Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Pets are a grace given to us from God. I think God gave us pet to reveal Himself to us.

Missy and I have a cat named Toby. He is a beautiful, cuddly, friendly little guy. And at times, he has the ability to love us better than most people do. Sure he has a piercing meow when his litter box needs changed or when he is out of food, but otherwise he doesn't complain about anything.

His big goals in life are to sleep, eat and be snuggled. When we walk through the door he jumps up to greet us. When we sit on the couch he just wants to cuddle up next to us and purr.

If we have to discipline him for something, it's ok because he forgets that we were mad at him within a few minutes. He doesn't hold it against us if we are distant or forgetful. He gets over the fact that we might not remember to feed him now and then. It seems his forgiveness is limitless. It feels like his love is unconditional.

No matter what is going wrong in the rest of our lives, Toby is always there to comfort us with his fluffy fur and loud purr. When Tobes is snuggled up next to us, stress seems to vanish. It's amazing what a lovable cat can do.

And I think God did this on purpose. I think he made pets like this to show us what love and forgiveness can be like. In His Kingdom, wrongs are forgotten within minutes. In His Kingdom, forgiveness comes in an instant. In His Kingdom, love doesn't come with strings attached. Love is there waiting for you when you open a door or sit on a couch. In His Kingdom, there is always someone inside who is excited to see you when you get home.

Pets are God's gift to us. They are a picture of grace. They are a window into the world that He lives in. And it's the same world that He invites us all into.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

four walls

Proverbs 6:25-26
Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes,
for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

There seems to be four main areas where lust can enter into your life. Each of these areas in a guy's life will be attacked by the enemy at one time or another. As we mature as men, it is important for us to guard our heart and mind from these four areas of temptation.

Lust often enters our lives through the gateway of our eyes. It then crawls its way into our minds. If left unpurified, it will stretch down from our minds and root itself deeply into our hearts. This means the first line of defense must begin with what we see. These four areas of attack are the areas where guys "see" women.

1. Every day life
We are around women every day of our lives. We see women at work, in the store, in the gym, at church and on the road. They are everywhere we are. We need to guard how we look at and think about women in our every day lives. The enemy will use friends and strangers alike. He will use people we are immediately attracted to and those we wouldn't expect. He doesn't care who the person is. He just wants that person to become a stumbling block.

2. TV
Television is full of images of women. Most images on TV are sexual in some way. The privacy and anonymity of being on the other side of the screen can be a breeding ground for lust.

3. Movies
Movies have all the same dangers as TV but intensified. Movies often have more sexual content than TV will allow. And movies can have all the same anonymity, privacy and distance from the actors that make it even easier to turn women into objects rather than humans.

4. Internet
This is the most dangerous of all media outlets. With nearly limitless access to all kinds of stuff, this ultra-private form of media is a potential incubator for sin. This is true especially of lust.

If we want to successfully navigate this over-sexed world we live in and maintain our purity, it must begin with guarding our lives in these four areas. We must be willing to submit ourselves to Christ and to real-life accountability when it comes to what we let our eyes take in.

We must ask ourselves questions like:
Do I flirt with women who aren't my wife?
What do my daydreams "dream" about?
Does my ego get fed by being around women who admire me?
What do I watch on TV and in movies?
What pages do I visit on the internet?
What do I watch if and when no one else was around?
When am I most tempted to lust after women? Why?
Am I using lust as a means to heal wounds in my life?
What emotional wounds are they? Why are they there? Where did they come from?

The four areas mentioned above are gateways into our eyes. These gateways lead into our minds and into our hearts. These are the gateways that will be attacked by the enemy. So how do our four walls look? Are these four areas of our lives submitted to Christ so that they will be stay strong when attacked? Or do we still want to look at what we want to look at, when we want to look at it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

leadership in the civil rights movement

Who would you want leading the civil rights movement into the next part of American history?

Option 1: A guy who says Senator Obama is "acting like he's white" when it comes to the Jena situation? [Jesse Jackson]

Option 2: A guy who says this: "Outrage over an injustice like the Jena 6 isn't a matter of black and white. It's a matter of right and wrong." [Barak Obama]

The first statement doesn't build unity or bridge the gap. It uses a racially charged incident to increase division among the races in America.

The second statement addresses injustice without dividing whites and blacks into two camps. Obama seems to be able to do what Dr. King could do. He is able to transcend being a advocate just for the black community. He is able to be a champion for civil rights for all people.

This is what the civil rights movement of today needs. It needs leadership who can continue to break down walks, not build new ones. It needs leadership who is concerned not only for "black America" but for all Americans.

facts in the Jena case

As far as I can tell, here are the current facts of the Jena case. There seems to be some debate about some of these details. But this is what I have gathered from news reports and such:

On December 4, 2006, Jena High School student Justin Barker, age 17, was assaulted by other Jena High students. Barker was knocked to the ground after being hit in the back of his head. From there, according to some witnesses, a group of black students followed suit by repeatedly kicking him. Barker, who was left unconscious after the attack, was examined by a doctor at the local hospital. In the meantime, the six students accused of the attack, eventually dubbed the "Jena Six", were arrested.

Barker was released from the hospital after two hours of treatment and observation for a concussion and an eye that had swollen shut. During the trial, Barker also testified that his face was badly swollen after the attack and that he lost vision in one eye for three weeks. He also stated that he suffered recurring headaches since the attack, though tests have detected no medical cause for them.

Five of the students — Robert Bailey, Jr., Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and Theo Shaw — were initially charged with assault, though the sixth — Jesse Ray Beard — was charged as a juvenile because he was 14 at the time. However, District Attorney Walters increased the assault charges to attempted second-degree murder, provoking protests from black residents that the charges, which could result in the defendants being imprisoned past age 50, were disproportionate to the crime.

Mychal Bell, a juvenile, had been previously convicted of four violent crimes. Bell served probation for a battery that occurred December 25, 2005, and he was subsequently convicted of another battery charge and two charges of criminal damage to property. On June 26, 2007, the first day of trial for defendant Mychal Bell, Walters agreed to reduce the charges for Bell to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. Bell's attorney later admitted to CNN that, because of Bell's record, the initial second-degree murder charges were within the limit of what district attorney Walters was legally allowed to charge.

The 150 people called for jury duty included black citizens, but only 50 people appeared, and none of them were black. The jury found Bell guilty and faced the possibility of up to 22 years in prison. The judge scheduled sentencing for September 20, 2007.

Following the trial, Bell's new defense attorneys, Louis Scott and Carol Powell-Lexing, requested that a new trial on the grounds that Bell should not have been tried as an adult and that the trial should have been held in another parish. A request to lower Mychal Bell's $90,000 bond was denied on August 24, 2007, due to his juvenile record.

On September 14, 2007, Louisiana's Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bell's battery conviction ruling that he shouldn't have been tried as an adult. Louis Scott, Bell's attorney, has indicated that the charges are dropped for now, but also noted that the situation may change depending on what path the prosecution takes. On September 20, 2007, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ordered that a hearing be held within 72 hours to decide whether Bell can be released.

On September 4, 2007, charges against Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy, as were those of Robert Bailey, Jr., on September 10. Though Bell's conviction was overturned, the charges against the other four teenagers remained unaffected because they were over seventeen at the time of the incident, thus making them adults under Louisiana law.

Following an order by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, a hearing was held on September 21, 2007, to determine whether to set bond for Bell. The judge in the hearing denied the request for Bell to be freed while his appeal is being reviewed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

need encouragement?

There are times in life when all of us need a little encouragement. Maybe we have felt defeated or put down. Maybe we feel like a failure or like no one notices our life. Whatever the situation, we really do need encouragement.

What happens, often, is that we don't know what to do about it. Either we don't diagnose the fact that we need encouragement and we keep trying to trudge along, or we know we encouragement but don't know what to do next.

If we fail to diagnose our need, then usually we begin to take out our frustration on others. We begin to blame others for our poor mood or we walk around grumpy hoping that some sort of external pleasure will fix our day.

If we do recognize our need for encouragement, then often we seek it out from the wrong source. We passive-aggressively make known our need for words of affirmation. What does it look like to “passive-aggressively” make know our need? It’s when people fish for compliments by putting themselves down. Or it’s when we mope about hoping someone will ask "How are you doing" so that we can go on and on about our "hard-knock" life. Then, at the conclusion of our moping and complaining, we wait for someone to say kind words to us. We mistakenly think their words will fix our poor self-esteem or our poor mood.

But those words are fleeting. The good they do in our lives only lasts a moment. Like a few drops of water in a cup full of holes, we are still left empty and in need of encouragement.

Allow me to suggest a few alternatives to this:
1. When you are in a depressed mood or find yourself "down," begin to do some self-examination. What is at the core of these feelings and moods? If the core is something other than the need for encouragement, then go deal with that. But if it is simply a need to be encouraged then acknowledge your need. Call it out for what it is.

2. Now that you know you need encouragement, take that first to God in prayer. Simply be honest with God. Pray something like, "God, I really feel the need for encouragement. Father, would you encourage me? Would you build me up with your loving words? I need encouragement right now because my emotional tank is running low." You get the idea. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Ask God to meet your need.

3. Before you end in prayer, switch your prayer from a "request" to a "thank you." Finish your time in prayer by thanking God for all that He has been in your life. Thank Him for the grace and forgiveness He continually offers. Thank Him for all the things He has provided for you and how He has been there for you in the past. Thank Him for the blessings that He brings into your life and for the simple everyday things that would not be possible without Him.

4. Now turn to the word of God. You can either go to passages of scripture that you know are encouraging and pick through them one at a time. Or you can continue to read a book of the bible devotionally, one chapter at a time. Either way, let the word of God speak to you. Hear God encouraging you through it.

5. Prayer and scripture have a way of filling us up better than any human words could. But often, God will soon answer your prayer by prompting the people around you to build you up. You will find encouraging words coming your way because God has sent them. Not because you are moping around. Not because you fish for compliments. Not because you make sure everyone knows your life sucks. But they will come because God loves you.

And these words are more powerful than words that you try to draw out of people. They are more powerful for two reasons: 1) because you need them less. Your emotional tank has filled up considerably just from scripture and prayer. So these words function more like icing on the cake than they do the "cake" itself; 2) because you now realize God is speaking them through the person who is encouraging you. They are not empty words or vain attempts at lightening your mood. You can receive them as little love notes from your Father in Heaven.

So next time you are feeling an emptiness inside of you which longs for encouragement, try practicing these steps rather than going to people first. This is a practical way of living out the discipline of "seek first the Kingdom...and all these things will be added to you." I believe you will find yourself more fully encouraged than you have ever been.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I need you to pray for a child in need after you read this. Missy's co-worker has a 6 year old girl who is undergoing brain surgery as I type this. They found a large tumor near her brain stem and have to remove a part of her brain in order to get at the tumor. They took biopsies to determine what kind of tumor it is.

Please pray for her and her family. Her name is Elli Ruth. She is at Johns Hopkins. Pray for her physical healing and for the family's emotional and spiritual strength. Thanks.

For more info or to leave the family a message of encouragement go to: Register. Then type in ElliRuth to get to her carepage.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

loans that change cities

Kiva is the organization that has the slogan "Loans that change lives." They connect individuals in the States to individuals who are "the working poor" in other countries. They make it possible for someone in the West to give a small microloan to a small business owner who lives on the other side of the world.

If their slogan is "Loans that change lives" then our slogan at FaithWorks Project could rightly be "Loans that change cities." Essentially, FaithWorks Project is going to be Kiva on steroids. Instead of giving one part of one loan to an individual, which then gets paid back to an individual, we are kicking it up a notch. We will be giving hundreds of loans to the global working poor and as those loans get paid back, the money will be used to transform cities here in the U.S., starting with Baltimore.

This is exciting. It's beyond exciting. Our greatest need now is for people to catch the vision. The potential for us to fight poverty in a very real way both globally and locally is astounding. But we can do very little by ourselves. We will need a ground swell of small donors and volunteers. We will also need a collection of large donors who believe in what we are doing and want to contribute substantially to the transformation of our world.

Come and be a part. Go to for more details.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where did the Universe come from?

1. The Universe created itself
2. The Universe is eternal
3. The Universe was created by something else

I heard a theology teacher discuss how science and philosophy agree that these three are our basic options. There are lots of theories about how the universe came about. But they all essential boil down to one of these three options.

And logically speaking, the first option is impossible. Based on all the rules of logic and all the principles of science, nothing can create itself. It is both a logical and a physical impossibility. It's amazing, though, how many "scientists" make option 1 their foundational theory on how the universe came to exist. They claim that at one time there was "nothing." And then somehow (they, of course, have no explanation of how) matter just came into existence. Something that does not exist is nothing. "Nothing" cannot create anything. "Nothing" cannot create at all. "Nothing" can only be and do "nothing." So it is ridiculous to think the universe created itself. "Out of nothing, nothing comes."

Since this idea of a self-created universe contradicts both the foundational laws of science and the foundational principles of philosophy, it can be dismissed easily.

Now we are left with two options. Either the universe always was, or it was created. Essentially, these views present either an eternal universe, or an eternal God who created the universe. Both of these options agree that "something" is self-existent and eternal. They agree that "something" has the power to "be eternally on its own."

When it comes to the beginning of the universe, science sees evidence of a point of singularity. Meaning that those scientists who study the growth and movement of the universe seem to believe that there is evidence that if we were to rewind time, all matter seems to have come from a singular moment and a singular space. They call this the Big Bang theory. This theory states that all the material in the universe has come from one catastrophic explosion.

I am no scientist, but apparently science has been able to speculate about events even up to 10 to the -43 power seconds after the Big Bang. That is a fraction of a second that our brains can't even get around. But they struggle to speculate about what happened before this time or what was around before the infamous "bang." All of this means that according to general relativity the initial state of the universe, at the beginning of the Big Bang, was a singularity, or single point.

Now back to philosophy. Everything within the universe has a cause. If it has come into being, then something before it has caused it to come into being. So if this single point or singularity is the starting point for the Big Bang, then what caused it to come into being? That which caused it to come into being must be, itself, eternal and have no cause. So was this eternal first cause God? Or was the singularity itself eternal?

If this singularity was eternal, then what caused it to catastrophically expand roughly 13.7 billion years ago as scientists suggest. There must have been something acting upon it to affect its behavior. If nothing acted upon it, it would still be in the same state that it had been eternally. It would have never expanded. So what acted upon it to change if from an eternally existent singularity into a "big bang"?

At this point we have reached the limits of current physics and cosmology. Science has no answers for us. But while science has reached it limits, theology has not.

We are left to choose this day which God we will serve. Will we believe that matter is eternal and worship the Universe as god? When the Universe becomes our eternal god, then life is meaningless. We are left to endless cycles of molecular reincarnation. We are left to a life that has no real beginning, no real end and no real purpose in-between.

Or will we believe that there is an eternal God who created a finite universe? Will we bow down at His feet and worship our Creator, who was and is and is to come? Living within this truth gives purpose to life, hope to despair, and meaning to our existence. We can celebrate the findings of science because they point to an eternal God who created something beautiful. The majesty and wonder of our universe is but a reflection of the majesty and wonder of God.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Horizon leadership

A friend of mine sent me an email today. There was one paragraph in that email that I think gives a picture of what I look for in a leader at Horizon Church. Here is an edited version of part of that email:

"I feel Horizon is where God has called me to be. I also feel God has called me to serve Him, to love other people and to try to be a good Christian influence in peoples lives. I know I have a long way to go and I know I need friends to help me through this process. I'll be there early on Sunday and I'll offer my opinion on stuff if people feel that it is helpful. As far as being a leader, all I will say is this; call me what you want and I'll try to help where I can. As for me, I just want to try to do my best to follow God's call for my life. I just want to try to love Him and love people as best as I can."

This to me is the heart of a leader. This articulates the essence of what it is to be a leader at Horizon Church. What is so important about the above paragraph? Let's break it down:

"I feel Horizon is where God has called me to be." = Commitment.
Let's not underestimate the importance of someone who will commit. And obviously this commitment is grounded in Christ. Too often, people in our generation try to be a part of everything. This means they aren't committed to anything. They float from community to community, church to church. What I want in a leader is someone who is willing to say that they are committed to our community and that their commitment is grounded in the call of God. Someone may be a leader in other areas of their life, but if they are not committed to this particular community, then they are not a leader in our community.

"I also feel God has called me to serve Him, to love other people and to try to be a good Christian influence..." = Relational Leadership
Loving other people through relationships is the foundation of our leadership style at Horizon. If someone wants to lead by being the top of the food chain in a hierarchy, then Horizon isn't the place for them. But if they want to be down in the trenches, connecting with real people and helping them through their real life problems, then they are well on their way to leadership at Horizon.

"I know I have a long way to go and I know I need friends to help me through this process." = Teachability
If someone is not willing to learn from others then they cannot lead at Horizon. I want leaders who are willing to be challenged. I want leaders who are willing to admit where they have gone wrong. I want leaders who have the humility to realize that it is not all about them. Leaders who can remain teachable can lead in a team. If someone can't handle a leadership team of people pushing back against their ideas and desires, then they won't make a good leader at Horizon. We all have a long way to go and we all need each other to help us through this process of becoming more like Christ.

"I'll be there early on Sunday" = Servant leadership
I want leaders who are willing to serve. I want leaders who are willing to sacrifice for the community. And boy, do we have leaders who sacrifice for our community. They give their time, their energy, their heart and soul. They give their money, their emotions and their lives to this community. So if someone wants to lead, then they too need to set the same example. They too need to be an example of servanthood to the rest of the community. Coming early on Sunday is just a small part of an overall attitude of servanthood that needs to be there.

"I'll offer my opinion on stuff if people feel that it is helpful" = Humble, Willing Participation
I want leaders who want to be involved. I want leaders who are willing to offer their ideas and thoughts. If someone wants to lead at Horizon, then they must be willing to participate. They must be willing to be a part of the team. But there is also another characteristic that is evident in the above statement. "...if people feel that it is helpful." This is a sign of humility. It is a willingness to participate and also a willingness to submit to the team. It's an attitude that says, "I will offer my opinon, but I understand that we all have different opinions. So I am willing to offer mine without demanding that everyone go with my idea. I am willing to be helpful when I am needed and also willing to submit to the group when my idea is not where God is leading the team." This is HUGE! If someone wants to lead at Horizon, then humble, willing participation needs to be evident in their own life.

"As far as being a leader, all I will say is this; call me what you want and I'll try to help where I can" = Non-positional Leadership
This attitude is not concerned with titles. This person just wants to lead people toward Christ. They just want to help. They don't care what you call them. Title or no title, they will act the same way regardless. This is what I want in our leaders. If someone needs a label or a title before they are willing to invest in people, then they probably won't make it on leadership at Horizon. If someone needs to be recognized and needs people to praise them in order for them to keep serving, then they probably won't make it on leadership. But if they are willing to say "I'll try to help where I can" regardless of whether people notice or whether someone gives them a title, then they will probably make a great leader.

"As for me, I just want to try to do my best to follow God's call for my life. I just want to try to love Him and love people as best as I can." = Overall Theme for Leadership
This last sentence is a great summary to the overall paragraph. It reveals the heart of a true leader. It reveals the heart of a disciple of Christ. Loving God and loving people is the ultimate call of every Christian. Those people who do these two things well, by the grace of God, end up leading others toward Christ. All we can do is our best. We can't do any more and we shouldn't do any less. Our best is what God asks of us. Our best is what He deserves from us. Our best is what the church needs from us. Our best is what our life looks like when we live "The Kingdom" kind of life.

So this is how I decide if I think someone is leading at Horizon. If someone can say the above paragraph and really mean it and if they can live out what that paragraph describes, then chances are they will be an amazing leader at Horizon Church.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

servant leadership

At Horizon we are often asked, "How do you decide who is a leader?" I came across a passage of scripture that can help us with this question.

Mark 9:33-35
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

If you want to be considered a leader, you must serve people. You have to lead people well. You should be loving people well.

But what about this conversation about "the greatest?" The disciples were already a part of Jesus' "leadership team." They were already being sent out to spread the message of the kingdom of God two by two. They were already feeding the crowds and learning how to be a disciple of Jesus.

They weren't asking how to be a disciple. They were past wondering about what it means to lead people. What they wanted to know is who would be the greatest disciple. Who would be Jesus right hand man when he took the throne in his kingdom? Who would be considered the greatest of leaders with Jesus? Who would have the most power and the most influence in His kingdom?

The conversation got so heated that they started arguing about it. Each probably shouted their spiritual resume and claimed their own greatness. After their conversation came to an undecided end, Jesus decided to use it as a teaching moment.

If you want to be the greatest disciple, if you want to be the greatest leader, if you want to have power and influence in the Kingdom of God, then you must put yourself last. If you want to be the greatest, you must the the servant of all.

All this to say, if you want to be a leader in our community, then serve people. If you want to be a leader that has influence, if you want to be the greatest leader in our community, then be the servant of all. If someone is eager to be a "leader", then they need to be ready to invest in the lives of others. They need to be willing to do the dirty work that others won't do. They need to be a dependable servant. They have to be willing to give of their time, their money, and their heart.

After all, this is what we were created to do. It is when we are giving of ourself in service to others that we are most ourselves. It is when we are serving God and others that we are living closest to the life we were always meant to be. Any form of selfishness that keeps us from doing this is just keeping us from being our true self.

So when we want our idea to be first, when we want our desires to be first, when we think we should be heard first, this is a passage we must return to time and time again. What we want to be first will only be so if we make ourselves last and servant of all.