The Hensley Plan

On my 30th birthday (a year and a half ago) I made a committed to pursue the dreams and talents that I have in a more focused way during the next 30 years of my life.

Since I was a kid I have wanted to teach and to write. I didn’t want to write books for the sake of books or write for the sake of proving the wealth of my intelligence. I wanted to write because I wanted to be like Thomas Paine. I want to write the pamphlet, or paper, that starts a revolution.

Even to this day it’s often on my mind. I have a stack of 30 notepads in my desk filled with ideas, stories, and musings birthed in times of prayer and studying the word. I pray, fast, seek God’s heart because I love Him, but with the added request that He use me as an instrument to prophecy His heart to this generation.

Stack of journals and notebooks

When I turned 30 I had some time to reflect. In reflection I realized that while I was putting forth the effort in dreaming, praying, and some study about being a teacher/ writer. I needed to implement some practical disciplines in order to make it happen. I was reminded of Thomas Jefferson and Jonathan Edwards’ plans. Jefferson would spend 12 hours a day studying and writing. He broke down each hour of the day by subject he would study, and the subjects were vast in genre. Edwards very similar. So I came up with a plan that I knew would take a few years to get going, but if I kept aiming for it I figured I could build the discipline by the time I was 35. Here is that plan:

1. Read a Book a week.

2. Write 3,000 words a day. (on anything. It can be journaling. But it has to be in a proper writing format.)

3. Write a book a year.

I share this for 2 reasons, both are selfish.

First reason, I know the more I talk about this online the more folks ask me about it, therefore the more I’m challenged to stay the course.

Second reason, I want to challenge other writers/ teachers/ leaders to take on the challenge. Not just because it’s a great discipline, but like the first, the more folks who are doing it and talking about it the less I am let off the hook.

At 31 years old I have 4 more years to nail this down. I’m probably at a book every 2 weeks and 3,000 every 3 days. While I have written an outline for a book, I have little hope of it being finished this year. The point isn’t to be perfect at it, the point is to aim for it. If this is always the aim, and I don’t quit after failing to do it the first year, I have a chance at living up to it.

So take the Hensley Challenge and let me know about it, so we can push each other to be excellent!

My Top 5 Favorite Albums right now

Since I was a kid, music has been important to me. All through my adolescence I was exposed to a very broad musical buffet. My mom saw my love for music and would take me to symphonies, musicals, jazz concerts, rock concerts. Where ever music, creativity and poetry were being expressed. I played in many different genres of music from Marching band and jazz band, to hardcore/ metal bands to Hip Hop groups. (yes hip hop).

My taste in music seems to be a very eclectic evolution. To say that any one album is my favorite of all time would be dishonest. What I liked to listen to a decade ago is different then what I enjoy now. What I enjoy in a decade from now will be different then what I find delight in now. However what wont change is my heart. I want a heart that’s alive and not dulled by the music I enjoy.

With that said, here are some albums that for the last couple of years seem to end up in every playlist I make:

Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”

NUMBER 5. 

Alexi Murdoch “Truth Without Consequence”

For years I was a huge fan of Nick Drake and his folky stylings. The one sad thing about Nick Drake, is he was so sad. I used to have him on vinyl, and I swear every listen made it rain outside. Murdoch in style is incredibly reminiscent of Drake, but with lyrics that come from a heart that’s alive. The first track “All Of My Days” is a track I play for my wife. It’s one of those sweet tracks that if I had heard it years ago before I got married, it would have been the song we danced to at our reception.

Truth Without Consequences” has a very mellow, classic folk sound, but with a modern rock vibe subtly in the peripheral. I often find this album soothing in the background as I read on my day off, or when I take long drives through the New York country side. It’s an album that I

seem to fall more in love with every listen.

we_are_rising_cover

NUMBER 4.

Son Lux “We Are Rising”

I have always been a fan of the surrealists. As dark as many of them are, as a young junior high student I was always drawn to the works of Salvador Dali. His famous “The Persistence of Memory” encompassed my imagination for days after I first saw it. The one man band of Son Lux, Ryan Lott, adds much of the same stimulation to my imagination. If he was a painter, he’d be a surrealist. The creative yet chaotic sounds feel very dream like yet cognizant with deep meaning at the same time.

Perhaps some of the chaotic elements, that I love, of this album can be attributed to how it was made. Ryan entered into a NPR radio contest to see who could make an entire album in one month. Lott submitted this album and won.

Songs like “All The Right Things” and “Flickers” carry the mainstream electronica sound I love, while songs like “claws”and “leave the riches” carry the forlorn, dub-step-ish, dreamland world that secure Lott as a surrealist in my opinion. Songs like “flowers” and “chase” escort you into Lott’s dream world of creative complexity. It’s here that we encounter his message. Where you don’t just hear his heart you feel it. To orchestrate the complexity of this album over the course of a month is a feat I’ve never heard of. These aren’t sloppy written songs, but powerful poetry. Download it. Even if you don’t love obscurity, its worth the listen.

NUMBER 3

Future of Forestry “Young Man Follow”

A few months ago I found myself standing at the gates of the White House in Washington DC at 2am in the morning. My connection flight had been cancelled and through a series of events I was stranded in DC for 24 hours. Those 24 hours meant I strolled our nation’s capitol praying for our nation listening to the album on repeat. I was actually a little happy to be stuck there, because I had actually wanted to spend some time praying there. However it was during that time I fell in love with this album.

Slowly, these guys have been climbing in to my all time favorite band category for about 4 years now. If we still listened to cassette tapes, the travelers album series would have been totally worn out with as much play time as I have given it. “Young Man Follow” was very similar to those 3 albums, but more grown up. I felt like this was the album the album were FOF went from cool hipster indie band, to legit musical/ song writing contender among the greatest of bands out there.

Named after a poem written by C.S. Lewis by the same name, Future of Forestry carries a Lewis-esque writing style in this album. The songs are filled with depth and whimsy, great storytelling with an ethos that is felt more than even understood at first.

This album (and the next two) you should stop everything you are doing and download it now.

NUMBER 4

Jon Foreman “Fall”

There isn’t a song writer on the planet that I presently love more than Foreman. Sure I get that I can’t say that with out saying names like Dylan, Duritz, Coburn, Springsteen, Young, etc. Oh wait actually I can, because it’s my list. What pushes it over the edge for me is that Foreman sings from a heart in love with Jesus.

This album series (he also has spring, summer, and winter) is a side project to Foreman’s normal claim to fame: The front man of the band Switchfoot.

Over and over I have listened to the song “equally skilled” talking about our brokenness in humanity, and God’s ability to love us and transform us in the midst of our weakness. Every song on this short album is more of a lyrical experience that then a song. The music is a nice deviation from the pop rock prowess of Switchfoot. It has a Jon with his guitar and a few friends playing a living room show, sort of feel.

Every song is genius. I have spent an entire 8 hour work day in my office with these 6 songs on repeat and never gotten tired of them. This album, but really the whole “seasons” series is a must own.

NUMBER 1

Pas Neos “Who Do You Say That I Am”

This album. Pause. I love this album. Some folks could accuse me of being biased, being that these two are some of my best and closest friends. Guys I hang with, play fantasy football against, minister and travel with, I even had them play behind me at a conference while I preached once. I have relationship with these guys it’s true, even still I love this album more than any others.

I remember the first time I heard U2′s “Joshua Tree” album in Junior High School. I remember what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with as we listened to the whole album all the way through in wonder through my friend’s brand new CD player. When I heard this album, I had the very same feeling. I thought I’d put it on and listen while working in my office. I froze. I was stunned by the entire album. From beginning to end this album was unbelievable. I knew I wasn’t just listening to a good album, but one of the best I had ever heard.

Bobby is a song writing genius, who much to his chagrin, I would easily pit against any of the greats. Every song has both biblical and theological depth, with an overwhelming sense of prophetic unction. (especially the song “Pharisees”) It’s obvious that each song is not merely crafted from his heart, but from the heart of Christ. The song “Myrrh” brings tears to my eyes often as we hear Jesus in the garden right before going to the cross. Even the ordering of the songs is a journey through the Gospels. one of those albums where you actually want to listen from start to finish to get the full effect of the message and lyrical flow.

The last song Ascension, I actually put on repeat sometimes. I close my eyes and think of the paradox of emotions the disciples felt on that day. Excited to see Him ascend, terrified that he’s gone, bewildered because they thought He was going to begin a military campaign against Rome, but feeling the words that Bobby belts out at the same time. The same words that give us hope today: “Hold on, Don’t lose hope, because the better days are before you now”

The musical orchestration that Caleb devises here is unreal. Rock electronia, with some dub step-ish tones, with some of the surreal melodic tones that I love. If Caleb was alive 200 years ago, he would have been a famous composer. While he doesn’t do it alone, him and Bobby are a team, his musical orchestration is truly genius. I love Ryan Lott of Son Lux, but I’d pit Caleb against his genius any day. As with Bobby, the difference is that these songs, sounds, composition come from a heart that has touched Heaven. When you submit yourself to the greatest composer of all time, you get melodies and sounds that are unreal.

What may have possibly pushed this album over the top into epic greatness is the fact that Eric Owyoung, the front man of Future of Forestry, produced this album and was apart of it. Only I think one day, on the all time list, Pas Neos will one day surpass the brilliance of FOF. Owyoung’s subtle fingerprint can be felt from time to time.

As with the last two, this album especially, you should stop reading, open up iTunes or Amazon and give this album a download. You will waste $10 on all kinds of things this week, spend it on an album that will possibly change your life. ;)

The Cure For “Post Christianity”

Below new research by the Barna group on the continued decline of Christianity in America. I was shocked and sobered to find that of the 100 cities listed every major area in New York ( save Binghampton) is in the top 21. My current city, Rochester New York, being at 21.

While I’m not that surprised as every church in my region seems to be in decline, it has strengthened my resolve to hold the line on the gospel.

Many respond to stats like this, and wonder what the church has to do to become relevant again. They lament at old church models, and point to new cooler ones as the answer to the question of our lost relevance. I want to assure you, that asking that question is in fact why we are where we are.

Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, who spoke creation into existence and formed Adam with his bare hands, who holds the church in His hands and upholds all things by the word of His power, will never lose relevance.

The church is in decline for a number of reasons, but the foremost being clear.  We as a church have worried too much about saying what people want to hear to keep them in the building, that we have forgotten to declare the needed relevance, though sometimes hard to swallow, truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The Gospel is offensive to the world. The Gospel is like putting iodine on an open wound. It hurts and stings like crazy, but it kills the infection and seals the wound for rapid healing.

For me as a pastor of a church is western New York, this only strengthens my resolve. We need to preach Christ! We need to live Christ! We need to declare Him in his present love and in His future return. My life must represent His message of tender love and meekness He showed to beggars and prostitutes, while flashing His tremendous zeal for righteousness that He expressed in the temple to the money changers. My life must represent the understanding and patience He showed to Nicodemus, and the willingness to lose everything for the sake of love and the message of the coming kingdom.

Give me 50 pastors in Western New York to run with, that are known in Heaven for the time spent on their knees. Who tenderly, with genuine love, are unashamed to declare the truth of the Gospel without compromise. Who would rather build a legacy in the next age through prayer and fasting then books and accolades in this life. Give me those men and I promise we will see a habitation of the Holy Spirit in this region that is so tangible that the hearts of many will return back to the Lord at neck breaking speed.

As for me and my house at New Hope Fellowship, this is what we are contending for.

God give us grace to contend for a historic revival of the lost in this region. And if it’s your will to tarry, then give us the grace to contend until we die. That our lives would be wasted for your glory, because we’ve have touched your glory, and it’s all we desire.

The Call For Atheist Chaplains?

A blogger for the Huffington Pots Religious section posted this post about the need for Atheist chaplains, or Humanist chaplains as some have called it.

The author Chris Steadman writes rather boldly and confident about a subject that few understand. He calls out Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council for his comments about Atheist Chaplains being as paradoxical as “Vegetarian Carnivores”. Which I thought was a rather apt comparison.

Steadman says here: “As a humanist chaplain (for more on what exactly I do as a chaplain, check out a short piece I wrote last year), I frequently hear a version of Perkins’ argument: “[Advocates] argue that nonbelievers suffer the same fear and pain that affects every service member. But isn’t that why the military has psychologists?” (A serious question: Does he mean to imply that religious people don’t visit both chaplains and psychologists?)

The ironic thing here is that humanist psychologists would agree with Perkins’ question that Steadman seems rather snarky about. I mean, Im pretty sure Abraham Maslow and William James would say that psychology is the method of self actualization and connects us to our human power, ability, and care apart from faith.

The point is that chaplains were always intended to serve soldiers in their faith. Religion is a faith. If faith is required to believe that there is no God, then maybe they should relax and accept the logical conclusion that there is a God. :)

Obviously Im being tongue in cheek.

But we are talking about “vegetarian carnivores” here.

Article LINK: http://huff.to/1ehYbmo

Strange Fire…

John MacArthur is one of my favorite Bible teachers. I find his books insightful and compelling.

However he is holding a conference in October called “Strange Fire” calling out the dangers of the Charismatic movement, and it seems to be more of a personal vendetta than a helpful dialog about the activity of the Holy Spirit in our present age. From the videos, and based on his books and previous teachings on the subject, it is being heralded as a stage to blast the “Charismatic church/ movement” as heretical, a false doctrine, and a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. He even goes on to call it a “work of Satan”. Which I personally believe is dangerous and quite a loaded and scary accusation to make at fellow believers.

(site is here: http://www.tmstrangefire.org/)

His 3 main points:

1. The charismatic church has emphasized the third person of the trinity over the second. The Holy Spirit is meant to testify of Christ and not have attention drawn to him.

2. That the Charismatic movement has emphasized prophecy as equal to or greater than the canonized scripture.

3. That Speaking in tongues and the Holy spirit gifts were for establishing the cannon, and not for today. and can jeopardize the cannon.

As one who not only grew up in the Charismatic movement, was a leader at the International House of Prayer and served under Mike Bickle and Lou Engle, and now pastor a Charismatic church in upstate New York, I must say that most of his conjectures are more accusatory then based on fact.

Sure the Charismatic movement has it’s quirks. It has guys like John Crowder, Todd Bentley, Patricia King and others whom I pray for, consider them brothers to the extent I’m required to by scripture, but wouldn’t want to be known as “affiliated” with them. Not anymore then MacArthur would want to be known as “Affiliated” to Brian McLaren. The Charismatic movement has had strange “revivals” where interesting things have transpired that cause even this charismatic to tilt his head side ways and wonder at times. But it’s had it’s necessary breakthroughs as well.

The streams of the Charismatic river I’ve been apart of, especially IHOP, have taught me the opposite of what John claims they teach.

To MacArthur’s first point. I have only ever heard that the Holy Spirit is the witness of Christ and is important and not to be devalued because His job is to reveal Christ to our hearts. I’ve never heard a message (aside from some of the more wacky folks I mentioned) where the Holy Spirit was to be exalted higher than Jesus, or even equal to Jesus.

I believe there was a season in the last thousand years where an emphasis, or reminder of the Holy Spirit’s ministry was and is important to remember in our living, teaching, and talking about the Gospel.

To Mac Arthur’s second point. In 20 years of Charismatic Christianity, 11 years at the International House of Prayer, I never heard that prophecy was equal to or greater than scripture. In fact it was at IHOP I learned about the 5 “Solas of the reformation” and specifically MacArthur’s favorite “Sola Scriptura”.

I have watched people get rebuked tenderly for trying to hijack meetings with un-biblical prophecies. I have only ever heard that prophecy is to testify of Jesus and the person of Jesus embodied by Scripture and taught about through scripture. I’ve only ever heard that the Bible is the living, active word of God, and is to be defended and protected at all costs. On that note I can at least appreciate MacArthur’s energy to defend the word. I think he’s misguided here.

To his third point. It’s true, we are called the “charismatic” Christians. We aren’t cessasionists. Meaning we believe in the present activity of the Holy Spirit and the gifts. However I don’t believe that is a heresy, in the way he would like it to be. Nor do I see the Bible either condemning the gifts after the cannon. Nor do I see it causes them to cease after the cannon. In fact cessasionism is a hard Biblical argument to make. Which is why it’s usually made through church history and subjective experience. Also why Reformed Calvinist teachers such as Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, etc are not cessastionists.

I’ll state again. I love MacArthur for his zeal for the integrity of the word. It’s needed. However, he seems to be barking up the wrong tree here and making enemies out of friends. To call Charismatics “debased”, “unbiblical” and “a work of Satan”.

Well them’s is strong Words.

Changing Our Stance On Homosexuality

This morning I watched the news feeds light up because of a few casual comments by the current Pope on not judging people who are gay. Besides the fact that I really truly am starting to like this Pontiff, I thought the reaction by people everywhere was very telling.

It’s been going on for months now. Last month we saw DOMA overturned and Exodus

Pope Francis saying: “Who am I to Judge Gay people?”

International president and founder Alan Chambers change his stance on homosexuality. Desmond Tutu coming out say God is not homophobic. The pressure is so intense on every side for the church both protestant and catholic to “change it’s stance” on homosexuality. Never before has there been such a drive by secular culture to infiltrate faith/ religion and change it’s meaning so the world can feel less judged.

The Pope’s comments from yesterday are sentiments that I echo. It is not for me or anyone to judge another person for who they are. We are all sinners. All are in need of grace. All are in need of transformation into the likeness of Christ, not the likeness of who we want to be. At the same time no man can change the “churches stance” on homosexuality, because no one can change God and His word.

I fear that we have done such a poor job at representing Christ to the world as believers that we have led them to believe that God is a moral idea that changes with time. That Christianity is simply a moral code to live up to and should evolve with culture and time. Which Christianity is not morality; it’s a man who is God.

God is a person. Doctrine is not a man crafted truth, but a God birthed truth to show us who we were meant to be in his infinite and beautiful imagination. It’s a road map to His heart where we can experience the love, joy and peace we were created for where sin has robbed us.  You can’t change His stance, no more than you can reorder the atoms in your hand.

That said, I have many gay friends. Guys I grew up with. Guys that used to serve with me in ministry. Girls who I consider friends who are now lesbians. I love them. When I see some of those guys I give them great big hugs. I listen to them. I don’t treat them any different then the other acquaintances I have. I do not change my beliefs on their lifestyle. However their lifestyle is between them and God.

We face a difficulty in the church, that wont go away or change. The Homosexual movement is only going to grow. The pressure is only going to increase. We as Christians can not give into the pressure to change God’s stance on Homosexuality. Because it’s His stance, not our own.

That said, In our resolve to stand firm with God and His word, we could use to love and accept the gay community as fellow humans. We don’t need to be constantly known for what we are against, but what we are for. We are for love. The love of Christ that saved our hearts, is available to homosexuals as well. They are brothers and sisters we want to see walk in the fullness of who they were created to be by God.

If there is someone who has genuine love for Jesus, who are we to question their salvation because they are presently gay? Lets encourage their faith. Encourage their reach for Christ. Encourage them in their journey with the Lord in the same way we would encourage those who love God but get drunk regularly and don’t want to admit they are alcoholics. To condemn anyone would be to curse them and assume that our words, not Christ’s, are the one’s that save them. To judge them is to declare that their story is over when it’s not.

It is entirely possible to love homosexuals with genuine affection and hold the line on homosexual acts being a sin without shaming and condemning people. My point is that we as a church need the grace of God to learn how. Not because the church will become irrelevant or because we’ll lose the culture. Those fears are silly. Jesus will always be relevant because he’s the creator God eternal, and to think we ever had a Godly culture in America in the first place is delusional. We need the grace to do this well because it’s the Gospel. It’s who Jesus was. It’s how He treats us.

If we want to see humanity walk in restoration, and have true transformation from sin (like homosexuality) we must remember that it’s God’s kindness and mercy that draws us to repentance. It’s true that sometimes kindness isn’t nice, but it’s always kind.

Romans 2: “… Don’t you know that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.” 

Father show us your love that we may learn to love well.

Benjamin Dunn… No Thank You

I recently stumbled across this video on the interwebs.

I have heard of Mr Dunn for years now. It was no surprise to me that I would not appreciate his brand of “worship” or christian music. I realize lately i’m sounding like such and old fundy. I’m really not becoming one. But there are lines that can’t be crossed  for me. Not because of a religious/ morality, but because of love. I love Jesus and want my life to please Him.

The song and video below is well done… or “dunn”? The music is great. Song is cool. Video is well done… dunn.

However it made me sick to my stomach. If ever there was a video that embodied everything wrong with my generation and where 20-30 year old Christians are headed, this video does that. Again, if as a pastor it didn’t make my heart sink, I would have probably loved it. But I can’t it’s stupid.

Christian dance party, drinking, making out, acting like kids, singing about wanting to be like kids again. It’s a great idea. Lets promote to Christians that what’s best is to stay immature, irresponsible, and do what makes us feel good and get free from all those guidelines that Christians use to imprison folks… sigh.

Give me young men and woman who fear God and love Jesus and His word first. Who serve, love and respect one another by embracing the grace of God that gives us joy, but clean joy… Any way. I could rant and rant.

Watch the video and tell me what you think and if you see what I’m saying.