Thursday, March 29, 2007


Many of you know that my wife Laura and I are planning to do some sort term mission work once she finishes her masters degree. As of right now, the plan is to leave sometime in the summer of 2008 and we will be gone up to one year. We do not yet know where we are going, but we have requested the continent of Africa. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer a few questions that seem to regularly pop-up.

Why are you doing this? Aren't there plenty of people you can help in the USA?
Yes, of course there is plenty of work to be done right here. However, I believe that all people are created in the image of God, therefore, it is equally valid to serve those in Africa or the USA or where ever you find yourself. Laura and I are doing this for a number of reasons. One, the church that we are a part of, the Church of the Nazarene, has emphasized mission work from the very beginning. If I am going to be a part of this church, then I need to be concerned about missions. Another reason is that I do not have any background in overseas missions (unless you count the summer I worked at a church in Hawaii, which no one does). I feel like I need this type of experience to have a proper world view and to be a better pastor. I think it will be important to my theological formation to see how the gospel takes form in an entirely different culture. So many times the gospel gets all mixed up with culture, so seeing the church in another context should help me discern the essentials of the Christian faith. Also, our world is shrinking and I think that the pastors of the future must have a global mindset. As communication and transportation technology continue to advance, it will become increasingly difficult to ignore what is going on in the rest of the world. Another reason is that Laura and I want to be challenged, we want to go outside of our comfort zone because we know that it is when we are weak that God is strong and that God is present. Finally (though I could give many more reasons), Laura and I feel called to do this. While in seminary, God began to place this idea in my mind. When I shared this with Laura, she did not hesitate for a second and was on board from the beginning.

Why Africa?
Good question. There is no specific reason, just a general leading. Laura has some friends who have done mission work in Africa, and she has been captivated by their stories. I did an internship while at Duke Divinity in an HIV/AIDS ministry, so that seems to point to Africa. And while Laura and I have been praying and thinking about this experience, it is really Africa that has sparked our imagination, so we just decided to follow that intuition.

Where are you at in the process?
This past weekend Laura and I went to Chicago for the Nazarene's CCO (cross-cultural orientation) training. For 3 days, we went through some intense training that covered financing the trip, how to be culturally sensitive, the Church of the Nazarene's involvement in missions, the issue of global poverty and how missions engage that issue, as well as many other things. It was a good weekend and it definitely got Laura and I excited about doing this. Our next step is that we will be put in touch with this guy who is charge of mission work for the continent of Africa. He will work with us to find a specific place and assignment. We will be matched up with missionaries who are already in the field. Our role will be to help them out, encourage them, and do whatever is needed. Once we learn our assignment, we will begin making plans to go.

Do you need help?
Yes, yes, and a thousand times yes. Laura and I will absolutely not be able to do this unless we receive a lot of support. Right now, we could really use some people to join with us in prayer. Pray that God would begin to work and that the right door would be opened. Once we learn our assignment, Laura and I are going to send out letters to our friends and family to name the specific ways in which we will need support. This trip will require a lot of financial support, so this is another area where you can join us in prayer for right now.

I imagine that once things are little more settled I will start a separate blog that will chronicle our experience. Thanks to all of you who have already come along side of us to support us.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Adventures in Missing the Point

"Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel" by Brian McLaren & Tony Campolo was a book with an interesting concept, but it did not pack a huge punch as far as powerful books go. The concept of the book was to look at several issues in the church, with one author writing how the mainline church has missed the point in certain areas of that issue. The other author would then respond to the main authors writing in a two page blurb. The issues that were addressed in the book are as follows: evangelism, social action, culture, women in ministry, leadership, seminary, environmentalism, homosexuality, sin, worship, doubt, truth, and being postmodern." An example of "missing the point" would be the argument that the mainline church has made salvation individual and personal, while neglecting the social aspects of salvation. My problem with the book was that it did not go into much depth (which was not the point of the book, but still frustrating for someone like me who is looking for a little more meat) and I felt like a lot of the book was pure opinion. Both McLaren and Campolo are established authors and respected church leaders, and this book had the feel of a publisher who came to them and asked them to crank out a manufactured book as quick as possible. I suppose that this book could be a helpful resource to stimulate discussion in a small group, but otherwise I would not recommend reading it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Have you ever noticed that everyone thinks that everybody else is an idiot? Let me give you a few examples. I work on the administrative side of an academic area of Duke University. Administrative people tend to think that the academics, while brilliant, lack common sense. I imagine that the academics think similar thoughts about administrative people. When you are driving, it is easy to assume that no one else knows how to drive except you. Northerners talk about how terrible Southern drivers are and Southerners talk about how dangerous Northern drivers are. It is easy to think this way even though we all have moments where we forget to use the turn signal or accidentally merge into someone else's lane. If you think of any group of people, you will also be able to come up with another group that this group thinks are idiots. So if everyone thinks that everybody else is an idiot, does that make us all idiots?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Madness!

For some people, the best time of the year is Christmas or their birthday. But for me, I seriously think one of my favorite days is the opening day of the NCAA tournament. The concept of a 64 (I know, technically it is 65) team bracket where anyone can win is simply sheer genius and a ton of fun. I can remember as a little kid being fascinated with all of the different games going on and taping a bracket to my door. After a game was over I would run to my bracket and advance the winner. As a high school student, I would come home for lunch to watch the games and then beg my mom to call me in sick so I could watch the rest of the day (it only worked once). Now I am an adult (sort of) and I am stuck in office world. I am wondering to myself why I did not take a sick day, but that would have been pretty obvious. So, in order to celebrate this holiday I have organized an office pool that has about 25 people in it, and I plan to watch some of the games on my computer through the power of technology.

Perhaps you are curious as to who is going to win the tournament. Well, if you would like to know, I can certainly tell you because I am pretty certain that I have correctly picked all 63 games. My final four is: Kansas, Florida, UNC, & Texas A&M; and I have Texas A&M beating Kansas in the championship.

Enjoy the madness!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Celebration of Discipline

Every now and then you read a book that perfectly speaks to you and your current life situation, almost as if God is using the book to speak directly to you. "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster has been that type of book for me these past few weeks. I have had this book on my shelf for awhile now, and I finally decided that this season of Lent would be the ideal time to finally read it. For those of you not familiar with the book, "Celebration of Discipline" takes a classical and practical look at 13 different spiritual disciplines.

The whole book was solid, but I especially benefited from the chapters on meditation, fasting, and solitude. I have been attempting to incorporate the insights from the book into my Lenten observances, and I have found them to be refreshing and meaningful tools to encounter God.

I had many moments where I felt like Richard Foster had written the book just for me, but let me just share one. Recently I have felt like I have been in a spiritual and mental desert. I know that everyone goes through difficult times and that the only way to the promised land is through the desert, but it is never easy when you are in the middle of it all. In his chapter on solitude, Foster talks about the desert experience which he calls "the dark night of the soul." I found great encouragement from the following words:

"What does the dark night of the soul involve? We may have a sense of dryness, aloneness, even lostness. Any overdependence on the emotional life is stripped away. The notion, often heard today, that such experiences should be avoided and that we always should live in peace and comfort, joy, and celebration only betrays the fact that much contemporary experience is surface slush. The dark night is one of the many ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul (102)."

Through these words and others, I began to see my desert experience as a chance to encounter God and to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. I was once again given hope that pain and suffering will lead to joy and renewal.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sex God

If you refer back to my review of Abraham Heschel's "God In Search of Man," you will notice that I mentioned that there are two types of geniuses when it comes to writing. Rob Bell definitely falls into the first category as someone who can convey complicated ideas with clarity and simplicity. When you read Rob Bell or listen to his sermons, most everything just seems to make complete sense. Light bulbs are going on all over the place.

"Sex God" is an incredible book that explored the connection between God and sexuality. I think that you would be wasting your time reading about my opinion of the book instead of actually reading the book for yourself, so I will not really offer much of a review. This book is a must read for everyone, especially those looking for a Jesus language to communicate sexuality.

I will, however, attempt to describe one idea in the book that captured my imagination. In one chapter, Rob Bell made the distinction between Animals, Humans, and Angels. Animals have a physical body and physical desires, but they do not have a soul. Angels have a soul, but they do not have a physical body or physical desires. Humans sit somewhere in the middle of the two, having both body and soul. Rob Bell made the observation that all too often, humans tend to act like animals or angels in regards to their sexuality. Animals, as you know, cannot control their desires and engage in sexual activity out of a deep and seemingly uncontrollable urge. I think that this mentality is behind much of the sexual revolution in our world today - people acknowledge that they have these desires, and since they are natural, they must be right and therefore fulfilled in any way possible. I think that Christians often react against this by moving too far toward an angel perspective and pretend like we do not (or at least should not) have sexual desire at all. Rob Bell suggested that the answer lies somewhere in the middle of animals and angels, and really the entire book was a beautiful depiction of human sexuality as original designed by God.

So yeah, you should probably read this book.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Reflections & New Reading List

I was once again able to stick to my reading plan for the month of February, although I found myself skipping many days and then reading big chunks of the text to catch up. I am not sure if this was helpful or not. I definitely felt out of rhythm with my reading, but it is also good to read the Scripture as a whole and not individual bits.

In reading the first 3 books of the Torah, I found myself wrestling with the same sort of issues that I had with the Gospels. It was a major struggle for me to reconcile the image of God that I had in my mind and the character of God as presented in the text. Since I finished Leviticus last night it is still fresh on my mind. Major chunks of Leviticus are basically God telling Moses that, "If a person does this particular detestable act, then he or she must be put to death." I found myself struggling to reconcile words such as these with the loving God who is full of grace and wants to give you another chance.

Perhaps I am becoming focused on the wrong things. Maybe instead of focusing on killing someone for doing something wrong, maybe the focus should be on the ways that God wants us to live. Since God is the true and only source of life, then living apart from God is death, right? However, once you get to this point, you still need to discern which commands are cultural, which are no longer needed under the New Covenant, and which are still applicable. I found that the text was humbling me and stripping away any authority I assumed I had in reading the Scripture.

For the month of March, I will be finishing the Torah, and then jumping over to the New Testament for Acts and Romans.

March 1: Numbers 1-4
March 2: Numbers 5-8
March 3: Numbers 9-12
March 4: Numbers 13-16
March 5: Numbers 17-20
March 6: Numbers 21-24
March 7: Numbers 25-28
March 8: Numbers 29-32
March 9: Numbers 33-36
March 10: Deuteronomy 1-4
March 11: Deuteronomy 5-8
March 12: Deuteronomy 9-12
March 13: Deuteronomy 13-16
March 14: Deuteronomy 17-20
March 15: Deuteronomy 21-24
March 16: Deuteronomy 25-28
March 17: Deuteronomy 29-34
March 18: Acts 1-4
March 19: Acts 5-8
March 20: Acts 9-12
March 21: Acts 13-16
March 22: Acts 17-20
March 23: Acts 21-24
March 24: Acts 25-28
March 25: Romans 1-4
March 26: Romans 5-8
March 27: Romans 9-12
March 28: Romans 13-16