Serve and Swim 2015

It’s been several years since I came up with the Serve and Swim concept, and it’s always one of my favorite things we do during the summer. The concept is simple. Go out and do a simple act of kindness in the community, then take everyone and go swimming at someone’s house. Tonight was Serve and Swim 2015, and we had a great outreach with our students!

We are launching a third Shelter Rock Church campus in Westbury on October 4th, so I contacted a local ice cream store and worked out a deal to buy several hundred scoops of ice cream to give out to people in the community for free. Tonight our students walked Post Ave. in Westbury and gave out 380 coupons for a free scoop of ice cream compliments of SRC, along with an Invite Card for the Westbury launch. We had many good conversations with folks. Several said they would come and check out SRC. One guy told us he’s coming and bringing his whole family. Another lady in a bar started bawling her eyes out in tears of joy when she heard that a church was starting right around the corner from her house. We talked to lots of the local business owners too. Before we left for our pool party, I bought all of our kids ice cream. It was a great way to partner with and support a local business, and a great way to build excitement about our church coming to town.

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Why Read the Bible Every Day Even When You Don’t Understand It?

 “I have put Scripture at the top for fairly obvious reasons, which are there in Jesus’s teachings and elsewhere in the writings of the early Christians. The practice of reading Scripture, studying Scripture, acting Scripture, singing Scripture — generally soaking oneself in Scripture as an individual and the community — has been seen from the earliest days of Christianity as central to the formation of Christian character.

“It is important to stress at this point (lest the whole scheme collapse into triviality) that this has only secondarily to do with the fact that Scripture gives particular instructions on particular topics. That is important, of course, but it is far more important that the sheer activity of reading Scripture, in the conscious desire to be shaped and formed within the purposes of God, is itself an act of faith, hope, and love, an act of humility and patience. It is a way of saying that we need to hear a fresh word, a word of grace, perhaps even a word of judgment as well as healing, warning as well as welcome. To open the Bible is to open a window toward Jerusalem, as Daniel did (6:10). no matter where our exile may have taken us.

“It is, in particular, a way of locating ourselves as actors within an ongoing drama. No matter how many smaller stories there may be within Scripture, and how many million edifying stories there may be outside it, the overall drama of Scripture, as it stands, forms a single plot whose many twists and turns nonetheless converge remarkably on a main theme, which is the reconciliation of heaven and earth as God the Creator deals with all that frustrates his purpose for his world and, through his Son and his Spirit, creates a new people through whom his purpose — filling the world with his glory — is it last to be realized. To be formed by this capital-S story is to be formed as a Christian. To take the thousand, and ten thousand, decisions to open the Bible today and read more of the story, even if we can’t yet join it all up in our own heads, is to take the next small step toward being the sort of person who, by second nature, will think, pray, act, and even feel in the way appropriate for someone charged with taking that narrative forward.

“We are not yet, after all, at the end of the drama. Bible readers … will find themselves drawn in as “characters” on stage. Yes that may well mean “playing a part,” and all the old charges of hypocrisy that cluster around the practices of virtue will come rumbling in here as well. But the more you know the play, the less you will be “playing a part” and the more you will simply be yourself. Sooner or later, you’ll be acting naturally. Second nature. That’s how virtue works.

“Of course, within the Bible there are all kinds of far more specific passages which shape and direct the life of faith, hope, and love, and which the Spirit can and does use to stir up God’s people to produce fruit. Almost every paragraph of the four gospels will have this effect, if read, pondered, and prayed through slowly and carefully. Likewise, the Psalms will open up the heart and mind of anyone who reads, sings, or prays them with any attention; they will form and reform that heart and mind in a way which, though by no means always comfortable, is always formative of Christian character. Even the genealogies, best read today at a run, can provide a powerful sense of the ongoing purposes of God, with generation after generation living by faith and hope before the next major point in the divine purpose unfolds, like a long-awaited late-blooming orchid. Some parts of the Bible are best drunk like a large glass of water on a hot day — in other words large quantities at a time — while others, such as many parts of the letters, are best sipped and savored, drop by drop, like a fine wine (always remembering that, especially in a letter, every verse means what it means in relation to the whole thing, not on it’s own). But the point is that reading the Bible is habit-forming; not just in the sense that the more you do it the more you are likely to want to do it, but also in the sense that the more you do it the more it will form the habits of mind and heart, of soul and body, which will slowly but surely form your character into the likeness of Jesus Christ. And the “your” here is primarily plural, however important the singular as well.

“This isn’t to say there aren’t hard bits in the Bible — both passages that are difficult to understand and passages that we understand only too well but find shocking or disturbing … Avoid the easy solution to these: that these bits weren’t “inspired,” or that the whole Bible is wicked nonsense, or that Jesus simply abolished the bits we disapprove of. Live with tensions. Goodness knows there are plenty of similar tensions in our own lives, our own world. Let the troubling words jangle against one another. Take the opportunity to practice some patience (there may yet be more meaning here than I can see at the moment) and humility (God may well have things to say through this for which I’m not yet ready). In fact, humility is one of the key lessons which comes from reading the Bible over many years; there are some bits we find easy and other bits we find hard, but not everybody agrees as to which is which.

“Some people, it seems, are temperamentally suited to a particular book or type of book which others find opaque. John’s gospel is like that: some acclaim it as the very summit of the Scriptures, while others, though appreciating some of its great strengths, find it awkward and puzzling. Some people find that with St. Paul as well. Perhaps — and this is where humility comes in — it might just be the case that Scripture is so arranged that in order to grow toward a full genuine humanness, toward the well-rounded virtue of being a royal priesthood, we have to grow into Scripture, like a young boy inheriting his older brothers clothes and flopping around in them while he gradually fills out and grows up. Perhaps it’s a measure of our own maturity when parts of Scripture that we found odd or even repellent suddenly come up in a new light; when people who naturally embrace Paul come to love John as well, and vice versa; when people soaked in Revelation suddenly warm to Acts, and vice versa. Perhaps it’s another sign of maturity when our sense that Scripture is made up of some bits we know and love and other bits we tolerate while waiting for our favorites to come around once more, is suddenly overtaken by a sense of the whole thing — wide, multicolored, and unspeakably powerful. We had, perhaps, been wandering around in light mist, visiting favorite villages and hamlets, and then, as the mist gradually cleared, we discovered that everything we had loved was enhanced as it was glimpsed within a massive landscape, previously unsuspected, full of hills and valleys and unimagined glory” (N.T. Wright, After You Believe, pp. 261-264).

Nicaragua Mission Day 7

This morning we had devotions at 7:30am and breakfast at 8am. We then set up for something of a “VBS”. We had 2 groups of children bussed in from the community – one group at 9am and another at 2pm. We played soccer, did facepainting, made balloon animals, then had a time of singing and dancing followed by a gospel message. We are super proud of Claudia who preached in the morning, and Timmy who preached in the afternoon.  About 5 children prayed to receive Christ following each message! Never underestimate the significance of a child praying to receive the Lord. I was one of those children! Let’s pray for these 10 or so kids. Pray that the seed of the Word of God has landed on good soil, and that it will bear good fruit in their lives. This evening we had rhe 7 year anniversary celebration of Villa Esperanza. We led worship, some of the girls from the Villa did some dances, we ate dinner, had cake, watched a slide show, and shared notes and took pictures with the girls. It was a very fun night. Tomorrow we are loading the bus at 4am to head to the airport.   
    
    
    
   

   

    
 

If I believe in Christianity, am I a Christian?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

When Dr. J. Edwin Orr spoke to a group at a University, a young lady raised her hand to say, “I do not understand this. If a man believes in Communism, he is a Communist; if he believes in Socialism, he is a Socialist; I believe in Christianity‑‑am I not a Christian?” “Not necessarily so,” replied Dr. Orr. Then he asked, “Do you believe in marriage?” “Yes, I do,” she answered, “I’m engaged to be married.”

Facetiously, he asked the young ladies in the group how many of them believed in marriage and ninety‑nine percent of them raised their hands. “That’s very interesting,” Dr. Orr said. “You say that you believe in marriage. It so happens that I am a chaplain of the Air Force. I am recognized by the government to perform marriages. This young lady says if one believes in Communism, he is a Communist; if one believes in Christianity, he is a Christian; now you tell me you believe in marriage: allow me to pronounce all of you married. What’s wrong with that?”

One girl protested, “Mr. Orr, you know that marriage is not a philosophy; marriage is a personal relationship!” “Exactly,” he replied. “And Christianity is not a mere philosophy; to be a Christian is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a living Person.” (From: Stories that Feed Your Soul by Tony Campolo)

A Prayer For Small Groups

Tonight is small groups night for our students, and it got me thinking about this little poem I wrote a few years ago, which is my prayer for small groups.

Father, today as our small group meets
I pray that each person will feel your heartbeat
May they know they are special, they’re cared for, they’re loved
Your kingdom come, on earth as above

Our time together, though not long only short
May it seed true communion with You in our hearts
Help us see Your image inside of each other
Teach us what it means to truly love one another

Away from the big, the loud, the flash
Just a few of us here to share and to laugh
To discuss Your Word, to share and go deeper
To talk real life and be our brother’s keeper

Praying for one another as we journey through life
May we encourage each other to reflect Your light
Let us always be inclusive, welcoming, warm
A safe place for all in the midst of life’s storms

Lord we all come from a myriad of places
Give us wisdom and kindness and grace and patience
Thank you for unity in the midst of diversity
Make us one in Christ, true Christian community

Bless those abundantly who have opened their home
Upon their house, God we pray Your Shalom
May it be filled with laughter, with joy, and with vision
In return for their giving, God we pray Your provision

And let us, O Lord, never ever forget
That there’s someone else out there who has yet to connect
Your eyes and your mouth to see and invite
That not one, O Lord, would be alone in the fight

It’s a mystery to me why they seem to be Your preference
But amazingly in the end small groups make a great big difference
Life on life, Jesus you modeled it back then
So I’ll do the same, in Jesus name, Amen.

– Kevin Mahaffy, Jr.

My Prayer Today … Is it Yours?

Woke up with this song swirling around in my heart. It’s my prayer today.

Jr. High NYC Mission Day 5

This morning Pastor Ron made a pancake breakfast for our team and the other team that arrived yesterday from Ecuador. After breakfast we had a combined devotional time. Natalia shared on servanthood, then I shared from 1 Corinthians 3, and one of the leaders from the other team shared as well. It was a really neat time of encouraging one another as our team was wrapping up a week of ministry and their team was beginning. After devotions we cleaned the dormitories and packed. At 11am we took a group pic in front of the church, then hit the subway, walked about 1/2 of a mile (freezing cold again!) and caught our train home. On the train we went around, and each person shared what they appreciated about each other. We also gave each other care cards. We arrived back in Mineola at 1:15pm, and everyone was safely reunited with their families. It was a wonderful and stretching week in which we all served the Lord by serving His people and grew in our faith.

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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 4

This morning we had breakfast at 7:30am. Christina led our group devotions. After cleaning up, we headed to the subway at 8:30am bound for lower Manhattan during rush hour. e were packed in like sardines! We arrived at the Bowery Mission at 9:30am and were given a tour of this incredible ministry which is 135 years old. We then got to work sorting donated food items and stocking the food room, breaking down cardboard boxes, and sweeping and mopping. We had a short break to eat lunch which doubled as a training on how to serve our guests when they arrived for lunch. We then settled into

our positions and served lunch to 150 people – many of them homeless. It was a great joy to honor these people as guests of the Bowery mission and serve them in the name of Jesus with kindness and smiles. After cleaning up we said goodbye about 2:30pm and headed off for our fun time. We went to Little Italy and Chinatown to buy souvenirs, then we went uptown to Rockefeller Center where we went to the Top of the Rock and enjoyed a crystal clear view of the city from 70 stories high. We took the train back to Living Waters, arriving about 8pm, and had dinner. It has been a really great trip! We look forward to our final night together, and then packing up and heading home tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers.

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