Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Glad to know experts agree on this vital issue

Great article in the NY Times about the basics of fatherhood and the importance of the role of dads in overall childhood development. It's nice to see articles like this that portray (without saying it) a Biblical picture of fatherhood.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Growing Up Catholic discussion group proving to be successful

Several months ago we embarked on a small group discussion utilizing a book and study guide written by Tim Lott, entitled, "Growing Up Catholic." What we thought would take six to eight weeks to get through has now been going on for twelve weeks, and we are still only about three-fourths of the way through the book.

Indeed the reading and discussion questions have been stirring up some great conversations. All but one in the group grew up Catholic, and the one who did not grow up Catholic is married to one who did. This study has been a great bridge builder into understanding our Catholic upbringing or that of someone we are close to.

A large percentage of people living in the Northeast claim Roman Catholicism as their religion. Many Catholics haven't been to church in years, yet cling to their religion at least nominally. There are many more, like myself and the book's author, Tim Lott, who at some point in their lives began to question some of the dogma and tenets of the Catholic faith and failing to find adequate answers; that is until the Holy Spirit opened our hearts and minds to the truths of Scripture.

You can check out this great little book and discussion guideby Tim Lott at

Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
(Matthew 5:9)

Last night I made my way down to the Troy Police substation, which happens to be located in our neighborhood. It was time for the neighborhood association's monthly meeting. I was tipped off by our friend, Thila Bell, who is very involved with the association. She informed me that this would be a very important meeting, due to an outbreak of gun violence in this community. Over the past year there have been several shootings, two of which ended in fatalities.

The meeting started on time at 7:00pm and began in an orderly fashion, but it wasn't long before angry citizens began voicing their fears and concerns over a host of issues that have plagued this neighborhood for many years; violent crime, drug dealers, slum landlords, juvenile delinquency, citizens who could care less about the neighborhood, etc. I also noticed another neighborhood pastor, whom I had been attempting to connect with for quite some time, but was not able to until last night. After the meeting ended I approached Rev. Willie Bacote, introduced myself and made and offer to sit down with him, pray together, and see what we can do to be the peacemakers in the midst of this dark neighborhood. At some point in the week ahead we will meet, pray and start planning some community events and bring some much needed hope and peace to this neighborhood.

I had previousley met Rev. Miguel Estrada, a Hispanic church planter who lives in this same neighborhood. Miguel and his hispanic fellowship used our outdoor ministry park (formerly known as our "vacant lot") this past weekend for a community event and we talked about planning and co-hosting additional outreach events.

How will the community-at-large respond as the church unites for peace in the name of Jesus Christ? God is indeed at work in this neighborhood and we are blessed to have a part in what He is doing. To that end I would ask you to pray for God's hand upon this community and upon our efforts to make Him known in the lives of these people.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What About the Children?

Today was a great day at the CORE Church of Troy. Once again the kids outnumbered the adults at least 2-1. Today we saw a few kids return who hadn't been with us for several weeks due to joint custody and other issues. We have gotten used to the reality of having many children in our worship gatherings, most of whom come to church without their parents. We have gotten to know some of these parents and have begun establishing relationships with them. A few moms have a come with their children from time to time.

I learned today why our 13 year old Scripture reader (who had been asking questions about baptism) hasn't been with us for several weeks. His little sister told me that he thinks we will be upset with him because he got into some trouble at school a couple of weeks back and was suspended for the remainder of the school year. I will try to connect with him and his family this coming week to let him know that we miss him and that he is always welcome at our gatherings, regardless of any trouble he may have gotten into, and that they can call us any time.

I often take for granted the fact that I had two loving, supportive parents who raised me. Many of the kids who are a part of our fellowship are being raised by single mothers. There are many children in our neighborhood running the streets unsupervised. We are seeing a wide open door for ministry that we have embraced. I am envisioning starting a Children's worship/ministry time to be called CORE/Kids Alive. We will design a special time of praise and worship, crafts and games and snacks; kind of like a weekly VBS, all for the purpose of reaching these kids for Christ and for the opportunity to minister to their parents and families. As we continue renovating our church building and getting it "Kid Friendly" we would also like to begin planning a daily after school club that would greatly benefit this inner-city community.

Please pray with us and for us as we seek to make Christ known in the heart of the city, and especially in the hearts of these children

Friday, June 20, 2008

From the pit of doubt and the fear of failure to the top of God's holy mountain

Over the past several months I have had this nagging feeling that is a mixture of both doubt and fear of failure; mostly the latter. I have to admit that I have been spending less time in God's word as my schedule has become more crowded with church planting and now with getting our coffee house up and running. I regularly pray and ask God, "Am I making the right choices?" Months ago the idea of opening a coffee house in Troy's downtown business/arts district, for the purpose of connecting with people in every day life, seemed like a winner. Everything just came together; the finances, the paperwork, getting the storefront ready, etc. I believed from the beginning of this coffee house venture that the vision for such a place was continuous to the church planting vision God has been pouring into me. I still believe this. I can see this being a "third place" for people to just come and hang out. We've already begun seeing regular visitors. Some great conversations have begun. Yet there is this thought of, "What if it doesn't work out? What if it fails?"

This past week I have recommitted to spending more time in God's word again and meditating and journaling. Whatever else happens, my personal connection to the living God must remain strong. I am convinced that the abundant life Jesus came to give us flows as we commit ourselves to a regular habit of feeding upon God's word. Our prayers, our hopes, our dreams, etc. are shaped as we seek His will and His direction in our daily lives.

I have been reading and sudying Psalm 119...deep stuff. I came upon a verse that really hit me;

The teaching of Your word gives light, so even the simple can understand (Ps.119:130).

What happened is that I had allowed myself to stray from God's word, and my priorities got shifted. The light that shines within me began to fade a little and I left the simplicity that is found in God's kingdom for the complexity of the world that surrounds me. My desire to be a humble servant of the Living God became over shadowed by the desire to be a successful church planter/entrepreneur. Wanting to experience the world's view of success had begun to creep in. This is, what James calls "adultery." (James 4:4ff).

When I read the blogs and tweets of my fellow church planters I sometimes become envious. Why can't I experience that kind of success? Then I realize that their success is the product of being in God's word, and God speaking to them, and them obeying what God says to them. Then I remember the intervals of success I have had in the past as the Holy Spirit calls me back. It is the times when I am abiding in Christ and He in me, when my lamp is filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, when my spiritual gas tank is filled to the brim and overflowing, that I begin anew to see things from God's perspective.

He didn't call me to be a great church planter or a successful entrepreneur. He did call me to be faithful and obedient; a humble servant, fit for the Master's use. So, I will continue in this journey with the living God as I reach for the summit. I will continue the upward climb towards the top of His holy mountain and I will endeavor to point others in that same direction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reach the Streets 2008

reachstreets.jpg(Click on the poster graphic for a larger image. Copy and post, distribute, etc.)

August 23rd is slowly crawling up on us. Before we know it, Reach the Streets 2008 will be here. Last year was our first annual block party/community outreach event which we entitled "Taking it to the Streets 2007. Coordinated and hosted by 4ever1 Music Ministries, the CORE Church of Troy and Victorious Life Christian Church, we were able to provide many needy families with back to school supplies. We also had a free community cook-out, serving more than 500 meals, as well as all-day games and activities for kids. Four local Christian artists came and shared their gift of music and this inner-city community heard the gospel through both word and deed.

Once again, 4ever1 Music Ministries (fronted by CORE Church worship leader Donna Walsh), the CORE Church of Troy and Victorious Life Christian Church will join together as we lift up the name of Jesus and "Reach the Streets" with His good news of peace, hope and love.

Joining us this year, in addition to 4ever1, will be Howie Campbell and Free Union, Jim and Laura Bird and Friends and Driven Worship, along with Pockets the clown and some extra special surprises

Saturday, August 23rd is the date. 1:00pm - 8:00pm is the time. CORE Church Ministry Park, located at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 101st Street is the place. Please mark this date on your calendar and plan on joining us. If you would like to donate school supplies and/or help with the financial cost of this community outreach event, please contact Pastor Dave Lewis or Donna Walsh at

Monday, June 16, 2008

End of the school year blues

I can hear Alice Cooper's song, "School's Out," ringing in my ears. Daniel and Jacob have a week and a half left before they are done with school for the summer. We are experiencing what most families go through as they shift from school days to summer days, and trying to keep the kids occupied for the ten weeks. Soon we will make the VBS rounds to a few local churches. Then there is scout camp and baseball camp. We will try to squeeze in a family camping trip or two to Grandma & Papa's summer lakeside retreat in the Adirondacks. And we will take a week and travel; probably sticking to destinations within New York State, due to the obnoxiously high gas prices we are now enduring ($4.19 per gallon). So, to our friends and family who live in the Empire State, beware. The Lewis family may pop up in your town.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Actually, it was the ceiling that was falling at my young friend Adam's eatery, "Oliver's Naturals." Apparently a hot water tank in one of the apartments on the fourth floor burst and the water came cascading down through the walls and through the first floor ceiling of Adam's storefront. What a mess! The city water department arrived late in the afternoon and shut off the water supply to the entire building, leaving all tenants (including the Pod Coffee House) without running water for several hours as plumbers worked on addressing the problem. By 7:00pm the water was back on and Adam had cleaned up the mess in his own storefront. However, because of the extent of damage to his ceiling, he was unable to open for business today. God answered my prayer for Adam as he was at least able to set up a little serving area infront of his eatery and serve his famous, homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade and limeade. People were stopping by all day long and paying $3.00 per glass. By the end of the day Adam was a happy young man and was looking at his ceiling problem a little differently. This business is his sole source of income and he has a fiance' and infant son to support. I am thankful to my God and Savior for the opportunity to be an agent of grace and relief in this young man's life.

Church in a Coffee House?

The Pod Coffee House has been in operation for three weeks now and we are beginning to see why God put us in this downtown Troy storefront. Although we haven't seen a big rush of patrons, we are seeing some regulars come in. There have been many people walking by, looking in the window, and asking for menues to take back to their work place. At the same time we are getting to know some of the neighboring business owners in this section of Troy's downtown business/arts district; including a young man, who owns a vegetarian eatery. Then there is his mother who is helping him in his buisness venture. God has opened the door for spiritual conversations with this young man and his mom. He describes himself as a spiritual, non-church going person who believes in Jesus, yet has no interest in religion. He is open to discussing spiritual matters and I believe God has a plan for this young man that is waiting to be unveiled. His mom grew up in church and simply lost interest over the years as she was busy raising her children.

There is a lady who lives in one of the apartments above our storefront whom we have gotten to know (read one of my previous posts, "Mary and a bottle of water.") We are getting to know quite a few of the city dwellers who live in the apartments above us. The Pod is situated on the ground level of a large building structure that is four stories high and takes up half a city block. There are seven small businesses; three restaurant/eateries, a hair salon, an income tax service, a corner grocery/newstand and a food pantry, which is operated by nearby Victorious Life Christian Church. Above these storefronts are many apartments (three stories worth).

The conversations have begun at the Pod. We are meeting people, making friends and learning how to share life together. All of this is continuous to the church planting vision God has given me. The CORE Church of Troy is a city-wide church planting initiative. The Pod will become our second location for church, as we seek to be a reproducing local church. We are now offering book discussions (currently working on developing a small group utilizing a book and video series by Erwin McManus). We have begun hosting a Tuesday evening discussion group, "Growing up Catholic." The idea of having church at The Pod has also surfaced. Although we can only accomodate 20-25 comfortably, this will be an intimate setting to gather for teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer, as we seek to make Christ known in the heart of the city.

Our North Central fellowship is continuing to grow as we reach out to the surrounding inner-city community.

Please pray for the CORE Church of Troy as we continue in the mission of making Christ known in city of Troy, New York

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Fascination of New Toys

My two sons recently received their Little League Baseball pictures which were taken several weeks ago. Each photo package included a record and play picture frame with their photos inserted into the frames . My younger son, Jacob, who will turn 9 in July, is fascinated with his. He spent more than an hour this evening amusing himself by recording silly things and listening to them. He did this over and over, almost to the point of being obnoxious. I can still hear him, at this very moment, upstairs in his bed, recording his voice, and then listening to and giggling at what he had just recorded. Soon he will fall asleep. Tomorrow he may start in again with this same record, listen and giggle routine. But soon, like all new things, the newness of his talking picture frame will wear off. He will find some new thing that fascinates him and the talking picture frame will grace the top of his dresser, along with a few trophies and other various awards he has amassed in his young life.

His dad is no different. I'm fascinated with new things too. Who isn't. My latest fascination is,

A year ago it was facebook that grabbed my attention. I was reluctant to join but gave in when a friend invited me to join his church's facebook group. I figured it would be one more thing to keep on the internet longer than I need to be, which leads me to the new thing that has fascinated me for the past decade...the internet. First it was e-mail, then chat rooms, then Yahoo groups, creating my own website, blogging and so on.

I also broke down and bought an iPod last year, which really fascinates me. I can download thousands of songs onto this thing and never have to load another CD as long as I live. I can simply log onto iTunes and then purchase and download all the music I want, which is cheaper than buying CDs, and I don't have to store and tote all of those CDs everywhere I go. Not only that, I can program and play a whole day's worth of more flipping that radio more skipping more melted cassettes on my dashboard...Fascinating indeed!

Now "Twitter" is the newest thing that fascinates me. Twitter is not really anything new. It is simply the latest thing in internet networking; like facebook and Myspace and their predecessors. I can write and post short updates on what I am doing and follow others who are "twittering." It's a great way to keep in touch with many of my fellow church planters and others engaged in ministry. I can text out a quick update on my cell phone or laptop and post it within seconds...Fascinating indeed.

I recently bought and began reading Brian Bailey and Terry Storch's "The Blogging Church." And I have been following Chris Forbes' "Facebook For Pastors."

I am waiting to see who will write "Twittering for Blogging Churches and Facebook Pastors."

Any takers?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mary and a bottle of water

A few days ago I met a middle-aged woman named Mary who lives in one of the apartments above the storefront that is now the home of The Pod Coffee House. I had seen her on the street a few times prior to actually meeting her. I had been warned by a few well-meaning Pod neighbors not to talk to Mary or allow her to hang around The Pod, as she has a not so clean reputation. One rumor has it that she used to be a drug dealer, while another has her pegged as a husband beater.

Yesterday afternoon Mary took it upon herself to sit down at one of our outdoor tables. I exited the cafe to see who had taken a seat and if they would like anything from our menu, when I noticed that it was her. She asked me if she could sit there for a few minutes while waiting for her taxi. I told her that would be fine. She then asked if I had a glass or bottle of water, as she was quite thirsty, due to the hot, humid weather. I went inside and came back with a bottle of water, which I gave to her. She then informed me that she had barely enough money to pay for her soon to arrive cab and that she would pay me later for the bottle of water. I told her not to worry about it, and went back inside to wait on a customer.

Today, at precisely the same time as yesterday, I noticed Mary sitting at that same table again. So I went out and, against the advice of neighbors and fellow business owners, struck up a conversation with her. Mary shared a bit of her life with me as she informed me that she had gone to the county jail the day before to visit her grandson and today she was headed to a nearby clinic to pick-up her diabetic meds. We got onto the topic of prayer and before I knew it we were talking about spirtual matters. Mary went on to tell me that she had hurt a lot of people in her past and that her life had not been the greatest, but that she has put all of that behind her and is trying to "fly straight." We talked a bit about God and what it means to know Him personally. She went on to tell me that she believes in God and that Jesus is her "Higher Power," but, she does not go to church because of her lifestyle and the way people in church look at her. She asked me to pray for her and she went on her way.

I am wondering what would have happened if I had followed the advice of those well intentioned neighbors and not spoken to Mary. Or, worse yet, asked her to move along instead of taking up paying customer space.

Thank You for Your mercy

I was reading through Psalm 118 this morning in my devotions and thinking about it most of the day. I was reminded afresh of God's immeasurable, inexhaustible mercy; especially that which He sends my way. Someone once defined God's mercy as "God's loving act of withholding what we truly deserve."

When I think of how many times a day I fall short of God's glory, how many times I commit idolatry, turning my back on Him in favor of my own will and fleshly desires, I am left wondering "Why?"

Why does He continue to use me? Why doesn't He just give me what I truly deserve?

My Answer? I don't know why. I do know it is because of His great love for me and, as the Psalmist declares,

1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever. (Psam 118:1)

So, today I am learning to be more thankful to God's merciful act of withholding what I truly deserve and, in His grace, extending to me what I don't deserve

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Measuring Success

Today's sermon time was focused on discussing the past two years of ministry and where we see the CORE Church going in the near future. We started as a small group of seven in March of 2006 with the intention of being indigenous and organic in the midst of Troy's inner-city. As such, we have purposely avoided church marketing strategies. We are in agreement with wanting to see our growth come naturally, as God gives the increase. We are committed to being missional and incarnational . We are commonly interested in learning how to live as Christ lived, love as Christ loved and serve as Christ served, and what that would look like in our local church setting. We are convinced that if we can truly live out this collective vision that God has given us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, then we will be successful in making His name known in the heart of this upstate NY city and we will experience exponential growth. We are now reproducing leaders in preparation for reproducing locations. As my church planting friend Brent Foulke recently shared with me, "Healthy things grow." With that in mind, we are looking and praying toward being a healthy, vibrant community of Christ followers.

Having said all of that I have to confess that I have often been discouraged by other church plants that have been in existence as long as the CORE church of Troy has been (2 years) and are seeing hundreds in their weekly worship services while we are growing at a much slower pace. If we are preaching the word and loving and serving people as Christ did, shouldn't we be seeing that kind of growth? Then God smacks me back down to reality by showing me that we are reaching the people he sent us to. When I see the children in the neighborhood, who know us by name, and the single moms who know us and trust us enough to minister to them and their children I am reminded that we are bearing fruit. When a 13 year old boy (among other children) comes to church every week, excited about reading the Bible and learning about God, I am reminded that God does not measure success the same way we do.

We knew coming into this that it would be a long, slow process, but that we will be successful as long as we focus on Christ; that is, knowing Him and growing in Him and making Him known. We are gearing up for another summer of ministry. In our neighborhood children's ministry is desparately needed. One of our goals is to continue to focus on developing a stellar children's ministry.

We are also seeing the need to focus on and develop small groups. As such, we are praying about adding to our small groups as God opens new doors.

Please pray with the CORE Church of Troy as we continue to make Christ known in the heart of the city.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hard lessons to learn

Recently I've been receiving a series of phone calls from a debt collection agency. A couple of years ago I was trying to help a young man I had met and befriended. He had been coming to our church for awhile and we baptized him in the summer of 2006. He was making an honest effort to turn his life around; had obtained a decent job at a nearby hospital, started taking classes at a local community college, got an apartment, etc. He had applied for credit and was denied due to lack of credit and the fact that he had been homeless (no established place of residence) and his spotty employment history. So, when he asked me if I would co-sign for him so he could get a cell phone with a monthly payment plan I thought it would be a good way to help this young man establish some credit and help him move forward in life.

Well, for at least a year all was going well. Then he stopped coming to church; come to find out he got a job promotion that required him to work on Sunday mornings. He befriended a young lady whom he worked with, who had invited him to attend her church, which offered a Sunday evening service. I told him I was cool with was closer to where he lived and a good, evangelical church with a solid reputation for preaching the gospel.

We kept in touch fairly regularly for the past year. He had come to our home on several occasions, had dinner, spent the night, etc.

Then, all of a sudden, I stopped hearing from him. Many times I have called him. he would not return my phone calls. I learned, eventually, that his cell phone service had been discontinued. I went to his apartment a few times, only to find out he wasn't home.

Then the calls started coming from the above mentioned collection agency, informing me that he had not paid his cell phone bill and had let it slip into delinquency status, and because I co-signed for him they are now seeking payment from me.

Well, I was a bit upset at first (still am), but I began to understand why my young friend had distanced himself from me and my family. I have to admit that he became like a son to me--being half my age he is biologically young enough to be my son. He had messed up many times in his young life and this was probably one more thing to add to his list, and he could not face me.

I'm currently doing a sermon series entitled "It's time for a love revolution." For this series I have been studying and preaching through 1 John. This letter is all about a love revolution; loving God and our brethren in such a way that it brings sudden, radical change to our current generation. Today I came to the second half of 1 John 3. Verse 16 says, "We know what real love is because Jesus gave up His life for us. So we ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters."

Now I know that an incurred cell phone bill is not quite the same as people living in poverty. And I know the next verse (1John 3:17) emphasizes compassion for those among us who are lacking basic needs in life, and that a cell phone isn't really a basic need in life, unless you're a teenaged girl from the suburbs. However, as I was pouring through this passage in 1 John, preparing my Sunday sermon, I felt convicted. Will I let a cell phone bill cause me to become unkind and unfriendly toward my young brother in the Lord? Or will I use this as an opportunity to grow in the Lord, forgive this young man; even pay off his debt, which I did co-sign for, and move on? Then I remembered the checkered past God delivered me from, and the compassion he showed to this desparately needy man.

I may not like the idea of paying someone else's debt; especially when I have a family to support and other more desparate causes than his unpaid cell phone bill that vie for my financial support. However, when I compare it to the debt Jesus paid on my behalf, how can I complain? I can help my young brother in the Lord, even though it will hurt my pocketbook a little.

I consider this a hard lesson learned. Will I ever co-sign for a friend again? I might, although the Bible dose warn about that sort of thing. However, I will continue to seek my own "love revolution" as I live in Christ