Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

5.28.2015

It's the End of the World!


I'm a good person...

Whenever people find out I am a pastor they say all sorts of things.  Often people will try to convince me of what a good person they are, its almost cute.

Recently I had someone tell me "I'm a good person, I always let people into my home, and help whoever needs help."  The interesting thing was that this person was saying all of this to me to justify their present state of drunkenness, and the vulgarity that had been dripping from their mouth for the 30 minutes they were talking to me before they knew I was a pastor.

But when they said this, something clicked…

In the culture I grew up in, people would often say "I'm a good person…" but the rationale was different, "I'm a good person because I don't steal, use drugs, or hurt people."

But what this person told me was indicative of a different cultural norm, and they were definitely not the first person to show this to me, it was just the first time I had noticed it this clearly.

The culture of my upbringing defined 'goodness' as purity and righteousness.

The culture of many I interact with now define 'goodness' as hospitality and charity.

I'm not sure that one is better or worse, but the difference is there...

5.27.2015

How to Help

Go to the peopleLive among themLearn from themLove themStart with what they knowBuild on what they haveBut of the best leadersWhen their task is doneThe people will remark"We have done it ourselves."

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Above is an anonymous proverb that captures the heart of discipleship.  It also points at a Kingdom perspective in helping those in need.  If we help in such a way that those we have helped are forever indebted to us, forever idolizing us, and forever looking to us for more help, then we haven't done for them what Jesus would do.

5.23.2015

BUMP

The Vineyard offered to help us publicize what we are doing here in Buffalo, check it out!

A Different Kind of Partnership


5.22.2015

Love Your Neighbor pt II

The small group I belong to had a blast this week…

…Donna (one of the women in our group) has started making a list of her neighbors who need help on projects around their homes.  One of those people was a woman who has gotten to the point where she can no longer bend over to do work on the ground, her husband has passed, and she has no family in the area to help.  Additionally, the City has been pestering her about some of the peeling paint on her home.

So we went over to brush and repaint her foundation wall.

Almost 20 of us showed up (including kids) and we got about half the job done (you can see pictures below).  There weren't quite enough tools to go around, so several people ended up hanging out with our neighbor while we worked.

Our plan was to order pizza and head back down the block to Donna's house, but instead we were told we had to come inside and eat.  (This is typical Italian hospitality, and our host is proudly Sicilian…) So inside we went!

It was a wonderful blessing to me to watch our small group love each other, and love this woman.  Over the course of the evening people engaged with our host, asking her about her life, chatting with her, encouraging her, loving her…

…at one point she said to me, "this is like a godsend… wait a minute, this IS a Godsend!"

Several of us were able to pray for her, blessing her home and her life.  We are headed back next Wednesday to finish the job!

I was struck by how naturally our small group community was able to serve together, love together, and minister together.  There wasn't anything forced or awkward about the way we were present with our neighbor.

I left with a full heart.







5.21.2015

Love Your Neighbor



A friend and I visited a neighboring City.  We ended up staying at a hostel and got to have some really exciting spiritual conversations with the host.  He was not a person who had committed to the Kingdom, but was clearly interested in Jesus, and was open to spiritual things.  We sat on the porch enjoying a beer, and some really deep conversations.  Over our time in the hostel we were able to pray with him, and to invite him to the Christian fellowship we had connections to in that City.  It was really quite a blessing to have that experience, although I have no idea what has happened to him in the time since our visit.

...but here is where the story gets sad.

We found out during our stay there, that there was a Christian 'discipleship house' immediately next door to the hostel.  Unfortunately, we found this out because at some point in our conversation with our host he commented, "you aren't like the other Christians."  Of course we asked him to clarify what he meant by this.

He replied, "there is a christian house next door, and we tried to get to know them, but they told us that they aren't allowed to talk to us.  I think they are afraid we will rub off on them."

A litany of emotions flooded through me... anger, frustration, confusion, depression, compassion, hope, despair.  How could it be possible that a house full of committed followers of Christ could live next door to this man for so long, but it took two men coming from Buffalo to share the love of God with him?

5.20.2015

Sabbath

In the years since I have stopped working a second job for the cable company and have focused solely on my ministry work, I have consistently taken a sabbath each week.  On occasion I have to forgo my day of rest, but I would say that 9 times out of 10, on a Monday I am available only to my family, and do no thinking or laboring towards my ministry efforts.  While it has always been a needed time of rest and retreat, it hasn't always been as life-giving as other disciplines in my life like worship, prayer, study, fellowship, service...

I was in conversation with my spiritual director about my practice of sabbath, and he suggested that I find ways to engage on my sabbath; not just retreat from the world, but engage in some particular activity that I find enjoyable for its own sake.  In particular he asked about a 'creative' outlet.

Now, I have some ability at drawing, but its never excited much passion in me, I have a passable ability at guitar, but my passion there lies in worship not in creating music, I like to write, but very little of my writing is 'creative.'  I have, however, long been passionate about building things.  In recent years that has largely taken the form of fixing up the two houses that we own, which, obviously, is not very 'creative' either.  Even more problematic for the practice of sabbath, it just isn't retreat from work.  I derive an income from it, I have deadlines and expectations, it is work.

And so, I have turned my hand back to building furniture...

I have built a few pieces over the years, only one or two that I felt 'proud' of, but have always enjoyed it.  In the last two months of sabbaths I have built a small table, and a wooden offering box for use in our worship service.





Here is the lid and the box before I added the straps to the lid and attached the lid to the box:



5.11.2015

Preaching to 'Us' and the Three Magic Words

I was once asked by a younger leader, "how can I teach or lead someone in something that I haven't figured out?  I would be a hypocrite!"

Now, the truth of this statement should not be ignored!  It is quite true that we cannot lead someone where we have not been ourselves.  It is quite true that we cannot teach what we do not know.  It is quite true that we cannot give away what we do not have.  However...

...my response to my friend was this, "when we preach Jesus, we will always be preaching something that is beyond ourselves.  This is not hypocrisy, but faithfulness to the Scriptures.  If we were only preaching what we had ourselves mastered, then we would not be faithful to the whole counsel of the Kingdom."

So how do we reconcile these two opposing truths?

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I was taught by my pastor to preach to 'us,' and to rarely if ever preach to 'you.'  I have learned that there are rarely appropriate times to speak in the language of 'you people' but they are most certainly not when speaking difficult truths.  Even though I am a preacher, I am myself included in the congregation who is being preached to.  I must hear the words pronounced; I must receive the revelation, correction, admonition, challenge, encouragement, teaching, blessing, and wisdom.  Are you a teacher or a leader?  Number yourself among those who are taught and led!

Hearing my pastor preach this way modeled for me a humility before Christ, and before the church that I hope to emulate.  It also, however, provided an open door to hear the difficult call to carry the Cross of Christ.  The posture of humility from the preacher, including himself in the challenge, allowed me to be challenged as well.

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Then we come to the three magic words...

...I will never forget them.  I heard them often on the lips of my pastor, but the first time I heard him say them, he was standing in the pulpit.  I had never heard a pastor utter these words before.  I don't think I had ever heard a Christian speak them, certainly not about spiritual or theological matters.  They were a shock to my system, but a good shock.  Like cool water on a hot day, or the unexpected arrival of beautiful music that perfectly matches the mood of the moment, or a word of encouragement when rebuke was expected, came these words:

"I don't know."

Again, the posture of humility allows for our walls to come down, and for Christ to be revealed before us in all of His glory, all of His mercy, and all of His judgment.  We can hear the difficult words of challenge, when they come with a recognition of our common need for His grace, His wisdom, and His Kingdom.