What About Andrew?

Recently I read Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus calls two sets of brothers (Peter/Andrew and James/John) to be among his first followers. Throughout the Gospels, three of these guys (Peter, James, and John) play a significant role as Jesus’ inner circle. It was these three who were up on the mountain with Jesus at his transfiguration (Matt. 17). He took them on special assignments without the others (Mark 5:37). These three were closer to him than the others in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). And on and on it goes.

So the question that’s been on my mind is, “What about Andrew?” What was it like to be the one brother left out of this inner circle? After all, it had been Andrew who’d introduced Peter to Jesus in the first place (John 1:41).

I ask this not to question Jesus’ fairness or anything like that. I trust that Jesus had his reasons for doing things as he did. But I marvel that Andrew, despite being the odd man out in this foursome, found such security in Christ that it never really seemed to bother him that much.

There is every indication that Andrew continued to be a faithful disciple, and after Jesus’ ascension he went on to preach throughout Europe and Eurasia. According to certain tradition he was crucified on an X-shaped cross (now known as St. Andrew’s Cross) because he deemed himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus.

I am so grateful that in Christ we can see an end to jockeying for position or finding our worth in our place in the pecking order. To follow Jesus and be loved by him is enough. Andrew’s life and even death remind me of that.

My friend Richmond

I want to introduce you to a remarkable man I met today, whom I am proud to now call my friend. His name is Richmond Wandera and he is from Uganda. I first saw Richmond when he was one of five people featured in a Compassion International video called One Act, presented at the Lausanne 12 Cities 12 Conversations event in Chicago.

The video presented the testimonies of five adults who had grown up as sponsored children in a Compassion International project. They shared of how the selfless decision of a sponsor, in most of their cases a teenager, literally saved their lives. It is one of the most moving videos I’ve watched in a long time.

I was surprised to find out that all five people featured in that video were currently students at Moody Bible Institute. One of our staff interns, Christian Park, is also a student there so he facilitated a connection with Richmond. He came to our church today to share his testimony and preach from Acts 3:1-10. My heart was shaking as I listened, and it felt to me like our entire congregation was riveted.

After the service one of our families opened up their home for an informal lunch reception and we got a chance to get to know Richmond and his story in a more intimate setting. As he shared, i kept thinking how I, and many others, give faithfully to Compassion because we’re drawn in by the immediate needs of hunger, housing, and health. Yet I could see in Richmond that the real tragedy of poverty is that it could hide the light of such an extraordinary heart and mind under a bushel. What a loss to the kingdom it would have been if poverty had won the battle for Richmond’s life.

In addition to being a student at Moody, Richmond also serves as the pastor of the church where he was saved back in Uganda. He also has a beautiful vision to train up the pastors in his home country, sharing with them the wealth of knowledge he’s been given here at Moody. It was moving to hear him say that he studies so hard because so many pastors back home are waiting for him to come back and share what he has learned, and he just “can’t get it wrong.”

His vision has led him to start a ministry called Pastors Discipleship Network (PDN). He currently leads bimonthly training conferences for hundreds of pastors, all of whom work on a volunteer basis, often bearing the financial burdens of ministry out of their own pockets. They are not lacking in commitment, but they need more training.

Richmond also has a wonderful vision to create a place for pastors to connect, rest, and study. A place where they can sit and talk with an accountability partner or prepare for their next sermon in the library. It is a much needed kind of “third place” for these pastors and I am praying that God will provide the resources they need to see Richmond’s vision become a reality.

Richmond really left a lasting impression on my heart, and i hope you will take the time to follow some of the links and get to know him a bit better. I also hope that you will seriously consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International, and that if you already sponsor a child, you will take the time to write him/her a letter. It will mean so much to them.


The Goofiness of God

Recently 3 of my 4 kids attended a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. The older two were just tagging along. Evidently they took a whole bunch of photos in this machine that converts your photo into a stylized pencil sketch. I was flipping through this stack of 8 of these pictures and the last 3 cracked me up. Have a look…

When my wife Jeannie and I looked at these together, we knew exactly where they get this goofy side from – me. No one coached them – they are weird all by themselves. It’s in their very nature.

So I got to wondering, if they get it from me, where do I get it from? Of course I can say I get it from my dad, and to some degree I do – though you’d have to know my dad for years before he’ll show you that side of himself.

But ultimately where does humanity get our levity from? Why do we love to laugh? Why do absurd things make us chuckle? Why do we delight ourselves in things that don’t have a point or serve some functional purpose? I believe with all my heart that it is a reflection of God.

Granted, we can take levity too far and venture into the realm of crass and destructive expressions. But I don’t think Jesus was a stiff. I think he knew how to laugh. I believe he cracked jokes.

Jesus had three years on earth to establish an earthly ministry that would endure until today, yet I believe that he took some of that precious limited time to just delight in being alive. I don’t think levity in any way detracts from the serious business of life that all of us must engage in each day. I think laughter and even sillyness are lubricants for the soul.

One of the things I love about working with our church staff is that from time to time (don’t worry, it’s all done in moderation), we can send each other a funny clip from Youtube that causes an eruption of laughter. Have you laughed today? If it’s been a long time since you’ve burst out in a deep “who-cares-what-I-look-like” belly laugh, you’re missing out on the full picture of life as God intended it.

Propagating Error

I saw an interesting thing on Ron Edmonson’s blog today where he lists the 6 most misquoted movie lines. It was funny because I’ve personally misquoted a number of those lines, each time being absolutely convinced that it sounded right. I never really went back to the movies to confirm because it was close enough to what I thought was right that i just went with it.

Perhaps most surprising was that the line “Beam me up, Scotty” was never used in any Star Trek tv episode or motion picture! Yet is is a line that even non-Trekkies recognize and associate with the franchise.

I remember putting together this quiz for my students when I was a youth pastor in Philadelphia, where i put a bunch of quotes on the page and asked them to identify whether each was from the Bible or Shakespeare. To further fool them I put some lines in that were from neither source but many of them swore that lines like, “God helps those who help themselves” was from the BIble. I guess to them it just sounded right…sounded biblical.

Paul commended the Bereans in Acts 17:11 because (according to the NLT), “They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth.” Misquoting a movie line does not carry any serious consequences, but each time we say something that “sounds” biblical but is even a little off, we are propagating an error that  can have serious negative impact on people’s lives.


The Harvest Stooges

I love the fact that I serve a church where a picture like this can be proudly displayed in a frame on the desk when you first walk into our office. What i love even more are the two men pictured with me in this photo. It has been one of the great joys of my life to serve with these men. In some ways Frank, Matt, and I could not be more different. In other ways we are most definitely birds of a feather.

One dictionary defines stooge as, “One who allows oneself to be used for another’s profit or advantage.” While that definition carries the implication of being a sucker, I think it is actually captures one of the things I love most about these brothers. They are so selfless and are willing to suffer loss for the sake of Christ and others.

It is my sincere hope that I will get to serve many more years alongside these guys. And we are hoping that our ministry will raise up many more men and women who will find their joy in serving Jesus side-by-side with others who they can genuinely call friends.

BTW, big props to Sunny, our Communications Director, for a masterful piece of Photoshop wizardry.


Tuscon Boneyard

If you want to get a sense of the size of the US military, check out the Tucson Bone Yard located at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It’s formally known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). This place is amazing. It is where the USAF stores all their old planes for spare parts. These planes can also be returned to flying condition should the need arise. There are so many planes here that it is in effect the world’s third largest air force! They give tours of this place to the public. I’d love to check it out someday.

Rethinking my Consumption

Sometimes you go chugging through life wtihout poking your head up to see what’s really going on. I think I get like that a lot. And once in awhile you see or read or hear or watch something that jolts you into taking another look at everything.

Matt recently pointed me to something that lots of people have seen but was new to me. It was a 20-minute video called “The Story of Stuff” and it rocked my world. I know there are those who for whatever reason will try to poopoo her statistics and minimize what this woman Annie Leonard is trying to say in this video. And it’s likely that I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye with her on everything. But I’m convinced that she is onto something that most of ignore, and if she’s off in her stats, I suspect (fear?) that it’s not by much.

I won’t pontificate too much on this because i think the video speaks for itself and I think it will prompt you to do some thinking. On my end it is seriously making the question whether I am enslaved to the “golden arrow” (watch the video). It’s even made me take a long hard look at whether I will upgrade my Mac on the usual cycle or not (gasp!).

I appreciate that the site also offers a very simple practical list of ten ways we can do things another way. I hope you can see beyond whatever your political leanings may be and allow this video to at least prompt you to reconsider what role you play in the story of stuff…

Centers of Influence

When I woke up in my San Diego hotel room the morning after the election, I found a complimentary copy of USA Today outside my door. Inside I found a map that fascinated me. It showed the election results on a map of the US county by county, red for Mr. McCain and blue for Mr. Obama. Regardless of how you feel about the results of the recent General Election, I think there is something to be learned from what that map revealed.

According to the map (I’ve posted an image above that is more complete than the one I found in the paper that morning), the vast majority of the US, at least geographically speaking, went to Mr. McCain. The map at first glance is almost entirely red. But the pockets of blue are what really made the difference. Those areas represent the major urban centers of the US. I’m talking about the big cities.

The cities may not represent the geographic majority, but they are without doubt the centers of influence in our nation. As the cities go, so will the rest of the country. I’m sure my analysis is incomplete and incomplete in some ways, but it just got me thinking that if we are going to reach our nation for Christ, a good portion of kingdom resources must be aimed at winning the hearts and minds of those who live in our great cities.

This is not a new revelation, and I am certainly not the first person to make this observation, not by a long shot. I mention it because our church is working through where we want to aim our energies and resources in the years ahead. As that vision reaches beyond our immediate community, this insight will help guide us.

If you are reading this and you happen to be a Christ follower who lives in one of our major cities, please steward your position well. Let your life and your testimony present Christ and his invitation of hope in a way that is winsome and compelling.

Hail to the chief

Last night was a historic night for the United States regardless of your politics. I hope that you can see that. Regardless of how you feel personally about Barack Obama or his politics, the fact that this nation put an African-American in the White House only 53 years after Rosa Parks’ heroic act of defiance is an amazing thing.

Mr. Obama was elected in part on the promise that he would unite us as a nation and combat the bipartisan polarization that has paralyzed America. Senator McCain made similar promises. Now one of the candidates has prevailed and I trust that he will do what he can to follow through. Whether he succeeds depends quite a bit on us as citizens.

Last night, listening to post-election coverage here in San Diego where I’ve been attending some meetings, I was dismayed to hear a McCain supporter’s response to the question, “Now that Mr. Obama has won the election wil you stand behind him as your new president.” That McCain supporter replied flaty, “No. I’ll oppose him just the same as the Democrats did to Bush. Two can play at that game.” Maybe that man’s sentiments are not reflective of most McCain supporters, but it is an attitude that is wrong.

I would like to call on all the folks at Harvest to join in supporting our new president. If you read this as a pro-Obama statement you would be mistaken. God’s word clearly tells us in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Let’s take that seriously.

Let’s give the new president a chance to govern. Let’s try for a moment to stop acting like Democrats and Republicans and start acting like Americans. For those of us who follow Christ that is not as difficult as it may sound because Jesus has given us a legitimate alternative identity apart from our political parties: that of disciples.

God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America (so presidential…).

Insert object of disdain here…

You see them everywhere. Window decals of Calvin urinating on the object of someone’s disdain. I think those stickers illustrate a very interesting human tendency to create polarities and choose sides. Think Mac vs. PC, Nikon vs. Canon, Cubs vs. Sox, Ford vs. Chevy trucks (sorry Dodge truck fans), just to name a few. And while I’ve defintely taken my stand on one side of several of those rivalries, I have to admit that the real differences between the two things being compared can actually be quite few.

So what is it in us that makes us so passionate about our preference for one thing over another, even when they are really not that different? I mean, have you watched a Cubs fan and a Sox fan go at it lately? And even between things where there are substantive differences, such as Democrat vs. Republican, the passion with which people stick to their sides does not always seem to arise primarily from issues. I wonder how many people on either side of the political aisle could clearly and intelligently articulate their party’s or their candidates stand on all the key issues of the day.

As I’ve reflected on why we feel so strongly about the sides we take, I think maybe some of it has to do with a deep human need to belong to, or identify with, something. That affiliation is certainly more rewarding when your side wins some sort of contest (World Series, election, etc.). But even when your side is losing, it seems important to us as humans to care passionately about something, whether that fierce loyalty makes logical sense or not. Just talk to any Cubs fan and you’ll begin to understand. Sometimes our present loyalties are rooted more in our history. We love what we first knew, or what someone important to us taught us to love. We can arm ourselves with a list of reasons why, but in the end it is not so much about reasons as it is about how we see ourselves or who we want to be loyal to.

This has led me to consider how much the loyalty that I feel toward Christ and Christianity arises from a fresh and informed conviction day after day, or it is just a mindless defense of the side I’ve chosen. Am I a Christian simply because I was born into a Christian family and took for myself the faith of parents I deeply love and respect?

And I certainly hope that I can lift up the beauty and virtue of Christ and his way of life without having to resort to the conversational equivalent of having Calvin urinate on something or someone else’s treasure.

Now, if I could just apply that same line of thinking to the way I feel about Apple computers, maybe I’d have more friends. 🙂