Archives For church history


DAY 1: ASH WEDNESDAY – I had an interesting church up bringing. I can safely say it was not a typical journey, but it gave me an exposure to pretty much every variety of church there is. In one sense the variety of sources I had in my life that gave me my taste of christian culture made it so I wasn’t stuck in one stream. However it also forced me to think about things, dissect my faith, and seek Jesus outside the confines of wrote devotion.

My introduction to the practices of the Christian church started when I was little because my parents were both ministers. I remember one of the earlier churches my dad was an assistant pastor at sometime in the early 80’s. It was a messianic church which gave me a great backbone and context for the jewish culture in the Bible. I remember the times of dancing and singing the traditional oom-pah oom-pah tempo songs to celebrate purim and passover. There always seemed to be a festival for something, but it was later in the episcopal church that I would start to get my feet wet in the value of contemplation and lament.

Over the next 20 years, from my liturgical church in NY to the baptist church in PA; messianic temple in VA; The vineyard church in VA; The assembly of God church in PA; the evangelical church in MO; the independent church in OR… etc etc; I found myself steeped in what only could be called a baskin robins theology. 51 flavors and so hard to pick my favorites.

I’m not going to memory lane here in order to bore my readers. I’m doing it because as I look back on where I have come from I can see the hand of God in how he has refined my understanding of Him, rewritten the things I was dogmatic about, and restored my faith when often times religious duty tried to destroy it.

This brings me to lent. I’m writing DAY 1 here because today starts lent with Ash wednesday. I’d like to think I have the mental stamina to write every day a reflection for the next 39, but in case I don’t I’d like to demystify the journey to holy week… Because that is exactly what lent is. It’s a personal and community journey towards towards the Lord and away from… me.

Sure you could go google it, but you will get a sterile wikipedia definition and I would like to share my definition born out of the rubble of my triumphs and failures, my victories and my defeats.

Every year we would go to ash wednesday service, listen to a sermon on the fact we came from dust and to dust we will return and then proceed to the front to have the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads. As a kid I felt so cool. I was part of the crew and just like my parents. We would go out for dinner afterwards at some cheap diner on long island and be proud to stand out in the crowd of ash-less people. 20 min. later I forgot the mark was even there because my bagel tasted so good. We would go home, I’d wash it off and then head to bed. The next morning I would wake up and it’s like ash wednesday never happened.

This was our pattern. I went through the motions and when I got old enough to understand why we did it, I still went through the motions. It’s not that I didn’t believe in Jesus. I DID, but I became desensitized to His truth.

Fast forward to this last year. It’s a year that has come out of a long season of trials, pain, joy, and miracles. I guess it can be best described as a roller coaster ride that I’m not sure I even remember getting on. Getting wounded by life teaches you how much the presence of God matters. As I get closer to Him looking for healing, I have learned so much about how addicted I have become… to me.

I have always loved the liturgy of the church. I love being connected to the ancient church in practice, but maybe it’s because I see myself in the disciples. They were such misfits. Dirtbags who seemed to be worthless and yet Jesus would look them in the eye and say how much He loved them.

He would tell the lepers, the doubters, the prostitutes, the prideful, the low and the high, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

…And I found myself this last week being met with the coming of Lent and ash wednesday once again, but with almost a new lens on it because I’m hearing jesus say “If you want to be with me then deny yourself… make your life about me and not you.”

Yes I know He also said “I will never leave you or forsake you”, but I think when He says “if you want to be with me…” He is asking us if we are willing to push through all of the debris of our life in order to just get a hand on his robe… Or do we value His presence less than we value our pride?

Today begins with ashes on the head. Ashes that were created from the palms of last years palm sunday. Because Yesterday’s triumphs pave the way for today’s humility. I find myself unashamed to be marked by Christ…although this year I’m less concerned about the mark on my forehead as I am the marks on my heart.

Luke 6:45 says “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Have you noticed the garbage that we spew each day out of our mouths? We have to ask ourselves what is in our hearts then.

I have learned that my heart has been wounded, cut, and infected and so when I speak often times it is out of the abscess of my heart. This is what Lent is all about though. It’s a self-cleaning cycle. It’s a re-alignment to Jesus. It’s 40 days of deliberately laying down my will and letting go of my heart so that the only mark left on it is the imprint of God’s spirit.

There is a song by Daniel Bashta that encapsulates this well. He says

“Strip everything away till all I have is You
Undo the veils till all I see is You.
I will pursue You, I will pursue Your presence”

For me it’s not a matter of what thing I am going to give up this year in order to self-deny.
It’s more of a prayer to Jesus asking Him to reveal the things in life that I am not willing to give up. 

I want to head into holy week as I walk with Jesus over palm branches in the streets of Jerusalem, hike up Golgotha to where he was crucified, stand in the garden with mary with my mouth wide open as I see the “gardener”, watch as Thomas puts his hands into the resurrected Jesus’ hands, and sit on the beach with Peter and Jesus having breakfast as He restores the misfit who He said He would build His church on… with a fresh spirit and more thankful heart.

This is an opportunity to encounter God in fresh and new ways, ways that will challenge us, encourage us, and humble us. It’s a season of listening and inhaling the new mercy of God daily. A time of moving past sobriety and into recovery. A time to encourage each other, be Christ to each other and see the Christ-likeness in each other. To be the real us, where we can seek help and forgiveness, through repentance be made whole by God our healer, and let go of our orphan mentality by accepting we have been made to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven and Children of the Most High God.

I recognize all of that was painted with a broad brush, but I hope to share what God speaks to me periodically in the next few weeks in order to bring in more detail and color to the blank canvas that is Lent.

If His mercy is new every morning then receive it because today is a clean slate then let this first day of Lent be a step forward towards Jesus.

More Loud and Deep

December 5, 2015 — 1 Comment

bells

I am one of those people that loves the anticipation period of advent and all the symbolism with it even more than I like Christmas itself. Don’t get me wrong… I love waking up on christmas morning at the crack of dawn to race down the stairs and watch my kids have a blast with their new toys as I munch on cinnamon buns and bacon, but.. there is just something about advent that makes my spirit full.

Have you ever tried to truly wrap your head around what it might have been like for the jews anticipating the messiah. Can you imagine your whole life being told that a savior was coming who would put an end to all the governments and people groups that reeked havoc on your people. A season of waiting that had gone on for generations must have felt like it would never come.

They were told in Isaiah 6:9 a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.



They waited in uncertainty for a messiah and it must have been easy to doubt. I can imagine that many would have forgotten to care. The sense of urgency was gone and the complacency with whatever life has dealt them sank in.

Then one day God interrupted time.
For God so loved.. that he sent his only son.
This King of Kings… The son of God. The messiah didn’t come riding on a horse armed to the teeth to save the Israelites.. instead he came as a baby.

Hebrews 2:14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as a man to save mankind… to help us so that we would not only share in his suffering but share in his glory. It’s amazing and all together mind-blowing that our God is that loving.

There seems to be a disconnect these days especially when you turn on the news. The world we live in is such a mess. War is all around us and possibly at our doorstep these days. Terrorists are killing people, extremists are targeting Christians, Sex trafficking is huge in Atlanta, Racism looks like it’s 1950 again, there is video of planned parent hood killing babies and nobody blinks an eye… Our world is in outrage over atrocities and we battle it with fear and ranting Facebook posts in a literally limp wristed attempt at justice by the click of a mouse. Cities are getting blown up by people wearing suicide bombs, politicians are parading their lying evil agendas, millions are starving, There is still homeless in our community, Christians battle each other with hateful words and accusations, prejudice and persecution fill our news headlines, we are afraid to go to the movies and we kick ourselves for profiling people because we never know who to be afraid of. Our response once again is sitting on our couches in amazement and fear.

Where is God in all this?


Where is the God of justice in a world of so much pain and injustice?

These days it is hard to truly appreciate the anticipation of advent. It has been described as an expectation of something we know will come much like a pregnant woman in labor… but we want everything now. We want instant gratification… so every year Christmas gets just a little bit closer and every year we complain about Walmart already having their christmas decorations up in sept… but it’s what we want if we are honest. We want it now! 

In the same sense we want the God of justice and mercy to come in and fix everything and we get upset and frustrated without the anticipation that HE WILL when he returns.

The other night after a church outreach prep, my co-pastor mark, and I were in the parking lot and a cop pulled up beside us in the parking lot. It was dark and mark and I were like.. oh man here we go. The cops have met us outside our church many times asking why we were there at 10PM…
This time it was different. He got out and let us know that he has been assigned to help, serve and protect the churches in the area. He shared with us that he is a christian and in a worship team. A really nice kid. Then he asked if we would be willing to go through active shooter training with him.
I have to say that even hearing that line made me uneasy. These are the times we are in sadly. I have been in ministry for 20 years and I have never heard the words “we should prepare for an active shooter situation.”

. 

The enemy comes in like a roaring lion looking to steal and destroy.

So in the mean time… where is God because if I am honest I want to spend this season excited about Jesus and not afraid about our world, but then my social media lights up yet again of another shooting or some other horrible thing that has come from the dark hearts of man.

“While dining at home on December 1, 1863, The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement.” This story Href

Longfellow writes in I heard the bells on christmas day:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Isn’t that the place we are in sometimes? This world is a mess, our community is broken, christians can be real hypocritical jerks and persecute each other, families are broken, relationships on the rocks, depression… anxiety and fear are devastating and crippling…

It’s one of the reasons why the Church is so important.. because hate is strong, depression is strong and it flies in the face of peace on earth good will to men.

But.. There is jesus..

I was watching interviews with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Bagdad. He was talking about what it is like to have a church in the middle of a warzone. The US is not there of course, but we can learn a lot about what it looks like to deal with fear by Canon Andrew’s church. He shares about kids who are running away from killers and people who have lost everything. The Christians, when asked how do they deal with the fear and the fact that when they are baptized that the next day they might be killed, respond with these lines:

“when you have nothing…Jesus is everything”

“Yeshua is always with me”

If you are reading this and made it this far I want you to sit on those two phrases and then move on to the rest of this piece.

Jesus… Yeshua… casts out fear.

And the angel said “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Where is God? He is HERE! and…
God is not scared of what we are scared of.
God is not bound by what we are bound by.
God is not held captive by our captors
The Creator is NEVER defeated by the creation

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Because we know that our God is with us and for us not only can nothing be against us, but we are given a source of hope. Our world has lost hope and is only in anticipation of more evil.
Advent teaches that the hope of the world came…
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The hope of the world, emanuel is with us now
John 1:4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
He didn’t come into this broken world to put a bandaid on it and leave. He came to be emmanuel, God with us. He came to be the good news that “unto us was born our savior”

And Jesus, our hope will return someday and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Longfellow finished his christmas song of listening, pain and despair with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doubt He sleeps
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men

If you have lived near a church with bells then you know how loud they can be. For Longfellow, they became a deep reminder of hope. I think about all the times I have been in a funk, wrapped in fear or frustration and then I hear a song or read a verse or God speaks to me through a stranger… and the bells of heaven become more loud and deep in my soul reminding me that no matter how I feel: God is not dead.. He is not asleep. Emanuel is with me.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Church, WE are the light of the world. Jesus gave us life so that we would shine bright for him in the darkness of our community.

As you give food to the hungry or clothe the naked
as you pray for a loved one
as you tell your kids Jesus loves them
As you speak with kindness to your starbucks barista
as you give a coffee and a hug to a homeless person
as you love recklessly
As you do anything for the “least of these”…
YOU become the ringing bells that ring more loud and deep and remind those who could no longer hear jesus or anticipated his presence that He is not dead and he is not asleep.

May our prayer for our world be that the eyes of man would then be opened by the ringing bells of the Body of Christ so that like Jacob people would say
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”.

OneEvent

Tonight I had the privilege of attending a service in Providence, RI called “ONE EVENT”. I heard about this event through a few brothers in christ that I know on Facebook, but have never met in person and they were both spearheading this with their churches. Andrew Mook from Sanctuary church and Jason Lee from Renaissance church along with pastors from a few other providence churches came together to meet, pray, and worship. They came together in unity to seek the face of God and to fight for their city.

If you have ever read my blog this heart should sound familiar. Not only is this something I think about daily and try to work towards in my own community/ministry, but it is the heart of God to see His body united.

We walked in and were greeted by some pretty cool/hip looking kids that made this prematurely bald worship pastor feel wicked old. Behind us was a mass of people piling into the building. There was something here that I don’t see very often in Newport area.

Anticipation.

Let that sink in for a second because it is key. They came in with expectation and you could see it on the peoples faces. Worship was great and so were the times of prayer. Nothing insane happened. Nobody rose from the dead. Nothing out of the ordinary to the naked eye. But for a guy who has been in ministry for 17 years and plowing through cement within the context of unity in the body there was something clearly out of the ordinary.

This group of people truly were there for the city. Every agenda, every theological difference, worship style, ethnicity, and cultural background was put aside for this time. There was a sense of purpose that I have not seen in the RI body of christ in a long time. There was an awareness that 5 churches being present in a building regardless of what they do is powerful in the spiritual realm. There was an expectation that the prayers would shake up the principalities in the area.

I have seen this hunger before in my area of RI and have seen the ebb and flow. We spend a ton of time praying for the church and for revival to happen. This body prayed that God would move in any way He chose and that they would be willing and repentant participants in His story.

They concluded with communion. There is nothing that unites the Church more than the cross.

Recently in our 1Prayer unity nights we have begun to do a very similar format.

I am blessed to have been able to have seen the Lord tonight. God is moving in providence. God is stirring up His people and calling them back to Him.

Monday night we have our own UNITY event in newport. I pray we continue to walk in expectation that God wants to do something amazing. I pray that the apathy that has enslaved our churches gets released.

I pray that our friends in Providence that are seeing God set the captives free intercede for their brothers and sisters in Newport County and the same way we are for them.

To God be the Glory.

Let end with this:
BEAUTIFUL BRIDE by FLYLEAF

Unified diversity
Functioning as one body
Every part encouraged by the other
No one independent of another
You’re irreplaceable, indispensable
You’re incredible, incredible

Beautiful bride
Body of Christ
One flesh abiding
Strong and unifying
Fighting ends in forgiveness
Unite and fight all division
Beautiful bride

Strengthen your arms now
Train your fingers for battle
Urgency’s here now

Yesterday was mother’s day and while that was awesome and we had a great time honoring my wife, it was another important day. Pentecost.

I read something like 150 or so blogs and I’ve gotta tell ya I don’t think I saw that word anywhere. Then I went searching for videos to use in the service on sunday and worshiphousemedia, bluefish and the others had nothing with that topic.

I’ve gotta ask why?

This was the day the Holy spirit fell and the church began. If you get a chance go read acts. It was amazing and we should be celebrating the Glory of God in it.