Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cub Scout Outing:learning about God's other creatures...wildlife

My wife and I tagged along with our son Jacob's Cub Sout troop as we visited Five Rivers Environmental Education Center and took in some snowshoeing and learning about the animal life in their natural habitat. Five Rivers is one of only three such places in New York State, which is operated by NYS Dept. of Envitonmental Conservation.
We started the outing inside the education building where one of ENCON's staff educators thouroughly descrided, to the boys, the natural habitat of such animals as racoons, deer, rabbits, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, mice, birds, beavers, bears, etc. She also showed them, using a teaching tool called a "Snow Blanket," which is an actual white blanket with different animal footprints drawn onto it. The children learned that each animal has its own, unique set of footprints that no other animal group shares (by design or by chance?).They also learned to identify animals by their droppings, called "Scat" (aka poop). Along with their own unique footprints, each animal group has its own poop pattern (yah, we humans have our own duo of identifying tracks too).
After learning about animals and their tracks, we donned snow shoes and took to the trails, where the scouts actually got to track some of the footprints and scat they had heard about. We ended the outing with hot cocoa and cookies at the education center.
We had such a great time that we vowed to return. My family and I are even thinking about joining as members so that we can come back often and maybe plan a church group outing.

What is a church planter to do? recorded worship music vs. live worship team/band

At the CORE Church of Troy we have been weighing the effectiveness of using recorded worship music vs. a live worship team/band. It is constant struggle finding and maintaining interest of a quality worship leader and musicians, scheduling practices, purchasing and maintaining musical instruments and sound equipment, etc.

With recorded music we can choose from a huge supply of quality music, from Hillsong, Vineyard, Integrity, Passion (Tomlin, Redman, Hall, Crowder, Fee, Christy and Nathan Nockels, etc). There is an incredible array of music to choose from, from traditional hymns to contemporary praise, to modern worship in every genre of music.

With recorded music attention and pressure are not on a worship team/band to lead worship vs. performing and entertaining. There are many who do this effectively, week after week, but not everyone can pull it off. What is an urban church planter, on a very limited budget, to do?

So far, using recorded music, combined with our CCLI license and some fairly inexpensive audio and video equipment, we have been able to put together a quality alternative that works for us. I have been to several churches that feature a quality, live worship experience. I am not knocking what they are doing. But, in an effort to a plant simple, reproducible church, recorded music is an affordable alternative.

Recorded music has its drawbacks though. It is quite and experience to sing with a live praise band. In fact, whenever I get the chance I hightail it to Northway Church in Clifton Park to worship with their band, led by worship pastor Kevin Brustle, and to hear Buddy Cremeans preach.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The painful experience of knowing and following Christ

I was on Mars Hill Church’s blog where Pastor Mark Driscoll posted updates on their current sermon series, Trial: Eight Witnesses from 1 and 2 Peter series. In this post he was writing about suffering and its different facets in our lives. This resonated with me because we are currently going through a series on suffering, with the theme being, "The painful experience of knowing and following Christ."

In this series I am attempting to teach our local church the difference between…

1)suffering with and for Christ that comes as we choose to follow Christ and walk in His ways
2)the general, common suffering that all people, good and evil, experience and
3)suffering that we bring upon ourselves through our own sin, aka, reaping what you sow.

As we continue following Christ we will experience suffering in the form of persecution, sacrifice, loss and discipline from God. He will give us strength to endure this kind of suffering. As we continue to follow Christ, He will also give us the grace and strength to endure the common sufferings we, as humans, experience, and He will give us the wisdom and discernment to make right choices so that we can overcome the sinful nature that tempts us to do what we know is wrong, bringing suffering upon ourselves. As long as we continue in these earthly tents, we will experience suffering in all of its facets, at every level, and we will become more and more like Christ, in His suffering, in His death, in His victory, in His glory.

I am learning, as I continue to delve into the subject of suffering, that there is more to it than I have realized in my own walk w/Christ. Hopefully we can all learn together to endure the sufferings, trials and the pains of life.

This is a series within a series, as we started the new year looking at the “Greatest Experience in this Life(and beyond): The experience of knowing and following Christ. Using Phil. 3:10-11 as our series outline, we are looking at and considering five facets of the Christian experience.
Knowing and following Christ is, as Paul wrote, a

Personal Experience: “I want to know Christ…” Phil.3:10a
Powerful Experience: “…and the power of His resurrection…” Phil.3:10b
Painful Experience: “…and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering…” Phil.3:10c
Practical Experience: “…becoming like Him in His death.” Phil.3:10d
Purposeful Experience: “so that I may, in one way or another, attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil.3:11

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been camping out in the “painful experience” of following Christ. We may be here for a while, wrestling with the painful truths of God’s word.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

True change starts on the inside of each of us

A week ago, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I attended a forum on racism at our local YWCA. My friend and partner in ministry, Rev. Willie Bacote, had invited me to the forum. He and I brought a group of neighborhood youth with us. During this forum we watched a documentary entitled "Skyn Deep" which was produced by the YWCA. The purpose of this film is to stir up conversation and to get people talking, honestly and openly, about the racial stereotypes and biases that we all have. At various intervals during the forum, the facilitator paused the film and asked questions from a printed hand out that everyone received at the beginning of the session. We were given time to write our own responses, then share them with the group, if we wanted to. A couple of the questions asked us about past experiences with people of different race and culture. My own memories of growing up in the inner-city and seeing racial injustice first hand were stirred up. I remembered (and shared), as a 10 year old white boy, living in a public housing project and being treated differently than boys my own age, whose skin color was bit darker. I would hear my white friends talk differently when the "colored kids" were around, than when they weren't around. At the age of 10, I would hear the double talk and sometimes go along with it to fit in. But there was something inside of me that made me uncomfortable, a still, small voice that said, "that's not right."

Now, 35 years later, I'm living and ministering in the same inner-city neighborhood I was born and raised in. There are many conversations going on about tackling the social ills that plague our inner-city communities. One issue that needs to be further addessed is that of racism. Whether we like to think about it or not, racism still exists. All of us have prejudices and biases that have been shaped by our environment, upbringing, culture, religion, etc. Planting churches and ministering in any community, especially inner-city communities, requires those who are called by God to such places, to tackle racism and cultural biases head on. American cities, at one time, were racially and culturally segregated. Most cities still bear the remnants of such division. However, there is a new, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural generation emerging from within these inner-city communities. This generation is more tolerant of racial and cultural diffrences, even to the point of inter-marrying and procreating. Bi-racial/multi-racial children are becoming more common among our urban landscapes. Yet the racial slurs and biases still exist, mostly taught and tolerated by the older generations who can't get past their own fears and insecurities.

We need to overcome racism by teaching our children to love and accept people who are diffrent than they are. The tone of one's skin is the way God created them. We do not need to relinqiush our ethnic and cultural heritage, but we can, by the grace of God, learn to live amongst one another, in the same community, loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves, regardless of their skin color, race, cultural upbringing, etc.

What would Jesus do? How would He live among us? He already did, leaving us an example to follow. As He said to His followers (disciples), "as I have done for you, so you do for one another." He was speaking about living as He lived, loving as He loved and serving as He served, thereby making Him known to a lost and dying world.

I admit that I don't have it all figured out. But, I am willing to work at bringing change to my own community. With a willing heart and the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, change will come. It starts on the inside of each of us.

Are you ready to get started?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

are you ready to own lostness and injustice in your city?

I am borrowing a line from my church planting friend and brother, Jay Hardwick, "...ready to own lostness and injustice in our city." Jay sent me a brief update on their progress with their church planting initiative Awaken Columbia via my facebook wall. Jay is planting an urban church in the city of Columbia, S.C. He was referring to a movement he, and others serving with him, are stirring up amongst people living in Columbia to not only see lostness and injustice, but do something about it.

I have never been to Columbia, but I am guessing that it is much like any other city dotting the map of the USA. There is an inner-city culture there with a landscape similar to my own, filled with urban blight, poverty, drugs and street gangs, violent street crimes, high rates of teen/unwed mothers, prostitution, juvinile delinquency, homelessness, etc. There is also a growing epidemic of hopelessness and dispair amongst a generation that does not see church and traditional, Biblical Christianity as relevant or useful in their lives, yet they know lostness and injustice first hand.

Much like my own city, I'm sure Columbia has seen its own share of local churches (perhaps even whole denominations) abandoning their inner-city neighborhoods for the greener pastures of the middle-class suburbs. Equally lacking is a desire among church planters and seminary grads to move into these inner-city neighborhoods for the sole purpose of living out the great commandment and the great commission. There has been a lot of talk over the past decade about what it means to be missional and incarnational. Guys like Jay Hardwick (and hopefully myself) are taking the God given task head (and hands) on. Praise God that a few church planters and mission boards are seeing the need and feeling the burden to go to these places that God has not forgotten nor abandoned, to bring a message of love and hope to people whom God loves.

It is my prayer that God will raise up an army, here in New York's capital region, as well as in Columbia and other cities across the US and around the world, who will take ownership of the "lostness and injustice" that exists there, and will stop at nothing to see God move amongst these people.

Are you ready to own lostness and injustice in your city?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will the real Dave Lewis please stand up!

One of my newest facebook friends is David Dunbar, President of Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA.

David wrote a note on my FB wall stating that he knows another Dave Lewis who pastors a Methodist Church in his neck of the woods. I commented back to him that it does not surprise me, because just about everywhere, there seems to be another Dave Lewis. I thought it would make an interesting blog post.

Google David Lewis and some of the following will come up

  • There is David Lewis the congressman .NORTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DISTRICT 53
  • There is a convicted serial rapist, serving a life sentence in an Illinois St. correctional facility with the same name, and middle initial. That one came up when our local little league ran a volunteer background check on me (obviously not me).
  • There was an NFL player named David Lewis
  • There was a General Hospital/soap opera star by the same name along with a bunch of famous guys named David Lewis
  • There is another david Lewis here in Troy, who works for our city as a code enforcement officer,
  • There is a local dentist who also shares my name. I've actually gotten some of his mail, probably because we have similar street addresses.
  • While serving in the US Navy, visiting a naval base club in Rota, Spain, I answered a page for a David Lewis, only to find out it was for another sailor by the same name.
  • I've met black men named Dave Lewis and white men named Dave Lewis. I once even met a half Korean man named Dave Lewis
  • There's probably a host of Dave or David Lewis's in any given city in the US or abroad.

So, don't call me congressman Dave Lewis, convicted serial rapist Dave Lewis, NFL star Dave Lewis, former soap star Dave Lewis (now deceased I believe), Troy code enforcement officer Dave Lewis, Dr. Dave Lewis, DDS, etc. I'm just another Dave Lewis, living and breathing on God's green earth.

Call me...

  • regular guy Dave Lewis,
  • church planter Dave Lewis,
  • Christ following Son of God Dave Lewis,
  • son of Ray and Lynn Dave Lewis,
  • husband of Brenda/Dad of Dan and Jake Dave Lewis,
  • Core Church of Troy Pastor Dave Lewis
  • taxpayer Dave Lewis (but which one?)
  • etc., etc, etc.

and if you happen to bump into a Dave Lewis in your own travels, it just may be me, or maybe not!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama and the hope of a dream fulfilled

Like most Americans I was tuned into TV today's coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration. I am filled with a sense of hope for many reasons. here are a few of my thoughts.
  1. the end of an administration that has seen little tangible success. Dubya's administration reflected the way it started out at the turn of the century; chaotic and controversial. Remember the way he got into office and the scandal surrounding the election process?
  2. the conversation surrounding racial equality has taken a giant leap forward, with our first African American president taking office. It is my hope that Obama (and all people) will be judged by the content of his character, and not by the color of his skin. Many Americans are willing to do just that, while many more still cling to racial biases that will dictate how they look at our new president, or any one else who is different from them for that matter.
  3. I am hopeful that the walls that separate us will come down, and that racism will be eliminated. Barack Obama's election furthers such hope among all Americans, not just African-Americans. Just as Martin Luther King's "Dream" encompassed all people, so the election of our first black president is for all of us... "One nation under God".

What Obama's election will not provide:

  1. The answer to all of our problems. We may have a renewed sense of hope; individually as well as collectively, but Barack Obama cannot do it alone. Nor can he provide the answers to our greatest dilemma, which is spiritual in nature. He may be able to, with the help of others, lead our nation to brighter days, but we dare not put all of our faith and hope in one man. Let us pray for him and do our part as citizens, but let us look to God for the answers that only He can provide. God will use Barack Obama for His good purpose, perhaps to unite us as a nation or even more. Only time will tell.
  2. The fulfillment of MLK's dream. As many have said, this is just the next step (a big one I might add) in the process of uniting us as a nation and breaking down the walls of racism. The real work is ongoing, as we embrace the reality of what it will take to see King's dream become reality. We need to come together and continue the conversation with openness and honesty. The only way combat and overcome the differences that separte us is to come together in the bond of God's perfect love, and to speak truthfully to one another; confess our sins of pride and prejudice, and realize that God, indeed, created us equal. We can do this without abandoning our own cultural heritages, as God, through His Spirit, develops a new culture among and within us. It is a Jesus culture;one that is defined by the love we have for God and one another.
  3. True and everlasting peace. President Obama may be able to resurrect our fallen economy. He may also be able to restore peace in the US and abroad. He may, very well, go down as the greatest president our nation has ever known. But true and everlasting peace come from another King who laid down His life for the sins of the world.

When we, as followers of Christ, come together as one body, the world will see what God can do. God's desire is to use us, the Church, as His light in the midst of a dark and dying world. As we live, love and serve the way Christ did, Christ will be seen through us, and people will see the True and Living Way to God

Friday, January 16, 2009

Knowing Christ is a Powerful Experience

Philippians 3:10-11

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul says, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection..." (3:10b)

The NLT puts it this way, "...and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead."

Knowing Christ personally is to experience the full power of His resurrection; the power that flows from union with the resurrected Christ. The very same power that raised Him from the dead will also give new and everlasting life to our mortal bodies.

Philippians 3:20-21
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

1 Corinthians 15:42-43
42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.

Ephesians 1:18-20
18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

In the power of His resurrection there is:

* Hope and strength for daily living
* Freedom from the power and dominion of sin (Romans 6:5-14)
* Victory over death, darkness and the devil
* The promise of eternal life (John 11:25-26)
* The promise of our helper and comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17, 25-26)

One of my favorite TV Dramas, ER, is wrappiing up production after fifteen great seasons of hospital emergency room drama. A common scenario in this and other hospital dramas is that of a person in cardiac arrest; their heart stops beating, medical personnel rush in with a "crash cart," grease up the defibrillator paddles, place them on the patient's chest and zap him. Power flows through the paddles and the patient's heart starts beating again. He's been zapped with new life. In the power of Christ's resurrection we are zapped with new life as Jesus pumps His Spirit and His life into us. We are then empowered to live abundant, joy filled, victorious lives in Him.

Are you experiencing the power of Christ's resurrection in your life, daily?

If you have encountered Christ personally, coming to know Him as Lord and Savior, this same power that raised Him from the dead is available. As you live amongst your neighbors, co-workers, family and friends; as you go through the daily struggles and trials of life, perhaps a jolt of His resurrection power is what you need.

Indeed, knowing Christ is first a personal experience and a powerful experience as we seek Him daily. Know also that it is, often, a painful experience.

Join us at the CORE Church of Troy this coming Sunday, January 18th, for the next part in this sermon series. I've referred to this series by two titles.

  1. New Goals for a New Year
  2. The Greatest experience of a lifetime (and beyond)

We could call it "Set a new goal for the new year; to encounter the greatest experience of a lifetime and beyond." That's kind of long, but it works. This sentence also describes the content of the 5 part series

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Discovering the Value of Social Media and Networking

My Twitter Bio:
Lead pastor of the CORE Church of Troy, social media/networking apprentice on my way to ninja status, helping people find their way back to God.

At the young age of 45, I'm caught between the TV/Telephone generation and the current iGeneration; internet, iPod, iPhone, etc. I am seeing the need to get with the times; to change with the changing times and embrace modern technology.

Social media and networking via the internet is not a new thing. Chat rooms, discussion boards, forums, etc. Have been around for awhile. What seems to be happening (I am a slow learner) is a streamlining or simplifying of what we've been enjoying for two decades.

I'm still a little behind. I don't have an internet ready cell phone. I still have my two and a half year old Cingular(now AT&T)/LG flip phone. I'm still learning the texting and IM features. Someday I'll move up to a Blackberry or an iPhone. But, by then there will be a new thing everyone else will be flocking to. I'm not as internet savvy as those who are half my age. I'm learning what SEO and other internet terminology is and hopefully I'll catch up and reach ninja status. But for now I'm enjoying being an apprentice of social media and networking and reaping the benefits thereof.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

People Planting!

What A Crew!

This past Saturday, with the winter temperatures dipping into single digits, what better way to spend the morning than painting and sprucing up an old church building.
We have been using the basement level of the CORE Church building for many outreach events over the past few years. There is plenty of room for a wide variety of activities here. However, when we took the building over from the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church at the end 0f 2005, this basement level was barely useable. We removed some rotted, wooded partitions, along with the majority of the wood and tile flooring, which was also rotted and seriously deteriorating. We brought the floor down to its original cement base with the plan of putting a new floor, either wood or poured cement, at some point in the future. For now we are using it as is, with some indoor/outdoor carpeting placed over the cement floor. We have held many community and/or children's events in this room, partnering with other churches, our local neighborhood association, and most recently with the Missing Link Street Ministry in hosting a three day per week feeding ministry. Our plan is to continue using this room for free community events, including the Feed-a-Kid ministry, CORE/Kids events, holiday parties, movie nights, teen nights, etc.
The vision God gave me three years ago, when we came back to Troy to re-start a dying church, recontexualized for inner-city ministry, is that of a community of Christ-centered faith that goes beyond the four walls of our God-given facility, reaching into the surrounding community with the love, grace, peace and hope of Christ. This facility provides ample community space for gatherings, giving us opportunities to connect with people and families living in the North Central/South Lansingburgh community. Collabortive partnerships with other local churches and ministries, along with neighborhood groups, local schools, businesses, etc. is a necessary component of planting churches in our inner-cities. Church planting is really "People Planting." By partnering with others the CORE Church of Troy will be successful in carrying out the mission God has sent us here to fulfill; which is to make Him known in the hearts of people living in the heart of the city.
By continuing to renovate this century old facility, we will see the vision of a seven day per week ministry unfold. As God gives the increase, we will have front row seats to watch what He is doing in this community through His people. My deepest passion and desire is to see this community transformed by the hand of God. Being a part of this transformation is a tremendous blessing that I desire not to take for granted. Every hand and heart God has moved to join us in this effort has not gone unnoticed, and we thank God for ever one of them.
Perhaps you, your church, or someone you know would like to join us in this great commission vision of reaching the people of this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You may join us prayerfully by lifting us up in regular prayer. You may join us physically by co-laboring with us (please contact us for more info). You may also join us financially, by sending us your best financial gift; either one time giving or regular support.
You can make checks payable to the CORE Church of Troy. Our address is 6th Ave & 101st St. Troy, NY 12180.
Additionally, I do not take a salary or even a stipend from this new work called The CORE Church of Troy. My personal/family support comes through the missions agency that I serve with, Missions Door . If you or your church would consider supporting the Lewis family in the Great Commission vision God has appointed us and anointed us to, we would consider it a tremendous blessing. You can check out Pastor Dave's online bio HERE.

Friday, January 9, 2009

when making connections, everyone counts

I was watching Ugly Betty last night. The episode was all about social networking. Betty was a little behind on this important aspect of the corporate world, so she tagged along with a coworker to a party where he filled Betty in on the do's and don'ts of connecting and networking. He told her to introduce, share a tidbit of information, exchange buisness cards, and move on. So she went about applying what she had been told. But she found it difficult to talk to people for such a short time and ended up spending twenty minutes talking to a caterer. Her co-workers criticized her saying, "No one talks to the caterer, especially for twenty minutes." She felt like a failure.
However, later on in the episode Betty found herself in a jam. As she thought about whom to call, the caterer came to mind. She found his business card, called him, and he came through for her.

What did I get out of this? all the people we meet are important. The ones we think are insignicant may be the ones we call on when we find ourselves in a bit of a dilemma.It may be a caterer or a janitor, or it may be the CEO of a never know!

New Sermon series: Part 1

Knowing Christ is a Personal Experience

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phip.3:10-11, NKJV)

A. Paul says, "I want to know Christ..." (Phil.3:10)
  • Paul once put confidence in the flesh, personal achievements, and self-righteous legalism (Phil. 3:4-6).
  • In his former life, before He came to know Christ (Acts 9:1-7), he had religion, position, influence and power in society.
  • He came from the right family and the right tribe. He had all the right stuff that makes a man great in the eyes of the world; even in religious circles.
  • Yet he put all of this aside, counting it worthless, for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ personally as Lord and friend(Phil.3:7-9)
  • Paul goes on to encourage and exhort the Philippiam Christians to do the same; that is, to seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to grow in Him, instead of striving to please God in the flesh.

Know" in this context comes from the greek word (ginosko) which is the same term used in other New Testament passages to convey the idea of the connection or union between a husband and wife. This implies:

  • Intimate relationship vs. intellectual knowledge; not just a head knowledge, but a personal, intimate relationship that continues to grows deeper as each day passes.
  • To know Christ personally is to know God. Jesus clearly made this connection

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:7);

"...He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." (John 14:9)

  • Paul is saying in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Him as my closest, most personal friend" (John 15:15)
  • Friends spend time together, listen to one another, and are honest with one another; even when it hurts. Friends trust one another and often know each other better than they know themselves
  • How can I tell others about someone I don't know personally in my own life? I can tell others about George Washington or Elvis Presley, yet I never knew either of them personally.
  • We can know Jesus Christ personally and intimately, although none of us have ever seen Him in the flesh.
  • As we share Christ with others, will they respond more to a mere head knowledge or formal religion, or to a personal experience with a personal friend?

There is a song entitled "Name" from several years back, written and recorded by Christian band PFR. The chorus of the song goes like this

My hands they made you,

My breath I gave you,

My son he saves you

If you want to, you can wear My name

My love unending,

My truth unbending

I want you to wear My name

  • God wants to have a personal relationship with each of us; He wants each of us to wear His name. That is personal.
  • Our goal as followers of Christ is to know God personally, to grow daily in this relationship, and then make Him known to others as He reveals Himself to us and through us.

Do you know God like this? You can!

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23, NKJV)

When you come to know God like this, you will discover the greatest experience in this life and beyond!

Knowing Christ is not only a personal experience, but also a powerful experience

New CORE Church sermon series: New Goals for a New Year

What are your goals in life? What about for the next year?

We have experienced the first week of 2009. Many of us have set resolutions for the new year in an attempt to improve our lives. Some of us have pledged to take up a new, healthy habit such as dieting and exercise, or to give up unhealthy ones; smoking, cursing, etc. Many Christians resolve to do better at reading their Bibles, going to church more regularly and being more actively involved. Some set more lofty goals such as continuing education or running for public office. Some of us are making progress, while others are not doing so great.

As we search for significance in this life, many of us set goals and strive to meet them. However, the ultimate goal in life, as the Apostle Paul discovered, is to know Jesus Christ, to grow in an intimate relationship with Him, and to make Him known to others.

In Philippians chapter 3, Paul expresses what he has discovered to be the number one aim in his life; to draw closer to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to experience the benefits of this relationship in his daily life.

After many years of life and ministry, Paul's goal in life had changed; from one of confidence in the flesh, driven by personal achievement and self-righteousness, to a much more humble, simpler, single minded goal; to seek after a life that is found in Christ alone, and to live this life in the fulness that Christ promises to those who follow Him.

How can each of us realize this same goal in our daily lives?

Here in God's word we are exhorted to not put confidence in what we have done or can do to make our lives better; to somehow improve our human experience on this earth and in this life, but to seek after and put confidence in a personal, powerful, often painful, practical and purposeful relationship with the Living God, so that we may truly experience life the way God intended from the beginning of creation. This experience is for now and for eternity, as we come to know and experience Christ in our daily lives

Over the next several weeks we will take a look at five facets of the greatest experience any of us can know, in this life and beyond. Using Philippians 3:10-11 as our backdrop and outline, we will search the Scriptures together and either discover this experience for the first time, or rediscover it anew.

Personal Experience..."I want know Christ..." Phil.3:10a
Powerful Experience..."And the power of His resurrection..." 3:10b
Painful Experience..."and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering..." 3:10c
Practical Experience..."becoming like Him in His death..." 3:10d
Purposeful Experience..."if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." 3:11

Follow along as we experience God's truth together!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Burden>Vision>Provision Part II

Burden defined: something that is carried; load, duty, responsibility.

There are several uses of this word in Scripture.Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden on the Lord, for He cares for you.

Here, burden = worries and anxieties; things that weigh us down (see Matt.6:25-34; 11:28; Gal.6:2)

A burden is also a sense of duty or responsibility. It is more than simply seeing an unmet need. There are many things that we see that are wrong or needs that go unmet, some that we may feel led to pray for. However, a burden, from my experience is something I see and pray for and then feel a tremendous weight of responsibility to take action and do something about.
Jesus was burdened when he saw the multitudes, "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt.9:36)

He did more than just see them and feel bad for them. He was "moved" with compassion. IOW, He took action. Moved with compassion = burden . The thought of people, harassed and helpless, wandering aimlessly through life, grabbed ahold of His heart and tugged on Him. He was consumed with the duty/responsibility to do something in response to the need he saw.

A burden from the Lord is a sense of duty and responsibility towards a particular people in a particular place. I see a need. I pray for the people who have this need. I ask the Lord to provide for this need that is unmet. He responds by asking me,"What will you do in response to this unmet need?"

Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus sees a great need; a plentiful harvest filled with needy people. He then turns to His disciples and commands them to pray, so that God will send out more laborers to join the few who are already laboring. Then in Ch.10 he instructs them to go and prepares them for the task at hand.

He gave them a burden "The harvest is plentiful, yet very few have responded, pray about what God would have you to do." That's a burden...Jesus laying the need before them. Vision comes when they pray, when they say, "We see the need, Lord, what are we to do."

Vision, then, is how I see meeting meeting the need that God has layed before me (burden). As I pray for these people and the need (or unmet need) hat I see, what will my response be. I pray, and God shows me the way to meet the need.

Provision= God providing the resources to meet the need that I saw and prayed for.

I saw the need and felt a responsiblity to do something (Burden)
I prayed to the Lord and He showed/revealed to me what to do and how to do it (Vision)
I began to develop enthusiasm and motivation to take action; I went to the people and place God had given me a burden and vision for. Now He is providing the resources for me to carry out the mission He has sent me on. (Provision)

Vision follows burden...provision follows vision

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

From Prevision to Vision to Provision: my journey of faith and call to church planting

I am currently studying Abraham's experience of hearing from God, as recorded in Genesis 12-15, and Hebrews 11:8-10. I have also read and studied Nehemiah and his return to the ruins of Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of that city; the birth place of his ancestors. Also, Jesus, Himself, and how He saw things and responded. Most prominent to me are the words recorded by Matthew.

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt.9:35-38, NKJV)

From verse 36 we see a Biblical picture of what a "burden" is. The Scripture says (of Jesus) that "When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them..." That is what a burden from God looks like. It is not merely thinking about a person or people. It is thinking about a person or people in such a way that it burns its way into our hearts and tugs on us. Burden moves us to take action, out of love and compassion, as opposed to getting a plaque or some other earthly reward.

A burden in me says this, "I see these people. I see them struggling. I see a need that is unmet. What can I do to meet that need, ease their struggle, and give them hope and peace?"

For me, it was the very neighborhood I grew up in. Without knowing it was a burden from God, I would often think about and pray for this neighborhood; whenever I would hear on the evening news, or read in the newspaper, that another drug raid has taken place, another young person has been shot and killed, another citizen complaining about the crime and urban blight, another politician promising to do something when he or she is running for office and then doing nothing once they get elected. This is the neighborhood where most of Troy's citizens just roll up their car windows, lock their doors, and drive through it as fast as they can. Anyone who wants to get from Troy to North Troy (Lansingburgh) must drive through North Central. There are two streets that parrallel the Hudson River and run South to North and vice versa. As people drive north and cross 101st St., River St. becomes 2nd Ave and 6th Ave becomes 5th Ave. This is my Jerusalem, the place where I first took the breath of life, the streets I ran and played in as a boy.

For twelve years, while living and working just 20 or so miles west of Troy, in the city of Schenectady, I thought about my old stomping ground. As I responded to God's call to ministry, went to seminary and graduated, served on the ministry staff of City Mission of Schenectady and started my family, God was preparing me to go back; back to the streets He rescued me from.

As I look at my own journey and experience, what I see so far are three phases
  1. Prevision
  2. Vision
  3. Provision

Prevision is the period in my life that led to the vision phase. This prevision phase includes everything in my life up until the point of seeing that God had called me to ministry and to a particular people in a particular place. Everything counts in the prevision phase, because it was in this prevision stage that God was molding me, shaping me and preparing me for the next phase of my journey with Him.

I used to think that all of the stuff I did before I came to know Christ personally (my BC days) didn't really matter; the mistakes I made, the people I met, the places I went, all of the things I thought, said and did in my heathen/rebellious/idolatrous days. But they did matter. As God said to Jeremiah

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;

Before you were born I sanctified you;

I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer.1:5, NKJV)

Nothing that we have experienced or gone through is a mistake. Even times of suffering and affliction God has used to bring about His plan. The failures and frustrations of our past, along with times of joy and prosperity, are all a part of God's fine tuning and preparation. We see this reality time and again in the Scriptures;Joseph being sold into slavery and imprisoned, Moses being adopted by Pharoah's daughter and raised in Egypt, Daniel and his friends captured in the Babylonian captivity and put to service before Nebuchadnezzar--all of it designed by God for His good purpose.

This is all part of the pre-vision stage.

More to come...

Journaling my Church Planting Journey

I have been asked numerous times by many people to share my experience and journey as an inner-city church planter. I was doing this one or two at a time via e-mail, Facebook messages, etc., and in bits aand pieces via Twitter. The next logical step in doing this is to blog about it.

I was on an SEO website/blog today where the writer was sharing tips on how to have a thriving online presence through blogging and social media. His #1 tip? Blog/commincate about something you are passionate about, because if you don't love what you are doing and telling others about, then others will see through that and will pay little if any attention to what you are saying.

The #1 thing I am most passionate about is knowing Christ and making Him known. This is my personal purpose and mission statement; "To know Christ, to grow in Him, and to make Him known to others." That's it. From that purpose statement comes my vision and strategy--how I see myself accomplishing my purpose and mission, which is: to live as Christ lived, love as He loved, and serve as He served. If I can truly do that the fruit will come as I abide in Christ and He in me.

I am on a personal quest through the Scriptures in an effort to see how God reveals His plans to those whom He calls into action.

The idea is to try and identify how God has spoken to me, through His word and through the turn of events, and discern a somewhat understandable, working knowledge. I realize I cannot understand everything; that what God wants to do in me and through me is beyond what I can fully comprehend or imagine (Eph.3:20). However, in order to share my experience with others, what can I know, understand, and then pass along? So far, I am seeing a discernable pattern emerging. Is this a Biblical pattern, or just my attempt to define my experience and put it in a box and label it? We shall see!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Saying goodbye to a faithful friend

Kitty and I met 16 years ago, in the fall of 1992, at a pet shop in Latham Circle Mall. I was a single man back then. I saw her in the pet store window and adopted her, took her home to my bachelor pad, and we became like family. It was just a few months before I met my wife. When Brenda and I were married, Kitty continued to be a part of our family, along with a stray cat we named Snuggles, because of his affectionate nature. When our two boys came along, Kitty and Snuggles were there. As The boys learned to walk and grab their tails and rough house with them, they just took it in stride. When they would pick Kitty up and carry her around the room, hanging onto her neck as her feet dragged on the floor, she did not once hiss or bite or scratch, she just went along for the ride. The boys became quite fond of our two cats.

Just as this past holiday season kicked off, my wife and I noticed that Kitty didn't look right. she was dehydrated and her stomach seemed to be bloated, yet she was still eating and moving around pretty good, so we decided to wait and see how she does through holidays before taking her to the vet clinic. As Christmas came and went, she seemed to be getting progressively worse. She stopped using the litter box and would no longer eat hard food, and barely any soft food, and she continued to look thinner and more frail. As New Year's day came and went, we noticed that she would lie in one spot for hours and hours without moving. Finally, just this morning, her breathing became heavy and labored, as she would take large gasps of air and struggle to breathe. When my son Daniel came home from school, he looked at her and thought she was dead. She was not moving at all, and she was barely breathing. So, I finally gave in and admitted to myself what I really didn't want to admit; that it's her time to go and to carry this out any longer would be cruel to her. So Dan and I loaded her into the pet carrier and took her to the vet clinic. The veterinarian examined her and told us straight up, "There's nothing we can do that would improve her quality of life, she's lived a good life of 16 years, it's time to do the humane thing and not let her suffer anymore." So we allowed him to euthinize her, as we stood by her side. I tried to be strong and not break down myself, as my son melted in my arms.The doctor left us so that we could say our goodbyes. Dan and I stood there and cried for a good five to ten minutes, and then we left. This was Daniel and Jacob's first experience with losing a pet.

It was a silent ride home from the vet clinic. Dan clung to the pet carrier all the way home, as if Kitty was still inside. When we arrived home and went inside, Mom and younger brother Jacob, along with their school friend Robert, greeted us at the door. And we all embraced and had a family moment. Jacob was sad to see that we didn't have Kitty with us and went to inform our other cat that Kitty was gone. Robert and mom sat with Dan and consoled him for awhile. And I really needed to have a few moments alone. I guess after 16 years together, Kitty had formed a bond with me and my family. She was family. My sons loved her and so did my wife and I. She was my "pretty girl" and she loved to snuggle and was very affectionate. I am sad to see her go. We will all miss her.

Good bye Kitty. We know you're not suffering anymore. May you rest in peace!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The song Playlist has to go!

Some visitors to this blog have mentioned to me that having two audio plugins embedded on the same blog is confusing as the Playlist songs and Planting Channel videos mesh together and compete for attention. I was left with a or videos. I opted for what I believe my blog readers would find more beneficial (and what I would prefer if I were visiting someone else's blog), So, I unembedded the Playlist file. Sorry music fans, you'll have to listen to The Afters and Third Day elsewhere.

Our beautiful, chaotic mess

Chatting with Dave Brown of Austin, TX, via Facebook re: Chaos vs. Order, Dave brought up a great point;that what we perceive to be chaotic and disorderly may be from our perspective and not God's. What we see as a chaotic mess, God is making into something beautiful.

What we have here in Troy NY,aka, the mission field God has sent us to, often seems like a chaotic mess. I am trusting (no, I'm convinced) that God is molding and shaping our chaotic mess into something beautiful, in His eyes that is, and in the eyes of those who are seeing from God's perspective. I guess, as Dave Brown alluded to, it's really a matter of whose lens you're looking through.

When is Church?

Having said what I said in my previous blog post, I recognize that our God is not a God of chaos and disorder, but of order and peace. His order and peace come when He is truly the God of me and the God of His Church and when we come together in the unity of the Holy Spirit. While I may be tired of church as usual, I still recognize the need to meet at a specific time and place, and that groups larger than 12-15 need more space than the average home was designed to accomodate, unless of course you live in a 10,000sq.ft. mansion. So, there is still a need and a legitimate use for the old church buildings, and even the newer ones for thatmetter. I just want to get past the mindset that church is merely a place or an event that occurs at specific times during any given day or week. We are the church collectively and individually. Church does not stop when the worship service and fellowship hour have ended, and the lights have been turned off and the facilities have been locked and secured.

If we truly are the Body of Christ and Christ is truly the head, then Church goes on 24/7; when we meet as a large group on Sunday mornings and on other days and times, as well as in small groups in homes throughout the week, or even smaller groups in a coffee shop.

When I am in my house with my family, praying together and eating meals and living life together, is that "Church" ("wherever 2 or more are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst").

When a group of of people are gathered at the church building, serving and partaking in a community meal to feed hungry children and families, is that church? We may not be gathered in the sanctuary and singing praise songs to some nicely arranged music, wearing our Sunday best, or passing the collection plate, but when I look at what the early church did, as recorded in the book of Acts,

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

I can't help but think that our community meal gatherings fit into this description of what the First Church at Jerusalem did when they assembled themselves together for the purposes mentioned above. We come together. We hear from the word of God, we eat together and we pray together, and we are learning how to live this life together as followers of Christ.

What if some of the people who come together for these community meals are members of other local churches and not members of my local church. Are we still the church? Are we still "having church" even though we are not assembling with our respective pastors and flocks?

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

One of the prevailing thoughts that continually permeates my heart and mind (I'd say that's what a burden is) is that of what the church is. So often, and for too long, we have bought into the idea that the church is merely a "What," an inamimate thing or entity; a building, the place we go to to worship God, aka, God's house. This concept has been culturally and socially ingrained into our minds, to the point that is difficult to separate from it. As I read through and study the the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles, I see what many people see; that the church is not a place, but a people. It is not a building, but a body. It is not an organization, but a living, breathing organism. I haven't discovered anything new. Yes, I have read Purpose Driven Church at least a half dozen times, along with a host of other books about church planting, evangelism, church growth, etc. I have been to numerous church planting and missions conferences. I have heard all the arguments. But at last a Biblical framework is taking root in my heart, as well as in my mind. The Holy Spirit is compelling me to not focus too much time and energy on buildings and budgets, but on building relationships with people in the community, for the puspose of making Christ known. For the past three years my constant prayer has been that Christ would build His church in the community He has sent me to. At the same time He has been breaking me of the religious/organizational mindset that has permeated Christianity for so long. When I first started thinking like this I thought I was nuts, on the fringes, a fool. But then I met and guys like Ed Stetzer, Alan Hirsch, Frank Viola, Neil Cole and a host of others, many of whom are unknown names within the larger church planting community. What I have seen, for the most part, are many people talking about this very issue, yet very few are breaking away from that mindset; perhaps out of fear of losing denominational support, or being labled a heretic. Or, like me, too attached to what has been the norm for centuries. Who am I to break from tradition?

However, as I have been praying and fasting and spending gobs of time in the word of God and studying, meditating, soul searching, etc, etc, etc, I have come to the conclusion that I need a much more simple plan to follow; something real and authentic that consumes me and effects every part of me; heart, mind, soul and strength (and all that it implies or entails). If that is my Biblically and Spiritually induced mindset, then what is the average person in the street looking for? Well, for three years I have been trying to apply the "Church as usual", open the building and invite them in approach to church planting, while at the same time, getting outside the four walls of the church building and doing "outreach and evangelism" for the purpose guessed it...inviting people to become Christians and come to our building, become members of our church, particpate in our programs, support us with their tithes and offerings, etc.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of playing church. I'm tired of denominational politics. I'm tired of religion. I'm tired trying to sell my idea of church to some people while others living around me are going without some of the basic staples of life. I'm tired of trying to please the minority when the majority could care less about our building and budget, our programs and our polity.

I simply want to live as Christ lived, love as He loved, and serve as He served. I believe ,with every ounce of my being, that if I can truly live like that and lead others in this same focus and direction, my community and my city will be dramtically changed by the hand of God. The first century church lived like this, and they found favor with both God and man. The unchurched/ungodly people living within their community were astounded at the love and unity that flowed through this group of Christ followers (read the book of Acts).

The church is not merely a "what" but a Who. We are the people of God. Not "me" but "We."

That's what I want...nothing less, but much more than I could ever imagine or hope for (Eph.3:20-21)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Having fun being missional and incarnational

In the three years we have been in Troy, learning the ropes of church planting and urban missions from an insider's perspective, I have taken the time and opportunity to attend many conferences, both locally and nationally, in an effort to learn and grow. Additionally, I have read numerous books authored by some of the leading thinkers in the realm of church planting. The buzz words, "Missional" and "Incarnational" have sunk into my brain, but my heart is still in the "seeker sensitive" stage.

For instance, I am learning through hands on experience, that being missional and incarnational is not a program, strategy, event, or some new idea that formulated with Ed Stetzer, Alan Hirsch or even Darrell Guder, but simply means living in the community God has sent me to, as a person being transformed daily by Christ. As He lives in me and through me, I am living in such a way that I become the salt and light Jesus spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount.

For me, being "missional" and "incarnational" simply means being the person God created me to be in the place where I live, work and play. It means letting go of what I know and letting Christ truly live His life (Zoe) through me. Then I am able to love as he loved, live as he lived and serve as he served; not merely some superficial vocation that I wear on my sleeve, but a life that is surrendered to do whatever and go wherever the Holy Sprit leads.

I am learning that being missional and incarnational can be fun (it is fun), because if it simply means me being the new man God has created me to be, in the place, and among the people God has sent me to, then by taking my kids and a bunch of neighborhood kids sledding in a nearby park, and then chilling out with some hot cocoa and munchies afterward, and chatting about every day stuff like school, families, life and things that bother us...if that's being missional and incarnational...sign me up every day!

Thinking of creative ways to use an old church building for the glory of the Lord

Three years ago we came to Troy at the invitation of Rev. Perry Jones, director of the Capital City Rescue Mission, and several Conservative Baptist leaders who wanted to see the recently closed Sixth Avenue Baptist Church continue as a local church, but recontextualized for urban/inner-city ministry. For me, it meant moving back to the very neighborhood I was born and raised in. For my wife and children it was a whole new thing.
After praying about it for several weeks, we felt the Lord leading us to go to Troy. Even knowing that Sixth Avenue Baptist had closed, that we'd be taking over an empty, century old 10,000 sq.ft. church building that is showing its age, that there was very little money left in their bank account (which was pretty much gone by the end of 2005-06 winter heating season), and that the church building was located smack dab in the middle of Troy's darkest, most distressed (so they say) neighborhood, did not hinder us from making the 25 mile relocation from Schenectady to Troy.
The first year was sort of a honeymoon period. We closed down the building for a short period of time and began to assess what needed to be done to begin refitting the building for inner-city ministry. We saw the extra large kitchen, complete with a mint condition, ten burner Vulcan gas range to be an asset, and the vision of (0ne day) serving a daily community meal began to scratch its way into my brain. We gathered up a bunch of old furniture which proved to be genuine antiques and hired an auctioneer to sell them, which gave us some additional start up funds. We then began the laborious task of ripping out old, water-stained, mildew ridden carpeting, along with a rotted basement floor and wooden partitions. The basement had been divided into several smaller rooms with wooden partial walls, which had become dry rotted and permeated with the stench of mold. We began meeting weekly, as a small group, for worship and prayer. There were seven of us at that point; me and my family, and three good friends who chose to join us in those early days of ministry. In the summer of 2006 we filed DBA papers with Renssalaer County and became known as The CORE Church of Troy. It was also during this first year that my family and I moved to Troy. It was not that big of a move for me, but my young sons had been uprooted from the only home they had known and placed into a new public school with teachers and kids they didn't know. It took some time, but we all adjusted to our new mission field. Three years into this and we're all making new friends and learning what it looks like to be missionaries in our community.
Year two: we welcomed mission teams from West Lebanon, New Hampshire, who came and blessed us. They painted the sanctuary and front entry vestibule and helped us scrub this old church building from top to bottom (on the inside of course). They also helped us with some neighborhood outreach, which brought many neighborhood children into our church for the first time. Our friends from Westerlo Baptist Church, Westerlo, N.Y. joined us on many occasions for work parties, as well as our first Christmas outreach, through which we were able to give some holiday cheer to more than 200 neighborhood children. We hosted our first block party which we called "Taking it to the Streets." Donna Walsh (now Donna Munafo) and her band, 4ever1, partnered with us for this event, along with Victorious Life Christian Church and many other local pastors and churches who came and helped us serve our community.

Year three: We continued to draw more and more neighborhood children, to the point where the adults were out numbered 2-1. This was a challenge we did not anticipate. Especially challenging was the fact that many of these kids were receiving little discipline in their homes and were bringing that lack of discipline with them to church, along with hungry stomachs. We prayerfully accepted this challenge and began serving lunch every Sunday after church, along with offering children's church and CORE/kids events like movie days, crafts, outdoor events, etc.
Halfway through year three, in the summer 0f 2008, we were introduced to Rev. Willie Bacote, who had voiced his burden for doing more to make the community a better place for the kids who live here, and a Divinely appointed and anointed parthership began. The CORE Church and Missing Link Street Ministry began hosting a three day per week "Feed a Kid" ministry, providing hot, nutritious meals to neighborhood children and their families. What was originally designed to be a summer meal program began to draw large numbers; as many as 150-200. We also began to draw opposition from certain community leaders who preferred that we take the meals and related children's activities "indoors," as they were displeased with the amount of traffic and noise our outdoor ministry lot was drawing. Enduring their opposition, we continued to do the work God had commissioned us to do. As the summer heat began to fade and autumn came knocking, so did the need to continue this community meal, and we did eventually move it inside of the CORE Church building when it became too cold to serve outdoors.
The number of children and families coming to the Feed a Kid meals has not dwindled; in fact, we have been regularly seeing new families come. We connected with local caterers, Old Daley Inn, who have graciously and faithfully been cooking and delivering meals every Wednesday since we began. Mike Martin and his construction company have also given generously every other Friday with pizza and wings. Additionally, Mr. Martin donated his time and materials to repair a leak in our church roof which had been causing some serious problems. There are many other local merchants and businesses who have given of their time and/or resources to see that children in this community, and their families, so not go to bed hungry. We must not forget to thank and mention the many volunteers, who have come to every meal, ready to serve and give of their time to feed these kids. This three day a week community meal has become a labor of love and joy for all of us. What is happening to a group of Christ followers, who were strangers six months ago, is purely and totally God's design. A half year into this and we are beginning to connect with many of the families who are coming to the meals. This past Christmas we co-labored once again for our first annual kids Christmas banquet. The need and response we received proved to be too large for our church building and was moved to the Troy Boys and Girls Club. Many children were served a top quality buffet meal, along with their families. The children received gifts and their parents had the opportunity to shop for toys while their children ate and enjoyed the party, complete with live music from our friends 4ever1. We also gave out Bibles and Christmas story/puzzle books.
2008 has come and gone. 2009 is here. We will continue to live as Christ lived, by loving and serving others the way He did, and commanded His followers to do also. We will see new doors for effective ministry open to us. Ideas of expanding to a seven day per week ministry, with an afterschool club, mentoring, recovery groups, etc. And we will watch as a community of faith take shape; as God gives the increase. There is much work to be done, both inside this old church building, and outside in the community that surrounds it. We are poised to see the hand of Almighty God sweep through this community, as we remain faithful and obedient to His call to serve "the least of these."
Will you continue to pray for us? Will you also pray about helping us financially, with your best gift. Feel free to contact Pastor Dave Lewis or Pastor Willie Bacote anytime.

One of the benefits of winter in the Northeast

Sno-Fun #1: What a great way to spend Saturday afternoon!

Pastor Dave, Brenda and a great bunch of kids (including our own 2 boys) took to the hills of Knickerbacker park. We had a great time with the sleds and snowboards. Later we went back to the church for some hot chocolate, hot dogs and donuts. We met at the church building at 11:00am and proceeded up 101st St. to 7th Ave and then to Knick park with our sled brigade. The outside temp was 28 degrees with a slight breeze; excellent sledding weather. We emerged from the park two and a half hours later with a unanimous decision to return tomorrow after church. Stay tuned for more highlights!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In the new year, I'm resolving to wait upon the Lord

In my new year's day devotions I was reading and meditating on Psalm 31.

The last verse of the Psalm caught my attention, which says,

24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the LORD. (Ps.31:34) NKJV

To "hope in the LORD" means to wait with a confident expectation for His favor.
In fact, most of the cross reference verses for Psalm 31:24 mention waiting on or for the Lord

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

Psalm 37:34
Wait on the LORD,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it

Psalm 40:1
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.

Psalm 62:5
My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

Psalm 130:5
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.

Isaiah 25:9
And it will be said in that day:

“ Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the LORD;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

In these verses the Psalmist speaks of;
  • waiting prayerfully
  • waiting faithfully
  • waiting patiently
  • waiting silently
  • waiting expectantly

Hoping in the Lord requires us to wait expectantly, knowing that His plan and purpose unfolds in His time. He hears all of our prayers, yet it seems like He's not listening at times, or He somehow turns away from us. There are times when our own sinful nature gets the best of us, and because of sin, God must turn away. However, as we cry out to Him, as David did many times, He eventually hears us and rescues us, delivering us by His mighty power and strength.

It goes against our human nature to wait for the Lord. We want things to happen immediately, as we pray and seek God's intervention; whether it be personal prayer or on behalf of others. Many times God purposely waits to answer a prayer because He wants to teach us something about Himself, His kingdom or ourselves, perhaps all at the same time.

The truth is, we can't see everything that God sees, so when we pray, it is with faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped (prayed) for, the evidence of things unseen. So, when we pray we must leave the outcome in God's hands, knowing that He has our best interest, and that of those whom we pray for. When we wait prayerfully, faithfully, patiently, silently, and expectantly, we will be awed when God does answer our prayers. Then we will be filled with a new hope, strength and peace. And we will continue to grow in faith as we wait with joy and hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So, as 2009 begins, I resolve to wait for the Lord; prayerfully, faithfully, patiently, silently and expectantly. As I do, He will strengthen my heart and I will "be of good courage" (Ps.31:24)