Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What Would Jesus Buy?

Wanna watch an entertaining but thought provoking DVD with your family this Christmas? I highly recommend Morgan Spurlock's latest and greatest documentary What Would Jesus Buy? Click pic for more info or the triangular play button below for the dead serious LOL preview.

Is the $hop-ocalypse Upon Us?

Americans spend $450 billion/year on Christmas every year. That’s right people. $450 billion with a “B”. But just think, if Christians in America spent less at Christmas, WE could have bailed out Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford all by ourselves! And as this video clip I'm showing in church this week reveals, we would still have money left over to provide clean drinking water for the entire planet!

But instead, more and more Americans are losing their jobs. And more and more people around the world, 25k/day to be specific, die each day of preventable hunger and water related illnesses while Christians continue to spend, spend, spend. Is the $hop-ocalypse upon us?

Merry Christmas Card 2008?

It’s that time of year again to take the Fortune Family Christmas Card Quiz. There's only 10 super easy questions no one can fail so enjoy!!! And for those of you who fought the traffic at the post office and snail mailed us a year in review letter or beautiful Christmas Card, BIG thanks and WTG to you!!! We do enjoy hearing from you!!! [I snapped the pic above through falling sleet while touring Zoo Lights with 13 other loony tunes from TF last SAT nite]

1.) In 2008, who didn’t spend some time in Toledo, Ohio?
a. Mike, Jackie, Joshua, Lydia [and Barkley]
b. Barack Obama
c. Joe the Plumber
d. Plaxico Burress

2.) This year for Christmas Lydia wants:
a. The Chicken Pox
b. An “American Girl” doll
c. Her two front teeth
d. Both B and C

3.) Which never happened?
a. Joshua Skyped his sponsored brother, Golu, in India
b. Joshua built a bridge across the creek in our back yard
c. Joshua and daddy’s pinewood derby car won all its races
d. Both A and C

4.) Why was Mike on the news?
a. Because Mike’s church prayed at the stump
b. Because Mike’s church prayed at the dump
c. Because Mike’s church prayed at the pump
d. Mike wasn’t on the news

5.) What was one of Joshua and Lydia’s favorite movies this year?
a. What Would Jesus Buy?
b. The Devil & Daniel Webster
c. Sicko
d. Kung Fu Panda

6.) Joshua [9 years old] and Lydia [6½ years old] are learning how to:
a. Load the dishwasher
b. Fold clothes
c. Play piano
d. All of the above

7.) Joshua [in 3rd grade] loves:
a. Playing coach pitch baseball for the YMCA Red Sox
b. Marie Calendar’s “Razzleberry Pie”
c. Sledding
d. All of the above

8.) Lydia [in 1st Grade] loves:

a. Gymnastics at the YMCA on Thursdays
b. Cleaning her room on Fridays
c. Reading to daddy any day
d. Both A and C

9.) Jackie still loves:
a. Driving around Toledo taking care of babies 2-3 days/week
b. Country music
c. Mike
d. All of the above

10.) Mike’s fave books in 2008 include:
a. Searching for the God of Grace
by Stuart Tyner
b. Searching for God Knows What
by Donald Miller
c. Just Courage by Gary Haugen
d. All of the above

Answers: 1D; 2D; 3D; 4C; 5D; 6D; 7D; 8D; 9D; 10D

>9 Very Fortunate
—Samuel Morse couldn't have telegraphed it better.

>7 Fortunate—Judging by the old saying, "What you don't know can't hurt you," you’re practically invulnerable.

>5 Unfortunate—Any friend of a friend of yours.

>3 A misfortune—Jesus still loves you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pump Patrol?

On Tuesday night NBC 24 wanted my thoughts on gas prices and the economy. I spoke about Advent and Immanuel and how God is always with us, in good times and bad, just as He was with Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:10-11 when God miraculously healed him and proved it by sending the sundial backwards ten steps. Unfortunately, much of that was edited out. Here's what wasn't:

David Custer [DC], NBC 24 11pm News Anchor: "Well, just a few months ago gas prices were topping off at over four bucks a gallon. They’ve fallen dramatically and some Toledoans are thanking a higher power. NBC 24's Arielle Berlin [AB] explains."

AB: We’ll have lower gas prices...’ That was the call to prayer just six months ago.
Me: We asked God not to allow gas prices to go any higher.
AB: And since that prayer at the pump vigil in June, gas prices have fallen. A lot.
Me: We think God did that. That He lowered them and they stayed low for quite a while now.

AB: The Toledo First Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking partial responsibility for the drop in prices at the pump. But issue the reminder that we’re all in this together.
Me: We have to pray for God’s wisdom and that our government’s leaders will make wise decisions and that the church will not drop the ball.
AB: There is of course speculation. Why would God let us get into this mess in the first place? Did God abandon us?
Me: Why on earth would we come to the conclusion that He’s not with us now? That’s insane.

AB: This past weekend a church in Detroit prayed for help for the big three [automakers]. Churches in California, Florida, and right here in Ohio have prayed for the economy to turn around.
Me: Prayer is a normal thing. This is not a last resort. This is something ordinary Christians do constantly all the time.

AB: Back in June the Adventists had faith their prayers would be answered. And today, they say they were. Now after seeing the church in Detroit pray fro the big three, the Toledo First Seventh-day Adventist Church say that may be their next move. With the industry effecting so many people in Toledo they say it couldn’t hurt to ask God for a little holy help.

DC: I guess this means you should never under estimate the power of prayer.
AB: That’s true.

Hot As A Pistol?

Jason McElway is his basketball team's manager. For the past couple of years, he's been fetching water and toweling off other people's sweat. Because he is autistic, Jason says he's used to feeling different. But never this different. Never this wonderful. Click the triangular play to see why Jason was hot as a pistol.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Death of Grace?

One day after an F-18 Hornet fighter jet fell from the sky and crashed into his house, 37 year old husband and father Dong Yun Yoon returned home and reminded us that grace isn't dead. Rescue workers sifting through the debris had found the bodies of his Yoon's wife, Young Mi, 37; his nearly 2-month-old daughter, Rachel [in pic on right]; and mother-in-law, Suk Im Kim, 60 on Monday. The body of his 15-month-old daughter, Grace [in pic on left] was recovered Tuesday.

Though little was left of his house except a charred garage wall and piles of blackened beams, Yoon said he bore no ill will toward the Marine Corps pilot who ejected safely before the jet he was flying on a training mission experienced engine failure and plunged into Yoon's neighborhood two miles west of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. "I pray for him not to suffer for this action," Yoon said. "I know he's one of our treasures for our country."

How a grieving father speaking to a mob of reporters could say anything coherent much less do so sharing words of forgiveness and encouragement remind us that though his family died, grace didn’t. The Advent Birth of the Christ child is obviously alive and well in this young father's heart. Proving that even amidst unspeakable tragedy, Jesus can grow in yours as well. Grace is not dead. Click pic above for more from the LA Times article I read and the triangular play button below to hear Yoon in his own words.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

They Kept Shopping?

The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night. Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob of 2,000 surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede. “When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, ‘I’ve been in line since yesterday morning,’ ” one eyewitness told The Associated Press. “They kept shopping.” [click pic for more].

Our English word Advent comes from the Latin adventus and is the translation of the Greek word parousia commonly used in references to the second coming of Jesus. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves as a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by believers for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting that Christians today endure as they await the second coming of Christ.

How sad that not even the death of a 34 year old man in Wal-mart can remind some how eternally significant it is to know the 33 year old man who also died on a Black Friday. Do you care more about saving a few hundred bucks on a TV than anticipating the birth and return of Jesus? Do your kids? How can you tell? Mute the playlist on the right and click the triangular play button for more.

What's So Amazing About Grace?

This rendition of Amazing Grace by Il Divo might be my fave all time...Mute the playlist to the right and click the triangular play button to hear what's so amazing about grace.

Hip Hop Parable?

The prodigal son Jesus talked about in Luke 15 rebelliously chose to get lost, but his father ran to meet him upon his return home. In the video below, Adrian Monk gives Jesus' most powerful parable a hip hop flava. Mute the playlist to the right and click the triangular play button to enjoy [or just tolerate!!! LOL!!!].

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful In General?

Cornelius Plantinga Jr. once made the pointed comment that “it must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular” [“Assurances of the Heart” Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 13]. He was commenting on the odd phenomenon of finding, especially around the American celebration of Thanksgiving, so many people thankful “in general.”

To be thankful “in general” is very strange, he concluded. “It’s a little like being married in general.” Of course, his words are not dismissing the thought that it is good to give thanks in all circumstances. Rather, he is asking can one be thankful in general without acknowledging from where or from whom it comes?

What do YOU think? Can we be thankful in general? Numbers 11:20 implies we can't...“You have rejected the Lord, who is among you.” [Adapted from a devotional by Jill Carratini. Click pic above to read it in its entirety].

Great Stuffing And Shopping?

Are You Thankful?

I am thankful for gutters full of leaves because it means I have a home / I am thankful for the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because [my car avoids dings and] it means I am blessed with transportation / I am thankful for the lady behind me in church [you know who you are] who sings off key [just joking] because it means I can hear.

I am thankful for the pile of laundry because it means I have clothes to wear / I am thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive / I am thankful for the crazy people I work with because they cheerfully serve in the church and community in addition to having full time jobs and family!!!

And finally, I am most thankful to Christ for inviting me to serve Him as sincerely and passionately as I can. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus.” For what are you thankful?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sustainable Funding in Challenging Times?

I was seated in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan last Friday for a talk entitled “Raising Sustainable Funding for Nonprofits in Challenging Economic Times” where Terry Axelrod blew my mind. In ordinary times, giving to nonprofits is 4%. But the organizations following her system see giving rise to 6% even in the more challenging economic climates. Why? Because the people they cultivate and routinely reach are invested in the mission of that organization whatever the economy is up to.

I've been praying that God would send us help to grow Haven of Hope Toledo, Inc. into the tool God could use to fuel our ordinary outreach. And maybe God will use Benevon to answer that prayer. If you'd be interested in hearing Terry next time she's near, please email me: We will be carpooling to suburban Detroit on JAN 13 for sure!!!

What's A Noah Party?

A Noah Party was the occasion for the Adventurers to dress up like their fave animals on the ark and play games instead of their normal routine of worship and crafts. They pushed buckeyes with their noses around a maze, fished colored mousetraps on the floor, knocked over bottles by spinning around, and had fun "feeling" interesting things...all dressed up like animals. You know any 4-10 year olds who would enjoy spending TUE evenings with the Adventurers?

Can Handbells Help Those With Kidney Disease?

More than 120 students from 13 Seventh-day Adventist Academies recently converged at the Toledo First church in Ohio for the ninth annual Ring Fest. Click pic to read the article coming out in the Visitor and to find out how many people in Northwest Ohio living with kidney disease will benefit as a result.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Spirit of Fear?

Have you ever noticed that many Christians are motivated by fear? Some say there's a 10,000 foot financial tidal wave coming [some believe it's already here]. Others say there will be a major shortage of food [some already know every 3 seconds a child dies of preventable hunger]. A few say there will be martial law and you could be killed if you get near a mob [my new friends from Kenya told me how they were frantically emailing their families back home trying to discover if they were dead or alive just a few months ago].

one email I received recently said, "Every leader in the world is frightened to death." So if the world's leaders are scared, shouldn't we be? I think not. Jesus told His followers, "Let NOT your heart be troubled." Why? Because "God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" [2 Timothy 1:7].

Who knew the discipline Christians would need the most to survive a great depression would have nothing to do with canning corn or moving stocks but fixing our eyes on Jesus?!! He promises to give us a spirit of power and love not because of anything we have done, but because of His grace [2 Timothy 1:9]. Here, to help you live that grace by faith and not fear, are some reassuring Christian cartoons a friend sent me. Isn't Jesus attractive enough? Why can't He be what motivates us?

Legends of the [Fortune's] Fall 2008?

Josh loves the Redskins and Fall too.
Mike loves Jackie. Been happily married for nearly 12 years!!!
We enjoyed the Toledo First bonfire & hayride on Saturday nite. Josh and Lydia loved their Smores burnt and crispy. I like mine not on fire.
The kids love leaves.
This is Lydia's friend Netania.
Josh and Lydia went "Trunk or Treating" at a nearby church.
We took the kids to their first Go Fish concert.
I love these fall colors!!!
Many photos courtesy Jeff Batchelder.

Could Jesus Save a Vampire?

If they existed, I’m sure He could since Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.” But for those who doubt, Anne Rice, America's most famous chronicler of bloodsuckers is reminding us. Her memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession, follows a trilogy of recent novels about Jesus called Christ the Lord which describe what she thinks it may have been like for Jesus growing up.

Though she includes obvious content from outside the Gospel accounts [there's a reason it's called fiction people!!!] such as the boy Jesus using His supernatural powers as a child described in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, these latest books clearly reveal that the 67 year old author of Interview with a Vampire is reinventing herself as a serious Christian writer.

“My objective is simple: It's to write books about our Lord living on Earth that make him real to people who don't believe in him; or people who have never really tried to believe in him,” she said. “I mean, I've made vampires believable to grown women. Now, if I can do that, I can make our Lord Jesus Christ believable to people who've never believed in him.” [Click pic to listen to Anne interviewed by Dr. James Dobson]. Aren't you glad Jesus could save vampires too?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Does Jesus Love Me Old School?

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." Yes, Jesus loves me old school. These additional lyrics to ye olde hymn prove it!!! LOL!!!

Jesus love me this I know / Tho my hair is white as snow / Tho my sight is growing dim / Still He bids me trust in Him / Tho my steps are oh so slow / With my hand in his I'll go / On thru life let come what may / He'll be there to lead the way

When the nights are dark and long / In my heart He puts a song / Telling me in words so clear / 'Have no fear for I am near' / When my work on earth is done / And life's vict'ries have been won / He will take me home above / To learn the fullness of His love / Yes, Jesus loves me / Yes, Jesus loves me / Yes, Jesus loves me / The Bible tells me so!!!

Just a Cup of Cold Water?

"Wow, there's a lot of people from Toledo First here today!!!" That's what the volunteer behind the registration table said to me after scanning the names on his list when we arrived early Sunday morning to serve during Tent City 2008. Pastor Rachel arranged for our participation and introduced us to some of her new friends. But perhaps our most valuable contribution was keeping all the trash cans empty!!! When we weren't breaking down boxes or hauling trash or flipping pancakes or sorting clothes, we were meeting new "unhoused" friends. Helping them find coats with hoods. Socks. Jeans that fit. Big thanks and WTG to all the TF volunteers who shared their time with some of the least of these in Toledo. Matthew 10:42 says, "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some Good News?

A snapshot of a sand sculpture of US president-elect Barack Obama by Sudarsan Patnaik on an Indian beach in Puri [courtesy AFP Photo] caught my attention yesterday. It reminded me that...

1. Words still matter. We may live in an MTV world full of graphics and image, but what we say still matters. And people around the world are still listening. This is good news for the church proclaiming the Gospel through the foolishness of preaching [1 Corinthians 1:21].

2. Hope trumps karma. The outcome of Tuesday's elections may have brought you great joy and hope for a new future. Or it may have brought you a sense of fear and trepidation. Or maybe you never cared either way and still don't. Whatever your response, God is still the one who gives us our endurance and our encouragement [Romans 15:4-6]. Hope trumps karma. This is good news for the world.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's Our Job On Election Day?

Some pastors of churches distribute voting guides. While I'm not going to do that [though I hope you Buckeyes will still vote YES on Issue 5!!!], what I will remind you in preparation for Election Day next week is that in any election we face imperfect choices. That's why as a person of faith, I believe it's my job to choose the persons I believe most reflect the most things I'm sure God cares about. Here, for what they're worth, are some of my things:
  • Poverty. There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about how we treat the poor and oppressed.
  • War. From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a [naive? unrealistic?] hope for beating our swords into instruments of peace.
  • Life. "Choosing life" is a constant biblical theme. And there are many that consistently threaten it in addition to abortion.
  • Environment. Isaiah was right. The earth is growing old like a garment. But that doesn't mean we should continue to trash it.
  • Slavery. Every human being is made in the image of God. But today there are more people [27 million to be specific; mostly women and children] trapped in sexual and economic slavery than ever before in human history.
  • Family. Who will speak to marital fidelity, strong parenting, and family values without blaming 2% of the population [that is gay] for 98% of the problems [that may be heterosexual but obviously just as broken and dysfunctional]?
What do YOU think GOD cares about most? What is on your list?

Hail To [Only] The Redskins?

Last Sunday, Josh and I donned our Redskin gear from head to toe and watched the Redskins beat the Lions in Detroit. It was Joshua's 1st live Redskins game and as long as I kept the stadium concessions coming, he managed to sit through all 3 hours of it!!! The Lions fans around us were very kind. Even encouraging Josh when the Redskins were trailing in the 1st half saying, "Don't worry, the Redskins will come back. You're playing the Lions!!!" And they were right. Hail to the Redskins!!! And hail to all you dads who make quality time to spend with your children!!! Special thanks to David Tripp from my Vienna, Virginia/DC days for inviting us and arranging this trip!!!

Beautiful Duet Ugly Theology?

Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could / So somewhere in my youth or childhood / I must have done something good. — Maria and Captain von Trapp in the Sound of Music

That is a beautiful duet that Lydia loves to replay over and over whenever we watch the Sound of Music. She twirls around the room showing off her gymnastics and ballerina skills while singing it. But it's got some awfully ugly theology in it. As the humorous "Good-O-Meter" video clip below I showed in church last week reveals. I wish EVERY church would show this clip and talk to their children about it what means!!!