Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Song for Stephen & The Prayer of Ananias

This is essentially one poem broken down into two parts. A Song for Stephen has been bouncing around in my head for nearly a year now. It really began with the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ at the hands of ISIS. However, I wasn’t given the liberty to right it down, because I felt strongly that something was missing. Eventually I realized that God doesn’t just liberate the oppressed, He also gives grace to the oppressors. All of us were once sinners, and none of us are beyond saving. Even as we pray for our brothers and sisters in the middle east, we should also be praying that God will call out Sauls from among ISIS to walk in His service.

A Song for Stephen

Where now is this God of yours,
Whom you will not renounce?
Here you stand alone,
And none can snatch you from our hands.
Even now will you not turn,
And reject this Christ you claim?
If you do so – even now,
Then you may yet live.

Here now we stand in the face of fear,
Refusing to back down,
The stones begin to fly,
Carrying us home on their backs,
Do you see this injustice on the earth Oh God?
Do you hear the anguished prayers of your people?
They heap our bones in piles,
As a witness against themselves upon the earth.
In the face of such horror and suffering,
We turn our faces away,
The pain of our brothers grieves us,
And words elude us.

How can you let this happen?
You who are love and grace.
Will you not give an answer,
To those whose fist is raised against you?
Arise Oh Christ,
And rescue your bride!

Raise your eyes up to the heavens.
Do you not see?
He who sat down at the right hand of the Father,
Has stood up as a witness.
He sees and hears,
His arm is not short to save,
But He is making ready for another day.
Until then let grace abound.

In the throne room of the most high,
There lies a pile of broken bones,
And an alter stands above,
The bones cry out for justice,
And their prayers burn as incense.
The day is coming when a coal will be pulled from that burning flame,
And hurled to the earth in answer.
Christ will return on a white horse,
And carry off His bride.

So now in this middle time,
While suffering prevails but grace abounds,
Let the broken bones pour forth a savings song,
Whose words shall catch fire in the night of wrong.
The fire will burn in the very hearts,
Whose actions kindled it.
This church that was born of blood,
Will only grow as its blood is shed.

It is for your glory alone Christ,
You who are worthy of all honor and praise,
Shall receive the reward of your suffering.

The Prayer of Ananias

You Father who know all hearts,
Surely know this man.
Have I not prayed night after night,
And soaked my bed with tears?
Is this not he who has killed many of our brothers,
And pursued us relentlessly unto death?
Is he not here to kill even now?
Why send your beloved into the home of a murderer?
What good could possibly come of such a meeting?

Now my eyes have seen a wondrous marvel!
How strong a light to blind a man yet make him see,
And in darkening the eyes to open the heart.
See the warrior has been thrown from his horse,
And confronted by the blinding truth.
Convictions and beliefs all melt away in one encounter,
With you – the resurrected truth.
You have struck down the murderer in his tracks,
And raised up for yourself and ambassador.

How wondrous is your grace oh God!
You who rescue the persecuted and oppressed,
And who turn the persecutor and oppressor into a vessel of your grace.
How steadfast is your love,
That even those who fight against you can be purchased by your blood.
You redeem your enemies into sons,
And appoint them to rescue others,
No one is beyond the reach of your grace,
None are unable to be saved by you.
You show yourself strong in redeeming for yourself a people!

Brother Saul, open your eyes!

Chicken Tractors!

I finally managed to finish the chicken tractors this weekend, what started as a Saturday project ended up eating the better part of 3 weekends but these things happen. The design is entirely my own, I’ll go into more of the details as I go along.

imageimage

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a chicken tractor (Europeans typically call them arcs). The idea is to place the birds in a space that meets their needs for green forage for one day, then they are moved each day to fresh forage.

There are a couple of advantages to doing things this way compared to other methods of keeping chickens. With a traditional coop, any grass in the chickens run is typically gone within the first couple of weeks, after this if you feed them fresh greens they will have to be cut and hauled in. In addition, because they are moved daily, chicken tractors don’t generate a bad odor, which is often the case for more traditional coop designs.

The tractor also provides protection from the elements and from predators, whereas birds who are free-ranged, while they get plenty of fresh forage, don’t have this level of protection. This is particularly helpful for smaller flocks where the loss of even one bird is pretty devastating. The tractors are also helpful for people, such as myself, who are involved in urban or suburban agriculture. The neighbors after all wouldn’t appreciate having chickens running crazy in their yard.

The tractor gives me an aesthetically pleasing way to keep the chickens exactly where I want them. For more details read Chicken Tractor

image image
I patterned these tractors to look like a miniature version of a little red barn. As you can see they are accessible on both sides via the doors. This makes it relatively easy to access them to get the eggs out, feed, and water. We have been getting 8 eggs a day so far, which is pretty impressive since we only have 8 birds. As you can tell from my post “Mini Farming”, the hens are very glad to get fresh greens everyday instead of every few days.

image image
Inside I have chosen to use plastic crates for nesting boxes. I love to use them because they are cheap, easy to find, and have a variety of functions around the farm. Versatility is a must for small scale, low acreage operation.

The waterers are kind of special so I’ll mention them here. This is a new design I encountered when I picked up my chickens. I was unhappy with traditional designs because they tend to get dirty very, very quickly and in our hot summer time weather that can be a dangerous thing for the birds. These waterers are built using poultry nipples which the birds peck from below. Each time they peck at it they get water. Because the water is enclosed in the 5 gallon bucket it stays fresh and clean. These systems are also cheaper on price point, a five gallon traditional style waterer costs $35 or so. I got a set of 5 poultry nipples for only $9 and the bucket was free. You could probably get the bucket for $5 though if you didn’t already have one. These are also super easy to make. All you do is drill a 5/16 in hole in the bottom of the bucket, wrap the threads of the nipple in plumbers tape and then use a drill and an 11mm socket to screw it into the hole. It might have taken me 5 minutes total.
image image
These tractors have been customized for Alabama’s incredibly hot summers. The birds will need lots of shade come summer, so I brought the sides all the way to the ground on two sides and left the front and back open. I will face these east-west so that the birds get plenty of morning and afternoon light but are well shaded in the heat of the day. The heat is also why I put in the roof vent, which you can see is screened with poultry wire.
For anyone interested in building something along this design, most aspects of the build were relatively easy. I bought all the materials new and it ended up costing me about $150 or so each.
If anyone wants more details I’d be happy to share more information on how I built these. Just email me or leave me a comment.

The Triumph of the Lamb

Can you imagine the day without the Lamb? As followers of Christ today, with the constant presence of the Holy Spirit to make clear the meanings behind difficult things as well as to comfort us, it is difficult to imagine the shock and confusion of the disciples. On the one hand it seems so strange that they would be unable to understand all of Jesus’ prior teaching about His up coming death and resurrection, but on the other hand we as humans are very foolish and it should come as no surprise that the disciples would be too.

Here they had been from Friday night until Sunday morning, weeping and deeply distressed by what had happened. The one they believed was Son of God and messiah had perished on a cross and died. I think we have lost hold of the depth of this scandal. How strange indeed that the Son of God would allow Himself to be beaten and killed. He had the full authority to put a sudden end to His oppressors, and yet He chose for the glory of God and our redemption to stay anyway.

Then suddenly Sunday morning, the disciples heard a strange report. Jesus was alive again. This was wholly unexpected. What could it mean?

We who celebrate the Lord’s resurrection every year at this time are prone to forget the depth of its implications. First of all, it serves as full verification of Jesus’ claims about His identity and power. Had Jesus not risen from the dead, our Faith would be useless and also likely non-existent. The idea ought to startle us, that a man should rise up from the grave and walk away by His own power. Certainly such an event has powerful implications.

Jesus is Lord. There should be no question in our mind that God the Father has vested the full authority of the God head in the person of the Son. The authority to overcome the grave and return to God on high reflects the fullness the Son’s power and might

Jesus has won total victory over the power of sin and death. The resurrection represents the total crushing of sin and death through the death of the righteous Son. In this moment the power of sin to trap and hold the followers of Christ was lost. Its only power now is in deception, convincing us that we are entangled when we are in fact not.

This victory serves to demand holiness from us. If Jesus has crushed sin and death once, for all time; then those who are filled with His Holy Spirit are free from entangling sin. We are called, and enabled to walk in holiness. To do less is to deliberately trample the cross underfoot and make it of no effect.

The final implication is that Jesus is that Jesus has become worthy of His own chosen reward, the worship of the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation. I will address that topic separately in my next post.

The Supper of the Lamb

I intended this post to go up last night, but didn’t get the time to write it yesterday.

Matthew 26:26-29 NKJV

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

1 Corinthians 11:26-32 NKJV

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

The early church took the Lord’s supper very, very seriously. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians as quoted above, to eat and drink in an unworthy manner brings judgement on the one who takes it. All this trouble about something that most evangelicals hold to be just a symbol, Paul?

I am deeply concerned that we have grown anti-sacramental as a church. Jesus said “this is my body” and “this is my blood” and then Paul strongly condemned those who partook unworthily saying some were sick and had died as a result. Yet we persist in this notion that these sacraments are mere symbols, a notion which in the rather long history of Christianity is very young indeed; in fact even Martin Luther didn’t accept the doctrine that the were mere symbols, that innovation arose from other members of the reformation movement.

You may ask then, if I am embracing the old Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. I am not, the whole point of the sacraments is that we don’t fully understand them, that is what makes them sacraments. Instead I am saying that in some spiritual way that neither I or anyone else will likely understand this side of heaven, the wine and bread are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. And this is important because as Leviticus 17:11 teaches us:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’

When we as followers of Christ partake of the Lord’s supper we are taking His life into ourselves for purification and nourishment. We are in a physical, tangible way, embracing the reality of our salvation through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us.

This Passion week, investigate these things for yourself. Especially go back and read the oldest Christian witnesses. Don’t sell yourself short by denying the inherit spiritual power of this sacrament in your life.

Ecology and Global Disciplemaking

Considering that the creation mandate to take stewardship over the Earth and care for it properly never went away, and also considering that mass starvation, illness, etc. will have strongly negative consequences for everyone, but especially “the least of these”; I have long considered returning to a more normal ecology to be an integral part of the Mission of God’s people on earth. To accomplish a more normal ecology will, however, require significant cultural change. We will have to see a massive deurbanization as more loving stewards move back to the land, as a result there will be a massive cultural and economic shift back to the rural, as well as back to local. In order to fix our global ecological issues this will have to take place at the global level. Because this change will be so radical, we must ask ourselves how this will affect global discipleship.

In the first place urbanization has, without a doubt, greatly increased the ability of the church to access many unreached people groups that previously were very difficult to minister to due to geographic and political barriers. In many cases, here in these United States today, there are immigrant and student populations of unreached peoples on our own soil, living in major cities. However, accessibility should not be confused with receptivity. While urbanization has made some parts of discipleship easier, it has made others harder. Urbanites have much shorter, and often more disjointed relationship chains. Whereas, with the correct approach, the Gospel will flow very rapidly through existing relationship structures to reach a rural people, this growth is often dwarfed in urban cultures simply because those relationship structures don’t exist. For this reason, I would suggest than any access issues than urbanization has assisted with are offset by the difficulty of transmitting the Gospel throughout the entirety of a people group.

Urbanization and the False Gospel of Prosperity

An even larger issue, as far as I am concerned, is whether or not the Gospel being transmitted is pure and true. Now before I really launch into this, let me stop and say this: I am not accusing any church, mission agency, or other organization of deliberately teaching a false Gospel. As a general rule those involved in Mission are more detached from the false elements present throughout our church culture today; but it is often very difficult to separate yourself from the culture you were born into and this in turn can make it very hard to disentangle the Gospel message.

The problem I am seeing and experiencing is that Western, urban, materialistic culture is in direct contradiction to the Gospel; that is the values of urban culture are opposed to the Scriptural commands and values. All the emphasis on material wealth, and on prosperity in our culture has resulted in a Gospel diluted with promises of worldly wealth and prosperity. As a add on to this dangerous belief set, it then becomes hard for people who are materially “blessed” to recognize the lack of holiness and godliness in their lives. After all, if God is blessing me I must be doing everything right, yes? This wealth also sneaks in and steals away the church’s dependance on God. With an insurance policy for everything, and massive cash reserves its no wonder most people hardly recognize the old term “Divine Providence”.
A people who live on the land, can have the bounty of the earth without ever losing sight of the visceral connection between there hard work and their dependance on God’s grace. Returning to the land, almost automatically cuts modern humans back down to size. In the manmade world of cities, it is easy to gain a false sense of importance; but in the vastness of creation remembrance comes of the One who is actually sovereign. It is clear to one who works the earth, that the food it produces is the product of some unspeakable miracle. Shopping at the grocery store will give the impression that food comes from money, money “I” worked hard for.

While I do believe that there are some who can live in urban environments and still keep themselves pure from the prevailing materialism, indeed some are likely called to do so; for most this urban culture has lead them astray from the true Gospel and sent them off chasing wealth as fast as they can get it.

I would suggest that it is the bigger, cheaper, more convenient mentality of urban culture that has largely driven the modern church to give up discipleship and turn instead to numbers and marketing. Discipleship represents stewardship and slow growth, values best taught by those in a proper ecological relationship with the earth. Quick progress and rapid results are the goals of an urban culture that is used to everything being handed to it like a fast food hamburger.

Only a move back to a heathy ecological relationship with the earth, our younger sister whose care we have been charged with, will give us the edge necessary to stamp out materialism from the Gospel we preach.

Busyness, the Urbanite versus the Small Farmer

It is no secret that modern urban people have filled their lives with all kinds of activity and rarely have time to do anything very meaningful. Some of these useless activities could be pretty easily replaced with activities that actually impact global disciple making, but some of them can’t be. At this point in time it has gotten very, very difficult to maintain a family on a single income; this is particularly true for younger workers in entry level jobs. The result is that children not only rarely see there fathers anymore, but now they rarely see their mothers either. One of the most central and basic ways of fulling the command to make disciples, the discipling and raising of children, has been outsourced almost entirely to the state and a group of experts at church. This alone has severely impacted gospel growth, and now according to some statistics we are confronting a generation of young people in which only 4% embrace a Biblical gospel.

This busyness gets far worse though, just ask yourself, or one of your friends, to make some sort of long term time commitment to reach the unreached. Try to get involved in working with international students or immigrants from unreached groups in your city. The time commitment involved is often fairly significant, perhaps 10-15 hours a week. Most people have a very hard time swinging this. Now I am not trying to criticize anyone, this problem stems from the nature of modern, urban life. When you spend the best 50-60 hours of the week, depending on your commute, at work; then it becomes very difficult to do anything other than come home, eat dinner, tuck the kids in, and spend a few precious moments with your spouse before falling asleep. By Saturday you are so behind on things around the house that between that and a little family activity the whole day is over before it starts. Sunday you go to church and put the kids to bed early in preparation for the new week and it all starts over. Worst of all, this process doesn’t stop it goes on and on week after week all year. There are no seasons, no rest times, just a few weeks of vacation and perhaps a holiday here and there.

This level of busyness has a strong effect on the Faith. First of all it keeps God’s people from being able to commit to ministry, but even more importantly it keeps them to busy for Him. Things like daily bible reading and prayer get completely passed over in the mad rush that is your average day for most modern Christians. It is no wonder our faith is weak when no one has time to spend with its author and perfecter.

Compare this to the hard working farmer out in his fields. His work is seasonal, during certain seasons he may work 80 hours or more, during other seasons the farm nearly shuts down. Even during these busy seasons the work is communal. If he has to work by himself the farmer’s thoughts are largely uninterrupted as he goes about more day to day activities, the days more difficult challenges will require some thought, but the steady daily chores can be done while remaining in a quiet state of fellowship with nature and nature’s God. The farmer also rarely has to work alone, all the work can be done communally. If family is important, the family can come participate. Children love gathering eggs, feeding animals, and playing in the dark dirt of the garden. It’s all like a giant playground to them, and so in a normal ecology children are with their parents most of the day. Others can be to, and as illustrate throughout our history books, often have been. Communities work together to accomplish goals and spend the days together. If a farmer wants to spend time with a international student or someone else, then that person can come tag along with him and will likely enjoy seeing what life on an American farm is like anyway. The farmer can actually do life with people, the urbanite is unable to do this because his occupation is so disjointed from his life.

In the winter as things slow down, a farm community can pretty easily afford to let several of its families go out of the community for several months for ministry, most employers would never allow someone to just take off work for 3 months or more.

From all this I gather, that the farmer first of all is rooted much deeply in the community around him. As a result they will all me mutually strengthened by each other’s faith. The urbanite has to make time to spend with people, in many cases he won’t even see many people at work because he is locked in a tiny box. The farmer has a strong family, held together by large amounts of quality time, shared hardships, and communal labor this gives the farm family a strong base for doing ministry together. The urbanite is fortunate if he can hold is family together long enough for his kids to graduate high school because he rarely sees them. The farm community has time to do things with and for people, the urban world is far to busy. From this I conclude that move back to a normal ecology, with more people on the land would free up more laborers, particularly those with a strong community and family foundation for ministry and mission.

Conclusion

It is my belief that a return to a more normal ecology would fix many of the larger problems the western church is facing today. Strong families and strong communities means stronger churches. Men and women who actually have time to spend with God and to observe His power constantly on display in creation are much more likely recognize their full dependance on Him and to acknowledge His total sovereignty. A stronger faith and more pure Gospel results in a better accomplishment of Mission and a more steady development of disciples globally and locally. The earth is a mess today as a result of our modern culture and ecological practices, there are people going hungry who just a few decades ago knew how to feed themselves. The age of cheap energy will be ending soon, and when it does we will be forced to return to the a more normal ecology, the benefits of which I have just described. The Church today is faced with a choice: Do we embrace this change and work to holistically solve these problems, or do we fight the change and let the problems run us over?

Becoming

The fires of adversity burn hotly ‘round about me,
And walls appear faster than they can be torn down,
The mountains seems steeper with each step,
And the path grows longer each time I look,
Here I am trying to walk your way,
Answering your call,
And acting in the vision you have given me,
And yet I can go nowhere,
I am weighted down with troubles,
And sorrows continue to accumulate,
Where are You now?
You who do not abandon or forsake,
For my troubles are many,
 And I feel overwhelmed with agony.

Do you not see where you are child?
These are refining fires,
And in weakness you grow strong,
You stand now in the process of becoming,
Where vision and calling meet with acting and being,
Was Abram always Abraham,
Or Simon always Peter,
The journey towards who you will be,
Is very difficult for who you are,
But all things are possible with me,
And I am always with you in all things.

I will set my hands to the task ahead,
And sing your praises in the trial,
For You do not forsake Your children,
Nor abandon those who call your name,
You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek you,
And you give grace to those who remain humble before you,
My calling and ministry are mine only because you gave them,
And only you can grant success,
For unless the Lord build the house,
Its laborers work in vain,
But you have laid the plans and foundation,
And now I will work to see this thing to completion.

In all you set your hand to my child,
I will grant you success,
For you have given your whole heart to that which I appointed you,
Jacob was not always Israel,
And Saul was not always Paul,
So now you are becoming,
What I created you to be,
Your growth will be in Me,
And without Me you cannot succeed,
I will have all the glory,
And no man will be able to boast making you who you are,
Labor in the becoming,
Until at last you are complete,
For I am not a Master who is unable to make His servants stand

Stop Demanding Change!

Over the last few years, more and more Americans have begin to demand that things be changed. Change the government, change the environment, change the education system, change the church, change our moral values, change everything! In particular it has grown more and more common to demand that our political leaders or other national figures propose some kind of plan or solution for the problems we now face.

There is just one problem with all this demanding of solutions, our various representatives, those in government, the figures we look up to, etc. are all just reflections of ourselves. Their values are our values. If we are unwilling to take the steps necessary for real change to occur, they will be too. With the exception of a very specific type of people, a type of people we today don’t have much appreciation for; no leader can make substantial changes against the will of the people he leads. For this reason, we and not our leaders must take the blame for the difficult position we are now in.

If you want things to be different, stop demanding change and BE THE CHANGE!