Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Prodigal Sons- Propaganda

Love Propaganda and he is right on with this spoken word on the prodigal son story...we're all one of the sons and, honestly, most of us are both---sinners hiding behind hypocrisy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spiritual Lessons from Breaking Bad

DISCLAIMER 1:  I’m not necessarily recommending that you or do not watch Breaking Bad.  Before you decide to watch it, be aware that the content of the show is centered around drug dealing and the harrowing consequences that follow such a life.  The show includes foul language, drug references, and violent moments.  Use your own convictions regarding television and entertainment to decide if this is a show for you.  If you do watch, I recommend focusing on the stories, the characters, and the consequences of behavior rather than the particular sins.

DISCLAIMER 2:  There will be SPOILERS in this blog entry.  If you want to watch the show or are in the process of watching the show, I beg you not to read on until after you’ve watched the show.  There are so many amazing twists and turns in the show that I don’t want to ruin anything for you.

Wow.  After hearing so much about Breaking Bad, I decided with some reservations to give it a shot.  Wow.  Two and half weeks and 66 episodes later, I’m still reeling from the brilliant storytelling of BB.  What an amazing show and a remarkable picture of humanity gone wrong.  Not only was BB gripping and filled with suspense, it hit very close to home because it was so real.  It’s authentic and relatable to so many people for one reason, I think—sin.  Sure, we live in a world that does not really acknowledge the reality of sin.  But the Biblical truth is that we are all born with a sin nature, so when we see sin and its consequences, there is a certain level of both understanding and empathy we all bring to the table.  I, for one, was reminded with great clarity of my own capacity to fall and just how fragile the soul can be once we start to make allowances for small sin.  I was also very quickly convicted about any judgement I may cast on others when sin makes me every bit as monstrous as Walter White, the show’s anti-hero.  I could write so much more, but here are three spiritual lessons from Breaking Bad that I found impactful.

1.  There is a story behind every sin.  A lot of times we see the choices others’ make and we rush to label behaviors or make a spiritual judgement.  While there are certainly Biblical mandates about behavior that make these notions valid, we fail to see things the way God sees them when we fail to dig a little deeper.  Without knowing much about BB besides some vague references from commercials or others’ conversations, I knew Walter White as a man who was a vicious, possibly deranged, meth kingpin.  He killed people.  He sold drugs to people.  He brought extreme danger to his family’s doorstep.  While all of those things were true, they certainly don’t tell the entire story of Walter White.  The man was an under-paid, under-appreciated chemistry teacher and part-time cashier who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer shortly after his fiftieth birthday.  He was a pushover and a social punching bag for others.  It was these hardships, along with a genuine desire to provide for his family after his death, that led Walter to take the first steps towards dealing drugs.

I wonder how often I have jumped to conclusions about the sins of others without really trying to understand their stories.  Maybe if I really knew where people were coming from, it would be a little easier to love and a little harder to throw stones.  This is not a matter of justifying as sin as much as it is a call to love people deeply enough to learn how they got in the mess to begin with.

2.  Bad company corrupts good character.  This concept is obviously Biblical, and it plays out in BB just as the Bible says it will.  We see this particularly in the life of Skyler, Walter’s wife of 16 years.  In seasons 1 and 2 of BB, Skyler is an innocent victim of Walter’s deception and is clearly the virtuous partner in the relationship.  She knows nothing of his illegal activities and is simply trying to navigate the major changes happening in her husband and in her marriage. When she comes to the realization that Walter is selling drugs, she is faced with the choice to walk away or to silently approve with inaction, and she chooses the later.  This decision to cover up Walter’s sin indirectly leads to a series of corrupt choices; an affair with her boss, a return to addictive habits, constant lying to family and friends, tax evasion, and eventually, laundering millions of dollars in drug money.

I’ve always explained to my students that it is easier to pull someone down a hill than it is to drag them up.  This is precisely true when it comes to casting our lot with sinners, particularly when we choose to cover up their sins or give our approval.  We should not be surprised when these close connections tend to pull us away from our most important connection, our relationship with Christ.

3.  Sin intoxicates and then devours.  The transformation Walter makes from episode 1 to episode 66—mild-mannered chemistry teacher to sociopathic drug lord—is astounding.  You feel like you are watching a completely different show by season 5.  In the opening season, Walt has good intentions but through a series of bad choices and unfortunate events winds up in a world of trouble.  He and his partner kill two men—one accidentally and one out of self-defense.  Not exactly what Walter expected when he decided to try selling a little meth.  By the end of the program, over 200 people are dead as a result of Walter’s choices.  Some deaths were entirely indirect and cannot be entirely attributed to him.  However, he chooses to kill dozens of people as he falls deeper and deeper into sin, all in the name of “doing what has to be done.”  By the time the show ends, Walter has gone from doing everything for his family to killing and drug-dealing for pleasure. “I did it for me. I liked it,” says Walter regarding his actions. “I was good at it. And I was really -- I was alive.”  He has been so intoxicated with sin, so devoured by it, that he is no longer himself.  He is another person—“Heisenberg”—and the old Walter is gone.  His entire world has been destroyed—his marriage is over, his son has disowned him, his money is gone, he will be remembered as a criminal—and worse yet, his worldview has been perverted and twisted beyond recognition.  We need to take a close look at Walter White’s life.

We need to remember that this destruction started with small choices of pride and greed.  Our own “small sins,” our white lies, do not stand alone.  They are the first links in a chain of sin that can and will eventually crush us if we don’t make a 180.  Walt never did and I’m convinced that he was wholly unable to make that turn by the end of BB.

Great shows are gripping because they portray the human experience in a way that resonates with us.  Breaking Bad is stellar in this sense, and paints a clearer picture of sin and it’s destructive nature than any other show or movie I have seen.  Watch it if you want a real picture of sin, and if you’re ready to be convicted of your own shortcomings.  Watch it if you want to better understand and love others.  Watch it if you love amazing writing and acting and want to binge on it.

Oh, and in case anyone was worried…I have no heightened desire to take meth, sell meth, or cook meth.  I also don’t want to kill anyone, and I’m actually more sensitized to killing.  I haven’t started using bad language and I’m still telling the truth to my wife.  :)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"World Without End"

Two fantastic songs, both entitled "World Without End."  One, by A.A. Bondy, is new to me and is a great tune.  The other is a cover of the song written by Reece Roper and performed by Five Iron old love that I was reminded of today. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A God-Sized Dream

As a follow-up to some recent discussions in chapel and in my Bible classes, I assigned a paper about dreams/vision to my students.  The idea is that they will lay out a "God-sized" dream for their life in a 2-3 page paper.  Obviously, God will adjust their thinking through experiences over the course of their lives, but I believe that without specific plans people tend to spin their wheels. I want them to think big, world-changing thoughts instead of settling for mediocrity.  

I decided that it would help my students to write out this paper covering my own vision and share it with them.  In the long run, putting this dream down on paper has been infinitely more valuable to me than to them.  The following is the paper that I wrote.


Recently, I preached a sermon to my students about setting the bar higher for their expectations of themselves and the dreams for their lives.  We live in a country that perpetuates the idea that wealth, family and influence define a “successful” life.  While none of these ideals are wrong in and of themselves, they completely leave God’s plans out of the picture.  Does God define success by these ideals or is there something different to his evaluation of our lives?  I believe that God evaluates our lives on the basis of two things.  First, did we live in relationship with Him?  Second, did we carry out His will for our lives?  When it comes to questions of God’s will, I am beginning to firmly believe that God’s plans for us are far more significant than we would ever dream.  I think the bar is set higher by God than we imagine.  I also know that His will is always others-centered and God-honoring.  Finally, I believe that with the Spirit of God living in us, there is virtually no limit to what we can do when we live according to His plan for our lives.
My dream over the past few years has been to internationally adopt a child from an orphanage.  Through this process, God has convicted me that my dreams are simply not big enough.  While adoption will be a part of our family, my calling is to rally others to engage in orphan care and adoption.  Ultimately, my prayer is that God would use me to help end the orphan crisis in the United States.

My Next Steps Are...

First, and foremost, my wife and I hope to complete our adoption process from Ukraine over the next three months.  It is one thing to talk about adoption and orphan care, it is another thing to take action.  I don’t think I will really be able to comprehend the plight of the orphan until I come face to face with children who are fatherless.  My prayer is that after the process is complete, I will be able to more clearly articulate my vision and also have the credibility to share that vision with others.
Second, I need to avail myself of more resources in order to have a complete picture of the orphan crisis.  I recently began reading Orphanology (Morton/Merida), a book that provides a Gospel-centered perspective on adoption and orphan care.  It has been extremely insightful, both in terms of the theology of adoption and by providing practical wisdom for orphan ministry.  I plan to undertake a Biblical study of adoption over the trip to Ukraine so that I can better understand God’s heart for children without earthly parents.
Finally, my wife and I plan to begin an adoption support ministry through Bridgepoint Church.  I’m not certain what this group will entail, but I am certain that it is absolutely necessary.  There are a preponderance of families within the congregation who have adopted or have expressed a desire to do so.  Our experiences, along with those of others, need to be shared in order to edify and support those beginning or in the middle of pursuing adoption.

In Five Years...

Unofficially, there are approximately 10,000 children in Indiana living in temporary foster homes or facilities.  About 200 of these children come from families in which both parents have had their parents’ rights terminated by the state.  That means these children are immediately adoptable.  (This number of course fluctuates slightly on a daily basis, but overall it remains relatively stable.)  There are well over 3,000,000 church members in the state of Indiana.  When you consider the statistics, it seems obvious to me that the Church in Indiana could single-handedly end the orphan crisis in this state.  It would take 1 in 15,000 church members to adopt to place those 200 children in homes.  If 1 in 300 church members stepped up to adopt or foster, every children could be placed in a safe, loving Christian home.  So, how do we make this happen?
I hope that Bridgepoint Church’s adoption and orphan care ministry can be a springboard to other churches starting similar ministries.  In the next two years, I would like to initiate these ministries at least ten other churches in Northwest Indiana.  My goal would be that those ten churches would begin their ministry with the understanding that they will plant an adoption ministry at another church within the following three years.  At minimum, there would be 20 new adoption church-based adoption ministries in Indiana by 2018.  Could each of those 20 churches help to initiate 10 adoptions each?  I believe this is a goal that is entirely reachable.  Could those 20 churches help to place 500 foster children in Christian homes?  This goal is lofty, but not impossible with God behind it.
This movement would not primarily focus on pro-life/anti-abortion programs or on pregnancy crisis care centers, but we certainly would support and partner with these organizations.  At the heart of orphan care and adoption is a decidedly pro-life worldview.  These groups must work hand-in-hand.  If abortion is slowed or, better yet, eradicated, someone will need to stand in the gap to adopt these new lives.  Our organization would help be a part of the “problems” that arise when pro-life advocates are successful.
On a more personal level, Alyssa and I would like to adopt more children from the foster care system as God would allow.  We have already taken the steps to learn the Indiana process and feel equipped to act when the time is right.  If we are going to be advocates for fostered and orphaned children, we want to be leading the charge in word and in deed.  We love children and want to protect the most vulnerable kids, both on personal level and on program level.

In My Lifetime...

At the end of my life, it is my dream to see every adoptable, orphaned child in this country in a permanent family.  There are over 100,000 children who are immediately adoptable in the United States and there are over 330,000 churches.  This dream is completely possible, even if the numbers are significant.
Obviously, the Indiana adoption ministry program would need to spread throughout the United States over a 20-30 year period in order to see this massive goal realized.  After the year period of developing ministry in Indiana, I would like to spend the next 5-10 years expanding this ministry into the Great Lakes region.  We would particularly focus on Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.  I think that a multi-state movement of adopting churches would be able to establish national momentum and quickly spread the ministry into other parts of the country.  I would like to place speakers at major Christian conferences and ministry events to try and engage new, committed churches to the movement.  In the midst of this growth, I would like to write about orphan care and adoption, whether it be through books or an online platform.
Seeing the United States orphan crisis end seems like an impossibility when you consider how long the problem has existed and the significance of the orphan/foster statistics. Yet, we serve a God that is much bigger than these problems.  We also are part of the Body of Christ that, when awakened and empowered, is far stronger than the sin that is in the world.  I refuse to settle for dreams that are ultimately mediocre.  The American Dream has allowed the bar to be set far too low for all of us, including Christians.  My family and job are important to me and are foundational to my life; yet, I think we were all made for more than the typical.  My dream is to see the American orphan crisis ended and I will fight to see it happen.  I pray that God will prepare and strengthen me to carry out His will in this calling.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Cost (and Adoption News)

Instead of worrying about what the adoption is going to cost, I've started thinking about what it would cost us if we DIDN'T adopt.  Yes, the money needed sometimes feels like an insurmountable obstacle.  Yes, we are anxious about how our family will blend with new children.  Yes, the setbacks have been frustrating and, at times, crushing.  However, we won't stop until we have reached the finish line.  There are children sitting in an orphanage that we know will be sitting in their bedroom in our home in the near future.  Quitting now would cost us that vision and it would mean we believed our God could not or will not provide.  The cost of not pressing on is far greater than the finances needed to complete the adoption. 

Perhaps you have seen this video before.  If so, I anticipate that you will feel the urge to watch it again. If not, you must watch this brief film.  It puts into words and pictures how we feel about adoption and explains why we have pressed on over the last two years.

Like I said, it sums up the passion behind what we're doing.  We currently have about $10, 500 left to raise before we leave for Europe at some point this summer.  This includes an interest-free adoption loan of $5,000 (which we prefer not to take, but are thankful for this provision.)  To us, it is a big mountain to climb.  However, we serve a God who says through faith we can move mountains.  So, we are trusting that God in His might will throw this mountain out of the way of our progress.  We believe this because we know that God loves orphans more than we ever could and it is His will that these children be loved and cared for.  

So, we submit our plans to God in faith and we trust in Him for provision.  What are our plans?  Well, we will continue to operate the etsy store and sell our remaining jarred items as well as prints, bibs and more.  You can visit the store and support us here.  We also plan to try to sell many of these items at farmer's markets and community sales.  Second, we are planning an event that will include garage sales in multiple locations on the same day.  The idea is that friends, family or adoption supporters will host a yard sale---big or small---to raise the remaining funds.  We are working on sales in Hobart and Valparaiso, but would love to see sales across the region, state, and even the country.  If a sale like this is something you might consider hosting, please let me know by commenting on this blog or emailing me at  Third, we will probably host a couple of nights at local fast food restaurants where a percentage of profits will go towards the adoptions.  Fourth, we will pray for donations and grants to help us.  Finally, we will continue to pour as much money into our adoption account as we can over the next couple of months.  Most of you know that we work in non-profit ministry, so we are by no means wealthy (by the American standard, at least).  But, I think it is important to share that we give a large percentage of our income towards this adoption each month.  It is not much, but we want to do everything we can do if we are asking for others to come alongside us.

At this point, it appears we should have all paperwork completed this week.  We will get everything notarized and sent to Indianapolis for the apostille process.  Meanwhile, our facilitator is already translating our home study and other paperwork we have emailed to her.  Once things come back in a week or so, we will send everything overseas.  It will likely be a month or less until we are given a travel date.  That date could be a couple of weeks away or a month or more away.  So, optimistically, we could be leaving in the third week of June.  Conservatively, we could leave in early July.  Either way, we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is a lot of money to raise and our paperwork needs to move smoothly, but we prayerfully trust the Lord that His timing is perfect here.  Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and giving!  We've almost completed the journey!  

Then the real journey of becoming a family starts. :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Do You Dream Big Enough?

Are the size of your dreams in proportion to the size of your God? This is Mr. Chirch's message from today, as well as some AMAZING dreams from some of our VCA students...those testimonies start at 29:00...please check those out and see what God is doing in the lives of some of our students!

VCA Chapel-4-24-13- Derek Chirch