Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rain and Friends

I can’t fathom that my last painting project was actually rained out?? It never rains in Phoenix and we are in a drought cycle that isn’t supposed to stop with you know global warming taking over. Never the less it rained more last week than it had rained the whole last year. We had a large group coming that I was excited to have help out and be introduced to New City or Barrio Nuevo. God obviously wanted me to meet Cynthia Lazaro and House of Helps before continuing.

I continue to be blessed or pleasantly surprised at the new friends that God continues to bring me. I met yesterday with Officer Chris from the Phoenix PD. He has become a good friend whose job is to help those in my neighborhood. He going to join my Barrio Nuevo board and be my eyes and ears to the community. I had received a call about a month ago from someone with House of Helps. I returned her call quickly because I am interested in connecting with the real people in my neighborhood that are doing mercy work. I left numerous messages but never had a return call. I did talk with her helper and then finally decided to just go back to their house and knock on the door. She was at the home and we ended up having a couple of hours of listening and learning together.

Cynthia has a similar passion in seeing our neighborhood transformed by the gospel! It is exciting and reaffirming to have the Lord send someone whose family has lived in this neighborhood for over 40 years and has been loving on people in need the whole time. It will begin an adventure of learning more about trusting the Father and dreaming about letting God direct and supply the needs that are bigger than I can imagine. We will be painting the outside of her house and doing a handicap ramp. Her real dream is to enlarge her house with a couple of room additions that I am believing God will supply the needs and we can be part of the process of seeing it built in the coming year.

God is faithful and great at surprising me!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chaos Theory

I am the first to admit that I love working with kids and adults who have a youthful side. I also have to admit that I tend to react to people who are control types and don’t understand that most people, teens – adults, respond better to grace and mercy than legalism. I was listening to something I down loaded off of itunes U from Cal – Berkeley. The prof was discussing different types of theories that described life from an individual’s experience. Honestly, I can’t fathom that the students in this class really understood what he was saying but at least you pretend it makes sense. (I have read Kant, Heidegger, Sartre and others.)

I have a rather unusual background from my schooling with a Biochem degree, a philosophy degree, my M.Div and also the equivalent of a lifetime of being a concrete contractor. I say all of this to help myself see that I have multiple personalities that interact at times. I usually think this helps me relate better to people who are different than me but not always. One of the confusing arguments or discussions in today’s philosophy or science arena is whether life is orderly or totally chaotic? As a follower of Christ I tend to stand on the order side because God is someone who is by his nature orderly who has created with a design that seems obvious. I also see life at times as being something, which is unpredictable and exciting. There are some scientists who see chaos or unpredictability as the explanation for life and the universe. They are ok not having all of the answers to life today. Not that any science type or Christian can ultimately explain the details of life without some type of faith venture. I know that the goal of science is to explain what is there or reality. There does seem to be that impression that at some point the Einstein type of person will come up with an equation that explains everything. Yet, I am starting to see that we like to talk this way but the daily experience isn’t this because I live in flux or change that I have to by faith come to accept and understand.

I live in the inner city or hood of Phoenix. I live in a neighborhood that looks great on the outside but is rather deceptive. We have a diverse neighborhood that reflects our South Phoenix area. I love this but also know that it would drive most people crazy because of safety issues, wanting everything to be a certain way and then the obvious language or culture barrier. These things are what I love about my area. It is always exciting and fun to be around people who are so different. Yeah there is a language challenge that isn’t just understanding Spanish but gestures and accents. I have come to the conclusion that if I ever think I have figured this out I am in trouble. So life is a journey that for some is frustrating because you want everything ordered in your little box you call life.

I use to talk about different sized boxes as a means to show how we have differing views that have some cross over. I now tend to use circles that have some overlap or crossover and reflect that we all have something in common but than have much which is outside our normal circle. So what does this entire mean – Dave?? I have to take the time and expend energy to get to know people in their circumstances. I can’t force or expect people to walk into my world and relate back to me on my terms. So do I have to understand the Berkeley Prof of Philosophy to understand life? Yes in one sense I do have to make a noble attempt to appreciate the thinkers of yesterday and today. Yet the simple message by some of the ancient thinkers is that life is full of flux or change and that there are very few things that are constant. I don’t want to end up like Plato’s analogy of the man in the cave who lives his whole life assuming that he has really seen the sun but discovers later that he has only seen shadows.

Can I learn to live in the midst of chaos and order? I want to believe that is possible. I also know that people are different so there will always be some, regardless of their background, who will shine when there is conformity and others who will die when stuffed into any box. I seem to come back to Paul the Apostle’s example of the journey of learning to understand what makes different people and cultures tick. His goal isn’t to force someone into his box but to get into someone else’s box whether it is orderly or chaotic to reach them for Christ. Yes, I do feel more comfortable in my box and would prefer other people to cross over into my zone.

The opportunity, which is there all of the time, is to view life as an adventure that gives many doors into seeing reality from a totally different perspective when we listen and learn from those around us. This is one of the lessons that continue to hit me, I can actually learn from those around me who haven’t read their Bibles a whole lot or some of my philosophy favorites. Life is lived in the present but appreciated from both the past and future. So yeah I go back and forth from being a guy who likes the order answer to life and also see that it doesn’t always work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Short Cuts?

Jesus in 3 D Series

Mark 1:9-11

Intro: Short Cuts? I was raised by a mom and dad who had high standards. I will never forget when they told me any job worth doing is worth doing well or to the best of your ability. I understood from the time I was a little kid that it wasn’t ok to start something and not finish it.

The real lesson I have learned is that every time I try to take a short cut in life I end up in trouble. I will never forget hiking up Half Dome in Yosemite Park. We had a large group of High School Students that went with us. I was on my way back down with a friend, remember this is a 22 mile hike that goes up 4,000 vertical feet and we decided to take a short cut. As we ran down a different trail at first it seemed like we were making up extra time by going this new way. After running down this path I realized I didn’t know exactly where we were. We stopped and Roger saw the panic look on my face. We ran up what we thought was the same trail we had come down only to discover it was a different trail. Now I could envision our larger group getting to the bottom and wondering where is Dave and Roger. What could be worse is when they have to send a rescue party for us. Fortunately this didn’t happen and we stopped, prayed and looked to see where we should go. We heard other hikers and realized the real path was close by – yeah!

#1. Jesus goes to John to be baptized – why? Why should Jesus the God Man have to be baptized? If anyone could side step this it should have been Jesus, the one who never sinned. Mark reminds us that Jesus comes form a small obscure town, Nazareth, where he grew up as a carpenter. Jesus had a sense about the timing of John the Baptist being out by the Jordan baptizing people for the forgiveness of their sins. So Jesus goes out to fulfill the OT Scripture and also show his connection with all of humanity. He is willing to humble himself before John and allow him to baptize him. Jesus’ choice not to take short cuts impacts everyone’s life. Jesus is both human and God in one person.

#2. What happens at Jesus’ baptism? As Jesus is coming out of the water an amazing thing happens. The heavens immediately are opened and the Spirit of God comes upon Jesus in the shape of a dove. Remember the dove represented both God’s peace and the Spirit. So Jesus is now being anointed or set aside to be the Spirit Driven Son of God who now hears his father proclaim something rather incredible. Jesus is the beloved Son of God or simply that God loves him. This is the same as God saying that He and Jesus are truly one.

God’s response to Jesus’ choice to be baptized is a declaration of his acceptance or affirmation that it is time for his mission to start. God says that he is well pleased with his son. God is delighting in Jesus’ obedience to the plan they had established before He came to earth. This is why John said that he only baptized with water but Jesus baptized with the Spirit.

#3. How do you please God? So what does it mean to please God and how do I keep doing this? Jesus clearly understood what God’s plan or will was for his life. This made it easy for him to find John in the wilderness and be baptized and be reaffirmed about his mission and purpose in coming. So in the same sense only when we understand God’s purpose in our lives are we able to follow it and please him.

Paul in his letter to the Romans describes God’s expectation for us. He says that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices that understand how we are to live. He goes on to give a practical example by saying no longer be conformed to the way the world thinks but have your mind transformed by being renewed everyday. God wants us to have a radically different mindset than what is happening in the world. It isn’t natural for anyone in today’s world to be a servant that is willing to lay down his life for another. It is the total opposite. The only way the gospel will impact our lives, family and neighbors is when Christ lives through this type of lifestyle. Romans 12:1-2

Conclusion: Obedience is key to spiritual growth. I know that one of the biggest challenges in life isn’t starting something but deciding to finish what we have started and following through. It is too easy to say you’ll do something but when it comes to following through we fall short. So obedience becomes the key to discovering Jesus in all places. The only way we are going to grow spiritually is when we are will to learn from Jesus. He is the one who said if you love me you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

Think what it would be like if everyone at New City always decided to help out without being asked? What if you jumped at the opportunity to pick up someone else’s trash? Imagine what could happen in your family, neighborhood or the world when we do simple things that show true respect and a willingness to put others first.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Friend

Charlie B

Yesterday I met Charlie B for the first time. He had filled out an application for having his house painted. Because he was gone during our last painting project he was next up for getting his house painted. We had talked over the phone numerous times over the last four months. I don’t think he understood that I was serious about having New City paint his house. So as our next painting project date approaches it was imperative that I meet him face to face and see his house.

As I pulled up to his house he was already there with a friend. Charlie B is on disability and drives an old truck with a trailer that he hauls away trash or junk. Our greeting was nice and I was quick to explain what New City was about and asked a few questions that ultimately had him share his story. I was taken back as I listened to his situation. He had lived in this house three years ago and there had been a fire that had killed his fiancé. He has three kids but only his daughter in high school is still with him. He explained how he had been attempting to restore his house over the last three while living on a fixed income. As we walked into his house it was filled to the ceilings with stuff, lots of stuff. The walls were exposed and the ceiling had new sheet rock on it but not done correctly. I was horrified to see that he had allowed someone to do a bunch of work that was clueless about construction work.

Wow – I was taken back and realized that God had bought us into his life to be a spiritual light and a help to getting his home back. It turns out that the group doing his house is a collection of businessmen from Scottsdale who do service projects a few times a year. My prayer now is that there will be a few guys who will partner with me to help get Charlie back into his house. I know that painting the outside isn’t going to help him get in but it will be a start and will form a partnership that I believe will make a difference.

I know that there are no accidents in life. I truly believe that God opens and closes doors as we walk. This is another story in the New City/Barrio Nuevo journey. He happens to live in our painting neighborhood and is just doors down from one of our teen’s home. I look forward to meeting his daughter and seeing God do a work of reconciliation in his heart and a work of restoration in his home.

Jesus in 3 D Series #1

Jesus in 3 D Series

Get Ready! Mark 1:1-8

Intro: God loves ‘little’ people I was so thrilled to hear someone say that golf was more than Tiger Woods! Yet, the reality for most of us is that we are average and our lives will seem not to make any difference to anyone but our immediate family. The media or news is always much more interested in the ‘bad stuff’ than in what the normal person does. What is surprising and to our benefit is that God cares and chooses to use the ‘little people’ not the superstars. We begin a series that will introduce us to Jesus Christ and how God has chosen to work among us. We will look at the background to this Gospel Story and be introduced to Mark, John the Baptist and Jesus.

#1. Who is Mark? Mark most likely wasn’t involved with Jesus’ early disciples much if at all. He became one of Peter’s special helpers and then also worked with Barnabas and Paul for a short time. Mark heard the gospel story through the teaching of both Peter and Paul. Something happened between Paul and Mark that resulted in Paul not wanting to bring him along on his last missionary journey. Mark had the privilege of hearing and working with both apostles, witnessed many miracles and truly the birth of the early church. He also was around both apostles when they were martyred or killed for their belief in Jesus. Mark’s mother was very involved with Jesus’ inner circle of helpers. It is possible that she might have hosted the last supper at her house.

Mark wrote the shortest gospel which now is considered by many to be the first written. He writes in rapid fashion where different scenes appear one after another. He focuses more on Jesus’ actions then his teachings. I believe he truly shows that the gospel is lived out with both action and teaching!

#2. Who is John? John is Jesus’ cousin who plays a special part in introducing Jesus’ mission and purpose in coming. He is a rather oddball type of person. He would be like a hippie that lived off of the earth and lived up in the mountains. He understands his role as one who prepares the way for the One to come that will bring the Spirit. John preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He is a true servant who is willing to step aside as Jesus comes into the spotlight. He acknowledges that he isn’t worthy of any special attention and that Jesus is truly the Son of God, which meant He is God.

Mark, in his typical style, goes out of his way to describe John. He wore an interesting outfit that was custom made with Camel skin. He had a diet that consisted of nuts, locust and wild honey. He stood out in his day and would stand out in our day also. He is truly a prophet that brought the Old Testament era into the New Testament era. He obviously attracted a crowd in his dress. He cried out in the wilderness and many came out to see him because they had a sense that it was God’s time to do something special. His message was rather simple – get ready for the one to come by being baptized as you confess or tell God that you are a sinner, one who has broken God’s law, who needs his help.

#3. What is the gospel and what does this have to do with Jesus? The word gospel described a messenger coming back with a message of how the battle is doing. If the battle was being won then this was good news! If the battle was being lost it was obviously bad news. What is amazing is that Mark is telling the story of how Jesus is both the messenger and message coming from God to tell us that the biggest story in life has a great ending even though it involves bad news.

The real story is that Jesus is both a little people and God all wrapped into one. This is the message of Christmas that the eternal Word of God would become flesh and blood. God chooses to become man in order for the salvation of people to happen. The Gospel Story is going to show us Jesus isn’t someone that was made up but a real person who lived like you and me. He has a mom, earthly father, brother and sisters. He gets into trouble with different people over how he chooses to bring the most important story-message of all history.

Conclusion: What is your ‘thing’? One simple lesson from this intro to Mark’s gospel is that it is important for everyone, including YOU, to understand your place in God’s kingdom. This comes back to how you respond to God’s call and work in your life? What does the good news mean to you? Are you more concerned about being a superstar or being someone that follows Christ? John understood his part to be one preparing the way by being at the right place at the right time. Mark was someone who was ok with being in the background and being like an inside reporter who listens, learns and then writes so others can know the story about Jesus. The simple message is that we need Jesus’ love in order to have our lives transformed. This will help you understand how you fit. So the word repentance is important because it explains how we, myself included, need God’s help to turn away from sin, living life on our own and turn back on the right path with God’s help through His Spirit living in us. This is the gospel story that is always exciting whether you are a superstar or just a normal average person.