"As she stood looking at it, wondering why there was a lamp-post in the middle of a wood and wondering what to do next, she heard a pitter patter of feet coming toward her..." (C S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sorry, Nice try though.

jesus radical meme

Perhaps you’ve seen this statement floating around the internet. Maybe you’ve read it on Facebook or a blog, or someone showed it to you. It is interesting, succinct and engaging. It is also almost entirely inaccurate. Let’s break it down.

“Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary who hung around with lepers, hookers and crooks; wasn’t American and never spoke English;”
Okay, I could be nitpicky, but this line is basically true.

“was anti-wealth,”
Nowhere does it describe Jesus as anti-wealth. In fact, he often spoke of money and the need to use it well for the kingdom, but never condemned wealth. He certainly opposed treating money as an idol. He himself received gold at his birth and was financially supported by a number of wealthy women in particular (Luke 8:1-3).

“anti-death penalty,”
Nope. Jesus spoke about personal non-retaliation in the Sermon on the Mount, or against hypocritical and vigilante justice concerning the woman who was to be stoned for adultery, neither of which oppose the death penalty imposed by the State. The insurrectionist on the cross next to Jesus said, “We are punished justly, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus doesn’t correct him, but offers him grace. Jesus affirms the authority of the Old Testament which allows for capital punishment.

“and even anti-public prayer (Matthew 6:5);”
Sorry, Matthew 6 is not a blanket prohibition against public prayer, but is contextually prohibiting showing off when we pray. Jesus himself prayed in public, and he calls his people to pray together, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

“but was never anti-gay,”
It is true that Jesus is not anti-anyone. However, he does define marriage in a discussion with the Pharisees on divorce: ““Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:4-6).

“never mentioned abortion or birth control,”
Why would he mention abortion? It was already understood to be murder in his context. Jesus condemns murder and that should be enough to cover abortion. Birth control is not a sin, so there is no need for him to condemn it.

“never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never asked a leper for a copay;”
Reading modern issues into a first-century figure is just plain silly. Jesus never spoke about the internet, smart phones or satellites either. Looking at his teaching, he commends work “Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working’” (John 5:17). Turn it around and it is also true, “Jesus never called the rich lazy, never condemned torture, never fought for tax increases for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never said we shouldn’t ask for a copay for healthcare.”

“and was a long haired, brown-skinned, homeless community-organizing,”
No on the first, whatever on the second and heck no on the third. There is no evidence Jesus had long-hair. He was a Middle Eastern Jew and looked like it, whether you call that brown-skinned is a matter of opinion I suppose. It is irrelevant. And he was far more than a homeless community-organizer. What does that even mean? Is he organizing the homeless community, or is he homeless and community-organizing? Either way, this misses who he was and what he has come to do. He came as a Savior, not a community organizer for some social or political end.

“anti-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew.”
First, Jesus would probably not use the derogatory term “slut” or “slut-shaming.” I think he would see that as demeaning and unnecessary. Second, his focus was not on being anti-anyone, but was on proclaiming grace to all sinners, including the sexually immoral.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Eagle Snap Photo from December 2010

I found this old photo on the web from 5 years ago. Can't believe how much has changed since then. God is good, and life is an adventure with Him.Check it out by clicking HERE.

I can't post it here as it says:

These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

Update: I found a few more: PIC1PIC2PIC3 and PIC4

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Another Featured Article for First Baptist Church in the Haverhill Gazette!

To check out the article click HERE

Here is the info I submitted, some of which was used:

Brief Recap of our 250-Year Celebration for the Eagle Tribune

This year we celebrate our 250-year anniversary. Yes, you read that right. Back in 1765 a fiery Baptist pastor by the name of Hezekiah Smith founded the first Baptist church in Haverhill, aptly named First Baptist Church. Our charter is signed by John Hancock, at the time governor of Massachusetts. The church has an unbroken line of members dating back to before the Declaration of Independence, through the Civil War, onto both World Wars, enduring the Great Depression and witnessing the events of September 11, 2001. On October 17, we gathered for a time of celebration with a vision, “Grateful for what God has done, excited about what God is doing.”

It was a valuable time to reflect on First Baptist Church’s long history and God’s grace.

Transport yourself back into the mid-18th century. Pedestrians strolled and horses galloped down the dirt roads of the town of Haverhill. The promise of opportunity and freedom drew the earliest settlers to the New World, and already now a few generations had enjoyed the hard-earned blessings of their forefathers’ sacrifice. The townspeople of Haverhill, part of the British colonies, had little knowledge of the high class workings of Boston and Philadelphia. More important was the coming harvest and the need to store up for the next cold New England winter.

Most townspeople would head off to the established congregational church. However, some of the townspeople were growing restless with what they felt to be the impersonal nature of the worship. They secretly longed for something that gave expression to their deeply affectionate feelings for God and called for a conversion to faith in Christ. Much of this unrest was provoked by the travelling preacher, Rev. Hezekiah Smith. Discontent with the established religion, he sought to start a new church in town, a Baptist church.

Baptists were not unheard of in Haverhill, but they were not a common sight either. Most of them had found a home in Rhode Island, under the direction of the admirable but controversial leader Roger Williams a generation or so earlier. But Baptists in Massachusetts, and in Haverhill no less?  The thought was too much for many in the town to bear. They refused the use of the Parish meeting house for the public worship of this new denomination. This did not deter the persistent Smith, as indeed very little could. The Baptist Religious Society of Haverhill held its first meeting January 1st, 1765 at the house of James Duncan. Baptisms were done down at the gentle Merrimac River.

Anticipation of revolution grew, until the inevitable happened. In 1776, word spread that the American statesmen had gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence from Great Britain and King George III. The hearts of mothers grew uneasy, even as the minds of young men raced to the prospect of war bravado. It was not long before many citizens and their sons went off to join the American Army. However, it fared too much for Smith to enjoy the safety and security of Haverhill while watching the colonies’ boys go off to war. He sought permission from the church to join the Revolutionary Army as a Chaplain, which they allowed. As an acquaintance of General George Washington, he served for five years and then returned to continue to pastor in 1780. 

His successor, William Batchelder, would pick up the baton with a heart for Haverhill and a concern for the new work in global missions. FBC Haverhill would support the mission of the young Adoniram Judson as he worked tirelessly across the globe in Burma.
The church was now firmly established. It was here to stay in town, through winters and warfare, with ministry and missions: a Baptist congregation that became mother church to many other local churches in New England, with an influence in Haverhill and the surrounding towns, throughout the colonies and around the world.

Architectural buffs will readily note that the current building at 217 Main Street is not the original facility. Actually, it is the church’s fourth building, built in a neo-gothic style. Raised in 1883, it was built to seat over a thousand attendees, complete with balconies and a choir loft.  The stained glass windows can be seen lit up at night during an evening concert or Christmas Eve service. In the last five years, the church has renovated its 19th century building, nearly doubled its parking, modernized it’s a/v equipment and refocused its vision for serving Haverhill.

It was also a valuable time to celebrate where what God is doing at the church today.

First Baptist remains an active Evangelical congregation serving not only Haverhill but the surrounding towns and communities.  It is a church with more than a beautiful downtown location and facility, it is a church passionate about Jesus and seeking to build its ministries around him. 

Even as we celebrate our history, we have chosen not to live in the past. We want to be a church that is ministering to Haverhill here and now, seeking to connect people with God today. I’ve been the Lead Pastor for five years now, still enjoying my mid-30s.  My call here, I believe, was a crucial turning point for the church—a clear decision by the members to think of the next generation. Since then, we have added new staff, created new ministries like Kid Town to minister to children during the Worship Service, free meals are offered weekly on Sunday afternoons through our partnership with Open Hearts Ministries and on Sunday nights Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program opens to the community. The church’s renewed small group ministry meeting in homes remains a vital part of the church’s health and growth, and along with a blended service of worship each Sunday committed to expository preaching and heartfelt worship, makes for a joyful and pleasant spiritual family.  As in its early days, First Baptist is still committed to global missions. 

The future looks promising for the very first Baptist church in the city of Haverhill that this year celebrates its 250-year anniversary. Some of the original documents and furniture are still in the care of the church, even as computers, sound equipment and flat screen monitors fill the offices and conference rooms. From its active membership to its committed staff to its renovated facility, the church is eager to move into the future with excitement. The church remains committed to biblical teaching coupled with a deep affectionate worship for Jesus, with a mission to reach people. This same year, the town of Haverhill celebrates its 375-year anniversary as a bustling city. We are grateful for what God has done, and excited about what God is doing!


So don’t be a stranger; stop in for a visit. Better yet, join us on a Sunday. Swing by our church café for a cup of coffee and check out a copy of John Hancock’s signature on the wall, and then come right into our 19th century sanctuary, equipped with state-of-the-art audio and video upgrades.  We want to reconnect you to Jesus, who doesn’t change though times and seasons turn.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Politics the Myopia of the Masses

Thankful to the Eagle Tribune for publishing my article on presidential politics as a Letter to the Editor.  It is a non-partisan piece that seek to build a better educated democracy.  You can read it HERE.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Identity Crisis

Questions of identity dominate the headlines. The "hero" Bruce Jenner has redefined his identity as the heroine Caitlyn, while Rachel Dolezal identifies herself not as the race she was born as, but as a culturally black woman. Our parents told us, “You can be anything you want to be.” I don’t think they expected us to take them so literally.

The real question is, who has the right to determine our identity? Is it our society? Are we determined by whatever role we play in the larger community? This has been tried and retried, and always found wanting. Is it our families? In many cultures, children live to live up to their parents’ dreams and expectations. There is something truly noble, and yet simultaneously very base about this. Is it the self? Doubtless this has filled the vacuum for our culture.

William Ernest Henley’s poem has sadly become our battle cry, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I fear the moral bankruptcy of individualism will eventually come to repossess. Where will this lead us? My guess is to radical moral relativism, a scary and dark place if there ever was one: Lord of the Flies without the rescue, where everyone sets their own, often Orwellian rules.

I suggest a controversial, but valuable alternative. Actually, it is more of a reiteration of what has dominated Western Civilization for nearly two millennia. Our Creator determines our identity. God stamped his Image on human beings and endowed each of us with dignity, morality and intrinsic value. He’s the Captain of our souls. We are who He has made and declared us to be.

Does this belief make someone a cultural Neanderthal, a moral dinosaur, or an out of touch fundamentalist? Some might say so. Not to worry about labels, our identity has already been determined elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Visiting the Naval Academy



A few awesome things I learned about the Naval Academy:
1) A typical student's day begins at 6am and ends at midnight (classes, drills, sports and studying). Summers are not off.
2) A maximum of 25% can enter the Marines from the academy. This has been maxed out every year for the last number of years.
3) Rather than dropping, applicants spiked after 9/11. After the academy, they head off to a minimum of 5 years of service.
These young men and women are amazing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

FBC in the Haverhill Gazette

FBC gets Front Page coverage on our 250 year anniversary and our goal to impact Haverhill for Jesus!  Here is the original article I wrote for the paper, part of which was used.  We also appeared in the editorial concerning our city's Heroin Fight

What's all that construction at First Baptist Church all about?


You know, the tall red brick one on Main Street?  You may have noticed the new parking lot across from the CVS on Arlington Street.  You may also have noticed the drywall trucks, the heating system vehicles and the A/V equipment vans parked out front.  It’s the place that offers free clothes and bathroom supplies during the week, and free meals on Sunday afternoon.  You may have thought, “What is going on at that church?”

First Baptist Church is an old church

This year we celebrate our 250 year anniversary.  Yes, you read that right.  Back in 1765 a fiery Baptist pastor by the name of Hezekiah Smith founded the first Baptist church in Haverhill, aptly named First Baptist Church.  Our church charter is signed by John Hancock, at the time, governor of Massachusetts.  The church has an unbroken line of members dating back to before the Declaration of Independence, through the Civil War, onto both World Wars, enduring the Great Depression and witnessing the events of September 11, 2001. 
Architectural buffs will easily note that the current building at 217 Main Street is not the original facility.  Actually, it is the church’s fourth building.  However, the current building does possess some historic significance.  Built in 1882, it was built to seat over a thousand attendees, complete with balconies and a choir loft.  The stained glass windows can sometimes be seen lit up at night during an evening concert or Christmas Eve service.

First Baptist Church is a new church

Yet, even as we celebrate our history, we have chosen not to live in the past.  We want to be a church that is ministering to Haverhill here and now, seeking to reconnect people with God today.  I’ve been the Lead Pastor for four years now, still enjoying my mid-30s.  My call here, I believe, was a crucial turning point for the church—a clear decision by the members to think of the next generation.  Since then, we have added new staff, created new ministries like Kid Town to minister to children during the Worship Service and we are pushing forward to be missional, outreach-focused. 
There was a time when we considered a move to the suburbs, building a facility from the ground and then coming into downtown only every so often for a night out at the Tap or Krueger’s, or to pay our excise taxes.  But downtown is where we need to be, sitting tall on Main Street next to City Hall and a block away from the Public Library.  This is where the action is, where the people are, and where needs are greatest.  We want to be a light to Haverhill, our city, our community. 



So don’t be a stranger; stop in for a visit.  Better yet, join us on a Sunday.  Stop in our church café for a cup of coffee and check out John Hancock’s signature on the wall (a copy of course), and then come right into our 19th century sanctuary, equipped with state-of-the-art audio and video.  We want to reconnect you to Jesus, who doesn’t change though times and seasons turn.