Let Love Flow! by Steve Sjogren

Love for Valentine's Day
Love for Valentine's Day

As we reach out with the love of Jesus it doesn’t take very long to figure this out: the cupboard is sometimes bare.

As we aim beyond ourselves it seems there are regular shortages. At times there are too few supplies. Then there’s the issue of too few people to carry out the mission. Sometimes we come up short on vision. As my grandma used to say, “It’s all too little too late!”

No matter what your apparent limitations there is great good news. Be encouraged: God’s favor rests upon those who reach out to those He loves with acts of mercy. God anoints us when we reach out to love the not-yet included. Love is our only asset. Love has ALWAYS been our only asset.

When we act as though we have other tools and strategies going for us to accomplish God’s mission we make it clear we don’t understand the basic strategy of Jesus. I recently read a book that bemoaned the loss of the so-called Emergent generation in the Church today (those between ages 18 and 40). The author of this bestselling book examined the situation and then offered a number of responses to this dilemma the Church is facing. It struck me that the most obvious solution to connecting with this generation was not touched upon. What about plain old love?

It may sound cliché but as I understand the theory, it’s love that causes people to respond to the life of Christ. When love is present among God’s people, and through God’s people, those on the outside are drawn to Jesus in magnetic ways.

Yes, we need to learn to listen to those outside the Church far better. Yes, we need to stop judging non-Christians as they make their way into relationship with Jesus. Those are vital skills to develop. There is a need to repent for shabby attitudes in the Church these days. But those skill sets aren’t going to patch the leak in the bucket that is causing Emergent people to leave the Church.

First Century Believers lived at a time similar to ours, but the concern wasn’t just for a single age group. They were concerned for all the age groups of all the world. There was enormous concern. No one outside the Church was listening at the time. There was a real possibility that Christianity might be a one-generation thing. Peter addressed that concern the best.

“Love one another deeply for love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). That love is not limited to just those who think like us, who believe like us. Loving those outside the Church will happen spontaneously as we walk in the Spirit, as we walk in the example and power of Jesus. He exported his practical love and mercy to all who were open hearted who crossed his path.

There are open-hearted Believers and Not-Yet Believers right around you now. Let love flow!

Let’s Make A Deal by Randy Bohlender

Let's Make A DealOne of my early childhood memories is of the TV game show, “Let’s Make a Deal,” hosted by Monty Hall.  The general idea was that people, dressed up in outlandish costumes, would try and attract attention to be chosen to play some sort of game that involved trading things and making a blind choice of what was between door number one, door number two, or door number three.

In other words, make yourself look goofy, roll the dice and take your chances on the outcome.

Psalm 45 offers another deal…one that seems costly but pays out at a crazy rate.  Verse 10 says “Hear, oh daughter, and consider, and incline  your year, forget your people and your fathers’ house, and the king will desire your beauty.”

In a patriarchal society like the Old Testament, the cost of this is clear.  Forget your people.  Forget your father’s house.  Walk away from all that spells security to you. Take a chance on the unknown when the known is where you draw your sustenance…where you glean your identity.   An unmarried woman may grow old and lonely, but she’d always be taken care of…at least as long as her father was alive.

father and son on a beachIn our world, where fatherlessness is rampant, many people walk away from their father’s house prematurely.  Those with a healthy father/child relationship to point to are far and few in between, and even in those cases, the child does not look to the father for security and identity once they reach adulthood.   In many ways, our own culture has taken place of the patriarchal leader.   We are not told what to do or believe or manage our lives by an earthly father – we learn those things from a television, a movie screen, or the latest music group.  We take our value cues from actors and musicians.  They preach a fatherly message of self worth and self inflation that is the support structure of all sorts of our social mores, including the second house, the third car, and the fourth wife.  We believe in these things more than we believe in ourselves, and we’ll pay any price to get them.  We’re made to believe that these things make us who we are.

To walk away from your fathers house in 2010 certainly means to walk away from all that makes us comfortable and feels normal – to live abnormally, even uncomfortably.  I’m wrestling this one out myself right now.  What do I do, how do I spend my money, where does my time go based on what the culture tells me is important, is a must-have gadget or a must-see tv show.

If we can learn to escape that house, there is a promise – a better deal.  It’s called an audience with the King – but that’s not all.

Verse 16 promises us “In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.”  In other words, it may cost us our comfort, but the payoff comes in the form of sons.  One translation of the word used there for ’sons’ is ‘children of unrighteous men’.

Which of course, leads me to adoption.   Adoption in not cheap, not easy, and not without risks (although we’re working on all three of those…).   However, even at it’s most expensive, it’s most difficult, it’s most risky moments, if we step beyond the ‘take care of ourselves, feed the machine mentality’, we get an amazing payback.

In adopting, we collect the sons of unrighteous men and place them in the house of prayer.   We make princes in the kingdom of God out of paupers.  Beyond changing destiny, we change their current reality.  Everything becomes different for them – and everything becomes different for us.

The Blind SideMy favorite line from the recent movie, “The Blind Side” came during one of the lunch scenes.  The adoptive mother is having lunch with her friends, who remark “You’re changing that boys’ life!”  Quietly, Sandra Bullock responds “No.  He’s changing mine.”

It’s true.  And all it costs is everything.

Let’s make a deal.

Challenge:

What expense, gadget or indulgence do you have in your life that you could do without. Maybe it’s a purchase you were about to make or a Christmas gift you were going to return for exchange.    As a first step, pray about doing without it – for a while, or maybe forever.  Is it really a must-have, or did you just buy what you were sold by your father’s house?

If you can find it within yourself, do without it and seed it adoption by giving to an adoptive family or setting it aside as the beginning of your own adoption fund – then retweet a link to this or post it on your own blog.  It gets easier to leave your fathers’ house when there are others going with you.


Randy BohlenderWho is Randy Bohlender?

I’m a Christian. I know the vogue phrase is Christ-follower and Christian has a lot of baggage, but so do I. I’m doing the best I can (most days) to reflect Jesus to the world. Some days I get close. Some days, He’s unrecognizable by my reflection, but I’m trying.

I’m a husband. July 2009, Kelsey and I will mark our 20th anniversary. She is an amazing friend who challenges me to new heights every day. I married up. Most men do. In 20 more years, she and I will still be laughing. Maybe at you. Definitely at ourselves and our expanding tribe.

I’m a dad. We have three sons and three daughters with a baby on the way. Yes, I know. We look too young. It’s the internet – it takes ten years off of everyone (ask anyone who met someone through eHarmony). Having a family of this size gives a blogger a lot of material. If you read here long, you’ll learn a lot about my kids. Perhaps more than you’d ask. I make no apologies. I’m learning a ton about life and love from them.

I’m an Early Adopter. And I mean this on several levels…words, gadgets, and children.   Kelsey and I launched The Zoe Foundation for reasons cited here.  You cannot know much about me without understanding my heart for this.

I’m an intercessory missionary. I work with the International House of Prayer and TheCall, laboring in a 24/7 prayer room as well as organizing day long solemn assemblies across the nation.

How to Serve A School by Steve Bowen

I don’t know about you folks, but some of the best outreach opportunities come when i least expect them.  Most of them come from me just speaking less and listening more.  One example was our outreach to Fairborn elementary School in Ohio.

Adopt A School
Adopt A School

We had begun the long process of adopting Fairborn Elementary School. This past year has been a proving ground for us.

Rick Rusaw once answered when asked, How are you making such an impact within the school system you are in?

“We raked a lot of leaves.

It is such a simple approach.  Schools have thousands of felt needs.  all you have to do is look around for one you know you can meet.  then you do it.  You gain favor with an organization when you serve them, no strings attached.  While you are doing that, spend time with the people you are serving and try something different:  Let your actions spread the gospel rather than your mouth.  While you are being silent and working, listen to the people you are serving and you will find out how you can best serve them.

It is a simple kingdom principal: begin with what you have from where you are.

We already knew Fairborn Elementary was one of the lowest income schools in our area. The principals are a good kind of crazy, and really attempt to maintain an upbeat, creative fun environment for the 1700 kids and the teachers. They have a clothing shop at the school for the kids. When they see kids walking around in flip-flops, or with no coat they know the kid probably needs a pair of shoes and some warm clothing. Discreetly, they take the kids to the shop and they are able to pick out the the clothing and their own pair of shoes.  We knew we could help them with this.

We began to reach to the school by partnering with the Hope Foundation, a not for profit mobile food pantry. Each first Saturday of the month we deliver food to the school for the low income parents and kids. The principals spread the word and the people show up. They like what we do.

Backpacks Delivered
Backpacks Delivered

This spring we received a gift of $400 for shoes for the school and another couple added $300 to the gift. This enabled us to purchase 70 pairs of various sized shoes for the kids. My friend Cindy went on a shopping spree. She had a blast purchasing the shoes she thought her kids would like. When I brought the shoes to the school the principals helped me bring the shoes in from my car.

I chatted with them as we walked and they began to share their thoughts and needs.

We decided to ask what were the greatest needs of the school. We found out the custodians were over worked and needed help. We offered to do a Big Spring Clean. Leading up to the date they gathered a punch list. Mainly landscaping, signs and painting. On the day, we pulled weeds, painted, put up new signs and cleaned. The place looked great.

While we were doing this for the staff and kids, we discovered another huge need.  They have some serious problems with traffic flow as they handle 1,700 kids arriving each morning either by bus or car.  We looked over at the parking lot and found that we could fix this very easily–well with a little sweat equity and planning.  Having had similar woes as our church grew exponentially over the last few years, we had a pretty good handle on dealing with parking and traffic woes.  Pretty soon our best people were put on the case.  It took quite a few man hours, but before long we had painted traffic lanes and bus slots on the parking lot and presented

Now we are heading into a new school year. We will be continuing to care for the kids and the teachers by purchasing backpacks. Our people will take the packs home and fill with needed supplies. Our goal is to continue to serve our way into the heart of the school. Good deeds create good will that opens hearts to the good news.

Lots of Goodies!
Lots of Goodies

I went to the school to take pictures for the Big Spring Clean! I was snapping pictures in the playground during the recess period, a kid runs up to me and asks, “Hey mister, will you tie my shoes?” I replied, “Sure.” As I bent down to tie the smiling kids shoes I noticed, new shoes, no socks.(was wearing flip-flops now had shoes) I asked, “Hey did you get your new shoes from the school?” Grinning from ear to ear, he replied excitedly, “yep!” I finished tying is shoes, He said, “Thanks mister!,” and ran off to play. In that moment I felt the Son shine in my heart.

You know, small touches aren’t often long term need meeting events, but for that kid, and for that family it was a small thing, done with great love.

Who knows it may have even changed his world.


Steve Bowen
Steve Bowen

Steve Bowen is the Evangelism Pastor for The Dayton Vineyard:

“A Pretty Good Church”

Which is located in Beavercreek, Ohio. This column is an excerpt of Steve’s blog:

“Eyes Outward”
Ever attempted to run and play in flip-flops?