The Divinely-Directed Violence In Joshua – Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

I’m blogging through our sermon series, “Living God’s Story” and this message focused on the story of Joshua, entitled “Taking the Land” (Josh. 1-6). You can listen to it here.

The book of Joshua is a fun read … if you are an Israelite. They take the land that God had first promised to Abraham and they start settling … finally. The captivity is over, the wandering is over – the Israelites have land! And now they can begin this essential next chapter of becoming the nation and people that God has called them to be.

All is good, right? Well not exactly. The problem is that people were living in Canaan prior to the Israelites. They would be called the Canaanites (and of course there were countess indigenous sub-groups that would be identified throughout Joshua, Judges, and pretty much the rest of the Old Testament. Make no mistake, it’s a violent story and we as present-day readers cannot imagine how this is God’s will.

Which seems like a fitting time to introduce this particular week’s question on the back of the “scrapbook page” (which is really cool. Each week we have one. One side offers you a place to take notes and on the back as a variety of things including that sermon’s “storyline”, links for further discussions and reflection, suggested readings and it offers some type of response). So this week’s question was ”When has God asked you to do something you were afraid to do? How did you respond? What situation in your life today requires courage?”

I think confronting the violence issue in the Old Testament takes a lot of courage. Many “reading the Bible through the year resolutions” reading plans have stopped over the questions created from these texts. For most, they seem to contradict our idea of the God of love that we’ve been accustomed to hearing. For others, like the New Atheists, these texts confirm their suspicions that religion is inherently violent. I think many life-long believers choose to skip over this passage because we’re afraid of what giving strength to possibly lingering doubts. In some sense, we choose to remain in the wilderness of confusion or in the captivity of doubt.

Now, I cannot claim that we will able to resolve all our doubts … in this life. But I do think we can encounter God in a more beautiful and personal way when we have the courage to engage them. Regarding the seemingly divinely-appointed violence in the Old Testament, theologians have offered a number of insights but in my opinion, the most helpful has been the thoughts that this is part of the mystery of God. It’s mysterious to us for at least two reasons: one, we simply do not have all the empirical knowledge of the world at the time and two, I have always appreciated the notion that “God’s ways are higher than our ways” which leads me to outline a couple of the responses generally given to this issue.

It is usually said that the ancient world was more violent and immoral than we can comprehend. When God uses Israel to destroy these wicked civilizations, it was not only to fulfill the promise to Abraham but also to judge the wicked. I’ve warmed up to this thought over the years and Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God has ironically helped me in understanding the ancient world (If you could not tell from the title, it is not a “Christian” book).

I cannot help but think of the wickedness of the world. I find myself thinking of the poor Afghan woman who was raped by her husband’s cousin and jailed for adultery! I find myself thinking that she is sadly among many who face these types of injustices. I think of trafficking, bondage-labor, political corruption, church corruption, collegiate sports corruption and I am afraid to imagine the scandals that we will never know of. I also cannot help but think of how I contribute to it as well, whether by intentional action or lack of involvement. It’s a scary though if it is true that the ancient world had even less accountability and even more wickedness.

Another explanation usually mentioned is that just as God chose to send a flood, the plagues, the snakes, similarly, God chose to send the Israelites to destroy the wicked Canaanite civilization. This is part of God’s divine sovereignty for this specific time. Certainly I am not saying that we should pray that God would send something like a sci-fi movie doomsday scenario like a conquering alien species to “judge us” but it’s good for us to remember that evil has has existed all throughout human history. Further it’s good for us to remember that God is at work somehow in all of this and He works in these “mysterious ways.”

I can tell you that every seminarian, pastor, academic and countless others has wrestled with the issue of the violence in the Old Testament among many others. My point is to challenge all faithful readers of Scripture to seek the courage that God gives Joshua to keep thinking, learning and praying on these difficult matters. I do believe God has some type of a “promised land” that will satisfy our questions, skepticisms and curiosities and further will give us the peace, joy, truth and love that we seek. And I believe that is found in the hope of Jesus.

As always feel free to comment, push back, add or express your thoughts here.

Thankful For Donald Trump – Thanksgiving Series – Post 5

If you have read earlier posts, you might be tired of me saying that I made this list of things I was thankful for. As I went from the big picture things and shifted contexts (like “Conveniences I am thankful for …”), I eventually got a little sarcastic. If you know me, my cup of sarcasm probably “runneth over” more than my cup of a grateful heart. So to some extent, it’s no surprise that I wrote down “Donald Trump”.

While I don’t have the honor of knowing “The Donald”, he is among the personalities that has gone out of his way for you and me to get to know him … at least on some level. How accurate the image he projects of himself is something we’ll likely never really know. In all honesty, I hope he goes home to his penthouse and laughs at some of this because his lack of self-awareness is much scarier than any boardroom firing he’s televised.

So for the purposes of this post, I am critiquing my perceived caricature of Trump that I have observed. Trump is one of those guys that is hard to avoid. Who hasn’t seen at least one episode of The Apprentice? After the Sopranos concluded, there wasn’t much on Sunday nights. And then when it wasn’t football season, oh man, I was a helpless fool. Further, having lived the last 5 years 30 miles from Trump Towers, you couldn’t avoid the mention of the guy. I had to laugh the day it was “breaking news” when he issued the statement that he wouldn’t run for President. Not sure the expression “only in America …” could have handled this one.

Trump reminds me of some pastors – only he’s got better hair than some of them. I’m sure there is that wanna-be type in every sector and industry and maybe you have a few in mind. There are a couple of characteristics to identify them. One is that undeniably successful in some sense. Two, is that they are extremely diligent in their self-seeking interests. Three, they thrive on the idea that there is never enough power and glory to satisfy and so their personal “empire” must continue to expand. Otherwise they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. And lastly, having stated somewhat positive attributes, they have significant flaws that those around them are well aware of but their egos have either numbed or killed their self-awareness. These flaws include arrogance, womanizing, blind greed and severe relational deficiencies to name a few.

If we are honest, there’s a bit of Trump in all of us. Believe me when I tell you how much I hated writing that sentence. But what I’ve described in the paragraph above are based on American virtues that I’ve tweaked. Are there not numerous examples throughout our society that state you can get away with anything as long as you are successful? It’s the football player that keeps winning, the movie-star that keeps selling in the box office, the rockstar that sells out arenas, the televangelist that makes men cry and women empty their pocketbooks. From the articulate politician to the beautiful fashion model, we learn that your level of “untouchability” is directly related to your success. Generally, these examples are immune to accountability from those that care about them because they perceive their advice-givers as people who don’t get it. And while they wouldn’t call themselves “gods”, they enjoy their “super-human” status that they feel they’ve achieved with their blood, sweat and tears.

For the Christian, we can learn a lot here, I know as leaders we certainly can and this is why I am thankful. When our ambitions mutate and become self-serving rather than Kingdom serving, we become Trump Wanna-Be’s. When we treat ministries like an empire, we don’t even look as good as those televangelists with their fancy suits and their names written in gold hanging over the stage. When we treat our blogs as divinely anointed pulpits and hit “publish” as if we just walked off Mount Sinai, we not only risk blasphemy, but even worse, we risk losing our spiritual self-awareness.

Let our prayer be similar to John the Baptist when he says that he must decrease so that He might increase. Let us confess our sins of our pride and may we seek the Lord’s will in the way we spend the time, talents and energy that He has graciously given us. Lastly, may we learn from the foolishness of people and pray that God might use His church to show the world a better Kingdom, a better way and a better life.

Is There a Third Way in Confronting the Over-Commercialization of the Christmas Season?

Each year we find ourselves in this familiar territory of arguing over something during the Christmas season. Whether it’s public nativities, “Seasons Greetings” versus “Merry Christmas” or now the Consumerists versus who I am calling the “Buy Nothing” advocates, there’s always something and this year proves to be no exception.

First a little personal context, I never go out on Black Friday. It’s not that I prefer to pay higher retail prices, I just find the day to be unappealing. But yesterday, I had to venture out so I kissed my wife and kids goodbye, said a few extra prayers and made sure I had paid all my bills and left our life-insurance policy on the night stand (“Baby, I’m finally worth something”). It wasn’t as crazy as it was in other parts of our country.

Sadly, each year we hear Black Friday horror stories. Who will ever forget the unfortunate story of the Wal Mart employee trampled to death by a mob of people in Long Island back in 2008? This year we had stabbings, gun shots, a pepper spray incident to name a few. (This last link has quite the summary).

It’s estimated that over 150 million Americans will go shopping this weekend. Many hope that the holiday spending will benefit our struggling economy. I heard on CNN that the number of holiday shoppers yesterday exceed the population of France and a handful of other countries. Which reminds me, given the violence and rudeness of yesterday, we may owe the French an apology, compared to us, they’re nice!

Moving to the point, as much as I am concerned with consumption, materialization and the over-commercialization of Christmas, I am becoming increasingly concerned with those who advocate “Buy Nothing.” Sometimes it sounds legalistic as if we are standing on a corner beating our organic-cotton shirts yelling, “Praise God, I’m not out shopping today like these miserable materialists. We know the true meaning of Christmas.”

For semi-full disclosure, each year my wife and I have tried to be intentional with how we spend our money for others during the holiday season. We’ve participated with World Vision, Compassion International projects, and in recent years we have participated and have promoted (and maybe even bored some people) with the Advent Conspiracy (which is really cool – check them out!). But we also gift-buy as well. My wife and I use as much wisdom as we can, and many or our gifts end up being from Toms Shoes and Invisible Children and local businesses but there’s a good bit we end up getting at Target and our local mall.

Back to Buy Nothing, it’s been my observation that some end up participating in the holiday shopping next week or later on in the season. I’m not sure what the point is there, it’s not called “Buy Nothing For Now” right? It’s also been my observation that the Buy Nothing crowd freeload. I know how that sounds – but it’s been an observation. I have also seen the Buy Nothing crowd buy themselves gifts but not buy others gifts. As one friend jokingly said, “What a great strategy for cheap people!”

Now, I want all the offended to know that I rebuked my friend (after I chuckled) but I do think we would be wise to curb some of our rhetoric just as we ask people to curb some of their consumerism. Honestly, I’m not sure I can read another tweet from an Apple product (a brand I am very loyal to) condescending the holiday shoppers. I try to avoid television on days like these but I could not believe that people stayed out in the cold all night to save $100 on a LCD screen. I’m sure to that person it makes perfect sense and maybe to them, blogging seems like a waste of time and energy. We’d do well to extend respect here.

I want to encourage my Buy Nothing friends to practice their convictions with as much humility as possible and show the “consumerists” a better way without scolding them. Scolding doesn’t work with anything else, and if we do see things like consumerism as seriously as we do, perhaps a more sensitive approach would be more helpful. I’d also like to encourage my super-shopping friends to seriously consider if the commercialism is hindering their understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Further, I’d like to ask to consider gift-buying for people in need this year. Lastly, I’d like to ask all of you to check out the Advent Conspiracy video below.

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

Thankful for Facebook?? – Yep, Turns Out I Am – Thanksgiving Series – Post 4

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made a list of things I was thankful for. I know that sounds cheesy but I found it to be a helpful excercise. I started making sub-categories of things what I was thankful for and that included technology and eventually social-networking sites like Facebook. I thought about crossing that off. Reasons included that I’m in my 30’s and it felt a little silly. But then I started thinking about what the difference of not having Facebook would have made and I concluded that I really am grateful for it.

While there are a number of things that concern me about Facebook (privacy concerns, lurkers, numerous awkward experiences, the objectifying of people, the amount of time that can be wasted on the site), it has been among the best vehicles of connecting with people when you actually can’t be there physically. I compare the disadvantages to things like traffic and airline delays – they suck for sure – but they’re still worth it. While it also cannot substitute for a phone call, or receiving a hand-written note, it has its advantages such as:
It’s proven to make the difference between “never hearing from you/me again” to “staying in touch (at least somewhat)”
Like many, I too, have enjoyed rekindling old friendships.
It’s made my phone contact list lighter.
It’s proven to be a valuable tool in ministry. Writing on someone’s wall or sending a quick message saying “Hey…” has opened conversations that previously didn’t exist.
It’s helped me keep up with my family and friends, especially as they/we have begun our families.
Many more things to be sure – but my point for this post isn’t terribly profound. It’s simply to admit all this and maybe to get you to admit this too.

Now, I don’t want this post to simply be a homage to Mark Zuckerburg. I watched the Social Network, I still think it’s ironic that he (“allegedly”) stabbed his best friend in the back in the launching of this site.  But clearly, this has proven to be a game-changer.

But perhaps my favorite part of my Facebook experience has been the deepening of relationships. I have countless stories of messages sent, received, the timing of them and the care expressed inside them that leave me thinking this thing isn’t for kids, or just for fun, or for as the Social Network offered, for hooking up. It’s for a lot of things to be sure but there’s a lot of good here too and for that, I am grateful.

A Thanksgiving Reflection – Thanksgiving Series – Post 3

If you have been following this blog, you know that it’s been quite the year for us – new baby girl, moved to the Boston area for a new position and through the craziness, we’ve been enjoying a wonderful transition. In the big picture perspective, all is well, I cannot complain (but that doesn’t mean I won’t :) In truth, things are good but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is gaining perspective from the tougher seasons of life and so this year, I’ve been reflecting on the virtues gained from those times.

As I said in my sermon last week, had you told me at the start of 2008 that I’d be driving a minvan home with 3 kids, I would have thought you had the wrong guy (to say it politely). Going through infertility did not just make Susan and I promise to never take children for granted. More so, it brought us closer together, which made for a stronger marriage and now a better home for our family. Initially this problem was a challenge for us to get through together, as the years went on, we saw it as something much more, this may be our reality which forced us to ask each other, “Are we enough for each other?” Through the years, we have met couples who have been through similar types of challenges and tragedies and they were encouragement to us and I hope these words are an encouragement for those who may be in need, especially during this holiday season.

Not only did Infertility make our marriage stronger, it also demanded that I confront some of my own issues. I remember being jealous of not being able to go Christmas-shopping for my own kids. I still went to Toys R’ Us and bought presents for others but there was a resentment that always needed to be confronted. There was nothing wrong with what I wanted, but as everyone knows, resentment gets rooted in the heart and reveals itself in other ways. While this isn’t a how-to post in overcoming that, I do find myself grateful for the encouraging words of friends, the soul-searching and the prayer. I’m still not sure I can honestly say that our infertility made me a better person, but the lessons learned have made for a healthier perspective.

Another aspect of life that I find myself thinking about these days is the idea that the first five years of my ministry eventually made me a s pastor. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? Well that’s only a half-true. This is a passing thought from another reflection that I have not posted but I mention it today because the Lord did taught us much from those years. As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I learned lessons of speaking, leadership, etc. But what I am really grateful for is that those years made it clear that ministry is about “other people” and if you can’t understand that, change careers. Without sounding overly-dramatic, I’d be in denial if I didn’t admit to considering that option (in fact, I was even presented with a more lucrative career-change) but as it turned out, I really believed in this calling. I find myself grateful for this experience these days.

To those that find themselves in a tough season whether with family, ministry, vocation, life-trajectory, I hope these words offer some encouragement. There is still so much to go in life, indeed there will be tough times ahead (I know this will be true for us as well), but may we gain from them and may they lead to joyful times too.

Finally, if we can spend some time in our Thanksgiving offering prayers for those that are struggling today. May we pray for the grieving, the diseased, the depressed, the long-term unemployed, the heartbroken. Today my prayers are also with those in Egypt. Though I am thankful, I fervently pray thet God’s Kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven.

I’m Thankful For the Emerging Church Movement – Thanksgiving Series – Post 2

Last week I made a list of what I was thankful for. There were the obvious blessings like my faith, my family, our dear friends and our new transition here in MA to name a few. After that, everything seems trivia so I made sub-categories – what tangible physical things was I grateful for (hot water, being a 2 car family, the internet, which led to which technologies I was grateful for, cell phones, macbooks, Facebook (that’s the next post) to eventually what ideas/concepts/mantras I was thankful. The emerging church conversation was at the top of the list.

Now, many of us know that the “emerging church” is a bit of a fuzzy term and unfortunately I don’t have the time, space, ability or willingness to “define” it adequately so I’ll reference you to Scot McKnight’s “5 Streams of the Emerging Church” article that was posted on Christianity Today.

I am aware that others may have found these blessings below via another route. This is part of my experience.

1. The emerging church conversation was the first place that I felt that really appreciated and valued non-believers and the over-churched young people. As one in his twenties, new in ministry primarily serving the millennials, this was refreshing. It felt to me that until then, the answer was, “Well these kids are getting worse and worse, they need us to be even more forceful/adamant about Jesus!” I sensed a willingness to engage and contextualize with others that informed and shaped my soul and my ministry.

2. The emerging church conversation forced me to work on my theology. It was from Tony Jones that I first heard that we tend to see Christianity through the eyes of Paul rather than Jesus. That was a pretty arresting moment for me at the National Youth Workers Convention in 2003 in Charlotte. IN ALL HONESTY, this helped me discover and worship a “better Jesus” – a more Biblical one. There were a number of other moments that helped me to see the beauty and depth of Scripture and I know I am a better pastor, Christian, person for it. Still have a long way to go though. After i finished my MAR, I knew i wanted to go back to pursue my MDIV. It’s truthful to say that my experience at Biblical Seminary was truly enriched by all of this.

3. The emerging church conversation introduced me to the missional-church conversation. These years, I have resonated more with the MC but I would be in strong denial (and I believe others would too) if I didn’t acknowledge that this was emerging church conversation that introduced me to the concepts and virtues of the missional life. (Raise your hand if you owned a Brian McLaren book before an Alan Hirsch book – I see those hands :).

4. The emerging church conversation celebrated my appreciations for postmodernity and plurality. I’ve always felt that that I wasn’t conservative enough for the fundamentalists, progressive enough for the liberals and moderate enough for the moderates. Words like “conversation” and “friendship” have gone a long way with me. Not only have I felt welcomed to conversations where I previously didn’t, I welcomed others that I previously didn’t.

5. The emerging church conversation helped spiritual formation by emphasizing the importance of the ancient church. I’ll admit prior to the year 2001, my church calendar skipped from the second century to the start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. I gained so much by celebrating and learning more about the history and practices of the Church.

So much more I could say, but this is enough. But if you would like to learn more about the emerging church movement through the lens of one of its biggest contributors, check out Tony Jones’ The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement. Kindle edition is only $2.99.

How about you? What have you gained from the emerging church conversation or if more relevant, what concepts and ideas have shaped your journey?

Thankful For the Lessons Learned While Serving in Youth Ministry – Thanksgiving Series – Post 1

This week, I am posting a series on some of the blessings I’ve been thankful for that I haven’t expressed before. So here we go:

First up, I’m thankful for the lessons I learned in youth ministry. Until this September, I had been serving in vocational youth ministry since the beginning of 2000. One of these days, I’ll try to intelligently post on my transition. But until then, know that I loved being a youth pastor.

As I have been enjoying settling into my new position, there have been moments that I’ve missed serving in youth ministry.  Like when the Montvale group (my previous church) shared about their mission trip experience at the end of September (was thrilled to watch my young friend Jorge’s video of our trip). Other examples include hearing about their fall retreat and seeing my new church’s youth pastors lead their respective retreats. Our middle school pastor, Andrew, told an incredible story of one student’s experience last month and among my thoughts were, “I used to tell that story.”

That said, I’ve been grateful not to be away these weekends now with our third child having just been born and two little ones wrecking havoc on our home. My dear wife is a trooper and since she’s taken that Mom’s class led by the Marine veteran, I think we’ve “taken back the beach” – Oorah! Still, I look at back at my time in youth ministry and here’s what I am grateful for:

1. Youth ministry demanded that I be a better speaker and taught me how to hold people’s attention. You think the adult listening span is short, try a 9th grader’s. There are countless lessons I learned by teaching young people over the years from reading body-language, to the way humor works, inflection, pacing, to “what’s in my head is not coming out right from my mouth, now what do I do …. just keep moving, don’t let them sense weakness or lack of confidence … must take back the beach!”

2. Youth ministry forced me to pay attention to practical theology. Many times, I was the first person to explain an essential doctrine like the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Not only did this mean that I had to explain these theologies in understandable terms, but I needed to truly think and live them out.

3. Youth ministry helped me to see the world of contextualization. Here I am as an X’er leading Millennials who are being parented and educated by Boomers in an ever-changing society. Add to it that I’m proclaiming a God, that among the things we say about Him is that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Contextualization was the key for learning the balance between relevance and timeless truths.

4. Youth ministry taught me to be a better leader. It taught me how to deal with criticism from students, from parents, from volunteers, fellow staff members, from soccer coaches …. did I miss anyone? I learned the values of listening, decision-making, forgiveness, seeking forgiveness and the need to keep pressing on among other needed lessons.

5. Youth ministry made it clear that they key to ministry is loving people and showing them you care.

So it turns out, that I’m getting back in the saddle. This Sunday I’ve been asked to teach the 6th Grade Sunday School class on “something from church history that doesn’t suck.” I’m a little nervous but I feeling up for it.

Indeed, there were many more lessons gained along the way. If you’re a youth worker, feel free to post yours. If you’re not, feel free to post a lesson you are thankful for in your walk of life.
This week I am posting on why I am thankful for the emerging church movement, Facebook and … Donald Trump.

Why Does God Send the Poisonous Snakes? Blogging Through Our Sermon Series

I’ve been blogging through our sermon series, “Living God’s Story” and have found myself a few messages behind. Today’s post is about the story of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness in their rebellion. The central point of the sermon was God goes with us even when we choose to go into the wilderness. When we repent, He graciously leads us back to His place and purposes. You can listen to the message, “Wilderness Wandering” here.

One troubling aspect for many of us in the in the wilderness wanderings is when God “sends” poisonous snakes into the camp. “Sends” are in quotes because there is discussion on whether God “allowed” the snakes to enter the camp (as if they were previously registered and already on their way) or “send” as if God intentionally directed them there. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, I tend to think the latter. The commentators I trust have interpreted that word as “send” or with something that demonstrated God’s choosing. Further, this is not metaphorical, they are real snakes doing what they do, like biting people and infecting their prey with venom. God later provides a solution to this but not before some people perish.

Of course, if I was God, I would have made sure no one perished. I would have provided even more sign posts in the wilderness. I would have spoken louder to them. Each night, I would have dazzled them with Disney-esque fireworks so not only would they know that there was a God, but that they would like me too. That’s right, I would have had the angels prepare analysis of what worshippers are looking for and then I would have marketed myself to them. You gotta give the people what they want. You just can’t trust people with so much free-will, they always squander it.

Ok, you get the point, I wouldn’t have made a good deity. And I find this is always the catch with such difficult passages of Scripture. Why send the poisonous snakes?

Here’s what I think we are to learn from the passages:
One, God does punish those He loves. Under this interpretation, the snakes are for punishment. This does not mean that every time there is an earthquake, hurricane, plane crash, or any other tragedy that God “sent” them. I think we need to be careful in our assumptions and so unless God declares, “Tim, I created the pothole that would flatten your tire the moment before you drove into it. Next time don’t tail gate the ladies headed to the Bible study – they are my servants.” If God said that, I would likely try to go to that Ladies Bible Study but you get the point.

Second and even more interesting to me, is that this does not become a reoccurring punishment system with God. He doesn’t say later, “You better knock it off or I’ll send the snakes back. Or maybe this time, I’ll send scorpions …” Though God does continue to punish those He loves as He deems necessary, He does not do so in what I feel is a predictable, systematic way. I think we have to be careful here because there tends to be a lot of bad theology that results from this. I hope I am not guilty of this as well. Not every bad thing is from God. In this case, He chose to do send the snakes, He chose to proclaim He that He did this and though I am “uncomfortable” with it, I trust His sovereignty.

Third, God is merciful. It’s incredible to me that the punishment is quickly provided by a solution. God instructs Moses to build a bronze serpent. Anyone bitten can look to it and be healed. Jesus later references this powerful scene and I find it incredible (John 3:14-15). Incredible, because it’s another example of God not only not giving up on us but offering a life-giving solution.

Check Out 58: A Film Focused on Ending Global Poverty & You Can Download It For Free

This past week, our church held two screenings for the film 58: as part of our Global Awareness Week. According to their website, it’s “the inspiring true story of the global Church in action. Witness bravery and determined faith in a journey from the slums of Kenya to the streets of New York. Confront the brutality of extreme poverty and meet those who live out the true fast of Isaiah 58 and create stunning new possibilities for the future.” Read more here.

First, let me say that missions films have come a long way. If A Thief In the Night scared the pit of death out of me (which was its intended purpose right?), most missions films bored me to death. Now when I hear there’s a Missions “something”, I’m pretty interested. (Please don’t pull out those slideshows, my trust is fragile).  Based on Isaiah 58, it tells a powerful story.

Here’s what I appreciated:
… that it was rated PG-13. They showed extreme poverty and there are parts that are uncomfortable to watch. No violence, no blood, nothing gratuitous but tough to watch.
(Side Note: There were more children in our screening than I expected, many under 10. I sat in the back and tried to gauge some of the children’s reactions which is hard to do with the back of their heads in the dark. I would say many of the little ones were bored, which was a relief to me in some sense but I imagine parents had some tough and hopefully powerful conversations with their children afterwards. Still, consider the rating.)

… the issues were discussed: In addition to extreme poverty, trafficking and bondage labor were addressed.
I loved the interview with International Justice Missions worker who found his anti-trafficking job so fulfilling. One of my favorite parts of the film.
Enjoyed the storylines of what some people in Western contexts   are doing to help. Fashion designer, coffee-shop owner, youth pastor – these people are showing us how we can be involved.

My heart broke for:
… Workitu (7months pregnant) said that her husband abandoned her and children because he didn’t want to die like this.
… one child born into forced labor said that he had dreams but wished he didn’t … because they can’t come true.
… the Images for the girls rescued from trafficking.

Is solving global poverty possible in our generation? It is possible to solve it ever?
This is a tough question. Indeed so much energy, time and money has been wasted (or resources ending up in the wrong hands). Indeed handouts are not sustainable or nor life-giving on a long-term basis. However, I did appreciate what Dr. Scott Todd from Compassion International said. Among the stats mentioned were the work has cut in half the number of children who are dying per day (was 40,000/day, now 21,000. Among the reasons is more access for more people to clean drinking water). If we can think through the gravity of that statistic, there is work to be done here.

So much more to say but check it for yourself – watch the trailer and here’s the link. from Wing Clips who have posted the full download, along with a study guide for free.

58: THE FILM Trailer from LIVE58NOW on Vimeo.


Reflecting on Penn State, Joe Paterno and the Pain of the Abused #Paterno

I cannot imagine how life feels like for these men (and their families) who were terribly abused nearly a decade ago by Jerry Sandusky. I’m guessing it’s a mix of emotions – perhaps satisfaction that the law is being enforced against those who violated and failed to protect. I imagine also that there is some anger and sadness from the complicated public reaction. If I understand it correctly, everyone grieves for the victims but I’m seeing a blame-shift taking place and that is terribly unfortunate.

Though I am not a Penn State Football fan, I am a sports fan and have always felt that Joe Paterno was an easy guy to admire. Through the years he’s carried an aura, he’s tough, he’s classy, I believe him to be a good man. it also seemed every season there were a set of stories where he went further than the game and challenged, disciplined and inspired his players to do the right thing. His discipline included public service, cleaning up the stadium after a game and benching star players on important games.

So I guess that’s why it surprises me that Paterno did not voluntarily resign therefore forcing his board of trustees to dismiss him. He’s already admitted that he regrets not doing more (“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more”). I get that the authorities are not pressing charges against him and that he technically met the minimum legal action required of him but let’s be real here – he heard about a this evil act being done on his turf, told his athletic director, they told him they’d look into it and then he … went back to work. As a moral human being, he failed those boys. As a leader, he failed the great obligation that was warranted. It’s forgivable because all things are, but please, let us stop with the non-sense of coaching legacy, it’s now irrelevant to the conversation.

His supporters are saying that the trustees and the media have tarnished his long and amazing legacy but I tell you the truth, he tarnished his own legacy the day he didn’t follow up on a 10 year old boy that was being sexually abused in his shower room. Anyone can try to spin this whole legacy angle any way they want but regardless of the number of epic wins he had since then, the day he did nothing more was the day he forfeited this legacy.

Sports are microcosms of life, players and in this case, coaches, are the heroes (and sometimes villains) of the drama but we have to remember – we’re not talking about “games” here – we are talking about an aspect of our human existence. The role that sports plays in our lives is enormous and therefore these moments are of utmost significance. As spectators, we are reminded of our failures, our own moral shortcomings and perhaps now it’s appropriate that we should remember our own cover-ups. It’s amazing to me how many times sports reminds us of such things.

Now realize my anger is not just towards Paterno however – everyone who had knowledge and a voice is included. There was a culture of cover-up there in what is ironically called “Happy Valley”. They sold out those young boys to preserve their reputation, their brand, their revenue (which brings in approximately $72 million to the school and $24 mil to the Athletic Dept.).

To the Penn State family, alumni (some of them are very close to me, like my brother) and fans, realize that many are overwhelmed at the number of young boys who were abused under the Penn State flag. It’s not an attack on you or your loyalties, but many (including myself) are shocked and outraged (and that’s a healthy response under these circumstances).

To the victims of this scandal and to the many that arel still in silence, know people truly care about you and we pray that God will continue to give you the courage to stand up for what’s right, surround you with people who will support and that He would bring healing to your hearts.

To the rest of us, as these heated events continues to unfold for the next few weeks, let’s be wise in our outrage, patient with those who disagree, and humble in our prayers.