Blog

Disturbing the comfortable & comforting the disturbed.

Staff thoughts and life lessons about poverty, injustice, leadership, religion and other social issues in the world today.

“What You Do with What you know” (Lillianna’s Song)

Thoughts by Charlene Stinson – 2 minute read

 “…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”

Isaiah 58:10

She was just one face in an endless sea of faces that all speak the same story. I met her quite accidentally. She had just arrived at a small orphan home in Africa; bruised, abused, and damaged, an orphan whose life had been counted as worthless. Afraid, distant and detached—something about the look in her eyes stuck to me. Her picture never left my mind, and Lillianna never left my heart. Her story inspired a bold venture to make a difference for Lillianna and the children of the Mukumu Children’s Home in Kakamega, Kenya. Two teams and more than 30 people raised more than $250,000 and took the trip to Kenya - building, planting, painting, and sharing in the lives of this child and 32 others like her. We witnessed the transforming power of love in action. The truth is, it really doesn’t take much to change someone’s world—just a decision to do something with the knowledge that you have.

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Does the Bible Support Capitalism or Socialism?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

In short, yes!

It is unfortunate, but normal, that we look for scripture to validate our previously held convictions. I have read lots of proof texting by proponents of free market capitalism to convincingly support all of the values and behaviors of market-driven economics. But, I always wonder (mostly to myself until now), are capitalists using scripture to justify consumerism and materialism? I have also read lots of proof texting by proponents of socialism to convincingly support the values and behaviors of compassion and social responsibly. And I equally wonder to myself, are socialists using scripture to justify entitlement and avoid personal responsibility?

I’m really tired of the conservative/liberal debate and the camps built around each one. Our current political context constantly pits one against the other. I am even more tired of Christians who say that to be one or the other is more “Biblical.” I googled, “the Bible and Capitalism” as well as “the Bible and Socialism,” and was immediately directed to dozens of passages that seem to support each one. I read many of them and came to the same conclusion I started with. The Bible teaches both—prescriptive and descriptive.

The Bible teaches us to work hard and take personal responsibility for our actions and for our families. It teaches us not to be lazy and to enjoy the work of our hands. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth is wrong, but that the love of it is.

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Stop Trying to Be Close to God!

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 5 minute read

In our experiential and consumer-based culture, we have placed way too much stock in the emotional component of our faith. Think about how you evaluate the quality of your spiritual walk. How much does experience and emotion play into your evaluation?

  • “I haven’t felt close to God for a while.”
  • “God hasn’t answered my prayers.”
  • “God has felt distant lately.”
  • “I read my bible, go to church, and try to pray, but I don’t feel any different.”
  • “My spiritual life is dry.”

All of these types of evaluations are based on our efforts to “be close.” It’s as if contemporary evangelical spirituality is all about doing our part to find God’s presence and proximity. It’s as if He is allusively waiting for us to find the formula that activates His closeness in our lives. What a pile of unnecessary and unbiblical work. In my passion to experience God’s presence, I grew up looking more for an experience instead of Himself.

Beyond spiritual exhaustion, this faulty thinking also makes us vulnerable based on our circumstances of life. If God’s presence in our life is based on experience, what happens when the normal storms of life knock us around? If life is hard, then God must not care or even exist.

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Reverse Inequality

Thoughts by Daniel Mack – 3 minute read

Sometimes I read the Bible and I think, “How is that even possible?!?”

I find myself in the middle of a conversation with God and I actually think I have the right to question His thought process. Sometimes it only takes Him a line to set a standard so high that it sounds ridiculous. Take this one from Philippians for example: 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Do nothing, nothing from a position of ambition or conceit: “Sure God, that sounds easy enough.” When you put it in the context of our culture, it only increases the demand on our already fallen nature. North America thrives on self-centredness. It gets tied up in a bow and presented to us as a never-ending meal of flashing lights. If you want to be someone, be someone successful, be someone great.

Did you know? 

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The Deserving Poor

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

Transparently… when I think about times I have responded to the poor… I have played a little game in my mind. Whether it’s been someone down the street, or on the other side of the planet, I put that person in crisis through my little self-righteous test.

Like most of us, I’ve been confronted by the homeless addict saying they are looking for food when they are more likely looking for a hit. I’ve also been confronted by the most extreme poverty and suffering on the planet. I’m embarrassed to say there are times I have put people in need, and my response, in two categories: The deserving poor and the undeserving poor.

If it’s clear to me that someone is undeserving of their poverty and suffering, I find it so easy to find grace and respond. I can ooze empathy in those situations because I can imagine how I might feel if I suddenly found myself in that place of vulnerability and need. Such compassion is easy to muster. It’s hardly even a thought. It’s instinctual and almost automatic. There is rarely a decision to make, and almost anyone would respond. Responding to the undeserving poor is so incredibly fulfilling.

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Shame and Religion's Role

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

Guilt is, “I did something bad;" shame is, “I am bad;” a devastating distinction if we don’t know the difference.

I can’t talk about shame without acknowledging the work of Dr. Brene Brown. She has brought a message of hope and healing with her research about shame and I’d more than suggest you read whatever she writes. Anyone who influences anyone should be keenly aware of what shame is and when we do it, even inadvertently.

What kicks me in the gut, as a Christian Leader, is the role that religion plays in shaming people. The very force that should give life, often kills someone's soul.

Someone I know well was removed from their lifelong Christian community after some bad choices. The result was devastating. This person fully admitted guilt and took responsibility. Guilt was a good motivator to change behavior. However, from a spiritually-motivated focus on behaviour, the “consequence” was rejection. The message was, “I am acceptable if I do good…and I am rejected if I do bad.” That’s the difference between I did something bad (guilt) and I am bad (shame).  

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The One Certainty for All Uncertainty

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 4 minute read

The US election results. The war with ISIS and terror. Helplessly watching the disaster in Syria. Global insecurity. Closer to home? My kids. My marriage. My job. My finances. Feel out of control?

We in the West have this addition to certainty. We franticly scramble to ensure predictability and security in our lives. Most of us don’t like change, and all of us hate unwelcomed change. The resourced global West has been built on the value of being in control of our own lives; the result is a life distanced from God. The reality is we would rather In sha have certainty than intimacy with God.

People from non-Western nations have an advantage over us Western control freaks. In sha allah is Arabic for “if God wills”. Mañana is Spanish for “tomorrow or later,” referring to a tolerance for the uncertainty of today. Various Eastern faiths believe in karma: what goes around, comes around. All in recognition that we are never really in control of our lives. There is always something beyond our control that might affect the outcomes I desire. And that is incredibly biblical.

In a section on the topic of drawing close to God, James writes this:

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How To Cure Compassion Apathy

Thoughts by Mike Bell – 5 minute read

“Why should I care?” That was the refrain in the Oingo Boingo '80s hit “Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me”. The song detailed really unfortunate things happening to people, and then the non-concern of the observer, echoing a sentiment shared by many of the self-focused masses living out of harm’s way. We expect that gratuitous lack of concern from the world, but what about in the church?

Why should we care?

It’s an interesting question. More specifically why should we, as Christ–followers, care about calamity that befalls humanity, or about the physical needs of people as much as the spiritual?

I recently had a Pastor in Arizona tell me that he would love to get his congregation engaged in Haiti, but he can’t even get them to pay $50 to go engage on a local Native American reservation on a Saturday afternoon!

There was a time in my own life when I only saw compassion as a carrot…one that was dangled in front of someone so that they would listen to a gospel presentation. After all, their soul was the most important thing, right? And Jesus was coming back any minute…why hassle with messy, time-consuming (sometimes expensive) relationships with those in need?

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Don't Talk About Religion

Thoughts by Daniel Mack – 3 minute read

Have you ever had someone tell you, “I am not religious?” What does that even mean? They never say, “I have no religion.” And, unless they are a true Atheist or Agnostic—taking notes from Ricky Gervais—they won’t lead with that either. No, it seems like the “non-religious” crowd got their line from the same franchise coffee shop. 

I recently had an interaction where this position was stated… more than once. And, I wasn’t prompting it—except by the pure fact that I was known to be a Christian. It’s as if my unstated belief demanded a statement about non-belief in defence of the off chance that I might try to state my (still unstated, but commonly known) belief. Sorry, that was a mouthful. Maybe next time I should get in front of their preemptive strike with one of my own: “Don’t worry, we aren’t really looking for new ushers at the moment. Sundays are running just fine.” 

I can only guess at their intent, but it seems like non-religious people are trying to say, “We don’t do religious things.” They are trying to distance themselves from “churchy" stereotypes. And, ironically, as one of those people they are trying to separate themselves from, I can sympathize. More often than not, I think the Bible pushes me to pursue God instead of our strict church culture. 

I keep finding myself asking the question: “How should I define religion?” 

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Top Ten

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

I’ve consumed my fair share of leadership books, and there are many. So many…that we can easily get lost in the sea of what to spend hours of our precious time reading. If we are going to make that kind of a time investment, where should we spend it?

For what it’s worth, these are my top 10 in no particular order.

  1. The Take of Three Kings – by Gene Edwards
  2. Living Close to God – also by Gene Edwards
  3. The Bible – by God
  4. Leading Leaders – by Jeswald W. Salacuse
  5. Start with Why – by Simon Sinek
  6. Difficult Conversations – by Stone, Patton & Heen
  7. Servant Empowered Leadership – by Don Page
  8. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller
  9. Leading Change – by John P. Kotter
  10. The Emotionally Healthy Leader – by Peter Scazzero

There are many more that AMLOST made the cut, but if I could keep only 10 books for the rest of my life, in order to lead well, I’d pick these.

My purpose for writing this wasn’t to promote books. If leaders aren’t healthy, neither will their organizations, families or businesses. Whatever you do, continue to put yourselves in places of feeding.

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