Why Pentecostals Should Celebrate Lent

I have not always been Pentecostal. In fact, I did not choose to be Pentecostal,  it sort of chose me. I was a resistance, skeptical, former Catholic who found himself at a protestant Bible College seeking God.

I received the gift of the Holy Spirit in a church off campus and it was not a smooth thing. God and I had a struggle going on. I didn’t want to go to the front to be prayed for so I said, “God, if you want me have this, you can give it me right here.” And, by God’s grace, he worked with me and blessed me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

I was raised in the Catholic Church for 17 years. Needless to say, this experience was quite new.. Before you start thinking that I started jumping pews or running around the church, I did none of those things. I simply received and then smiled at how good God was to me.

Now, having been a Pentecostal youth pastor in some capacity for the past 26 years, old habits die hard. Lent is, and has been, one of my favorite times of the year. I used to love the colors in the church, the ashes on Ash Wednesday, and a whole church effort to get to know Jesus better. I carry this tradition on in my own life though I do not attend a Catholic church.

Pentecostals can be funny about the practices of other faiths, but I am here to tell you that Lent is not a Catholic practice or a Methodist practice, it’s a Christian practice.  If you’re a pentecostal and not familiar with what Lent is, here is a brief definition from umc.org

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

I know Pentecostals love fasts, such as the Daniel Fast, because we like to fast at the beginning of the year to get things rolling. We like the sound of ‘calling a fast” because it sounds super holy and super Jewish. Beyond these trivial reasons, Pentecostals should embrace Lent for other reasons.

First, we should embrace repentance. Although our sins are forgiven and we  enjoy every blessing in heaven and under heaven, we must take time to mourn for not only our sins but the sins of our nation. Our repentance may not be for our grievous sins of commission, but rather our sins of omission.

Second, Lent allows us to identify ourselves with the life and heart of Jesus. Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for a time of prayer and preparation. We should take advantage of these 40 days to prepare ourselves to celebrate the greatest event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In addition to preparing our hearts for the cornerstone of the Christian faith, we should also prepare ourselves for the mission God has for us, to bring the message of “He is risen” into every corner of our communities and our world.

Lastly, Lent is not about not receiving or asking anything of God,  but about acknowledging what has already done and for the grace to receive it. Lent allows us come to God not with open hands, but open hearts. Lent allows us to humbly come to Jesus and say thank you for loving me, thank you for dying for me, thank you for taking on my sins, my struggles, and my shame.

Let me close with some wise words from St. Teresa of Calcutta,

“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Lent allows God to love us more fully so our hearts will be open to loving others more graciously.

If you are Pentecostal, consider looking at Lent in a different light and lean into  the sacrifice and surrender that Lent affords us.

This Lenten season, Christ our Savior awaits with outstretched arms to hold us, love us, and secure us.  Let us come humbly and enjoy His presence.

 

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Join The Quiet Resistance

I have been resisting for years.

Resisting authority

Resisting conformity.

Resisting average.

Lately, I’ve seen the resistance going on in our world and I am not resisting the cause, I am resisting the mode of resisting.

I am resisting hatred.

I am resisting negativity.

I am resisting piling on.

I am resisting flash in the pan protests in favor of quietly protesting every day, my way. I daily resist, Apathy, Negativity, Laziness, and Bullying.

I am in favor of protest. People should act on their convictions. A Protest without love though is not a protest, it’s an angry mob. Love has to go out to those we care for and for the ones against whom we are protesting. One without the other is  just pitchforks and torches afraid of the angry monster.

I want to live a lifestyle of resistance. My life is a protest, but you’ll never see my resistance on a t-shirt,  a banner, or a sign. You will not see it on the news. You will see it in 10,20,30 years in the lives I impact as, one by one, I encourage the people around me to resist

Authority with respect.

Conformity with creativity.

Average with excellence.

I guess some things never change. Join me.

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Christians Should See The Movie Silence

 

This is a spoiler free overview of the movie Silence by Martin Scorcese.  If you are a youth pastor, I do not recommend taking the whole youth group to see this movie. This is not God’s Not Dead. This movie is a deep and powerful film about the journey of faith. It is 2 hour and 45 minutes long and most teens will check out in first 30.

This is a great movie for deep thinking kids who are mature in and want to talk about their faith. I recommend this for older students, juniors through college and career.

Gripping Story

The movie is taken from the 1966 book by  Shusaku Endo and is the true story of Christians being persecuted in Japan.

Two priests (Garfield and Driver) go to Japan to see if their mentor Father Cristóvão Ferreira has given up his faith. The two priests discover, that despite the persecution of Christians there is an under ground church of sorts. Without priests to guide them, the villagers they meet have makeshift baptisms and gather for prayers, but there is no one to hear their confessions and to absolve them of sin.

The villagers are a character in this movie. Their faithfulness and determination in the face of death are inspiring and heart breaking.

Fantastic Acting 

The author John Grisham recently said on a podcast that he spends more time developing the villains in his books than anyone else because villains make the story.  The is truth. I hated the “villains” in Silence, not just because they tortured people, but because they were emotionally and psychologically cruel.

The two main antagonists in the film are a character called The Inquisitor, Inoue Masashige, played by Japanese actor Issei Ogata. The Inquisitor’s  job is to out Christians from among the Japanese people and get them to apostatize (deny Jesus).

The second “villain” is even worse, the translator between the Father Rodriguez and the Inquisitor played by Tadanobu Asano. His words drip with honey and poison, trying to undermine Father Rodriquez’s faith. I squirmed when he would speak and almost said aloud, “Shut your mouth!” several times.

Our protagonists Adam Drive and Andrew Garfield are fantastic and believable. These young priests go to do God’s work in Japan and face unimaginable horrors. Both Driver and Garfield deliver and my heart bled for them as I remembered the fervor of my faith when I was a teenager. I rooted for these guys and my faith in them never wavered.

Andrew Garfield, in my opinion,  pushed his acting ability to the brink in this movie. As a priest, He struggled with his faith to the point of insanity and at times you felt he had truly gone mad. Andrew gave a great interview of how he prepared for the part of Father Rodriquez and that his great surprise was how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus.

I cannot leave out Liam Neeson who plays Cristóvão Ferreira. Although his screen time is short, it is no less powerful. You forget what a great actor Liam is until he doesn’t have a gun in his hand and then he delivers in spades.

If there are not at least four actor and supporting actor Oscar nods for Silence, I don’t know what movie the voters were watching.

Complex Spiritual Material

The story begins with a simple mission, find Father Ferreira and see if he is alive and if he is “lost”, apostatized. This is a Scorsese film and nothing is simple about any of his films. As in many of Scorses films he leaves us to draw our own conclusion about characters and the subject matter.

As I watched the movie I kept thinking I knew what silence meant, and like Father Rodriquez, I felt I was going mad every time another layer of the onion was pulled off.

This movie is was as much a journey of my own faith at it is was of Father Rodriquez and Father Franciso’s faith.  The layers of what my own faith means to me, is pulled away, reshuffled, and put back in place.

I don’t mean this in a heretical way or that my theological views were upset, but rather that I will dug deeper into what it means to have faith in God beyond any Christian trope or platitude I had been taught, seen or experienced, and this is a good thing.

Personal Growth

I took a long walk after this movie to contemplate many of the issues it brought up. As Christians in a land of freedom, there isn’t much we can relate to in this movie. No one has asked us to step on the face of Jesus and asked use to renounce our faith. This makes asking the question, “What would I do?” far to simplistic. We have no idea what we do or what justifications we would make and that is where the movie challenges us to grow.

Faith in America is taken for granted. We think someone posting something ugly on the internet about Christianity or about Jesus is persecution. We think red cups and green cups at Christmas time is persecution. Are we crazy?

This movie was a re-awkening of how easy believers have it in America. I wept, openly during this movie for those who paid the price for their faith and some of those were tears were of self pity that I was not there take my stand with them.

Watch the movie and then thank God you weren’t there, because none of us  can tell what the outcome of our faith would have been. And maybe it is best, under those circumstances, we do not know what we would have chosen.

So Many Illustrations

If you are a youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, or small group leader, it will be a temptation to cheapen this movie and pull some kind of stunt to get kids to respond as part of a message.  I would caution you not to do that because it will not have the effect you thought.

This movie is about deep questions not cheap stunts. Prayerfully consider how you might use this film to deepen someone’s faith for the future rather than trying to get them to make a short term decision.

There is a character in this movie that was not a villain, but I “hated” him none the less because he reminded me of me first and so many teens and adults I have ministered to over the years second.

Kichijiro, played by Yôsuke Kubozuka, is the character who leads our priests to Japan. His back story unfolds early in the movie and you have such high hopes for him and then, slowly, you are disgusted by him because there is so much of him in us.

Kichijiro reminds me of the naked disciple who followed Jesus after his arrest Mark 14:51– 52 but his clothes are ripped off again, and again.

The last hour of the film is about breaking Father Rodriguez. Each Christian they capture is stood in front of a  fumi-e, a small square image of Christ and is asked to step on it to renounce their faith. You will find yourself standing there asking yourself, “Would I or wouldn’t I?”.

The movie is more nuanced than simply stepping on a picture of Jesus,  so I would ask you not to run off and  lay a picture of Jesus on the floor asking students to line up and step on it or not. Without the context of the movie this type of illustration will fall flat and deny your kids from asking deeper questions.

There is a line in the movie that you could feed your kids, it is spoken by the devilish interpreter who says of stepping on the image of Jesus, “It s just a formality.” That’s something to dig into.

Let me know if you saw the movie and what you though of it.

 

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My Top Christian Albums of 2016

 

You might wonder how I pick my albums of the year. Like most lists, my list subjective.  I do had a few questions I have to answer in order for an album to make my list.

  1. Can I listen to it the whole way through?
  2. Does it cover a non-conventional topics?
  3. Does it get my juices flowing?
  4. Is it lyrically challenging? (Word choice, metaphors, story driven, etc.)
  5. Is it spiritually challenging or thought provoking?

True, not all of these  albums meet all of theses standards but they do meet at least 3 out of 5, and that’s good enough for me.

Crowder – American Prodigal

Skillet – Unleashed

Trip Lee – The Waiting Room

Need To Breathe – Hard To Love

We Are Messengers – Self-Titled

Viktory – Tomorrow Came

Unspoken – Follow Through (Deluxe)

Wolves at the Gate – Types and Shadows

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be No Where

Da’ Truth – It’s Complicated

Michael Sweet – One Sided War

Bi-Frost Artists – Lamentations: Simple Songs of Lament and Hope

Dogs of Peace – Heel

Matthew Parker – Adventure

What am I missing?  Leave me your suggestion(s) below.

 

 

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My Top Songs Of 2016

 

I listen to predominately Christian/Gospel music so my list reflects that; but some groups on here do not identity as a Christian band so they are listed as well. These songs just hit me the right way and stuck with me. Some artists have two songs which may mean they make my albums of the year list.

It was a very good year for music. What did you listen to?

Check out the show I do, on Youtube, about Christian Music and how you can use it in your ministry.

 

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The Prisoner, The Prodigal, and The Empty Chair

First, welcome back Sting. I heard this song a dozen different ways, but the song is written for the documentary Jim,  about a missing photo journalist James Foley. He was held capital captive and eventually beheaded, but as Sting explains, he fought for food and blankets for his fellow prisoners. Before I heard the story behind the song I could not help but the empty chairs in my own youth room.

As a youth worker, maybe like you,  I see too many empty chairs every week. I know kids, who are held in a spiritual captivity. They are doing the best they can, the fight for others but lose the battle themselves.

In the song, the prisoner says,

Some days I’m strong, some days I’m weak,
And days I’m so broken I can barely speak,
There’s a place in my head where my thoughts still roam,
Where somehow I’ve come home.

When kids tell me they are thinking about coming back to church or youth group, I tell them, “I’ll save you a seat”. There is always, and always should be, an open seat for the prodigal, the wanderer, and the searcher.

I can see this song from the point of the prodigal, he’s saying, “I’ve messed up a hundred times, but keep that chair open for me, don’t give up, I’ll be home.” He saying, praying, to God, keep a seat for me at the banquet table, I’ll get it. I’m slow, but I’m worth waiting for. The mystery of the gospel has not yet been unfolded for me yet, but give me time, pray for me, and keep the chair open.

Maybe you have a wayward son or daughter. Maybe you’re a youth pastor hoping that kid will come back. Maybe your a spouse hoping your other will come home. Keep the table set, and the chair open because somewhere I think they are praying you will.

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Voting Is A Sacred Thing

 

Voting is a civic sacrament. – Theodore Hesburgh.
I confuse my family every two and four years because I will not tell them who I voted for. It’s none of their business, and if you’re reading this, its none of yours either. I don’s say that to be ugly but to be clear.
When I walk into that voting booth today, it’s like walking into a confessional. Growing up Catholic I understand that metaphor well since I had to make many visits.
I’d make my visit, share my sins, and walk out and neither the priest nor I speak of it again. My sin was gone. Voting is sacred, it’s a moment where we pause, think, hopefully pray, and then check a box or not if that is your choice.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation of who or why you voted, or not voted, for someone or something today. Take your vote as seriously as you would take communion. It is the process, not the act, that is sacred.

Can A Movie Define a Generation?

Each generation makes it’s mark in the world, in economics, science, and yes in the movies. These are called “coming of age” movies. Some think these movies can define a generation. I’d rather like to think that the movies I grew up watching influenced or reflected us rather than rubber stamped us as DEFINED.

My generation had boob fest movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Porkies 1, 2 and 3, Revenge of the Nerds, The Last American Virgin, etc. but we also had Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator, Rambo, Star Wars, but neither of these genres defined us.  Some of these movies taught me all the wrong things while other movies taught me just enough to believe for better things.

If my generation is the summation of the movies I described, I’d like to sincerely apologize to the world. I’d like to think we were more than sex crazed idiots who liked to get drunk, blow stuff up, and live in a compete fantasy world where laws do not matter. I;d also like to think that we’ve grown out of that and into somewhat respectable adults. I can only speak for me of course. I’d like to think every young person is more than a bag of hormones and a death wish. I think this was true of  me, but only a few saw it; while adults saw the ads for these movies just nodded their head in agreement and thought that was the definition of me.

Critics, and others, try to tell us that movies can define a generation. I think movies can reflect a generation, but to define it?  The movie Edge of Seventeen, is described as a “coming of age movie” and in another trailer “every once and a while a movie defines a generation”. I laugh when the announcer says “classics like Mean Girls, Clueless, and Fast Times At Ridgemont High”. I apologize who disagree with me but I would not define these movies  as classics. I mean if Edge of Seventeen is a classic or defining movie of this generation, shouldn’t we be very very afraid?

I don’t believe movies can define a generation who’s having a difficult time defining itself; or for better or for worse, that don’t want to be defined at all. I won’t define a teen for their movie tastes if they won’t judge me for mine and I certainly won’t define them by it. Teens are better than how movies portray them and we have to keep telling ourselves that or we’ll have to lower our expectations so far we’d have to dig a hole.

Are there movies that have literally defined a generation? If so, what do you think they are and why do you think it defined them?

Caution, video is NSFW (not safe for work)

 

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Priceless Movie Review

 

instagram-priceless

 

Will you being taking your kids to see the new movie from King and County, Priceless? Here’s my review of the movie and who you can use it with your youth ministry.

Have you seen the movie? Leave your review in the comments.

 

Lecrae Said Something And 18,000 People Lost Their Minds

So, Lecrae had a part in the 2016  BET Awards this year. LeCrae performed a spoken word that lasted about one minute and 10 seconds. In the spoken word he speaks of slavery, America, injustice, and the gospel and 18,000 people lost their minds on Facebook. That’s how many engage, commented, shared, etc.

Some lost their minds like this

The thing that disheartens me the most is that (white) believers are following this thread and I’m seeing the same responses that we see from (white) unbelievers. – Bob

and

But nothing he said isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s all true. And the man is a poet. Well done on an artistic level. – Sheryl

Other were like this

Lecrae we hear your lament about racism, but you sound like Public Enemy, Common and every other tired black conscious rapper who came and left but never made systemic sustainable difference in poor urban communities. – Jack

and

I’ve never cared for Lecrae but this just disgraceful. It seems he’s more concerned about being black than being Christian. He’s on a national stage at a secular (and some could argue, ‘racist’) awards show and instead of speaking about Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins, he talks about “nappy hair” and Obama “leading” us for two terms.           – Gregg

I agree with many who say, “You like Lecrae when he raps about Jesus but throw him away when he says anything else.”

I don’t own Lecrae. No one does. Not the Christin music industry, not the hip hop world, not the church. He belongs to Christ and all of us.

so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.           Romans 12:5

I love his music and it would be two faced of me to love the man conditionally. If I only love him, pray for him, and support him when he’s talking about Jesus, I am not any different than a Pharisee. If you love what he does for Christ, love the whole man, the black man, the poet man, the man that struggles and the man when he is victorious.

Lecrae, like everyone else has the right to grow, change, mature, and speak like everyone else. I have no idea what he goes through, but I can at least pray for Him that God’s will be done in his life. If we don’t have that much love in our hearts, you’re not even a fan, you’re a phony.

Keep it real everyone.

 

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