Saturday, October 29, 2016

Have you considered my servant Job?

Our missionaries have engaged in corporate prayer and fasting on and off over the years. We do it once a month, where we fast together and pray over serious concerns about our ministry, and then come together, pray and worship, and break fast. God has moved greatly though this. He led us to our first building donation this way. He revealed spiritual bondages we had come under. And He's brought clarity and guidance to our vision. Unfortunately, we get distracted from time to time and stop doing it. We get overwhelmed by the physical realities and quit. Or, it becomes too “religious”. It becomes a rote tradition that means less and less each time we do it. Then God brings conviction on us and says, “Did I ever tell you to stop?”

It's encouraging to look at what we have prayed for and what has come to pass. Though Sun Ministries has existed for 10 years, we've only been engaging the Isaiah 61 Initiative since 2009. In that short time we've accomplished a lot. And not without set backs.

For example, we are in the midst of renovating a house for one of our employees. We have owned the house for a few years now, and only occasionally would do some tear-out and clean up, or re-secure the building after someone breaks in. This summer, we bought the lumber necessary and started the hard work. And then a string of thunderstorms came. And then we lost one of our rehab workers. And then we lost several other employees, requiring our remaining rehab worker to switch to other tasks. And then the woodshop got an order, pulling me off of doing anything with the rehab. Then several months passed by. We started work again. More rain. More abundance of work in other departments. I broke my finger. We discovered we had bought the wrong lumber. Our generator died. Our air compressor died. But finally...finally...some progress. Some success.

Or look at our cafe. It is a constant challenge to keep it moving. There is so much personal interaction with customers. Equipment breaks down on a regular basis. Employees have crisis that must be addressed. We run out of inventory.

Our property maintenance has all the same problems. And so does the more spiritual aspects of our ministry. We struggle to produce training because we are constantly overwhelmed by physical obstacles. Terry, our executive director, gets pulled into all kinds of things that prevent him from organizing, planning, writing books, etc. We know things we should do and want to do that keep getting put on the back burner because a car got stolen, or someone called in, or a motor died, or the roof is leaking...

There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. God had blessed him and protected him. And satan thought this was the only reason that Job bothered to honor God at all. Not that he feared Him, but because he had it good. Job never had to want or worry.

Satan turned out to be wrong about Job. I certainly don't envy Job's sufferings. Nor do I think I am as righteous as he or have lost as much as he did. But I do think there is something to be said for persevering through obstacles.

A while back our sewer line broke. It was annoying, gross, and costly. I clearly remember complaining to God, asking Him why He didn't just mend the line and protect us from all this hassle. He essentially said, “Everyone else here has to deal with aging, decaying sewer lines. Why do you get a pass?” Later, our cars were broken in to. I again brought the question to God, and He again brought the same response. Even later, someone broke into our yard and stole a stroller. In my arrogance, I repeated the exchange with God.

There is an aspect of trials, obstacles, problems that are just the result of living in a fallen world. There's an aspect that is our fault, dealing with the consequences of our choices (or lack of diligence). And there is an aspect of it all that is real spiritual warfare. Real attacks from real enemies, that God allows. Why? Because it declares who He is.

God didn't fail Job. He didn't stop being who He was simply because satan questioned Him. He didn't suspend His heart so that He could perform a cosmic experiment. And for us, God has continued to guide us and move us forward. He has brought correction and blessing and vision. He has brought last minute provision. He has brought strength and healing. He has brought much conviction so that we may turn more emphatically towards Him. He has taught and disciplined us, all the while being gracious and faithful. He has, in His sovereignty, shown what He can do through our weakness.

Had we engaged this work with all the needs met – endless supplies of cash, perfect equipment, all the necessary skills – it would hardly be impressive. It's like the Yankees getting to the World Series. Of course we would be successful. Of course we would be joyful and content. Of course we would praise God. We would never have had to want or worry.

As I've gone through each day or hour of the past month, I've been consistently discouraged. Mistakes, sickness, wounds, breakdowns, delays. But looking back now and seeing what has been accomplished despite all those things...I am amazed. Despite my ignorance, exhaustion, forgetfulness, and distraction, God has done what I could not. And He has given me a chance to work more closely with Him by reminding me that He is still here and doing what He has always done.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Second Chance Bazaar

Sun Ministries has opened it's sixth social enterprise: The Second Chance Bazaar. Since 2009, we have opened a wood shop, sewing center, cafe, maintenance services and lawncare, as well as engaging our own rehabs (3 complete and about 7 in the works), hosting dozens of work groups, assisting in and then running the Hyde Park Festival, and facilitating training for missionaries. No wonder we drink so much coffee!

The Second Chance Bazaar is a unique retail space. We offer a selection of second-hand items, including clothes, appliances, furniture, baby items, and other unique finds, as well as a great selection of our local, hand-made, repurposed goods, like coffee bag messenger bags and clutches, coffee bag wall art, pallet wood furniture, and children's furniture made from upcycled counter-top material.

for that bird-loving, coffee-drinking, glassware collector in your life

So why open Second Chance with so many other things going on? We have been making and selling items from day one with no real space to sell them. We've tried craft shows, earth day festivals, and online retailers with limited success. Once we opened Sun Cafe, it gave us a place to show items. But still, that's a cafe first, and a market second. Most people come in to buy a burger, not a table. We've also brought items to trade shows, but that limits us in both items offered and the audience. Having a dedicated retail space allows us to experiment with different items and get real-time feedback. It also allows us place to sell the numerous items we've been donated that have not found a home. We use items for our businesses, our missionaries, and our employees. But sometimes we get useful things that no one has need for. With The Second Chance Bazaar, we can turn those items into income, which means jobs and more ability to minister.

The Second Chance Bazaar is also a realization of our desire to repurpose, rebuild, and restore. We're repurposing burlap coffee bags, pallet wood, counter-top cut-offs, as well as fabric, yarn, and thread that has gone unused. And now we're giving new life to unwanted items, keeping them out of the landfill and using them to build a business and create jobs. We're rebuilding economy in our neighborhood. We've created 6 businesses, employed dozens of people, including over a hundred participants in SLATE's Summer Jobs League. We're rebuilding lives by offering opportunity through employment, encouragement, and training.

The Second Chance Bazaar is now open, but our grand opening celebration will be Thursday, November 3. Please visit our facebook page and give it a like. Stay tuned for give-aways in the coming months. Also, you can subscribe to our email newsletter to stay informed of developments and receive the occasional coupon.

If you'd like to donate items, please see our donation policy first. We simply aren't able to accept all items. To donate, you can contact Suzette Goodwin at 636-544-2152 or
donation policy.  click to enlarge.

The Second Chance Bazaar is located at 1500 Salisbury Street, St. Louis, MO.  It is 2 blocks off I-70, across the street from Sun Cafe.  If you can't make it in, you can always check out our online store to see a limited selection of our handmade items.

Saturday, October 8, 2016


St. Louis is a city of bricks. It's famous for them. Here on the northside, we have some remarkable brickwork. The best in the city, in my opinion. However, this is not about those bricks.

Bricks are what the Jews were forced to make in Egypt. It was the fruit of their slavery. Bricks were formed out of blood, sweat, and tears. They were formed in the heat, at the demand of brutal men, to build an empire for the slave-owners. The bricks were made from the same stuff as we are – the dust of the ground.

Bricks were also the invention that led men to so proudly construct the tower of Babel. They built a whole city, and a tower that reached into God's domain, all to make a name for themselves. They made it waterproof. They burned the bricks thoroughly to remove all the water, and used tar for mortar to keep any other water out. Maybe they were afraid of another flood. Maybe they wanted to escape judgment, to show God that they were invincible, they were beyond His reach. Maybe they were saying, “You're not welcome here. We got this.” They built a monument to their pride out of the work of their own hands.

And what happened? God confused them. That's what Babel means. It's the city of confusion. They built a whole city to celebrate their pride, and it led them to confusion. They couldn't talk with each other. They couldn't talk with God. They couldn't understand anything.

Despite what's taught in sunday school and Old Testament survey classes, God never destroyed the tower. It never came tumbling down. So you can still live there. You can still choose to live in the waterproof city, the city celebrating your pride, the city celebrating the work of your hands. You can still choose to live in the city of bricks that shows what you can accomplish without God in order to make a name for yourself. You can still submit to the demands of this city. And once you're inside, you're left with only one thing – confusion.

How do you get out?

Through resistance. Resist the lie that says the work of man's hands will save us, that you can do it without God. This only creates slavery. Resist structures that exalt man. Structures that complicate things, that ignore the heart of God, the truth of God, the power of God to reach anywhere. Resist the desire to return to a safe place, to walls, to social clubs, to seclusion. A safe place where you get all the world has to offer, even if that means you're a slave to it. There is a perverted sense of security that comes with slavery. A sense of comfort in knowing your place, knowing where to go, what to say, knowing what today's work will hold. Knowing the precise dimensions of each identical brick. Faith involves risk. It involves the unknown. It's dangerous. Faith is unconcerned with your strength, but wholly reliant upon a powerful, living God that wants to get uncomfortably close to you.

You get out through surrender. To the King, to the Creator, to the Good Shepherd who lays down His life. He designed a City that is not dependent upon towers, bricks, slavery, and confusion. And in fact, it's much bigger than a city. It's a whole Kingdom. And it's not far off. It's here now, in your midst. And its ways and customs are good.

However, there is an enemy already at work, never taking days off, working harder than you ever will, all day, every day, lying, accusing, destroying, deceiving, and enslaving. All to cause you to surrender to the wrong master. All to get your back bent over the mud, making more bricks. He wants to get your eyes off Jesus and onto your self. He wants to get your eyes off God's truth and onto your preferences. He wants you to lay down the sword of the Spirit and pick up the sword of self-righteousness, self-preservation, hacking away to carve out your idea of comfort and justice. He's painting the walls of your cave pleasant colors so you will be complacent, unconcerned with what lies in the darkness, in your past, or even what lies just outside in the light.

Jesus brought something completely new, and the only way to fully embrace that is to let go of what we've been holding on to. We will receive back from God whatever is His, and the things of God are always the best things.

This is how we will be the Church, God's people, the Body of Christ, alive and moving here on earth. The Church, the people, the holy priesthood, is God's Temple. It is not made of bricks. It is made of living stones. It is powerful to overcome the best attacks and fortresses of the enemy.

God showed what He could do to the best systems and structures of men. When people walk in faith, in obedience, when they praise the only Living God, then even in the desert walls can come tumbling down. Even in the most glorious city, with fortified walls and a majestic temple made of costly stones, Jesus can overturn every last one of them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What is the Resistance?

The work of Sun Ministries is established in the vision of the Isaiah 61 Initiative, which we've covered in length on this blog. It is a work of rebuilding ancient ruins and setting captives free. It comes from the very heart of God. It is a calling that costs you everything, just like any other call of God.

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.”

“Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you.”

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross , and follow Me.”

“None of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”

“Follow me.”

God called us from our “father's house” a few years before He brought us to the land which He would show us. Truthfully, our individual callings came years ago, through various and conflicting means, and followed curious paths, most likely due to our denial of the call. However, God specifically started stirring in us, before some of us knew each other, a desire to be the church we found in the Bible. We were discontent. We knew God was real, and we knew there were real problems in the American church. We saw a disconnect from the organic, sacrificial, interconnected lifestyle we saw in Scripture.  We knew there was a bigness to the Good News that had been laid aside.  We saw the pain in the world and knew the Church should be bringing the answer.  But this wasn't a call of bitterness and rebellion. This was a call to intimacy with the Father. It was a call of surrender.  He started showing us the cost of love, and how that makes it valuable. He started showing us the beauty of the Body that functions according to each member's gift. He started showing us the power of discipleship – of obeying Christ's command to make disciples and teach them everything He taught us.

We have come to find out that we are not alone in these longings or this discontent. There is a trend, or movement, present in American culture. It has been studied by survey groups and sociologists. and Pew Research Center have conducted numerous studies documenting the declining attendance in the modern American church. A sociologist named Josh Packard has dubbed this population “the Dones” and is studying the phenomenon in what he calls the church refugee project. These individuals are “done” with church as usual, but are far from done with God. They love the Church, which the Bible says is His people, and long to see the Bride living free.  Because of this frustration, they often end up leaving the traditional, institutional church.  Some find serving and gathering opportunities, while some do not.

Historically, addressing issues in the church has been labelled as “reformation”. We've chosen another way of looking at it. We call it, “The Resistance.”

We have learned a lot since we first set out from our “father's house” and into the unknown territory of discipleship, sacrifice, and sharing resources. We've unlearned just as many things as we made our way to the “land which He would show us”, a land that happened to be located on the north side of St. Louis. A land that has a well-documented history of neglect, oppression, and racism.  A land which, surprisingly, our families had a connection to.

As we discussed and dissected and developed all these things God had shown us, we stumbled into the opportunity for a talk radio show. Through even more discussion and dissecting, “The Resistance Radio Show” was born. It was recorded and broadcast live on 1010 AM right here in St. Louis. We decided to put our hearts on our sleeves and use humor, satire, drama, music, Scripture, history, testimony, and lots of discussion to explore God's design and how man has diverged from it, and how we can start to make our way back. We shared a lot of our experience ministering in the inner city and the challenges it involved.

We have since made those recordings available as a podcast. You can find archived shows here: You can also subscribe and receive the most recent episodes on iTunes or stitcher. Because we're not the most technologically savvy, our oldest episodes don't appear on our iTunes feed, but they can all be found at our wordpress site.

To get you started, here's our eighth episode, where we discuss our work at Sun Ministries.