Wednesday, March 29, 2006

concerning spiritual gifts

Tonight we talked about spiritual gifts in my cell group and it reminded me of something I’ve always struggled with in relation to this topic.

Nearly every Christian I know believes that spiritual gifts are only given to Christians. My question is this: What about the people I know who are wise, or hospitable, or merciful, or knowledgeable, or a servant, or a great teacher or administrator or leader or encourager or pastor (in the sense that they “pastor” a group of tough kids, or addicts, etc.) or even evangelistic (great salesmen, for instance)? How do we explain these away?

I’ve heard some lame answers to this question. I’ve heard people explain that, before you are a Christian, some things are merely talents, but they become gifts once you are saved. ??? What?


I’m truly looking for some solid thoughts on this question, so fire away.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

the "church" of scientology

The March issue of Rolling Stone Magazine has an amazing and, I believe, important piece on the church of scientology. If this article is accurate, the church of scientology is indeed a cult.

I would encourage anybody to purchase a copy and read it for themselves. Something tells me that, after the COS’ response to the South Park episode, they’re really not going to like this article.

on cnn's website...

“David Hasselhoff starred in the 1980s TV series "Knight Rider," in which his character, Michael Knight, teamed with a talking Pontiac Trans Am sports car to fight crime.”

When you put it that way, it sounds so much dorkier than I remember it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

mindy smith

Ladies and gentlemen, the great Mindy Smith.

Phil posted a song by Allison Kraus last week. Kraus is the absolute queen of blue grass, there’s no arguing that, but I have to believe that when the time comes for her to hand the sceptre to the next generation, it will be Mindy Smith that she hands it to.

This song isn’t exactly a great representation of her album (only one album out, but her next one is on the way), but it kicks so much tail that I just had to post it. I’ll post a better representation next week.

Friday, March 24, 2006


In the news this week is the story of a man named Abdul Rahman who lives in Afghanistan and is on trial for converting to Christianity, something that is punishable by death in Afghanistan. It’s a heart breaking story and, considering the location, brings to mind what some of the early Christians must have faced when converting to Christianity. You can check out the entire story here, but the following sentence, uttered by cleric Abdul Raoulf, caught my eye;

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die,"

The idea that God can be humiliated. This is an idea that has always fascinated me and, while many of us wouldn’t phrase it that way, it’s a thought process that many Christians share as well. It’s an extremely human take on God and His nature yet, I would argue, that if it were possible for God to be humiliated, He wouldn’t be God.

So, when we use phrases like “stand up for the gospel”, what do we really mean? And, incidentally, how do you “stand up for the gospel” and why does the gospel need being stood up for? Is it being picked on? Is the gospel being humiliated? Again, to suggest that the gospel somehow needs “defending” is to suggest that the gospel might just be a little weak in some areas. That it just might need rescuing.

I think that when we speak of defending God or the gospel, it’s really ourselves that we’re defending. We’re defending our own intelligence. We’re standing up and saying, “I am not crazy for believing that the Son of God came to earth, in the form of a man, after being born in a manger, and after working for thirty years as a carpenter and studier of the scriptures, and allowed himself to be crucified so that I might be forgiven of my sins. I’m not crazy!” What we’re doing is defending our own theology or “take” on God.

Abdul Raoulf is not defending God against rejection, he’s defending Islam, a religion. And what’s the point of that?

Larry recently posted a question concerning militant evangelism. Certainly the Bible speaks of a spiritual war, but there’s a fine line between fighting the forces of darkness, and fighting against another human being who simply doesn’t yet believe.

That’s my take anyway. What do you think? When it comes to defending anything concerning our religion and beliefs, do they need defending? And, when we say that we’re defending God, is it God or is it our pride that we’re defending?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

chris farley's dead

I’m learning to drive this weekend. Learning to drive in the UK, that is. A couple of our friends, who go to our Corps and live in our neighbourhood, are about to have their first baby. In fact, they’re about two weeks away. Rich (the guy…obviously) drove us to the hospital when Jamie went into labour. Then he drove us home when it wasn’t time. Then he drove us back when we were sure it was time. Then he drove us home when the doctors were sure it wasn’t. And this went on and on for a while, well into the night. So now he’s decided that, to get revenge, I should be on call for he and his wife. Problem is, the joke’s on him as it’s his car and his insurance that’s sure to take a hit when I drive it into a bridge impumpment (props to anybody who knows what movie that word was used in…and props to anybody who knows how to spell it too). So this weekend we dance. If you live anywhere near the Sainsbury’s car park on Green Lanes, you might want to steer clear of it after 7:00 p.m. this weekend. I’m going to try and shoot some video. So you all will have that to look forward to.

I’ve added a new section to my right hand column called Get Involved. I hope to feature sites with great ideas on getting involved in mission and social action. The first one I’ve listed is actually a site featuring Jewish congregations, but it’s ideas are absolutely appropriate for Christians as well. I hope you’ll check it out.

I also added a new link to my Favorite Blogs. It’s called Streetwar and it features articles on frontline ministry taking place all over the world. Unfortunately it’s just for Salvationists. Sorry folks, the Army is a little inbred and we’d really rather just keep to ourselves. Still, it’s a great idea for a site, even if it is a bit limited.

I’m also working on a new blog idea and it’s nearing completion. The blog will feature ideas on practical ways you, your friends and your church can get involved in mission and social action projects. One of the things that’s been weighing on my a lot over the past year, is that, even if you wanted to get involved, it’s sometimes very hard to figure out how to do it. So I’m working on a blog just for ideas. I hope that it will end up being a great tool for Christians who are looking to make a difference. And, if everything goes well, it won’t just feature my ideas but, hopefully, your ideas as well. Look for it in the coming weeks.

I’m watching Dead Man Walking right now. This is the film that first made me step back and re-evaluate my stance on the death penalty. Both Phil and Larry might be surprised to know that I still don’t have a hard stance either way. I’m still unsure and can easily argue (backed up by scripture) for either side. What I do know is that I don’t take it as lightly as I used to. What I also know is that I could not condemn a man to death. Anyway, it’s a great film and I highly recommend it.

I was thinking yesterday that the problem with great films (like Dead Man Walking) is that the people who most need to see it, are usually the ones who wouldn’t dare go see it. They’re minds are waaaay to closed for that. I thought of this in relation to two amazing films that came out this year. Syriana and Lord of War. Lord of War doesn’t fit this category too much because it appears to be more of an action film and I have a feeling that quite a few unprepared victims were tricked into seeing this one. But Syriana was a little too obvious and I have a feeling that, those who needed to see it most, probably weren’t seen within a hundred feet of the entrance to the film. So let me build it up a bit and attempt to trick you into seeing it. It won an Oscar and features George Clooney! Woohoo! Seriously though, both of these are important films and I would highly encourage you to go see them. Holy cow. I just realized that Jack Black is in Dead Man Walking. Wow. Missed that one! He’s got a bit role playing the brother of the guy on death role. He only appears in one scene, but he did get a couple of lines. Wow. Jack Black. Anyway.

Ok, one last bit of trivia. I found out this week that Chris Farley was originally slated to play the character of Shrek but died before he could make it. Sigh. I wish Chris Farley hadn’t died.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

how do we balance our words to motivate?

I find myself too busy to blog. Too busy to sit down and write about life here on West Green Road.

When I first moved here, it all seemed so crazy and ridiculous that writing about it was a way of releasing some of the burden and stress. But often, it now just seems like normal life, and so I don’t write about. I just work and sleep and try and get up and do it again the next day. Unfortunately, for many of my readers, the things that usually motivate me enough to write are what I believe to be the arrogant, ignorant, (stick with me here, it gets better) and misinformed actions of the Christian church. My church. The church that represents me. The church that I’m identified with. The church who’s banner goes before me when I try to convince non-believers that Christ, and therefore God, loves them and died for them. I find it so frustrating that I should have to apologize and justify the actions of my church. I find it so frustrating that certain (mostly) men have such a stronghold on the media that, when they say something like “God destroyed New Orleans!”, I am identified with that and never get to voice my opinion (an opinion, btw, which might include the fact that God promised to never again destroy the world by flood, but I digress).

So for those of you who read this blog and get weary from post after post of my vented frustrations, I am sorry. Those are just the things that motivate me to write most of the time.

I’m not sure how to find balance in it all. As I said to one of my commenters, there are plenty of evangelicals out there already singing the praises of our church, but very few who are willing to point out our shortcomings. As Paul spoke boldly to the Pharisees, his people, I feel more and more that I am called to stand before my people and say, “hey guys, we’ve got to straighten our church out.” But how do you do that and keep people listening? I guess that’s why pastors have stopped preaching about gossip. It’s not a popular topic.

But with balance in mind, let me share some of the good things that are happening in my community.

One of our Sudanese girls led Simon Says, yesterday, in Arabic. Incredible! Easily the highlight of my ministry year.

Mel was invited to help the cook out in our favourite local restaurant. Unless you live here, you might not realize what a big deal this is. But for a Muslim/Turkish chef to ask the Christian Irish girl for help, and to invite her behind the grill, was a big, big deal. It is evidence that we are building bridges here in this community. It is also evidence that we eat at Genc WAY too often! : )

We are continuing to build bridges with parents. Particularly the parents of some of our rougher young people. Each time that we visit with them about their child’s behaviour, they expect us to kick their child out of our clubs. When we assure them that it is our intention to grab hold of their children, not let them go, the door is cracked open just a little bit more. Chris, you are going to make it through your adolescent years if it kills us!

Our divisional ministry is becoming what I always believed a divisional ministry should be. A resource and a tool to equip local ministries. My experience with divisional ministries is that they often steal from local ministries. The local ministries are there to resource the divisional ministry which, therefore, brings glory to TSA. But I truly believe that we are on the right path to being there to resource, equip, and encourage local ministries. I submitted my budget proposal today which reflects that. Your prayers that that budget will be approved are most appreciated. For those of you not in the Salvation Army, I apologize for that extremely confusing and coded paragraph.

I worship at an amazingly diverse church. There was a time in my life when I began to wonder whether a church ever could be diverse. I had begun to give up on the idea. And then I stumbled onto a Salvation Army church in the West Green community. It has more than thirty different nationalities represented in its congregation and is truly becoming mission minded.

I have the most beautiful and amazing daughter in the world. I don’t care what Drew, Shaun, or Dave say, they aren’t bad, they’re just wrong. Proof of this is in the video now playing in my right hand column. If it’s not playing by now, give it another second to load.

Jamie and I have fallen in love with our community. It has its days, and especially nights, but we’ve never felt more like we were in the right place. I know I use the word “bridges” a lot, but I don’t know a better way to describe what is happening here. As I shared many, many months ago, God just keeps working. He wants the world to know Him and He’s prepared to make that happen whether we’re prepared to be used or not. He’ll introduce Himself though films if He has to. Or rocks (according to the Psalmist)! But I’m happy for him to use us.

I just realized that this is post number one-hundred. I’m so far behind Gordon that I have no chance of ever catching up. But I’m glad that post number one-hundred has some balance to it. Maybe it will be a good reflection of the next one-hundred. We’ll re-evaluate when that time comes. : )

Saturday, March 18, 2006

tottenham project site launch

I get asked a lot about our work here in London. Among the different ministries that I’m involved with, my wife and I (along with some excellent youth ministry students) launched a project in our community just a little over a year ago. We now have a blog up and running that will fill you in and keep you up to date on the work that’s going on there. You can check it out here. We’ll also be using this site to introduce our team each year (though I’m still working on that page).

The Tottenham blog is now featured in my right column.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

priorities out of whack?

The U.S. government estimates that each year, 50,000 people (mostly women and children) are trafficked through the United States for the purpose of sexual and physical slavery.

Last year Nike paid Tiger Woods the same amount to appear in its advertisements as it did 35,000 Vietnamese workers to make its shoes. Levis, Reebok, and Gap Inc. (owners of Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) weren’t far behind.

Last week a fourteen year old black boy was murdered by guards in a sheriff’s boot camp in Tampa Florida. During the first autopsy, a sheriff’s coroner attempted to cover up the truth by suggesting that he had died from sickle cell disease. A second autopsy confirmed that he had definitely not.

Everyday, 30,000 children die from preventable illnesses and malnutrition.

While America falls further and further into dept over the war, its new budget cuts food stamp and Medicaid programs, housing assistance for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities, and cuts to community social service programs, while giving a 600 billion tax cut for anybody in American that makes over $1 million a year.

In schools with a high percentage of poor children, 53% of classes are taught by teachers who are not qualified to teach that particular class.

According to the American Lung Association, more than half of all Americans live in counties with unsafe levels of smog and particle pollution, which leads to many lung and respiratory illnesses.

Every hour, 150 children are abused in the United States alone.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a controversial bill—backed by the food industry and supported by several key lawmakers whose family members or close friends are food-industry lobbyists—which will wipe out more than 200 state laws that mandate local inspections and require safety labels on food products to warn consumers about everything from mercury in fish to pesticides in vegetables.

Right now your child, or a child you know, is being targeted by a sexual predator over the internet. Sites like are being bombarded by sexual predators posing as teenagers in order to coax erotic and, sometimes, nude photos from teenage boys and girls.

“On Monday a conservative Christian activist group launched a campaign urging Christians to boycott Ford Motor Company for its role in ‘supporting gay rights groups, offering benefits to same-sex couples, and actively recruiting gay employees’.”

Sigh. Are these people paying attention at all?

Monday, March 13, 2006

the legend of William Booth's cigar

When I was eighteen years old, some friends and I travelled to the Smithsonian Museum to find out if the urban legend was true. A legend of mystery. A legend of wonder. A legend that suggested that the Smithsonian Museum had Billy the Kid’s…um…”cash and prizes” in a jar.

We’d heard the story all our lives. And though it sometimes started differently, and involved different elements, it always ended the same. With a jar hidden deep in the recesses of the Smithsonian Museum.

A full day and one ticked off security guard later, and all I can tell you is that it must be locked deeply away.

But this story isn’t about an unfounded legend. No. This story is about an urban legend that I recently discovered to be true.

For those of you who aren’t members of The Salvation Army, you may not know that, upon committing to be a member of this church, many people make the additional commitment to abstain from alcohol and tobacco. It’s a commitment that comes at great sacrifice for some, but a commitment that we make in the name of those who have been bound by these substances. And yet, for those of us who have never struggled with these vices, it can sometimes be a commitment that seems a bit unnecessary. And so, upon going through the membership classes for this church, many learn about an urban legend that suggests that somewhere in the world, locked in the display case of an unknown Territorial Headquarters, lies an item that those in power would rather us not know about. In many ways, it seems to fly in the face of this very commitment we’ve made concerning the insufflating (to Shaun with love) of a certain stipule that grows best in the fields of Virginia, but is rolled best in the hands of a Cuban.

I had heard the story before. That somewhere, possibly Europe, possibly Africa, possibly South America, there existed a cigar with William Booth’s (founder of The Salvation Army) impression on it. Mind you, this isn’t one of those items soon to be found on ebay. This isn’t a half smoked cigar with some strange burn mark on it that a guy, one whisky sour too drunk, thought he’d seen William Booth’s face in. This is cigar with the face and name of William Booth on its wrapper. A cigar actually rolled, wrapped, and imprinted to somehow market The Salvation Army. As I said, I had heard the story before, but I could never bring myself to believe it.

I now believe it.

This weekend I had the privilege of spending a few days in Holland. I was brought over to lead a few workshops on youth ministry and, in the meantime, had a few hours to take in the sites. And one of those sites happened to be a certain Territorial Headquarters located just outside of Amsterdam. My tour guide and I had hit it off and, after one too many slavinkens on Saturday night, he let slip that he happened to know the whereabouts of a certain Army legend, believed by many, but known by only a few. I have to tell you, my eyes lit up and my ears stood at attention. Could this be the same Army legend that I had heard about since my days as a reluctant soldier on the northside of Pittsburgh? Could this be the legend of William Booth’s Cigar? I quickly composed myself and suggested that, should he be willing to show me proof of this legend, he might just find a an envelope of bruine bonen met appeltjes in his car in the morning.

He agreed, and so we went.

And that’s how I found myself, after one car ride, an unarmed alarm, and a walk down a cold dark hallway, staring into a glass display case. There were many items in this display case. Items that, no doubt, IHQ (International Headquarters) would rather us not know about. I looked at them all, and then I saw it. Tucked away on the shelf second from the bottom, rested a small, brown cigar, not more than six inches (15.2 centimeters if you’re logging in from a metric country) long, and wrapped in a crystal cellophane wrapper that clearly displayed both the image and name of one William Booth. Founder of The Salvation Army.

Ladies and gentleman, I cannot provide any proof of this. I was not allowed to bring in a camera and so my word is all you have to go on. But I can promise you that what I say is true. The William Booth Cigar does exist. And the legend is true!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

its hard out here for a pimp

A song titled It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp recently won an Oscar for best original song in a soundtrack. As I sat and watched the Oscars, and watched the song performed live, my stomach turned. We’re glorifying pimps now?

A girl named Kelly recently posted some very powerful thoughts on this very subject. Check out her thoughts here.

Thanks Kelly. And thanks Phil for pointing this article out.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

practically involved

I don’t know about you all, but I get tired of being a hypocrite. In fact, every year it’s my goal to be less of a hypocrite than I was the year before. And I have to tell you, I also get tired of reading (or hearing) the exposes of people who have so much to say about mission, yet aren’t actually involved in any themselves. It seems that, every time I turn around, somebody has posted the lyrics to some song about social action on their site, or a Bible verse, or are talking about the last book on mission that they read. In fact, many of them are just outright quoting the book that they read, but pawning the thoughts off as their own. I, for one, would really like to be able say that the stuff I write about, I’m also doing, or at the very least, trying to figure out how to get involved in. Which brings me to my point.

In the past few months, I’ve begun to realize that “getting involved” is a lot easier to say than it is to do. And it’s not just about carving out the time to do it. It’s also about knowing how to actually get involved. I’m totally taking a stab here, but I have this suspicion that, back in the 70’s and 80’s, when western generations were only about making a buck, charities changed from places where you volunteered your time, to places that you donated your money to. I believe, however, that back in the 90’s, things began to change among young people. They began to want something more. They wanted to contribute. They wanted to make a difference. They wanted their lives to matter. And I think that that’s still true today. The problem is, I don’t think most people know where or how to get involved. And thus the dilemma. Fact is, I work for The Salvation Army, head up youth ministry for a division, and even have a youth project of my own here in Tottenham, but I could only give you a handful of places to get involved, and all but one of them is youth ministry related. I was even interviewed last week by an agency doing work for the government, who’s job it is to find out what opportunities there are for young people to volunteer. I hated having to admit that, here in London, we don’t offer many. So what to do about it?

Well, for one thing, as a DYO, I would like to begin to change that here in London. I would like to find specific opportunities for people to get involved, and then to do a good job at making those opportunities known to the public. I’ve always believed that The Salvation Army was a good church to reach people through, simply because, though people are less and less willing to attend your worship service, people are more and more inclined to come along beside you for purposes of social action. They see authenticity in it. They see faith in action. And it’s something that they can believe in.

The other thing I’d like to do is to be able to make people aware of mission and social action opportunities through this blog. Specific and practical ways that you can get involved, and that you can help. Sure kids are being hunted and trafficked from Africa, but what in the world can we do about it? Glad you asked!

In my last post, I posted the link to a horrific story. A story of children in Northern Uganda who, every night, walk to a shelter called Noah’s Ark where they’ll be safe from people who are kidnapping children and selling them into slavery. I actually saw this story on CNN and it ripped my heart out. But it also peaked my interest and gave me some hope because, rather than a story about an entire nation full of children in need, this was also a story about a very specific placed called Noah’s Ark. I thought to myself that, if I could just track down Noah’s Ark, maybe there would be a way to give to them specifically, or even to plan some sort of a mission trip where we could raise money to help build more facilities.

What I ended up finding out, however, is that they are funded through a Christian ministry here in the UK called Tearfund. And that, among the many ways you can give to Tearfund, is a credit card that donates to Tearfund every time you spend £100. Awesome! My wife and I purchase our groceries online every month! And we usually purchase about £200 worth! So I applied for the card, was approved, and will now be cancelling the card we used to use for grocery purchases.

While I wouldn’t want to encourage anybody to get a credit card, I would like to encourage any of you who know how to use them responsibly, and who already have one anyways, to consider replacing it with this one. It’s through a bank called Cooperative which also happens to be a bank that only invests in ethical organizations. So it’s a win win situation. UNLESS, of course, you don’t know how to handle a credit card. I feel that that disclaimer is important because debt is one of the biggest ball and chains on our society. Christians in particular.

So there you go. My first in, hopefully, a long line of practical ways to get involved. It’s not much, but it is a start. I would be really happy if, from time to time;, when you stumble onto other practical ways to get involved, if you would post them on this site or even shoot me an email.

Btw, unfortunately, the above credit card is for UK residents only.

Finally, I’d like to dedicate the song on the right to my good friend Larry who is a constant reminder to me that you’re never too old to be involved in youth ministry. In fact, anytime I start to wonder, I just think of Larry and say, “Heck! If he can still do it, I’ve got another twenty years or so before I need to think about getting out!” Thanks for that Larry! : )

Thursday, March 02, 2006

click here...unless you don't love God.

I have so much to write about today, and it’s too late to get into the big stuff, but I thought I’d give you a few excerpts. This morning, I asked God what he wanted me to learn today. Here are a few thoughts.

Today, as I was leaving DHQ, I heard somebody saying…
“Tell her I shall shove that flag up her rear end!”
It made me smile. : ) And still does.

Tonight, in my cell group, the question was asked “what do you often think would make you more happy?”. Myself and another guy answered, “money”. Then a guy in our cell group, who is from Ghana, but who has been studying here for five years and only going home once a year to see his wife and two daughters answered, “having my family here with me.”
Yeah. I suck.

Why are young people expected to attend the Sunday morning sr. adult service to be integrated into the church, but the sr. adults are not expected to attend the Sunday evening youth service to be integrated into the church? The Sunday evening youth service is the only vibrant and growing congregation in that church. Is the Sunday morning gig more church then the Sunday evening one?
More (MUCH more) on this one later.

The Cure are really good.

Rob Bell blows my mind.

Buying an Ipod is selling out. Unfortunately, and after much experimentation, there is a reason for selling out. Ipods really are that much better. Kill me now.

Go here to have your heart ripped out.

Go here and/or here if you’d like to help do something about it.
MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more on this one later!

Charlie Hall’s new album is stellar. I’ve been listening to him since he was in a band with Nathan Nockels (Watermark and producer of all of the Passion albums) and doing my cheesy youth Valentines banquets in Oklahoma, and can tell you that this is, by far, his best album ever. Step aside Chris Tomlin.

Was Ezekiel 23:20 or Isaiah 30:22 really necessary?

Speaking of good songs, the song in the right hand column is by a band called Transmission. You can find out more about them here or here. Phil is a good guy and just won a national (America)song writing competition in which the winner has their song recorded by Rebecca St. James. Btw, is St. James really her last name? If so, she should thank her family. Because that's a really cool last name.

My wife has a really good post on lent right now.

Click here for the greatest blog I've ever read. WARNING, if you're carrying baggage and bitterness do to legalistic Christians, DO NOT CLICK THERE! I can't decide if the guy is seriousl nor not?

I had a few other things, but it’s late and I can no longer remember what they were.