Archive for July, 2007

You can see it in their eyes …

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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It’s hard to quantify. Hard to describe. It simply happens whenever we gather together a group of folks serving with CRM from anywhere around the world. There is a unmistakable sense of something that permeates such gatherings.

There is a kind of energy and passion about our shared calling that works as a mystical bond. Even when we may not have seen one another for months or perhaps years, there is an intensity that pervades the relationships and things quickly go deep. As one person commented this past week in Vancouver, “You can see it in their eyes …” There is a quality and contagiousness that is tangible, a commitment to the pursuit of God and his kingdom agenda. These are people with whom one is invariably drawn to do life and ministry, to love, fight, laugh and perhaps die with.

Underlying it and perhaps the real reason behind it all is simply the supernatural anointing of God. The Triune God has for reasons beyond my understanding chosen to rest his hand of blessing and his supernatural presence on these people. It’s what the old-timey saints called “divine unction.” And it is an umbrella of spiritual reality and power that has permeated this outfit since 1985.

May it never lift. May it never cease. May it only grow and deepen so that the name of God may be renowned among the nations.

Conversation on Holism

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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This was the scene today in Vancouver, B.C. where 20 CRM staff from around the world gathered for a four day Theological Conversation on Biblical Holism and the Recovery of the Gospel.

That’s a mouthful. But what we are focusing on is simply the totality of the good news in the bible and how our own cultures can act as unintended filters to keep us from seeing what these implications are both personally and corporately. We are also considering how this applies to CRM as a whole around the world regarding the types of leaders we mentor, coach and train and the types of churches that we want to see evolve and emerge from our work.

In the photo, we’re wrapping up an afternoon of labor in a community garden that our NieuCommunities staff are cultivating in an urban neighborhood which is having multiple layers of impact on those who live around them.

One of the best parts of this conversation was the variety of perspectives in the dialogue from folks living and ministering is places as diverse as South Africa, Cambodia, Australia, Hungary, and various locales throughout North America

Bodies of Water CD

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

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This is an unabashed commercial for the new CD that just came out by Bodies of Water, the indie rock group that includes David, our son and his wife Meredith. One industry review said:

“Orchestral indie pop group Arcade Fire is on top o’ the pops lately, and fans of such music would be well-advised to check out the shimmering gospel hymns of Californians Bodies of Waters. The group’s full-length debut, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, self-released through the band’s own Thousand Tongues label. Like a less mockable version of The Polyphonic Spree, Bodies of Water has concocted an hour long sermon of peace, love, and pop music with the epic Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink. – wonkavision

The review in paperthinwalls put it this way:
“A different husband and wife team put out a Neon Bible this year, but it’s Bodies Of Water’s David and Meredith Metcalf who really nail the concept of a spiritual album with music so good it glows. Both uplifting and humorous, the Metcalfs take turns helming vocals instead of just a Sufjan or Daniel Smith fronting the choir/band. For every serious moment aimed at higher power, there’ll be another capturing something mundane: “When you bend over into the fridge and try to grab some Tupperware, I’ll surprise you and pour the half and half, onto your newly sunburnt neck.” Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink is also startling in its ability to conjure bits of Pink Floyd, R.E.M. or the New Pornographers for the band’s gospel purposes without soiling any linens.

“Doves Circled The Sky” was inspired by a story of the Holy Spirit coming down from the heavens the form of a dove (John 1:32-24). To reach an appropriate level of grandeur, Bodies Of Water open it with an epic western feel, á la the The Good, The Bad And The Ugly theme, replete with strings and twang. When the vocals kick in, the clouds part over the arrangement, and it burns hot without feeling hymn-y. “Chords rang out warm and clear, sweet major chords, and they were ones and fours and fives,” the choir sings, narrating their own proceedings. Pleasure swells as the males and females bat lines back and forth, leading up to the final stanza: “Now, rehearsal is done, open the gates, let heaven’s floodgates open wide.” At this point, the album is only at the halfway, but it’s already shaking the temple enough to tear it down. Naturally, with plans to rebuild it three days later.”


The record is available now at http://www.bodiesofwater.net/ or at insound It is also available on their myspace page http://www.myspace.com/bodiesofwater and is soon to available on iTunes. An interesting array of other reviews and interviews can be found at http://www.bodiesofwater.net/reviews&interviews.htm

Spain

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Spain
I just spent an intense week in Spain surveying it out as a potential site for a future CRM team.

Along with Alex Galloway (who leads CRM’s Staff Development and Care Team) and Danny Aanderud (Spanish prof at BIOLA who is checking out potential CRM ministry opportunities in Europe among other things), we spent time in Madrid and then on the southern coast near Malaga.

We had a steady stream of appointments with church and mission leaders across a broad spectrum. While our learning curve is steep and we’re just scratching the surface in getting our arms around what God is doing in the Spanish context, there were a variety of commonalities expressed throughout the conversations. Some of our initial observations include:

  • Spain is a nation rushing headlong into post-modernity and secularization.
  • This rush toward the future is a reaction, in part, to the social, political and cultural stranglehold of the Franco years and the tragedies of the 20th century such as the Spanish civil war.
  • The aversion to Catholicism is extraordinary to the extent that the Catholic Church has become irrelevant for the overwhelming majority of Spaniards.
  • Most evangelical church expressions are small, anemic, and culturally marginalized. Few would have any appeal to Spaniards under 30 years old nor do they know what to do with the emerging generation.
  • There is spiritual receptivity and vitality among the immigrant segments of the population.
  • Latin Americans are at the forefront of the most vibrant ministry initiatives in the country but are neither well-received or respected by most Spaniards.
  • Spain, but almost any criteria, could be characterized as “resistant” ground to historic, biblical Christianity. Most mission efforts either take a long time to bear any fruit or are ineffective on their face.

The Beqaa

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

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It’s called the Beqaa. The massive rift valley in the center of Lebanon separated from the coast by the Mount Lebanon range to the west and from Syria on the East by the Anti-Lebanon mountains. In this picture, Syria is straight ahead over the mountains in the background. The Beqaa forms the northeastern-most extension of the Great Rift Valley, which extends down the spine of East Africa.

While historically the bread-basket of the region, today it is a harbor and a crossroads for the drug trade, money laundering, and terrorists of many stripes …Hezbollah, Iranian jihadists, and Syrian infiltrators into Lebanon to name the more well-known. It figured prominently in one of the first Tom Clancy novels I ever read years ago as a hotbed of intrigue and espionage.

As I was driving through it with one of the Lebanese who serves and ministers with us in Beirut, he mentioned that he used to be in the Beqaa several times a week and he pointed out the places where groups of believers in Jesus met.

I continued to be amazed at how God establishes his presence and signs of his Kingdom’s reality even in the most inhospitable places on the planet.

Assasination

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

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Lebanon continues to teeter on the verge of war and chaos. One of the major destabilizing factors contributing to the present situation was the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February of 2005. His death further catalyzed the “cedar revolution” which resulted in the end of Syria’s overt influence in Lebanon.

We passed over the place where a bomb blew up Hariri’s car on a Beirut thoroughfare. The blast, equivalent to 1000 kgs of TNT, gouged a 30 foot hole in the pavement and the evidence of the magnitude can still be seen from the destruction of the surrounding buildings in the photos above.

While the UN investigates and the labyrinth that is Lebanese politics continues to swirl with intrigue, life in Beirut is characterized by fear and uncertainty. Such instability can make life hard, but it also means people grapple with the significant and the deeply personal much more readily than those whose lives are immune to such trauma.

Beirut is a contemporary example of what historians and missiologists have always known; that spiritual receptivity can be the silver lining of social/political upheaval. The search for God and ultimate meaning takes on a new urgency when all hell is breaking loose around us. What I have seen firsthand in places like this is that the good news of Jesus is profoundly transforming when communicated humbly and lived out authentically. Such sovereign intervention by God, mediated by those on the ground determined to follow Jesus, is the only hope for Lebanon.

Cedars of Lebanon

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Cedars Of Lebanon
This is one of the few remaining groves of the famous cedars of Lebanon. I had a unique chance to wander in this remote grove up in the mountains recently during time in the Middle East. These trees are remarkable …huge umbrellas with massive trunks, some which were alive during the time of Jesus.

Wood from these trees were used in ancient times by the Phoenicians to build their trade and military ships, as well as their houses and temples. The Egyptians used its resin for mummification, and its sawdust was found in the pharaoh’s tombs. Jewish priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon Cedar in circumcision and treatment of leprosy. Kings of neighboring and distant countries asked for this wood to build their religious and civil constructs, the most famous of which are King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and David’s and Solomon’s Palaces. In addition it was used by the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Assyrians and Babylonians.

The Face of War

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Lebanon Destruction
One gets a very different picture of the realities of life and ministry in the Middle East when on the ground in the region. Particularly stunning is the perspective on the state of Israel shared by many of those who are followers of Jesus and who live in the region. What I found is dismay at the uncritical, and what they perceive as naive, posture held by many North American Christians in their unequivocal support of the secular Jewish state.

The facts are that that almost all of those who name the name of Christ in the Middle East are also Arabs. The cannot understand the theological and/or geo-political justifications that American Christians—particularly some evangelicals—give to political Israel and Zionism. It makes no sense to them biblically, historically, or politically.

What is happening in this region is incredibly complex. And the only long-term solution is the present and future rule of the Prince of Peace and his Kingdom, which has no bias regarding family of birth, ethnic group, or possession of land.

(The pic above is of a major bridge destroyed by the Israelis in northern Lebanon during last summer’s war. I had the chance to see it up close and personal. Bombing it severed a major artery between Beirut and the western part of the country and inflicted great suffering on innocent segments of the population. Its destruction had little strategic or military value).

Cry for Lebanon

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

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We have people serving and ministering in Beirut who, with their families, lived through the trauma of the war last year.

When visiting with them, all things trite and insignificant pale in light of their circumstances and gravity of the Middle East context. They minister in a crucible where there is indescribable pressure from every side: radical Sunni Muslims, militant Palestinians, Hezbollah and radical Shiites, Syria, “Christian” militias, pressure from the majority Marionite Catholics, and the ever present threat of Israeli incursions, bombings and retaliations in which innocent people are invariably hurt.

In this unbelievable cauldron of political, religious and social turmoil, they are following Jesus with perseverance and integrity. Their quiet, steady ministry in Lebanon and throughout the region is making a profound contribution to the Christian movement on the soil of the lands where it first originated. The honor is all mine to serve alongside them.