Thursday, June 14, 2018

Constructive Connections-Part 1

Constructive Connections is a fiction series. It’s the beginning tale of how each person is formed perfectly by God to enhance the narrative of life. Constructive Connection reflects how each one of us is crafted by God to fulfill a purpose. By contributing unique talents to serve one another, a tower God called you to construct begins to form for His joy.

Red and blue wooden blocks are hurled through the air. BAM! They ricochet off the plastic bin and knock his juice to the carpet. At least he didn’t hit the cat this time.

Choosing not to engage in my son’s tantrum, I pick up a block and roll it between my fingertips. The scent of old wood, the feel of chipped paint; interesting where scent memory can take you. I was hurled into the middle of Sunday school when I was 7.

My folks dropped me off upstairs of our community church, as they did every Sunday. Upon entering the classroom, I zipped over to the blocks. Dumping the wooden contents, I began creating my world, my dream building; creating something out of nothing.

“God blessed you with a good imagination,” Miss Kim had said. It was the first time I heard something in my being, marking my heart with pride and ownership of “making”.

Soon another memory came into view with sharp contrast. Miss Kim asked me to work with Willy, only there was no working with that kid. He was mean. He was ornery. He was Willy my arch nemesis. “Doug, pick out blocks you want to use, then Willy can pick out the ones he needs. Make a plan, then begin to build,” she pointed to scripture scrawled on the whiteboard:

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it?” Luke 14:28.

Being a kid, scripture was just words. But this day, they were inspiration! I was going to build a tower! And it would take ALL the blocks. Unfortunately, Willy had similar blueprints.

Picking through, he was careful to sort the green blocks into a pile. Then he did the same with the yellow. The large tooth grin on his freckled face taunted me.

“Hey!” I yelled with indignation. “I was going to use those!”

“I’m building my house! I Neeeeeeed these!” He pleaded.

We ended up rolling each other over those blocks, regardless of color, shape or size. By the time volunteers pried us apart, a raised welt erupted on my cheek and Willy suffered a blue goose egg to the temple where I clocked him with a wooden wedge.

Years later at high school youth camp, we were paired again during a team-building exercise. The task was to scavenge items, then build shelter with nothing but an umbrella, bubblegum, blue tarp, 10 Starbucks straws, and pink duct tape.

Willy and I wandered in silence through the underbrush looking for additional found items to construct with. He swung his arm, hitting every leaf, every branch along his path. I witnessed him at school performing the same action; only freshmen and students of short stature were his low hanging branches.

“This is stupid. No one can do this dumb challenge,” he complained.

“Might be dumb, but we gotta get it done if we want dinner,” I reasoned. The youth leaders learned how to use food as currency; leveraging it to overcome teenage propensity to not play along with their creative challenges.

He picked up a log and looked back at me, “Hey Pug, is this a birch branch?” Pug, Puggy Pugster; all pet names he had given me over the years.

Whether it was the stillness of the woods or the absence of adults, or maybe it was God giving me the thumbs up, I gathered my courage. “My name…My REAL name is Doug. If you want to talk to me, USE it!” I yelled louder than expected.

Willy squared up to me. Standing a good 5 inches taller, drained was the courage I previously held. “Really? Doug is your name? It’s not Stupid, Nerd, Brain-Drain?”

Brain-Drain. His father’s nickname for Willy. Something inside broke. Washed in this weird feeling, I said something that did not sound like me at all. “How’s…how’s your dad doing?”

Willy took in a deep breath, eyes widened, face contorted, expletives unleashed, then turned with hands-on his hips. He looked around as if in a panic, yet he stood still. His eyes filled, nostrils flared; my “nemesis” then let his brick wall crumble. With each sob, my heart lurched within me. It was as if he couldn’t hold pain any longer.

After a while, Willy opened his life and told me everything that day. Youth leaders called us for dinner, but we said we’d join them for s’mores later. Just listening to him, being that ear to hear his struggle, brought me closer to understanding him but also to understanding how God had put us into each other’s lives for just such a reason.

When we eventually got up to go he said, “Remember that day I beat you up in Sunday School?”

Obviously, he had remembered it wrong, but I didn’t correct him. “Yeah,” I said with a slight grin.

“Dad and I lived in a tent that year. It was so cold. I was gonna build a house with those stupid blocks. Dumb, huh?” he said looking down, kicking at an exposed root.

“Guess you needed all those blocks after all,” was all I could say.

Watching my son, he only sees what is in front of him, not counting the cost; the cost of anger, the consequences of impulsivity. How can I help guide him? How could I have helped that 7-year-old kid who held a grudge for so many years against a boy who just wanted to provide shelter for him and his father?

I’ve thought a lot about serving my community, but where? My wife serves in kid’s programs. Teaching isn’t my thing, but she says it’s more about mentoring than teaching. What if I could be there to recognize the one who needed to be noticed, needed to be helped? They are there; hiding, or sometimes screaming, to be noticed. I think God’s divine gift is pairing us in each other’s lives to not just make a difference, but to point us to the One who makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

~Written by Jennifer Love

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Should AC3 Pull Out Of The WCA Leadership Summit?

As you know, AC3 hosts the Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit every August.  And if you haven't heard by now, the whole WCA (of which AC3 is a part) has been reeling since Bill Hybels was accused of sexually inappropriate gestures and overtures during his tenure as pastor and leader of the WCA.  He has denied the accusations, but has resigned from his all his roles at Willow.

This week, we received a couple of appeals for AC3 to suspend hosting the Summit in order to stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse and the #metoo movement.  In case you have been wondering about that yourself, I thought I should show you one exchange I had which reveals our reasons for continuing to host the Summit this year, despite the scandal surrounding Bill Hybels.

Dear Pastor Rick,
I am the personal friend of one of the victims of sexual harassment by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church. I would gently request that you might consider pausing on hosting the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit at Allen Creek Community Church later this summer, to show solidarity with the multiple victims at Willow Creek Community Church.
Christ Church of Oakbrook
Grace Church Indiana: set a really beautiful example, as the leadership at both these megachurches have already withdrawn from hosting the Global Leadership Summit in solidarity with the victims.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my request

My reply:

Thanks for the email and for voicing your request in this way.  I really appreciate the spirit of your appeal.

I have viewed both the sermon you posted below from Grace Church and the PSA from Christ Church.  There were very touching in places and I understand why those churches are deciding to Pause the Summit at their locations this year.  We’ve considered doing the same.  However, to this point, the elders have decided to continue to host the Summit.

We talk about what happened at Willow and our decision here:
and here:

The question before us, is whether a pause is required to advance the cause against sexual harassment in the world and in the church, or needed to express solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse overall, or those specifically involved with Bill.  I’m not certain there’s a direct correlation.  In fact, as I’ll mention below, I’m not sure all the victims would want us to make this boycott for their sake and the #metoo cause.

Of course, the Summit is deeply connected with Hybels.  Because of that deep connection between one man and the Event, any participation in the event will be seen by some as some kind of endorsement of that man and his alleged bad behavior.   To me, to suspend our participation on these grounds gives credence to a fallacy.  Namely, that the Summit and the movement that Willow spawned and the leadership passion and vision they’ve inspired is tied to that single man.

It’s not.  We never believed this, and to cancel our participation now, would seem to put the lie what we said we believed (the Summit isn’t about Hybels).   And it would be implicit agreement with the idea that if his name is besmirched then the Summit itself carries a black mark.  And finally it would suggest that all Christians of good conscience and who care for the sexually abused must now defect to look better in the eyes of those who are making what is essentially a false equivocation.

I’d rather live a little less pragmatically, for the sake of the optics of a thing, and more for the ideals of a thing.  And in this case the Summit ideal is about Leadership, and about the Local Church thriving and persevering and being well led.  The Summit ideal is also about inspiring this kind of passion, vision and leadership in women as well as men.  If we all pull out, that vision takes a huge hit.

I suspect the real effect of a defection from Summit sponsorship now will be twofold:  one, it will make those who pull out look like they really care about women and the #metoo movement, which I’m certain they do.  Two, it will serve to punish the WCA for what Bill did.

Regarding those two outcomes:  First, I’m not interested in punishing anyone, that’s not my business or my job, that’s God’s job.  Secondly, about showing people what we care about:  if people don’t already know that we, at AC3, care about women, and give them an equal seat at the table, and think that sexual abuse is bad, by anyone, but most especially by those in Christian leadership, then they simply don’t know us.

If our reputation goes down in the world or in the church because we continue to host the Summit, an event that has nothing to do with endorsement of sexual abuse… that’s a hit I guess we’ll have to endure.  Our reputation as a church has been built by what we’ve been about over a long run, and will not be radically affected by soundbites and guilt by association.  To those who would allow themselves to be so affected, we’ll be sorry about that, but they’re not thinking very deeply.

We have members at our church who also were close friends of one of the accusers in the Hybels scandal.  They are certain of her character and obviously are heartbroken for both their friend, and their former church (Willow) and for Hybels who affected them so positively for the many years they lived in Chicago.  And their friend, while wanting truth to out, and Hybels to be held accountable, would not wish for Willow or the mission of the WCA be devastated because of his sin.

I hope, as you implore churches to consider pausing the Summit to make a statement, you also consider that those not joining you are not necessarily disagreeing with the statement you want churches to make.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Psalm 91

Vince Dancer has done a study combining two commentaries on Psalm 91. Here are his thoughts for your consideration.

Psalm 91                                        (Ideas from John Robert Stevens and Charles Spurgeon)

There is controversy concerning the writer of this Psalm. Some have thought it is a Psalm of David but most consider it more likely written by Moses during the 40 years in the desert. It is often referred to as the Soldier’s Psalm because of it’s referral to battle and pestilence which often follows war even in modern times.

The Psalm is normally divided into five divisions:

The state of the Godly PS 91:1-2

Their safety PS 91:3-8

Their habitation PS 91:9-10

Their servants PS 91:11-13

Their friend PS 91:14-16

Verses one and two talk about a personal relationship with God. These verses are a statement of trust.  We who give all and dwell with the most high will have blessings that others do not receive. This is not to say we shall not have strife in this life. We shall find comfort under His care and greater knowledge for he will be with us always. (Matthew 28:20) (Psalm 139:7–12) 

It is difficult to shake the feeling that we have to be personally adequate and sufficient for every situation. We can foresee that today, tomorrow, or in the weeks to come, certain problems will come that we will be inadequate to meet. There may be bills coming due for which there is not enough money. There may be decisions to be made for which the wisdom is lacking. Whatever the need, He is the One to Whom we must come. We must put our trust in the Lord and learn to hide and dwell in Him. 

When we are assaulted we must learn to take shelter making God your fortress. The tides of evil forces can batter themselves against that fortress but you will be safe within its boundaries. An example of this from the Old Testament would be Job. For all of Job’s laments (Job 3:20-26), he still kept faith in God. He looks to God always even in misery.

Verses 3-4 talk of the protection we will have if we learn to trust in God for all things. The fowler is most likely a reference to Satan (the adversary). For it is not just the obvious things we have to have protection from but also the subtle things. [I’m just doing it once….] Once is all that is needed for a snare to be triggered. Then there is the noisome pestilence. Fear is the greatest killer even during a plague. The pestilence here is not necessarily a physical illness but an illness of the spirit. (Psalm 37:4, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:7) Faith here is divided into two types. In the first, we put ourselves with God and under his protection by becoming more aware of God in our lives. 

The second puts us out ready to fight the adversary focusing on him and fighting him. 

(PS 91:5-8) From this, we lose some of our awareness of God and this might also be considered a snare. Here I am fighting the adversary! (Psalm 91:5–8) Do you worry constantly? Why should you worry when God knows when a sparrow falls? Is He not everywhere? We will see others fall but we will prevail because of the protection of the Lord.

Verse nine does not say that nothing bad will happen but that EVIL will not fall on the believer. (Romans 8:28) Look at the story of Joseph. Thrown into a well by his brothers then sold into slavery by them. They meant for evil to happen but God used it for good.

Verses ten and eleven God sends His emissaries, also known as angels, to aid us in battle. They are a bodyguard to protect us keeping our body, soul, and spirit safe from harm. We do not know all that is done for us in the spiritual realm. Right now, angels may be around us warding off attacks on our minds, bodies, and souls. When we get to heaven we may be able to see what was done for us which we could not see with the limited sight we have now. 

Verse twelve: This is a true promise… even the Devil used it to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. If we stub our toe what can happen? Could a nail be broken and infection set in? What could happen from there? If you are diabetic or won’t get proper care for such a minor thing the answer is the loss of a limb or even death. So, the writer is telling us that angels will protect against even the smallest injury lest it becomes catastrophic.

Verse thirteen talks about trampling the cobra, lion, and serpent (dragon). We all know the how a cobra or lion is, they look for weakness and attack boldly. We know how to defend against those attacks. How about the serpent or dragon? The dragon is imaginary you say. Yes, it is in the imagination of our brain and mind. How do we fight such things? In Psalm 16:8 David answers this question. He knew the significance of his life, God had raised him up for a purpose. He did not fear for his own safety but knew that God’s plan would not be thwarted. We belong to God. He will be there when we go into battle and not allow His plans to be thwarted.

Verses fourteen through sixteen is God responding to those who wish to grow closer those who are after His heart. We have promises in these verses. Those who love God will be rescued and protected, set high above the rest of the world. When we call on Him with earnest and soulful prayer we will be answered. We must pray for answers to come from God. Honor God and He will honor you. Then those who have taken shelter in mind, body, and spirit will be rewarded with salvation and long life.

In the end, the more we practice looking to God and giving Him our love. Practice being in His presence. The more aware we are of Him and that He is with us at all times and in all circumstances the greater peace we will have and we will draw on that for the protections He has promised.