Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philadelphia Flyers

Last Saturday, I went to my second Philadelphia Flyers game, during which they played their interstate rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Everyone in the place was dressed in orange, and no one – nobody – would dare stand up and root for the Penguins. I saw four- and five-year-old kids with their hair dyed orange and old ladies dressed in Flyers jerseys. The fans were going all out to cheer for a sports team, who (by the way) lost 5 to 4. I was amazed by the commitment, the enthusiasm, the obvious show of whose side the fans were on.

I grew up in Detroit. I love the Detroit Redwings, Pistons, Tigers, and even the hapless Lions. (I still predict that within a few years we will see the Detroit Lions playing in the Superbowl.) But my support for Detroit teams is nothing like the love Philadelphia fans have for the Flyers.

The game led my thoughts to our commitment to Christ and our displays of “Christ-follower colors.” We might not want to be as obnoxious as some of the Flyers fans who were in the stadium, but maybe it’s time we quit being stealth believers. Maybe it’s time we quit being so silent and begin to think how we make ourselves obvious as Christ-followers.

Jesus was clear that it is our love for each other, for our neighbors, and for our God that sets us apart (John 13:35). There was no love for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Wachovia Center last Saturday, but there was a commitment to the Flyers. Sometimes I feel like there is no love for each other in the body of Christ, but if we have a commitment to Jesus, we need to love each other (1 John 4:20). I wonder what would happen if we displayed our colors as clearly as what I saw last Saturday and peppered our commitment to Christ with incredible love for each other, for our neighbors, and for those we come in contact with.

This Detroit fan learned a lesson from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


One of the interesting things about being in ministry is that we all feel that we have been called. We all have this sense that the Spirit has worked in our lives and has called us to a specific ministry, and then when that ministry goes sour –in many cases because of sin or even an honest mistake – what happens to our call? What happens to a person who has trained to spend a lifetime in ministry and then suddenly finds that ministry cut short?

Pastor-in-Residence (PIR) is a small organization that works with pastors who have been exited from, or forced out of, their ministries – not for moral reasons but for political or theological reasons. Due to church factions and other circumstances, these men and women have lost their ministries and have therefore lost their heart. The pain both they and their families suffer is enormous. Seeing these effects on fellow ministers makes me want to guard my own heart to make sure that my relationships are clean, right, and honest. It reminds me that I need to nurture the call that I have in this ministry, and I want to encourage all of us in AMF to do the same.

PIR is purposed to keep those who have been exited from falling through the cracks. Last week, Ed Lochmoeller and I took part in PIR’s annual meeting at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. At that meeting AMF and PIR formed a partnership, a strategic alliance that will allow us to discover these “lost sheep” and allow us to restore them and save their call; Ed was named the national director of PIR.

When I came to AMF, Ed had been shuffled among two or three positions over the last couple of years. But in that board room, I saw in Ed’s eyes and heard in his voice that this leadership position had given him back his heart. It’s a marvelous thing to give a man back his heart, and I was blessed to watch it with my own eyes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I remember when I was little, I desperately wanted to be a Detroit Tiger. My heroes were Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, and Gates Brown. The problem was I just wasn’t good enough to play baseball, and that dream really was empty. But recently I spent some time with two missionary couples who have dreams, God-breathed dreams, and God has given them the strength, the abilities, and the drive to accomplish these things for Him.

I was in Colorado with Stan Spiess. He’s such a warm and tender RD. It was fun to watch him interact with these two couples. We first went to see Bill and Mary Glidden in the little town of Aguilar, Colorado. Bill and Mary ran a successful parts business in New Mexico when God gave them a dream – a dream to come to an open field in AMF and create incarnational ministry, to do whatever Jesus calls them to do in that place.

We went to a community center where the Gliddens hold a Tuesday-morning coffee and chat time. Anyone in Aguilar is welcome to come and have coffee cake and coffee and talk. It’s in this context that Bill and Mary explain Jesus and how to have a relationship with Him – without pressure, without music, without a service – just by building relationships. God is going to use the Gliddens in a powerful way.

Later, we had dinner with Jeremy and Danae Hoyt. The Hoyts want to demonstrate to their 18-month-old daughter, Maranatha, and the rest of their family what it means to be Christlike. They have raised all their support, and in the next few days, they will launch a youth ministry. Their dream is to make sure that kids in the central part of Colorado know who Jesus is.

We all have dreams. The thing that’s different between my dream to be a Detroit Tiger and the Gliddens’ and the Hoyts’ dreams is that God has given them all they need – all the strength, all the power, all the love – because they reside in Him. It’s not what they do. It’s what Christ does through them. What dreams do you have?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Westmont College

Robanne, Barrett, and I spent last weekend in Santa Barbara, California. We were there because Barrett, our daughter, participated in a competition for a scholarship at Westmont College. The college brings together twenty-eight young scholars to interview them, test them, and have them write an essay toward scholarships. It’s been great to watch Barrett participate on such a high level academically.

The reason that this weekend was so important to me is that Westmont is my alma mater. I graduated in the 1970s and met Robanne there. It is the place that shaped me theologically. I began to think more consistently about God’s Word at a deeper level. It is the place that shaped me philosophically. I was a philosophy major, and we studied the great philosophers – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. I began to understand how our western culture began to emerge from some of these great philosophies. It is the place that began to shape me sociologically – gave me the confidence to lead, gave me the confidence to know that I had skills that people would follow. But the biggest thing Westmont gave me was a lens to look at the world through, called a Christian worldview. It made me not afraid of questions. In fact, Westmont’s philosophy of liberal arts education is to ask more questions than to give answers, and in the questions we find the answers.

I’m really excited about Barrett perhaps going to school there. I think, though, the moment that I enjoyed the most this weekend was hearing a mathematics professor explain how his discipline of mathematics fed into a Christian worldview and particularly into Creation. He began to talk about how different formulas and math issues come together in a sunset. So when he looks at a sunset, he sees math; he sees the culmination of various mathematical formulas. But then at the end he said something like, "When I consider all this, it tells me about the Creator, a Creator who is so ordered that He put the sunset together precisely, and He makes all things good.”

As I sit here reflecting on the weekend, I am so thankful for the building blocks that God has put in my life. It is my hope that AMF will be a building block for many, many people, and that young scholars like those I watched at Westmont will come to places like AMF and apply their strong minds to sharing the Gospel in ways that we have not dreamed of.

It was a good weekend. I don’t know if Barrett will win the scholarship, but even if she does not, the experience of rubbing shoulders with such great minds will leave an impression on her forever.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I had lunch last week with Jeff Abbott. He’s a young, entrepreneurial businessman who left his job as president of a large corporation to work with a group called Convene. It’s a group that brings together Christian business owners and CEOs – business leaders who love Jesus – to run their businesses better and learn from each other, but also to make sure that their businesses are honoring our Lord Jesus Christ.

I joined the group a few years ago when I was working at Forest Home, and I learned so much about the business of ministry. The ministry needs to be supported by solid business principles so that we are able to have the resources – human, fiscal and intellectual resources —to do what God has called us to do. What’s so great about Convene is when I’m in the room, I feel like I am the stupidest person in the room. Everyone else there is smarter than me. What a great place to learn; what a great place to ask questions; what a great place to find answers from people who have been there before!

Let me tell you a little bit about how this group influences business. Todd Mattson owns a company called Pro-Line Racing. They make aftermarket parts for radio-controlled cars. It doesn’t sound like there’s much of a market, but it’s a successful company, and Todd has done very well. Todd and Amy are a young family raising their kids as best they can with Christian principles.

Todd decided that he wanted to demonstrate his core values to his company, so a few months ago, he shut down his company for a day, loaded everybody up on a bus, and took his entire company workforce down to Tijuana, Mexico to Casa Hogar Belen, an orphanage for about sixty young children who have been abandoned by parents trying to flee across the border as they migrate to the North. It was amazing to see this expenditure of resources for Todd to do one thing, to say to his company that he is a believer, he is a Christian, and he wants to make sure the people of his company know his core values.

At times I wonder if our ministry gets in the way of our core values. I wonder if sometimes we are so busy doing the work of God we forget who God really is. One time a reporter asked Mother Theresa, “Do you have a prayer request, one thing that we as a nation can pray for you about?” Without hesitation, Mother Theresa said, “Pray for me that I not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus, even under the guise of ministering to the poor.”

I pray for us at AMF that we may not loosen our grip on the hands of Jesus in the midst of all our ministry.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Does It Mean To Be Godly?

We all know as Christians we’re supposed to be godly in our actions, our words, and our attitudes, but what does that really mean? In 1873, John Johnson wrote a book called The Six-Weight Test of Godliness. It’s a small pamphlet, almost a tract. Recently I was looking at that book and found it intriguing that so many years ago these six tests were identified, and they seem so applicable today. Here are the tests:

1. Are you sensitive to sin?
Have we become so dead to sin and so dead to what is right and what is wrong that we have really not taken sin seriously? I John 1:7-10 says that if we ignore the sin in our lives, we really don’t know God.

2. Do you know and obey God’s Word?
Christians desire to understand the deep truths of Scripture and apply them to our lives.

3. Do you reject the world’s system?
The world runs on a system of materialism and consumerism, a system that results in the exploitation of people. Paul says in Philippians 2:3-4 that we are to think more highly of others than ourselves. The world’s system is all about putting yourself first, but John Johnson in 1873 said the test of a godly person is that we reject that system.

4. Do you love other Christians?
One of the things that grieves me as I travel around the country and talk to Christians is how much bitterness and resentment and unforgiveness is residing in their lives. I don’t know how we can read the New Testament, which talks so much about being reconciled to our brothers and being right with our friends and others around us, and sill carry a grudge.

5. Do you experience the Holy Spirit?
One of the haunting sections of Scripture is where it says in John 10 that God’s sheep will know His voice. I have to ask myself, When is the last time that I heard His voice, and when was the last time I was compelled to do something simply because the Holy Spirit that lives in me caused me to act a certain way – to talk to a person, to love a person, to ask forgiveness?

Recently my wife, Robanne, was recalling an attitude that she displayed thirty years ago in one of her first jobs. It involved the leadership of that job, and she said, “I think I need to write a letter and ask forgiveness for that action.” That’s the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

6. Is your heart soft?
Does your heart hurt and bend with the things that God calls us to look at and take care of? Is your heart soft to those around you and the needs of the world around you?

That was John Johnson’s six-weight test of godliness. How do you measure up?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Power of Passion

I am always amazed when I come across people who live their lives simply serving the Lord Jesus in places where I wouldn’t go, where I wouldn’t be called to go. Larry, Paul, and Lisa Craig are three of these people. They live in a small desert town halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a small town that will never be the same because the Craigs’ passion for Christ has led them to spend their lives there.

Since 1966 Larry and Lisa (and, more recently, their son, Paul) have been doing whatever God calls them to do in Newberry Springs. Whether running kids’ camps, building a camp, or pastoring a church, they have worked hard to be what God has called them to be, right where He has called them to be.

What impressed me most was Larry’s response to the ideas I presented about readjusting our mission to accomplish what God has called us to do in this time and in this place. After we discussed using electronics -- things that are not a part of his world -- to recruit more missionaries for AMF, Larry simply looked me in the eye and said, “You go there, and I’ll go there with you.”

Larry understands that God calls us to a new way of doing ministry, and he is willing to follow that call. I truly appreciate that kind of trust, that kind of obedience, and the way God has always used people like the Craigs to be Jesus in very specific places, even in the desert of California.

The Craigs' desert mission field -- about 30,000 people live within a 30-mile radius of their home.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Following God: More Super Than the Superbowl

On Superbowl Sunday I sat on my patio, enjoying the sunny 70-degree weather. Even here in Southern California, a region relatively unaffected by the game, the world had stopped. The freeways were much less busy, parties were taking place all over my neighborhood, and the water department was making special accommodations for the large number of people gathered around televisions in homes across the region.

Few of us will ever be a part of an event that causes a whole nation to stop and watch, but we are called to affect the communities where God has placed us. When we follow the Lord’s direction, we can bring about changes whose impact will last long after the world forgets who won this year’s Superbowl.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit two communities in Pennsylvania that are being changed by the work of AMF missionaries. The first, Gap, is a small town in Lancaster County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. Andy and Tina Gordley work with “English” (non-Amish) middle-school and high-school students there. These students regularly come to the Gordleys’ home to enjoy small-group fellowship and study The Truth Project. They are growing in wisdom and knowledge of the Lord simply because the Gordleys are committed to reaching that small community.

Just over an hour away by car but worlds away in lifestyle is Kensington. This poor urban community in the Philadelphia metro area has no parks and few social services. The people who live there have been neglected by nearly everyone, but three AMF couples are bringing them Christ’s hope through Cornerstone Community Church. It’s not an easy place to live, with drug dealers on corners where other neighborhoods might have pharmacies. One of the missionary couples is dealing with an infestation of bed bugs and must tear out the walls of their house to get rid of the pests. Yet, they and the others stay because God has called them to make an impact on the community.

Compared to Santonio Holmes and the other athletes wearing new Superbowl rings, the AMF missionaries in Gap and Kensington receive very little worldly acclaim. No one will throw a party for their television appearance or present them with a trophy for a job well done. Yet, their work will be rewarded by Someone far more important than the NFL commissioner. These missionaries are following God’s call to make an impact on a specific community, and as a result, individual lives and entire communities are being transformed by the love of Christ.