Sunday, August 14, 2016

God's working through partnerships

Yesterday, Orchard Hill Church's leadership and Mission Strategy Team had the honor of bringing together our partners from UCI in Haiti, and from Food for the Hungry in Mozambique.  After being at the Global Leadership Summit Thursday and Friday, we joined together Saturday morning for a brunch and a time of listening to our partners share what God is doing through their ministries.  

This time of listening and learning was a Spirit-filled, holy time together.  The group was especially captivated when Aweke and Joal, staff at Food for the Hungry, Gorongoza, Mozambique, spoke about God's fruit through the many savings groups forming in their region.  

Food for the Hungry initiated several groups consisting of 12-25 adults and began to share with them a biblical view of money and stewardship.  They described the value of saving money together. Initially, the participants rejected the idea that they could save money.  'We don't have any money to save. We're too poor,' was a common response.  However, with education and a compelling vision, the participants began to pool small amounts of their money, and they began to loan it to individuals within their group who would return the money along with interest.   

God is working mightily through these savings groups!  No seed money was given to these groups.  From the beginning, it was owned by the participants and the money saved was their own money.  The groups provide motivation, encouragement, and accountability from within.  Relationships are built.  Businesses and innovative ideas are being pursued with the loans.  A faithful God is experienced, and His principles are being learned about and lived out tangibly.   

And, talk about a "fishes and loaves" story.  From their initial meager offerings, these savings groups have generated over $400,000 U.S. dollars together over the past 4 years!  These groups have been bearing much spiritual, relational, and economic fruit.  It is a goal of Food for the Hungry that some of the savings groups would now start to join together to form associations together.  

This time of sharing was a great reminder of the following:

1. Wholistic ministry integrates the spiritual and physical.  Economic development within a biblical worldview.  Spiritual development and Christian community are central in community transformation because they address the heart, mind, and the foundational "why"...the motivation toward being Kingdom people on a Kingdom mission toward a Kingdom vision.    

2. Mutuality!  Our partners felt blessed by being invited to come be a part of the Global Leadership Summit, and I was inspired and challenged by the ministries of our partners.  We have so much to learn from one another.  The picture in the room was one of the global Body of Christ listening and learning from one another.  JeanJean and Kristie, from Haiti, asked for more information from Aweke and Joal regarding these savings groups so that they could consider savings groups for their context in Gorongosa, Haiti.  I've been taking Dave Ramsey's class with our two teens, and I'm aware of the troubling statistics in our country around Americans' lack of saving money and living instead in debt.  I also know many right around me who would say, 'I don't have the money to save.'  Whether America, Mozambique, or Haiti, we all need to address thinking about and stewarding money God's way!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Perkins coming back to Iowa

"What separates Christian community development from other forms of social change is that we believe that changing a life or changing a community is ultimately a spiritual issue...I want to be clear that a ministry of Christian community development without evangelism is like a body without a soul.  To be Christian, by definition, is to live and speak in such a way that our lives continually point to the wonderful person of Jesus Christ."  John M. Perkins from Beyond Charity

Dr. Perkins is coming back to Iowa in October.  He'll be a presenter at the first ever Iowa CCDA Regional Conference in Sioux Center, IA (Dordt College), Oct. 27-29.  Learn more at 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 123-125)

Uh oh, it's bad, when you look at your own blog and only find your weekly Willard posts!  I have much else I'd like to share in writing and no time to do so...that's a problem!  I will attempt a little more variety in the future between Wednesdays.  :)

I am blogging through The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.  It's been a pivotal book for me as I seek a renewing of my mind (Romans 12) and a more fully formed Kingdom of God worldview.  

Some quotes today from Willard who spent the last part of chapter 4 writing about the "hopeless blessables".  

"Blessed are the physically repulsive, Blessed are those who smell bad, the twisted, misshapen, deformed,, the too big, too little, too loud, the bald, the fat, and the old- For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus."

Willard goes on to write about others we tend to disqualify:

"The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs.  The broke and the broken.  The drug heads and the divorced.  The HIV positive and herpes ridden.  The brain-damaged and incurably ill.  The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time.  The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed.  The unemployable.  The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced.  The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents dying in the "rest" home.  The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid.  The emotionally starved or emotionally dead.  And on and on and on."

"Is it true that Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal?  It is true!  That is precisely the gospel of heaven's availability that comes to us through the Beatitudes.  And you don't have to wait until you are dead.  Jesus offers to all such people as these the present blessedness of the present kingdom- regardless of circumstances.  The condition of life sought for by human beings through the ages is attained in the quietly transforming friendship of Jesus."

"If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus' good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, 'You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens.  There is forgiveness that knows no limits.'  To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest.  To the worshiper of Satan.  To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and vengeful:  Blessed! Blessed! Blessed!  As they flee into the arms of the Kingdom Among Us."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 115-122)

This section of Willard's writing reminds us that Jesus, through the Beatitudes, and other biblical passages, emphasizes that the Kingdom of God is readily available to all people, including individuals who tend to be disregarded and discarded in society.

"The Beatitudes serve to clarify Jesus' fundamental message: the free availability of God's rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself."  

"Thus by proclaiming blessed those who in the human order are thought hopeless, and by pronouncing woes over those human beings regarded as well off, Jesus opens the kingdom of the heavens to everyone."    

In Luke 4 :18-19, when Jesus opened and read the scroll, he read from Isaiah, and told the people that He was the anointed one to "proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to announce that captives are released, that the blind have their sight, that the oppressed are empowered, and that this is a time when the Lord's favors are open to people.

"Clearly this is the same type of list found in the Beatitudes of both Matthew and Luke.  It is a list of people humanly regarded as lost causes, but who yet, at the hand of Jesus, come to know the blessing of the kingdom of the heavens."

When John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent one of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one who was to come.  Jesus responded, 'The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are revived, and the poor hear some real good news.'

"Note here the list of 'hopeless cases' that are blessed through the sufficiency of God to meet them in their appalling need.  The personal ministry of Jesus from his present kingdom brings them beatitude."

Many biblical writings "celebrate this theme of God's hand lifting up those cast down and casting down those lifted up in the human scheme.  The reigining of God over life is the good news of the whole Bible: 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" Isaiah 52:7

We simply cannot not pay attention to Jesus's proclamation and demonstration of making the 'firsts' last and the 'lasts' first throughout his life and teachings.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

move toward the pain

We must run toward the pain in our communities. 

A few weeks ago, at a peaceful protest  against police brutality in Dallas, TX, a gunman opened fire killing 5 police officers and injuring 7 more.  As gunshots rang out, protest participants ran from the area, while police officers ran toward the gunfire.  

This image reminded me of a story regarding the Early Church:

"The Antonine Plague (165–180 AD), also called the Plague of Galen, was a pandemic now believed to be smallpox that was introduced to the Roman Empire by soldiers returning from Syria. Five million people died as it ran its course. In the following century, the Plague of Cyprian (251–266 AD) spread from Africa throughout the known world. It was transmitted person-to-person by physical contact and by touching or using clothing and items infected by the sick. Half of all people who encountered the disease died.
During each pandemic, government officials and the wealthy fled the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected. The Christian community remained behind, transforming themselves into a great force of caretakers.
On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others. He said:
Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.
The early Christians’ dedication to caring for their neighbors as themselves during times of plague and sickness, whether the sick were believers or not, showcased the integrity of their unique message of love for others. These Christ-like actions had great social impact and attracted outsiders to the faith." (by Kathy Baldock "Canyonwalker Connections")

Christ himself incarnated into the pain of society.  He was born and walked and lived and loved among the poor and the oppressed.  As His followers, we are called to move with Him toward our society's pain and problems.  The power of love demonstrated through presence, proximity, and powerlessness. As we live in relationship with Christ, we must ask ourselves how he is calling each of us to move toward the pain.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 106-114)

I pulled The Divine Conspiracy off my shelf after John Perkins' visit in February. More than ever, I'm considering the invitation to life in the Kingdom of God and training as a student of Jesus. I've invited my co-workers into the 10 chapters of The Divine Conspiracy over the course of 10 months of 2016.  This is my third time through the book; Dallas Willard has much wisdom for us related to life in the Kingdom of God.  

Jesus the Master Teacher

"The secret of the great teacher is to speak words, to foster experiences, that impact the active flow of the hearer's life.  That is what Jesus did by the way he taught.  He tied his teachings to concrete events that make up the hearers' lives.  He aimed his sayings at their hearts and habits as these were revealed in their daily lives.  

Now, Jesus not only taught in this manner; he also taught us, his students in the kingdom, to teach in the same way.   He taught about teaching in the kingdom of the heavens- using, of course, a parable.  'So every bible scholar who is trained in the kingdom of the heavens is like someone over a household that shows from his treasures things new and things old' (Matt. 13:52)  By showing to others the presence of the kingdom in the concrete details of our shared existence, we impact the lives and hearts of our hearers, not just their heads."  - Dallas Willard

I love how Jesus used real everyday situations and questions to challenge assumptions and worldviews.  He often compared and contrasted the kingdoms of this world vs. the Kingdom of God through pictures and stories.   He used everyday occurrences to point to the values and the ways of His Father's Kingdom as opposed to the values and the ways of this world.   We can look for everyday, concrete happenings to do the same.   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

a few more recommended messages and podcasts...

I watched Leonce B. Crump Jr.'s sermon from July 10 today.  Recommended for any white person who is trying to learn, seeking understanding.  This is a 45 minute sermon by this pastor of Renovation Church, Atlanta:

Watch a 5 part conversation at the Verge Network.  Really critical.  Part 1 Understanding the Problem  10 minutes  Part 2 The Illusion of Progress   6 minutes  Part 3 What is your Racial I.Q.?  36 minute panel  Part 4  Why colorblindness is toxic; a conversation with Propaganda 5 minutes  Part 5  Why we should stop using the term white guilt; conversation with Soong Chan Rah