Friday, March 31, 2006

I recently heard about this guy Todd Crandell. Look's like an awesome story. I can really relate to it because I started running and training for marathons when I quit. Can't wait to read the book. he will also be speaking in Tempe a week from tonight and is participating in the Arizona Ironman the following day.

"Racing for Recovery, From Addict to Ironman"

The highly anticipated book Racing for Recovery Addict to Ironman is now available. This inspirational and shocking literary piece was created by published author and Newsday New York and Runner’s World reporter John Hanc along with Todd Crandell The Founder and Executive Director of Racing for Recovery over a year and a half period starting in late spring of 2004.

Todd Crandell’s drug use and drinking destroyed his life. In his 20’s he had gone from being a promising hockey player on his way to a professional career to a homeless, starving and drug-addicted ghost of himself. After several brutal and harrowing encounters with rock-bottoms, he decided to quit cold-turkey; then he took up triathlons, and found that athletic effort helped him overcome his addictions. He now competes regularly in Ironman Triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile marathon run), works as a professional speaker and drug counselor, and runs a foundation (Racing for Recovery) helping others to use sports and other positive endeavors to prevent or escape addiction. A mesmerizing, inspirational story of self-destruction and resurrection.

About the author, John HancJohn Hanc is a writer specializing in active and outdoor sports, and fitness. A contributing writer for Long Island, New York-based Newsday, the country's ninth largest daily newspaper, Hanc is also a frequent contributor to Runner's World magazine.

The saga of my drunk friend continues. And it ain't pretty. I spoke with him on the phone before I came to work and he did remember me coming over last night but didn't really remember anything else. Anyhow, I just prayed with him, encouraged him and told him to do something instead of just sitting around doing nothing. Well I just got off the phone with his girlfriend, and he did something alright. He went and bought a fifth of Vodka and drank most of it. He has puked blood, wet himself and the bed, fallen down twice and is currently in a drunken coma and probably will be until tomorrow sometime.

To be honest with you, there is really not much I can do for him at this point except continue to pray for him. I also think the best thing his girlfriend could do is to kick him out of the house onto the street. Sounds kind of harsh, but the reality is, this would probably be the best thing that could happen to him. Because he would then more than likely be picked up by the police for being passed out somewhere in public, and then he would be forced into treatment.

Maybe he doesn't want it enough. To get well I mean. I can tell you that I got so sick and tired of being sick and tired that I just had this desire to get better. And the Lord delivered me on the spot. I asked for deliverance, and He gave it to me. I can only hope and pray that my friend, my new messy friend, can want that change too. Otherwise folks, the reality is, he will die. I can assure you that. And it won't be quick. It will be slow and miserable.

Please continue to pray for him. Continue to pray for me also, as I will still try and contact him on a daily basis. Let him know I'm there for him, to pray for him, be his friend, and to get him help.

I went to this guy's house last night. His girlfriend opened the door for me and told me where he was. I walked upstairs and woke him. He was pretty much incoherent and probably will not even remember I was there. I just prayed with him, told him to sleep it off and that I would contact him sometime the following day. So that is where it stands at this moment. Just continue to pray and thank to all of you that are praying and encouraging me also. I guess it really bother me that I know that this guy can get well but he has to want it. I was in his same situation once. But i got to a point where I wanted it bad enough. And the Holy Spirit had a lot to do with my recovery.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I am currently at work at this moment. I had talked with my new friend right before I came to work and he was fine. We are all F-foolish I-insecure N-neurotic E-evasive when we are into our addictive behaviour. He had told me he was going to go clean his pool. I told him that being idle and isolated was not good, but that finding something to keep him busy was very good.

I just got off the phone with his girlfriend she informed me that he had taken off this afternoon and came home plowed. He is currently sleeping it off upstairs right now. I told her I would stop by on my way home from work which will not be until after 10 pm.

Keep praying for this guy. Because just based on what I have observed, seen and heard in my short time with him so far, he will die if he continues to drink. His body is that damaged. Pray that I may continue to be a friend to him and encourage him and that he will find the Lord during this struggle he has with alcohol. The Lord can do a miracle in this guys life as He has done in mine and that is my prayer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Please keep praying for my friend. He has not had a drink as far as I know. Him and his girlfriend live together and I have talked to her also and she said he has not had a drink. Pray that a bed would soon open up so that he can get into this facility. I think it will be very good for him. When a person is an addict, and I am speaking from personal experience here, it is not good to isolate yourself. So it is my prayer that a bed will open up as soon as possible so he can get in and get the help and attention he needs. Please agree with me in prayer on this and keep praying. Thanks!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Well I just got back after spending the day at drug and alcohol rehab intake center in downtown Phoenix at 2nd Ave and Van Buren. The bad news is, they had no beds available for my friend at this time. the good news is, he will go in as soon as one opens up and can stay for up to 90 days. The hard part will be to keep him from drinking from now until he can get in.

I was very impressed with the intake counselor at this facility. She was very helpful and informative and had a very caring, loving heart.

This gentleman I first met yesterday. You can read more about that here.
he also has a history of suicide attempts. one as recently as last week. I plan on trying to see him at least once a day and he lives in the same area as I do.

This is what we need to pray for:
That he will find peace in the Lord through this trial.
That he will refrain from the use of alcohol until he can get into this facility.
That this burden of depression will be lifted from him.
That God will give me the wisdom and the words to say to this new friend of mine.

Thanks for praying!

My wife shared this with me this morning and I thought it was so good I'm going to post it on my blog. I hope it encourages you as it did me.

March 27, 2006
"In Light of Eternity, Does This Really Matter?"
Graduate of She Speaks Conference
Key Verse:
2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (NIV)
We had been talking about being "kingdom minded" at Bible Study. How meaningless things of the world really are when your focus is on the Kingdom of God. My friend, Kim, had been telling us she was trying to look at life in comparison to eternity. She asked, "Does it really matter that much that my son's room isn't picked up perfectly? Do I need to get upset over it? Is this really going to matter in the Kingdom?"
Well, the next morning, as I was picking up my husband's shoes, AGAIN, to replace them on the shoe rack, I was starting to grumble and complain. Then, God reminded me of the previous night's conversation about keeping our focus on the Kingdom of God, and not daily trials and irritations. I thought, "Does this really matter that I have to pick up my husband's shoes? In light of eternity, is it really important?" And, God said, "Yes!" But, the messy shoes weren't important to God in the way I expected. In fact, the lesson God taught me was the opposite of what my flesh wanted to hear.
God spoke Scripture to me right away. "Do everything (EVERY THING - even picking up someone else's messes) without arguing or complaining so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." (Philippians 2:14-16, NIV) Messy shoes ARE important to God, at least regarding to me, because He is watching my reaction to them.
God also reminded me of the Scripture, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion (or with a complaining heart) for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV) I have decided in my heart to give grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love and to give them generously and cheerfully. It is my heart's desire to please God. I want Him to say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." I want to live my life for Him, with Him and through Him. So, although messy shoes don't or won't matter much in the Kingdom of God, my response to them will!
My Prayer for Today:
Father, I love You and praise You. I pray that I will "do everything without arguing or complaining." I pray that I will become more like You- full of love and rich in mercy. Help me to give grace to others freely, in the way that You have so generously given to me. I love You Lord, and I thank You for Your goodness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Application Steps:
Think over times recently when you should have given grace to others in your life, overlooking any of their "offenses." When you are tempted to complain or get angry with someone, ask yourself, "In light of Eternity, does this really matter?"

Reflection Points:
How could you do better with sowing grace, compassion, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love?
Have there been any situations when you have been continually complaining? How can you change that attitude of complaining to one of gratitude?
Can you think of times when people have extended grace to you, overlooking your shortcomings?
Do you need to apologize to any family members, coworkers, or friends for being "stingy" in your grace-giving?
Power Verses:
Philippians 2:14-16, "Do everything without arguing or complaining so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." (NIV)
2 Corinthians 9:6-7, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver." (NIV)
Ephesians 4:2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (NIV)
Colossians 3:12-13, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Yesterday Patty and I went to the grocery outreach again for the second time. we had participated in it a couple of months ago. Our church does it the last saturday of every month. we go into a poor neighborhood and distribute bags of groceries, clothes, toys and Bibles to needy families. We also had a guy there that could draw and he drew portraits of people sitting next to Jesus. Not only did he draw them good, but fast too.

I guess Pastor Jack was out of town and ben was supposed to do the talk. Well while we were at the Drop-In center a week and a half ago Ben asked me if I would be willing to talk at the grocery outreach because he had a lot going on that day. So he asked Pastor Jack and Jack gave the okay. I just gave a very brief testimony of what the Lord has done for me and brought me through as far as my drug and alcohol addiction. Then gave a brief gospel message explaining the free gift of salvation through Jesus' death on the cross on our behalf. i also had an interpreter there as the audience was mostly spanish speaking. We then had the opportunity to pray with several people and then we handed out the groceries.

I was approached by a lady right when I was ready to leave. She attends our church but we had not yet met each other. She introduced herself and told me about a neighbor that was struggling with alcoholism. I had the wonderful opportunity today to go speak with this gentleman. I spent about an hour with him. Tomorrow we are going down to a rehabilitation center to try and get him admitted. Please pray for this situation and for him to be allowed into this facility. His health insurance is not that good and he has been denied help in the past. this in my mind has been a divine appointment for me as I just happen to have the day off tomorrow and will be able to go with this gentleman and try and get him the help that he so desperately needs. Please pray.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Shock Evangelism

Another outstanding post by Mr. John O'Keefe...please check it out.

shock evangelism

over the past few days i have been processing an event that was so different for me, it kind of freaked me out. one friday a month we bring in a few bands for a concert at 247connection. we do it because fridays are what we call "the asylum; a safe place for crazy people." it's a time when we open the doors and let the local teens hang out and drink free coffee - and share relationships. this last friday, along with the bands, we had "visitors" across the street, and they were not the friendliest group i had the pleasure of meeting.

they where six men, all over 6' tall, 250lbs between the ages of 30-40. now, i add this because you need to remember that on friday we can get some 100-200 teens coming in and out of any concert we host and this was not exception. these men were from a local missionary baptist church. they desired to "share the gospel" from across the street. their "idea" of the gospel was to shout that all the teens were going to go to hell because they were wearing black and listened to "evil rock music." the teens started to get a bit upset, and they asked if we knoew what was happening and why these men where souting at them. so, me being over 6' and 250lbs, i decided that i would venture across the street to ask why they felt it important to insult the kids. my intention was to invite them over to 247connetion and we could have them speak with the teens without shouting. well, as i got their and introduced myself to them i was shouted down and insulted on levels that would make a truck driver weak in the knees; needless to say they did not want to visit with us. one, even tried to accuse me of "assault" because i touched his arm as he was walking away from me - when i explained that we were a church, and that i was the pastor and all i wanted to do was talk - they continued to shout and called me names i would have never believe would have come from a fellow follower.

this got me thinking, do they truly think people are listening to them? i mean, all the teens kept away from them and the police asked them to move on [they said they were being "oppressed" because they had to keep moving]. all i was able to get from them is a self-righteous drive to prove they were right and everyone else, who thinks different, was wrong. i could not find a single thread of kindness, of humility, or grace, of love, or care in anything they were sharing. they did not desire a conversation, they simply wanted to shout down anyone with a question. being from the southwest, this was new to me - i am sure they are around in the soutwest, but i never ran into anything like it. it is hard for me to understand a monolog when it comes to faith, because i see so many conversations.

i think there is something counter to "sharing good news" by insults and fear. i mean, good news is good, by it's nature - right? as i walked back to 247connection, after being insulted on levels unknown, one of the teens came to me and asked, "why do they hate us so much?" wow, was that a shock. the men thought they were doing good, but the teens saw it as hate. i replied, "i don't think they hate you, they are doing what they think is right. it is not our style, but it is theirs." with that the teen walked away, and as she did i heard her say to her friend, "that is why we like coming here, they don't shout at us."

the idea of "beating people into jesus" is so not where we need to be as a church. jesus loved people, and so should we - we need to love people unconditionally, without shouting at them. when we love, truly love - without placing conditions on that love - people truly desire to know us and our faith. they open the conversation, they seek to know what we believe and they desire to learn from us - but when we shout, we only share how closed we are and how out of touch we are with the needs of people - people need love, not fear.

the funny thing about all this is that several people in the congregation was surprised it took them so long to getting around to doing what they were doing. i tried to get the name of the church they were from, but got noting but "kjakhdfkhsd missionary baptist church." hopefully, i will be able to get it the next time - and i am assured there will be a next time - and i will try to speak with the pastor - and i will post the results of that.

posted by john o'keefe at 22.3.06

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Update on Patty's mom

Although the prognosis for Patty's mom, as far as the cancer goes, is still the same, there is still reason to rejoice. Patty spoke with her on the phone last night for a good length of time and her mom was asking her questions about the Lord. Patty had a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel message with her and I do believe that it is an answer to prayer. i honestly believe that Dorothy will come to a saving knowledge of Him. Please continue to pray for Dorothy. For healing in her body, for comfort from the pain she is in, and for her to seek the Lord even more during this time. Also continue to keep Patty and her sister Maureen in your prayers. Continue to comfort them and guide them in decisions they need to make.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Patty's Mom

Some of you may remember Patty's mom from the prayer chain not too long ago. She has cancer, not really sure what kind. She had been experiencing pain in her chest recently and at her last check-up on Friday she received some not so good news. It is a very fast growing cancer and it is now spreading rapidly. Patty and her sister Maureen have been in contact with the Dr. and have some decisions to make. Their mom, Dorothy West, is in Pennsylvania and lives by herself. Patty and her sister are here. The doctor said they are going to do a needle type procedure but they can't do radiation or chemo afterwards because her body cannot take it. The doctor told them that Dorothy only has 2 to 3 months left to live. They are waiting for a call from the oncologist right now and will talk about getting her set up for hospice. but she is fighting this and wants to die at home.

Here is what we need to pray for...
That Dorothy will find the Lord. She does not know the Lord at this time. Pray for a miracle. That the Lord will heal the cancer. Also, keep Patty and Maureen in prayer as they have some decisions to make at this time. One of them may need to fly back to PA to be with her. At this time we are just waiting on the call back from the oncologist for more details. Thanks for your prayers. Our Vineyard family is awesome and we love you guys.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

A nice relaxing time

Well, Patty and I arrived back home safe and sound. I had forgotten how beautiful Sedona was. The scenery in that area is absolutely awesome. The red rocks are beautiful. We drove around the area a lot Saturday afternoon just sightseeing. It was really cold and windy up there Saturday. we wanted to go to the Chapel on the Rock but by the time we got there they had just closed. So we decided to find a place to eat and visit it in the morning after we checked out of the hotel. we found a really nice Chinese Food place and had a very good quiet dinner.

After checking out of the hotel this morning we headed up to the Chapel on the Rock. What a beauitful place it is too. We went inside and I just prayed and thanked God for His awesome creation. I prayed for Amadeo and asked the Lord to continue to lead us. i prayed for Patty's mom. We received word that the cancer has spread into her ribcage area now and that things are not looking too good right now. patty and her sister are going to talk to the doctor's tomorrow. Please keep her mom in your prayers. Also pray for Patty and her sister during this difficult time as they have some decisions to make. Their mom is in pennsylvania and they are both here in arizona.

I'll update more as I find out more info myself.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

So last night was, ummmmm, interesting. My wife Patty's birthday falls on St. Patricks Day. We went out for a nice dinner, and her sister and husband joined us after they got off of work. we had a nice time chatting with them and enjoying their company. After dinner, Patty and I headed out to the Mesa Amphitheater to see an Irish punk band called Floggin Molly. we got there about 7 pm. The concert was a sellout and the event had kicked off at 33o pm. The place was packed and the people were very interesting. I would guess that the majority of them were pretty intoxicated by the time we got there. Everyone was pretty much well behaved though considering their state of intoxication. We sat up on the hill and just people watched and waited for Flogging Molly to take the stage, which they did at about 830 pm. Flogging Molly is an Irish Punk rock band with 7 band members. Some of the most interesting instruments for a punk rock band were the electric violin or fiddle, and electric banjo and an accordion along with the typical drumset, electric guitars and bass guitar. All of this created an interesting sound which was very entertaining and the audience loved it. There was dancing in the crowd, moshing in the pit, and plenty of throwing things up in the air. Let's just say that I was glad Patty and I were observing everything from the hill, because it was pretty insane up front. All this to say that we had a good time but I am quite sure most of the folks that were there last night are not feeling too well this morning.

Patty and I are heading up to Sedona this morning and staying the night. We won't be back until tomorrow evening. We need a nice time away alone. Married couples need time to get away once in awhile alone and we are both looking forward to it. happy weekend to you all and I hope everyone had a nice St. patricks day.

Top o' the mornin' to ya!

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is taken from a book by Mark Driscoll

The Pharisees were a very zealous and conservative sectarian movement that Paul had been a part of prior to his conversion. They were highly committed to getting back to the Scriptures and their brand of hard-line old-time religion. They developed a litany of laws to separate themselves from others in an effort to maintain their purity and righteousness by living in their own isolated culture. The Pharisees basically believed that they were good and clean before god, so they looked down on everyone else and conveniently overlooked their own sins and hypocrisy.

Isn't this same rut traveled in our day whenever something posing as the gospel emphasizes anything we must do for God over what God has done for us in Jesus? We also travel this rut whenever we impose man-made rules on people in the name of achieving holiness by avoiding sinners and hiding out in a Christian culture. we travel this rut whenever we hold a self-righteous and judgemental attitude that sees the sin in others but not in ourselves.

Sadly, many people despise Christianity because all they have known are arrogant, self-righteous, and judgemental people claiming to be Christians, who avoid them as if they were infected and do little more than yell at them to be moral when they should be explaining how to be redeemed. Flipping through a phone book once, I saw one such church advertising itself as "Separated" and "Reaching Out to Seattle," presumably much like a boxer reaches out to an opponent with a jab.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Christianity is from the Devil!!!!!
by iggy

Monday June 20, 2005

I am currently talking to an 84 year old man who believes this…. Yet he is a believer in Christ. I was at first taken aback when he said, “Christianity is of the Devil.” You can’t be a Christian and follow Christ.

First I want to say is that I don’t agree…. Yet I had to pause for a thought…..

This is what he is saying….even if he does not fully understand this.

Many claim to be Christian…. I would say most people in America, though fewer and fewer would, if asked, say, “I am a Christian.” Then they would say, “I am basically good, I mean I haven’t killed anyone or anything.”

I often think to myself, “If God’s standard is that we don’t kill someone, then you are doing great, but what kind of standard is that?” I mean…. I am “good” if I don’t kill.Jesus said, “If you have anger in your heart against another person, you have committed murder in your heart.” !!!!!!!! (Rom 3:23, Matthew 5)

I have killed many on the freeway!

Yet, we do these things every day… kill, adultery, and on and on.

My 84-year-old friend was raised in a Christian home…. He went to church; he sang hymns he was baptized. Yet, he was taught to HATE “that Holy Roller Church” and it’s people.

Because they did not believe exactly as his parents and their church did.
(Mark 7)

He is a storyteller…. I don’t have space to share the stories. I will have to just say he is re-living his life and is writing a book about how God was reaching out to him and how he hardened his heart…. And surrendered to Satan.

He never missed church!
(Matthew 5:20)

I understand what he is really saying…. We can deceive ourselves and do all the time. We need Jesus, not religion, not just doctrine, but JESUS. Don’t get me wrong, we need to study doctrine and make sure we are on the right path. Yet, if our doctrine is keeping people out or the Kingdom, then maybe we need to recheck our doctrine…. We may be making them twice as fit for HELL as our self.
(Matthew 23:25)

Jesus never came to start a Religion!
He came to bring us the Kingdom of God!
(Matthew 5:20)

I agree…. I am sure He never intended His Body, the Church, to be a religion…. I believe if He is the Head…. And We are His Body…. WE were meant to be a living organism that would reach out to the world, as the Father did…. When He sent His SON.
(Romans 12)

Christianity as a Religion is as good and EVIL as any Religion…. So we must make sure that we practice True Religion…. To care for widows and orphans and Fatherless children.
(James 1)

Literally and metaphorically….
For without Jesus, we are ALL FATHERLESS CHILDREN!

Don’t let your religion get in the way of your faith in Christ… practice your faith and work out your great and wonderful salvation!


Stepping out of our comfort zones

I am stepping out of my comfort zone. I am going to help plant a church. I am praying that the Lord will use me wherever He wants to use me. There will be challenges, there will be work to be done. I am praying for Ben and his family as the Lord directs him in leading this church. I am praying for Robert and his family, the Wallings, Ian and his family, Ben's parents, and Al and his family, and anyone else who is going on this journey.

I pray that we can reach people that are messy. That we will welcome them with open arms. The same way Jesus would. There are so many people that are turned off by the church because people don't believe in their lifestyle and judge them. How will they ever turn to Jesus unless they see His love and compassion in us?

If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would have been interested in helping to plant a church I would have told you that you were crazy. Nobody even asked me to go. It was the tugging of the Holy Spirit on my heart that told me to go. I cannot ignore that.

Lord, use me, use Ben, use Robert, use all of us. Use our families to minister to the hurting, the poor, the rejected, the sick, the depressed, the addicts, the entire community we will be serving in. Protect all of us from attacks of the enemy as we go out to get this started. I also ask that you raise up others to take over in areas at VCC that will be vacated so that Your work can continue there also.

I thank You for the healing that you have given me this past year. The heart for ministry you have given me and the people You have placed in my life, the new friends and mentors. Keep my heart, our hearts open to your calling. May we bring Your Kingdom to the people and do Your stuff.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Purchase some pure Arizona Rainwater

This has got to be the best idea for a fundraiser that I have ever heard of. The last time it rained in Phoenix was Oct 18th of 2005. Well just after midnight on Saturday March 11th it started to rain. And rain, and rain and rain it did. All day long, ending a record streak of 143 days without a drop of rain.

Obie, a great guy at our church is leading a mission trip to Northern Ireland and came up with this great idea. He caught the rain water in a vial and has it up for bid on ebay. Check it out here.

He has also been featured on the local news for this wonderful idea. Kudos to Obie for a unique and great idea for a fundraiser.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Right now I am re-reading Donald Millers Blue Like Jazz because I am going to be leading a small group using his book. This part in chapter two struck me...

Don and his friends were at a rally protesting the president in this scene from the book.

I felt empowered in the sea of people, most of whom were also carrying signs and chanting against corporations who were making slaves of Third World labor; and the Republican Party, who gives those corporations so much power and freedom. I felt so far from my upbringing, from my narrow former self, the me who was taught the Republicans give a crap about the cause of Christ. I felt a long way from the pre-me, the pawn-Christian who was a Republican because my family was Republican, not because I had prayed and asked God to enlighten me about issues concerning the entire world rather than just America.

It struck me because that is sort of exactly how i feel at the moment. I get so tired of people and churches agreeing with EVERYTHING the evangelical right wingers say and then the liberal left wingers saying the exact opposite. From here on out I'll just ask God and go with what He wants and tells me to do.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Amadeo Church

Patty & I have decided to be a part of this church plant. I believe in Ben's ministry methods so much that I am willing to give my all to this church plant. I pray for all those that will be involved and look forward to working with each and everyone of you. Let's bring the Kingdom to the people. May we love all, regardless of where they are at in life at this moment. May we minister to them, pray with them, help them, teach them, but most of all, may we love them like Christ.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Against the Flow

I found this today on
Undercover Xian (whoever that is) wrote it and he or she is right on the money with this. It really makes you think about the Kingdom of God and what Jesus would do in different situations. So read and be blessed............................................................

In the Summer of 95, I met Jesus and it changed my life forever.

You know, I was psyched about summer ... I had all of the hopes that a young youth pastor wannabe could have. I had the pedigree, the low pay, the training, the education, and a Cadillac to drive in the middle of the night with the windows down. Life was going to be great! I was so pumped! Then Someone came into the picture and things would never be the same again for me. Jesus had to stick his nose in and stir everything up in a way that only He can.

I guess the best way to tell you about this Jesus guy is to share some instances that occurred during this summer where He did his thing and shook things up. You know, He went against the flow, rebelled against the leadership, inspired an uprising, bucked the establishment and supported the hurting. He did things in His timing, with His people, in His way. Looking back on that summer, He showed up in a lot of places, places that changed my life, and others, forever.

He showed up at a coffee house for a few weeks. He was the guy sitting at the table with the beer drinkers and smokers. He cracked jokes about the guy upfront, speaking from a viewpoint of religious pride and those around him shook his hand and thanked him for being different.

He was seen walking down the drag in front of Arizona State University. The cool thing was that He didn't judge the scantily dressed women or the drunken guys trying to pick them up. He simply shook their hands and looked into their eyes and spoke words of encouragement to them like an old friend that truly loved them and knew their hurt.

I saw him go up to a fire and brimstone street preacher and thank him for his passion and overlook the abusive language and confusion that arose from the man's words. He placed His hand on him and prayed for him. He held his hand and thanked him for his passion.

I saw him drive through the streets and with a tear in His eye, pray for those that he would come into contact with. No reservation, no expectation, and no demand for any acceptance from any of them.

One time he was at Cold Stone Creamery where He ministered to some people that were hurt by the leadership of a local ministry. He shared their struggles, their pain, their distaste for the religious powers that be. He prayed with them that night and strong relationships were formed. I believe those relationships endure to this day.

I saw Jesus sitting in the front of a room full of people in a church. A leader had fallen morally and Jesus went to the front of the room, physically picked up the wounded soldier and carried him away from the jeering crowd. The soldier had lost all of his strength and was physically unable to stand. But that didn't stop Jesus. He held the soldier and healed his long as it would take...He was just there. Even with a crowd of Pharisees looking on.

Jesus told us to stand up for what was right no matter what. He told us to live a life that was worthy of Christ. He didn't tell us to meet requirements that were impossible to meet and then judge us if we didn't meet them. He was there to support us and love us. He just didn't judge.

One time I was with Jesus at a restaurant. The people at the table were speaking cruel words and offending those around them. Jesus confronted them in love but the cruel words continued and Jesus left with tears in his eyes because He couldn't understand how people could claim His name and be so hurtful to those around them.

My experience with Jesus was absolutely life changing for me. Being with him made so many things crystal clear to me. Everything else that I was dealing with seemed to fade away when I was with Him in the midst of these experiences. But, the story should have a villain as well. After all, every story does have a villain in it doesn't it?

Satan showed up at the same coffee house at ASU as Jesus did but the weird thing about it was that he was standing in front of the group judging them and pounding his fist in his hand telling the people how terrible and sinful they were. He even offended the people to the point that most of them got up and walked out never to return again.

Satan was seen walking down the drag on the opposite side of the street in front of ASU, the same way Jesus was walking but instead of being nice and caring he was laughing and mocking the street preacher because he disagreed with the approach being used. Not only that! He even condemned the girls for the way they were dressed and judged the guys for enjoying their alcohol.

Satan was cruising around Tempe and couldn't stop putting numbers on the foreheads of everyone he saw, thinking about how he was going to convert them to his way of thinking...and soon they all would be doing the same thing he was. Spreading his venomous poison to the masses and making them slaves to rule, reason, analyzing everything to make sure that it fit what he believed was right. Rather than placing a hand of compassion on those he met, he placed a hand of condemnation.

I also saw him at Cold Stone Creamery. He was there in the background yelling out curses and mocking Jesus when he spoke to those hurting leaders and prayed for them. He was in the back telling them that they were gossiping for sharing the hurt and pain and that they just needed to "get over it" and "submit" to his authority. The condemnation only got worse as the breakthrough occurred and tears flowed between Jesus and his friends.

I saw Satan sitting in the front row of that church too. I saw him point his finger of damnation on the fallen soldier and kick him out and strip him of his leadership position. I saw Satan's helpers beat the fallen soldier while he was unable to move, defenseless, on the ground begging them to stop. Finally Jesus intervened to stop the bludgeoning.

Satan had a theme during that summer. His message was to follow his authority no matter what happened. He told us to not challenge the status quo, he told us to be YES people, and he told us to forget about all of the pain that he caused us and not hold him responsible for it...simply put he was totally opposite of my dear friend Jesus. But he would deny it to your face when cornered.

At the end of the summer a soldier told Jesus about something that she wanted him to know about. In a closed-door meeting, away from Satan's ears, she told him of all of the hurtful things that were said about him. She told him of the bets that were cast seeking to throw Jesus off track. She told him of the jokes made about the way Jesus would act. She told him that he had such an impact on her that she was no longer going to be a soldier for Satan...instead she would be a soldier with him.

Jesus is incredible. That is a summer that I will never forget and it changed my life. Am I a follower of Satan any longer? You be the judge...or better yet, let Jesus be the judge. Am I follower of Jesus? He knows the answer.

He's the one who taught me to swim against the currents in life. Against The flow.

Undercover Xian

Bio: Undercover Xian is in all of us

Sunday, March 05, 2006


From pages 108-109 of Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian

"You use the word conversation a lot," I observed.

"Actually, if there's one thing I wish I could tell every Christian about evangelism in the postmodern world," he replied, "it would be about that word. I would say to stop counting conversions, because our whole approach to conversion is so, I don't know, mechanistic and consumeristic and individualistic and controlling. Instead, I'd encourage us to count conversations, because conversation implies a real relationship, and if we make our goal to establish relationships and engage in authentic conversations, I know that conversions will happen. But if we keep trying to convert people, we'll simply drive them away. They're sick of our sales pitches and our formulas."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Some Random Thoughts

Well? My mind is sort of spinning at the moment. We have left our past of attending a legalistic, authoritarian, very judgemental church that we attended for 10 years that left me sort of bitter and angry. But then we found another church that we attend now and have healed spiritually, emotionally and even physically. We have been ministered to and have made many new wonderful friends. I have had the pleasure to work alongside and be mentored by some very wonderful people at the Vineyard. I have never felt like I had to put on a happy Sunday morning face and pretend that life is just all hunky dory.

There is one guy though that has had a very positive effect on me, more so than he probably even knows. His name is Ben, or PrayingMantis in the blogosphere world. He is the Youth Pastor and I have had the priveledge to not only watch him minister to and love these kids, but to minister to and love me too.

Patty and i have a very strong heart for working with youth and have been allowed to do ministry in a variety of ways at the Vineyard. We had talked a little bit not too long ago about what we would do if Ben started planning to plant a church. Without hesitation, Patty just blurted out that we would go with him.

The way Ben does ministry is so along the lines that Patty and I think it should be. Christ loves everyone, regardless of how messy they are. If we don't show people the Kingdom of God by loving them and accepting them right where they are at, why would they want to come to church or hang out with us?

I saw what happens in a legalistic abusive church. It is very damaging to the members and really scares away the messy people. The messy folks are the ones that need to be loved the most.

The bottom line of this post is...Patty and I are very seriously praying about playing a major part in this church plant. Please read Ben's post about it on his blog. His blog is linked from mine. Bless you brotha Ben. You have no idea how much you have affected my walk with Christ. It started with "Blue Like Jazz" hehehehe! Love ya man!


Another awesome post from John over at Ginkworld

by john o'keefe

if I were to offer to you a fantastic, once in a life time opportunity where you could not loss at all - and you needed to do was act right now - no waiting, right now - what would you do? - what would you say? if your like most of us you would take the advise we have been given most of our lives - "if it's too good to be true - it is" or, "if you have to accept right now, without investigation - don't, there is always a catch" good advise, right? after all, we have all heard the stories of being ripped-off; real-estate investments turned sour; stock market fraud; investor rip-offs; we have heard them all and we are very cautious of anything that "sounds too good to be true." we all know this, and we teach it to our kids; if we know this, why do we as a church tell people - "accept Christ today, you never know what will happen tomorrow; eternal live is waiting for you, and if you wait too long the deal is off." this comes from our being told - "witness" to people - it is the "great commission."

the word "witness" is a noun - it is defined as a "person who gives evidence or testimony" what I find interesting is the fact that nowhere in scripture does it tell us to only witness - we are to help make disciple - that requires something different, something stronger, some thing more, something like - "withnessing."

the word "with" is a preposition (prepositions are words that connect the noun and the action taking place) which means "in the company of, among, as an addition to, because of, in the same direction of, at the same time, on the same side." "ness" being a suffix that relates to a condition of being, action or behavior. so, a withness is one that is in the condition of being with, the action of being with or the behavior of being with. - a withness is one who takes a person along a faith journey, and helps them see how faith will work in their lives. it is the same system that Jesus used with the disciples, and the disciples used with each other, and others. it does require a bit of involvement on the part of all believers. because, as i believe, sharing our faith is a requirement of all who claim to be followers of Christ. they key for me is the driving force behind the sharing of our faith.

in john 2:38-39 Jesus is approached by his first disciples. when they asked where he lived, Jesus replied - "come and see." now Jesus could have taken out the scripture and quoted all the scripture that told of who he was, and what was going to happen - but he did not. what he said was - "come with me and I will show you a way of life that which rock your world." that is what we care called to do with those seeking to know God and to see who Jesus is in their lives.

now I will be the first to admit that being a witness is a whole lot easier then being a withness - but being a withness is so much more fulfilling - it will rock your world. to be a withness here are some of the major points you need to know -

being a withness requires you to invest emotionally into creating a true and honest friendship with those you walk with. you must get to know the person you are walking with, and they need to get to know you - faults and all. your walk must not be based on any other motive but to know the person - so, if you are wanting to know people to "share the faith" or "grow your church" you are coming to the table with a motive - and your friendship will stop as soon as you achieve your goal. if we look at churches, and the people who have left, we find that many leave because they fell like a number - to truly be with someone means you desire to know them and will be their friend no matter what.

being a withness requires a great deal of time, and possible resources. a true withness is one you can call at 3:00 am and ask for a ride home, and they come to get you - no questions asked. if you get a call at 1:30am from a friend and they are drunk - do you go and pick them up? do you do it and give them a lecture on the evils of drink? of do you pick them up, take them home and check on them the next day - just to make sure they are all right?

being a withness requires you go beyond self, and enter the selfless. if you dislike a person, for what ever reason, that is the person you need to approach - you need to know the unloved, and love the unknown. you need to put aside your ideas of what is and is not a "good christian" and get dirty - all are called to serve and to be humble in that service.

being a withness requires that you build community - home groups, cell groups, study groups - it does not matter what you call them, the idea is the same - build community where people are invited to join and encouraged to grow. it means you open your home to all who desire to enter - all - even the unclean and the hurting.

being a withness requires that we stop being check book people, and start being date book people. stop writing check to some group to feed the hungry - get out there and help feed the hungry; stop writing checks to "help those in need" - get dirty and help those in need.

withnessing is a way of helping people see Christ in you, and knowing that you are in Christ. it is not "doing good deeds" - it is helping to change lives in community while going beyond self limits and allowing God to alter who you are at your core - withnessing is faith in action. withnessing is not trying to "make a christian" it is "being christian."

withnessing will cause you pain and it will get you dirty - but if we tell people that a relationship with Christ has truly changed our lives, we must be willing to show that it truly has. it is not just stating facts, or giving tracts - it is helping and committing to people in the love of Christ. the idea that sharing our faith is the call of just a "called few" is so not the way it truly is - we are all called to share our faith - and sometimes we just might have to use words - but when our faith is so much a part of who we are, we share our lives with others - and our faith comes out in our walk.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I woke up one morning
In New York City
On 51st & Lexington
It’s not very pretty
As the people shuffled down
The cold windy street
I saw a man on the sidewalk
Looked like he’d been there a week
He was wrapped up in rags
I would have burned
And he held out a paper cup
But nobody turned
To read his dirty sign
“Have you got any change”
So I sat down beside him
And ask him his name
Before I knew what happened
Before I could think
He said “My name is Jesus
And I need a drink”
He said “My name is Jesus
Can you give me a drink?”

Where do you hide
When the east wind blows
When the summer brings fire
And the winter brings snow
And where is the rock
Where you hide your soul
Any old time
The east wind blows
Any old time
The east wind blows

I walked out of Safeway
There’s a man with a sign
It said “I’m not a bum
Just a little behind"
So I crossed the street
Just to give him some jack
“I’m on unemployment” he said
“On account of my back
And I’ve got a little boy
Bet you got one too
And, yeah, I suppose he’s annoyed
By what I have to do
His mother is dying, you know
Full of cancer and pain
And I’m really trying...
Standing here in the rain”
I asked him his name
And he didn’t blink
He said “My name is Jesus
Could you give me a drink”
He said “My name is Jesus
And I need a drink”

Where do you hide
When the east wind blows
When the summer brings fire
And the winter brings snow
And where is the rock
Where you hide your soul
Any old time
The east wind blows
Any old time
The east wind blows

Copyright 2006 Phillip E. Long