About Me

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New Orleans, LA, United States
Family from South Africa, Born in New Orleans, Lived in South Carolina. Married to Annabeth since May 2004. We have three boys (Bolt, Mack, and Birk). Currently living in Uptown NOLA and serving as Lead Pastor of Vintage Church and Camp Pastor of Student MissionLab.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Right now I am studying at my favorite coffee shop in Uptown, Fuel Coffee House. I have grown to love the people, vibe, atmosphere, and they really do have the best coffee in Uptown. I have built a good friendship with Neal (owner). He allowed for us to gather at his shop and he also gives us free coffee for our church gatherings on Wednesday Night.

Today is Ash Wednesday. For those of you who don't know what this is, here is a brief summary:

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40-day period (not including Sundays) of fasting and repentance leading up to Easter.

Basically, people have been partying like crazy over the last couple of weeks and today they are beginning their time of confession and repentance.

Here is a basic Biblical understanding:

Ash Wednesday is a time for repentance and the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express penitence. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent's way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. An ancient example of one expressing one's penitence is found in Job 42:3-6. Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (c. 5-6, KJV) Other examples are found in several other books of the Bible including, Numbers 19:9, 17, Hebrews 9:13, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:21, and Luke 10:13.

However, some Christians, who do not celebrate Ash Wednesday, say that the practice is not consistent with Scripture and is of pagan origin.[11] They usually cite Matthew 6:16–18, where Jesus gave prescriptions for fasting: "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (NRSV) These groups argue that Jesus warned against fasting to gain favor from other people and that he also warned his followers that they should fast in private, not letting others know they were fasting. For these reasons, some Christian denominations do not endorse the practice. Others, however, point out that this very passage from Matthew is the one, not coincidentally, that is appointed by the Revised Common Lectionary to be read on Ash Wednesday. They might also clarify that the ashen Cross on the forehead does not represent the fast, but the mortal condition of human existence.

I just had a chance to talk with Rachel, one of the workers at Fuel. She was telling me about all of the crazy stuff that happened yesterday in Uptown and in the Quarter. She said that craziest thing that she saw was an old man wearing only the thinnest g-string she had ever seen. She told me that it almost made her want to become a lesbian. We then began to talk about Ash Wednesday. She said that she hated this day because it was so depressing. She is Catholic and told me that she is in a time of repentance.

As I sat down to drink my coffee, I was exposed to my depravity. I might not of gotten drunk and run around in a g-string, but I have surely been sinful. Most Christians in New Orleans spend all of their time condemning Mardi Gras and the heretical practices of the Catholic Church. I am not disagreeing with the fact that it is all absurd and displeasing to God. But I do disagree with the concept of calling someone out on their sin, when you are just as guilty. We have all sinned and fallen short of God's Glory.

Honestly, I think that Ash Wednesday should be a weekly ritual. This wouldn't give us the excuse to go out and sin like a Mardi Gras celebration. Read Romans 6. If you are continuing to sin, Paul seriously doubts your conversion. If you aren't experiencing true conviction in your sin, hang out in that passage and tell me how you feel. Repent and give your life to Christ.

Having a weekly Ash Wednesday, would give me a weekly reminder to continue in my journey of sanctification. I might be writing to a bunch of perfect-holy rollers, but I build up enough sins each week to propel my life in complete brokenness and humility before Christ begging for forgiveness. Instead of telling the world to stop sinning, how about set an example first.

In summary, meditate on the words of Christ:
Matt. 7:3-5 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Brethren, Dwell in Unity

This weekend I was in Bainbridge, GA. It is in the middle of nowhere, just north of Tallahassee. This spring our ministry Ignite Mission has joined up with MissionLab and the Andrew Ogea Band to lead mission weekends in other cities. We showed up in this little town and got quite a surprise. There were around 400 kids from over 5-7 different churches. That wasn't the most impressive part. Those 5-7 different churches were from 5 different denominations. We led worship on Friday Night, they served and did mission work all day on Saturday, and then we had a worship service on Saturday Night. The Holy Spirit came down on Saturday Night as we saw around 40 kids respond to the Gospel. May God forgive us for not assembling in unity.

My fraternity (GHETTO) used to sing this song at the end of our Bible study in my first two years at Covenant College. This is how it went:

"Oh...how good and oh...how pleasant...it is when the brethren dwell together, in UNITY! It is like a precious ointment upon my head, that flows down the beard...even Aaron's beard...in UNITY!" (Psalm 133)
Lord, this is my prayer for the Body of Christ in New Orleans.