain disgusting about Posada's little tantrum yesterday in which he refused to play. Posada is paid $79,000 per game (@!$#%) to hit a little white ball and to run around a diamond. That's $13.1 million for playing a 162-game season.
       I cannot find words to describe how distorted and warped a culture is where someone is paid $79,000 for 3 hours of playing a sport. Sorry, it's just morally wrong.
       Now I'm not just picking on Jorge Posada, with the exception that he needs to grow up and play the game he is employed to even if his batting average is horrible (which it is this year). But it's not just about Posada - it's about what we Americans believe to be worth our time and energy and money. And simply put, our priorities as a culture suck.

14 May 2011

Salary Scales and the Moral Fiber of a Culture

I think there is a direct link between economic equity (not equality) in a society and its moral well-being.
       Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal had an article about CEO pay in 2010, specifically the compensation of CEOs in the oil and gas industry. The article stated, "CEOs of oil and gas companies had the highest median value of total direct compensation at $13.7 million in 2010, up 17.3% from the year before."
       The highest paid Oil exec is R.W. Tillington of Exxon-Mobil. His total direct compensation for 2010 was more than $21 million.
       It seems to me that political liberals tend to be on the side of condemning this type of inequity in our culture, while conservatives tend to say little about it, or they applaud it as the way capitalism works.
       Liberals see this as some kind of moral or ethical issue while many conservatives do not. What is most puzzling to me is that Christians often have little to say about the matter, with the exception of quoting a few biblical passages which seem to say that acquiring wealth is a good thing (there are many more passages in Scripture which warn of the dangers of great wealth).
       I am concerned about what this kind of inequity does to a culture, and why Christians seem to be unable or unwilling to find a voice in society to advocate for a simpler lifestyle. Should it not be the Christians in a culture why\o work for equity and a breaking down of socio-economic groupings (classes)?
(more on this topic tomorrow)

13 May 2011

Shalom and the People of God

Thanks to the great folks at Crossroads Church in Amsterdam for this design for a sermon I am preaching at the church on June 5th. I will be speaking about the biblical concept of Shalom from Jeremiah 29 and Luke 10 in several contexts this summer, beginning with my time in Amsterdam.

11 May 2011

20th Century Poet to a Generation of Seekers

I am a fan of Bruce Springsteen, for better or worse. He captured the heartbeat of those of us growing up in the 1970s and 80s. The Boss has now produced a DVD, "The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town" which speaks to his search for meaning and hope in the world. While I am sure that Bruce Springsteen and I have different values, I appreciate his ability to put into words and music the ache people feel in their hearts.
       Check out this two-minute promo for "The Promise" DVD.

Making of the Dark Side Bruce Springsteen's "The Promise" from Sony Music Turkey on Vimeo.

10 May 2011

Iconic Colorado

I know this is a stereotype of Colorado but this was the picture when Nate and I were hiking around Evergreen Lake last week. Coors - made with Rocky Mountain spring water!

09 May 2011

5 Major Issues Facing the Church

Tim Keller has outlined 5 issues facing the Church in the near future. To read the article at Churchleaders.com click HERE.
The 5 issues Keller lists are:

  1. The opportunity for extensive culture making in the U.S.
  2. The Rise of Islam
  3. The New non-Western Global Christianity
  4. The Growing Cultural Remoteness of the Gospel
  5. The End of Prosperity?
       As is frequently the case, I think Keller's observations exactly on target. Here is what Keller says under point #2 about Islam:
How do Christians relate to Muslims when we live side by side in the same society? The record in places like Africa and the Middle East is not encouraging! This is more of an issue for the Western church in Europe than in the U.S., but it is going to be a growing concern in America as well. How can Christians be at the very same time a) good neighbors, seeking their good whether they convert or not, and still b) attractively and effectively invite Muslims to consider the gospel?
       When I have done seminars in the U.S. on "Islam in Europe," one of the first questions I am asked is, "Is America going the way of Europe as far as the growth of Islam is concerned?" I am not a futurist and predictor, but many people have now observed that what happens in Europe leads the way for trends in America.
       There are some great people in Europe who are practitioners in reaching out to Muslims in places such as France, Belgium, and Scotland. They are asking this very question - how do we love and care for our Muslim neighbors and also honestly share the gospel with them in ways they can understand and consider the claims of Jesus? That's THE question for ministry in Europe and also in North America.

08 May 2011

For Moms, Former Moms, and Wannabe Moms

Wendy Alsup
Check out this excellent article by Wendy Alsup at The Gospel Coalition website about Mother's Day.
Click HERE.
Here's a quote from the article:
"It is an age-old conundrum in humanity in general and Christianity in particular. How do you honor someone who has something good that you want too? How do you applaud the sacrifices of one without minimizing the suffering of the other?"
And finally, here's to Susy - an awesome mom to our kids and wife to me.

07 May 2011

Not Your Mother's Church!

This is the back of the guy who was sitting in front of me at a church service I visited in Denver last week. His jacket says, "Mouth Sewn Shut" and down below it says, "Discharge."
       The name of the church is Scum of the Earth.
       Not exactly your mother's church I suppose!

06 May 2011

Pendulum Swings and the "Five-Fold Ministry"

In the Evangelical world there are on-going pendulum swings around what is the central calling of the Church. These swings are often associated with what is known as the "five-fold ministry" of the Church, which is found in Ephesians 4:11-12:
       So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
       It seems to me that we have a great challenge being integrated about this FIVE-fold ministry and calling. We tend to highlight one or two in reaction to the others, in large part because one or more of these is neglected by the Church at any given time.
       So here's a quick snapshot of the past 40 years of the Evangelical Church:
1970s: SHEPHERDING, propagated by Ray Stedman and a lot of other "pastors"
1980s: TEACHING, propagated by the likes of Chuck Swindoll and Charles Stanley;
1980s: PROPHETIC, propagated by John Wimber and the Vineyard movement
1990s: EVANGELISM, propagated by Bill Hybels at Willowcreek and Rick Warren at Saddleback
2000s: APOSTOLIC, propagated by Alan Hirsch and Brian McLaren and a host of others
       My guess is that the hype about apostolic movements has a ways to go, due to prolific writers and practitioners. At some time in the future someone with teaching and.or shepherding gifts will rise up and react to the apostolic types. And so the dance goes on.
       I just would love to be part of a church or movement which wrestled deeply with the integration piece, where all five aspects/callings of the Church were embraced, encouraged, and empowered. That's a church I would like to be part of.

04 May 2011

Ronald Reagan's Letter to the American People

Susy and I watched a Larry King Special about Alzheimer's Disease the other night. One of the people interviewed was Ron Reagan, the son of the former president. He read President Reagan's letter to the American people which he wrote announcing that he had the disease. It is worth reading every once in a while.
       I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.
       In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had my cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing.
       They were treated in early stages and we were able to return to normal, healthy lives. So now, we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.
       At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.
       Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.
        In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.
        I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.
Ronald Reagan 

03 May 2011

Comments on bin Laden's Death

There have been a fair number of comments and responses to my blog of yesterday. Public responses and those I received privately. Thank you to all of you who took the time to share. I want to repost a few here (only those who responded publicly):
  • Paul said, "it is difficult to prioritize grace, love, and justice."
  • Carolyn said, "there's a part of me that is relieved but jubilation doesn't feel right."
  • Christian said, "It makes me feel better knowing other Americans felt a bit unsettled after seeing the US reaction. I wish we would cheer steps to deal with the causes of terrorism and crime in the same way we cheer military action against it."
  • Candice wrote, "I am not wasting time or energy on this focus, but I know God is in control and we are to live to glorify Him so let's be aware that our words are very powerful."
  • Frank wrote, "God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live!"
  • Dan wrote, "I think too many of us have revenge in view with Bin Laden's death, rather than simply allowing our governments to pursue justice. And where there's a don't-mess-with-the-US kind of giddiness, well I think that's patently unhelpful and mostly prideful (in a bad way)"
  • Lynn wrote, "I am a Christian and my Marine Corps son was a Christian who is now in the presence of Jesus Christ in Paradise. Stephen received a 'calling' on 9/11/01 to defend the freedom that he knew came from the Lord God. He was killed in action on October 6, 2006, in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, along with two other Marines. Our pursuit of OBL was not revenge. It was the defense of the sacrifice that has been being made since the Revoluntionary War. Freedom is God's idea not man's. God expects us, equips us to defend the blessing that He has bestowed upon us." (Psalm 144:1)
Thanks to you all for writing!

02 May 2011

Why I Don't Cheer Bin Laden's Death

"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord God, "and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" ~ Ezekiel 18:23
The world now knows that Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan this past weekend. President Obama gave the order to American military and/or CIA agents to kill him in a compound in Abbottabad.
       I watched CNN before Obama made the announcement last night, and observed as hundreds and then thousands of people gathered outside the White House and at Ground Zero and cheered Bin Laden's death. Somehow those images of Americans cheering was unsettling to me.
       Now before you blast me as anti-patriotic, let me explain my processing about this.
  • Justice on earth has been entrusted to governments, justice in eternity is God's alone. We do well not to mix up these two;
  • To be a powerful and great nation takes humility, not pride. The Roman Empire was incredibly powerful and full of pride. That empire crumbled;
  • I learn much from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed Adolph Hitler and likely would have assassinated Hitler if he had the opportunity. Bonhoeffer was deeply distressed by the possibility of killing someone to save millions of other people's lives. In short, Bonhoeffer never lost sight of the value of every human life;
  • I take no pleasure in the possibility or probability that Osama bin Laden will spend an eternity separated from God in hell. I believe that unless bin Laden repented of his sin and put his faith in Jesus Christ he will be separated from God for eternity. This separation is ultimate torment. This deeply saddens me and I hope that in his last moment or hours or days on earth bin Laden found Jesus Christ as his Lord.
       Please hear me on this. I do not think it was wrong for the American government through the CIA and Navy Seals to kill bin Laden. I seriously doubt that killing bin Laden makes the world a safer place, but that's a debate for another day. I too am grateful for the courageous military servicemen who serve America and the world.
       I too am haunted by images the Twin Towers having planes flown into them. That was in my "hometown" and the terrorist attack on 9/11 is very close to my heart. However, gaining pleasure about bin Laden's death does nothing to change the events of 9/11. Vengeance is a short-lived thrill.
       My friend Sherry, who is from Egypt, quoted Ezekiel 18:23 today: "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord God, "and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" I am grateful to Sherry for this reminder - it is especially poignant to me that someone from the Middle East quoted this verse.