Monday, February 19, 2007

Blankets for Malawi

We are in the process of raising $20,000 to purchase 2,000 blankets for a village in Malawi. We will be purchasing the blankets in Malawi and working together with Hands@Work Malawi to distribute them to a village that they are working with -- and that needs them for the coming Malawian winter.

If you are interested in donating to this project, click on the link below. Thanks so much.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

When God Stood Up -- James Cantelon

When God Stood Up is subtitled A Christian Response to AIDS in Africa. In reality it is a prophetic call to Christians in the Western World and in Africa to "to arise" and "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God."

The book is a combination of stories and the examination of Scriptures -- primarily from the Old Testament. Having lived and pastored in Jerusalem, Cantelon is obviously quite at home in the OT and very familiar with Jewish teachings and customs. As a result he provides a significant amount of insight into OT texts relating to the character of God and His desire for His people to reflect His character.

I struggled with a couple of chapters in the book -- primarily the one on suffering (which I felt was very weak), and the chapter on the wrath of God.

However, overall, the book was excellent, and I would recommend that you read it -- IF you are ready to respond to the message of the book.

What is the message?

Cantelon begins the book by stating the following (pages 21 and 22)

The core concerns of most prophetic messages, generally refer to one of four "sins": idolatry (a low view of God), adultery (a low view of neighbor), neglect of the poor (again, a low view of neighbor), and the shedding of innocent blood (once more, a low view of neighbor).

The call of Scripture is that Israel (or the people of God) return to a high view of God (righteousness) and a high view of neighbor (justice). The focus of righteousness is love for God. The focus of justice is love for neighbor. . . . in Old Testament times, if someone was to ask the question, 'Who is my neighbor?', the answer would be, "start with the alien, the orphan and the widow".

As I read through this, my thoughts immediately went to those of us in North America who call ourselves Christians.
  • Are we idolatrous? Do we worship fame, church attendance, offerings and buildings, materialism, religious experience, celebrity, etc. more than God?
  • How are we on the adultery scale, when the divorce rate of evangelicals in the USA is as high or higher than that of the general population?
  • Are we neglecting the poor? What about immigrants -- even undocumented aliens? What is the Biblical response to this issue? Should we be standing up for the rights of aliens, or should we build a wall to keep all the aliens out? What about single mothers and fatherless children in North America?
  • The shedding of innocent blood -- most often used by evangelicals to talk about abortion -- one of our favorite subjects. I believe abortion is the shedding of innocent blood. But what about the evangelical support for a war, most likely built on false pretenses (at least the justification for the invasion of Iraq has changed numerous times) that has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the last 3 years in Iraq?
Cantelon ends the book with a powerful chapter on what the Old Testament prophets said about righteousness and justice. He talks about Jeremiah stressing the fact that knowing God is more than religious services, solemn assemblies and praise and worship, which in the absence of righteousness and justice is essentially hollow and hateful. Those who know the name of God, must know the names of the poor.

Jeremiah has a word of the Lord in Chapter 22:3

Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not she innocent blood in this place.

From Jeremiah, Cantelon moves on to Isaiah. The famous passage on fasting and prayer in Isaiah 58 becomes the focus. Through the prophet Isaiah God speaks to the His people and tells us that when we loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share our food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter and clothe the naked, then the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard, our righteousness will go before us, and the Lord will answer our prayers.

In case Israel (and those of us living in 2007) didn't get it, a few verses later this is repeated. If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, THEN your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

My question is -- are we listening? God is telling us that when we take care of widows, orphans, the fatherless, the poor and the hungry -- and we rise with Him against individual and structural injustice -- when we are concerned about ALL the shedding of innocent blood -- THEN, He will hear our prayer, and we as His people will bring glory to His name -- and His name will be honored among all the peoples. As long as we fail to reflect righteousness (His character) and justice (especially for widows, orphans, the fatherless, aliens and the innocent) in how we live, God's name will not be glorified.

How does this relate to the AIDS pandemic?
  • 15 million AIDS orphans in Africa. That number is growing by more than 2,000 a day.
  • 25 million AIDS orphans around the world.
  • Billions of people around the world live on less than $1 a day. Think about it -- a special coffee at Starbucks is 5 days of salary for more than a billion people.
  • Millions of women in Africa and around the world becoming widows due to AIDS.
  • Millions of women and girls being raped, sexually abused and thrown on the rubbish heap (more often than not -- literally) because they have contracted AIDS due to what was done to them by men -- or because of poverty or war, or a number of other reasons.
  • 1 million HIV+ people in North America. While this is a very small percentage of the population, what has the church done to minister to those with AIDS right on our doorstep?
God is standing up -- ready to do something. He has sent his prophets -- Bono, Stephen Lewis, Jim Cantelon, Rick Warren, and numerous others. Will the church in the West and the church in Africa listen?

Will we stand with God?

Will I stand with God?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

You Tube

has got to be one of the


on the web.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Frost and My Flowers and Bushes

So my friend Andrea tells me that my posts have all become to serious -- dealing with global issues, slavery, AIDS, etc. So here is a post that is fairly meaningless to everyone but me.

Having moved to the Arizona desert from British Columbia and Kansas, and growing up where things are naturally green, I try my hardest to keep a green lawn in the Phoenix summers and have flowers and bushes around as much as possible.

Due to global warming, in January we experienced the coldest two days since 1978 here in Phoenix -- it was -2C or +28F o
vernight. I know those of you from my home and native land are all laughing. I remember the good old days when -2C was when we took our jackets off and were tempted to go swimming. Well, since having moved to Phoenix I have become a wimp.

The other things that are wimps are the flowers and bushes around here. So, this weekend I have literally spent about 10 hours cutting away all the dead stuff from our Lantanas and Honeysuckles. What follows below are before and after pictures -- so you can appreciate my work and be sad with me. I think everything will recover -- it will just take a couple of years.

By the way -- all letters and cards of sympathy will be greatly appreciated -- especially if they include large sums of cash.

Anyway, here are the before and after photos.

My Honeysuckles BEFORE the Frost

My Honeysuckles AFTER the the Frost

My Lantanas BEFORE the Frost

My Lantanas AFTER the Frost

I trust that now you can cry for me and understand why my guitar gently weeps.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Boston Legal, Jay Leno, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and the Perception of Christians

A couple of nights ago I watched Boston Legal and Jay Leno. Boston Legal was especially interesting. As you may know, at the end of each episode James Spader and William Shatner have a conversation on a balcony. These conversations are often philosophical in nature.

The conversation on Tuesday night was particularly interesting because it provided a very clear picture of the perception that those outside of the evangelical church have of Christians. James Spader asks William Shatner who the role models are for those who would be the moral police of our culture. Here was Shatner's answer.

On marriage and fidelity -- Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert
On heterosexuality -- Ted Haggard
On gun control -- Dick Cheney

Now Boston Legal is not a show that anyone would say portrays Christian values. Some would even say it is a propaganda tool of the "liberal media". All that may be true -- but the reality is that this is actually what people think about the leadership of the evangelical/charismatic movement. While there are millions of decent, honest, Christ-like followers of Jesus in the USA, their lives are often discounted because of the "witness" of those who have led us. I asked myself where are the Mother Theresas and the William Wilberforces of the 21st Century? Where are the Christian leaders who live lives that are so Christ-like that they can say the "hard things" and be listened to?

Later that night Jay Leno talked about Ted Haggard. Earlier that day a news story broke that after 3 weeks of intensive counseling Haggard announced that he is totally heterosexual -- despite the fact that in his confession he said he had struggled with homosexual leanings all of his life. Haggard also said that he was going to take an online masters degree in psychology and then perhaps become a counselor. Leno laughed, everyone laughed -- because it seemed rather ludicrous to everyone.
I asked myself where are the Mother Theresas and the William Wilberforces of the 21st Century? Where are the Christian leaders who live lives that are so Christ-like that they can say the "hard things" and be listened to?

I also remembered what I heard and read on radio and online and in the newspapers about two other men -- Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith. Both men were coaching their teams in the Super Bowl. What I heard and read was so good -- both men, followers of Jesus -- whose lives matched what they believed. I heard respect. I heard admiration for their character. I heard respect for their faith. Again I thought to myself -- wouldn't it be wonderful to have more high profile Christians who actually lived like Jesus? Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more people like Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith?

It brought me back to the conclusion that I am coming to more and more. If those who claim to follow Jesus, lived like Jesus, wouldn't we then have the opportunity to see transformation in our world. But as long as we focus on being the moral police, on being against people and against agendas and against . . . and fail to live like Jesus, fail to love, fail to do justly, to love mercy and to walk HUMBLY with our God, we will continue to be the laughing stock, we will continue to be considered hypocrites, we will continue to have little or no respect and continue to have little or no voice on those issues that God cares about.

May God bring to us more followers of Jesus that lead like Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, and William Wilberforce.

Amazing Grace -- The Movie

Last night I went to a preview of the movie called Amazing Grace -- the story of William Wilberforce. If you click on the link below, you can go to the website.

  • Amazing Grace

  • Excellent movie. I would recommend it to one and all. A great story that stays fairly close to the facts. It is well done. Also gets you thinking about the current situation in the USA in terms of the war with Iraq (when a nation is at war ethics, integrity and morals tend to be forgotten), immigration issues, and how easily our consumerism and desire to be wealthy and comfortable perverts our sense of justice and what is right (the fight against the abolition of slavery was largely a fight about economics, standard of living and comfort).

    I am so glad that I can call William Wilberforce a brother.

    The movie also gave me hope that people who are wealthy and have political power can, if they choose to, make a significant difference in the world. William Wilberforce, because of his Christian convictions changed the lives of millions of people -- without violence and war. Perhaps we can too!

    Go see the movie. Encourage your friends to watch it as well. You won't be disappointed.