Monday, December 28, 2009

They Have Names, Jose, Valerie, Roger, Jeremy

A little over a year ago I met up with a couple of rather over the edge teens that are homeschoolers that didn’t really fit in their church youth group. They had been doing a burrito ministry to the homeless for a couple of months. I asked if we could do it together and a partnership was formed where I was able to help organize and get others to help out on a monthly basis. Now looking back I am thankful to Ben and Amy for their help to flame my own passion for people that have been forgotten and marginalized by society and the church.

This Christmas Eve saw about 60 people gather with New City/Barrio Nuevo to make 200 burritos, 100 hot dogs, collect 100 blankets and enough clothes for another 100 people. I begin at my house at 6AM on Christmas Eve morning cooking a 100 hot dogs in freezing weather. (Yes the temperature gauge outside said 36.) After cooking the dogs I left to pick up my New City kids and helpers. Maria had cooked the beans and the rice the night before. (It takes a rather large quantity of beans and rice to make 200 burritos.) We had collected clothes from New City partners this last week. A large group funneled into my house and eventually there was about 40 doing burritos, hot dogs and sorting clothes. We end up at an area downtown close to around a dozen homeless shelters. Another couple of groups meets us downtown.

I got a simple divine push to bring tables to set up to make our handing out food and clothes more organized. So we set up four tables and it wasn’t too long before hundreds of people come to get their hot chocolate, burrito, blanket and clothes. My main purpose is doing this is two fold. I truly believe that God has called us to feed and clothe those who have been left behind for whatever reason. I know that I will never conquer the homeless situation in Phoenix. I also believe it is essential to teach those who live in middle-upper middle class America to see that homeless people are PEOPLE who have names and are loved by their Father in Heaven. Yes, they may be smelly, dress strangely or not have a full set of teeth. Yet, given the present economic circumstances we all could at some point end up on the street.

I always give instructions to those that help out. I don’t want this to be a burrito and Bible dump where we show up on 13th Avenue and just throw out of my truck food and the Word. I believe it is imperative that everyone takes the time to look a person in the eyes, introduce themselves, ask the person’s name and then ask about their story. I also believe it is import for us to share our stories of how God has worked in our lives to do this to share Christ’s passion. I had the privilege of talking to a couple of people, all very different. Let me share my experience with Valerie, Roger and Jeremy.

I saw this well dressed and as I talked very educated older lady standing in line. As we talked I asked her name and how she ended up in Phoenix. I come to discover that she is from Massachusetts. I share that I was actually born in Bourne, Mass. We talked a little or I should say I listened to her story and unfortunate choice to follow a former boyfriend to Phoenix. She is now stranded and attempting to get help to get a job and either settle her and get back to her home on the east coast. I gave her my card and said call me. She carefully tucked my card into her new pink blanket and I said I would pray for her.

After seeing Valerie I ended up talking to Roger a much younger African American man in his late 20’s. He didn’t appear to be upset with living on the streets. I asked to video our conversation and he agreed. He shared how he had lived here most of his life and was only recently homeless. He truly acted like he expected to be back on his feet soon. He has a lively smile so I shook his hand, gave him a card and prayed for him.

As I am watching some of my kids hang out and playing with a friend I hear a loud scream, “Dave, come and pray for this man!” I respond initially by saying Terrance you can pray can’t you? Yet, Terrance believed that I needed to be there so I moved through the line looking at clothes and met Jeremy. He was clearly intoxicated and seemed truly remorseful for his past night of drinking. I listened to him talk about his life and his regret for drinking again. He quickly recited Bible verse after Bible verse. He clearly had been around the church and knew his Bible very well. The challenge was that his drinking problem landed him on the streets without any help. He wanted us to pray for him. I could truly sense the power of God as we laid hands on him and prayed. I also gave him my card and told him to call me.

The reality, which I don’t want to accept, is that none of these people will call me or ask for help beyond the burrito, blanket and Bible they received on Christmas Eve. Does this deter me from continuing to have groups partner with us to feed and love on the downtown homeless population – NEVER. Jesus’ love for me has never been dependent upon my faithfulness otherwise I would be totally lost.

Jesus is the one who defines how we are to love him by the way we treat the homeless, the neighbor we can’t stand or the boss at work we could shoot.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A New Heart for the New Year

A New Heart for A New Year Ezek. 36:26-27

Intro: If it’s broken – fix it! I know that everyone loves Christmas time because we get to give presents and receive them. One of the most frustrating things is to get something that doesn’t fit or is broken before you actually have a chance to use it. I know this Christmas I got us a family gift of a little Starwars Flying Ship. I put new batteries in it and made sure I charged up the little Flying Ship. I was excited about this hoping we could actually play with it on Christmas Day. I was really ticked, upset, etc… because the more I tried to get it to work the more I realized it wasn’t a good choice for a family toy. It didn’t work the way it claimed it was supposed to work. The sad thing is that for most this Christmas the meaning and purpose of life truly revolves around getting the things you want in life to make you happy. The challenge is that everything but the One Great Gift will ultimately be like my Starwars Flying Ship – it’s ability to make you happy will be short lived.

#1. The problem is that we are broken but don’t realize it. The Bible clearly tells us that we are broken and need to be fixed. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts our deceitful above anything we can imagine. (Jer. 17:9) The challenge is that most really don’t accept this and believe that everyone is really good and that given time you will figure out how to make everything better. The daily newspaper or internet news says something different that man is at war with himself attempting to take with different means what others have. We don’t want to be honest but everyone believes that only a little bit more money, or more power or a newer house, car or that incredible vacation or to rule your neighborhood through gang presence will make my life just right. Proverbs tells us so clearly that there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death. (Prov. 14:12)

#2. We need heart surgery. Our neighbor Kadjesha had heart surgery two days before Christmas. This wasn’t open-heart surgery but the kind that goes through an artery and then repairs a clogged or bad vessel. She was supposed to stay in bed for at least three days but ends up at home later the day of her surgery. Her doctors had told her that without this surgery she would have a heart attack and probably have a stroke if not die.

The prophet Ezekiel predicts the coming of Jesus Christ who will ultimately do an amazing work of transformation. You can describe it as major heart surgery. God will take what was a heart of stone and change it into a real heart. This refers to our inability to respond to God, the truth and instead live life totally on our own terms. God’s choice to send Jesus as the great redeemer means that He will take away our heart of stone, which only cares about ourselves and give us a heart of flesh that is able to care for God and one another. Ezekiel describes the miracle of the new birth by saying that God’s Spirit will come to dwell in you and then guide you how to live. Jesus describes this as being born again or from above. (John 3)

Conclusion: How are you going to start off the New Year? Do you make New Year resolutions? Isn’t it almost funny how most people go to great effort to come up with their list and then by the second week in the New Year everything is forgotten? I want to say that there is one New Year resolution that will transform your ability to do everything and that is to have a New Heart that is after God. We live during a tough time when there is a lot of hurt and jealousy because of a bad economy. There was an incident of an airman who had just returned from Iraq and had his car full of presents for his family. While going inside to get groceries someone broke into his car and stole everything. This hit the news and it wasn’t too long before someone sought to make this story have a better ending. A radio talk show host used his program to raise thousands of dollars to help out this young family. The reality is that Jesus Christ is the one who has come to make life the best. The question is whether you are honest enough to admit that you are broken and need a new heart. Most of you have met our Somali neighbor and can imagine what it would be like for her six kids if she didn’t get surgery and had a stroke and then died. Jesus has come to give you an amazing life that will make this New Year truly special. Do you have a New Heart for a New Year?

Happy New Year! Feliz Ano Nuevo!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's in a Name?

Christmas is About Jesus – What’s in a Name?

Matt. 1:22ff

Intro: Do names really matter? Most names today are selected not according to what they mean but either how they sound or whether they are on the top ten list. The name Jesus Christ is different than any other name. It is the name by which God has revealed His plan of salvation and the real meaning and purpose of life. Jesus Christ is the God Man who was sent from heaven to earth, who was born in a manger and lived a life that revealed ultimately that he is the Word of God become flesh. Jesus himself proclaims that he is the great eternal God when he calls himself the great I’AM. (John 8:58)

1. What does the name Jesus mean? The name Jesus was very common in the time of the early church and before. It specially referred to someone saving someone from getting hurt in battle. Now the big difference with this being the name of God’s Son is that it refers to the ultimate victory of the toughest battle – our sinful nature. The crowd that greeted Jesus as he came into Jerusalem before he was arrested and crucified screamed out – Hosanna or literally the Lord saves those in the in the middle of battle. The Old Testament equivalent of Jesus was Joshua. Remember that Joshua and Caleb were the only spies to come back with a positive report and excitement about over taking the Canaanites because the other spies viewed them as giants.

2. What does the name Immanuel mean? The prophets of old talked about a virgin being with child and the fact that his name would be Immanuel or literally God is with us. The amazing miracle of the birth of Christ is that you have the eternal, infinite God taking upon himself human flesh. John proclaims in his gospel that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we beheld his glory as from the Father. It is impossible to comprehend how the infinite God is able to take on a finite flesh and blood body but yet he does. So as John declares we have God living or dwelling in a human tent. When Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was near he was referring to his own presence. So Jesus is truly God and Man and his coming means that God is physically with us.

3. What does the name Christ mean? The word Christ literally means anointed one referring to the practice of anointing either a king or priest who would be set aside for office. Jesus is the anointed one who is set aside to be the Son of God, Messiah, the Christ and Immanuel. This name refers to Jesus’ office or position of being a king set aside to rule over God’s people. Jesus is the special one chosen to be the redeemer of God’s family. Only Christ has the ability to forgive sin, transform a life and then restore a family together.

Conclusion – The Name of Jesus is above all names! Yes, Jesus is name that turns heads and causes trouble. The full name or title Jesus the Christ truly refers to the God – Man who experienced life on earth and came to live in such a way that his life transforms you and me. So there is power in this name, because it is the only name under heaven and earth through which anyone can know God and be saved. So what’s the big deal about God naming his son Jesus or Immanuel? He is the only one that is capable of redeeming us or laying down his perfect life so our sinful life can be forgiven and transformed. Otherwise Christmas isn’t about a manger, shepherds, angels or redemption but about who has the largest gift under the tree.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ouch - Dave's a Jr. Higher at Heart

I do have a difficult time admitting that I am getting older and that doing crazy activities is always a risk. Last year this time I had surgery to remove some skin cancer on my leg. This required me to be in a cast and crutches for a week. I will always remember making burritos on Christmas Eve as I hobbled along. This Christmas I am blessed with a bruised ‘bottom’. It is truly my own fault. We had an amazing Christmas Party for our tutoring kids and families. We had a great turn out between our tutors, special friends with gifts and the larger community. I rented a couple of the jumpers for the kids to enjoy. We did something different and got one of the more teen – adult jumpers, the gladiator. I had fun watching and decide to take one whoever was the champion of the morning. Matthew was left standing undefeated. So I not knowing if I could whip him jump up on the platform and end up easily taking him down not once but three times.

My joy of victory was short lived as the following week we go skating with the kids. We had a large group of over 40 and go to our now favorite place, Skateland in Mesa. I am a good skating and only have to watch out either for little kids that fall in front of you or someone crazy like Darious who speeds by you and accidentally trips you. Matt and I got into a little with the different sessions and he comes back for retaliation. This time he pushes me when I am really flying and end up having to slide out of the way to miss a little munchkin and collide with the hard wooden floor – ouch. I knew the second I connected with the floor that I would be in agony. I slowly remove myself from the floor and do a sportsman like shake it off routine. Little did I know how hard I had hit and how black and blue my tucsh would be.

After taking all of the kids home I end up on the couch in dire pain. I ask my Anne for the heating pad and wait patiently for the pain to subside. It didn’t and I was hurting most of the night. As I reveal to my Anne the extent of my injury she is shocked and does a laugh and oooh type of thing.

Is there some deep spiritual lesson in all of this? Maybe – act like an adult and you won’t get hurt? Maybe if you are going to play with the kids and act like the kids don’t be surprised when one of them gets even. I know that my physical body is fallen, falling apart and truly my responsibility to be wise in how I choose to use it or might I say abuse it. I think the better lesson which sounds more Christmas like is that just as Jesus came to earth from heaven and took upon himself flesh and blood and earthly life that I at times love to be like the people/kids God has brought my way. So I am being incarninational when I play with my New City kids or hang out with my grandmas and enjoy a donut.

I know that bumps and bruises are part of life and that without ever taking any risk nothing will happen. I know the typical phrase – nothing ventured nothing gained.

Ouch - Dave

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jesus Brings Hope to the Hopeless

Christmas is About Jesus – Jesus Brings Hope to the Hopeless Micah 5:2

Intro: Little things matter! I know at times it might feel as if no cares about you or your circumstances. It is easy at times to really believe that no body ever notices you. I can remember in High School being at a point in my life where everything came to a screeching halt. I was dumped by my girlfriend, my rock band died and even though I had the coolest sport car I wanted friends who liked me for who I was not what I owned. I believe that one of the main reasons why God had Jesus be born in an insignificant place, Bethlehem, was to help us see that He truly cares for the little people that are usually forgotten.

#1. What is hope? Why do we need hope?

It isn’t easy to define hope because in one sense it is something that is always looking towards the future. The dictionary would say that hope is a desire for something with the expectation of it happening. One might say that hope is what gives you the ability to keep going even in the face of rough circumstances. The challenge is what is the basis of the hope that you hold towards the future. If you aren’t a Christ follower than your hope is based upon your own accomplishments, skills and means. It ultimately means that your hope is based totally on yourself and your belief that you can do it. The problem with this is at times I fail or quit because I don’t have the ability to keep going.

Faith and hope are related to one another. My faith isn’t in myself but in God and my hope is that He is faithful to his promises and will always be there to help me as I face life circumstances. Today most people place their faith or trust in their careers, education, possession or network of friends and not God. We live in a society where often a faith in God or hope in God’s faithfulness is scorned. So how do find hope in the face of a gloomy economy or a family tragedy?

#2. Jesus brings hope because he is the eternal ruler.

It again is amazing that God would send Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to have Jesus who by name is the one who will save his people from their sins. The word Bethlehem meant house of hope or place of hope. I believe that God wanted to show both the Jews and those outside the Jewish Family that His love and our redemption isn’t based upon our accomplishments but upon the work of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the eternal God, creator and ruler who has always existed he becomes the true basis for any hope in life.

If Jesus were truly born of royalty he would have been born in a place like Jerusalem which was the religious center of the world. God wanted to show that his heart has and will always be for the poor both physically and spiritually. He is opposed to the proud and arrogant, who think they are capable of living life apart from Him. Mary and Joseph were literal no-bodies that become the parents of the God-Man and savior. He is not only born in a manger but grows up among the poor in Nazareth as the carpenter’s son.

#3. How do you get hope in a hopeless situation?

It shouldn’t be any surprise that God sends his angels to proclaim the coming of Jesus not to the Palace or Temple of rulers but to lowly shepherds out in the field. They come to proclaim that God has brought the hope of the ages to Bethlehem in a stable. The shepherds and wise men search for the baby Jesus understanding the implications of what might happen if Jesus truly is God’s Son, the Savior of mankind and the Messiah.

I will be the first to admit that I can act as if I am strong and have the ability to do and face anything in life. The reality is that this would be a total lie. If I place my faith and hope for the future solely in myself I am totally lost and will lead others down the path of self –sufficiency. Today’s world totally promotes the image that honesty and dependency on others is a sign of weakness. The coming of the Christ Child to Bethlehem gives us a hope that God’s love is truly not based upon where you live, what you own or who you know. So the only way to have hope in any situation is to trust Christ with your total life. As we confess our sin, rebellion against God and our need to be redeemed we have a hope that can face anything in life, even tragedy and our own death.

Conclusion: Live like you have Hope!

When you face tough circumstances what do you do? Often we allow the fear of the unknown to paralyze us. John tells us that perfect love or hope casts out all fear. When we have placed our lives in God’s hands He will give us His peace and the ability to trust him both with the outcome of our circumstances and not to worry or fear about tomorrow. Remember Jesus said seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will fall into place.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Frustration Shouldn't Stop You

I am learning that one of the by products of working with many different people is varying levels of commitment, expectation and the end result. My life is centered around nurturing relationships that are Christ driven to see people serve others unselfishly. It is easy to say this but another thing to pull it off and not step back at times and either think that I am so cool to get 300 people to paint 10 houses or the reverse, boy did I blow it by not being more organized at smaller event or why is it the case only 2 people showed up to help with my own neighborhood work project last week?

I have always struggled with people that look at life from a negative perspective. All it takes is one sour apple to spoil the whole bunch. I am learning that being a positive factor in anything in life will transform any situation. I know that especially around Christmas time people are more open to talk about the difference having hope in life can make. What is the one thing that is going to help you keep going and not stop or quit in your present situation? It doesn’t matter what the circumstances we all come to the end or our rope at times.

You add what I have been talking about to doing work in a cross-cultural setting where you have many different ways of doing something and you have the ingredients for friction and frustration. It is like learning to speak another language and sometimes the more you try to do it right you mess up more. It is so easy to impose my personal values or ways of doing things and miss out on allowing God to work through the chaos of life that I miss out on many blessings. I know that having done both construction work and church work most of my life that there is always someone who knows what they think is the right way to do something. If you suggest or do something different you receive a lot of flack or threats, i.e. I’ll quit or we never did it this way or this is doomed to fail.

I love how the apostle Paul reflects on his life journey, which was at times a mess with the following thought from 2 Cor. 4: 7:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always caring in the body of the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

The simple fact is that most of Paul’s heart ache in life was from his past life as a Jewish leader and also from his new role as the missionary to the non-Jewish world. Paul was a mover and shaker in his day and wasn’t afraid to stir the pot or step out and do something totally different so that more people could both hear and see the gospel.

My life at present is working with many kids from the inner city and a lot of Grandmas from my neighborhood. We have been doing mercy church for over the last year plus. At times I do consider whether the amount of time, funds raised and the results are truly worth it. This comes out of my educated and white culture that says everything has to be a certain way for it to be considered a worthy endeavor. The other side of my life, which is Jesus talking to me, says that He came specifically to love the least, the last and the lost. I love the Master Card commercial that says ultimately that certain things in life are priceless. This is my life at present as I could tell stories each day of being with different people and seeing first hand results of living out the gospel in both word and deed. So what is my point in writing this blog but to encourage myself to not quit and for others to see the heart of God for the poor, broken and lost around them? It is way too easy to become insulated from the real world around you and live in a Christian ghetto or vacuum.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have all of the answers for relating back to some who question the type of work I am pursuing. All I can say is that God has given me a passion and a call to love on the South Phoenix neighborhoods. Yes I would love to have a time table for a lot of things that I do but I am beginning to see that what matters is God’s time table over all not mine. Yeah I do care about being organized and seeing God bless. I guess Paul’s two cents was that his life was always facing different messes and the adventure is in watching God work through those circumstances for his glory to show forth his grace and mercy.

Who is Jesus?

Christmas is About Jesus – Who is Jesus? John 1:1-3

Intro: The Mystery of God. Anne and I were able to attend the performance of Handel’s Messiah last night at the Community College. It is a truly incredible musical work that unfolds the story of Christmas that shows the amazing love of God. How is it possible that the Holy Creator God who made the universe would come as a baby in the manger that lays down his life that we could be forgiven and have a new relationship with God? This is a mystery that goes beyond our ability to understand and comprehend.

Yesterday I painted some of the walls in my community. We did this last month and with the help of about 15 volunteers it went really well. Lupe, Sammy and Matt actually were the paint sprayer experts. I guess this time because it was cold no on showed up at all – at least except for my personal helpers, Chalino and Matt. After about 15 minutes of working 2 guys show up and we work for about 2.5 hours and accomplish almost as much as the month before. I asked my guys what they learned from this and they said that being a servant is the only way to go. It doesn’t matter whether you have 300 volunteers like for our painting blitz or just a handful like yesterday. Jesus is the example of how the God of this universe who created everything chooses to become a servant leader to show us the way to heaven, which is through Him.

#1. Jesus is before the beginning.

Over the next month we are going to talk about the real meaning and purpose of Christmas. We will look at the who of Jesus Christ today. As we sing Lord I lift your name on high we sing the chorus that Jesus came from heaven to earth to show us the way. John the old apostle saw the big picture about Jesus Christ. He was there at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was at the cross and he out lived all of the other disciples.

John tells us that before the beginning of anything that Jesus has always existed. Jesus declares to the Jews that before Abraham came into existence that he is the I AM. (John 8:58) Jesus is referring back to the name that God tells Moses to call him that he is the eternally existent God who always is, has been and will be. (Exodus 3:14) Jesus claims to be God who has always existed.

#2. Jesus is the Word.

The apostle John tells us that Jesus is the Word. As you read Genesis 1 and the description of how God created the universe and all of life it says that God said let there be and it came into being. The spoken Word of God is what brings something out of nothing. The Word in this context is actually a person Jesus Christ. John chose a word, logos, to depict Jesus as the eternal mind or mouthpiece through which everything comes into being. It referred back to the Greeks and their notion of an eternal mind. What John is saying is that Jesus is the eternal Word of God that spoke things into existence.

#3. Jesus is the creator and author of life.

I know that deep down inside all of us at times wonder about where did we really come from or why am I here? As we consider the incredible statement that Jesus Christ is the means through which God created and brought life into existence it will help us eventually understand that we were made with a purpose. We didn’t come from a cosmic accident but through the design of a God who is holy, merciful and loving. It is impossible for mankind to fathom how one is able to make something out of nothing. Science attempts to say it can imitate the creation of life in a laboratory but it isn’t possible.

Conclusion: Make your Christmas about real life.

I was talking to someone during our painting of my community walls who was saying that Amazon orders were up almost 60% from last year’s Christmas and that Best Buy was up 30% from last year. It would still seem that Christmas is not about Jesus but about getting bigger and better presents. Don’t get me wrong giving in itself is an amazing quality for someone to pursue but I am afraid that most of us are still into being takers. So the simple challenge is to ask the question as to whether or not my actions at Christmas are about the One who came to give us real life or whether we still believe that life is wrapped up in presents under a tree with sparkling lights?

Jesus is the One who has existed before anything else; He is the Word of God who created all things including you! Let us worship Him as the God who became Man as John declares in his Gospel, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reflections the Morning After

What is the church? Is it a building? Is it a gathering on a Sunday? Is it where a couple of people meet to talk over coffee or a couple praying before they start their day? Is it 300 people coming together on a Saturday to paint 10 houses, give Bibles to the families they have helped, clean up some neighborhood alleys and then eat lunch in a local park? I will admit that the type of church God is birthing through New City – Barrio Nuevo is not your typical church. God is teaching me about what it means to be Kingdom minded and seeing the church as both many and one.

Over the last 5 months I have been dreaming and planning for the Barrio Nuevo Painting Blitz. I have two special friends Jeremy and James who have helped over the last year do small scale painting projects where we will do one or two homes with any where from 30-60 volunteers. We have gotten our supplies through a couple of generous friends that have a heart for the inner city. We have found our homes to paint through word of mouth and just walking the neighborhoods. We schemed together why not do something much bigger just before Thanksgiving. Why not attempt to gather hundreds to volunteer and then do a lunch event in the park with music and outreach for kids.

Little did I understand the amount of work that would be required and the amount of trust that would be required to get key leaders to plan ahead and follow through? I have a side of me that is hyper organized and another side of me that says just trust the Lord. How do you just trust the Lord for food for 400? I know that Jesus tested his disciples to see what they would do with the crowd of 5,000 plus. The incredible miracle that day was a young boy had a basket with a few fish and loaves. Jesus blessed the food and it fed everyone. Much in a similar fashion Jesus used a teen whose mom worked at Safeway to get the majority of the food. I did panic a few times because everything came together the night before. (What if Safeway decides to say no and we have to buy all of this food on the day of the Blitz and speed hundreds of dollars.)

I was truly impressed with how God raised up a group of people who stepped up to do the real work like cooking the food, serve the food, come out the week before to prep all 10 houses, purchase lots of ladders and the list could go on and on. I really didn’t think at first that we would 300 volunteers but more like 150-200. As the day approached and I had groups come out of the woodwork I prayed for another house. I didn’t want all these people to show up and not have enough work to do. Amazingly one of the families we were helping calls the Monday before the event and asked if we could paint a friend’s house which is a block away. This ended up providing work for 35 people. I am humbled by the fact that a Christian Band from Southern Cal drove out on their own dime, rented a trailer and played for two hours for free. As I talked to the band the leader said they would love to come out again.

I had the privilege of being able to step back and watch all of this happen before my eyes. I had 7 leaders oversee the houses and then 2 special leaders oversee those leaders. I drove around with a couple of my teens that were my picture crew that took video and pics of the Blitz as it unfolded. I think back to how Jesus chose twelve disciples not 20, 100 or 1000 to be his hands, feet and mouth in the world. It was through these twelve that the world has experienced a revolution. As I spoke to the group gathered for the lunch at Hermoso Park it was both humbling and exciting to see the Kingdom expand in my neighborhood. I was so jazzed to see the people we have been helping and loving come and respond. I talked to an older lady and her son, who wouldn’t win any awards for how they dress, that commented on how incredible it was that people would come from CAL and the larger Phoenix area to help them. I met a couple of the homeless in our neighborhood and under resourced people who were touched by what happened.

I know that painting a house or feeding a person isn’t going to solve their personal ills. Yet, I do know as we engage the community and cast a vision of helping a neighbor and building community spirit that it is beginning to happen. I am thrilled to see a group of youth and teens choose to help and get dirty instead of just hanging out and causing trouble. I see these kid’s parents wondering about why they have gotten involved and now see many of them coming around to see that church is more than a building or saying that you are a this or a that.

The Sunday after this amazing event we had a small turnout for New City at Night. I think we had 30 people. This even more showed the power of God to work through a few to accomplish a lot. Someone who had just started coming and helping got into some serious trouble that will see him do some jail time. I reflected on the words of a fellow pastor who does mercy church in Chicago that it takes years to see things happen. Then I reflected on the fact that it has just been 1.5 years since we started and something is starting to happen.

Yeah, I still have to do the dirty work. I was fortunate to have a large group collect all of the equipment and deliver it to my house after the blitz. It still took a group of my teens a couple of hours to collect all of the painting buckets and trash. It took us another hour to clean my truck, get something to eat and admit that it had been a long but wonderful day. I know going to sleep that night I was encouraged to see that God plus 1 has always been a majority. The gospel is going out both through the actions of a few and the words of Jesus being spoken through his servants. Now I am ready for a little vacation before Thanksgiving.


Heads Up!

Heads Up! Keep Your Focus! 2 Tim. 4:5

Intro: Life is crazy at times but you can keep your focus! I have dreamt and waited over the last 4 months for the painting blitz to happen. I never dreamed that we would have over 250 helpers impact our neighborhoods. I am totally blown away by how much support and help God raised up through the network He has established through New City. I have to be honest and say at times the amount of work that needed to be down was overwhelming. I have learned to keep my head up and eyes focused. God is always greater than any circumstance. I am humbled by what happened yesterday. God used the hands of 300 of His servants to touch a neighborhood.

1. Stay clear headed! Paul and Timothy lived during a time of intense persecution of the church. Paul had been one of the key activists against the new church before Jesus appeared to him and transformed him into the apostle to the non-Jewish world. One of the more difficult things in life is to stay cool and collected when bad things happen. The last thing you need in a crisis situation is someone who is going off or over or under reacting. The word does literally mean to be sober or clear minded. This obviously refers to the image of a person who is drunk and is incapable of functioning. When we become distracted by the circumstances around us or focus on lesser important things we become like someone who gets a DUI. God may not send us to jail but we end up with the consequences which means many are hurt.

How do you stay clear headed? Obviously if you had drunk alcohol or taken drugs you will be far from being capable of responding in the middle of a crisis. The amazing gift of being a follower of Christ is that God the Spirit is in you and with you in the middle of crazy circumstances. As you learn to trust Jesus even the worst circumstance you face God will help you live through it. 1 Cor. 10:13 becomes an amazing assurance that God isn’t going to test you beyond what you can handle. He isn’t going to necessarily give you an escape door to walk away from your mess but the ability to walk through it.

2. Understand that life is both good times and bad. I know that many Christians and even those outside the church believe that once you accept Christ that you will never face hardship or bad things in life. This is a total misapplication of what the Bible teaches. One of the marks of someone who is growing in their relationship with Jesus is that they are able to walk through any circumstance with Christ’s help and not give up or quit.

Most of us don’t want to hear that life even with God is going to be tough at times. Anne and I attended a conference on Thursday that focused on doing Church based community development. The speaker is a pastor from Chicago who started a church in the ghetto 35 years ago. He told story after story of how God seems to always use the worst circumstances to bring about miracles. The reality, which he mentioned often, is that it takes a long time, years, for things to happen.

Paul’s advice to Timothy, to you and me is to learn how to have a long haul mindset. I think most Christian are soft and don’t know how to do hard work and get spiritual blisters. This is not to glorify suffering but to see that it is part of life and often God chooses to use it to grow us up in the faith. How are you going to face your next challenge? Run from it or face it and allow the Spirit of God to give you spiritual power to overcome your circumstances. This means we have to be willing to admit we are hurting, need help and don’t have the answers. As Jesus works in us through his people and His Spirit we will have a joy that goes beyond a bad day. This will enable you to have joy in the face of heart ache which will touch the lives of those around us who don’t know Jesus.

Conclusion: Keep the message alive!

What Paul is concerned about for Timothy and for the rest of us is that it is too easy to become sidetracked with the hard things in life, yes bad things happen and people get killed, someone is robbed or you do something totally brain dead. Paul wants us to remember the reason why we are here and it isn’t for selfish purposes. We have a message to keep alive by both what we say and how we live. Paul understood that Christ had a job for him to accomplish. He knew at times his former Jewish friends wanted to kill him so he would stop talking about Jesus. Much in the same sense the Roman Rulers also saw Paul as a threat and had him arrested and eventually executed.

Jesus is our real example of someone who understood that his life involved dying on a cross. How is it possible to live a life full of joy and excitement when you know it is all going to end on a cross? The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the ultimate joy set before him in heaven. I never want to down play the fact that at times we will suffer, have horrible days, even get in trouble but the one who can come to us and give real rest and peace is Jesus Christ. Are you going to keep your head up? Are you going to ask Jesus to give you his peace that is able to overcome the worst situation? Ask him for help right now and discover the impact of the gospel in your life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Panic Mode?

I have been dreaming with a few friends over the last year about doing something that would bring together hundreds of people to impact my neighborhoods. We came up with the idea of doing a painting blitz and neighborhood cleanup just before Thanksgiving. We have already painted 16 houses and the mechanics of doing this hasn’t been too difficult to figure out and see God work. So what’s the big deal with doing 10 houses on the same day and having a big celebration at the park in the area?

Well – it is easy to say all of this but to actually see God bring us 10 families to help, gather almost 300 volunteers and then to see most of the supplies for painting, cleanup and lunch donated is truly a miracle. I love to dive into the waters and even attempt to swim out further than is safe but this is truly something that is bigger than Dave can handle on his own. Each week I have seen the Lord provide in truly surprising ways. I usually do get the jitters before a big event. I am learning to trust God, delegate better to my network of New City/Barrio Nuevo friends and see some great results.

I write this before the event to be reminded that my real goal is not a big event but to see one life touched. I want to see a kid who has been raised around gang violence, poverty and a lack of Gospel Love have an opportunity to see that life is a beautiful gift and doesn’t ‘suck’. I know that what happens on this one Saturday is really just a link to many other events God will bring about to see South Phoenix become a better place to live, where the neighborhoods really become communities.

It isn’t easy for me to let go of the details and trust the Lord. I want everything to be perfect. Yet, the reality is that I have 13 different teams who will be doing their work without me having my fingers in what they are doing. God is going to work in spite of my ocd! My hope is that the kids we have be loving on over the last year will get a better sense of what God can do and that in the end the little person does matter and the Jesus came to give them the best life possible.

Please pray with me and for the 300 that will help out and the many families that will benefit from this Make a Difference Saturday.


Spiritual Junk Food

Spiritual Junk Food? 2 Tim 4:3-4

Intro: What is your craving? I have to be honest that at times I crave a taco, hamburger or even a Sonoran Hot Dog. Is there anything wrong with wanting something different or off the wall? The reality is that for most people our diets reflect our lives. We are a nation into fast food that ends up being mostly junkfood. The problem is that we treat our spiritual lives no differently. We want a God that caters to our cravings and never says no to anything. We are flooded with too many examples in the news, movies, TV and internet that reveal the ultimate end of a junkfood life and the spiritual mess that follows.

#1. How can someone reject the real spiritual food of Christ for fast food religion?

Paul is in prison facing his death and is wanting Timothy, his special helper, to be prepared for the real world around him. The unfortunate reality for Paul and Tim is that many of their team have decided to pursue the short cuts in life. They are tired of hearing about servant leadership, sacrifice or watching Paul’s life go down. They want the good life with all of the pleasures and prestige. So it shouldn’t surprise us that there are many people today in the church who have been tricked or as Paul says have their ears tickled with a new approach. We no longer talk about sin or rebellion against God but about learning from our mistakes or even farther off that there really isn’t such a thing as right or wrong any more. We have made the gospel into moral relativism where everything is right and nothing is ever wrong. God loves everyone, there is no hell and there is no heaven.

This sounds great until the impact of this lifestyle hits home. It is one thing to think about having an affair or leaving your spouse. When you actually do it the discovery is that life is worse off and that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. How can something that is so good and right for us end up leaving us bored and dissatisfied in life? These are tough questions to answer but if we don’t we may end up no different than some of Paul’s followers who ended up getting hook on fast food that tasted great but ultimately kills them. Solomon rightly says that there is a path that seems right to a man but the end leads to death.

#2. How can I avoid becoming hooked on spiritual junk food?

I know that I have been driving over long distances and always see something that looks like water or a lake in the distance. As we get closer it never fails that the image disappears instantly. I think one of the greater needs of people is to truly pursue the truth. Paul is saying that many in his day and even more so our day have gotten hooked on myths or mirages. This is something that we make up that isn’t true but ultimately end up believing it as if it is true. Man is good at making up his own religion that caters to his own passions and needs.

I do like In n Out Burgers and whenever I am out in the East Valley and close by I am drawn to get a number 2 with onions. There is nothing wrong with getting your favorite taco, burger or dog on occasion. If this becomes your only source of food than you are in trouble. The real obstacle in life is that as long as we never really connect with the living Jesus and allow fast food religion to be our God we miss out on the best in life. I don’t mind getting a burger at BK or McDonalds but it isn’t the same as In n Out! I can play church, do good things, read the Bible and even talk to people about Christ but until I have a life transforming experience and understand the way that grace, mercy and forgiveness works I am in the dark.

Conclusion: Life is a struggle but God can help keep you on track! I think one of the things I am learning as I age is to be more honest about what I can and can’t do. I think most of us in our youth truly believe that we are invincible and immortal. I still dream big things for the kingdom and Jesus but I see that all of this still comes back to taking baby steps each day to do what is right, in the right way with Jesus interacting with me along my life journey. I need to admit that I am going to be tempted at times to take spiritual short cuts and substitute fast food for good food. I may even become flabby or lazy. The good news is that Jesus is into transforming our flab and laziness into spiritual fitness.

We need to learn from both Jesus and Paul’s example that even in the worst situation, Jesus hanging on the cross and Paul facing his execution, God is able to keep us focused on what is most important. When you allow your craving to totally take over you end up loosing your taste for what is truly good. Jesus is the ultimate bread from heaven who is able to satisfy that hunger deep down inside!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I got a couple of texts yesterday afternoon from one of my teens. She was obviously mad as ‘hell’ and didn’t have anyone at school to scream at. I texted her back and asked what had happened. She went on and described how her hommie or boy friend had been killed the night before in a fight. At first I really didn’t believe what she was saying. Why would anyone go after a 15 year old for his wallet and his cell phone? I could see someone coming after me for my iphone and wallet. They wouldn’t get much out of the wallet but the phone would be worth a bill at least. She couldn't txt or talk because she had to go to class.

I go online and find a very short report on the teen’s death. I switch on the evening news and hear what happened. He was walking on a major street when approached by two other teens that wanted his wallet and phone. He threw them down and took off running. They continued to chase him and someone in a car also went after him. They eventually caught up with him and literally threw him in front of oncoming traffic. It turns out one of their friends probably is the one that ran over him. The police show up and the teens all disappear including the one driving the car. Why? Is this type of violence really worth the risk to end up killing a young teen for a wallet and cell phone?

I have the plague so I had my Anne call up our teen who knew this boy really well. She was ready to go off and get even. It is so difficult to talk about justice and sanity in the same breath when someone you love has been senselessly murdered. I don’t know how this is going to impact the work that we are doing in South Phoenix. I pray that it will help me see the urgency for working between Hispanics and African Americans. How is possible to hate someone so much that you are willing to risk everything to take their life for a wallet and cell phone? It won’t be long before the South Phoenix Police catch up with these teens. The reality is that regardless of what happens to them this 15 year old son, brother, friend or hommie is dead.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yeah - Dave Does Get Mad

I think there is this perception that I never lose it. Well after being gone for a week at an amazing conference I walk into my office. I always check out my fish tanks. There is always the possibility that one of my big fish could actually choose to jump out of the tank or get into a fight and end up out of the water. As I am looking at my big tank with fish that are all over 1 foot long I notice that my little blue shark is no where to be found. As I am looking at the Red Tailed Catfish I come to the conclusion that the protrusion out of his stomach is my little Blue Shark. I was ready to physically take the big fish out of my tank and shake it until my little blue shark came out. I was MADDDDDD. I knew that I should have transferred this little guy into my other big tank where his size would have been fine.

Last night we had our normal Tuesday Night dinner, singing and study. I have been sick the last few days and knew that last night would be my best moment. We had a couple of newer kids which some times can mean a disaster or nothing at all. A couple of the kids kept going back into the kitchen area to hang out which was a no no. So after politely having a couple of different teens go back to get their attention I finally got up and screeched at them. It worked they all come out. Then as we continued to sing a few more songs it was obvious that the older group wasn’t singing but talking. I decided to get their attention and ask them to leave so the rest of us could sing. Wow – I think I got their attention. They walked out shocked that I would do that.

I then went on to explain to the others the importance of respecting the Lord and one another. When we talk on top of each other we don’t hear anyone and the real tragedy is that someone new doesn’t understand what is that we are doing??

My lesson learned is to let my feeling out more often to get more people to be respectful of the Lord. It’s also fun to watch the reaction and then see whether anyone thinks that I am going to cool off and forgive which I always do.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Yuck! I'm Sick!

I know one of the things which I hate to ever admit is when I am sick or out of it. I guess because I was raised by a mom who was always the type to jump right in and do something she ingrained in my head this notion that being either lazy or sick wasn’t something we did. (At least not too often.)

Yesterday was a great Sunday. I had an opportunity to talk about New City at New Valley for both services and make a push for our New City Painting Blitz on Nov. 21. I could tell by the last presentation that I was feeling totally out of it. I still had my own church to do. So after scarfing down half a quesadilla and part of a chicken tostada I took a nap. I actually feel asleep and got a good 2-hour snooze. I did my normal routine with getting a bunch of different kids. Now that we have the van it makes it so much easier to pick them up. We had a good worship time and then afterwards were able to talk with a visitor who had found us through the Internet.

As usual the kids/teens talked me into letting them hang out at the park before taking most of them home. So I tried to go out and do some basketball but decided to go back to my truck and do nothing and let 30 minutes pass so I could get home. So we do the typical drop off and it turns out that one of the girl’s family is at her brothers, which mean I have to take her there. (This wasn’t that far off the beaten path.) Then another one of our regulars got stuck at a friend’s house and needed me to get him and then take him home. So I get home around 8:30, which isn’t bad considering I had to make a couple of special trips.

Last night I decided to cancel all of my appointments for today and attempt not to do much of anything. There is this paranoia going around with the H1N1 that you could get sick and never get better. My wife is always quick to chime in that we can’t die until God wants us to go home. This obviously is true but I don’t want to increase the opportunity. I am learning that rest and slowing down does have its merits. I felt blessed because one of my kids asked if something was wrong because I sounded different. I explained that I was coming down with the flu and was on slow motion. My head is a little fuzzy so I am going to stop.


Be Prepared! (Sermon summary)

Be Prepared –2 Tim. 3:17

Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Intro: Boy Scout days – Rock n Roll Marathon I grew up mostly in Glasgow Montana on an Air Force Base out in the middle of nowhere. The only thing there was to do except for school was to get involved with Boy Scouts, play sports or get in trouble at school. I was fortunate to have an awesome Boy Scout Troup and young airman who was the leader. This meant we did lots of crazy things and were taught what it meant to always be prepared to face anything in life. Having too much extra time I made it to Eagle Scout, the highest rank, with the help of Ron Wilkinson my Scoutmaster. Today it isn’t cool to be involved with groups like this but looking back I really think it was great to learn how to live outside in the wilderness without any help. Paul wants to make sure that Timothy and the rest of us are prepared to face anything in life and be ready to respond with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be a child of God? John 3 Jesus got into a discussion with Nicodemus, a religious leader of his day, about what it meant to be born again or become a child of God. Nicodemus didn’t understand the difference between spiritual birth and physical birth. The talk that Paul has been given to Timothy wouldn’t make any sense unless Timothy has a spiritually alive focus in his life. Just as we have been talking about how dumb it would be to go to church, read your Bible, tell others about Christ and then not believe yourself and benefit firsthand from knowing Jesus.

How do you become a child or literally man/woman – person of God or one who follows Christ? Most people have heard of John 3:16 which tells us that the basis of our having a relationship with God is based upon Jesus who gives his life to make up for what is missing in our lives. God’s judgment is put on Jesus instead of you or me and we end up with God’s peace and a restored relationship with our Heavenly Father. It makes no sense to talk about being adequate and ready to do good works if we don’t know Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Simple questions – do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? Have you given your life to Christ and confessed that you are a sinner saved only by God’s amazing grace through the gift of faith?

What does it mean to be competent? Paul is preparing Timothy for the day, which is soon, when he will be gone and he has to take over as the servant leader of the missionary movement. Paul’s point is that when you get to know Christ through reading, studying and meditating on the Word – the Bible, you become competent or able to serve God in practical ways. Paul actually uses two words that are similar to express the fact that we are both able and capable of doing great things for God because of the Spirit living in us and using us to love our neighbor as we love God.

As you look at your life how would others describe you? I am not saying that Christian are perfect, know it alls or superior to those outside the church. What Jesus and Paul both model is a humble servant leadership that is able to do what is right, with correct motivation with an eye for the person who doesn’t know Christ. This isn’t to say that God can’t continue to work in your life and give you a passion to serve and help others even when you have been disobedient and outside of God’s best.

What is the purpose of good works? It is interesting that in Ephesians Paul expresses the fact that after understanding how we come to be restored to God we need to understand the reason for us being here on earth? Paul says that we are God’s craftsmanship, literally art project, whose purpose is to do good works. So what is a good work? How do I know that what I am doing is honoring to God and takes the focus or credit away from me?

Paul is a great example that as he faced his own death in prison he seldom talked about his own situation. He was quick to see the needs of others and understand God’s heart in the circumstance before him. Paul reminds us in Philippians that we are to have the same mind or attitude as Jesus that even though he was God and deserved to be given first place he chose to be a servant leader who lays down his life. What typifies your life? Do you come across as a servant or someone demanding to be in the spotlight?

What are you going to do because of this lesson?

Make sure that I really know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It is important you understand that grace and mercy are the key elements in serving God and communicating the truth of the gospel to others. Yes, it is possible for Christians to have a sense of being able to do something for God that does have worth and goodness. Really it comes down to seeing that being a follower of Christ means I can be prepared to face anything in life knowing that God will walk with me and help me! I know that the Boy scouts aren’t as popular today as when I was a kid but their motto of always being prepared should be ours also! So let’s be ready to Rock n Roll for Jesus.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Search for Significance

I have had the privilege of attending the CCDA Conference over the last 4 days in Cincinnati, Ohio. It has been a great time of worship, teaching and being convicted. It is truly great to be around people who are like minded that have a passion for God’s heart of justice and mercy. One of the speakers that struck home the most was Bart Campalo who lives in Cincy and loves on a specific neighborhood.

I see something in my life and others where we want recognition about the work that we do. It is so easy to be in the comparison mode as believers where we want to always top someone’s work or ministry. I noticed in the worship list a mention of a name from my past, Jill Shook. I thought what are the odds that this is the same Jill from my Cal-Poly days. She had actually made something for our wedding. As I walked into the seminar it was obvious that she was a real leader in the affordable housing movement in southern Cal. I was humbled to see her list of accomplishments via a simple google search.

What struck me as Bart spoke was that he was a realist who wasn’t going to brag about a miracle but more app to talk about the shortcomings in life and that crap happens more often than not. If my life is really about pursuing attention and significance than I am working against the Gospel and Jesus. I know that so often I have this sense of whether spending time with my Black Grandmas or Art my crippled friend or taking lunch to Mr. Sanchez is truly something worthy of my time and energy. I was thinking about all of the different kids we see each week and whether I should limit my efforts to a few that I deem to worthy of my energies or whether the ‘demon’ girl with a foul mouth that is only 5 years old deserves just as much of my attention as do the couple of girls who got straight A’s last year in High School?

Most people, regardless of spiritual condition, truly believe that some people are more worthy of help than others. We all have a checklist that we live out when it comes to helping someone. What got me, I already know this, is that God doesn’t want me to discriminate about whom I should love or help. If anything I am called to throw caution to the wind and seek to love the people or kids who are furthest out there. I know that this type of life pursuit is always messy, unpredictable and full of both heartache and excitement. God ultimately is part of both the good and bad that happens in my life and others. My struggles only reflect the crap that happens in other people’s lives. As I wait to see if a little girl’s mom is in prison I am hand tied because I can’t save the mom or make sure that this young girl and sister have someplace to live that is safe and secure.

I am called to love those who are forgotten and give regardless of what others think and say. Jesus sets the standard of our love for him, as we love the least, the last and the lost.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Gelling or Stressing

My life at present sees me in the middle of different projects, people, family and church happenings. I was with someone this week at a meeting who asked if I was grumpy? As I attempted to answer, without being grumpy I was totally honest and said I don’t have time for this meeting and the event next week. I’ll do it but probably will back out so I can put my total attention on what is my true passion and calling. Yes, I will love hanging out next week at the downtown ASU campus giving out free pizza but know that I have to pull back in order to do better and stay in the middle of God’s place for me.

I have had an ongoing dialogue or fight with a fellow homeowner in my community. We are both very active in serving our neighborhood. The challenge is that I have decided to not be a gloom and doom person but someone who gives hope and not stress in any circumstance. I of all people understand the culture and climate of life in South Phoenix, which at times can be the hood or barrio. Yeah I admit that I enjoy a good verbal foray at times but understand the need to always cast a vision of partnership for the greater community. I have learned over the last year that being faithful with what God has put on my plate is my responsibility and God is the one who ultimately is responsible for the results. I am learning that gelling, as the insert commercial states, is much preferred to stressing. I do on occasion wake with this overwhelming sense of what in the ________ am I doing.

The great blessing is seeing that God is more than able to accomplish his purpose whether I am around or not. I had one of those opps moments this week. I was meeting with the community action officer in my painting neighborhood to seek his help with our painting blitz in late November. I also had a lunch meeting for the Luis Palau Season of Service afterwards. So as I got out of my truck and realized as I shut the door that my keys fell out of my hand onto my seat. I thought ahhhhh, I’ll go ahead and meet with the officer and then call Anne and be late for the lunch or miss it if she is gone. We had a great talk and I learned lots from him. So the big decision was do I ask for help from him or pretend that I am ok and walk out. I decided to not do the typical guy thing but instead asked if he was gifted with breaking and entering cars? He laughed and said he would get a coat hanger. Fortunately for me my back window was open and I was able to pull open the door lock and get into the car. I ended up making my lunch meeting on time and had a great rest of the day.

I know that Jesus doesn’t guarantee that we can always be gelling but I obviously prefer that to always stressing. As I am getting older I see the benefit of really believing that less is more. I am also starting to get that trusting God really means putting everything into his hands and trusting him with the outcome.

Life was never intended to be stress free, after the fall obviously, but I do prefer being able to gel with Jesus and discover that God cares about the little things and the big enchiladas in my life.


Monday, September 28, 2009


I have to admit that as one gets older birthday celebrations aren’t that important or you want to totally pretend they don’t happen. As I celebrated my 56 birthday it was a strange week. My mom and I share the same birthday. Since my mom has been gone for 2 years my birthday is both a day to remember, mourn and celebrate. I really was hurting on the morning of my birthday and decided to have breakfast with a friend at my favorite place, Matt’s Big Breakfast. It was rather interesting looking back that Ernie, a she and the owner, recognized that I wasn’t my normal loud and laughing self. I tried to put on a face that said hey I’m ok but she saw through it.

What made this week rather strange was a call from my dad who is in crisis because of missing his lady and the reality that life alone ‘sucks’. He talked with Anne for an hour and truly believed that he would be arrested and in jail before the end of the month and that our president had it out for him. Anne calls me to alert me to the fact that dad was hurting and that I had better give him a call. So I quickly call him and end up listening for an hour about his mess. I had a difficult time not being able to get him to answer the why questions as to what had happened that put him in the panic mode.

After listening and being told that I hadn’t listened and shouldn’t talk I was emotionally drained and ready to curl up on the couch with my ipod to veg. It was a busy week for me because of back-to-back weeks with special meetings out of town. I have always tried to be respectful to my dad and listen as best as possible. As we have all aged I find it difficult to listen to someone when they talk in circles and seem to not totally see the bigger picture. I write this to express my love and concern for my dad and see this as a prayer to better understand the practical mechanics of being there for my father. We ended up arguing about the present presidential crisis and how I believed that one person wasn’t going to bring the world to an end or at least not our president.

We ended the conversation exhausted after an hour. I admit that I am a fixer type of guy who doesn’t want to walk away without having a solution. I am learning, not readily, that God wants us to trust him with the future and not get bent out of shape when there really isn’t a quick fix or a 1, 2, 3 process. I drove all night to get to San Diego to visit with my dad. I know in the past I would have high expectations to do something that would show me progress for my dad that was totally selfish. I go to visit with him and hope to get at least one thing accomplished that would make my mom happy. I am fearful that I might be a clone of my dad and become incapable of listening and accepting help from those who love you the most. It is easy to stand in judgment at present but know when I am 80 I will probably be worse because I will believe that I have the spiritual insight of a sage and all should listen and jump at what I have to offer.

I truly believe that the commandments do have real life implications. I know that sitting and listening to my dad go on about his past, when I was born, his lady and his bomber squadron can become wearisome but I need to see this as a window into my dad’s heart. Why is it that you could listen and love on the stranger but not with your own father? I do miss my mom who was the buffer zone and glue for the family. It is so difficult to understand my dad without mom being there to be his interpreter. Yet, I know that I love my dad because he blessed me with the gift of loving life, learning and being faithful to my wife and family. Lord, I need your supernatural strength to hang out with my dad today and be better equipped to be a son that adores his father.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Mad as Heaven/Hell?

I know that many view the church as being milk toast and quiet when it comes to standing up to the injustices in the world. Often Christians get involved after something horrible has happened. I truly believe that from the Genesis 1-3 account that we have a spiritually obligation to live out the cultural mandate (intersect our culture and influence it) and stand up for Biblical justice. I think having lived in the suburbs most of my life has shielded me to a large extend from the senseless violence that happens in the city. None of this really matters until something happens on your doorstep.

About six months ago we had a drive by happen over a drug deal gone south in our neighborhood. A large area was blocked off and a close friend was at home without her husband. We watched and waited to see what happened. The police patiently waited for the individual inside the drug house to come out. There were a few other drug thugs who had escaped. After waiting for hours they finally sent in the police dogs that got the guy to come out. The following morning the other two bad guys were arrested literally on our driveway as my wife was backing out the car to go shopping. She exclaimed in her usually witty fashion that it was a good thing that the drug guys were obese guys who couldn’t run because the police had them cuffed and in the car before she backed out.

This last week we painted a house in our painting neighborhood. We had painted the house across the street five months before. Someone from that house who is helping the older gentleman came over to say hi and volunteer. She ended up coming to church that same Sunday for a dinner and the service. It was a totally shock to get a phone call from her friend saying she had been seriously beaten up by someone at the care center where she works. She was in the hospital in the ICU. The injury had required her to get her jaw wired shut and have numerous plates put in for her to be able to recover. I couldn’t understand how this could happen especially in a care center where someone is helping someone who is ill.

We went and visited this lady after she was released from the hospital. It was truly saddening to see what had been a beautiful face and smile now covered with bandages, stitches and totally swollen. How could someone do this to another human being? She had asked for us to come over and pray with her. It will be months before she is able to eat and who knows how long before her face recovers from the trauma.

Yeah, you could say I was ticked and upset about this whole thing. Why does violence continue in our world and it always seem to impact the lives of those who are outside of the problem. I know that God’s heart is for the orphan, widow and abused. How is it possible so often for Christians to walk away and ignore or choose not to get involved? I am starting to learn that it is my responsibility to stand up against the evil that is in our neighborhood. I see God’s heart to reach back to those who have been hurt and forgotten because of their injuries. I know that being an agent of reconciliation means I have to get in the way at times of those who get high off hurting someone or taking advantage of them.

I will never forget a meeting at a church close to our house. It was called because of a young teenage girl who had been murdered in that neighborhood. It is this type of incident that brings everyone out to ask the why question and want to know what the police are going to do about it. My wife even ended up on the evening news stating, edited version, that she hoped someone would find these guys that did this and get them. Ultimately all of us want justice to happen. The difficulty is understanding how this can happen in a fallen world where judgment may not happen until the last day.

Pray for our new friend who was seriously injured. Pray for me that I would learn to stand up against the evil in our neighborhood and seek the help and direction of the police and those that live here.


Birthday Blog

Aging is something that as a youth we wished time would fly by and as we get older we pray that Father Time will go at a snail’s pace. This last week I celebrated my birthday and it was mostly a sad day. My mom and I share the same day. She went home to be with the Lord almost 2 years ago. I really had intended my birthday to be busy so I wouldn’t have a lot of time to be sad. I had breakfast with a good friend at Matt’s my favorite breakfast place. I had a meeting with another pastor who is helping plan our Painting Blitz and then Tutoring Club in the evening. I have to admit that I cried a bunch while I drove around that day. My pastor friend canceled at the last minute because his sitter for his daughter was sick. At the last minute I changed my schedule to be at home.

I do confess that I get energy and hyped when we do the Tutoring Club. This was our second session after restarting because of school. We had a great turn out and had an amazing surprise I had a birthday cake from my kids and friends. It was great having a large group sing happy birthday. I was still tear-filled. After dropping off a few kids I went back to the Flores’ house. I really did expect anything but to say hi and go home. Instead it was a surprise dinner and cake number 2. I love Mexican food so this was a true birthday blessing especially with a nemo cake.

We had our family dinner on Friday and went out to one of my favorite pizza places. It was really a great evening and had my 3rd birthday cake. This one was a dud; Anne got it from Fresh and Easy. I was excited to get a PS3, which is both for video games and also Blue Ray Discs. We had a great evening and I truly felt loved. I miss my mom because she always made everything special. It isn’t that my dad is a dud or my Anne can’t do it right but there is always something different my mom’s touch. My Saturday turned out to be a busy day that wasn’t suppose to be that way. I had connected with a new pastor in the area who decided that we had to meet on Saturday. One of our families we had helped paint their house had their care taker get seriously injured so we visited this gal after she came out of the hospital with her jaw wired shut and her face very swollen. We did another night out with my older daughter and husband at Ted’s Hot Dogs. I had forgotten that it is a favorite place for ASU football fans on game night. So we waited in line for about 30 minutes.

We finished off our Saturday with visiting a young couple, who are involved with New City, in the neonatal ICU at a local hospital. Their daughter, Janel, had been born with some serious problems that required immediate surgery and ongoing care. This brought back memories of our yearlong birthing process with our Heather. Anne actually got to fed Janel. We went home and collapsed and I still thought about my mom, memories of her care for my Heather.

Sunday always comes after Saturday so it was a rather typical day with prep for church. I was again pleasantly surprised to see some of our New City kids make me a birthday cake and make a larger Happy Birthday Banner. It was incredible way to be reminded that I am loved. I still miss my mom and I know that birthdays will always be tough. I did discover this week that I shared the same birthday with numerous people involved with New City. One of the teens who is involved, twins whose Grandma’s house we painted and then another gal whose mom’s house we painted.

I know that birthdays are special especially for younger kids. So we always try to do something for those kids that are involved with New City. I don’t feel like I am 56 and hopefully I don’t act like I am old.

I love you mom! Happy BirthdayJ

Your son - David

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Accidents

I was returning from a Church Planting Network meeting in Dallas Texas and as usual had a three-hour flight to get back home to Phoenix. I look forward to see who God will place next to me when I fly. I was flying back with a fellow pastor and good friend. He had noticed that our flight was delayed by at least 30 minutes so we found another flight to catch that would get us home earlier without any penalty. So we board a plane that is going to stop in Austin and then onto Phoenix.

The flight going to Austin was totally packed so I sat in the back of the plane and then after landing moved to the front to sit with my friend. He got off to take care of business and as the group starts to walk by I was curious to see who would sit next to me. There is this 30 something gal who is lugging her suitcase, coffee and managing talking on a cell phone who happens to drop her purse and then asks if she can sit down. As she sits down it is obvious that she is crying her heart out. So I do the normal Dave thing and ask if she’s ok. She replies with a sobbing ‘hell no’! I then ask what’s wrong or something and then that leads into a two hour conversation of listening and leading.

She shares her life story over a couple of hours and turns out to be an adjunct college professor at a Community College in L.A. and teaches English Lit and Rhetoric. I get nosey and ask why she is so stressed out and crying. She then proceeds to talk about how she discovered a friend from High School on Facebook. This then leads to a long distance romance and friendship. She obviously didn’t want to return to her apartment close to the beach in L.A. but couldn’t leave her students whom she adores behind. As I listen and ask the obvious question she proceeds to tell me about Bob (not his real name) and discover that he has 3 kids, is divorced, remarried and getting another divorce. I do pipe in that I have been married almost as long as she has been around. (My Anne would be proud of me.) She quickly affirms her respect for her friend’s love for his kids and commitment to do the right thing. This becomes the basis upon which she is willing to have a cell phone and Facebook relationship with her High School friend.

We talk about everything from politics, religion, the environment, teaching styles, philosophy, science and her youth. She easily converses about any topic and shares her love for teaching and learning. The unfortunate thing, which wasn’t obvious at first but becomes clear, is that she lives in constant pain and has Fibro Malaga. We talk about different treatment paths and her ability to block out her pain through meditation and going for walks on the beach. I am able to talk about my life, love and passion and describe that good relationships happen and can be nurtured and grow. I share the gospel with her and she comes back with her story and proceeds to tell me her church is at the beach.

I ask her about her education and discover that she is a Purdue undergrad. So I get my friend involved in the conversation who is also a Purdue grad. We all laugh and remember about college and grad school. As we are coming close to landing I explain that I don’t believe in accidents. I told her that we were supposed to be on a different flight but because it was late we changed planes. So obviously we were supposed to talk. She shares that our 2-hour discussion had gotten her to calm down and not be an emotional basket case. She pays me a compliment in saying that obviously I am a good talker and have the ability to minister to another’s soul. We exchange business cards and bid farewell. I have no idea whether my new prof friend will e-mail or FB me in the next week. I told her when she returns to Austin she must meet one of my good friends and his family who live there.

My prayers go with her that she would have her eyes open to see the true Creator and Designer of the universe who is the greatest artist and writer wants to be her best friend.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Anxiety Attack

I know that many of my friends think I am crazy to pursue something that may never be financially sustainable without continued partnership from outside New City. This last week marked the startup of our second year of doing mercy work in our neighborhoods where we worship, work and witness. I have been part of five church plants over the years and I know one of the fears of a planter is about the first worship service and whether many will come. What is even more scary is once you get started and it is still a small group with you doing most of the work when you burn out your most prized helpers. (These are usually your good friends.)

As I reflect back on our tutoring club and our painting projects it is amazing to see what can happen in one year. The reality is that New City is a very small church that has lots of partners; both individuals and churches that help us impact our neighborhood. So when we finished our tutoring club in April and did our summer program I didn’t know whether I would have many volunteers to get our program going in September. We had a great summer because we had five commit to help with connecting with 30 kids. We did a simple Bible study format and then did sports in the park. Because of our connections we had two groups help do urban missions in the summer. We did a 2-week outdoor Vacation Bible School in one of our painting families’ front yard. This also helped connect our tutoring kids with doing projects and then connect with another neighborhood just a few blocks away. The end result is that we started our new tutoring year with over 30 students coming our first session and then a group of new helpers that numbers over 30.

Listening to one of my core helpers this week in church it was clear God is at work. The level of enthusiasm and sense of getting it together does impact everyone. We painted Herminia Perez’s house this last Saturday. I had initially thought we’d have about 20 painters, which is minimal for doing one house. The night before the project I get a few e-mails and it is obvious that we are going to have over 40. I now have a few special helpers that make everything flow more smoothly. So we prepped the house and were ready for our massive group. I had a couple of leaders that kept everything going so we finished in about 1.5 hours. We were also able to finish a house across the street. We then left and handed out 300 bottles of cold water to the homeless that live around the downtown.

God has taught me that the kingdom is bigger than anyone person or church. It is so easy for me to become dependent upon a few so when they are gone I do get a little anxious. I am discovering that God is the one who is faithful to supply all of our needs and the right volunteers to lead. Let me give a couple of examples. I had about 40 people respond to my e-mails for tutors for this year’s program. One of the moms who was interested was obviously too busy between her own job, home schooling her kids and being involved in her church. Yet, after our training session she sensed God’s call for her to dive in with her kids. She has turned out to be an incredible leader who can get the attention of little kids without screaming or losing it. I had another guy show up to help from one of our partner churches that is primarily African American. Ray was like this angel who dropped out of the sky. He quickly jumped in for our painting project and had everything rocking as the groups showed up. He had a smile and the strength to carry around 5 gallon buckets full of paint. He didn’t lose it when some of the teens got a little crazy helping everyone to finish our house without any major messes.

What truly showed the fruit of what we are attempting is having a dinner and service for New City that invites the families we are helping. One of my favorite families is an older African American couple that has taken in their grandsons. They let me do the outdoor VBS in their front yard not once but twice. I decided to get Sarah and Jr. to seriously consider getting involved. I had asked numerous times for them to come to church. Then it struck me to bring Paul or Bookie, their grandson, to come to our summer activities and now our tutoring program. Now Bookie is coming to church with his grandpa. I do walk a fine line in reaching out to people who have serious flaws that the average evangelical would have serious issue. I was jazzed to see one of the ladies whose mom has become a good friend come to our dinner. She is someone who grew up in this primarily Black neighborhood that is now in the middle of a gang/drug war between the Hispanics and Blacks. She is someone who is presently living on welfare and many of her brothers and cousins are in jail for drug dealing. I discovered that we share the same birthday.

I have many stories now that help me look back and admit that God is the one who draws and impacts people’s lives. I still try at times to force things to happen only to discover that God always brings surprises in my life that help me trust him more and more. I know that I will still have anxiety attacks on occasion because of my sin and my passionate attempts to get believers in the burbs to see the great need in the forgotten part of the city.

Yeah, I am starting to learn about Phil. 4:6-8


Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Kingdom is Here

Today has been one of those days you look back on and feel good about what God can do through his extended body the church! I am always a little anxious when it comes to doing mercy events that involve over 40-50 people. I was expecting maybe 20 to come out and paint the Perez family house today. Instead we had almost 50. What is truly remarkable was that there were lots of teens and also older folk like me. I had the privilege of stepping back and watching the miracle unfold. Everyone worked together without any fighting, screaming and primarily had fun.

I would love to be inside Herminia’s house and listen to what she will say to her husband when he comes home from work. You won’t believe it, this is obviously in Spanish, there were close to 50 people who painted our house. They were all very nice and friendly and seemed to really care. I am sure she will show off her nice Bible that is in Spanish and English to her friends. It was a joy having a simple craft for her kids to do while we painted the house. We had some left over crosses that you decorate and then put on stands. They are made out of some type of foam rubber material.

It always saddens me when I see believers argue over the silliest things that must truly sadden the Father and make pagans laugh at us. Today was a day when there were many different churches represented that did have very different views of a variety of things. We could have gotten into not discussions but arguments over the end times, baptism, or fill in the blank. Instead we were truly showing the gospel in both word and deed. The Spirit clearly worked through even goofy teens that don’t always catch on when it comes to work. It was a blessing to see teens be willing to clean up the painting mess without complaining.

After finishing the house we loaded up everyone and went downtown to give out cold water to the homeless. This is always a heart-wrenching thing for me because I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have a home, car or family around you. Again it was a great testimony to see the teens handing out free water and T-shirts without complaining or reacting to the homeless. I am learning that people are people regardless of where they live, how they dress or what type of cigarette they smoke.

I can imagine Jesus himself saying that as you have loved the Perez family, Art’s family and those on the street you have truly loved me. Jesus has a heart for those who are usually forgotten and often considered to be sub-human. I pray that what New City is doing will impact both the local body of Christ and the neighborhood where God has called us to live. We finished off the morning with going to my favorite place for some great tacos or Sonoran hot dogs – the Ranch Market.