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.