Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pod Update: 33 days and counting

The POD Coffee House is a few steps closer to being open for business. Went before the city of Troy's planning board meeting last night. Our project was already on their "Consent Agenda" meaning that the planning board had already reviewed our project and recommended it to be passed without further discussion. No residents of the community voiced opposition. We're good to go as far as the city of Troy is concerned. Next steps.
  1. Obtain business insurance
  2. Continue with painting and renovations
  3. Health Dept. inspection
  4. Purchase food and coffee product
  5. Have our grand opening (aiming for May 1st)

Come and join us for a cup

Small groups off to a great start

Several weeks ago we began a Tuesday evening "Growing Up Catholic" discussion group. Our first week saw three in attendance. We have since grown to eight as of this past Tuesday. Lots of great discussion and prayer as we grapple with the experience many of us have had (myself included) growing up in the Catholic church.

Some 65-70% of those living in our neighborhood identify themselves as Roman Catholic. Although many of these same people haven't set foot in a Catholic church (or any church) for many years they still consider themselves to be Catholic. This is a reality we must embrace if we truly desire to connect with our community and build bridges for the gospel.
Our Monday evening Bible Study at Kennedy Tower Apartments is also going well. We recently began an audio CD and book study of David Jeremiah's "Searching for Heaven on Earth." We had been meeting in one of the apartment complex's community rooms until a resident complained and actually told lies about us. We were told by the manager of the apartments that we would no longer be able to offer this Bible study for the residents due to the loud complaints of one person (out of 140 residents). That is, until one of the ladies who had been attending the Bible study offered to host it in her apartment. So, we're good to go.
Please pray for our continuing work and witness in the city of Troy.

Easter at the CORE Church of Troy

This was our third easter at the CORE Church of Troy. What a great day we had as a community of faith, seeking to know Christ deeper in our own lives and make Him known to others.

Our day started at 10:00am with our small group hour, followed by our worship gathering. It was great to see so many people from our neighborhood joining us; especially the kids. Once again we had more children than adults.
We followed up our worship gathering with a ham dinner for all. We were blessed beyond measure when we had to set up an extra table and chairs to accomodate everyone. All were fed, physically and spiritually, as we celebrated Christ's resurrection.

God's not in the buying and selling business, He's in the blessing and giving business

When we said yes and went to the place God sent us to He literally started giving us things; buildings, a vacant lot, and key people who are taking on leadership roles.

8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

We recently celebrated two years of ministry in the inner-city of Troy, NY. Three years ago God had given me a big vision. He then gave me the place to apply the vision. The vision He gave is continuing to take shape in the lives of people who live in Troy's inner-city.

Like Abraham,
  1. By faith we obeyed and went to the place God called us
  2. By faith we continue to live in this place called Troy, NY, along with our children and the growing congregation that calls the CORE Church of Troy their local community of Christian faith.
  3. We are confidently looking forward to another city whose builder and maker is God.

So we continue to press on, making Christ known in the heart of the city. We are continuing to experience the greatness of God as He showers us with His blessings and provision. We are convinced that God has called us to a greater purpose than we can understand with our finite human minds. When we let go of our own understanding and trust that God has a bigger and better plan than we can ever imagine or figure out then His blessings just flow. He gives us exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask for or imagine, according to His power that works in us (Eph.3:20).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Weighing in on the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal

I am from upstate (capital region) NY so this Eliot Spitzer sex scandal hits close to home. News crews from across the US have been camped out in Albany since this scandal first surfaced. I am disgusted as a citizen of NY but not surprised. The devil has been playing this game for a very long time. No wonder prostitution (harlotry) is the world’s oldest trade. As long as there have been men to bring down the devil has been out there with the most effective tool to lure men. As the old saying goes, “The bigger they are the harder they fall.”

I feel great pity for Mrs. Spitzer and their three daughters who have to go through all of this with him. They are the unfortunate victims in this scandal. Eliot made his choices, as did the young lady whom he patronized. The two of them will probably make out like bandits in this scandal. A few years from now, as the media attention dies down, the ex-governor will probably get a big$$$ book deal out of this scandal.The young prostitute at the center of attention is also a recording artist who’s song has been getting a lot of play on radio stations since this scandal broke.

This is a story with Biblical parrallels. The Psalmist asked,”Why does it seem like the wicked prosper without much pain and loss?” (my paraphrase). Whatever gain they experience in this life will not follow them beyond the grave, neither will their wealth and prosperity save them. So, Eliot Spitzer and the young lady he patronized, no matter how much they may prosper out of all of this sex scandal, will not be able to buy their way into eternity. And they too, like every knee, will bow at the name of Jesus and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God in heaven.

“Why do the wicked prosper,
growing old and powerful? (Job 21:7)

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes. (Psalm 37:7)

18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors. (Psalm 73:18-19)

Friday, March 14, 2008

My daily summit with the living, triune God: the face of God

Today in my daily summit with the Living, Triune God I came across psalm 80. As usual I had to ask the Holy Spirit how this applies to me in my journey upward toward the summit of God's holy mountain.

Here's what I came up with.

Psalm 80
For the choir director: A psalm of Asaph, to be sung to the tune “Lilies of the Covenant.”

1 Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock.
O God, enthroned above the cherubim,
display your radiant glory
2 to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.
Show us your mighty power.
Come to rescue us!
3 Turn us again to yourself, O God.

Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.
4 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
how long will you be angry with our prayers?
5 You have fed us with sorrow
and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
6 You have made us the scorn of neighboring nations.
Our enemies treat us as a joke.
7 Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies.

Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.
8 You brought us from Egypt like a grapevine;
you drove away the pagan nations and transplanted us into your land.
9 You cleared the ground for us,
and we took root and filled the land.
10 Our shade covered the mountains;
our branches covered the mighty cedars.
11 We spread our branches west to the Mediterranean Sea;
our shoots spread east to the Euphrates River.
12 But now, why have you broken down our walls
so that all who pass by may steal our fruit?
13 The wild boar from the forest devours it,
and the wild animals feed on it.
14 Come back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies.

Look down from heaven and see our plight.
Take care of this grapevine
15 that you yourself have planted,
this son you have raised for yourself.
16 For we are chopped up and burned by our enemies.
May they perish at the sight of your frown.
17 Strengthen the man you love,
the son of your choice.
18 Then we will never abandon you again.
Revive us so we can call on your name once more.
19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.

Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.

Israel had gone through a state of rebellion against God and, as a result, God removed His hand of blessing from them, allowing strangers to plunder the produce of their land. God's hedge of protection had been removed as well, leaving Israel open and vulnerable to the attacks of their enemies, leading in destruction and defeat of Israel's armies.

Asaph is praying for the salvation (rescue) of his nation. In Psalm 80, vv.3, 7, and 19, Asaph asks God to shine His face upon them and cause the nation of Israel to repent and turn back to Him. Israel had experienced numerous periods of rebellion, judgement, repentance, rescue and restoration before God.

Our own lives parrallel that of the Israelites. We experience the results of sin and rebellion in our own lives as we do our own thing separate from God, walking in our own lusts and desires instead of walking with God. As a result our lives become open and exposed to the influences of our enemy, the devil, who seeks to destroy those who seek after God and to walk in His ways.

God asks for pure and utter devotion to Him so that He can guide our lives and protect and defend us as He leads us to eternal, abundant, joy filled life in His holy city, Zion.

Turn us again to yourself, O God.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.

God's face turned away is the result of our own rebellion towards Him, as we slide into sin and break fellowship with Him. This leads to us walking in darkness, chaos, defeat, suffering and anguish.

God's face shining on us = walking in His light as He guides and directs our lives. The results are victory over our enemies and God's grace and strengh in the midst of our trials and struggles. We still experience conflict and affliction in our lives but how we face them and get through them is dependent upon where God is in our lives. Is He at the center or on the sidelines? Is His face shining on you or turned away?

Ask God to turn you again to Himself and cause His face to shine on you and He will rescue you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Off to a great start!

I was born and raised here in Troy and tried to go somewhere else to plant a church but God had another plan that I had to surrender to. I'm seeing a huge work before us. In this city of 50,000 there are many unchurched and many college students with RPI and Russell Sage being here in a Troy. This is, as you know, an old, warn out, industrial age city. Like Albany and surrounding cities, Troy is seeing its own come back, slowly, but it's on the rebound. This is a great time to be back here in this city and to be a part of God's plan for the people who live here.

Our starting point is North Central. That is Troy's darkest, most economically and physically depressed neighborhood. When we said yes to God at the invitation to come to this neighborhood (the last on most church planting maps) God literally started giving us things. First it was our current church building, which was a Baptist church for many years and had closed its doors at the end of 2005. Then it was a 3 bedroom parsonage that we learned came with the church, which immediately solved my wife's biggest concern about where we (me, my wife and two sons) would live. Then there was our vacant lot,now known as the CORE Church Ministry Park; a third of an acre located on the street corner across the street from our church buiding. There had been a large church building there for nearly 150 years that started to fall apart. The city condemned the building and the small church group that was meeting there had to vacate the building and tear it down. They were thinking of rebuilding but that plan never went forward. After two years the city cancelled its tax exempt status and added it to their tax rolls. That church, Amazing Grace Assembly of God, thought we could use the lot for parking and outdoor ministry, so they voted to give it to us (technically we bought it for $1.00).

We started with a core group of seven two years ago and are growing slowly yet steadily. God has developed within me this vision for an indigenous neighborhood church that intentionally reaches out to the poor and disenfranchised who live in the neighborhood. Others who have caught the vision have joined us. Many children are coming to our Sunday gatherings and children's outreach events.

We are about to celebrate our 2nd anniversary as the CORE Church of Troy. God is moving and we are blessed to be in the middle of His plan for the Collar City.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My Daily Summit with the Living God: my Father watches over me

Today in my daily devotions I came upon Psalm 71. I asked God to show me how this Psalm applies to me as I continue in my upward journey toward the summit of God's holy mountain.

Here's what I came up with.

Psalm 71:5, 6, 17, 20
5 O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.
6 Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you!

17 O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood,
and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do.

20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,
but you will restore me to life again
and lift me up from the depths of the earth.

David wrote this Psalm later in his life (vv. 9, 18). In this prayer David is looking back on his life and how the Lord has always been there; from the womb to the gray hair on his head, and will continue to be there all the way to the grave and beyond. David acknowledges that, although God allows suffering, He is not the one who causes suffering. Even in the midst of such hardships and afflictions God is still with him, and these experiences in his life are merely temporary.

As I look back on my own life I realize that every part of my past was designed by God to bring me to where I am today. Even the wrong and seemingly bad choices I have made have still turned out for my good.

The word of God says,
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28).

That means, like David, God continues to guide me, watch over me, defend and protect me; from the womb to the grave and into eternity. He will rescue me from the hand of my enemy and He will set me upon His rock of safety. Even though I may suffer hardship and affliction He is still with me. These light afflictions are only temporary and designed by God to teach me about myself and to instill hope, patience and confidence in His saving power. I will, one day, rise above this earthly existence, to a place where there will be no more sickness or sorrow, no more suffering, no more affliction, just eternity and abundant blessings in the presence of Almighty God. He will restore me to life again and lift me up above it all.

The alternative, of course, is to miss out on God's plan for my life and to experience the full weight of the world on my shoulders as the trials and afflictions of life come my way; and they do, believe me! As these times of heaviness and anxiety come my way it is reassuring for me to know that the same God who watched over me in the womb is the same God who guided me through boyhood into adulthood, and the same God who watches over me now and will still know me and guide me as I depart from this earthly life into His eternal kingdom.

Psalm 139:7-16

7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

How about you?