Thursday, October 1, 2015

Through the Eyes of Haitian Moms...

This is a short section from Jen Hatmaker's latest book FOR THE grabbed me and presents a beautiful and compelling way for us to look at what we present as the way Jesus followers should live and what we should be it and be challenged...and then read the rest of the book!

It has taken me forty years to assess the difference between the gospel and the American evangelical version of the gospel. Those were one of the same for ages-no takes backs, no prisoners, no holds barred. I filtered the kingdom through my upper middle class, white, advantaged, denominational lens, and by golly, I found a way to make most of it fit! (It was a complicated task, but I managed. Please be impressed.)

But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I use now. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is: If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.

If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians in Africa, India, China, South America, Russia, rural Appalachia, inner city America, and everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor. If it isn’t true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.

If doctrine elevates a woman’s married-with-children status as her highest calling, it isn’t true, because that omits single believers (whose status Paul considered preferable), widows, the childless by choice or fate or loss, the divorced, and the celibate gay. If these folks are second –class citizens in the kingdom because they aren’t married with children, the God just excluded millions of people from gospel work, and I guess they should just eat rocks and dies. If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, then it isn’t true.

Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.

Friday, July 17, 2015

HOPE RUNS...A Reflection on Running in Africa

Here's a piece I wrote for our incoming class of new students at CU this fall as they read our summer book HOPE RUNS, a remarkable story about orphans, adoption, running, and incredible love in AFRICA...

One of my favorite moments and memories in life has occurred on a dirt road in a hidden Zambian village...a moment that's been repeated several times where some beautiful and energetic kids come running at the little mini-bus lurching down this bumpy path. They come running with smiles out of their homes and their voices yell greetings with energy and excitement as they recognize my face running alongside our vehicle. In that moment, I am loved, I am welcomed, and I am filled with hope...

When I first read HOPE RUNS these images of kids running in Kakolo Village, Zambia popped into my head. I loved the story Claire and Sammy tell of how God connected them and had their worlds and lives intersect in a surprising and life-changing way. And I loved reading how a similar interest like running was a huge factor in drawing them together. Soccer has been my own running connection with so many of my friends in Zambia, and our mutual love for a beautiful game has often led us to deeper and even more meaningful shared experiences and connections. I've come away convinced that often times God will take something we love and use it as a tool for more than just our own enjoyment. I have pictures all over my office of soccer fields in Zambia that remind me of how God does this sort of thing all the time in our lives.

More than anything, reading this story reminded me of how ultimately we grow the most and experience the best God has for us when we enter into His story and fully engage in a personal and long term way with the people and issues He brings into our lives. Claire's decisions to stay for a year, to come back many times, and ultimately to adopt are the choices that convinced the African kids that she truly valued and loved them...and they were the means by which she truly became a different human being, one who cared more about the things her God cared most about in this world.

The first time I drove into the Kakolo Village community in Zambia hardly any kids ran out of their huts to come greet our vehicle. We were strangers who looked different and whose purpose in visiting their village was a mystery. After several visits and years of getting to know one another and playing soccer, sitting in classrooms, and running together on the dirt roads of Africa, things were totally different. We shouted each other's names out the bus window, they sprinted across fields to intercept our vehicle, and we walked out to hugs and special handshakes. And as we leave after a day of learning and fun and singing and dancing, our beautiful African children often run for up to a mile chasing the vehicle leaving their community. And I believe for both of us there is hope for the future when we will meet again because of what God is doing and through us all, even in the midst of extreme poverty and seeming hopelessness.

My prayer is that your time at CU will help you discover your passions and provide opportunities to connect them to God's people and the issues we face in our world...and that you are inspired to make a great run for a lifetime serving Jesus with HOPE and JOY...

Excited to run together with you during your time at CU and hope to see you at our 5K RUN,


p.s. I'd love to have some of you jump on our African bus someday on one of our trips to can read more at:


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Entering Into a Life Story...A Video of Jack Black in UGANDA...

There's a video from NBC NEWS connected to RED NOSE DAY getting big traction on social media this week highlighting the day Jack Black spent with a Ugandan orphan boy named Felix who is living on the streets...and whose biggest desire in life is to get to learn by going to school as a 12 year old...
I watch this 4 minute piece and was instantly taken back to my first visit to a small village community in rural Zambia about a dozen years ago where I met several boys just like Felix who shared the very same life story and life desires in the midst of the devastation of a global HIV/AIDS pandemic...
At that moment, the trajectory of my life shifted...and that shift has actually even accelerated and become more significant as we now move through the days of life story gained new and challenging and beautiful chapters because I was drawn into the life stories of Peter and Gracious and Monica and Darwin and Anthony in an unexpected, only God could do it way...
I never expected to try and raise a million dollars to help respond to the needs of the poor and oppressed in Africa...I never expected to travel over and over again to a place 8000 miles from the Midwest...and I never expected that even my career and ministry would be most deeply tied to communities in a place I couldn't have picked out on a world map in 2002...
I am quite certain that Jack Black's story in life will now include new words and chapters...because he entered into Felix's life in Uganda...the power of a story to change us and give us new passions and desires and even priorities is truly remarkable...
As I watched this video with tears filling my eyes I thought of many of you at CU...the opportunity you have to enter into life stories in unexpected ways in the year to come...and how excited God must be to set up those divine moments where our lives and stories intersect and new stories emerge...
Whose story do you need to step into? Whose life will you enter into when presented with a surprising moment? It's one of the greatest things we get to do as a leader...and something that invites us to bring change and be changed in Jesus' name...
Take 5 minutes to watch the stories of Jack Black and Felix at the link below...and ask God to prepare you well by giving you courage and love and willingness to enter into stories in new ways in the coming year in the places God has invited you to serve and love as you hear stories...CHIP

Monday, May 18, 2015

Advice for Graduates--JEFF GOINS

We recently graduated another class of incredible students from Cornerstone University. And there are so many other schools across the world sending out the newest batch of grads into the workforce and our global community. It is a time of stress and anxiety...and filled with advice from all kinds of folks! I recently read a book that I am passing on to some of the graduates I know filled with some really meaningful words from Jeff Goins, one of my favorite authors! Here's a little summary of some of his thoughts in his book THE ART OF WORK:
  • Don’t worry about what to do. Worry about who you are and who you are becoming. Focus on continued growth and learning, and what you’re meant to do will become clear over time.
  • Stop looking for the perfect job and start creating it. The best way to do what you love is to build the perfect job for yourself. Start a small business, if even as a hobby, so you’re never completely on someone else to earn a living.
  • Instead of chasing your dream, serve someone else’s first. This will save you years of pain and accelerate your growth in ways you can’t imagine. And it will humble you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015



Before we know it this mentality infiltrates every part of our lives.

We're afraid of a friend (or colleague) becoming better friends with someone else, so we don't make the introduction
We're afraid the store might run out of that fancy new thing we want so we slap our credit card down and impulsively buy it
We keep our freezers stocked because we don't want to go hungry
We give our financial resources sparingly because we're afraid we won't have enough for retirement
We don't celebrate the accomplishment of a co-worker because we're afraid they'll get promoted sooner

We hoard.
We keep.
We guard.
We protect.

I believe that this mindset of scarcity is one of the most dangerous enemies to great leadership.  Our unwillingness to champion others, to give to others, or to make a way for others is a dangerous place to find ourselves.

In our efforts to guard and protect ourselves we actually sabotage our leadership influence.

Scarcity is in opposition to great leadership because I believe one of the greatest responsibilities of leaders is to generously develop, inspire, and empower those you lead.


"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

I'll be honest; scarcity can get the best of me.  It's one of the greatest challenges to my leadership.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Overcoming Anxiety by JAMES VORE

Loved this piece from CATALYST on a topic that affects all of us...
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, about anxiety. I’m sure there is a ton of research out there as to what causes it, and where it comes from biologically speaking, and I encourage you to ask an expert if you find yourself struggling. Here’s what I can tell you that I have constantly reminded myself these past few years. 
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
This idea appears in two separate Gospels, spoken out of the mouth of the Savior, and yet can you guess where a majority of my anxiety stems from as a young leader? 
Tell me if this is true of you; somewhere along the way your fear of monsters, and strangers, and even rollercoasters gave way to failure, dislike, and rejection. You don’t even have to be a naturally anxious person to know that cold feeling you get when you know you’re facing one of these things. I’m finding that the very fear we are warned against feeling is the thing we face most often, and it’s for a reason. The enemy knows exactly what anxiety can do to our hearts.
You and I serve a massive God, with a massive plan, within a massive story. It doesn’t matter how large or small your part of the story is, if you are serving Jesus your dreams will scare you. It’s what you and I choose to do in the midst of that fear that sets us apart and defines our legacy. I’m twenty-six years old, I’m getting married in three months, and I have dreams that I don’t understand how in the world will come to pass. You have your own things; we all have reasons for sleepless nights, and for good reason. What I’m finding is the nights I lose sleep follow the days I forget that:
The kind of fear I’m talking about; the, “I’m too nervous to even try to be great at this so I quit,” kind will only ever be overcome with a choice to surrender.
Surrender to the fact that you will fail along the way
Surrender to the fact that growth takes years of refinement
Surrender to the fact that you will have confrontations that don’t go your way
Surrender to the fact that none of this is a surprise to Jesus, and yet He has still chosen you to play a part in His story. This surrender, it’s a Holy thing, comprised of faith and trust in the God who promises to bring to completion that which He began.
After all that’s where leadership of others starts with being led personally. We all have things to overcome, to surrender, things we desperately need God to work in and on if we are ever to lead others. The thing that will determine if we are successful in the long run is whether or not we are willing to stop clawing at our anxieties ourselves, and trust God to step into the fight.
He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”  
2 Chronicles 20:15

Monday, February 2, 2015

Can We Really Change the World?

I loved this piece by Ken Wytsma, author of Pursuing Justice. It reminds me simply that every net does count. Every life matters. We must change even if we can't always fix. Check out his words from the Catalyst...and keep being an agent of change...
Change and influence is what sits behind leadership, education, decision-making, creativity, entrepreneurship, discipleship and more.
A friend recently admitted, however, that he was skeptical of my claim. He wondered if, at the end of the day, it's possible to actually change the world. Doesn't history show that injustice and sin are intractable and constant? I've faced this question many times. Many people believe that the talk we hear about changing the world is simply triumphal and idealistic cheerleading designed to make us feel more important than we really are.
The truth is, those who believe that we can't change the world and those who believe we can are both pointing at deep truths in the nature of reality. One sees the fact that no matter what our efforts, we can't permanently and fundamentally fix the world and eradicate evil from the human heart, while the other sees the fact that we can and do change the world every day in both small, yet significant ways, and, sometimes, in large and weighty matters. How are we to understand these two realities? Back in grad school, studying philosophy, the whole exercise of clarifying an argument always hung on a distinction - separating out a conflated idea into two clear and distinct truths.
The distinction here is: although we cannot fix the world, we can certainly change it.
My friend Keith Wright, International President of Food for the Hungry, has spent his life helping to grow healthy families and communities in the developing world. Recently, he shared with me a study by the World Bank that found extreme poverty, for the first time, has declined in every region of the developing world. Though that doesn't mean we can fix every economic need in the world (after all, Jesus himself said that we would always have the poor with us), it does mean, however, that one significant and large element of the world is slowly changing for the better.
Another friend of mine is a very busy Urgent Care doctor in town. In spite of the demands of his career, Randy uses his own money and personal time to drive around a fully equipped medical van, ministering to homeless folks who have no other access to health services. Sometimes he treats frostbitten fingertips and sometimes he literally saves a life. Randy isn't trying to fix every health need in town. He knows that even the folks he helps will have more medical needs in the future, but he serves knowing that, in that moment, what he does somehow fundamentally changes the world, if even in a small way.
Multiply these examples as more and more people heed the call to justice and love for fellow man and the amount of change that happens in the world can grow exponentially. This is why God commands us to do justice and why in the Old Testament he punished his people for neglecting justice, because what we do does make a significant difference for good or for bad in the world. We don't have to remake the world. Just because we can't control nature, eradicate all evil or ensure that the hard-won gains of justice will last, does not mean that we cannot bring about worthwhile positive change in the world. Change is fluid; cultures evolve and devolve. Changing the world doesn't guarantee that our victories will be permanent. And that's okay.
There are always those who will react to idealism and the ever-prevalent change-the-world language today by choosing to adopt a pessimistic outlook on the potential for deep and lasting change in the structures of the world.
Only God can fix the world; but as we fulfill our calling and carry God's good news of salvation and healing and justice into the world we become a very real part of changing it.
My friend Dave, who spends his life rescuing young girls from the sex trade, recently had a telling conversation along these lines while at the gym. Dave was on the treadmill and the guy beside him asked him what he did for a living. "I save girls from the sex trade by ransoming them out of brothels and slavery." The man responded, "Isn't that kind of futile? If you save one girl, won't they just grab another one to replace her?" Dave replied, "I don't think I'm qualified to answer that."
The man looked confused. Dave continued, "I'm not qualified to say whether it really made a difference, you'd have to ask the girl I ransomed from the brothel if it made a difference to her."
The world changes every day in both big and small ways. I want to watch where God is moving and join him there, recognizing that changing the world is less about being heroic and more about being faithful.
The distinction is necessary - in faith, in family, in discipleship, in service and in love - just because we can't fix the world, doesn't mean we can't, and don't, change the world every day in significant ways.