Palm Sunday Church Launch

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and it is the official launch of a weekly Sunday morning services.

For the past 12 months a baby church has been forming in Southeast Baltimore. We started in a row house living room, moved to the Compassion Center off Eastern Ave. and are now starting Sunday morning services in the Sanctuary Body building in Fells Point. 

Here is a quick video about this launch. 

We are thrilled with all that God has done over the past year. And it is going to be a lot of fun to be a spiritual community in Fells Point. 

If you haven't attended one of our services yet, now is a great time to come on out. There are a lot of new people just starting to attend and we are big enough that you won't feel singled out in a small group. Our children's program is established and there are a number of ways that you can serve with if you are looking for opportunites. 

God Wants To Change The Normal Baltimore

This past week we studied Luke 5:1-26. In these verses we see God break into the normal pain and suffering that people were experiencing and do something miraculous. And I believe God wants to repeat this pattern in our life and city.

We live with what we believe is normal. We surrender to normalcy.  Some of us talk about how much we appreciate routines. But let me suggest to you that normal is like a baseline or backdrop in which God works supernaturally. 

In all three accounts from Luke 5 we see God’s supernatural power breaking in to normal life. 

Here’s the thing!

What we call normal is actually a world fallen from God’s original design. 

Are you settling for normal? 

Are you okay with brokenness, sickness, dysfunction? 

Have you surrendered your expectations to what has become normal and routine? 

Or are you fostering and cultivating and vision for the supernatural intervention of God’s work? 

This is the difference between kids and adults. Most adults have had the optimism kicked out of them by painful experiences. But kids dream and hope.

We read God’s Word and the Spirit breathes into our life a vision for something better. We have story after story where God breaks through normal and makes himself known. 

Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

I’m not talking about blind optimism or faith in faith. We are not talking about dream and dream. I’m not asking for you to come up with your own good ideas. 

I’m asking you to let scripture influence your perspective on life. I believe that that will result in a hopefulness, optimism, and vision for more. 

By way of illustration consider a scene from Frederick Douglass life. He writes: 

"Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master — to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart, stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering, and called into existence an entirely new train of thought. It was a new and special revelation, explaining dark and mysterious things, with which my youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled in vain. I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty — to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man."

The slave master wanted slavery to be Douglass’ “normal”. But then Douglass learned to read and it awakened in him a vision for freedom. 

You say “Normal life is so painful and discouraging. Scripture has all these nice stories about people being rescued from calamity, but that doesn’t change my struggles.” 

And that is where prayer fits in. Prayer is the middle ground between the vision God gives us for life and the present reality. I’m not saying that all your problems will go away. But the answer you need, the supply that you need will be given to you by God. 

We looked at these three accounts where Jesus worked miraculously. 

There is a voice in your head that wants to mute these stories and censor these stories from encouraging you to trust in God for miraculous intervention. 

Let me encourage you to let down your guard and allow the Holy Spirit to encourage your heart. 

Coat Drive For City Spring Elementary

Our neighborhood Elementary and Middle School is in need of 150 winter coats. This afternoon I sat down with Mr. Collick and did a Facebook Live video about the specific need. Please check it out and share it with your friends: 

If you have a coat that you would like to donate you can drop it off in the Compassion Center off Eastern Ave (1706 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21231). If you would like to contribute financially you can do so here: http://www.baltimorechurch.com/give

When the Cat is Away...

When the cat is away the mice come out to play... 

In Philippians 2:12 Paul encourages the church to obey whether he is present or absent. And we spent a good chunk of time on Sunday night considering the ramifications of presence. The perception of absence has typically lead to the devolution of man's integrity. But in truth, God is now present in our lives and we are called to live according to that reality. 

Also, we are called to be imitators of God who go into the world with his presence. Jesus is our example of being incarnate... becoming present in other's world. 

I've been reading a book by Michael Frost called Incarnate. He starts his book by saying: 

"The core idea of the Christian faith is the incarnation: God took on flesh and dwelled among us. To other religions such and idea is considered odd or, worse, inconceivable or, even worse, blasphemous. And yet as centrally as we hold the idea of the incarnation, there is a grave danger that we are leaving the implications of the great idea behind us. Whereas Jesus Christ was God incarnate and his church was called to an incarnation lifestyle, today we find ourselves drifting towards excitation--the defleshing of our faith. We have been moving through a disembodying process that has left us feeling rootless and disengaged, connected to our world more and more through screens rather then face to face."

So consider this... Are you living with an awareness of God's presence and are you in turn being his presence in the lives of the people around you? 

I'm praying that you and and I can answer "yes" to both of those questions. 

Adversaries? Yes. But not for These 3 Reasons

Paul promises that Christians will suffer. We saw this in our study this past week in Philippians 1:27-29.

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ... without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you... For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him"

Paul talks about the adversaries that opposed the Christians in Philippi. And he says this is part and parcel of being a Christian. 

Unfortunately, sometimes Christians have adversaries for bad reasons. Rather than having an enemy because a Christian is living worthy of the Gospel, they have enemies because they are doing stupid stuff. 

Here are three bad reasons to have adversaries.

  1. Weird or ecentric behavior
  2. Ill-informed 
  3. Off message 

Weird Christians

I am not going to site a specific behavior lest I wound a believer unnecessarily. But there are Christians who think the gospel manifests itself through acting out in culturally awkward ways. Do you know why Napoleon Dynamite was so funny? It was because it was filled with weird people. We don't want to be Napoleon Dynamite Christians. 

Ill-Informed Christians

Unfortunately, there are Christians who have adversaries because they are ill-informed. They end up spouting off with opinions that are outdated or misguided. Sometimes this is seen when Christians share fake news on social media. Other times we see Christians quoting studies that have been subsequently been disproved of found to be false. There is also the scenario where Christians are caught up with conspiracy theories. If you have adversaries because you are an ill-informed Christian this is your fault and not the suffering Paul was promising. 

Off Message Christians

We see this most often on social media as ethics are debated within society. When SCOTUS was weighing and approved gay marriage Christians went crazy condemning the gays. A majority of the Christian media posts were championing a moral standard rather then the gospel message.  This is an example of getting off message. Yes, Christianity has a moral standard. But the moral standard isn't our primary message. 

We also see Christians getting off message when they promote nationalism mixed with Christianity or a political candidate mixed with a Christian endorsement. Again, our faith touches on all parts life; including politics. But if our political convictions become our primary message and we pick up adversaries because of that it isn't the suffering Paul promised. 

Let's be a people who live as citizens of the God's Kingdom. Our King is Jesus and we champion his charter: the gospel. We will have adversaries. We will suffer. But let's not suffer for bad reasons. 

School Supplies Report

This year we partnered with City Spring Elementary to provide school supplies to kids in need. I asked the team at City Spring to give me an estimate on what was needed. The school Principle, Dr. Richetta, replied back by saying "As for the number of students who need supplies, we have 750 students and just about all of them we have to provide supplies for.  Any amount you could donate would be used." 

We were able to receive donations through the Compassion Center and our Sunday night church gathering. 

When I dropped off the supplies I captured this quick video: 

We are grateful for an opportunity to show Jesus love to our local elementary school. And we would appreciate your prayers as we seek to make better connections with this school. 

The Tsunami of Help for the Compassion Center

This past Saturday Haven City Church had the amazing experience of partnering with three other churches to clean, paint and organize the Compassion Center. Pastor Mark Dooley brought his church, Leonardtown Baptist. We also had Pastor Jeremy and a team from Redeeming Grace Baptist and a whole other team from Summit Church. All in all there were over 40 people working at the Compassion Center. 

Everyone was assigned to one of six teams and each team had a project that they were focused on. We were able to work on all three floors of the Center and the results were amazing. 

A big thank you to all who served!

Check out some of the photos from our workday below:

Why The Bible Is Important in Fells Point Baltimore

As Haven City Church prepares to start public services we have given thought to the liturgy (worship service structure). Depending on the church there are various emphasis and habits placed in the worship service. There are different styles of music and various arrangements of that music. The length of the service can very. The way the congregation participates can very.

We have considered many of these things as our church takes shape. 

For Haven City Church the Bible is the core part of our worship service. When we gather we dedicate a large chunk of our service to reading, understanding and applying the Bible to our lives. A quick rundown of what the Bible says it has to offer is the reason for this emphasis. 

  • “The Bible penetrates our hearts and deals with our attitudes, motives, and thoughts”
    • For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
       
  • “The Bible teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, and trains us to do what is right”
    • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
       
  • “The Bible is a guiding light for life”
    • Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
       
  • “The Bible gives us instructions to follow”
    • Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
       
  • “The Bible shows us how to be pure”
    • How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. Psalm 119:9
       
  • “The Bible stands the test of time and still is valid”
    • The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8
       
  • “The Bible brings a blessing to those who obey it.”
    • He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28
       
  • “The Bible is the best foundation a person can build a life off of”
    • Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
       
  • “The Bible has no errors”
    • As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
       
  • “The Bible teaches the simple”
    • The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130
       
  • “The Bible nourishes our soul in the same way that bread nourishes our bodies”
    • Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
       
  • “The Bible is right and true”
    • For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4
       
  • “The Bible is praiseworthy”
    • In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me Psalm 56:4
       
  • “The Bible is like a mothers milk that contains all the nutrients needed for a baby to grow”
    • Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. 1 Peter 2:2
       
  • “The Bible makes a person wise”
    • For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6
       
  • “The Bible can save a person from the moral corruptness of society”
    • Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:21

All of these things are needed in Fells Point, Harbor East, Washington Hill, Little Italy. And so as you attend Have City Church worship services expect to spend a lot of time in the Bible. Make sure you have a Bible that you like and bring it with you when you come!

Our First Compassion Center Cleanup Day

This past Saturday we had a great time cleaning, painting and organizing the Fells Point Compassion Center. We arrived at 8:30 AM with the ambitious goal of rehabbing the front window display.

Melinda Turansky was able to get paint donated by PPG for this project and she lead the design effort. Within a matter of hours the old drab curtains were out and beautiful new linen curtain were hung. The fresh coat of paint made a big difference and Matt and Scott did an amazing job of cleaning the windows. 

Brittany and Diana did a great job painting the grey trim on the entry way and front counter. And Marvin successfully removed the two bookshelves attached to the stairs. 

Here are some of the pictures from the day 

Our next workday will be Saturday, July 15th from 8:30 AM - 1 PM. Lunch is provided. Please RSVP on the FB Event or MeetUp Event

The Fells Point Compassion Center

Back in early June the Lutheran Mission Society reached out to me about the Fells Point Compassion Center. They have a compelling story. The LMS has owned the Center for the past 50 years and it serves a vital role in the community. On any given day the homeless, first generation immigrants and those impoverished stop into the center to look through the items on the distribution floor. At first glance it looks like a thrift store, but it functions as a center meeting peoples physical and spiritual needs. 

But... The Center has been in bad shape for the past few years. Foot traffic has declined and the building has fallen into disrepair. It was in need of a change. 

The LMS offered to let our church use the building as long as we would manage the Center and get it back in good shape. It is a great trade for a new church and an amazing opportunity to love the people of Fells Point. 

Pastor Josh is now running the Center on Wednesdays and Fridays and the church will begin meeting in the Center on Sunday evenings. We will also begin the cleaning and rehab process over the next couple of months. The walls need to be repainted and the first floor needs to be dramatically improved.