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Never mention free food to a journalist. Whenever a kind soul brings food into the newsroom, my co-workers spring to life, pop out of their cubicles and dash like lemmings to the free offerings, with little regard for their  dignity. I’m different, in that I don’t sit in a cubicle. I usually try to not be the first to race for the food. I said I try. I do, though, show restraint, limiting myself to only one piece of chocolate. (One piece of each variety, to be clear).

Speaking of free food, Lakepointe Church in Macomb Township on Sunday, March 18, is celebrating its second year. After the 10:30 a.m. service, there will be a free luncheon for all guests. It will mostly be a great time to get to know the fine people at Lakepointe. If you are looking for a church to check out, I strongly recommend Lakepointe. I’ve talked with Pastor Scott Blanchard a couple times, and I have lots of respect for him, as well as Jared Sabo, who leads youth ministries at Lakepointe.

You’re most likely way ahead of me in hearing about the KONY 2012 video that is very viral.

The video already has 37 million hits and counting. According to this story by The Associated Press:

Despite an International Criminal Court arrest warrant and the deployment last fall of 100 U.S. Special Forces to four Central African countries to help advise in the fight against Kony, few Americans know who he is.

Myself, I find it more than coincidental that Joseph Kony is suddenly getting all this deservedly bad press. A day ago, my daughter asked me if I knew anything about this Kony guy. It rang a bell, yes, but I’ll admit I couldn’t quite place it. Then after 2o seconds of watching the video, it was one of those, “Oh, yeah, of course!” moments. Two days before that, I was reading “The Hole in Our Gospel,” a book on which our church based a series that has just concluded. (Well, sorta. It’s more like just the beginning.)

In the book, author Richard Stearns makes a reference to Joseph Kony and his KLA. Not anything in depth, but enough to spell out clearly what a monster Kony is. I just find it a little weird that I was reading about this guy two days prior in a book that was written two years ago.

What’s more, it  was about a month ago that I was visiting my Aunt Nell, whose daughter’s family has been on the mission field in Kenya, Uganda and nearby countries for most of their lives. Aunt Nell was telling me about how her grandson, who repairs trucks, had to be cautious about venturing into certain areas because that was the domain of the KLA, which is led by this monster Joseph Kony, who she said could barely be called a human. Like I said, just too strange to be coincidence.

The KONY 2012 campaign is a testament to the amazing power of technology and and increasingly interconnected world. I’d be ecstatic if a viral campaign like this could topple this evil regime. It’s frustrating to know that Kony and people like him have been perpetrating these horrors for years now. Nonetheless, the KONY 2012 effort could become a template for significant change in the world.

This weekend marks both the end and the beginning of a special four-week series at Kensington churches. The series is based on the book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” written by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.  Kensington has intertwined the messages of the book with its outreaches already in place. The challenge for Week 3 was, “Think about water everyday.” You’d think that we’d think about water every day, but you must admit we take it for granted. There are probably a lot of us today who are thinking about how much we depend on power. I thought about water this morning because our dishwasher has died, and now I must wash the dishes the Old Fashioned Way, which, apparently, is a skill my children will never be able to grasp. I also heard a story this week about how in these United States, everyone west of the Mississippi will soon be coping, if they aren’t already, with a dwindling supply of fresh water. We are surrounded by the world’s most precious supply of fresh water. For this reason, I’m glad that the water monitoring system in southeast Michigan will continue to guard us. I used to complain about my ever-increasing water bills. They’ve gone from $30 a month when we first got here, to close to $130 a month now. I may still complain, but in reality, I’m so glad I have the option to pay for fresh water. When you get a few minutes, look at this video, and you will better understand how good we’ve got it.

At the end of each message, we were enticed to purchase an empty gallon jug for $5. The jug did not contain gas or milk, just air. But what a bargain! The picture at the top of this post is of the label attached to each jug. Many chose to give well above the five bucks, and many fetched more change from others by piquing curiosity about the empty gallons. As of Friday night, the people at Kensington had raised $125,000 — and counting! That money will be used to drill water wells for people in Pokot, Kenya. The author of “The Hole in Our Gospel” challenges us to think twice about what we believe is true. One of those “truths” is, there is nothing we can do to help the poverty of Third World countries. Give that some thought today and take a deeper look, because that “truth” may be a big lie.

I found the top two comments to this video very enlightening.

Here’s the first:

I always worry when I donate to charities like this. If you do this, give these people a well, is it going to lead to an increase in their population? The reason there is trouble is that there are too many people living in an area which can’t support them. So what then? We have two villages instead of one, and again we have trouble. So we give them another well? How about they control their population instead. I have seen what the population growth in Africa is like.

Followed by:

As a teen I cant do much but me and my friend are trying to find ways to raise money to donate. Keep up the good work!

Now it’s easy to me to say what a jerk that first person is, and say bravo to the teen with the big heart. But do I really have more hope than the first guy? I’d like to think so, but I’ll admit I’ve often felt there is nothing that can be done. I wonder how many times teens get their spirits crushed by the things we say?

As I said earlier, the series may be wrapping up this weekend, but the adventure may just be starting. The challenge for Week 4 is, “Be Part of the Solution.”

Here’s a confession. I never had Ramen noodles in college. Mac & cheese, definitely. By the truckloads. It was later I discovered the beauty of a seemingly harmless package of dried noodles with a mystical silver pouch stuffed somewhere inside. According to this article, Americans consume 4 billion packages of Ramen noodles a year! That stat will be skewered a bit upward on Wednesday. Kensington churches have challenged attendees to join the Hole in Our Gospel challenge. The second week of the challenge is A Hole in Our Menu. Each day has its own focus. Here is Wednesday’s:

Eat: Ramen Noodles 
Focus: Local Refugees
Southeast Michigan has a huge population of refugees from the Middle East. Many of these immigrants have suffered grave injustices and lived in places where they had little or no control over their lives. Many have lost family, friends and homes. They usually arrive with almost no money, possessions or understanding of American culture. They may not know English, and most lack access to a car – critical to getting employment. Thousands of Iraqi refugees who fled the war have gravitated to the Detroit area, home to America’s largest Arab population as well as a sizable Iraqi Christian (or Chaldean) community. Kensington is partnering with local schools and agencies to reach out in love and support for our new neighbors.

The idea is to try living on less than $2 a day, like 2.6 billion people do in this world every day. Take what you normally spend on food and give it to someone else. If you’re already in, I’m sure thank-yous are in order. If not, maybe give it a try.

Besides, Ramen noodles are the main ingredient to the most diverse dishes on the planet.

For guys, the words “marriage conference” can seem pretty scary. “Oh, boy! What did I do now?” is often our defensive response. Last weekend, my wife and I attended the “Love and Respect” conference at Christ the King church in Oxford. “Love and Respect” is the well-recognized mission of Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. Along with many other couples, future couples and others wanting to learn, we viewed the DVDs of the seminars over two days. I was impressed and glad I attended. You see, “Love and Respect” explains to women — yes, better than we probably ever could — what makes guys tick, why we do the things we do. There is no pressure, guilt or anything in this series to make you uncomfortable. Lest you think this is slanted toward guys, have no fear. We also got a great understanding of how women are wired. You will learn things you do not know, I guarantee it. I highly recommend that you learn more, maybe read the book, find the series or consider hosting a conference at your church. I would also challenge non-Christian couples wanting a better marriage to give “Love and Respect” a chance. In fact, there is a conference coming up in Fowlerville on Feb. 24-25. Finally, thanks to the staff at Christ the King Church for being so hospitable, even during the worst snowstorm of the year.

With all the hype surrounding Super Bowl Sunday, why let the opportunity slip?

Kensington church each year errs on the side of going overboard for Super Sunday services.Last year at Clinton Township, the service was played out in four quarters, with Kid Rock (wink) performing at halftime. Rory even penalized pastor Chris for using words from a previous sermon.

This year, the topic is (natch) Tim Tebow! Yes, why we love/hate Tim Tebow.

If you only attend church on holidays, maybe you’ll want to add this holiday to your schedule. Kensington never fails to deliver an entertaining Super Sunday service. And, I may add, never fails to drive home a message.

Last time I heard pastor Dave Wilson speak at Troy, the Lions chaplain had a few things to say about Tebowmania.

Being that nobody else has weighed in about Tebow, let me be the first. Well, there’s a chance I won’t be the first.

Unfortunately, I understand the hate for Tebow. Why isn’t there hatred for Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks? To me, he is far more outspoken about his beliefs, but I’ve never met at Jason Terry hater.

On the flip side, I think Denver is obligated to take an honest assessment of its future. If the Broncos get a quarterback the caliber of Andrew Luck, or  that Matt Flynn guy in Green Bay, how could they not go after them? Also, what if you had a receiver the likes of Calvin Johnson? Would you be happy with Tebow’s eight completions a game? I can tell you most NFL players would have a hard time playing in Tebow’s system.

Tebow, to me, proved all he ever needed to prove by getting the lowly Broncos into the playoffs and beating Pittsburgh. It may be the high point of his career. Hopefully not, but Tebow is mature enough to handle what comes his way. Tebow is an inspiration, and one sorely needed in our Jersey Shore society.

Kensington is making a big move this weekend. Two of its campuses, Rochester and Lake Orion, are merging and will meet as one at Lake Orion’s home, Lake Orion High School.

Carol Hopkins has the story.

Don’t mistake this for downsizing. Call it streamlining instead. Rochester has been meeting at Rochester Adams High School. In the short term, Rochester’s 1,800 visitors and Lake Orion’s 1,200 will have to share some space. After Easter, services will expand to three each Sunday: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon. I love that noon service! That sleeping-in excuse just doesn’t fly.

Click on the pic to watch video. Becky Lee, Campus Director for Kensington Orion church inside the Lake Orion high school auditorium. Kensington church is merging both their Rochester Adams and Lake ORion congregations into one at Lake Orion starting this weekend. The Oakland Press/TIM THOMPSON

Somewhere on the horizon, sites are set on a big building becoming the permanent home to the Rochester-Lake Orion congregation.

“Plans are under way to acquire a building of our own in north Oakland County,” says church spokesman Karl Nilsson in the article. “If all goes well, we will move from Lake Orion High into an existing 72,000-square-foot warehouse located about one mile north of the Palace on M-24.”

BTW, if you haven’t made Good Friday or Easter plans yet, Kensington’s churches have some awesome services planned for the weekend.

Get your tickets now. They’re free, but going fast.

There are many ways and places to celebrate Good Friday. Churches in New Baltimore this Friday are holding the traditional Passion Play in a not-so-traditional venue. The story of Christ’s crucifixion will be portrayed outside in New Baltimore. It begins at 10 a.m. Friday on the steps of St. Marys and ends at the waterfront at Burke Park. It’s an effort that joins members from various churches in New Baltimore, New Haven and Chesterfield Township.

Now that it’s illegal to text while driving (I can’t text while sitting still), we can turn our attention to more important matters. Like reading billboards. If you travel I-94 enough, you can’t not notice a billboard courtesy of Vox Church. It looks just like this image below – borrowed from the Vox website – but a thousand times bigger!

Now that’s an intriguing message. In my recent talks with church leaders and members, I’ve found two all-too-common themes. First, pastors are quick to point out how much church attendance has declined in metro Detroit over the past two decades. There are various reasons people don’t go to church. Of course, they may just not believe Christianity is the truth. However, the other common theme that I am surprised to hear about is how many people actually want to go to church, but have had very negative experiences at the churches they’ve grown up in or have visited since. If that’s you, maybe you should check out Vox or at least hear them out. Here’s a video from Vox about the subject.

Gotta like the honesty. I grew up in a small church and for the most part, I actually (gasp!) enjoyed church. I was surrounded by the greatest people I’ve ever met, and it was like a family to me. Okay, so lots of times, the sermons were BOOORRRRINGGG! But overall, it was not the negative experience that so many other people remember. Still, that Vox video has some sobering and inspiring lessons.

BTW: I’m adding to my blogroll the blogs from Vox pastors Matt Woodburn and Jonathan Seller.

Ah, vacation! No Florida or Cancun for us, but I’m thankful for a few days off from work and away from computer screens. I’m planning to get back to blogging on a daily basis, and I’m still planning to get out and meet many of the Christian leaders and people in the community. But I can’t let this one go by without giving you a heads-up. This Sunday, April 10, the EACH effort stops at Second Ebenezer Church for a Youth Rally. The gathering begins at 7 p.m., but you might want to arrive early.

Click on that logo to go to the EACH website.