Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jeff and Amanda Pitcher (aka One Less Star) at the Pod Coffee House

The Pod Coffee House is a ministry of the CORE Church and the next step in the church planting vision God has given me.
This evening The Pod hosted its second Troy Night Out concert event with One Less Star bringing their incredible talent across the river, from Albany to Troy. It was a modest crowd and despite a broken guitar string halfway through their set, Jeff and Amanda still played and blessed us with their music. Jeff and Amanda lead worship at River of Life Church of Albany. Thank you One Less Star. We look forward to future shows with you at the Pod.
Got a band? Play or sing solo? Come and share your art with us at the Pod Coffee House. You may contact us at or give us a call at (518) 274-9350.

Bike Rodeo at Bethel Baptist Church

Today my two sons and I hightailed it over to Bethel Baptist Church to participate in a bicycle rodeo and safety rally. This wonderful event was sponsored and hosted by Rev. Eric Shaw and his congregation at Bethel Baptist Church, Fifth Avenue, Troy, NY, in partnership with Troy Police Department. What a great turn out. Each child learned the rules of the road for bicycles. Children who did not have bicycle helmets received brand new ones courtesy of Troy Police.

Reach the Streets 2008 in Review

Last Saturday The CORE Church of Troy, 4ever1 Music Ministries and Victorious Life Christian Church joined forces for our 2nd annual "Reach The Streets. The day's festivities included school supply giveaway, a cookout, face painting, cotton candy and an incredible line-up of music and entertainment including:

VLCC Dance team
Bob Lord

Pockets the Clown

Special thank you to

Donna Walsh (4ever1's leader) for all of her attention to detail and planning that she put into this ministry event. Donna is a tremendous blessing to the CORE Church of Troy and to all who know her. Thank you so much for pulling all of this together and for keeping me on track.

Steve Schazberger for another great job as out emcee for the day. Thank you for moving things along throughout the day.

Many volunteers from Victorious Life, The CORE Church of Troy, Capital City Rescue Mission, from the Troy community, and anyone else who took time out of their schedule to join us as we served out community together

Victorious Life Church and Colleen Rhodes for collecting many school supplies which were given to needy families in our community

Brenda Lewis for coordinating the back to school giveaway, collecting supplies, bagging them up, and distributing them to families, along with the help of Cheyenne and Latanya.

Donna Hansen and Liz Van Buren for providing face painting throughout the day, as well as those who worked with them.
Grace Fellowship for your generous donation which was used for food and supplies, as we served more than 400 meals.

Stewarts Shops for your generous donation of soda and buns, which were used to serve our community.

Diamond Spring Water for your generous donation of bottled water which helped keep meny people cooled and hydrated throughout the day.

Walmart for the gift card and Snowman Ice Cream of North Troy for the gift certificate which were given to two lucky families in our free raffle.

many more whom I may not have mentioned, but you know who you are and so does God.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What God is saying to me today!

A few short months ago I was introduced to a man named Willie Bacote. We had both attended a monthly neighborhood association meeting and afterward were intoduced to one another. Willie had expressed his desire to start a new community based ministry in this distressed inner-city community and certain community leaders suggested that we meet and perhaps work together. Willie and I seemed to be on the same page when it comes to reaching out to the people who live here.

I have to admit, I did not know this man very well prior to our meeting. I knew of him due to his former staff position at our local boys and girls club, which my two sons regularly attend. When Willie suggested the idea of doing a community feeding program he immediately piqued my interest, because we had already been doing a Sunday after church community meal and were praying about expanding that to include weekday meals. he already had a plan and some resources to get such a program up and running, all he needed was a venue. It was a no brainer for me to offer our ministry lot and church kitchen for this purpose.

We began at the beginning of the summer school break, serving evening meals every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We immediately saw the need as many children and their families started coming to the meals. A few families told us that this meal helps them stretch their already tight food budget. Others stated that their families might not otherwise have an adequate dinner.

One would think that the community that had been begging for relief would respond with thanks and appreciation, however, we began to experience just the oppostite. Complaints of noisy, uncontrolled kids, loud music, etc. started to come our way. Willie and I were getting phone calls and e-mails from concerned neighbors who suggested we "take it indoors" on those hot summer days. Here we were, feeding as many as 150 people per day, on our corner church lot, on a street corner that has been known to be a hot spot for drug activity and prostitution and the community leaders want us to take it indoors.

Well, we tried to tweek the meal program, organizing games and things for the kids to do during the meals. One volunteer donated a portable basketball hoop for the kids to use during meal times, which began to cause a stir due to "late night basketball games." Apparently kids were coming to the lot and setting up the hoop themselves and playing late night hoops, in the pitch dark, unsupervised, using foul language, etc. The neighbors complained to city officials who came and removed the hoop and took it to the city garage. That turned into a huge political issue as city officials and community officials began to attack us (mostly Rev. Willie Bacote) accusing us of causing more problems than we were solving. Crews from every local TV news channel showed up, as well as newspaper reporters and by the next morning a media circus had been stirred up over a portable basketball hoop. There was anger and hostility, racial slurs, finger pointing, shouting matches, etc. Trying to embrace this negativity and make sense of it, Rev. Bacote, at one point, broke down in tears, wondering why all of this was happening.

Later on, when the news crews and community leaders had disbanded, Willie went on to say to me and a few who had remained, "This is what we signed on for when we said yes to Jesus' command to serve the needy." Immediately he announced to us the need for revival. So he invited some preachers to come to the CORE Church and join us for a week of revival. That is what we are doing this week. Last night (Wednesday) was a powerful evening of music, as the men's choir from Bethel Baptist Church led us in song and Rev. Constance Knight of Oak Grove Baptist Church delivered the word, compelling us to "spend time at the feet of Jesus, and then get up and serve Him."

Throughout the past few months people have been calling me and sending me e-mails, people I don't even know, telling me, "That man (Willie Bacote) is crazy, a mad man, nuts, don't trust him," etc. Well, more than a few times I began to bite into these rumors and accusations. Then I began to remember my own past and the places God has delivered me from. The Holy Spirit convicted me. I found myself asking, "How can I sit in judgement when I have enough baggage of my own that God has set me free from?" I often ask God why he chooses to use me inspite of my past and my still flawed character. All I can come up with is the fact that God uses ordinary people, as flawed and sinful as they are, to do His extraordinary will.

So I say to my new friend, Rev. Willie Bacote, let us walk this road together, for indeed this is what we signed on for. Let us rejoice as God leads the way!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pedestrian Interviews:John and Jen

I met John and his fiance Jennifer today. They came in for coffee and a bite to eat. Come to find out they just moved into one of the apartments upstairs this past Saturday. Jen is studying Russian at UAlbany. John is a musician looking for work. We got onto the topic of live music at the Pod which piqued John's interest. He asked about playing a solo acoustic set. I told him to bring it on. So we're hashing out schedules to see when we can get him in here to share his talent. We also talked about an open mic night, which I had been thinking about but was waiting for the right timing to introduce at the Pod. He stated that he has experience in running open mic nights at a place near his hometown in Rochester. So, we'll see where this leads; the conversation and the open mic night idea.

Pedestrian Interviews: conversations from The Pod Coffee House

As many of you know, the CORE Church of Troy is now operating a coffee house in downtown Troy called "The Pod". The name merely reflects the idea of a small gathering place for the purpose of engaging people in conversation and entering into spiritual chats as God opens doors in people's lives and hearts. Since our opening in May we have had some great conversations with folks ranging from the Olympics to politics, from the weather to the troubled economy, from good times to bad times. And, oh yes, the spiritual side of life. I have since posted a number of blog entries detailing some of these conversations. Beginning today, with this very post, I will include such conversations (with permission from those whom I am chatting with) in a new category entitled "Pedestrian Interviews:conversations with ordinary folks about life and other stuff" or something like that.

My first official entry into this new category is a conversation I had recently with a fifty-something year old lady named Theresa. Theresa is a civil servant, employed by the state of New York. She comes to the Pod somewhat regularly for coffee and a bite to eat and to relax for a few minutes during her lunch break. While we don't advertise The Pod as a ministry of the CORE Church, neither do we hide our light under a basket. We do keep a few Bibles on hand, along with other reading materials like Rolling Stone, Interview, Travel and Entrepenuer. We also give away certain books like John Piper's little devotional "For Your Joy." Every now and then a customer will catch on to the fact that we are here for another purpose besides making coffee and selling food. Such is the case with Theresa.

As I've gotten to know Theresa a bit she has begun sharing bits and pieces of her life with me. She is a single mother with three grown children. Her youngest is in his second year at the University of Albany, majoring in political science and pre-law. She has two grandchildren, whom she admits are her pride and joy. She has also had a series of broken relationships. Her parents split up when she was very young. Her mother had a series of live-in boyfriends from then on. Being an only child she admits that she was rather spoiled by her many "uncles."

This same lifestyle carried over into her own life. She admits that she had never been married and had three children from three different men, along with two miscarriages and one other child that she gave up for adoption when she was just a teenager. She quit school at the age of sixteen because she got pregnant, and although she gave that baby up for adoption, she chose not to go back to school, which led to a lack of opportunities for employment. She had to settle for low paying, no skills required jobs. At the age of 35 she finally got her GED and went to Hudson Valley Community College, earning an Associates Degree in business. She took the state civil service exam and scored very high. A few months later she started interviewing for state jobs and was eventually hired. She now works as a Calculations Clerk for a Troy based state agency. She admits that her job is rather monotonous, but it pays the bills and has allowed her to raise her children without having to rely on public assistance, which she did for the first half of her adult life. She now feels as though she is contributing to instead of taking from and depending on society.

She bought her first home five years ago and has finally met as man whom she loved enough to marry. "He has shown me what it is like to be truly loved for who I am," she stated to me. "He knows about my past and he doesn't mind it. He says that we all have things we've done that we're not proud of." They have been married for three years and met at a local church that she started attending at the invitation of a co-worker. She shared with me that she accepted Christ as a young girl back in the seventies. There was a church that would send a bus to pick her up, along with some of her friends who lived nearby. Every Sunday she would go. She said she enjoyed the Bible stories and skits they would do. At the age of eleven, while attending a summer program at the church, a lady named Grace led her to Christ. She continued to attend church until she got to high school. Then boys and hanging out with friends became more interesting. She stopped going to church and started congregating with "the wrong crowd." She started drinking and smoking weed. When she got pregnant her mother told her to "get an abortion or get rid of it." Believing that abortion was wrong, she chose to give birth and give the baby to someone who would take care of it.

We go to talking about current trends in church planting and she believes the "seeker sensitive thing is over done and over-rated. She says that lost, hurting people simply need to know that someone cares about them; not just to get them to come to church, but to be a real friend they can talk to and confide in. That is what drew her back to church, a Christian co-worker who simply opened her heart and life to her. Theresa says if Christians can learn to do that; just chat over coffee and share life and problems and just be friends then there would be no need for evangelism and church growth strategies.

Revival at the CORE Church

It's been eight years since I last participated in a revival. Rev. Willie Bacote of the Missing Link Street Ministry asked me several weeks ago if we'd be willing to host a revival. Pastor Willie was recently appointed by the AME Zion Church to begin his ministry in Troy. MLST and CORE are reaching out to the same community, so we have decided to join forces for the purpose of making Christ known in the heart of the inner-city. Last night (Monday) was the first evening of a week long revival series being planned by Rev. Bacote.

Rev. Dr. Oscar L. McLaughlin, senior pastor of Walls Temple AME Zion Church of Albany gave the message entitled, "Anointed and Appointed" reminding us that whom God anoints He also, in His time, appoints.

If you in or near Troy anytime this week, stop by the CORE Church for some anointed preaching and gospel singing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

We the Church do not worship a "What" but a "Who."

God is not some distant cosmic force, out there beyond the stars and galaxies. He is a person with character and personal traits that we can know. Although He is infinite and immeasurable, we can know Him personally through His Son, Jesus Christ. As Max Lucado wrote several years ago, "God Came Near, " through the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God took on flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus came to show us, among other things, that God is not an impersonal "What," but a "Who" that we can come to know intimately and personally. We can each enjoy fellowship with God on a daily basis because of what Christ has done for us.

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, who resides within each of us. The third person of the trinity lives and breathes within us. Through the Holy Spirit the Triune God lives through us. Jesus said, "Behold, I am at the door knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will dine together as friends."(Rev. 3:20)

Through Christ we come to know "Who" God is.

The Church is not a "What," but a "Who."

One of the prevailing questions in my own mind, and perhaps in the minds of most church planters is, "What is the Church?"

I am constantly asking this question and searching the Scriptures in my own endeavor to plant what I believe God has given me vision for. Part of this vision, as I see it, is getting to the core of our Christian faith, that is, what really matters; stripping away the layers of false religion and man made traditions that have become sacred to us over centuries of church history.

As such, the thought of the Church being a "Who" as opposed to a "what" has been impressed upon me. There is a common tendency amongst Christ followers to view church as something outside of themselves; a place that we go to or the building where we assemble for the purpose of worshiping God.

The view and teaching of the apostles was far greater than the narrow concept we have of church. Paul addressed this issue in his epistles

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building (1 Cor. 3:9)

16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)

There was a tendency from the foundation of the Church to view the building and location as the church. This was one of the fallacies of the Jews, who viewed the temple as the place of worship. "We go to the temple to worship God." This mindset carried over to the church because human nature cannot grasp the concept of God living inside of them.

Jesus came to estabilsh a new kingdom that is spiritual in nature. His kingdom is not of this world and neither are those who dwell in His kingdom. The will of God was always to dwell with man, not in temples made with hands, but in temples of flesh made by His own hand.

From the beginning of time man has had this desire to build a place that he can see and touch; a place with walls, a location, a "what" outside of himself, where he can go and visit God, when all along God has wanted to take up residence within our hearts. In the Old Testament we read of a few good men who met God personally and worshiped Him; Abraham, Moses, David, the Prophets, etc. Even these men, as close as they were to God, developed a "what" concept of the kingdom of God. The Israelites carried a portable temple with them as they travelled through the wilderness. David wanted to build a temple, which his son, Solomon, ended up building.

The kingdom of God starts on the inside of a man's heart. That is the place where God wants to dwell. He never did reside in a building or temple made with hands. Because of our sinful nature God has always been on the outside, knocking to get in. Because of our hardened hearts God has had to speak through angels and prophets. Then he sent his Son to tear down the wall, or vail of separation.

We recognize that God has allowed "places" for man to worship Him. From the altars and the tent of meeting in the wilderness, to Solomon's temple and the synagogue, to the four walls and stained glass cathedrals of the church era, God has allowed man to erect these places for the purpose of visiting Him. But His intention from the beginning, from the creation of man was to be our God, dwelling amongst us. Adam walked with God, talked with Him, met with Him daily, until all of that was lost. Jesus restored what was lost through Adam, tearing down the vail of separation and giving us direct access, through Him, to the Father. You will have to read Romans and Hebrews along with Genesis through Deuteronomy for a full Biblical understanding of this concept, but it is a project worth undertaking.

So here I am, in 2008, striving to graspthe idea of "Who" the church is. God never intended for the place of His dwelling to be a "What" outside of ourselves, but a "Who." That is, the people of God, in whom He has taken up residence. We are God's field and God's building; a temple of His Spirit, not made with human hands, but molded and fashioned by the hand of God. This is why there is a God shaped whole in all of us. That God shaped whole is His temple; the place where only He can dwell. Nothing else can take His place. When Jesus is seated upon the throne of our hearts, we become the "Who" of His dwelling. We need not enter a building to worship God. We who are His dwelling place worship Him individually and collectively as we join together.

It is an erroneous thought to think we that bring God with us to church, for we His people are the Church. We may assemble in a building, a field, a cave, on a beach, in a vacant city lot, etc. but the place where we worship is not the church. We are the church!

The temple of meeting that the Israelites carried with them was a good picture of the church because it travelled with them wherever they went. Yet they still, for the most part, viewed worshiping God as an event, in a particular place with walls that they could see and hear and touch.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about lately; that idea of being a "Who" before God as opposed to a "What" is so much more comforting to me. God knows each of us individually and personally (Psalm 139) and invites us into a relationship with Him.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jorge's testimony: "I know God will work all things out for my good."

Disclaimer: Jorge encouraged me to share his testimony, "So that others will trust God, especially in difficult times."

I met up with Jorge today, who had been in a bit of a slump because he had lost his job and had been put out by his room mate, whom he had been sharing an apartment with. Apparently his room mate "did him wrong" and Jorge had nowhere to go. He wound up spending several nights at a rescue mission/homeless shelter in Albany.

He came into the Pod yesterday morning and had asked to use the phone to call about a job posting at a nearby supermarket that I had previously told him about. He spoke to the store manager who told him to come and fill out an application. Immediately after his phone conversation he went right to the place and filled out some paperwork. The manager interviewed him on the spot and told him to call back today to find out his status. At 11:ooam Jorge came in and called the supermarket, spoke to the manager and was told to report there at 6:00pm for new hire orientation and that he'd be starting his first shift Saturday morning. Jorge was so excited that he grabbed me and gave me a big bear hug.

Not more than a half hour later Jorge came back, informing that he had called the property manager for the building that houses The Pod Coffee House, along with five additional store fronts and 18 apartments above. She was to meet him here at 12:30pm to show him a studio apartment that is available. When she arrived a few minutes later, she took him upstairs to show him the apartment. He just shared with me moments ago, "Not only is it a great apartment, but it is within my budget, and the landlord will work with me on the security deposit." Jorge was so eletated that he shouted for joy, raised his hands in the air and shouted, "Thank you Jesus."

Jorge is another one of my friends who believes and trusts in God, yet he does not regularly attend a traditional church. He told me once that he sometimes goes to a nearby Hispanic church, and although they seem to be glad to have him there, he often feels uncomfortable because, "Whenever I walk into that place they look at me funny because I'm wearing the same street clothes I've had on for two or three days, and my hair is sometimes not groomed nicely. Don't they know that if I had nice clothes to put on that I would?"

Jorge had previously turned down my invitation to visit the CORE Church, perhaps for the very reason he no longer attended the Hispanic church mentioned above. he may be thinking that he will be the center of attention if he did come for a visit. This afternoon, as he exited the coffee house he did tell me, "if you had church here at the coffee house I would probably come." So, here's two people in as many days who have suggested doing what I've been thinking all along, even before we opened our doors as "The Pod Coffee House." We'd probably have room for no more that 20-25.

Imagine that! Church, in a coffee house, for such a small seating capacity!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dana's testimony: "My life was once really screwed up, but now it's not so screwed up."

While working at the Pod Coffee House today, Dana, one of our regulars, came in, along with her young son, Jordan, to get a bite to eat. After finishing their meal she came up to pay the bill and realized she was a little short on $$$. She apologized and promised to pay the rest of her bill the next time she stops in for lunch. I told her not to worry about it and she almost started to cry. She went on to explain that she had just come from a doctor's appointment and that her son has a serious ear infection and that she had promised him, if he was good for the doctor, she would take him somewhere for lunch afterward. On one of her previous visits we got to talking about the Pod and she learned that we are here to do more than sell coffee and food. Ever since then she has been sharing bits and pieces of her life, including the fact that she used to go to church but hasn't in awhile due to her overcrowded schedule. Having four children to care for, while being a single mother, going to school and working part-time pretty much eats up her schedule. She did share with me that she prays and reads her Bible from time to time and that she knows God is working in her life because her life, "used to be really screwed up, but now it's not so screwed up." She went on to share that when she focuses on Jesus, she is reassured that He is watching over her and that He has a plan for her life. "You ought to start having church here at the Pod," she suggested, as she exited the storefront with her son.

Imagine that, church in a coffee house!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Taking in a baseball game with the kids

We made our way to Joe Bruno Stradium this evening to catch our Tri-City Valley Cats in action. They beat Batavia Mud Dogs 2-1. It was a great evening of baseball, fun and fellowship. Partnering with Rev. Willie Bacote and The Missing Link Street Ministry, we were able to provide free admission, along with hot dogs and snacks, for forty kids. Our prayer is that through events like this we may be able to connect with kids who live in our inner-city community. Jesus loves them and so do we.
The CORE Church of Troy is seeking to make Christ known in the heart of the city of Troy, N.Y. One of the ways we can do this effectively is to be actively involved in the community, as well as in the lives of these great kids.

more of my missional thoughts

I see my role of church/ministry leader as more of a facilitator; providing or creating opportunities for people to connect with God and with one another. Being missional is not a program with an agenda, it's simply being there for people when they need a friend. it really comes down to being a great commandment/great commission liver in the community; being the hands and feet of Jesus; loving and serving others the way He did. Praying for them and with them as God opens those doors. That can't be taught in a classroom but can only be learned and lived out through prayer and practice.

Any insight that I have to offer comes from God and 20 years of trying to make the old, warn out forms of church work. They don't work because of the mindset that we have developed over centuries of church history. Trying to wrap our minds around the true, Biblical way, as opposed to what we know and have been taught is a difficult endeavor. Bible colleges and seminaries, for many, many years have been training men and women to run the church like a business/institution. The truth is, the Church for centuries has gotten it wrong, and guys like Alan Hirsch, Brian McLaren and Frank Viola, to name a few, are standing up and saying, "it's time to turn back; back to our Christ given mission.

"There are a growing number of "dissenters" as Shane Clairborne calls them, who are seeing a new imperative to get back to living and loving the way Jesus modeled and commanded, in communities of faith that are organic and authentic. Jesus' first disciples turned the world upside down because they knew Him and had encountered Him on a personal level. When we experience that kind of relationship with the living God it effects us in such a way that we can't help but live it out and have it show through us to the degree that others are drawn to what we have. Our personal encounter with Christ also effects the way we approach evangelism and missions. When I share my faith it comes through my lifestyle, my attitudes, my manner of speach, my character, as much as in my words.

Jesus called His followers, salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). They were to be His witnesses in both word and deed. They were to sprinkle the world with His word as it lives in them and show the world what Christ in us looks like, which either draws people to Christ or offends them.

Being Missional: Youth

The best way to reach people, especially teenagers, is to spend time with them; enter into their world. this requires both time and committment. It means giving of my time to do things that are important to teenagers; attending school sporting events and activities, helping them do things like school work, driving lessons, etc. That requires sacrifice on my part. Connecting with the parents and showing them how to be missionaries in their own community is also vital. It's not about just having Bible studies at their homes, but being involved in the lives of their children and their friends. Sometimes kids need someone outside of the home to talk to.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting Back to the Core

I recently started reading Frank Viola's book, Reimagining Church. In the introduction to this book Viola states
"There will be two major responses to this book. One will sound something like this: Thank goodness I'm not crazy! I thought I lost my mind. I'm grateful there are others who feel the same way I do about church. This book has given language to feelings and beliefs I've had for years."

The other response will be from those who would challenge Viola's views; those from the evangelical church who see nothing wrong with the same old forms and practices of the institutional church.

For several years I have been questioning the forms and structures of the organized church. Most recently I attempted to re-start a dying baptist church using the same form and structure, yet scaled down a bit. It has been nearly three years since The CORE Church launched, and like many institutional churches it is bearly treading water. So, we took a new direction, with a decentralized form of leadership and as little structure as possible. We do not have regular business meetings, committee meetings, etc. We have been accused of being unorganized and undisciplined, and our numerical growth has been minimal. This is not to say that we haven't given it our best effort. Lord knows we meet regularly for teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. We preach and live the gospel within a community of faith. We've done plenty of outreach events; especially children's ministry. However, the results have been less than desirable; at least from the perspective of a church planter who is over 40 and has learned the old school models of evangelism, church planting and church growth.

Although I have tried, and tried, and tried to make the old forms of church work, I have to admit to myself and to those who have been a part of the CORE Church from the beginning, that they just aren't working. I'm beginning to hone in on the answer as to why they aren't working, because they aren't formed by Scripture, but by religious tradition. I am old enough that I could be on either side of the emerging debated. I could side with the old school evengelicals and say,

"What's wrong with our tried and true traditions? They've worked for centuries. Who am I to question the traditions of those godly saints who have gone before me?"

I am also young enough to realize that the old forms need to reformed; actually, we need to get back to the original idea of WHO the church is and not WHAT the church is. We need to strip away the artificial layers that have developed over centuries of church history and get back to the core of what Jesus died for.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Celebrating the marks of a blessed life

My four sisters and I and our families came together today, along with many of our parent's family and friends, to celebrate our dad's 70th birthday. It was great to re-connect with aunts, uncles, cousins and long time family friends, many of whom we hadn't seen in awhile. What was most remarkable to see is how blessed my mom and dad are to have so many family and friends who care enough about them to come and celebrate with them.

Psalm 128 says,

1 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways.
2 When you eat the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
In the very heart of your house,
Your children like olive plants
All around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.

And so my dad is reaping what he has sown. He has been a kind and generous friend to many. He has lived a life of blessing others, giving selflessly of himself, teaching his children to fear God and to love and serve God and other people. What an example to follow! What a legacy to leave behind!

Happy birthday Dad. Maybe I'll be blessed to have you around for my 70th birthday; hey, you'll only be a young 95 yrs old by then!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Add ons to the Chili recipe

One important chili ingredient that I failed to mention:

Lots of friends to share it with...the more the merrier!

There will be plenty to go around. Add a nice loaf or two of fresh Italian or French bread and savor the flavor as well as the conversation...nothing like a good pot of chili and some friends to stir things up.

Combine this with your next small group gathering for an evening you won't soon forget!

Dave's Corona Chili recipe

After scores of requests for my homemade Corona chili recipe I decided to post it here on the blog for anyone who wants to take a stab at it. We serve this daily at the Pod Coffee House and it is our best selling item (even more popular than the coffee).

Here it is:

Dave’s Corona Chili

2lbs Ground beef
Worcestershire sauce
Balsamic vinegar
One medium onion, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
One medium green bell pepper, julienne (add half a red bell pepper for color if desired)

One cup Corona (or more to taste, I use one whole bottle from a six pack) man, this adds a nice flavor. Don’t worry! alcohol cooks off as chili simmers. This is my secret ingredient. Sweating(turning off heat and leaving it covered, on the stove, for a period of time) and breathing (chilling overnight) the chili are also important for best taste/results

2 small cans tomato sauce
2 small cans diced or stewed tomatoes
1 small can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small can dark kidney beans w/brine
Zest of lime
Season to taste: Chili powder
Spanish paprika
Crushed red pepper
Black pepper
Chopped parsley
Chopped chives
Granulated garlic
Minced onion

If you like super hot chili, try a variety of hot peppers; jalapeño, cherry, etc.
Cayenne pepper, cajun spices or Tabasco also add nice flavor. Experiment and make it your own!

Cooking Instructions: For best taste and results cook chili a day ahead. I make mine in larger batches and freeze some.

In a large skillet or sauté pan (I prefer seasoned cast iron pans) brown beef w/ just enough worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar to cover beef, add seasonings to taste. As beef begins to brown add sliced onions and green pepper, cook until onions are translucent. Add lime zest. Add Corona and let simmer 30 minutes or so. Add tomato products, corn, kidney beans and adjust seasonings to taste. Let simmer, covered, on low heat for 2 hours, stir frequently. After 2 hours turn off the heat and leave the lid on the pan, allowing the chili to sweat a bit (an hour or so will do nicely). Leaving the lid off, turn the heat on low just long enough to reheat the chili to serving temperature. Stir chili frequently throughout cooking process. For best taste let chili cool off and refrigerate overnight (breathing).

Sacred vs. Secular

I was having a conversation at the Pod Coffee House today with a woman who lives in one of the apartments upstairs. In the two months since we have been open she has become one of our regulars. She loves our chili and sandwiches, but more importantly, she admittedly enjoys the company and conversations. As I've gotten to know her she has begun opening up and sharing her life with me. She has since learned that in addition to running a coffee shop I am also a pastor/church planter. Now, just about every conversation I have with her has a spiritual tone. Today she was sharing some of her problems with me when she stated that she prays alot to God, but she rarely goes to church because she feels no connection with a room full of strangers. She was attending a nearby church for awhile but they kept telling her to change her lifestyle and get right with God. She stated that she believed what they were telling her was right, yet she didn't see a lot of people in that church changing their lives and felt that they were "doing a lot of talking and not much walking." She went on to give me an example of one woman who is a leader in the church, yet curses frequently and spends untold amounts of money on lottery tickets every week. She also, admittedly, has a problem with people who act one way on Sunday in church and then another way the rest of the week in "the real world" as she put it.

I got to thinking about her comments and how often as "Christians" we sometimes separate our sacred life from our secular life; that is, when we're in church or around other believers we act one way, and then in the community and work place, we act another way. I have to admit, I'm guilty of this myself from time to time. So, I have to wonder, is Jesus Lord of all of me, or just the churchy, spiritual parts? Do I separate or compartmentalize my life, giving God access to some parts, while other parts are all mine? Jesus said if I want to pursue Him, I must deny myself, take up my cross and follow after Him.

Another thought occured to me. In my previous post I asked the question, "When and where is church?" Can church take place in a coffee shop between two people talking about life, over a cup of coffee and searching, together, for God's answers? Jesus said, "wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there my Spirit is in their midst." So, whether huddled in a church building or relaxing over a cup of coffee at the Pod, do both qualify as "Church"?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Where and when is church?

For some time now I have been thinking alot about church. You may say that's a good thing and is to be expected of a church planter. However, in particular, I've been thinking about forms of church structure and what the first church in Acts looked like. I can't get past the thought that what church is (at least what I had become accustomed to while growing up along with 99% of western civilization) is not what Jesus had intended when He said, "...and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The businesslike organizational structure of the church has left me curious for many years; even questioning its validity from a scriptural basis. Is this what Jesus shed His blood and died for?

With all of these thoughts came a few questions, which I have been delving into more earnestly, seeking out what the scriptures teach about who, what, when and where church is. I see nothing in the New Testament that depicts what we have come to know as "Church."

Is church the building we meet in? Can we only have church when we officially meet in the sacred space? Is it God's house? Do we go there to meet or visit God? What about a few Christ followers, gathered around a campfire, sharing their thoughts and fears and praying for one that "church?"
What about a dozen or so Christ followers, gathered for the purpose of feeding and serving needy families, talking with them, praying with them and for them, telling them about Jesus and His desire to know them that church?

Is church merely the one or two hours on Sunday morning when we gather together, inside the walls and stained glass windows, singing songs of praise, hearing a well planned sermon, passing the offering plate, partaking of the matza crackers and shots of grape juice, and praying for one another's needs? Or is there more to it?

I recently started reading two books by Frank Viola; Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church, and while I am certain that I will read things that I will disagree with I am also certain that I will be challenged. So far Viola has managed to capture my own thoughts about church...what it is, what it was meant to be, and how far off course the body of Christ has gone.

Anyway, I am imagining the kind of church that those first Christ followers experienced, as recorded in the New Testament. That's what I long for.

Digging for Diamonds

This past Monday my family and I took a drive to Herkimer, NY, site of the world famous Herkimer Diamond Mines. We drove an hour and a half each way for the purpose of pounding rocks and hopefully finding a few of the prescious gems. We had heard stories of some large finds, even within the past few years. While we were there a young boy (not one of mine sad to say) found a golf ball sized diamond that was reportedly worth about two grand. All we walked away with were a few diamond chips worth about 2 bucks, some nice sized blisters (need I remind you we were pounding rocks with five pound sledge hammers) and some family memories that will last for a long time to come.

A thought occured to me while banging on those rocks, digging for treasure....what would happen in my life if I attacked my Bible with the same zeal and determination?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kidfest at the CORE Church of Troy

This past Friday, August 1, The CORE Church of Troy partnered with the Missing Link Street Ministry, led by Rev. Willie D. Bacote, for a day of fun, food and friends. The day long event featured a bounce house for the kids, courtesy of Bounce Around, face and arm painting, basketball shootout and other games, along with a ton of food. Hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and pizza for dinner, provided by our city councilman Mark McGrath, along with free ice cream, provided by Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian. Throughout the day, many people from the city of Troy and Renssalaer County, as well as several community service agencies, came to help serve meals and spend part of the day with Troy's inner-city families. The day ended with a movie for the kids, courtesy of Kevin (K.P. ) Pryor of LOOK Inc. Also many thanks to Rudy (aka DJ Midnight) for providing sounds throughout the afternoon and evening. There were many people who came together to make this event happen, including volunteers from Missing Link Street Ministry and from the CORE Church of Troy. Thank you to all who played a part in this first of many community family events.
The CORE Church of Troy exists for the purpose of making Jesus Christ known in the heart of the city. It is through partnerships like this that we will be most successful in accomplishing the mission God has called us to.

Elijah's Fire inaugurates the Pod concert series

The Pod Coffee House experienced its second Troy Night Out with a live concert featuring Bob Lucido and his band Elijah's Fire. EF is one of New York Capital Region's premiere Christian bands and We were blessed to have them be with us for the first of many live shows at the Pod Coffee House. It was a great evening of music and ministry in Troy's downtown business/arts district

Next up at the Pod:

Saturday, August 16th, 7:00pm is 2 Pews Back

Friday August 29th, 7:00pm is the acoustic trio "One Less Star."

Saturday, August 30th, 7:00pm, Jim & Laura Bird

Saturday, September 6th and 20th, 7:00pm, acoustic sounds of Bob Lord

Friday, September 26th, 7:00pm, Shine