Thursday, December 25, 2008

Football, God and Kurt Warner

After battling lingering injuries and back-up status demotions the past few seasons, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has been back to his old form this year. The two-time league MVP was recently named to his third Pro Bowl and has re-joined the ranks of the top tier signal callers in the league.

Despite all of his accomplishments on the field, Warner is perhaps most well-known for his faith and off the field charity. posted a feature article yesterday detailing how his faith shapes his perspective as a professional athlete and how it affects his relationships with his teammates.

Since taking the league by storm in 1999 while leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl title, Warner's Christian faith has been the subject of a number of discussions. Since he is vocal in sharing his faith with others and frequently mentions Jesus in interviews there are some that feel that Warner has crossed the line at times into unfair proselytizing towards unwilling teammates and reporters.

In era that seems dominated by ego-driven and money hungry athletes, I find it peculiar that so many fault Warner for being so active in sharing his faith. Granted, Warner is a flawed human, as we all are. He makes mistakes and is not going to be perfect. But aren't there worse things that he could be doing than telling others about Jesus and serving his community? While I am concerned about the prevalence of athletes who give shout outs to Jesus in interviews and live lives in seeming opposition to righteousness, Warner appears to be legitimate in the sincerity of his faith. I don't know him and I'm not one of his teammates, but he generally appears to carry himself with class and integrity.

However, one of the anecdotes in the article is a telling reminder for all of us as Christians and how we seek to relate to others outside of our faith:
"This past summer, Warner invited his Cardinals teammates and their families to his home for a day of swimming and eating. Barely anyone showed up. Warner believes the perception, still after all these years, was partly to blame.
"When I asked Larry [Fitzgerald] what happened, he told me that everyone is afraid to come over because they don't know if I'm going to stand up on a podium and preach to them," Warner said. "They just think I'm going to jump up and down and introduce them to Jesus. But that's crazy. And the people who know me realize that's not who I am."
The poor turnout disappointed Warner, Brenda said. "We try to keep it normal so that people don't think we're a bunch of weirdos, but that perception is out there," she added. "We fight it every day."
He fights it in the locker room, where some teammates don't feel comfortable around Warner and giggle like little kids on rare occasions when he curses. They fight it in the marketing world, where Warner's agent struggles to find endorsement opportunities for a potential Hall of Fame quarterback with a pristine off-the-field résumé. And they fight it in the media, where Warner tries to walk the line of getting his message out to the public without alienating fans."
As I read this particular story, I, too, felt for Kurt. At times I have also rubbed people the wrong way or pushed them away when attempting to discuss issues of a spiritual nature. I feel for a guy who is simply attempting to share the difference that Christ has made in his life with those he cares about. Though my personal interactions with others in this matter have been far more positive than negative, it is challenging to be a welcoming person while, at the same time, share challenging perspectives.

The reality that Kurt Warner faces is one that is on a much broader scale than most of us face, but it is still very similar. Those of us that consider ourselves followers of the One whose birth we celebrate today have the challenge of living out our faith in word and deed among some that are mildly indifferent or actively opposed to the message we bring. Former teammate Josh McCown brings an interesting and, possibly, very accurate assessment into the discussion:
"I think a lot of people relate to athletes who make bad choices because it brings the athlete down to their level," McCown said. "It helps them feel good about who they are and what they're doing.
"On the other side, when you hear the stories about Kurt, here is someone squeezing the most they can out of their life. And at the end of the day, that causes all of us to look in the mirror. And I think sometimes we don't like what that mirror looks like. So it's easier to rip on the things Kurt does than change yourself."
You can read the full ESPN article by Wayne Drehs here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holding Out Hope for Detroit

As far as American cities go, it would be hard to find another one that is having as rough a go at it as Detroit is right now. With an economy in steady deadline and a population that is half the size it was a half-century ago, Motown has certainly seen better days. Having just seen a mayor leave office after a well-publicized scandal and a professional football team that has become the butt of jokes in sports bars across the country, Detroit is a city that needs some hope. And needs it fast.

Although I didn't grow up in D-Town (I was raised outside of Detroit - an hour traveling northeast on I-94), my heart is with the Motor City. Some of my fondest memories of childhood are taking of trips downtown to Tiger Stadium, just blocks from where my dad has worked for years. My wife grew up mere minutes from Detroit and went to college in the heart of the city at Wayne State University. The blue-collar work ethic and grittiness of the city defines southeastern Michigan and, thus, is part of who I am.

Our home now is in central Florida but we feel the pain of fellow Michiganders. The auto industry is what made Detroit (and the state of Michigan) what it is and the decline of that same industry is what so affects it today. Other factors have contributed to its present state:

"The roots of Detroit's current plight go back decades. Court-ordered school busing and the 12th Street riots of 1967 accelerated an exodus of whites to the suburbs, and many middle-class blacks followed, shrinking the city's population from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now. About 83% of the current population is African American. Detroit's crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates are among the worst of any major U.S. city. Car and home insurance rates are high. Chain grocery stores are absent, forcing many Detroiters to rely on high-priced corner stores. "There's always been a real can-do spirit among our people," said the Rev. Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. "That's being beaten down right now. ... These times, unlike others, have sapped a lot of that spirit from them.""
Not only is it difficult to see the challenges that the current economic realities have brought to a large number of family and friends, but it affects us in a very direct and tangible way. As missionaries dependent upon the financial generosity of others, we feel the struggling economy as well. Over 3/4 of our financial support base is within southeastern Michigan so although our jobs might not be on the line, we feel it every time a financial partner gets laid off or loses their job.

Even with those realities, we are so thankful for those that give sacrificially so that we can engage in our ministry to college students. We have ministry partners that are on fixed or limited incomes but still give because they believe in what we do. They give because they recognize that eternity is in the balance for individuals and that their giving, no matter how small or large, makes a difference.

It is these types of people that make up the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. We are hard workers. We are people committed to our families. We are folks loyal to our employers. We are fans that stick through thick and thin with our teams (although the Lions are testing this truth.) And we are hard-nosed individuals that don't back down from a fight. It is this spirit that defines Detroit and the good people of Michigan.

I am proud to say that I am from Michigan and that I have kids (though they haven't really lived in the state) that know where their parents come from. Detroit is a city and Michigan is a state that possesses a rich history that has helped to shape America in so many ways. From the auto industry to the music of Motown. From the greatness that is Michigan Wolverine football to influencers like Malcolm X and Gerald Ford and Magic Johnson and Thomas Edison. From Coney Island hot dogs and Better Made chips to Vernors pop and paczis.

I'm confident that the faith and spirit of the residents of Detroit will one day help this great city to return to better days. I am in no way an economic expert so I really can't speculate on what has caused the Big Three of GM, Ford and Chrysler to bring things to where they stand today. I do know that in order to see Detroit return to its previous glory there needs to be better leadership in place across the board. The residents of Detroit and Michigan cannot elect people or support leaders of business that are high on eloquence but low on morals. The recent mayoral embarrassment and excesses of selected CEO's goes to show that morality does still matter.

It is times like these that many turn to a higher power to get them through their struggles. I trust that many will return to Jesus or, for some, turn to Him for the first time. Our cars may fail us, our money may run out and our sports teams may come up short, but I believe that God is not through with Detroit or its people yet. I'm still holding out hope...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Making the Case for Historically Black Colleges

Some proposed legislation in the state of Georgia is threatening the existence of some unique colleges in the state, HBCU's. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) are those institutions of higher learning that were established in order to provide collegiate-level education to African Americans during a time when those of African descent were denied the opportunity to be educated at other schools.

Most HBCU's were founded after the Civil War, although a few such as Wilberforce University in Ohio and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania were founded in the 1850's. Some of the more prominent HBCU's in the country are Morehouse and Spelman (Atlanta), Howard (Washington, DC), Fisk (Nashville), Florida A & M, and Hampton (Virginia).

The debate in Georgia presently revolves around differences in opinion as to whether HBCU's still have a place a place in today's integrated and modern society. Seth Harp, a Republican Georgia state senator, feels like HBCU's should merge with more traditional (i.e. predominately white) schools:
"Faced with a $2 billion budget shortfall, a Republican state senator has proposed merging two historically black schools with predominantly white colleges to save money. In the process, he said, he hopes to erase a vestige of Jim Crow-era segregation. "I think we should close this ugly chapter in Georgia's history," Seth Harp, chairman of the state Senate's Higher Education Committee, said Tuesday. Jim Crow refers to state and local laws that mandated the separation of blacks and whites."
Sen. Harp, who is white, is not alone in his thinking. Cynthia Tucker, an editor for the Atlanta Constitution, agrees with him. Tucker, who is African American, has this to say:
"There is no longer good reason for public colleges that are all-white or all-black"
From my perspective there are at least a couple things wrong with the thinking of Ms. Tucker and Mr. Harp. First, I've visited a large number of HBCU's and I've yet to find one that is all-black. Although non-African Americans may be in the minority, they are still welcome to apply and attend each of these colleges. In fact, one of the school that I mentioned, Morehouse, had a white valedictorian this past school year. I don't know why this is considered any different than the vast number of major state institutions where white students make up close to 90% or more of the student population.

Second, Sen. Harp infers that HBCU's are somehow inherently tainted since they were founded when segregation was the law of the land. I disagree. HBCU's have a rich history and have produced some of the greatest leaders of influencers in American history -- Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Oprah Winfrey are just a few individuals that attended HBCU's.

Of course there have also been notable African Americans that attended state colleges (or no college at all), but for the aforementioned individuals, the HBCU environment shaped them in ways that might have not otherwise taken place. These schools have a history and legacy that should be left in tact. Similar to HBCU's, the black church was formed during a time of intense racism and disenfranchisement of black people. But even in the midst of that environment, a thriving institution was birthed that has given strength, hope and purpose to an untold number of individuals that might not have found it elsewhere.

During the Jim Crow era of American history, blacks were not allowed to attend school with whites because of racism, pure and simple. There is a big difference between the current state of HBCU's and state institutions that prevented African Americans from attending. Many black students choose to attend an HBCU because they feel like that is the best environment for them to learn and become prepared for the "real world" after college. But they also have the option of attending other schools that don't have a historic black majority. That's the point. They have a choice now, whereas in years past, that option wasn't there.

While I'm an advocate of these honorable institutions, the fact remains that these schools have to be economically viable in order to continue on. The state should help financially in a similar way that it does for other state schools. We all know that not all schools are the same nor do they all provide the same level of education. My friends that are Ivy League graduates got a different kind of education than I did at a Mid-American Conference school (although we have better football teams.) :) But, when possible, I think it is to our benefit to continue to support educational institutions that have a historical legacy that future generations can learn from. African American history IS American history and vice versa. Let us not forget that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Americans' View on Heaven

A recent survey sheds an interesting light on the perspective that many Americans have on the afterlife. Although the United States is generally considered a "Christian" nation, many feel that heaven is not reserved for only those that claim Jesus Christ as Savior.

This survey was a follow up to a controversial 2007 study, performed by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, that found that although 74% of Americans believe in a place called heaven where the good are rewarded, only 59% believe in a literal hell. 70% believe that many religions lead to eternal life, including a surprising 57% that attend evangelical churches.

Among the other findings:
"Christian believers who named at least one non-Christian faith that could lead to salvation included 34% of white evangelicals, even though evangelical doctrine stresses that salvation is possible only through Jesus. Higher levels of church attendance made some difference, particularly among white evangelical protestants. But an overall majority (54%) of people who identified with a religion and who said they attend church weekly also said many religions can lead to eternal life. This majority included 37% of white evangelicals, 75% of mainline Protestants and 85% of non-Hispanic white Catholics.
Pew's new survey also found that many Christians (29%) say they are saved by their good actions; 30% say salvation is through belief in Jesus, God or a higher power alone, which is the core teaching of evangelical Protestantism; and 10% say salvation is found through a combination of behavior and belief, a view closer to Catholic teachings. The number of those who said actions determine who attains heaven, was lowest (11%) for white evangelicals, highest for white Catholics (47%)."
It is now clear that the pluralism in our society has greatly influenced the Christian Church. While I respect the views of others, I don't feel that all perspectives are equally valid. A careful reading of the Bible will show that the multiple-path-to-heaven viewpoint is not taught. Jesus himself said that He is "the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" and "for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Although most major religions deal with similar concepts like treating others well and doing good, they are not the same. They do not all deal with sin, forgiveness and eternity in the same manner. One offers a Savior who died for our sins and deals with the root of our human problem. Some seek to accept the teachings of Jesus when it comes to loving our neighbor as ourselves, yet reject his teachings on addressing our depravity. The whole point of the Christian gospel is that I can't love my neighbor as myself (or even truly love myself) apart from Jesus. If you'd like to explore more about what makes Jesus Christ and the Christian faith unique click here. I'd love to talk with you more about it if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

President Bush and the Shoe Thrower

In case you haven't heard, an Iraqi journalist decided to show his displeasure towards our Commander-in-Chief by hurling both of his shoes at him in the middle of a press conference during a surprise visit to Iraq the other day. To most of us in the West this seems to be bit of an odd way to express oneself. We're used to people throwing pies or fruit & vegetables, but shoes?!

Within Middle Eastern cultures, shoes hold greater significance than in the West and represent something much more than just what we put on our feet. In fact, even showing the sole of one's foot is considered unacceptable in polite society. So when this Iraqi sought to demonstrate his contempt for the U.S. president, he did so with that which he thought would be most offensive -- his shoes.

Apparently President Bush didn't get the memo because he didn't seem that offended by it. He was as cool as a cucumber as he stood at the podium and dodged the first shoe and then like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, slid out of the way of the second. In commenting after the incident, the President didn't seem shaken or troubled by what had happened. He actually seemed more bothered by the attention that was being given to it. I guess after eight years of being in office he has developed some pretty thick skin.

It is no secret that I don't agree with some of our country's policies in the Middle East in recent years. However, President Bush's comments were spot on when he indicated the very fact that this incident had happened was an indication of progress in the country. Open dissent is a sign of freedom and democracy. Had Saddam still been in power and this journalist disagreed with him, do we think he'd even still be alive after a stunt like that? In any case here's the video and some of President Bush's comments afterwards. (Please click here if the video player doesn't show up.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ten Commandments...of Facebook

The most popular social networking site out there seems to be Facebook. Originally created for college students at Harvard by Mark Zuckerberg less than five years ago, tens of millions people utilize this site to connect with friends. In my work with college students I have found Facebook to be a great resource since college students spend a lot of time on the site. I've also enjoyed re-establishing friendships with those from my past and staying updated on news with friends that don't live nearby.

But like any good thing, some can go a bit overboard with their use of this networking tool. Thanks to my friend Anne, I came across's version of the Ten Commandments for Facebook (Warning: The language on the site is crass so you might want to just look at the titles here.)

The Ten Commandments of Facebook

1. Thou Shalt Not List Every Movie, TV Show, Band and Book You Have Ever Heard Of In Your Profile.

2. Thou Shalt Not “Poke” Indiscriminately.

3. Thou Shalt Not “Friend” People You Don’t Actually Know.

4. Thou Shalt Not Use A Wall As A Private Messaging Function.

5. Thou Shalt Not Join A Billion Groups.

6. Thou Shalt Not Use Stupid Apps.

7. Thou Shalt Not Give “Gifts."

8. Thou Shalt Not Contact People From Your Distant Past While Intoxicated.

9. Thou Shalt Not Update Thy Status Message If Thine Status Hath Not Changed (Or If You Have Nothing Clever To Say.)

10. Thou Shalt Not Act Like You’re On MySpace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sex and Our Society

Due to the kindness of some friends of our ministry, my family and I (along with a number of our Impact staff) was able to spend the day yesterday at Busch Gardens in Tampa. We had a great time together as a family riding the rides and seeing the animals at the park.

But something concerned me during our time there. Maybe I'm just getting older or I'm looking at life more through my eyes as a father, but I was troubled by the fashion and how some of the youth at the park were carrying themselves.

While waiting in line with my four-year-old son to ride the bumper cars, there were a couple of kids a ways up ahead of us. The girl couldn't have been more than 15; the boy looked to be 16 or 17. The girl's clothing not only left little to the imagination, but they were all over each other as they wandered through the line. A number of thoughts ran through my mind... Did her parents approve of what she was wearing before she left the house? Was her father an active part of her life and how would he feel if he saw this young man groping his daughter in public? I said a silent prayer for these two kids and asked that God would reveal himself to them.

The standards for personal morality in our society have certainly lowered in recent decades. Things that once were taboo are accepted and that which used to be considered deviant is considered normal. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was recently interviewed by New Man magazine on sexual tolerance in our society. Dr. Mohler writes a popular blog that I regularly read. Although I don't always agree with his conclusions, I find his thinking challenging and thought-provoking.

In his New Man interview, Dr. Mohler discusses how our changing views on sexuality have affected society in general and our families, specifically. Some highlights:
"Unlike the postmodern relativists, Christians cannot accept the claim that all sexual standards are mere social constructs. Unlike the marketing geniuses and advertising gurus, we do not believe that sexuality is intended as a ploy to get attention and to create consumer demand. Unlike the sexual revolutionaries of recent decades, we do not believe that sexuality is the means of liberating the self from cultural oppression. In other words, we believe that sex is less important than many would have us believe. Human existence is not, first and foremost, about sexual pleasure and the display of sexuality. There is much more to human life, fulfillment, and joy. Sex simply cannot deliver the promises made by our hypersexualized society. On the other hand, sex is far more important than secular society can envision. After all, the Christian worldview reveals that sex, gender and sexuality are ultimately about the creature’s purpose to glorify the Creator.
Heterosexual marriage has been assaulted by divorce, lifestyle, media, law, politics and customs, undermining its very essence. Of course, the attack also necessarily took its toll on the family as well. Pitirim A. Sorokin, founder of the department of sociology at Harvard University, argued that heterosexual marriage is the foundation of civilization itself. Unless heterosexual marriage is protected by law, custom and habit to the exclusion of every other arrangement, civilization is impossible. Sorokin made this point more than 50 years ago. Even from such a distance, he saw this age of perversity arising, and he argued that this age of rebellion would destroy civilization. The great question of our day is this: Will this civilization wake up once marriage is clearly understood to be the critical background and the primary target of attack? Can civilization survive under these circumstances? I would have to argue that it cannot. There is no example in the history of humankind of a civilization enduring for long when an age of polymorphous perversity is set loose."
Although many may view the Christian view of sexuality as prudish and old-fashioned, it would be hard to argue that the removal of traditional restraints when it comes to sex has generally benefited either individuals or society. The biblical standard of faithfulness in marriage is frequently mocked yet lives continue to be broken when this standard is ignored. I hope that we will one day realize that our freedom to do what is right in our own eyes will leave our children to inherit a world where sexual pleasure becomes god and righteousness is treated as yesterday's news. Perhaps that is already our reality, but I hope that the world my children become adults in is different than the one I did.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the Mouths of Babes

As the parent of several young children I have noticed the proliferation of awards, honors and recognition that kids get these days. When I was a kid it seemed like the only awards you got were at the end of the year for things like making the honor roll, perfect attendance or finishing anywhere in the top ten on field day. These days my children have received so many certificates, gift cards and stickers by the end of the year we don't know where to put them all ("Hey Jimmy, you showed up to school today and your fly's not open. Here's a free coupon from Pizza Hut!")

In that vein I saw this humorous story on Christianity Today:

"After school, my five-year-old son Johnathan burst into my office and exclaimed, "Mom, I got a reward today!" I dug through his bookbag crammed with a lunch box, library book, and artwork. Finally, I found the certificate signed by his teacher. "This is a math award," I said. "It says you did an excellent job in math today. That's great." With a puzzled look, Johnathan asked, "What's math?"
Too funny. You just never know what's going to come out of the mouths of your children. It reminds me of a few weeks ago when Lori and I were having a dinner discussion with our kids about the concept of cheating and deceiving others. We talked about how some kids will hide their report cards from their parents when they get bad grades in the hopes that their parents won't find out. Our high achieving daughter, Leah, (who has inherited her mother's talents) blurted out: "Even if I got a really bad a 93%...I would still tell you guys!"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

You Are Now in Bedford Falls

As I've mentioned before, my favorite Christmas movie of all-time is It's a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It is perhaps the most inspirational movie ever made and I always enjoy watching it around this time of year. My parents even have a trivia game based on the movie that we used to play as a family. Several years ago my dad began purchasing little homes and buildings based on the movie that when put together, creates the town of Bedford Falls, the fictional town where the movie takes place.

My sister posted photos of the village this year and I'm putting up a few of them here for your enjoyment. It's quite a display. The last picture is of my niece, Jordan, showing off her Papa's handiwork.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Living Above 'The Fray' of Christian Cliche'

One of the most promising bands to hit the music scene over the past few years is The Fray. Not only does this talented group produce great music, but they are also committed Christians. Along with a number of other bands like Switchfoot and P.O.D., The Fray seeks to have their music exposed to a much broader audience than those that would typically purchase music on "Christian" labels.

While reading up on the band I came across this interview that they did in Christianity Today a couple of years ago. While providing some background on the history of the group, lead singer Isaac Slade offers an interesting take on the band's purpose. Here's a segment of Stan Friedman's article:
"Critics have credited the band's success in part to their catchy hooks and melodies, but the power of Slade's lyrics also has been key to catapulting The Fray into the national limelight. How to Save a Life is filled with songs that tell stories of depth and emotion that go beyond the ever-present angst—and Christian—bands. The band members' lives were largely formed in Denver churches where they helped lead worship, and in the Christian school three of them attended. Slade, 24, and guitarist Joe King, 25, were several years ahead of drummer Ben Wysocki, 21, at Faith Christian Academy. Wysocki and guitarist David Welsh, 21, played in the same worship band.
The band avoided Christian record labels, saying God called them to the secular market instead. "I feel he would be disappointed with us if we limited ourselves," Wysocki says. Slade says he used to "write all Christian lyrics" until he had an epiphany while working a shift at Starbucks: "None of my friends outside the church understood any of my songs; we had a different set of vocabulary," he says. "So I went home and threw away all those songs." He adds, "If I handed somebody a double grande mocha latte and told them, 'Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,' they might throw it back on me.
"If we grow up in the church, it's easy to think it's our Christian duty to preach to every single person because God is the most important thing. And he is, but I'm a musician first. This is my job. We're not pastors. We're not preachers. We're not even missionaries." Slade likens his job to any other. "If you're a painter, paint, but you don't have to have Jesus in every picture. Paint well, and if you paint well enough, they might ask you why you do that."
Within Christian circles there is often an expectation placed upon musicians to be more upfront and vocal about their faith than we expect from those in other professions. For example, we don't expect lawyers who are Christians to refer to Jesus in every opening argument, but we are often dismayed if a singer who is a Christian doesn't use the name of Jesus in every song. I am not at all saying that singers who are followers of Christians shouldn't refer to God in their songs. I would be disappointed if they didn't.

But what I am concerned is the desire of some of us to place Christians artists in a box and relegate them to the Christian subculture that we've created. There may be some that have a calling from God to minister to and encourage those that are already part of The Church and that is a great thing. However, there are others that have a calling to reach those outside of the Christian faith. In order to do this effectively they need to speak a language that the broader culture will understand and do so in a manner that points them to God.

As in any profession, musicians that are believers in Jesus need to work at their craft with excellence and seek to let their light shine wherever God leads them. Simple things like working hard, showing up on time, completing assignments and being a friend to co-workers are all things that honor God in the workplace. On the other hand, musicians have a platform that many of us don't possess. They have a voice that is heard by millions and opportunities to influence culture. Whether they are explicitly Christian in their lyrical content or they seek to raise questions that will cause people to seek spiritual answers, Christian artists should seek to live as God would want any of us to live. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
No matter if I claim the title of pastor or missionary or singer or plumber, my role as a Christian is to follow God each day and live in a manner that pleases Him. We are to seek ways that honor him and opportunities to make Him known by always being prepared to share the reason for the hope that is within us with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

My Co-Workers

One of the privileges that I have in my work with The Impact Movement and Campus Crusade for Christ is the individuals that I get to work alongside of on a daily basis. The picture to the left is of our Impact Campus Ministry team, a group of individuals that coach, resource, provide direction and encourage student leaders with The Impact Movement across the country.

Our mission of Impact is to take the truth of Jesus Christ to the campus, community and world by producing leaders of African descent who are spiritually focused, financially responsible and morally fit. One of the ways that we do this is by hosting a national conference which helps to equip the next generation of leaders in the black community and beyond. If you'd like to learn more about Impact 2008 Mission:Possible or register for the conference, please visit the conference website at

Another group of people that I get to lead with is the national leadership team of Ethnic Student Ministries of Campus Crusade. This is a team made up of regional and national directors committed to reaching each American ethnic minority and international students with the gospel. I get the opportunity to meet with these friends a few times a year and it is always a good time to hear how God is working in the lives of students throughout the U.S. This photo was just taken this past week at our meetings in Breckenridge, Colorado.

To learn some more about each of the strategies of Ethnic Student Ministries, check out these links:

Destino (Hispanic & Latino students)
Epic (Asian American students)
Korea Campus Crusade (Korean American students)
The Impact Movement (African American students)
Nations (Native American students)
Bridges International (International Students)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Native American Leaders Comment on Christianity and Culture

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of spending a few days with Richard Twiss, the director of Wiconi International, a ministry committed to reaching First Nations people with the gospel of Christ. I was impressed with Rev. Twiss's wisdom, understanding of culture and adeptness at making Jesus real within Native cultural contexts. Here is a video where Richard, along with other theologians Raymond Aldred and Terry LeBlanc, share their thoughts on Christianity, culture and what indigenous peoples can contribute to the Body of Christ worldwide. Thanks to the God's Politics blog for posting this video. Click here if the player doesn't show up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, a day devoted to bringing attention to the worldwide epidemic of HIV/AIDS. For those of us in the United States we may be relatively unaffected by this disease although it is hard to find anyone that hasn't had a friend or relative stricken with HIV/AIDS. In other parts of the world, AIDS is a serious crisis where whole families and villages are being wiped out by this crisis.

Here is an article entitled "The 51%" that I wrote about AIDS in the black community for the website, an evangelistic website designed by The Impact Movement that speaks to African American young people.

The 51%

It was a moment that I will never forget. I was a freshman in college and was returning from an evening biology class on a cold November evening when I ran into a friend. He told me that Magic Johnson was just about to begin a press conference in which he would reveal that he had HIV and would be retiring from the NBA. I initially thought he was joking, but then he asked me why he would make something like that up. I then knew we wasn’t kidding. To say I was in shock would be an understatement.

Magic Johnson – a heterosexual, black man – revealing that he was HIV+ opened up a lot of our eyes. Up until that point, many Americans (me included) looked upon HIV/AIDS as more of a problem for gay white men. But if Magic could get it, what did that mean for the rest of us? Unfortunately, after the initial shock of Magic’s announcement wore off we all returned to our lives and our normal behaviors. People that were freaks before began gettin’ their freak on again and it was business as usual. That was 1991 and the spread of HIV/AIDS has continued. Though black folk comprise only 13% of the general population, African Americans make up 51% of newly reported HIV cases. Black men are seven times more likely to be HIV+ than their white counterparts and black women are 20 times as likely as white women. It’s time for a wake up call, y’all!

Why has something that started as a disease among gay white men now viciously spread through the black community? There are several reasons why this has happened. First, the high rate of poverty in many black neighborhoods has resulted in substandard health care opportunities. Second, the lack of quality training regarding sex education – in our homes, schools, and churches – has contributed to the spread of many myths concerning the spread of HIV/AIDS. Third, the use of IV drugs and the sharing of needles has moved the spread of HIV/AIDS beyond just the sexually active into the lives of drug users. Fourth, the high rate of promiscuity among our youth has caused this disease to spread rapidly as young people are having sex (many times unprotected) with multiple partners. Fifth, the unusually high rate of imprisonment for young black males has led many of these young men to engage in high risk sex while in prison and then take whatever they caught with them when they are released into society.

As sad as the realities of HIV/AIDS is in the United States, it is even worse in Africa. The poverty, lack of education and poor health care is not as good as it is in the U.S. and this has led to the HIV/AIDS crisis of epidemic proportions in the Motherland. In South Africa alone, at least 1 in 9 people are HIV+. I have spent some time there and I learned that one of the myths regarding HIV is that if a man is HIV+ and has sex with a virgin, then he will be cleansed of the disease. This has resulted in increased rapes, particularly among young girls since their likelihood of being a virgin is increased.

However, we can look to the country of Uganda as an example of how to stem the tide of the spread of HIV/AIDS. The approach taken in Uganda is referred to as the ABC approach. First, sexual Abstinence until marriage is encouraged as the most effective method to not obtaining the virus. Second, sexually active individuals are advised to Be faithful to a single partner or reduce their number of partners. Third, people are asked to always use a Condom, especially if they have more than one sexual partner. This approach has helped bring the rate of HIV+ adults down from 15% to 6% at present.

As good as the Ugandan government’s approach is, I think the stance that the Bible takes would serve us even better. When talking about the problem of HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), unwanted pregnancies, etc. with others, I have often posed the following solution – what would happen if each of us followed the Bible’s guidelines for sex and how we treated our bodies? What are those guidelines, you ask? Here’s what I suggest:

1. Wait until marriage to have sex
2. Only have sex with your spouse
3. Treat your body as a temple

Now I know this is an ideal and may not seem realistic, but think about it. If we all followed these guidelines we would eventually eliminate HIV/AIDS and all other STD’s, all rape, all extramarital affairs, virtually eliminate any reasons for abortion, and we would all live much longer since we weren’t putting junk into our bodies. As much as some of us may feel that God has created certain rules to take away our fun, I think if we are honest we will find that this is not the case. Any “thou shalt not’s” that are in the Bible are not there arbitrarily. There is a reason for it. God wants to protect and provide for us. So when God tells us to remain sexually pure outside of marriage and remain faithful to our spouse once in marriage, he knows what he is talking about.

The harsh reality is that HIV/AIDS can not be considered a “gay disease.” Too many lives are being affected and we must take away the stigma that is attached to AIDS and the homophobia that comes with it. Too many brothas are living on the “down low” where they have a boyfriend on the side and then go home to their wife. We need to be able to have honest conversations about sex and HIV/AIDS. While most cases of HIV/AIDS come as a result of our own bad choices (blood transfusions and those unknowingly affected by their spouses notwithstanding), part of the blame lies with my brethren who are fellow ministers. By not talking about sex and its consequences with our congregations, we unwittingly contribute to widespread ignorance. Knowing that close to 70% of African American children are born out of wedlock should clue us in that many of our faithful church members are not following the Bible’s instructions when it comes to sex.

As good as it is to know different practical steps to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS, we must understand how God has designed us. As human beings we have a sexual nature with God-given needs and desires. This is not a bad thing or something that we should be scared to discuss in appropriate settings. The problem arises when we seek to meet these legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. All of us long to love and be loved and this can contribute to irresponsible and even sinful behavior with our bodies. We must realize that we cannot change our own hearts, but God can do this for us. He wants us to know the truth not about only HIV/AIDS, but most importantly about his son, Jesus. If you would like to find out more about the truth that Jesus offers please click here."