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Tag Archives: World Relief

first post on NEW BLOG, last post on this blog

first post on NEW BLOG, last post on this blog

First blog post on my NEW BLOG is up: What is Religious Cheese?  http://www.cutthereligiouscheese.com/what-is-religious-cheese/ 

Please head over there and check it out.  If you subscribe to the Road Blog, please sign up to subscribe for my new blog, Cut The Religious Cheese as this will be my last time ever posting at the Road Blog.  While you’re at, will you consider joining my Publish Team?  I wrote a book entitled “Embracing Reality: Finding Freedom from Relational and Sexual Fantasy” and I need your help in getting published.  You’ll receive a free copy of the intro and first chapter of the book in exchange for subscribing to my new blog and following me on Twitter.  100% of eventual book proceeds will go to World Relief.  Thank you in advance for your help!

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How Christians Should Spend Their Money

How Christians Should Spend Their Money

Jesus says in Luke 12:29-34 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What on earth does he mean by this?  As a pastor, I’m expected by many to have ‘the answer’ when it comes to biblical and theological questions.  The question of money is one that has been keeping me up at night recently and here’s why…

When I read Jesus’ words here, and see the general way he lived his life, it makes me think we have missed the boat as American Christians on what Jesus wants us to do with our money.  I’ve taken two trips to Haiti, and keep up on what’s happening globally and honestly, it’s hard to imagine that Jesus would rather us purchase a new car, a bigger house, a new iPad, or a new flat screen TV over giving these large chunks of money to organizations sustainably alleviating extreme poverty from people around the world, and on top of this, doing all of their work through the existing local churches in these regions.  I’m talking about children who are born into situations where there is no food, shelter, clothing, or employment and their only chance at survival is to become sex slaves or sweat shop workers, if they are lucky.  I see this and it makes me want to sell everything I have, and give it to World Relief, to aid these victims of injustice.

I wonder when we get to heaven if money is one area that, when we can finally see things from an eternal perspective, we will realize that we totally missed the boat on.  We will see the children who died because we bought the newest gadget instead of giving.

I’ve never sold everything I have.  Honestly if I wasn’t married, I wonder if I would.  But life is typically much more complex than this.  And the Bible is as well.  While Jesus did tell one rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor (Mark 10:17-31), Jesus walked alongside many other rich people and he never gave this command.

The fact is, I feel guilty when I spend money on things for myself.  And I’m not sure what to do with these feelings.  And I enjoy life more (and feel less depressed about my guilt) when I free myself (and my wife) to spend some of the money we have earned on relaxing evenings and/or on things we enjoy.

The prevailing thought in America is that you’ve earned what you have, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you spend it on yourself.  You chose to work hard, to do your homework in school, and to study a certain field in college.  You made these sacrifices, with a certain lifestyle in mind, and there’s nothing to feel guilty about.  You made a choice and you’ve earned it.  You give a percentage of your income away to the church and to charities and you can enjoy the rest of what you’ve earned.  And there certainly is some truth in this.  The ability to experience God’s awesome presence in a sunset over the ocean, or from a breathtaking view in the Rockies, requires the money to pay for these types of vacations.  Money that you earned from choosing to study a certain thing in college and/or choosing to work hard in life.

Is it really a sin to have air conditioning?  Because you could give this money to those in extreme poverty.

Once you start going down this road, it is never ending and can quickly become the path of legalism and intense judgmentalism.  Yes I drive an old car, on purpose.  But I could drive an older one.  Or I could take the bus and get rid of my car and its insurance payments.  Yes I live in an smaller house, on purpose.  But I could live in a smaller (cheaper) one (and get rid of my window AC units, gasp!).  Yes I have old electronics, on purpose.  But I could get rid of them altogether.  And give this money to those in extreme poverty, or to missions (or both).

And then there is the wing of Christianity that sees personal financial inflow as the direct blessing of God (because why wouldn’t a loving Father want to bless his children?), and they structure entire church ministries around how God wants you to be rich.  Typically their pastors model this through mansions, private jets, and the top-of-the-line luxury cars that they own.

Is money a tool to bring life to others?  Or is it an avenue for us to enjoy life more?  Is it a sin to enjoy life more?

Can you see why this keeps me up at night?  It would be easier if Jesus just said, “It’s okay to buy these types of things, but don’t buy those types of things.”

But I wonder how many of us never even stop to consider this.  We just buy buy buy our pile of earthly treasures with no thought of the eternal implications our money could have.  Rather than using Luke 12 (or anything else in the Bible) as our guide, we simply go with the flow of the American idea of what money is for.

It’s confusing.

It’s complex.

I want to obey Scripture, and teach others to do the same, going against culture if needed.  But where do we draw the lines?

I don’t know.

Jesus tells me his grace is enough for me, and that it’s okay that I don’t know.

Please post your thoughts on this topic in the comments section, with the heart of giving instruction and help to me and other readers who are wrestling with the realities of the Bible’s teachings on money.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Theology

 

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The Worst Part About Christmas

TV commercials are getting harder and harder to watch.

It used to be that there was an agreement between people who make commercials and those of us who watch them.  A fast food restaurant makes their burger look huge, perfect, and not ridiculously smushed in their TV commercial.  They do this by spray painting their tomato red, using plastic lettuce, shining up their meat with some sort of fancy spray, etc.  Kind of like food porn.  The agreement made is that we all understood that when we go into the restaurant that our burger will look nothing like that.  It will indeed be smushed, with the bun being bigger than the meat, grease everywhere, the cheese off-centered, and the tomato always always being a dull pink color.  No one sues for false-advertising; it’s just the way it is.  Commercials lie to us, and we are okay with it.

When it comes to fast food, which I very seldom eat, I can accept this.  You lie to me about the color of my tomato, and I can live with this.  But the commercial industry is ramping up the category of their lies to such levels this Christmas season that it is getting harder and harder for me to swallow.  In fact, even more than a Big Mac itself does, these commercials are making me want to puke.

Do you remember when Apple’s commercials were actually clever and funny?  You’d have Justin Long being the “Mac”, and John Hodgman the “PC” and Hodgman would have a silly video camera taped to his head, and Long would, in his sly way, make fun of Hodgman’s dorkiness, advertising how Mac’s are better because they have a camera already inside of them:

There’s a hidden message here, that is hidden within every commercial, and this one is that: Your life will be way better if you have a camera built in to your computer.  I don’t mind the hidden message because the exterior message is funny, creative, and entertaining.

And we all know that a camera inside your computer is great so you can do things like this:

And if that doesn’t make your life better, what does really?  I mean before I had the ability to take a photo like that, my life was brutally awful and depressing, but once I had the ability to take that photo, all of a sudden my soul’s deepest longings and dreams and desires and hopes and dreams were fulfilled all at once.  Mission accomplished.  Of course we know this isn’t true, right?  And the TV ad companies know it isn’t true either, right?  We all know that as soon as the wrapping is off and the new car scent is gone, that the little feeling of salvation that went along with our new product fades away as well.  So what is an ad company to do?  Like any other addictive drug, the stimulus must come on stronger and in more quantity for the high feeling to continue and for us to continue coming back again and again… which brings us to this year’s Christmas season TV commercials.

Apple seems to have given up on the clever and funny and hidden messages and has went for pure shock value, pretty much coming straight out and telling us that we are complete losers if we don’t purchase their product.  Folks, I want you to ask yourself a set of very serious questions:  Will your life be any better if you have a phone that talks back to you?  Will your feelings of emptiness lessen?  Will you feel peace and satisfaction?  Watch this commercial very closely and tell me, if you take away the happy whistles in the background, how this product helps me:

Everyone of those people looks like a big loser.  No offense if you own one of these of course.  But seriously, if you do, how do you talk into it and not feel stupid?  While convenience is typically the Holy Grail goddess of all marketing and “must have” gadgets, I wonder if this is even any more convenient?  Waiting for a tinny-voiced robot to tell me about my schedule, instead of clicking one button to look at it myself?  Maybe there is a package you can purchase where the happy background whistle music comes with it… that may finally be the best friend I’ve been looking for.

Commercials for gadgets like the talking iPhone are just the first salvo, and they are just the warm up really.  The worst commercials are from the competitors that are trying to show how their gadget is cooler than what just proposed to you as the coolest gadget ever.  Pretty tough sell, but companies like Samsung don’t mind trying:

What is hilarious to me about commercials like this one is that in their attempt to make fun of how other products portray themselves as our personal salvation must-have product, they put themselves in that same category, thus making fun of themselves!  “Products who think they are cool are so stupid.  Our product is the coolest ever!!!”

Acura does this too, except instead of mocking coolness, they mock the ridiculous amount of greed and overspending that Christmas marketing has come to typify.  “In a season of overindulging, oversave” Acura says… by buying a $40,000 car.  Yes, that is my idea of oversaving.  You nailed it.  To me oversaving is putting my garbage in my neighbors trash bin, not dropping $40K on a car.  Okay I stole that idea from my friend Tom, the cheapest man I know, but hilarious nonetheless.  Acura:  “You shouldn’t spend ridiculous amounts of money during Christmas!!  Spend a ridiculous amount of money on an Acura this Christmas!!”  (My car cost me $1100 5 1/2 years ago and I love it by the way…)  At least their commercials are funny, up until you realize how dumb they think we are.

What kills me about the gadget phenomena is that all these phones are doing is allowing us to play video games and watch TV & movies whenever and wherever we want; now there is an original idea: that video games, television, & movies will rescue you from the doldrums of life, someone should market that!  Since we all know how good it feels to veg out in front of a screen for 8 hours in a row…ah the gut-rotting, mind-numbing bliss…

As a final example, the summation of all that is nauseating about these commercials, I present you another iPhone commercial, this time brought to you by our friends at Sprint, and this one takes the cake.  Make sure you pay close attention to the boy at the end, and how his life has reached new heights by being able to play a video game on a 5″ screen anytime anywhere…the twinkle in his eye is nothing short of Heaven on Earth.  Can life get any better!?!? I submit that it cannot!

“Apps that can take you anywhere…” Like Heaven?  Like constant euphoria?  Like utopia?

“Apps that can do anything…” like make me not lonely, not depressed, at peace, joyful, satisfied?

“There’s no limit to what this amazing advice can do…” (see above + throw in an order of donut holes and cheese puffs that spit out from the usb port + makes the Eagles win the Super Bowl)

When I watch these commercials, I often wonder, “Does my fellow man see through these ridiculous lies as well?  Or are they simply gulping this stuff down?  Staring at the screen saying ‘I want I want I want!’…or even more distorted, ‘I need I need I need!’…”

I hope next time you watch TV you watch it with sobered eyes, realizing that these companies are literally trying to brainwash you so they can have your money.  I’m not saying it’s bad to buy things, obviously some purchases are necessary.  But we need to stop thinking that our purchases will be our personal saviors.  That if we buy the newest Apple product, our life will suddenly be filled with happy whistling all the day long because now we can text while watching Seinfield while talking on the phone, while we are dancing of course, with our white ear plugs flowing in the breeze.  And the worse part about it is they use Christmas as the justification to barrage us incessantly.

Some ideas of how to combat this consumer addiction this year:  For every gift you give a family member or friend, give a gift of equal value to the enslaved and oppressed, living in extreme poverty, realizing that in an age of the world wide web, we are now connected to every one of our brothers and sisters around the world, both rich and poor alike, free and enslaved.  Or give less purchased gifts and more homemade or relational gifts (back massage voucher anyone?), freeing up your $ for more valuable things…  Adopt a child through Compassion International giving an education and basic needs to impoverished children around the world, or take a stand with World Relief by donating to helping the most vulnerable people around the world lift themselves out of extreme poverty in sustainable dignified ways.  Or give a gift from their Catalog of Hope, where you can give things like a $6 volleyball to kids in Indonesia or a $60 goat to provide families in Haiti, Malawi or Zambia with income and daily milk for their children.  Or give to International Justice Mission, who specialized in freeing sex slaves from the sex-trafficking industry around the world.  Or find a local Angel Tree in your community and load up.  Sponsor sending a kid to camp who otherwise couldn’t afford it.  And with all of this, be content and grateful for what you have, and realize that human life is a more valuable commodity than a talking cell phone or a Tickle Me Elmo your kid doesn’t need.  It’s amazing what giving like this will do for your heart and your perspective on life.  It’s a power that Apple, Samsung, or Acura can only fantasize about having over you.  The “next big thing” that you need to buy is not a product to consume, it is being a part of something much bigger than yourself, it’s a lifestyle of using our power (money) to love the most vulnerable, rather than simply building bigger mansions and bigger barns to store all of our crap in.  Crap that will never deliver on its promises.

What this incredible “commercial” from Advent Conspiracy, which hits on everything I said in this blog, but in a better, catchier, more powerful way, with some pretty sobering statistics, as well as some good ideas on how to apply this:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/30556886″>%5BAC%5D Promo 2011</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/adventconspiracy”>Advent Conspiracy</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I also preached a sermon in early December entitled “Getting Unlost in Christmas” with this exact goal in mind:

Merry Christmas everyone, and try not to get lost.

 

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Supporting Haiti: Not as cool as it once was; but still much needed.

Check out our brand new ‘Lansing for Haiti’ promo video:

This video was captured on our May 2011 trip to Haiti, shot and edited by Kris Bargen of Skinny Man Productions – excellent work Kris!

You can give a tax-deductible donation to our work with World Relief Haiti by clicking here.  After installing 10 peanut butter mills in 10 churches in Cite’ Soleil (the poorest slum in Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince), current donations are going to support agri-business microloan initiatives.  Microloans are small sums of money lent to farmers to start farming businesses in Cite’ Soleil.  When they pay back the loan, they receive a bigger loan.

If you can volunteer or are interested in running or walking in our 2nd Annual Haiti 5K on Saturday (afternoon), January 7th, 2012, shoot me at email at 5K@lansingforhaiti.com and I’ll make sure you get the details as soon as they’re ready – this race commemorates the anniversary of the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

See more info on our work in Haiti by visiting our Lansing for Haiti website.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Social Justice

 

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I’m An Old Man Wishing I Had Ear Plugs

So as I posted today already, I attended our Haiti Benefit Concert two nights ago at the Loft, organized by James Defrees of Crossroads Church, which you can read some deeper thoughts about here.  I couldn’t just post on my Haiti reflections after such a life-changing experience though.  When I say life-changing, I mean that I think I permanently lost my hearing in my right ear, after experiencing my first ever heavy metal concert, up close and personal next to the ginormous speakers.  I felt like such an old man, so wishing I had ear plugs (knowing how rad that would make me look), while the 18-21 year old’s all around me were jumping up and down and yes, even a bit of head-banging–although I’ll be honest I would have liked to see a bit more head-banging (who can really do that without getting a huge headache?!  There must be some technique to it that I am not privy to)–I just kept thinking “I wonder if this ringing in my ears will ever stop?”

Needless to say, I had a great time.  The show consisted of:

Kelsey Rottiers & The Rising Tide – Excellent music!  I bought their CD, which is going to make great music to listen to while working in my office, driving, or reading.  I am no music critic so I don’t know all of the cool vocabulary words they use for genres but this is my style of music to chill to: folky, acoustic, and good.  And it was great to meet a fellow Golden Eagle.

The Plug Ugly – Brett Linsley is the man.  Really enjoyed his solo acoustic set and looking forward to seeing him be a famous musician someday.  And I can say “I knew him when he played at the Haiti Benefit Concert!”.  Brett’s music has a great vibe to it, creative lyrics, and is one I will continue to follow and attend more live shows at.

Kelly Deanne and the Octagon Band – Kelly’s music is the type you’d hear on 94.1, one of my favorite stations.  Rock/Pop/Alternative.  Their full band sound did a great job of bridging the acoustic beginning of our show with the harder end.  Their music was great and as an added bonus: they were rockin’ the accordion baby!

I Am Eternity – My first intro into heavy metal.  Like I hinted at, not my cup of tea genre-wise (because I’m an old man), but they really did a great a job and I also loved how they tactfully and gracefully shared how Jesus has transformed their life.  Also loved their support of the Red Thread Movement, where you buy a red bracelet, which supports girls rescued from sex slavery, who are the ones hand-making the bracelets.  I am currently rocking one on my wrist, which is a great reminder to be in prayer for these girls and conscious of how I need to be investing my life to make an impact.

Bridegroom  – My 2nd experience in the land of heavy metal.  These guys were great — I was very impressed with how the drummer, Daniel Posthuma, was able to do most of the lead singing while also going nuts on the drums.  Whereas I have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I loved the audience interaction and the great show they put on.  Also good instructions on how to dance heavy metal from Will and Bridegroomer Andrew: act like you are fighting phantom ninjas (while they swirled their arms in wild circles)

Thanks to all these great bands for supporting our cause in Haiti.  Please support these bands by purchasing/downloading their music, and attending their upcoming live shows!

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Social Justice, Wisecracks

 

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Haiti Benefit reflections

Two nights ago, I attended the Haiti Benefit Concert at the Loft, organized by James Defrees of Crossroads ChurchKelsey Rottiers & The Rising Tide, The Plug Ugly, Kelly Deanne and the Octagon Band, I Am Eternity, and Bridegroom all played a great show (I blog on the music, and my hearing-loss, here).

I’ve been to Haiti in May ’10 and May ’11 and it’s a place God has really put heavy on my heart.  I’m saddened by the way our sociological-wiring works where when a disaster strikes, we are fascinated with it for a short period of time, but eventually the allure wears off, we give our $10 text to the Red Cross (our conscious now appeased) and we move on to the next hot news topic, whether it be a Japanese tsunami or Prince William’s marriage.  It’s like the news media has conditioned us to have the attention span of a cocker spaniel, always ready to chase the next squirrel that comes along our path, but never able to focus long-term in a single direction.  It’s easy to pull a guilt trip here, which isn’t what I’m trying to do, only raising awareness about the sadness of this trend.  While we move on to the next news story, the people of Haiti, who live an hour and a half (flight) from Miami, FL, continue to live in the misery and destruction of the Jan. ’10 earthquake, unable to change the news channel or turn the page of the magazine story that they live in on a daily basis.

I started a grassroots organization in Lansing following the earthquake called Lansing for Haiti.  L4H is a network of individuals and churches in Lansing who are partnering with a community of churches in Cite’ Soleil, Haiti (the poorest slum in Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince), through the NGO World Relief.  L4H started with a flurry of excitement and energy following the earthquake, with many people eager to help our cause.  The problem is that following a disaster, it is not the time for a bunch of excited Americans to jump on a plane and go save the day.  Trained first-responders are already on the ground feeding people and providing tarps — temporary solutions, getting people by until the situation can be addressed for long-term, sustainable recovery.  From the beginning of L4H, we set it up as an effort for the long-haul, we didn’t want to put a band-aid on something that needs major surgery.  As we had to wait for plans to be developed by World Relief for what this long-term recovery would look like, many Lansing folks interested in our effort started losing interest as the CNN news crews moved on to their next headline story, our adrenaline and attention-span moving along with them.

L4H still had a great year last year, raising almost $20,000, certainly a huge accomplishment in my mind.  It was an odd feeling when I was back in Haiti for my 2nd trip in May of this year, observing the peanut butter mills our money went to purchase in the Cite’ Soleil churches.  I was no longer a tourist, like I felt like I was on my first trip, just soaking everything in.  This time I was back to check up on a project we put a lot of work into starting, and it felt like work.  I felt a glimpse into what the World Relief staff feel, or what the Haitian pastors feel on a daily basis.  It was difficult.  It was a grind.  And it continues to be a grind in many ways.  Does this mean I should quit?  I don’t think so.  It reminds me a lot of my marriage of 7 years.  The honeymoon phase is long gone and now marriage is a commitment of love.  Not that it’s a “grind”, but it is work.  And I think the same reason we hop from relationship to relationship in our culture is a similar reason we can’t stay committed to a social justice cause.  It just becomes difficult when we get too involved as the illusion of the glossy magazine page becomes the reality of a difficult and sometimes seemingly hopeless situation; yet in my opinion, the only lasting impact that is going to happen will come from people who are committed for the long-term to sustainable impact, not just handing out band-aids.

There are a zillion causes you can find, and you certainly can’t help them all.  I encourage you to avoid this “compassion fatigue”, not letting it you push you to do nothing, or to continue being satisfied with handing out ineffective (or worse yet, destructive) band-aids.  Find ONE cause and be very committed to it.  Give lots of money to it, we all have excess we can give.  Give your time to it, something we all have.  If you don’t have that one cause yet, I encourage you to join us in giving a hand-up to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, as they recover from this debilitating disaster.

One small way you can do this is donate on our website (goes to our account with World Relief, tax-deductible) or put a team together for our Lansing for Haiti golf scramble, coming up on September 10th.  The coolest thing about my May ’11 trip to Haiti was seeing the utter joy in the faces of the Cite’ Soleil pastors, knowing that someone in America still cared about them, and hadn’t forgotten them.  It is exciting to be a part of that joy.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Social Justice

 

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