Monday, December 24, 2007

Why Doesn't God Roar?

Phillip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew p.28 describes the birth of Jesus aptly though uncomfortably: “The God who roared, who could order armies and empires like pawns on a chessboard, this God emerged in Palestine as a baby who could not speak or eat solid food or control his bladder, who depended on a teenager for shelter, food and love.”

Isn’t that an amazing description? And yet is is accurate. Why did this happen? Why did the Omnipotent one become so vulnerable? What is the correlation between vulnerability and intimacy? What do you think of the lyrics from the following song called Christ the Lord is Born Today?

God has sent His greatest treasure / Shown His love in greatest measure / Sending Christ to bleed and suffer / Purchasing our joy forever / Let the earth rejoice!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Can One Small Loan Make A Big Difference?

Yes it can!!! Seriously. I absolutely LOVE this site!!! And wish every Christian or church youth group did too!!! Started by Matt and Jessica Flannery, this web-based nonprofit helps individuals make small loans to small businesses in developing countries to get them out of poverty one person at a time. And people are lining up. Not only to receive. But to give.

In fact, Kiva has so many lenders—more than 123,000 extending $12.4 million to some 18,000 entrepreneurs in 39 countries—that it recently limited each participant to $25 per business, “so that everyone has a chance to make a Kiva loan.” Click the pic for details on how you can help end global poverty for less than the price of one Christmas present.

And remember this: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” [2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV]. Merry Christmas!!!

Is It All Good In God’s Hood?

It’s that time of year again to take the super easy Fortune Family Christmas Card Quiz. There's only 10 questions. Enjoy!!!

1.) In January 2007, the Fortunes moved to Toledo, Ohio. What else is Toledo famous for?
a. Mudhens Baseball
b. Tony Packo’s Hot Dogs
c. Katie Holmes
d. All of the above

2.) This year Lydia broke:
a. A little boy’s heart
b. Her daddy’s heart
c. Her mommy’s special vase
d. Her arm

3.) Which never happened?
a. Joshua got full
b. Lydia swallowed her 1st missing baby tooth
c. Joshua and Lydia’s sponsored brother and sister, Golu and Salomi, visited from India
d. Both A and C

4.) How many pairs of socks did Mike’s church give to help the homeless?
a. 3
b. 3,153
c. 3 million
d. None, they kept them all

5.) What was Joshua and Lydia’s favorite movie?
a. Born Into Brothels
b. The Boys of Baraka
c. An Inconvenient Truth
d. Evan Almighty

6.) Joshua and Lydia clean their rooms every Friday. This takes them:
a. Four score and seven years
b. Four hours
c. Four minutes
d. Until they’re done

7.) Joshua loves:
a. Playing outside
b. Playing video games on weekends
c. Reading
d. All of the above

8.) Lydia’s loves:
a. Kindergarten
b. Watching DVDs on weekends
c. When daddy does chapel at school on Fridays
d. All of the above

9.) Who else lives with us?
a. Barkley, our dung loving dog
b. Nathan, the youth pastor
c. Joe, the homeless guy
d. Both A and B

10.) Mike’s favorite books read include:
a. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
b. Breakthrough Prayer by Jim Cymbala
c. Dinner With A Perfect Stranger by David Gregory
d. All of the above

Answers: 1D; 2D; 3D; 4B; 5D; 6D; 7D; 8D; 9D; 10D
>9 Very Fortunate—It’s all good in God’s hood!!!
>7 Fortunate—We should call you “Carwash” cause you’re automatic!
>5 Unfortunate—Never enter a battle of wits unarmed.
>3 A misfortune—There’s always next year...We still love ye!!! How many did you get right?

Are The Fortune Cookies Getting Stale?

I won’t be posting during Christmas and New Years. But will be wondering in the meantime: Are the Fortune Cookies getting stale? Would you prefer hearing less from me? Is the mix of church and state of my life overwhelming yours? Or your email inbox? Comment below by selecting #1 or #2 to rock the vote. And thanks for your input!!!
  1. Fortune Cookies: Keep ‘em coming! Wouldn’t be the same without them.“We cannot do great things; only small things with great love.” —Mother Teresa
  2. Fortune Cookies: Stop the presses! Would taste better once or twice a month. “Don't forget, you are always on our minds.” —an actual Fortune Cookie message

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Who Was That Angel?

That would be Lydia. Dressed in white. With a tinsel halo. About to join Joshua and the rest of his school singing during their annual Christmas program. I've been to quite a few of these things over the years...but this one was one of the best of all time!!! Seriously.

If you don't believe me, you can see for yourself. DVD's are only $10. But wait, there's more!!! If you respond in the next 30 minutes, you'll also receive in the mail, along with your DVD, an original piece of artwork signed by Joshua or Lydia.

Orders are piling up and the artwork is going fast!!! You know what to do!!! Ho ho ho!!! Merry Christmas!!!

Photos courtesy Jeff Batchelder

Is Redemptive Violence A Myth?

According to the Christians at Catholic Peace Fellowship it is. Long before people got shot in their bedrooms, at the mall, in the church, or at the bus stop the Catholic church taught the fallacy of redemptive violence. "I am a soldier of Christ and it is not permissible for me to fight" St. Martin of Tours, 315-397. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace" St. Francis of Assisi. "The God of Peace is never glorified by human violence" Thomas Merton.

More recently, Catholic leaders have reiterated this emphases."On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace" Pope John Paul II. "God and our love are the condition for the unity of Christians. They are the condition for peace in the world" Pope Benedict XVI.

And most recently, on February 18, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said [click the pic to read the entirety of his talk] before several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square of Vatican City. “Dear Brothers and Sisters! This Sunday's Gospel has one of the most typical, yet most difficult, teachings of Jesus: Love your enemies (Luke 6:27). It is taken from the Gospel of Luke, but it is also found in Matthew's Gospel (5:44). But what is the meaning of his teaching?

This page of the Gospel does not consist in surrendering to evil—as claims a false interpretation of "turn the other cheek" (Luke 6:29)—but in responding to evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behavior but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God's love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Herein lies the novelty of the Gospel, which changes the world without making noise. Herein lies the heroism of the "little ones," who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of life."

What do you think? Would as many children be getting shot at bus stops if all the Catholics in the US followed and encouraged others to follow the Pope's advice?

What Is HeartSong Community Sing?

I can see it now. Walkers being parked like cars. Coats being checked. Smiles a mile wide. Grandmothers and grandfathers piling out of cars and buses. Pouring, er, shuffling into our church escorted by the arms of their sons and daughters with their sons and daughters toddling in their wake.

The idea is once a month during winter beginning in December to treat the community and especially the ambulatory residents and family members of the two nursing homes we serve and sing in each Sabbath to be our guests once a month instead of the other way around. The response has been very encouraging! One nursing home director committed 16 guests and their families to all 4 planned events so far.

In addition to very special musics and children’s songs from our daycare and church school kids [giving us the perfect chance to mingle with their parents many of whom don't go to church], we’re going to include well known hymns and congregational singing and a variety of Christmas carols to lift their spirits and remind everyone that “God loves them like crazy!”

Which is what I believe God meant when he inspired the prophet Isaiah to write in Isaiah 46:4 [NLT] says, “I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” Refreshments will be served and the afternoon will conclude at 4:00 pm.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What's More Shocking?

Many Christians have followed with interest the Willow Creek Community Church’s candid assessment of their own ministry successes and failures. While thousands of unbelievers have come to know Christ at Willow Creek, the church has recently admitted trouble in helping those new believers mature in their faith walk. Click the pic and then on the next page push the triangular play button to listen to Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels talk about what his church has learned.

Please note Hybels never said that making church more comfortable for people far from God [Acts 15:19] is incompatible with deep expository preaching or teaching people to read their Bibles and pray. All he humbly admitted was Willow struggles to do so. Just like every other church!!! Admitting that isn't shocking. Celebrating it is. The Christians criticizing Hybels and Willow could instead make the same points Hybels was emphasizing. Namely, that helping those far from God get closer is a good thing and so is teaching them to feed themselves.

My pastor friend Ryan Bell said it this way, “If anything, Adventist Christians need to learn from Willow how to repent of things they’ve done wrong. What group is more program oriented than Adventism with its large-scale evangelistic campaigns? If people are eager to gloat over Willow, they should look in the mirror and learn from Willow's humility. God is clearly working with them and praise God for their ability to listen and at least try to make changes.”

Can You Get Shot Christmas Shopping?

Sadly, yes [click pic for details]. According to the article in USA Today, a “gentle” and “depressed” 20 year old man with a rifle fired down on Christmas shoppers from a balcony in a crowded Omaha, Nebraska department store yesterday killing eight people and injuring five others as mall workers and shoppers screamed and tried to hide. When the police arrived minutes later they found the shooter dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Lives Lost: 9
Lives Wounded: 5+
Guns Required: 1

Merry Christmas America!!! Photo courtesy of Nati Harnik, AP

Active Adventist #3?

Sean Taylor was by all accounts, a respectful, happy kid. A few months after his birth in 1983, he was introduced to the Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Florida City where he became a fixture going to services with his dad, stepmother, and grandmother. "Sean went to church every Saturday unless he had practice," his great-aunt, Merlane Williams, said from her home in Richmond Heights. As he grew older, Taylor nurtured his relationship with his mom. He attended services with her side of the family at Perrine Seventh-day Adventist Church. He went often with his great-grandmother, Aulga Clarke. They sat holding hands. During the summer of 2007, after raising his hand to accept Jesus as his personal Savior at the end of the worship service, on his way out the door of the church he whispered into the ear of his Adventist pastor, "I know what it looks like, but I'm not far." During his funeral broadcast nationwide on ESPN News on Monday, two Adventist pastors, one sharing that anecdote, along with Jesse Jackson led thousands in mourning his loss.

“That's the thing about Sean,” one Florida friend of the family said, “He never forgot home. Never forgot his roots.” And we will never forget you Sean. Thank you for living and dying for others!!! Click the pic above to read the rest of the Miami Herald article I'm quoting and click the pic to the left to watch the 4 minute video tribute shown at FedEx Field last Sunday and during his funeral.