Archive for December, 2009

Big news in Brian Cromer world. I will be getting my passport stamped later this week.

On Saturday I will be flying to the Dominican Republic. I will be going to the DR with four other people from NORTHchurch for five days.

NORTHchurch heavily supports the local church in the Dominican Republic and is involved in a ministry called Mission of Mercy. Their mission statement reads “Rescuing Forgotten Children, with Jesus’ Love”. Like Compassion International, Mission of Mercy provides basic needs (food, education, clothing, Biblical training, etc) to children through monthly donations from sponsors. This ministry also does a great job of supporting and building up the local church in the places where they are sponsoring children.

This short trip has may purposes. I will be leading a mission trip there this July, so I am going to meet some key leaders and pastors in the DR, get familiar with the area, and get a game plan for this summer’s mission trip. In addition, NORTHchurch recently participated in an outreach program called “Christmas in the Dominican Republic” where individuals provided Christmas gifts to DR children who otherwise not receive a gift. We are also going to the DR to give those gifts to the children.

I have been to the Dominican Republic one time in my life, but it was under very different circumstances. Heather and I had our honeymoon in at resort in the DR. I imagine this will be a little different.

I am excited. I am excited to lay the groundwork and foundation for a mission trip this summer that will change lives. I am excited to meet the leaders and pastors in the DR who are transforming that country. I am excited to hand a little child their Christmas gift, watch them rip into it, and smile from ear to ear when they see what is inside.

Pray for us. We will be traveling to the DR December 12-16.

It is time for a change.

It is time to finally upgrade to the latest generation of video game consoles. The Xbox is simply not cutting it anymore. It makes weird noises. It never has new games (because they stopped making Xbox games).

Don’t worry, the Super Nintendo is still going strong. It doesn’t get much better than playing the 16-bit SNES on my 46-inch Samsung LCD TV. However, the SNES is a classic that must be taken care of and not overused.

It’s time for a change.

But I need your help. Which video game console should I upgrade to – Xbox 360, Wii, or PS3?

Here are some things you need to know before you give your opinion…

  • I almost exclusively play sports games (Madden and baseball).
  • I like to play video games occasionally to unwind and relax.
  • I generally play video games by myself.
  • I am a youth pastor, so upgrading to the newest video game console was inevitable.
  • I already have a blueray player.
  • I could care less about online gaming.
  • I workout a lot and don’t want to literally play 18 holes of golf at 11:30pm when I am trying to unwind.

Knowing those things, which video game console should I upgrade to – Xbox 360, Wii, or PS3? Tell me which one I should get and the reasons why.

Hate is a strong word.

Hate is a word that we do not toss around lightly.

Hate is not a word often associated with God. We always here about God’s loving nature. We hear how much God loves and how much He forgives. But hates?

It’s true…God hates.

Check out these verses…

  • PROVERBS 6:16-19 (The Message) – Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arroganta tongue that lieshands that murder the innocenta heart that hatches evil plotsfeet that race down a wicked tracka mouth that lies under oatha troublemaker in the family.
  • DEUTERONOMY 12:30-31 (The Message) – Don’t get fascinated with their gods, thinking, “I wonder what it was like for them, worshiping their gods. I’d like to try that myself.” Don’t do this to God, your God. They commit every imaginable abomination with their gods. God hates it all with a passion. Why, they even set their children on fire as offerings to their gods!
  • ISAIAH 61:8 (NIV) – For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them.
  • JEREMIAH 44:4 (NIV) – Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, “Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!” (talking about worshiping other gods)
  • AMOS 5:21 (NIV)I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies.
  • MALACHI 2:16 (The Message) – “I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat.

What’s your reaction to this? How does this sit in your stomach? What sticks out to you? What thoughts do you have about the “Things God Hates…”?

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Here’s one thing that jumped out to me…

The Bible never says that God hates people. The Bible says that God hates these specific things done by people, but never the people themselves.

“This is how much God LOVED the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

Check out the video announcements from week 4 of REVOLUTION’s Messy Spirituality series. My friend and partner Michael Bergstrasser gives all the wonderful REVOLUTION announcements while trying to down a gallon of whole milk in one hour.

WARNING: This video is VERY messy. Funny but messy. You’ve been warned.

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REVOLUTION

Wednesdays, 7-8:15pm, all December

NORTHchurch

Good friend and blogger, Dave Culbreath, shared THIS ARTICLE (really it is a letter) by pastor and author Shane Claiborne. This is long but this is beautiful.

If you are not a believer of Jesus Christ and stumbled onto this website, please take Shane’s words as my words to you.

Enjoy…

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READ PART 1 OF THIS LETTER HERE.

One of Jesus’ most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan… you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I’m sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine… but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David… at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his [donkey] and has been speaking through [donkeys] ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.

After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: “The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you.” And we wonder what got him killed?

I have a friend in the UK who talks about “dirty theology” — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay “out there” but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, “Nothing good could come.” It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society’s rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors… a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, “I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you.” If those of us who believe in God do not believe God’s grace is big enough to save the whole world… well, we should at least pray that it is.

Your brother,

Shane

Good friend and blogger, Dave Culbreath, shared THIS ARTICLE (really it is a letter) by pastor and author Shane Claiborne. This is long but this is beautiful.

If you are not a believer of Jesus Christ and stumbled onto this website, please take Shane’s words as my words to you.

Enjoy…

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To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn’s Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn’t quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don’t know Jesus.

Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, “God is not a monster.” Maybe next time I will.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, “I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ.” A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the US among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That’s the ugly stuff. And that’s why I begin by saying that I’m sorry.

Now for the good news.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it’s that you can have great answers and still be mean… and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it… it was because “God so loved the world.” That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven… but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our “Gospel” is the message that Jesus came “not [for] the healthy… but the sick.” And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God’s Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth.

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PART 2 OF THIS LETTER IS COMING SOON.

No Shave November 2009 is no more.

Done.

Completed.

Owned.

After 30 days of letting my Mach 3 razor take a break, here is the final No Shave November 2009 picture:

Compare that picture with the November 30 picture from NSN 2008…

Better? Worse? Same?

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And of course, the inevitable post No Shave November Mario/Magnum P.I. mustache picture while shaving everything off…