Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God Is Sovereign But...

we all will be called to account.

God is sovereign, it's a given. God knew what would happen tonight and He knew who would win. He knows what the future will bring under this government, and we can find peace in that God is still King of kings, and will ever be. But that does not absolve the guilt of our choices. One day, justice will be served. It will be perfect and swift, and we will all be called to account. Heaven will come to earth and we will know the paradise of peace and the Presence of God, but not before we stand before the Great White Throne.

Tonight, I am unapologetically repentant, convicted of the sin of staying silent. Because of fear and ignorance, I kept quiet the voice and freedom given me. I will be called to account for not standing up for the oppressed, not speaking up for the disenfranchised, and not defending the weak. By God's grace will I be ushered through the pearly gates and hopefully hear 'well done' regarding the sum of my life, but on this account, I will hear no such thing. I would have lost either way tonight, but for giving less than I knew could, I committed the sin of omission, and so I am responsible, accountable, and ashamed.

Tonight I mourn, for millions of little babies, one baby at a time. Each little one is often lost in the faces of millions I see in my calloused imagination, beyond my mind to grasp. But tonight, I mourn for each one, two, three at a time, because each one deserves to be remembered, each one deserves to be mourned, each one deserves to be grieved by someone.

There was an opportunity to overturn an unjust and immoral law. The next president will appoint 2, possibly 4 Supreme Court Justices. Even two unrighteous judges, who saw the fallacy of mere man setting the line between life and death, could have set the nation on the path to save scores of lives. But now, barring a divine interruption, we will most likely have to wait an entire generation to get that chance again.

The precious babies are forgotten and forsaken by the ones called to be their guardians and protectors - mothers, fathers, neighbors, and now God's children. My pain tonight is not just one of defeat, or the loss of an opportunity to defend the disenfranchised and unborn. My pain is also knowing that I was not the only one who stayed silent for fear of social reprisal.

I am a sinner and I have sinned just the same. But in my penitence, let me attempt to teach transgressors another way.

In such a light, may I suggest the following for sober consideration:

-Many believers were motivated more by the economy than by human life, they loved money more than their unborn neighbor.
-Many believers either voted against their conscience, voted out of ignorance, or have badly misinterpreted or ignored the Bible regarding the unborn.
-The ones who were ignorant or misinterpreted the Bible had pastors who didn't tell them otherwise because, among many reasons, they may have been afraid they would lose their tax-exempt status.
-Scores of young people, many of whom are believers, voted their naive way, because the elders who sit at their gates neglected to show them wisdom.
-George W. Bush may have caused 1 million people to die violent deaths in Iraq in the last 5 years, but at least 5.2 million babies will die in just as violent a death in the next 4.
-We have exchanged 8 years of perceived failed policies for 40 more years of almost certain genocide.
-If you believe life begins at conception, you really had only one choice tonight.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


There's no better way to learn theology than to deconstruct Starbucks. Let me, however, begin with two disclaimers and a warning. Number one: for the sake of protecting my street creds as a hardcore coffee lover, I must confess that Starbucks is not my favorite...although it is a very convenient and pretty good last resort, sorry Buehrle. Number 2: there ARE better ways to learn theology than to deconstruct Starbucks, like reading the Bible. I was just using hyperbole. Warning: this is a blog version of 19th century writing...which means it's going to be long and descriptive, for a blog entry anyways.

It's the stupid little things in life that can brighten up the mundane blue-gray hue of an ordinary day. As I was walking through a brand new shopping development, I looked from a distance toward a nearby, newly-spawned Starbucks that is yet to have it's grand opening. I'm sure it's not open yet because their building was still gutted the last time I checked. However, I do see people in the familiar green and black uniforms walking in and out. Assuming they're just having their pre-opening training for their new recruits, I walk in closer to get a peek at this world-class training that's been replicated 12,000 times in 40 countries. As I edge in closer still, I see people in civilian clothes hanging out. Preplexed, I presuppose that they have indeed opened without my knowledge, how dare they.

I'm greeted at the door by a friendly barista who explains to me that their official opening is tomorrow and today is a special event for friends and family. As I turn to walk away, the friendly barista tells me that I'm a friend of Starbucks today and welcomes me in. Before I have time to process what's happening, she then tells me that everything is FREE! That word suddenly became my new favorite four-letter word and it transformed this very-familiar, pottery-barn accesorized place into a wonderland. The entire menu was at my disposal. In an instant, I understood what Charlie felt like when he first walked into Willy Wonka's factory.

For the first time in years, I looked up at the menu and actually read it. This was a once in a lifetime chance to exceed my usual $2 Starbucks limit and to get whatever my heart desired, and I was on a mission to order the most expensive drink I could find. I was surprised to find that none of the drinks were over $5.

I ended up getting a Venti Orange Creme Frappaccino. Then I hit my first dilemma. Should I order something else? Like a $8 sandwich or a $3 bottle of water? I should, but it feels weird to. But why not? They did say everything was free. I should clean the place out. No, but I can't, it's too much, I'd feel like I'm taking advantage of them. But they're Starbucks! They don't need the money! Finally, exhausted at my self-arguing, feeling slightly psychotic and not wanting to spoil this wonderful day with regret, I let it end with my Frap.

Then, just like Pavlov's dog, I reach down for my wallet just as I've always done for years. As I'm pulling out my wallet, I hit my second dilemma. This is FREE. Which means I don't pay for it. Arrrrgghhh! This feels so weird. You mean I can just turn and go and wait for my drink, and they're going to just give it to me??? Is this a trick? Are they going to suddenly accuse me of stiffing them and call the police? I did a double take. I pretend to walk off and then quickly turn to see if they would say anything or try to stop me. When nothing is said, I walk away, keeping my eye on the employees to make sure I was doing the right thing. Not paying at a Starbucks counter completely disoriented me. I had completely lost my center!

I felt compelled to pay. There are many things in life that are supposedly free, but there are almost always strings attached. And it's not like we're getting duped by the evil corporation. It's a deception of mutual consent. They tell us it's free, we know full well that it's really not, and in a moment of self-dillusion and greed, we take the deal having both satisfied our consumerist appetite and justified ourselves figuring that we got something for free. You get a free gift with a credit card, but you end up paying many-fold just in interest. You get a free drink, when you purchase a meal. You get your first 2 months of cable free, but you pay for 10. But this wasn't like that at all. They just gave it to you. Just like that.

I learned many truths through this. For one, I learned that when someone gets something completely free, you are compelled to give back what that something was worth. I received a 5-dollar drink, and I felt compelled to give back 5 dollars. When we truly receive the grace that saves our lives from eternal damnation, if we truly believe it, it is in our nature to be compelled to return to the source of that grace and salvation something equal in value...a life for a life.

And that in itself is not a full analogy. Because although we were given eternal life, more supremely we were given God Himself, and for that to happen it cost God His life. That is why we are compelled to worship Him for eternity, because God is of infinite value and there will never be a time when we will ever feel like we've given back in equal value what was given to us.

Secondly, I had a buffet of premium Starbucks coffee and foods that were essentially mine, at least as much as I could consume for that day, but out of fear, mistrust and suspicion of what the friendly barista said, I partook of a relatively minuscule amount. I was blessed with every blessing in the Starbucks realm, but could take only what my faith and understanding in what the friendly barista said would allow (sorry, couldn't help myself).

Thirdly, a guy standing in line was calling all of his friends to come and get the free Starbucks. I think the analogy there is obvious.

But what impacted me the most, although I was ecstatic about getting free Starbucks, was how difficult it was for me to just receive. I don't think I'm over-dramatizing this at all. On more than a few occasions, I've seen people receive gifts with extreme reluctance. Something in the human soul hates getting something for free. We hate not working for it, and we hate getting something we know we don't deserve. When people receive unreluctantly, it's because one of 2 reasons. They truly understand free grace or they wrongly feel entitled to it.

I think life is more full of paradox than we know and today, I discovered the utter joy and inner torment of receiving something for free.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Miracle Night at Youth Camp

I would have a hard time believing it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. Tonight, we had our evening session for our 3-day youth camp. Gary Gilbertson and his missions team of college students are here to serve and minster to us. Tonight was an unbelievable night. Gary, after his message, started to pray for kids with uneven limbs and they grew even, right in front of everyone's eyes. Needless to say, all the youth who had gathered around to witness it, were all astonished. And then the college students began to pray for kids with uneven limbs all around the room. And then the youth started to pray for other youth with uneven limbs, and we saw arms and legs grow right in front of us as we prayed!!

Here's what's even more astonishing/funny. Almost every time, the shorter limb grew, then kept growing until it was longer than the other limb. Then it would go back. Sometimes it grew back and forth like that several times. Everyone thought it was funny, except of course the person getting healed. With shear panic, they would tell us to 'put it back, put it back! It happened to me. My right arm was slighty shorter than my left. It grew out until it was further out than my left arm and then went back.

I know, it sounds like some psychological phenomena and we shifted our legs and arms subconsciously. I assure you, I physically tried to keep my arms and legs in place so that wouldn't happen. And you can tell when someone is shifting their legs back and forth because then their whole thigh and hips will move too. In addition, some of these youth's legs and arms were growing and shrinking by several inches! Even the most skeptical kid in the youth group acknowledged that he saw limbs grow. And I'm serious, this kid is EXTREMELY skeptical and cynical, and he admits that he witnessed it.

We so badly needed a breakthrough like this in our youth group and we certainly need it for our city. It was amazing, if you were there you could not have denied it. It was just one of those nights. Paul was once shipwrecked on the island of Malta and the Bible says that EVERYONE on that island was healed. Everyone in our meeting with uneven limbs were healed. By the end of the night, we were looking for people with uneven limbs and couldn't find anymore. Even kids with other ailments were healed too. This one kid was complaining to me all night about a pain in his knee. It was obviously more than just a strain or a sore. He was instantly healed.

The most exciting part was that kids were praying for other kids and doing miracles. They were doing the work of the ministry, and they were operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. How many kids can say they made someone's limbs grow?!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Building Miracle

I think every church plant is always on the lookout for buildings. As you go about town, you make a mental map of all the places for lease and all the places you wish were for lease. About a month ago, we felt like we hit a place where we really needed a building to move forward with what God was calling us to do. We started actively looking for places, even though we had absolutely no room in our budget for a building. Within a week, we found a place (which is a miracle in itself in a place like Vancouver). Within 10 days, we found the money to finance it. Within a month we signed the lease and took the keys.

It's a 2-story, 2100 sq/ft warehouse which will house the Dream Center, a social action center to help the poor, and meetings for the youth and young adults. The upstairs will house the offices for Five Stones Church, China Transformation Project, Humanitarian International Services Group and Willgo, Inc. We've already outgrown it!

This acquisition of the building is just one of the many miracles I'm witnessing around me right now. Unfortunately, I can't post the other things that are happening on the web. Let me know and I'll mail you a CD of one of Rich's recent sermons where he details what's going on.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell Receives His Praise

Jerry Falwell passed away today. Right now, he's in heaven, looking into the face of Jesus and seeing the beauty that every single one of us has longed for since our birth. He stands today before His Maker and is giving an account for his life. And today, he receives his perfect reward.

There are many of us who disowned him as a brother, despised him as a fundamentalist and were embarrassed by his witness. There are others who were grateful to have an uncompromising advocate for Christian values in the political arena. I have been strangely both at the same time. At times, I've been frustrated that he and the brand of Christianity he represented was of little help, at times a hindrance, to my unbelieving friends seeing Jesus for who He really is. At other times I've been quietly grateful, because as anyone who is politically center-left or center-right knows (I am center-right, a passionately moderate conservative), it is those who are on the radical extremes of the spectrum who keep the agenda leaning in our favor.

But what I felt or thought about Falwell is useless. I am not his judge. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 4 that no one is his judge, not even himself. He says a scary thing when he says even his conscience is clear, but that it doesn't necessarily make him innocent. Paul exhorts us to judge nothing before the appointed time, but to wait when each will receive his praise from God. But until that time no one can say for sure. Who knows, at this very moment God could be judging Falwell to have done everything God called him to do. At this very moment, he could be hearing, "well done, good and faithful servant, come and share in your Master's happiness." And as you take your next breath, brother Jerry could be basking in the speechless satisfaction of knowing that he pleased God fully with his life. Who knows? My judgments are meaningless.

Today, as I pray for Falwell's family, friends, and church, I also reflect on my own life, and on questions that are hard for a confessing people-pleaser like myself to answer: Am I living to please a lesser judge? Or am I living to please the only Judge that can give me my praise at the appointed time? Could I live with the hatred of the whole world to feel His pleasure? Would I freely trade in the acceptance of my family, friends, other christians, for God's reward?

Wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. -1 Cor 4:5

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Poetry Slam

Just came back from a poetry slam in a dark French cafe in an artsy district of Vancouver. If you've never heard of slam poetry or spoken word before, it's a new form of creative expression birthed out of the hip hop movement, and could be most closely identified with ancient Greek oratory. It's more than a poetry reading, like the ones you see on TV with the cheesy French guys wearing all black with berets, sitting on stools, snapping, calling everyone 'cats'. It's poetry performed with all the theatrics of life, words crafted to bring you into the world of the poet, with all his joys, pains and everything in between.

It gave me insight into one of the many tribal cultures here. It was mostly young adults, all jaded, cynical and confused, wandering and as someone once said, speaking with all the anger of disillusioned love. This world is broken, these poets just reminded me again. But through the charcoal-colored glasses, I could see seams of redemptive light in their words. As the apostle Paul said, they seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. We are all broken because of sin, and we are all trying to find our way back to Eden. Some have just been given bad directions.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm coming off a binge of information on China, where I devoured books, articles and audio lectures on it's history, politics, and economics. All I can say is it's really, really big, and it's incredibly hard to wrap your mind around the sheer volume of everything in this country. Take chopsticks for example. There are currently 1.3 billion people in China and they use 45 BILLION pairs of disposable chopsticks each year, which amounts to about 25 MILLION grown trees being cut down annually (Peter Navarro - Coming China Wars). Boy, will this make the Carrboro treehuggers mad.

The Chinese Minister of Religious Affairs recently put the newest estimates on the number of Christians in China at 130 million, that's nearly half the population of the US. It's hard to keep up with China. Things are changing very quickly. By the time I finished my last book, which was published in late 2006, it was already old news. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be an interesting time when the whole world will turn it's gaze to China. What will the world see and how will they respond?