Saturday, January 31, 2009

Please be praying for Harvest Sunday

Tomorrow is Harvest Sunday at High Pointe, the day in which all of our giving and pledges goes towards local and global outreach. Please be praying for these efforts, that God may reap a mighty harvest!

We have had a deadline each week of a pretty big video project, which has really kept me busy. These stories, however, are powerful--not just in giving, but in inspiring people to be a part of these ministries. Plus, we will use these videos on our website and on DVDs, so they will live on long after this month.

After tomorrow, I'll be ready for some rest! But this really is a great effort. Please be praying!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Couple spends $155,000 to clone dead dog--what about cloning lost loved ones?

Here is a news story about a couple that spent $155,000 to clone their dog that had died. The first thing I thought of when I heard this was, wow, someone has a desperate void in their lives. The second thing I thought was, that is a lot of money for a dog. The third thing I though was, I didn't know that cloning was commercially available.

The fourth thing I thought was, how long until people start cloning children who have died? Or themselves? And what is a proper Christian ethic on cloning?

As to the money, the couple said that they had it to spend. This is not, of course, in and of itself a reason to spend something. People could throw plenty of stones about my spending, so it is hard for me to criticize others' choices. I am simply pointing out that spending is a spiritual decision. How many people could $155,000 touch? I couldn't help but think about this.

I do not know the answer to cloning. If my dear precious children, Gina and Emily, died, particularly at a young age, I suppose I would be open to trying anything to cover the hurt. But this would still not bring them back. The cloned child would be different because of her experiences, even if the DNA were the same. She would have a different soul. And it does seem a bit creepy, even as I understand the appeal.

I would like to think that Christians approach death--even tragic death--differently than non-Christians. That, as Paul says, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We have hope, and we know that we will be reunited with loved ones when Christ returns. Let us live lives that reflect this hope.

Does spending $155,000 on cloning a dead dog--or even a lost loved one--reflect this hope? I'll let you decide.

What do you think of cloning lost animals or loved ones?

Tough economic times hitting professionals too

I just read the CNN news story, From $80,000 a year to eviction: tough times in America. It tells of how high flying executives and upper middle class workers now find themselves with many others like themselves in job fairs.

Another news story tells how a man who lost his job planned and executed a murder-suicide, killing his wife and five children. Rather than not be able to care for them, he tragically decided to kill his family.

This is a time for us to be prayerful for others, and to extend hope to those who are desperate and hurting.

Who do you know that has been affected by the changing economy?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Must Watch Video! Serving Our Community (Harvest Sunday Video)

Harvest Sunday Video - Serving Our Community from James Nored on Vimeo.

Here is one of our Harvest Sunday videos highlighting some of our outreach ministries, including our food pantry, clothes closet, and ministry to get people back on their feet. I worked on this video with the very talented Clint Loveness. Check out his work on Vimeo or Clint's Youtube page. If you need any videos done for your church or company, I highly recommend him.

What is your favorite part of this video?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Should companies and churches create their own social networks or use ones already formed?

Should churches concentrate on creating their own social networking sites, or join in ones that have already formed such as Facebook? Here is a quote from the book Marketing to the Social Web by Larry Weber.

"How can you and your company get involved? You can either join in other people's communities or create your own destinations and invite others to join in the conversation there. Or you can do both.

Pontiac, for example, is joining the Second Life conversation. Depending on your marketing goal, it is possible to join all kinds of conversations both as an organization and as an individual within the organization. The advantage of joining another organization's community, like FaceBook or YouTube, is that it already has members who come to it regularly. On the other hand, you may not be able to find the exact community you need, so you have to create your own."

I am convinced that both forms of networks are needed. Churches and individual Christians need to be active in social networks such as Facebook. They also can invite people into networks that have a higher concentration of Christians, and they can use social networking sites for mission.

The new website, Missional Outreach Network, has really taken off. It is great for pooling resources, people, and churches for outreach and mission, and we have been able to successfully invite seekers into this site as well. We also are working on implementing a Facebook strategy to interact with non-Christians.

It says a lot when we go to someone else's social networking "hangout." Today, my wife chatted with me on the Missional Outreach Network--my site--and I really appreciated it. It was probably not her preferred way of communicating (phone call), but I liked it.

Social networking, in whatever form or site, is the preferred way of communicating with most people under 30, and is spreading amongst all ages. By using the medium of communication of people today, we are being incarnational. And by going where they are already hanging out and by sharing Christ in new ways, we are being missional.

How can we better use social networking to share Christ with others?

Feeling sorry for yourself?--Brazilian model has hands and feet amputated

I read this morning a news story about a beautiful Brazilian model, Mariani Bridi, who recently received the "Best in Swimsuit" award in an international beauty competition. Now she is fighting for her life from an infection, and had to have both her hands and her feet amputated.

We can think our lives are terrible because of a job, a marital situation, or an illness, but there are usually people who have it a lot worse than us. Would I trade any of my problems for losing my hands and feet? No way.

We need to count our many blessings from God.

What would you do with your life if you lost your hands and your feet?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Feeling swamped?

Feeling swamped? I am right now. There is so much going on in the news right now that I should be commentating on, such President Obama's inauguration. I will get to this--thank you for your patience! We are in our lead up to Harvest Sunday at High Pointe--the day in which all of our giving goes towards foreign and local outreach. There is a lot to do during this time. It is even busier than usual. But stay tuned--I'll get back with you soon!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Focusing on the external is often not valued - President Bush and Africa

I just read an article by Sen. Bill Frist, a medical doctor, in which he highlights President Bush's foreign aid efforts. By committing $15 billion to combat AIDS in Africa and other foreign initiatives, Frist says that Bush saved ten million lives around the world. Read the article here.

These are staggering figures. I have certainly had many issues with the Bush administration (as I have had with other administrations), particularly on the post-war planning (or lack thereof) and fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof). But if these numbers are true, then Bush has left a lasting legacy. The number of lives lost in Iraq, both Iraqis and Americans, are outnumbered dramatically by the number of lives that his initiatives have saved.

This does is not a defense of bad decision-making. But President Bush, despite having a horrible approval rating and having made some mistakes, has done some good things. Unfortunately, few care much about people in Africa.

The same is often true in churches. It is hard for us to care about people outside of our walls, whether in our community or overseas. Selfishly, we often care more about ourselves than others. That inward focus and self absorption is always a temptation, both for us individually and for the congregations of which we are a part.

This can be seen in church budgeting. There is always a call for more and more resources to be devoted to us. Someone to feed us. Someone to help us raise our kids. Someone to help our marriages. Better classrooms for us. Most church budgets devote less than 3% to helping people in the community. Add another youth minister or employ someone to minister to AIDS victims, the abused, the homeless? It is not even a question. How can we justify more spending on ourselves, when over 90% of church resources is already spent on us?

The fact is, much of our own transformation is accomplished by getting outside of ourselves. When we help the poor, we realize how blessed we are. Want to help your marriage? Get rid of selfishness--and nothing helps to cure selfishness than helping the less fortunate. What to solidify your children's faith? Don't coddle them--have them serve in a clothes closet, hand out food, clean up the community.

President Bush's spending of $15 billion in Africa could have been spent here. But this may be the very best $15 billion that his administration spent.

Bush could have helped his cause by highlighting this Africa initiative, showing how it made a difference in people's lives. Churches need to do the same, and tell back stories of how community outreach efforts affect people's lives. This is something that we are trying to do at High Pointe, using the Missional Outreach Network (check out particularly the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry groups).

This storytelling is an essential part of missional transformation. And it is much needed, to touch our hearts.

How do most people in your church feel about spending on the community? Does your church's budgeting give a priority to mission?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama supports the openly gay in the military

Obama said during his campaign that he supported ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the Clinton administartion. Effectively, the Clinton policy would not evict homosexuals if they did not reveal their orientation, and military personnel could not ask a military person about their orientation.

Clinton made this policy change one of the very first acts of his administration, angering social conservatives and immediately polarizing the country. It fed into every fear that social conservatives had about the social agenda that Clinton might impose on the country. Political observers noted that the timing of this at the least was not a wise political move.

Obama has been studying presidential transition, and he has been seeking to avoid some of the mistakes of past transition teams. This is why I am surprised that his adminstration is talking about this issue and signaling that he will support openly gay people in the military.

On economic issues, Obama has been trying to appeal to conversatives, putting in signicant tax cuts into his economic stimulus package. And talk on this issue right now may have not been his intent, since his administration is refusing to talk any more about it at the moment. But I am surprised that either by design or accident that his team has forecast this change in military policy.

I am the first to say that we need to treat people with love and respect, including homosexuals. And I am the first to say that we cannot depend upon laws to enforce morality. In fact once support for a law falls below 50%, it is basically unenforceable.

However, I must say that this issue bothers me. The military does not support this measure. The courts have upheld the constitutionality of not allowing those who are openly gay to serve in the military. The only reason this is being done is to support a leftist social agenda. Read this news report.

Support for President Bush is at dreadful levels, even among conservatives. But they will soon miss his stand on social issues.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Talking with people at Starbucks

Today I went into the Starbucks at Hardin and El Dorado, which is very close to my house. I sometimes go to this Starbucks, but more often I go to the one on HWY 380.

As I walked in, I immediately recognized one of the workers. She was from the 380 store.

Some of you may remember me telling about the girl Vanessa who was homeless and that I met at Starbucks and that we took in for a night. Well, the worker at Starbucks that I saw today (Alyssa) is one of the workers there that showed a lot of kindness to Vanessa when she was at the store, giving her free drinks, letting her stay there all day, and even giving her some money.

When I came in, I smiled. We both recognized that we knew each other from the other store. We conversed and I said, "Alyssa, right?" She said, "Yes, James." I think she liked that I remembered her name, and I was glad that she remembered mine.

As we talked, I asked about her holiday and she asked about mine. When she asked where Becki's family, who had come in for the holidays, lived, I told her Colorado. She said that she had moved back from Pueblo, where she had been living with her ex-boyfriend. I found out as well that she was from Canada, though I never would have known from her lack of an accent.

It was great to have a good conversation with Alyssa. I have seen some of her wonderful qualities, and hopefully I can continue to show her a genuine faith and interest in her. Perhaps this will lead to her exploring faith issues, perhaps not. For now, I'm simply glad to try to share some sunshine and to know her.

Another perk to just talking with people and showing interest in them--Alyssa gave me my drink for free! And she encouraged me to go back to the other store and not be a traitor! :)

Do you have any place that you see the same type of service worker repeatedly? Do you engage them in conversation?

How to become a billionaire--move to Zimbabwe

Want to become a billionaire? It is simple. Move to Zimbabwe. Here is a news story about Zimbabwe, which just issued a $50 billion dollar note to deal with hyper-inflation.

Before you get dreams of being rich, note that a $50 billion dollar note in Zimbabwe is just enough to buy two loaves of bread.

Will we be paying for these stimulus packages down the road with hyper-inflation? I wonder.

What do you think the chances are that we will have significant or hyper inflation in the next few years?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Podcast your sermons and seekers will come-a real live story

Tonight, I met an engaged couple who was visiting with us, I believe for the first time. I went up and shook their hands and immediately the guy said, "I listened to you on podcast. I was really inspired by what you said, and we came to visit. Our last church folded up."

There was not much time before class, but I got to talk with them just briefly. Two things came to mind. First, I was a bit saddened to hear of a church dying--that must have been tough to experience. Second, I was glad to know that our podcasting was being listened to by those who were looking for a church.

A huge percentage of people check out a church online before attending for the first time. The look, feel, and content of the site can say a lot about the church. And of course, sermons and blogs on the site say even more. This is why my blog and the Missional Outreach Network are embedded in our site.

In addition to audio podcasting, we are also soon to add video podcasting. We are adding a couple of cameras and video processing equipment so that we can do closeups and multiple camera angle shots for our sermons. The internet is such a powerful tool, with the potential to reach a great many. It cannot alone convert anyone, but it can play a great role in reaching people today.

I'm looking forward to increasing our efforts in using the internet and our website this year to reach people.

Does your church have audio and/or video podcasting? Do you personally use this or know of people who do?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Son of Hamas founder converts to Christianity

Here is a video of the the son of one of the founders of Hamas. He grew up believing in his father, who was a leader in Hamas. However, the atrocities committed by Hamas caused him to turn to Christianity. What an amazing story of redemption! Is there any doubt that anyone can turn to Christ?!

What do you think of this video?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Governors seek $1 trillion dollars federal assistance

I just read in a news story that five governors are seeking federal aid of $1 trillion dollars. As someone once said, a billion here, a billion there--pretty soon we are talking about real money.

With the federal spending package that Congress and Obama are talking about, and now this request from the state, it looks like near $2 trillion dollars in federal spending is being proposed.

How in the world will we pay for this?