Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"F@#K Africa!"

At church last Sunday, we had a very agitated man berate Pastor Josh for the message that he gave to kick off our Advent Conspiracy series. To see the message, click occ.org. To see the video that explains Advent Conspiracy, hit occ.org. It’s that easy.

Anyway, the man didn’t make a ton of biblical sense, (he was trying to argue that Jesus didn’t care about Africa because America has problems of its own) and since he opened with, “F@#K Africa,” it did make it a bit hard to take him seriously. Hard to imagine Jesus opening up a conversation with that line. I believe Jesus loves Africa. It's one of his favorite continents (top 6, anyway).

I spoke with him, (I stepped in to protect Josh’s heart) and he ended up leaving feeling heard, and, I believe, loved; but knowing that he was not going to change our direction this month. I let him know that this is a safe church, and that you don’t have to agree with everything I teach in order to come to our church. I’m not interested in Stalin-Church where we go after Thought Control. In retrospect, however, I probably should have told him that just about every conversation I have is blog-fodder.

But it made me think about why I’ve been charging this Advent Conspiracy direction. I consider it a personal challenge from Jesus to get Matthew 25:31-46 in front of as many people as I possibly can, starting with my Overlake Christian Church friends, my Blog friends, and my Facebook Friends…you get the picture. I consider it a personal challenge to invite as many people as I possibly can to our World Vision Experience:AIDS tour here from December 12-15th. I consider it a personal challenge to encourage as many people as I can to buy two less gifts this Christmas, and for Christ’s sake, to give the money that would have been spent on those gifts to AIDS relief.

That’s where I’m landing.
You sure don’t have to land in the same place.
I’m not Stalin.

But if you disagree loudly enough, I’ll probably blog about it.



P.S. I should note that MOST of our church is thrilled about the direction of this Advent Conspiracy Series, and that we already have well over 1000 people signed up to the World Vision Experience:AIDS tour. We’d love to have you join us!

P.P.S. It goes without saying that the title of this blog was a quote, and a hook to get you reading it, and as a sentiment, couldn't be furthur from my heart.

35 comments:

Tammy said...

Ah, the beauty of free speech. Makes me glad I took a second after service last week to tell Pastor Josh that it was a great sermon that spoke directly to my heart. The beauty of free speech goes all ways.

Oh and FYI I believe Jesus loves Africa too.

Chris Routly said...

Mike, I'm consistently stunned at not just the garbage attitudes like this that you have to deal with, but also with the grace with which you do so. I'm proud to call you both my pastor and friend, and proud to call OCC my church.

Gary said...

This just goes to show that the enemy is everywhere and prepared to strike. Mike, you are a true WARRIOR. I am very grateful to have you and Josh as Pastor's. God bless OCC and may God bless this wounded soul that felt compelled to attack.

Eric said...

Dude, I'm excited for you and for what's going on at Overlake. I'm praying for you and your family tonight.

Tobit Smallberries said...

Dude... I can't even imagine all that you deal with on a daily basis. Just wish I could have been there to witness the "exchange" between you and Profanity Man. As Chris noted in his comment, you are to be commended on keeping your cool and, better yet, extending grace and love. That said, I still might buy you a stun gun for Christmas...

jay said...

Pastors & all interested parties, yes, it's me, "Profanity Man"! First of all let me correct the record, as I remember it. I said “to hell" with Africa, I did NOT use the "F" word. I believe that's a falsehood. I have more self-control than that. Even if it DID slip out, I'm very sure God's heard worse & wasn't offended. Obviously you were, & this shows me how far removed you are from the nitty gritty of the world. You, like so many churched people, become sheltered in your little cocoon. That aside, I have no problems on focusing on Africa when all of the ails in OUR community, state & country are eradicated. And if you have the guts, let’s debate this issue in front of the ENTIRE church. I am somewhat of a professional debater & I promise no profanity. I can hold MY own. I did NOT say Jesus doesn't love Africa. I would NEVER presume such a thing. So much of our conversation was misrepresented in your blog. I should be offended by the responses to your blog. I am not the Enemy, nor does he work through me. I've been saved a LOT of years, & just because someone in the congregation has "white guilt" doesn't make my opposing view on an issue an attack from the enemy. As far as you being a "true warrior", the only individuals I know of that deserve that title are our fighting troops overseas. I wouldn't accept that title, personally. Furthermore, trust me, I am NOT a "wound soul". I am a strong, confident man who's self-confidence & self-assurance
puts some people off. I listen to conservative talk radio all day long & I am VERY well informed about world affairs. In the U.S. breast cancer kills more people than AIDS. Why isn't your efforts & monies spent consoling & converting the dying right here in THIS country? There are PLENTY of African Christians to do the work there that’s needed. My philosophy is clean up your yard first, help the needy in your OWN house before you worry about your neighbor. And to Tobit Smallberries, I'm sure your name is self descriptive, but that aside, I mean really! A stun gun? You don't KNOW me! But if that is your answer to a rational conversation, not a very Christmas attitude. And I'm sure Pastor, that made you chuckle.
Now, regarding your attitude of scaling back our spending this Christmas so that we could support your African pet project, get this straight! The USA is a superpower for a reason. We, as Americans, work our asses off all year long & if we choose to reward all our hard work with NICE presents to loved ones at Christmas, or jet ski's to ourselves in the summer, we should be allowed to do so without your guilt trips! When you flew back from Ca. recently, why didn't you take a bus back & send the difference in fares to the Africans? Do you own a house? Why don't you sell your house, send the profit to Africa & rent an apartment? I'll never believe in your liberal ideology, bet I could at least respect you if you practice what you preach in ways that take you out of YOUR comfort zone. Why don't you set the example by not buying your friends & family gifts this year? Instead, give them a card that say's " A gift in your name has been sent to Africa to help cure AIDS". Think of how much good your Christmas money could do. If you do NOT, then do not tell us what we should do with OUR money, because then it gets down to a matter of amounts & who says what is enough? Sounds a bit socialist to me. Yes, you set the example first. I'm willing to bet I work twice as hard as you throughout the year, then shouldn't I be allowed to spend twice as much? Where does it end?? You could have just said two sentences at the end of your message. You could have "Remember folks, Jesus is the reason for the season! In this tough economy, let's all try to remember the less fortunate by giving to your favorite charities this year,". I do not remember the exact amount Pres.Bush recently sent to Africa for AIDS research, but I think it was around 500 million. That was money out of the paychecks of Americans, willing or not,(I am NOT). So I've done my part. Maybe we as Christians should all just live in a commune so as to maximize our effectiveness as givers. How far should we take this whole thing to be in compliance with God's will & to get the maximum reward in heaven? You talked about not buying needless trinkets this year? How about eliminating the trinkets in the church gift shop? A lot of is just useless crap made in China anyway. And about Africa being one of God's five favorite continents, why has it been such a toilet for so long? I don't see any obvious blessings. Looks to me like AMERICA is God's most blessed nation!! And why is that?
In closing, do you have the guts to post THIS on your blog? I doubt it. You can contact me at my e-mail address, lisandjaywenger@gmail.co

jay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike Howerton said...

In this tough economy, let's all try to remember the less fortunate by giving to your favorite charities this year.

and...if anyone would like to participate in the Advent Conspiracy, we're pointing folks to the World Vision Experience this weekend, and to our Christmas Eve Offering at OCC.

I really do love you, Jay. I really don't have to have you agree with me...I'll still love you. And you really did open up with that comment...multiple folks heard it. God bless.

jay said...

You don't love me. If you did you would ask to see me privately and work it out. I notice you removed MY responce, but left up dingleberries stun gun threat. Why is that? And what's with the hostility from parish members & selective accountability by the Pastor? Did you even read my responce? You lived DOWN to my expectations. I, at one time studied to be a pastor myself & have quite a resume'. So don't underestimate me. I'm quite intelligent.
PROFANITY MAN

Jodie Howerton said...

I'm commenting directly from the continent of Africa, the country of South Africa, the city of Durban specifically. The poverty and pain we have encountered here have been mind blowing. Our team will never be the same. We're here obeying Jesus's very clear commandment to care for the poor in this world. Simply look up the word "poor" in your Bible concordance and read the first 10. You will not be confused about where God stands on the poor and how he commands his people to spend themselves on their behalf.

I am proud that Overlake is going after Jesus's commandments to care for the poor. This IS the direction our church is going.

We're being obedient.

I'm praying for our entire church, that we will be open to the call of Christ and be serious about making a difference in our local neighborhoods, our own country, and in the world.

jay said...

Profanity Man again!
Let me respond to Jodie's comments. I have my own views about the whole attitude of Africa before America, but if you want to waste time in a country that won't help itself, it's your time. I just do not want my church wasting MY time by replacing traditional Christmas themes with an AIDS in Africa theme. It's like Pastor Mike admitted to me, if he simply announced that there will be a special meeting Sunday morning regarding this whole Africa topic in room such & such, probally not many would show. That says to me there isn't much interest in it. On the other hand if 1000 people showed up, great. The pastor admited he is forcing EVERYONE to sit through it because it is a "captive audience".
Look, I just do not think it is appropiate to use valuable church time to tell me & others to only use two paper towels instead of three, or to share your lawn mower & car with neighbors as Josh did. I can get that from NPR. Furthermore, please do not tell me to scale back presents to loved ones. Again, not your place or business. Stick to the Word & the traditional theme of "Christmas giving" that has been the stapel of churches for eons! Hello?!
One last thing, someone took down one of my responces. I have yet to read a point by point counter responce or anyone inviting me in for a meeting to clear this diametrically opposite viewpoint so we might meet in the middle. But I'm not worth the time & effort. Not that I even WANT such a meeting but I judge peoples true heart by their responces to challenging & uncomfortable situations. So do me a solid & please stop telling me you love me. That's a load & we both know it. WHY do you love me? Because your commanded to? That doesn't make me feel very wanted. Would you feel loved if someone loved you because they were COMMANDED to?

Mike Howerton said...

Ok, Jay.
Here's how I love you: by letting you have your two cents, by not forcing you to agree with me, by praying for you everyday since I met you, and by respecting you enough to leave your comments up. (I pulled one, because it was slanderous towards one of our pastors.) Love is not a feeling. Jesus doesn't command me to feel love, he just commands me to love. Many times, when a person is behaving in an unlovable manner, this is a difficult command to follow. But it is possible to love someone, to treat them with love and respect, even when you don't feel like it.

And so yes, Jay. I love you.
Because I love you, I need to let you know once more that you do not have to participate in our Advent Conspiracy initiative this December. Because I love you, I'll patiently reply that this is a direction we felt that Jesus has been leading us, which is why we're doing it. Because I love you, I'll let you know that now close to 2000 people have signed up to participate in the World Vision Experience:AIDS. We anticipate between 3000-4000 when it's all said and done.

OCC exists to Love God, Love People, and Serve the World. Jay, nobody is forced to join us in this movement of God...but please, don't try to stop it. Bottom line: this just might not be the church for you, if you aren't on board with these biblical purposes.

Lastly, because I love you, I want you to know that this discussion is closed. There is no debate, because following Jesus was never up for a vote. Leadership is difficult, and I'm under no illusions that I get 100% buy in. But with God's guidance and a heavy reliance on Scripture, I'm doing the best I can.

I pray God's peace over you, over your family, and over your journey with Jesus.

jay said...

Profanity man again,
Whether it is the Comforter or just your nice responce, I'll drop this issue, I hope you understand that far be it from me to tell you God did NOT place Africa on your heart. If you believe in this project, I'm happy for you! Like I said before, I was just hoping for a more Christmasy theme, & maybe that will still happen.To be honest, that was my wife & my first Sunday back to church & I am a very strongly right wing Republican who is very aware of SOME churches catering to a left-leaning croud. When I heard Josh's searmon with elements that set off warning bells in my head, I feared the worst! Then when we met, the US Marine came out in me & I let my size & voice set the tone. For that I appologize. I meant no harm, I merely was sticking up for a church I grew to be quite fond of in the not so distant past. I personally could have endured the AIDS in Africa theme with a lot less grimacing if it had been executed in maybe January.
It is said that anger is always a secondary emotion which stems from unmet expectations. I guess I should agree to disagree on the TIMING & ask forgivness to anyone that got their feelings hurt. I sometimes act like a bull in a china shop, (This is a quality that is both loved & hated by my lovely wife, depending on when it's employed, who patiently endures ME at times,). I hope everyone can move on & I'll just stand down gracefully & respectfully. I'll look forward to the remainder of this months services. Maybe God will someday find a use for me & my big mouth. God bless one & all & to all a merry Christmas.

Mike Soley said...

Not sure if my last posting made it, so I'll try again...

Dear Mike,

I am curious to learn about your Africa-AIDS ministry.

By the end of 2006, there were approximately 770 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, and about 1 in 35 of them had AIDS. In contrast to that, our population in the USA is approximately 305 million with roughly 450K with full-blown AIDS and 233K with HIV. That's about 1 in 446 people with HIV or AIDS in the USA.

What exactly is the ministry's main goal in the battle against AIDS in Africa? And how is the ministry going to fight this terrible problem?

Thank you for your comments.

In His Love,

Mike Soley

jay said...

P.S.
Pastor, it took a courageous man not afraid of criticizm to leave my responces up. I DO respect you for that. Never lose that quality! It is rare, believe me. (and always reject wearing a tie when preaching. It's an endearing quality that puts people at ease).

Kinsey Meredith said...

Hello! I am here in Durban, South Arfica along with Jodie and the other 5 people in our team.
I don't believe for one second that we are wasting our time here. This organization we are working with has been so blessed by God, the fruit of their labor is painfully obvious, it brings tears to our eyes every single day.
We have looked into the eyes of very sick children, desperate for love, grace, and food. When asked what the 5 most important things to them were #1 was food and water #2 was God #3 was family and so on... when I thought about the 5 important things to me, food and water didn't even make the list. Why? I asked myself. Because at home, I have been blessed so much by God in excess of my basic needs, I don't even think about them. Thus, the abillity, responsibility, and opportunity to use that in a way to bless others who don't have that much.
We have simply come alongside an organization already effective in their ministry and outreach.
I have always heard the Christmas was the season of giving, 'Tis better to give than to recieve'. I think, what better time to reach out to those in need, in Africa, or China, or in the United States, than Christmas time!
If you would like to see some of the things we have been doing here, please visit my blog for pictures and stories www.kinseymeredith.blogspot.com

Doug Murphy said...

I have to say you all have had some really lively discussion. And although the conversation looks as though it is winding down I would like to add my two cents more as food for thought that anything else. At first read (if you were to extract Jay’s passionate although maybe inappropriate initial response) You might say hey, yeah Jay is right. There are plenty of problems here. I mean the USA is the third largest mission field in the world and the pacific northwest is the least churched area in the country. Shouldn’t we deal with the issues here? Jay could have gone farther and said wouldn’t it have just been better for the 6 people that went to just send the money they spent on plane tickets to Africa. I mean in a country where people live on less that 2 bucks a day. Wouldn’t that be a bigger help?
Here is the reality though. Ministry is not about balance sheets or proximity. It is about more than giving, or a disease like aids. As a pastor, Mike is charged to lead people to understand the grace, mercy and justice of God. He is to represent Christ and His attributes to the world by demonstrating redemption in a way the world will understand. As a pastor, you have to make hard choices to lead your people in a way that you feel God is calling. Some people won’t like what I am about to say. Jay you are right in this. Aids in Africa is not a better cause than many others. If Mike would have chose Sex slavery, or clean water, or education, or any number of other causes they would all have been worthy. But as a leader you have to choose a direction a destination for your people to focus. It is like football. You cant just sent your offense out and say everyone “just do what you feel is right”. There must be a charge, and a specific play called. Then the forward momentum is a direct result of the teams mutual effort to a joint cause. Jay, you may not realize it but Mike is doing this just as much for you as for Africa. He is trying to create an opportunity for the church, the community to pull together to work as a team, at a mutual time, in a mutual effort to make a difference in one another’s lives, to be a beacon of light to a lost and dying world that is looking for the church to bare the image of Christ.
We have to remember that these aren’t social justice causes but Christ causes. The mission team that is in Africa, they are doing more than providing care. They are being the hands and feet of Christ through the power of the gospel.
When we do the simple things that we hear through the NPR but we do them motivated by the love of Christ, when we willingly sacrifice, we have the opportunity to experience being part of the gospel. It is something beautiful. This is what I believe Mike and Josh are trying to lead you into. Not guilt or compulsion, but a heart that beats as one with a God who gave His best for us.

Mike said...

Thanks for the link to your business web site, Kinsey. It's a nice site! Found some pictures of you & your group in the city, etc., but couldn't find the photos of the you and the others with the natives in the villages doing your relief work. You'll have to pardon me, but I'm computer illiterate... You can ask my kids! How do I get to those photos? Thanks a bunch! Mike Soley

jay said...

Pastor Mike,
Profanity Man here. Say listen, my wife brought up a good point to me. How much did you spend on such a worthless & perishable piece of merchandice as a Christmas tree this year? I'm guessing around thirty dollars. What could that have bought for an African? Multiply thirty dollars by the two thousand you claim have signed up to support God's call & command regarding this African outreach, & you've got a chunk of change. But alas! You DON'T have that chunk of change. All of you hypocrites have is your judgment of my critisizm of your commitment. Defend wasting money on something as fleeting & unnessary as a dead tree to hang worthless trinkets on. Is that a good stewardship of God's blessings? I wouldn't even gotten into this issue if you all hadn't gotten so preachy about our spending this holiday season. You shouldn't throw rocks if you live in a glass house. Or, maybe you would prefer "...take the log out of your own eye...", well, you know the rest. How dare you tell us how spend our money when I suspect you could check YOUR spending! Set the example!!! You could have said, "Church, my family is leading the charge in support for the African project, so we've decided to set the example by taking our Christmas tree money & sending it to Africa. Who's with us? Who wants to go this extra mile & be obedient beyond critisizm? Let's show the haters what were all about!" But that didn't happen, DID it? Now, if I'm wrong & you've already done this, then I've got egg on my face. But i'm willing to bet your project supporters hav'nt, & in my book that makes them hypocrites & reserved in their sacrificial giving & obedience to such a POWERFUL conviction by God himself.
Now don't get mad people! Remember, you LOVE me, right? If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, & if your not going to give SACRIFICIALLY in heeding God's massive call, don't preach at ME about it!

Doug Murphy said...

Jay,
Honestly you say "if you aren't going to give sacrificially don't preach." You have obviously never served in full time ministry. You have shown your ignorance. I am sure that your Pastor has sweat more blood and shed more tears for that congregation than you could possibly start to imagine.

jay said...

Doug,
did you actually READ what I wrote? If so, argue the CONTENT! Your retort has no substance at all. That is because there IS no debating what I wrote. The point I was and am still making gets back to my ORIGINAL point that Josh preached on a few weeks ago, curbing our spending this Christmas. Doug, WHERE am I wrong in any points I've made? What did you spend on Christmas this year? Enough to feed & clothe HOW many African children for a year? I wasn't impuning Pastor Mike's sacrificial life to Christ, I was engaging in a bit of hyperbally, although I think my intention was clear. If you've kept up with my pontifications, you would know how this debate all started & what my position is regarding this African project.In a nutshell, I believe there are PLENTY of African Christians to complete God's work. But IF someone feels led to immerse himself or herself in this project, why not trim-the-fat so to speak?
In the future Doug, please try to correct & educate me by punching holes in my text, as opposed to your pseudo gallant effort to defend Pastor Mike, (which could closely resemble brown-nosing the Pastor to the untrained eye). I acknowlege he is probably a very self-sacrificing individual in the truest sense of the word. I was writing half tongue-in-cheek,(but ONLY half mind you). I stand by my point that if anyone wants to tell others how to run their lives, let him lead the way first & to an undeniable level of commitment.
At the risk of appearing redundant,(which I AM being right now), read my responces & attempt to make a cogent arguement.

In Christ
P.S.
sorry for any mis-spellings. I don't know how to use spell-check with this text & not risk losing it.

Kristen said...

Jay, you sound like a very patriotic guy. I wounder if you would agree that we live in a country full of opportunity? I thank God every day that I was blessed to be born here. In the US, when people are in distress, there is aid available to them. We have amazing social programs including food stamps, social security, WIC, homeless shetlers, and countless other government-funded programs to assure that the poor in our country do not starve. In fact, obesity is the number one health concern for those living in poverty in the US. And aside from our government-run programs, most towns have numerous churches offering assistance, soup kitchen ministries, food banks, and various other means to take care of our own.

This is not the case in most 3rd world countries. Starvation is a real and sickening thing. Perhaps it's easy to turn a blind eye to this reality since we don't really see it here. But children are starving to death EVERY DAY in places like Haiti, Africa, Domincan Republic, etc. I'm really not sure why anyone would take offense to efforts at eradicating this. It does not come at the expense of taking care of our own country. I'm also confused why this would be a liberal/conservative debate. The Bible clearly instructs us to care for the poor, and makes no qualifers about it being just for those lucky enough to live in our own country.

I don't even know why I'm trying to persuade you, though, because you don't seem open to hearing it AT ALL.

jay said...

Kristen,
Thank you for your input. My son said it best when he commented that the problems Africa is experiencing have been going on since day one & that Africa is a doomed Continent. Why waste your time? But it really is YOUR time to spend however you want. I just do not want to come to church & hear about it incessantly in this month of December when I would LIKE to hear TRADITIONAL Christmas messages! Why is that so hard for people to grasp? I would have NO gripe whatsoever if this would have been the January theme. But, gosh darn it, Christmas is once a year! And it would sure be nice to bring my family, (who do NOT make a habit of going to church even IRREGULARLY), to church without being bombarded with images & tales of starving children! They agreed to come to hear joyful messages, not downer messages.
One more time, I really feel the Pastor could have made a short, but concise, pointed & impassioned plea for support for this African project that would have taken all of five minutes & would have sufficiently driven the point home without causing my family to look at each other in bewilderment as to where the TRADITIONAL Christmas theme had gone.
Were you in attendance on the first Sunday of this December? If you were, did you think Pastor Josh's message about conserving paper towels & sharing our lawn mower & car with our neighbor was appropriate for this Christmas season? You ask why the conservative/liberal comparison. Because if I want to hear a sermon on conservation & saving the planet's resources, I'll listen to NPR on 90.7.
In closing, I do not intend to infringe on anyone’s rights to help anyone out regardless of the continent they're on. Have at it! Just pull back a bit on the guilt trips please & don't preach to me on how to spend my hard earned money. I don't mind someone ASKING me to donate, but leave it at that! Don't guilt trip me by questioning how much I might spend on my family & friends this holiday season, PLEASE! Just preach the Good News & leave the convicting up to the Holy Spirit.

T and T Livesay said...

Hmmm. I guess some folks prefer the ethnocentric "America first" plan. I don't understand that at all - and am currently wasting time helping people in another country -- so I am clearly an idiot too.

The obvious reason you heard the message about helping our neighbors across the globe *AT CHRISTMAS TIME* is because America is obsessed with Christmas and with buying buying buying ... they even trample sales people to death to buy things ... it makes sense to present an alternate way to "do Christmas" -- at Christmas time.

January would sort of be pointless.

Maybe there are other churches out there that would tickle your ears and make you feel happier??? It sounds like the church exists to meet *your* needs -- in a consumer driven country I bet you won't have to look long to find the church that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

suzannah said...

Jay: "My philosophy is clean up your yard first, help the needy in your OWN house before you worry about your neighbor.

Scripture: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10)

Jay: "Just preach the Good News"

Scripture/Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Isaiah 61, Luke 4)

Jay: "I would LIKE to hear TRADITIONAL Christmas messages!"

Scripture: And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." (Luke 1)

"Traditional" Christmas messages aren't always the scriptural ones. There's not a lot of romance surrounding a baby born in an animal stable because "there was no room" or of the young family fleeing to Egypt to escape the state-ordered infanticide.

Christmas is good news, certainly, but for the poor, the outsider, the sinner, and anyone who welcomes (and follows) the Messiah who enters the world so humbly.

stevenbush.org said...

sigh...

i wonder if people in America really read & get the true meaning of the Gospel. it makes me wonder if people in America that want to hold onto their 'Christmas Traditions' have ever been to a country ravaged with poverty. Most American Christians are egocentric...we're scared & too close-minded to even try and think of what life for us would be like if the roles were reversed. we as Americans don't want to think about the rest of the world...ignorance is bliss...nay, i say ignorance is a sin. it makes me wonder if most American Christians have ever held a kid dying from starvation...covered in their own fecal matter...and smelling of urine. Because if you have...it makes it hard to buy that new car or jetski...it makes it hard to buy those frivolous $10 gifts for the family gift exchange.

the call to living a life of sacrifice is far from 'white guilt'...it's called reading the Gospel & experiencing conviction. a life of love & sacrifice is the theme of the Gospel...it's what we're to do. it's what Jesus commanded us to do. truly living out the Gospel is about living out the story of Christ's redeeming love. this is what Christmas is all about...love & sacrifice...that is the traditional Christmas message.

jay - if you live near Austin...let me know. I'd love to grab a beer with you & talk about this.

Michael Soley said...

Hello there:

I'm not a member of your church, but have asked for assistance in obtaining information with respect to your Africa/Aids ministry. I am involved in a ministry of assisting with the design and installation of water distribution & treatment and PV power networks for those off the grid. It sounds like those involved, including the pastor must be fairly busy at this time, as I have received no response.

I have been following this blog site for a while now and I am a little confused as to what all the fuss is about with respect to one's desire to celebrate a "Traditional" Christmas? I do not understand what the problem would be with celebrating a traditional Christmas during the Christmas season? My family and I have always enjoyed celebrating the birth of our Lord & Savior.
One of you stated that ignorance is a sin? I do not know of any of the commandments that states: "Thou shalt not be ignorant..." We all have enough sin in our lives to ask for forgiveness for, and to then repent, or take an "About-face" approach to allowing the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts to not want to follow in that sinful life style, for the glory of our Lord and God, that others, whether our neighbors here in America, or abroad, will see the love of Jesus manifested through His servants.
I have also interpreted some of your responses to be hostile towards others, no matter how much it was conveyed that you love one another. Maybe it's my misinterpretation of what most of you were attempting to convey, and you meant something else that you did not express.
Jesus loves all of His creation throughout the entire world, including here in the USA. Being involved in the mission field, you would be surprised how many non-christians have held sick, dying children. I have seen many non-believers who live a more obedient life to moral codes, that truly love their neighbors more than many of us believers do. Thank God for His grace in Christ Jesus, and let's all love one another and wish Him a Happy Birthday!

jay said...

O.K., here it goes,
T&T, I would apreciate it if you would'nt misquote me, or at least leave the impression that I called ANYONE an idiot. I would never do that, so please take that back. Secondly, I'm still waiting on a substantive arguement supporting Pastor Josh's "conservation" sermon. But I just do not want to be mis-represented. It's happened a few time when the fur was flying, so-to-speak.
Finally, YES! I am a PROUD SUPERPATRIOT!! And yes, I DO believe in an America first policy unappologetically. How that translates to "ethno-centric" I don't know. I'm a native American German, but if Germany was like Africa, I'd STILL maintain my "America first" policy, personally.
But like I've said in the past, if Africa is YOUR conviction, & it clearly IS, than HAVE AT IT! And go back for seconds. I just see a mission field right here that you all are blind to & so you travel thousands of miles away to hold a dying child covered in fecal matter & smelling of urine, as stevenbush said up above. I have NO desire to help a people that continues to exaserbate the problem by continuing to breed without ANY attempt at slowing, bringing these children into an intollerable situation. How many condoms have you handed out? What's that you say? NONE? Than your just puting your finger in the dike, if that. God helps those who help themselves, and their problems never end & never will as long as they, as a people, permit despotic regimes to keep this stranglehold on their countries & the indiginous peoples.
Call me scrooge, but maybe it's BETTER they die & decrease the surplus population, the EVERGROWING surplus population. Like I said before, why has God himself apparently turned a deaf ear to their problems?
It is like Dr. Phil & Dr. Laura both say, we only have x amount of sympathy & concern to go around. I've got my own problems & there is wanton need all around me right now, as it is. I am NOT willing to expend this precious resource on a continent that will NEVER climb out of it's dire circumstance.
Maybe, & that is a BIG maybe, I would see things differently if I ever went over there first hand & got my hands dirty. Maybe I would a GREAT proponent of this project! But I doubt it because I am such an OPPONENT right now. I probably never get that oppertunity & that confirms to me I'm right because as much passion as I have towards issues I care about, you would think God would speak to me like he did Saul,(Paul), on the road to Emaus(spelling incorrect, I'm sure), & He hasn't. And I've been with Him a LONG LONG time to be sure.
We'll speak again, I'm sure.

In Christ!

Heather of the EO said...

I guess I've just always assumed that we're all the same. Every continent holds God's people, made in His image and each individual responds to the life they are given differently. It breaks my heart to think of any country as a lost cause, watching it sink and blaming the dying people for their own demise.

Many countries are in despair due to years of mistreatment and ignorance, lack of education they are born in, and have no control over. It often takes someone (from another country)arriving in love and assisting people in learning more safe practices. That takes money.

There are plenty of people in the U.S that DO NOT help themselves, do not work and take advantage of a govt. that helps them. NOT all people on assistance are in that camp, don't get me wrong, but as a former social worker I've seen far too much reality of the U.S. need. I agree we should be helping our brothers and sisters here, right where we live. But I DON'T think it has to end there, nor do I believe it must start there.

Because if we let the big picture settle on our hearts, we realize that our country's people are not our only neighbors.

Proverbs 21:25 says, "if your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he's thirsty, give him drink." Even our enemy? Really? YES. And I suppose that would mean those we look down on as not helping themselves.

What is SO heart-breaking to me about this conversation is the seething judgment (both ways).

People are all the same wherever you go, remember, created by God, living, breathing, some hard-working, some not, breeding all over the place, some not, educated, uneducated, Christian, non-Christian...

Yes, there is a tendency to lean too heavily to the right or the left in our current Christian culture. It's HARD to find a balance in grace and truth. We're all in a progress toward a fuller understanding. Let's be patient with each other. Sure, I have a tendency to err on the side of grace, which makes me see the world through compassionate eyes. And at Christmas, I don't mind being taught about the over-commercialized thing it has become. After all, it is the birthday of Christ, who came for the sick, the hurting and the lost. To save each one of us. I want to see the whole world through that babe's eyes. Even if it doesn't always come naturally to me.

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

The job of the church is not to provide merely weekly inspiration. It is to address how God would address and issue if God himself were personally here addressing it, since we're his body.

So the question is not "Did I like the sermon and did I like the songs?" That's not enough. It is "How is God addressing the hurts of the people? How is He being a mother to the motherless and a father to the fatherless? He's creating surrogate parents through His people. "How is He addressing the issues of the poor?" ...

In other words, the role of the church is to be the visible physical expression of God's activity.

If all you get is a sermon and a song, well you can get that from a radio or television broadcast.

What you cannot get is life on life touch, and that's what the people of God should be providing. - Tony Evans (quoting)



Jay -
You seem so angry.
You kind of bum me out.
A lot.
Thank the LORD I am not sick and hungry in a world full of only guys like you. We won't agree, that has become quite clear. Maybe it is better they die? Okay. We're no where near any sort of compromise. You clearly think your life has more value than theirs.

And, you're wrong. The program I work with does give out birth control. Ish. You make my tummy hurt.
Tara



Quoting YOU "Jay" -
How many condoms have you handed out? What's that you say? NONE? Than your just puting your finger in the dike, if that. God helps those who help themselves, and their problems never end & never will as long as they, as a people, permit despotic regimes to keep this stranglehold on their countries & the indiginous peoples.
Call me scrooge, but maybe it's BETTER they die & decrease the surplus population, the EVERGROWING surplus population.

Heather of the EO said...

I've been thinking about something else. Jay, it seems you are quite confident about all your years of walking closely with the Lord. Then, you sound as if you think that means you've arrived at all the answers and since He, God Himself has not spoken to you about any other country but your own, you assume this means He's "turned His back."

I urge you to open yourself to the fact that no matter how many years you have been a believer, God is still moving, still whispering, still teaching. Sometimes there are things we DON'T want to hear because of our ingrained belief systems, past experiences, childhoods, etc... And sometimes we're wrong.

As I thought about that, I realized that at a mere 33 years of age, God continues to reveal things to me that absolutely rock my world, turn it upside down and even when it's painful, life is so much more FULL because of it.

"God helps those who help themselves." Well, you know what? There were many years that I spent turning from God, making mistakes, hurting myself, making bad choices that could have landed ME in an AIDS clinic. I was immature and rebellious, lost and hurting. I am ever-thankful for those who DID NOT turn their backs on me. There were many who did. But those that didn't showed me the true face of Christ and THAT is what brought me back to Him. Those people were God's hands and feet and the way He showed me that He'd never turn His back on me, even if I WASN'T doing anything close to helping myself. And all the glory is His.

jay said...

To all,
I admire, & I MEAN it, your dedication to what you believe is the the Lord's leadings. Although I believe differently on the African issue, I am glad that I was here to stimulate debate & facilitate the defense of your faith & excersizing your obedience to the Masters call.
I want to say thank you to Pastor Mike for allowing all this to & fro to take place. I'm sure there are those that asked him why he is permitting this. I believe that in his wisdom he recognized the need for you all to rise up in defense of the defenseless & the oppertunity to defend your convictions. I take my hat off to him for this.
But now I feel the time is right to bow out of this topic. I've made my position clear & to proceed any further would needlessly antagonize & I would be entering into a vain & fruitless arguement by beating a dead horse,(so-to-speak).
I am planning to go to law school & get my law licence. That MAY answer the question as to why I argue so much. How did I do?
God bless all of you. Remember, you do not know who I am by face, so you never know if it is me sitting next to you at church.
I hope no one's heart was irreversably hurt, I certainly meant no harm.
God bless one & all this Christmas!

Mike Howerton said...

And he (God) has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20 NIV

I'd like to conclude this comment train by simply posing the question that God stirred in my heart from this verse:

Who is Jesus calling you to love?

Its a rhetorical question!
Don't answer on this comment trail!
For the sake of all, I'm going to shut this conversation down, which means I'll have the administrator delete all future comments on this post. I actually thought I had done this about a week ago...that's how blog-illiterate I am! I apologize in advance if this upsets some of you, but since it's my blog, I'd like the last word. On your blog I expect you to do the same.

I want to thank you all for driving up my blog traffic! This conversation HAS been a great value in terms of listening and loving while recognizing real theological differences. It is easy to love people who agree with you...but 1 John 4:20 doesn't say love the brother who agrees...it just says love the brother. Period. And of course, this is what the occasionally infuriating call of Christ looks like...

Some final points of clarity about Overlake Christian Church:
-we have a rich relationship with the providing volunteers at the rescue missions in Seattle
-we are HopeLink's number one donator of food, gathered and delivered by OCC Youth monthly
-recently we gathered blankets and jackets to distribute to the homeless
-we support Angel Tree Ministries by providing presents to children whose parents are in prison
-we have an active Aid and Assistance ministry that provides emergency care for those locally who are in desperate need

All of the above ministry is local, because we believe Jesus calls us to care for those around us, as well as our neighbors oversees. Of course there is always more to do in our backyard, but these are the places we have felt called to wade in.

As for our final tally given towards Aids Relief in our Advent Conspiracy Series, we will send out the final numbers in January. But to date we have seen 261 Children sponsored through the World Vision AIDS experience. Another 30K has been given in Software to Living Hope, which is a ministry in South Africa working on Aids relief and prevention. I would guess that with our Christmas Eve offering included, we will see Overlake support AIDS relief to the tune of 200K total, given in 2009, and that kind of generosity makes God pleased, and it makes me glad to be a part of this church.

I sincerely wish you all a VERY MERRY Christmas, however you choose to celebrate HIM this year!

May God's grace and love be with you all! May your lives and your families be filled with HIS joy!

jay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.