He's Singing My Song

President Obama gave a speech to schoolchildren the other day to start the school year, which some schools chose not to show.  Some of what he had to say was so consistent with my purpose message that I thought, "Hey, he's singing my purpose song! I should develop a purpose curriculum for youth and children to reinforce the truth he spoke." Here are some quotes from the president's speech:

"Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide."

"I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education - and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class or spending time each day reading a book."

"I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down - don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it."

Pretty good stuff, Mr. President. So what do you say? Is it time for a youth purpose curriculum? (Don't say yes too quickly, for then I will ask you to help fund it!)  You can read the president's speech in its entirety here.


09-09-09 Is Here!

Don't forget to do your part by donating $9 today to the Born to Fly International 09-09-09 campaign to combat child trafficking and human slavery. You can go to their website to give or send a check to the address on their site.  You can check out my post last week that more fully explains the rationale for the organization and the event.  Thank you in advance for your help! 


Born to Fly

It is my privilege to serve on the board of directors for an organization called Born To Fly International (B2F), an organization devoted to seeing the end of child and human trafficking and slavery around the world.  When we were planning B2F, we didn't want to have a name that addressed the problem. We desired a name that would address the solution and the end result we were seeking.  We just didn't want to see people freed from slavery, we wanted to see them fulfill their God-given purpose and fly to the highest heights possible. 

This coming week, B2F has organized a worldwide event to put a dent in the trafficking and slavery problem.  This Wednesday is September 9, 2009, so the B2F leaders are planning a 09-09-09 campaign.  They are seeking 9,000 people to donate just $9 toward the B2F program. That money will then be used to publish a a wordless book and companion curriculum that can be used anywhere in the world to educate children about the dangers they face from unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. 

My wife and I have already given and there is an amazing move on Twitter and through the blogosphere concerning 09-09-09.  People everywhere are talking, blogging and twittering about 09-09-09 and what it represents.  People are welcoming a chance to do something, no matter how small, toward eradicating this heinous crime.  I urge you to get involved as well.  Give up a meal at McDonald's, a movie, or some other luxury for the sake of 09-09-09.  I promise you that, when you give and support this worthy initiative, you will feel terrific.  You will know that you did your part to help save many children and their families from the horrors of separation and slavery.

There has been so much written about B2F and 09-09-09, so please go to Born to Fly founder Diana Scimone's blog to read it all for yourself. Pass the word to your friends and then be one of 9,000 to give by donating via credit card or PayPal right on the B2F site.  You don't have to wait until 09-09-09 and please don't hesitate to give often and generously after 09-09-09 as well. 


Politics Today

I got an urgent email from someone in our church who is dismayed over the current debate raging in our land and wanted some advice. I will not mention her name or what side of the debate she felt she was on. Her questions were legitimate and passionate, and I felt I needed to respond right away.  I spent so much time in responding that I just had to find another use for what I wrote, thus this post.  Let me know what you think, as I hope she will as well.  Here goes.

Dear,

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).

Thanks for writing me at this point in your life and congratulations on your new position.  How cool is that?  God has opened a door for you and I am glad you are there to represent the Kingdom of God in your daily work.

God used politics to bring me to Him and then shut the door.  I dreamed of going into politics, but God gave me a better job and career, and I have never looked back.

I am always amazed that Jesus came while a corrupt, despotic dictator ruled the world.  Not once did He address the political ills of His world.  In fact, when before Pilate in John 19, He said He was more upset with what Judas had done than with Pilate who had the authority to kill Him (and would soon give the order; see John 19:8-11). 

We are a curious mix of politics and "religion" in this country and it has always been so.  That, combined our value of free speech and with an explosion of free-speech platforms via the Internet, has given rise to a host of experts on both sides who tell us what is right and wrong. You have heard many of those voices.  Therefore, it is important to hear His voice in the midst of the mob, and my focus in these days has been Micah 6:8:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I had a wise man tell me once that we should not be Republicans or Democrats but speak as the people of God prophetically to both camps, for they are both flawed systems filled with people who need to repent.  I have heeded his advice, developed my personal values and sought to walk them out in the world (not just this country) as God has given me the chance.

So my dear sister, my advice, which may indeed disappoint you, is to chill out, go do your job, do it very well unto the Lord, be true to your personal governing values, your God and your church, listen to everyone and no one and be compassionate to all, whether whining liberals or arrogant conservatives.  That has been my philosophy and it has worked pretty well for me.

Feel free to respond and to accept or reject all or any part of what I wrote with which you may disagree.  You won't hurt my feelings, for I realize that these issues are very contentious and urgent at this moment. I learned a long time ago, however, that we are not here to represent our government, I am here to represent my God and His government. His government is not of this world and truly does focus more on love, compassion and service.  Is it fair to say that we have a higher calling?

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13).

In Him,

Pastor John

My Church Owns a Bar!

My church, Allegheny Center Alliance Church, yesterday completed the purchase of a neighborhood bar that had been a nuisance for years.  I think that is so cool!  You can read about the transaction here. If every church bought a bar and turned it into a legitimate business, it would impact every community where the church is located for the good. Now we have to figure out what to do with the place, but God led us this far and He will lead us all the way. 


Sophia Fund Update

I took some time to add up the numbers today, and I have received $5,594 to date for the Sophia Fund.  We have sent $2,500 into Zimbabwe and $3,000 into Kenya so far to feed HIV/AIDS orphans and widows. If you want to see why your gifts to this Fund are so urgently needed, please watch this BBC video report from Zimbabwe. 

Then make a contribution of at least $5 toward the fund and hopefully more. You can use the "Chipin" widget on this site to contribute, go directly to my website to contribute there through PayPal, or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. Make sure you let me know it is for The Sophia Fund. Don't delay; give today and make a difference in the world.

If you give a gift of $25 or more during the month of June, I will send you a free copy of my book, Strictly Business, while supplies last (I have sent out seven so far). Thanks, and I look forward to seeing you play a part in addressing the issues of HIV/AIDS and world hunger.


H1N1 Flu

I do not want to take our most current health risk lightly.  From everything I read, it is a serious problem that is spreading quickly. I urge you take whatever precautions you feel you must take. I just wanted to share what I do when faced with a dilemma such as this.  To describe it, I would like to talk about my trip to Afghanistan on a missions trip a few years ago.

When I went to Kabul, the capital city, it was right after the war in Iraq had started and the war in Aghanistan had finished, not the best time for an American to be in Afghanistan.  I was there as part of a missions team that was teaching a business seminar at Kabul University and I was there for three weeks.  I was one of two Americans on the team.  The rest were from the Philippines, Korea and Canada.

We began each morning at 7 AM with two hours of group prayer and devotions for the 30 of us who lived together in two homes.  Since residents had thrown hand grenades at the group van just weeks before I arrived, believe me when I tell you that no one missed morning prayer.  (On the day before I left Kabul, we found out that our team had been targeted by a bomb squad from the university engineering department.)

During our morning prayer session, we would all stand and recite Psalm 91 and that is the point I want to make in this post.  We took those words seriously and stood on them every day as we went about the business at hand.  God protected us and He has protected and will protect you. As this pandemic sweeps the world, would this be a good way to start or end your day?  In case it is, here is the psalm in its entirety so you won't even have to go look it up.

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 2 I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
       my God, in whom I trust."

 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
       and from the deadly pestilence.

 4 He will cover you with his feathers,
       and under his wings you will find refuge;
       his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 5 You will not fear the terror of night,
       nor the arrow that flies by day,

 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
       nor the plague that destroys at midday.

 7 A thousand may fall at your side,
       ten thousand at your right hand,
       but it will not come near you.

 8 You will only observe with your eyes
       and see the punishment of the wicked.

 9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
       even the Lord, who is my refuge-

 10 then no harm will befall you,
       no disaster will come near your tent.

 11 For he will command his angels concerning you
       to guard you in all your ways;

 12 they will lift you up in their hands,
       so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
       you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 14 "Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him;
       I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
       I will be with him in trouble,
       I will deliver him and honor him.

 16 With long life will I satisfy him
       and show him my salvation."


Good Friday

I got home from the UK on Tuesday and have been catching up and setting up my work for next week.  The weather has been cool; we even had some snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It always seems to get chilly around Easter, so this isn't unusual for Pittsburgh.  This is the first Easter since my mother passed away and I have thought of her a lot.  She always made a big deal about Easter.

Speaking of Easter, I remember Good Friday in the church we attended as a family when I was growing up.   It's name is St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church.  I would attend service on Good Friday and it was a morbid event.  I won't go into all the details, but suffice it to say I always came home depressed (and rather dusty, since we had to crawl around the floor of the church in adoration of the crucified Christ).

Yet that experience helped shape me, as our childhood always does, and so I still stop and reflect on Good Friday, even if I don't participate in rituals of old.  Good Friday for you and me is an important day, for it was on that day that Jesus purchased our access to heaven. 

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

That makes Good Friday truly good, even though Jesus suffered the most agonizing death that man has even devised against his fellow man.  With that in mind, are you taking full advantage of what Jesus purchased on your behalf?  What;s more, is the truth of resurrection life and power also present in your life, work and walk?  If not, then the realities of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are just historical facts and not a real presence in your daily living.


Zimbabwe Situation

I received an update today from my friend in Zimbabwe, who will remain anonymous to you.  Here is the latest that this person had to report to you and me:

Internet is so slow this side of the world. I hope you are now aware that we using multiple currencies.  You can go into any shop and use South Africa Rand, the Botwsana Pula, US$ and British Pounds.  Unfortunately you can't use the Euro. The disadvantage though is that the currencies have a permanent rate. It's only in Zimbabwe where the pula and rand have the same value of US$1:10 of either.  Somehow we have managed to devalue other countries' currencies.

The Zim dollar is no longer an "official currency".  The only Z$ in circulation are the 50 billion notes that are used mainly to pay for public transport.  We do not have enough of the foreign currencies to circulate, to the extent that other companies are paying their employees in vouchers that are redeemable at some shops, but not all.   We do not have enough coins, so when you go into a shop, you really have e to round off your purchases.  If you have change due, sometimes you only get change vouchers only redeemable at that shop.

Most people are finding it very hard to make a living.  All those who thrived on changing money which was known as “burning the US$” have found themselves with no jobs.  Even the employed person is finding it hard to make ends meet.  Accommodation is where most people are suffering.  In Harare CBD most people are paying US$ 200 for bachelor’s flat and US$500 plus for a two-bedroom flat or house. There are some people who are really making a killing and making money by either printing fake US$ currencies and making it even harder for the faithful ones to make a decent living.

Banks are laying off people as is so many other companies.  Yes, the dollarization has its advantages as well as disadvantages.

I was able to send $200 to my friend in Zimbabwe from The Sophia Fund to feed her orphans, but we need more.  Can you make a contribution today?  Just $5 will go a long way toward relieving someone's suffering.  Remember, every penny you give goes right to the poor and hungry with no overhead whatsoever. You won't find a better deal than that!

You can use the "Chipin" widget on this site to contribute, go directly to my website to contribute there through PayPal, or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA  15221.  Make sure you let me know it is for The Sophia Fund. Don't delay; give today.