Win an iPod Shuffle

So, here’s your chance to win an iPod Shuffle (2nd Gen). All you need to do is follow ObamaNews on Twitter. If the account reaches 70,000 followers by 12:00 PM EST on Thursday, March 19, one lucky follower will be selected (using TwitRand) to receive an iPod shuffle.

You do have to be a real person to win (i.e. not Starbucks or some other corporation), and you’ve got to reside in the U.S. Sorry, I don’t want to run afoul of any international laws! You’ll also be responsible for any taxes or fees or whatever.

If you win and you’re willing to let me use a picture of you with the Shuffle, you can get some free publicity on my blog and my personal Twitter account, which has around 2,000 followers.

Good Luck!

AIDS in Ethiopia

In preparation for our trip, we had Dr. Cynthia Calla, founder of LifeRise AIDS Resources, come speak to our group at our January 4 meeting. (Like I mentioned before, I’m behind on updates!)

Here are a few facts on AIDS:

  • Nearly 8500 people die from AIDS every day.1
  • That is like having more than 13 Indian Ocean Tsunami’s per year.1
  • 2.2 million of the 3.1 million deaths that occur each year are in Africa.1
  • Washington DC has one of the highest incidences of AIDS in the United States.

Sometimes it’s easier to go help “those people over there” than the ones in our backyard. I have a heart for people suffering in third world countries and want to (and do) take steps to care for them, but I don’t want to forget about the people who are right here either.

1. Yale AIDS Watch

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What are your thoughts on the Inauguration?

Here are some of my thoughts:

What are yours?

Inaugural Photos

Rachel and I went out to see Barack Obama’s Inauguration today. We were far enough back that we couldn’t actually see what was going on at the Capitol, but here are some shots of what we did see, both in our trek to and from the National Mall and our experience there.

Regardless of your political persuasion, there is no doubt that the inauguration of America’s first African-American President is an historic moment, and it was very cool to be there for it.

How did you experience the Presidential Inauguration?

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I took this shot on the way home from the inauguration. It was inspired by a similar (although much better) one from David Russell. There are some things that are too easily forgotten.

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This is Bernard (or so we’ve named him), the St. Bernard that lives across the street from us. He’s quite cute.

2008 Year in Review

It’s been a crazy year.

At the beginning of the year I traveled to South Carolina, New York, and Maryland (ok, that one’s a short trip) to do some campaigning. I was hoping to find a job in a Presidential administration (assuming my candidate won, of course).

A side note (but a cool one) was that while campaigning I made my first trip to New York City.

Also at the beginning of the year I started attending Christian Masculinity 2.0 (which has had a major impact on my life) and launched this blog.

In March I was sitting in a Good Friday service at NCC, and I felt God renewing the call to ministry that He had placed on my life nearly seven years earlier. I stopped campaigning and started trying to figure out what was next.

In July, after much thought and heartache, I applied for and was accepted into the new one-year-internship program (i.e. Protege Program) at NCC.

During July, August, and September, I built a very large and robust new website for the House Committee that I worked for.

On September 7, I started working at NCC as a Protege, and on September 30, I quit my job on the Hill.

The fall was filled with retreats and conferences, but the one that had the biggest impact on me was the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. Craig Groeschel spoke on “It,” and he and the Holy Spirit rocked my world.

In November 2007, I launched http://polfeeds.com, a website aggregating news from Congress, the President, and the Presidential campaigns, and in the two months leading up to the election it received 94,834 visits. Along with this I built many Twitter accounts, some of which now have between 1,000 and 5,000 followers.

All in all, it’s been quite a busy year. What’s on tap for 2009? Stay tuned tomorrow for more.

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I Voted

Well, I got done voting a little while ago. Everything went just fine. Be sure to check out my quick video recap at the bottom of the post.

On my way to the polls

On my way to the polls

My Ride

My Ride

Me on my way in

Me on my way in

Electioneering signs outside the polling place

Electioneering signs outside the polling place

Vote Here

Vote Here

Entrance

Entrance

The Line

The Line

My Ballot

My Ballot

The Voting Machine

Voting Machine

Voting Booths

Voting Booths

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished



Recap

The Political Elephant – Redux

A few days ago I mentioned that NCC was doing a sermon on politics this past weekend. I wanted to post the video for those of you who didn’t get a chance to see it. Pastor Mark handled the topic very well, and while I may have different opinions on a few issues, it was an excellent message and one that is obviously timely.

This media relies on Flash.

The sermon is also available as streaming audio, downloadable video, and downloadable audio, and in case this sermon piqued your interest, you can check out some others at http://theaterchurch.com/media or subscribe to the podcast.

Since we’re on the subject, I should make the disclaimer that the political views I express here in my blog are not in any way the political views of National Community Church, which doesn’t have any political views. Also, I don’t believe that my political views are normative for followers of Jesus. As the Sojourners have said, “God is not a Republican. Or a Democrat.” In other words, my politics are my politics, not the Church’s politics, not NCC’s politics, not Christian politics, just mine. My faith may inform my politics (although it’s more complicated than that), but other followers of Jesus would say the same thing and come to radically different conclusions (more on that another day).

National Community Church – The Elephant in the Church – The Political Elephant – Mark Batterson

Date: 11/03/2008 – Disclaimer

I figured it’s safer to share this via video because you can’t stone me.

I want to make highly charged statements that will cause divisions and ultimately split our church. Okay, that’s exactly what I don’t want to do.

One of the things that struck me early on is that a lot of the churches in DC want to tell their members how to vote and what to think on matters of domestic and foreign policy. I have opinions, but I don’t think that is our job as a church. All of this stuff is important, but I think that our job as a church is to make disciples. We certainly want to teach things that affect all aspects of our lives, including politics. We need to think critically, biblically and tactically about every issue. I think we need to have more Christians called to culture shaping positions like politics, but all to often our politics are obstacles that keep some people from getting to the cross. Jesus didn’t come to set up an earthly kingdom but a spiritual kingdom that would transcend every earthly kingdom. When people wanted to make Jesus an earthly king, he resisted them. Why? Because he was setting up a transcendent kingdom.

Here’s what I want to do this weekend. I want to share some biblical principles that should shape our politics. I know some of you are disappointed.

Point 1 – Blood is thicker than water.

Family comes first. Your friends will come and go, but family is forever.

Here’s the bottom line. Were an incredibly diverse congregation. We have people who have been inspired to work on the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign. So essentially, we cancel each other out (j/k).

Galatians 3:26-29 – …you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If Paul had been writing in the 21st century, he probably would have included Republican and Democrat.

Those divisions disappear in Christ Jesus, we’re all one in Christ. What Paul is saying is that our allegiance to Christ comes first, the family of God second, and politics or whatever else third.

The blood that runs through God’s family is thicker than water.

I remember that one NCCer who was looking for a job on the Hill years ago was in a small group that fasted and prayed for him to find a job, but the thing that was most impressive was that there were people in his small group from both sides of the aisle.

We’re to take our obligation to love each other more seriously than our allegiance to either political party

Point 2

Philippians 3:20-21 – We are citizens of Heaven.

Yes, we’re citizens of the U.S. And I’m proud to be an American.

I don’t think you can look at the history of our nation and not see that we’ve done some things wrong as well as some things right, and I believe that we are a blessed nation.

I know some of you are looking for clues as to who I’m voting for, and this might seem like a clue, but it might just be a jedi mind trick. Caring for the poor, homeless, sick, etc. is not a political agenda, it is a Godly platform. The government has gotten involved because the Church has dropped the ball. The church in too many instances has abdicated its responsibility.

Donald Miller’s church started something called the Advent Conspiracy. It’s an organization that promotes less materialism at Christmas and instead to help others with the money you would have spent on yourself.

BTW, Donald has publically endorsed Obama, and I didn’t know that when we met. When I say that, some of you like him more, and some of you like him less. We didn’t even talk about politics, but I got e-mails from people who were angry. There’s an issue on which I disagree with Donald. Some people would even call it a litmus issue. I may disagree with him, but I can’t disagree with the fact that he biked across the U.S. to raise $250k for (kids with cancer?).

We need to be the blessing. We need to be going into our schools and ask how we can be a blessing. We need to be volunteering our time and serving our communities.

Let me put a dream on the radar. We held an event called the “Convoy of Hope” a few weeks ago. It was amazing, we distributed groceries, had a job fair, etc. But we realized it was just a means to an end. I believe that in the next year we will have a ministry center where we can care for the physical and spiritual needs of the community. Call it a Dream Center.

I believe politics is a noble calling. We need people in culture-shaping position. I believe God places people in strategic places. Joseph in Egypt.

John 6:14-15 – After people saw the miraculous sign Jesus had done, the people wanted to make him King by force, so Jesus withdrew.

People wanted to elect Jesus, Jesus for president, but political policies are not ultimate solutions. The Lord’s Prayer, the will of God being done

Point 3 – Don’t pass judgment on disputable matters.

This is incredibly important when it comes to politics. Therea re issues in the Bible that are Black and white, and when you turn something that is black and white into grey, that is called relativeism, and that is wrong. I believe we need to stand our ground on political issues that are black and white, but when we take issues that are grey and make them black and white, that is called legalism. Both are incredibly destructive.

Romans 14:1 – Don’t pass judgment on disputable matters.

There are some doctrines that are fundamental.

But there are other issues, the rapture, eternal security, whether or not to sing the 3rd verse of a hymn that we have always debated.

Rupertus Meldenius – “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

I know there are one or two issues that some people are the only important issues, and there are one or two that I weigh more heavily than others.

Not everyone is going to be passionate about the same things that I am passionate about. Sometimes we think that if everyone doesn’t care about the things we care about then their lukewarm Christians. We need people who care deeply about health care, about life, about the environment.

We need our differences, and when it comes to disputable matters or matters of conscience, we need some latitude.

Point 4 – If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

The Israelites were always complaining and grumbling. I think we need to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

You know what, if you do vote and your person doesn’t get elected, then don’t spend the next four years complaining.

Here’s what’s going to happen this week. We’re going to go to the polls, and unless there are lots of hanging chads, we’ll know who wins. If your candidate wins do a little dance. If your candidate wins, maybe it’s time to enact Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Maybe if we started praying, it would change the political tone in our country.

You know what, when I’m gossiping about someone, I can’t look them in the eye, but when I’m praying for someone, I can.

Point 5 – Respect those in authority

Romans 13:1, 7

I know what some of you are saying, “Paul didn’t live in 21st century America.” No, he lived in Rome, which was worse.

It’s fine to joke, and I know some of us have trouble showing respect to certain candidates/officeholders, but we need to show some level of respect for their office.

I know it’s not always easy, but if you have the courage to follow the example Jesus set, I think you can make the same difference Jesus did.

Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great, talks about Level 5 Leaders. He said what makes someone a Level 5 Leader is humility, which may be surprising. When we lead in a humble spirit, when we engage in a humble spirit, ultimately, it’s change we can believe in.

Alleviating suffering and caring for the poor is not a political agenda; it’s a God agenda. God is bigger than a good president or a bad president. The church ought to be an example of unity for Capitol Hill. Proverbs (?): true wisdom has two sides.

Final thought:
When the election is over, it will be 4 years until the next one. How about the church helps solve problems in the interim.

Shane Claiborne: What’s more important than how we vote on Nov. 4 is how we live on Nov 3 & 5.

Do you cry…

…for the 13 year old Somali girl who was stoned to death for “adultery” after being raped by three men?

…for the children who were nearly crushed by a mob as they tried to get food or for the rest of the brutal, bloody, forgtten war in the Congo?

…for the victims of terrorist attacks in northeast India?

…for the Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian rockets?

…for the Palestinian civilians killed in the Israeli counter-attacks?

Does any of this make you cry?

Do the things that break the heart of God break your heart?

Do you do anything about it?

Do you vote?

Do you pray?

Do you cry?

The Political Elephant

Warning: this is a post mostly for my political friends in DC. It may not be super-relevant to anyone else. No, it’s not what you’re thinking. This isn’t a post about the Republican Party.

National Community Church (my church) is doing a sermon series on topics that we (being both NCC specifically and churches in general) don’t like to talk about, and we’re using the “elephant in the room” metaphor as our theme. This week, we’re talking about politics, and I want to invite you to come.

I can’t promise you’ll like everything you hear, but you won’t be told that if you hold X political position then you’re ungodly, going to hell, or a sinner. In other words, neither you nor your party will be demonized, and I think you may see a side of Jesus and his followers that is different than the ones you see in the news.

So, if you’re interested in politics and have a negative view of Evangelical churches for political reasons, I encourage you to drop by a service this weekend.

We meet in four locations around DC:
Saturday, 5:00 & 6:30 @ Ebenezers Coffeehouse (Capitol Hill)
Sunday, 9:00; 10:15, & 11:30 @ Union Station Theaters
Sunday, 10:00 @ Georgetown Theaters
Sunday, 10:30 @ Ballston Common Mall Theaters

If you decide to come, drop me a comment here or on Twitter or shoot me an e-mail. I’ll try to be at whatever service you pick. If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll be headed to the G-town service. Hope to see you there!

Update: Just a quick note, the 5:00 service @ Ebenezers is usually packed out, so if you’re interested in going Saturday night, the 6:30 service would probably be your best bet.