Spiritual Care at Jericho Road Community Health Center

Because of his limited English, and my non-existent Arabic, Ali* spoke to me through his teenage son.  I introduced myself as a part of the Spiritual Care team, and explained that my role was to see how he is doing spiritually, and offer whatever spiritual care that I could.  Ali said that he was comfortable talking with me about this, so I sat down.  I asked him about his background and discovered that he was an Iraqi man and a muslim.  He shared more, that he had come to Buffalo several years before.

As we discussed how his immigration to the US had affected his life and his spiritual health, I asked him, “Do you like it here, does this feel like home?”  At this question, Ali’s countenance fell, he responded, “No, I miss my homeland very much.”  He described his hope for the future of his homeland, and his desire to return there, but his equally strong desire to raise his children here in the US and his preference that they would stay.  He spoke of the violence and brokenness in Iraq, and his longing to bring help to his people.  It was obvious from his body language and facial expressions, as well as the words he was using, that he had some deep emotional discomfort.

I asked if I could pray for him, this led to a long conversation (confused by the need for translation) that I was a follower of Jesus, and that, while muslims pray at regular times during the day, I would like to pray for him right there in the room.  At first he seemed a little wary of my offer, and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was offering him prayer as a Christian, or if it was simply because of the language barrier.  When I was able to convey that I would like to ask God to bless him and his family, he responded with a strong, “yes!” in English.  He would not, however, let me pray just for his family.  He asked that I pray for the peace and prosperity of Iraq.  Again, I could see his distress over his nation and his people.

We held hands, the three of us, and I spoke to Jesus in English, while Ali’s son translated into Arabic for his father to understand.  I prayed very simply, asking the Holy Spirit to come and visit us there in the room.  I spoke a blessing to the father-heart of Ali for his children, and asked for God’s protection and provision over their family.  Then we prayed for Iraq, and we asked for God to set things right in that country.  We asked for peace, hope, and justice.  When we finished Ali thanked me repeatedly and heartily for my prayer.  I also thanked him (and his son) for joining me in prayer, and for allowing me to know some of the intimate details of their story, and I encouraged them that I was convinced that God cared deeply about them and about their homeland.

*Ali is not his real name.


"Hiding behind the task..."

I had a friend use this phrase in a meeting the other day. It struck me as very insightful...

He was referring to the way we often use a task to divert us from the goal of the task.  The goal is difficult, and we don't want to be seen as failing to accomplish it, the goal requires more effort, so we don't shoot for the goal.  We hide behind the task.

Bureaucratic red tape is usually an example of this.  'Getting the form filled out correctly' ends up being a way that the 'public servant' can cover his own butt without ever actually serving the public.

This is the fundamental problem with religion; we use the prayers, songs, events, acts of abstinence, and acts of service as ways of distracting ourselves from the more important reality.  The act of worshipping God can be the thing we use to prevent God from getting to close to our hearts.  Conversation about God's will can be a way of diverting us from doing God's will.  Obedience to God's previously revealed will can become a diversion from seeking God's presently revealed will...

...and nothing bother's Jesus more than this.  It is for this reason that He turned over tables, insulted the church leaders of His day, and ultimately got Himself killed.



I had the good fortune to hang out with a group of pastors and listen to Christena Cleveland yesterday.

One of her side comments was about the tendency among the millennial generation to confuse intentionality for a lack of authenticity.  I thought this very perceptive.  The yearning for authenticity is a generally good thing, however, if we won't do something unless it 'feels right' or comes from a place of deep yearning within us, then how will we ever engage in spiritual formation?  How will we ever learn something new?  How will we ever confront the evil in our own hearts?


Abortion, Gay Marriage, and Worldliness in the Church

Worldliness was a serious concern of the authors of Scripture. Paul, in his letter to Titus, proclaims that grace "teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." John, in his first letter, bluntly instructs, "do not love the world or anything in the world."

It is a serious concern of the church both past and present. Thomas a Kempis writes that "grace is precious, and may not be mingled with worldly concerns and pleasures." A popular radio preacher states, "worldliness is the sin of allowing one's appetites, ambitions, or conduct to be fashioned according to earthly values."

It is, dare I join such company, a concern of mine. I join with the Apostle Peter, as one "having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." I share the biblical concern that I, along with the church at large, would remain free from such worldly corruption.

Here, then, is the problem. The moment we start talking about 'worldliness creeping into the church,' it seems we all want to talk about two things:

Gay Marriage…



I won't deny that the church should be thinking, praying, and responding to these two issues, nor that they might very well be places where the attitudes of some christians are indeed being swayed by worldly opinions, but lets be honest, these two things ain't the problem. Not even close!

The place where worldliness is creeping into our church is the place where our culture has entered in without our knowledge, the places where we are so controlled by what our culture dictates that we just assume it is part and parcel with christianity. If we want to talk about worldliness creeping into the church we have got to talk about the unholy trinity of materialism, individualism, and consumerism.

We live in a culture saturated with the message that YOU are the most important thing on earth, and that you should celebrate this by exercising your right to have whatever you want. Indeed, in our culture, we have come to the place where the greatest sin would be to leave personal desire un-pursued! The mantra of Americana is to look deep within your heart, find your truest yearnings, and then do everything in your power to realize them. From billboards and junk mail, to banner ads and commercials, our culture screams, "Have it Your Way," and, "Make the Most of Now." We are told to buy it "Because You're Worth It," and that "Pleasure is the Path to Joy." It is, after all, one of the inalienable rights bestowed upon us by our founding documents as a nation, that of the 'pursuit of happiness.'

The sad reality is that a short search could produce church slogans that could fit right in with the slogans above! (I will refrain from posting some, because I don't want to offend anyone who might come across this.)  Our christian culture is, in most places, built upon the same assumptions about the role of the individual, and individual desire, and individual fulfillment, as the culture around us. Our messages, explicit and implicit, our programming, our evangelistic strategies, our discipleship methods, and our definition of christian maturity, all are deeply tilted toward providing individualistic consumers of religious goods and services the fulfillment of their expectations in return for their giving and their attendance.

That, my friends, is the world creeping into the church.


18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 3:18-20 15

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17



Quote of the week:

"America, where every day is Fat Tuesday!"

The Perverting Force

I had a recent conversation with my brother.  He is in the fitness/health industry in Southern California.  He shared with me that one of the largest forces perverting his ability to help people become healthy, is the fact that he derives his livelihood from this endeavor.

People come to him saying "help me to be healthy."  When he then offers them his program for health, the response is "I don't want that, I want some other program."  They then leave, and go somewhere else where they are given what they want, instead of what makes them healthy.  This creates a strong incentive to offer people not what makes them healthy, but rather what they want, so as to keep them around as paying customers.

His need to feed, clothe, and shelter his family is set in direct opposition to his desire to help people be healthy, precisely because he makes his living by helping people to learn to live a healthy lifestyle.

The connections to 'professional Christian ministry' are boundless...