Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Martin Luther King Jr.

In one of my classes this semester I was given the assignment to read Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. I must confess that I had never read this document before. When I was in elementary school, and junior high this was not history. This was current affairs, but growing up in a predominately white suburban neighborhood this seemed miles and miles away. It could have happened on a different continent. We were isolated, purposefully or accidentally from the events.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Have we gotten any better at exposing ourselves and our culture to affairs of injustice? The world has gotten smaller, not larger. We have the abilities and resources to act, not just in times of natural disaster but anytime there are a people oppressed.

I had always wondered why the protest marches and sit ins? Why not just negotiate? Dr. King makes a great point in his letter, because it builds tension. Later he writes that freedom is never given willingly be the oppressor.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I wonder if Dr. King were still alive today would he be happy with the progress. Is life better for the oppressed? Are inner city neighborhoods on an equal playing field with white neighborhoods? What should we be doing? What should the church be doing?

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who 'has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

Further into his letter Dr. King talks about the church rejoiced at the opportunity to stand firm for their faith.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I look forward to the day when everyone will be accepted as they are for who they are. May the love of Jesus compel us all to reach the poor, lost and oppressed. These poor souls are our neighbors. Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself. Again the world has gotten smaller, our ability to help has grown, has our willingness? Is the church willing to help or turn away?

Read Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Spreading the Gospel

I have been so blessed to have met so many people who devote their lives to serving the Lord. Many are involved in missions. I enjoy getting letters from them filled with their successes, hardships and prayer requests. My grandmother loved when her church would have missionaries come and visit. She would call or visit with me and tell me all that these missionaries had seen and done. I really think she wanted to be a missionary. Although she never became a missionary in Africa or any foreign land, she was a missionary to many of her children and grandchildren. If it were not for her influence in my life and her relationship with me I might not have become a Christian myself. Thank you Grandma!

Today I got a letter from an acquaintance in Africa, Simon Guillebaud. This young man’s life was influenced through his relationship with his grandma. It is a rich legacy that he is a part of. Simon works in Burundi, a very volatile area in Africa. Watch Hotel Rwanda for a history of what happened in that area.

My grandmother never got to go to Africa physically but she sent tons of money, support and prayer to the missionaries there. Her only request was that the Gospel be spread. Many of us may never get to go to Africa but we too can help spread the Gospel through our support. Below is a letter I received from Simon sharing a part of his past and his prayer for the future of his ministry. I pray that we can help Simon spread the Gospel.

Dear amazing cyberspace community!

It blows my mind what has come out of this email network, from the very first day I arrived in Burundi. It was 23rd January 1999. It was my first email ever from Burundi, I had found an internet café, and wrote to everyone I knew who had email access (about 50 contacts at the time) highlighting my need for a computer. That morning, a friend in London had woken up and prayed: "Lord, I've got this computer I don't need. Who do you want me to give it to?" He logged on and got my message requesting a computer!!!

The following weekend, I made my first evangelistic trip with the Scripture Union team upcountry. It was a disastrous outing with four breakdowns, so we missed most of the meetings. I returned angry and discouraged that so many people had missed out on hearing the gospel simply because we did not have a vehicle which worked properly. SU was in debt, but had huge potential to be used for God's glory. So I sent out an email asking for prayer for two things: i) to get SU out of debt, and ii) to buy a truck for evangelism around the country. In response to that email, I envisaged $25,000 coming in over the following month. What happened? A cheque for $8,000 arrived, earmarked specifically for a vehicle, and over the coming month $25,000 came in. God answers prayer.

I could go on, but the above are just two examples of how many of you have been caught up in this exciting adventure of seeing God's kingdom come in power in Central Africa.

This is not a prayer letter, but an update and a further call to arms. Do not bother reading further if I am barking up the wrong tree.

I returned before Christmas from a fundraising trip to the United States in time for Zac's birth (he's a little beauty, by the way, extremely loud both ends!). The fundraising was for Scripture Union to build a conference/training centre which will generate funds and make SU self-sustaining. I would love you to pray into that, and do click here so that you can really understand in more detail the vision and purpose of what we are aiming at visit: "http://www.greatlakesoutreach.org/building_project.html". This is GLO's biggest immediate project.

I am anticipating the following request being relevant to only 1% of you, which would be c.75 people. I have always seen part of my role as envisioning, inspiring, and challenging people to dare to believe that casting their all on God is the safest risk, the most exciting adventure, and the most logical step to take if Jesus is who he claims to be.

As our work has expanded so dramatically over the last seven years, I have been getting sucked into activities which are neither in line with what I have been gifted to do, nor ones which I can get myself excited about. I am an evangelist, a pioneer, and out in Burundi my role has become progressively more and more to identify the best people and empower and enable them to achieve their dreams for Christ. I am not good at fundraising or project-proposal writing or being a businessman - in fact I hate those things, whilst recognizing how crucial they are! But I often meet people who offer me their skills and want to be more involved. The time has come to formalize this and maximize the potential. I want to invite any of you who feel your skills could be used for God's glory in Burundi to become, if you like, GLO Associates, or Regional Reps.

Many of you are far too busy and tied up with other things; but others are itching for more involvement and this could be for you. This could mean just a couple of hours a week. Your roles would be a mixture of networking on GLO's behalf, maybe coming out and seeing the amazing stuff going on so can you 'sell' what we are doing, enlisting more pray-ers for the work, writing to trusts and grant funds, doing local fundraising, you name it, let's do it! That would enable me to be freed up from what is not the best use of my gifts or time. If that's you, I can't wait to hear from you.

Burundi is one of the most exciting places on the planet right now. We are seeing peace come after twelve years of horrific war; there is a deeply-committed Christian President leading the country; the churches are growing fast, and there is a new move towards unity; I am one among many Christian nutters, dangerous people who are willing to lay down their lives for the Prince of Peace.

So, amazing cyberspace community, let's rock Burundi and take this to a new level! Thanks to everyone for their prayers, which underpin all we do. God bless you all. Have a dangerous 2006,

Simon Guillebaud

Visit Simon’s web site and see what is happening through his ministry. If you can help financially great! If you have access to ways, thoughts and ideas to help support this ministry email Simon or me. Let’s help spread the Gospel!

Monday, January 09, 2006

What are you longing for?

From my sermon on January 1:

I was lent a book by one of my Tuesday Pizza Night friends. The book is titled, “The Holy Longing” and was written by Ronald Rolheiser. In this book he examines three people and their spirituality; Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin and Princess Diana. I want to examine two of these lives.

Mother Teresa’s purpose in life was to please God by loving the unlovable. All of her energy and time was dedicated towards helping the sick. In the end I am sure that Mother Teresa wished she could have done more, saved more people, increased public awareness, raised more money.

Janis Joplin was a spiritual woman as well. Unfortunately Joplin’s energies were not focused on God, they were hardly focused at all. Her time and energy went in all directions and eventually created a life of excesses in performances, drugs, alcohol, sex, and through all these excesses she neglected a time of rest. She was always on the go. Joplin ended up dying at the early age of 27.

Janis Joplin wrote a song called "Mercedes Benz" that reflect the excesses she enjoyed and desired to have:

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
I’m counting on you, Lord, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

Mother Teresa was able to focus on one thing, not many. Janis Joplin could not focus on the one thing. Like many of us we want to be focused on one thing but we are drawn to feel every sensation that is experienced by all sinners. Choosing one thing means rejecting many other choices.

Consider that getting married to one person means rejecting many others.

Having a baby requires us to focus on one and to give up other personal focuses

And praying means that we have to miss TV or visiting with friends

For many of us we will never be a Mother Teresa or a Janis Joplin. We will never be fully focused on one thing like Mother Teresa: God and the poor. We hopefully will never have the opportunity to enjoy all the excesses that Janis Joplin did.

You may be saying to yourself, “Rick I cannot be a Mother Teresa and I am definitely not a Janis Joplin. Can’t I just live somewhere in the middle?”

I will admit that it would be very hard to be as dedicated as Mother Teresa. But, she did set an example for us to follow. She was not divine, therefore we can become like her.

In the book of Revelation we read the words of Jesus to the church of Laodicea:

Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! [16] So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. [17] You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus says either be a Mother Teresa or a Janis Joplin but don’t be in between.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


On Friday night, January 13, West Community Friends Church has been given the rich honor of hosting Generation.

What is Generation?

Generation is a collective group of Christian High School and Middle School students worshiping Christ together. There is no one demoninational representation at Generation. Just students sharing, enjoying and loving each other and Jesus.

On this night we will enjoying a time of worship to start the evening. After that we will be watching Invisible Children. If you do not know about this organization you should see their movie. You can also get information at invisiblechildren.com. They are sending someone out to answer the students questions. I have viewed this movie, and I know the students will have tons to ask.

I am so thankful for the group of youth pastors in the Corona, Norco and Riverside area that are willing to bring their students to this night. I will post pictures and thoughts on this night.