Monday, August 30, 2010

God is definitely up to something...

I didn't have a specific topic in mind for this weeks post. Because I'm not usually one who struggles with what to say I decided to sit back and think a little about what God has been doing. It's been a lot. We've had our fair share of pains and struggles over the past several months but there has been no shortage of joys and it is obvious that God is moving. Let me give you 5 ways that I see God moving in Tacoma. Hopefully it will encourage your heart but even more than that I pray that it will give you some specific ways to pray...

1) Tommy is on our leadership team. He's 21, bold and working on a landscaping crew. His mission as a landscaper overlaps with his mission as a Christ-follower. He wants to see Jesus infiltrate his crew. Over the course of the last several months he's learned that all but one of his crew claim to be Christians but none of them go to church. He asked his boss if they could begin a Community Group before work on Friday mornings to pray, hang-out and talk about God's word. Guess what? His boss said yes! God is moving.

2) We discussed our purpose as a church last night at our Community Group. One of the guys, in his 60's, living in a shared housing for registered sex-offenders said that he is realizing his purpose but he's scared to take action. He made breakfast for the guys in his house yesterday and he said everything inside him told him to share the gospel with them. He didn't. Missed opportunity? Yes. Failure? No. He wants to share the gospel with these men. Men most people won't even look at. God is moving.

3) I had the opportunity to take the 5 members of our Leadership Team to a Catalyst Leadership Conference on Thursday in Seattle. One of our mantras as a church is always take someone with you so of course I told everyone to feel free to invite someone. We took 10 people to this all day Leadership Conference and it was incredible. I sat with Vinny at lunch who I have never had a full conversation with. He is a member of on of Tommy's Community Groups. Vinny told me that he was saved when he was a kid but at 18 he started running. He's now 28 and ready to come back to Christ! He told me that he knows people on the streets and believes God can use him to reach people that I could never reach! He wants to start a Community Group at his apartment. God is moving.

4) I shared a few posts ago that we are going to begin monthly worship services. Well, God showed us he wants more than that. We are now going to have our first worship service the last Sunday of September and then we'll be having worship services the 1st and 3rd Sunday's of every month at least through the end of the year. God is moving.

5) We haven't seen anyone saved recently but we are praying & believing that God is moving. Will you join me this week in praying for salvation & life change?

God is moving.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God is dead.

A shocking statement to say the least. As a believer and follower of the one true God to read that statement much less to hear it uttered literally twists my stomach in knots and I almost don't know how to respond. We have a 15 year old girl that is a part of our church that asked for help this week in getting out of a living situation with her mom who is addicted to drugs. The situation has become worse and worse and it is heart-breaking to say the least. She is currently staying with other family members and as we sat around their table after a discussion about what to do next I asked if we could all pray together. The conversation went from somber to awkward as it was obvious this was a new concept for the family.

What followed was a sad testimony to the reality of the world we live in. The 6 year old daughter of the family asked in reference to prayer, "What is that?" I told her that it is how we talk to God and ask him to help us with tough situations like the one her cousin is going through. This little girl then said with complete confidence, "God is dead." While not much could hurt my heart more than hearing those words come out of a child's mouth I was even more disheartened by the response of her mom, a strong and obviously loving wife and mother. She said with all sincerity, "God is not dead, Jesus is." My heart drop and my voice, shocked and not nearly as passionately as I wish it had been said, "Jesus is not dead, he died but he rose again."

How do we live in a world, a country, a nation where a 6 year old child can believe that God is dead? How do we live in a culture where a loving and "good" mother and wife could whole heartedly correct her by saying that God is not dead, Jesus is?

This is our calling. This is our purpose. We must proclaim passionately, urgently and in a loud voice that Jesus is not dead, for he has risen!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Praying for life change. Believing even when it doesn't happen.

Well, so many times as a church planter I enjoy writing about, reflecting on and sharing the stories of hope. The stories with good outcomes of changed lives and people who have chosen the narrow road. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that so many more people choose the wider road. I don't know the "real" numbers but I share with people quite often that for every one life we see changed by the gospel we've probably walked with 20 or more who have left somewhere on the journey. It is hard, it is sad, it is frustrating. To ask why is futile other than to say in belief that it is all for God's ultimate glory.

I've been asking for prayer over the last couple of weeks for Shannon. Shannon is an abused, addicted paraplegic who we have been walking with, sharing the gospel with and encouraging to chose life... to choose Jesus. Unfortunately about a week ago I dropped Shannon off at her hotel knowing in the back of my mind that I may never hear from her again. I knew that as much I can and should fight for her, I cannot change her and I cannot choose for her. That is a hard reality to accept. She must choose Jesus for herself and the power of the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change her life. Wow!

Now I'm faced with the reality, as I have been so many times before in our short time in Tacoma, that there is a precious life out there wandering the streets. She's hurting, she's broken and she has knowingly rejected the God of the universe. How do we keep going? I'm not completely sure. I know it's only by faith and only through grace that we can persevere on the journey in the midst of great loss.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Shannon as you think of her because as long as there is still breath in her lungs the grace of Jesus is available to her.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Territory

God is such a provider. He is always directing our paths. His plans are perfect and his ways are definitely not our own. One of the next steps for The Pathway is beginning a worship service that meets every other month. The problem is, the Methodist Church that has been such a huge blessing to us for meeting space is becoming less and less accessible. That means we have to find a new place to meet consistently. However, the Methodist church was cheap and provided all the chairs, sound, video, etc. that is needed. It even has a nursery that we can rent with all the kids stuff provided. Well, the "plan" was to have our first bi-monthly worship service the last Sunday of August but August was already here and I had no idea where we would meet.

One afternoon everything was going wrong and I was actually kind of frustrated so I went out for a drive. I just started praying as I drove and praying about where God would have us meet. Of course he took me through a couple of obviously closed doors and then brought me to the Temple Theater... a huge meeting space right down town... central to everything. Surely this was too big but I figured I needed to go check. Long story short they have all sorts of meeting space sizes in the Convention Center and we found a room that is perfect for us. It is actually cheaper than the Methodist church and comes with chairs, set-up and clean-up when we're done. It also allows us to stay in the same location as we grow because they have space that can seat hundreds! However-- no sound, video or kids stuff!

Well, why doubt God. Unfortunately one of our church planting network church plants died recently and a couple of weeks ago our church planter strategist asked me if we could use their trailer with sound, screens and kids stuff!!! Since we're not using it on a weekly basis we're still working through the details of possibly sharing it with another plant or exchanging it for something smaller in the future, but either way I've been guaranteed the things we need for our worship service! Praise Jesus! It's just amazing to see how God pieces the puzzle together.

A couple things to pray for...
1) Pray for our first Worship Service on Sunday August 29th
2) Pray for Shannon from last weeks post-- we are still working with her and she has an appointment with the Tacoma Family Justice Center this morning. We are still trying to figure out how to get her to her daughters place in Oregon.
3) Pray for our Community Groups-- 2 are doing awesome, 1 is struggling through infancy and 2 are just struggling!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
(Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What? I actually have to live what I teach?

So here's the deal. Sunday morning we were invited by The Commons, a church plant up in Arlington, WA, to share what God is doing in Tacoma. I am always excited to get to be a part of another church's worship service and especially to get to share the vision of The Pathway and all that God is doing. As I spoke Sunday morning my main emphasis was that at The Pathway we are learning to "be the church" instead of just "going to church." Another thing I emphasized was that part of "being the church" is not drawing a line in the sand between personal life and ministry life. Ministry is personal. It's messy, it's painful, it's hard on your family. But when you truly let the two collide, God is glorified and brings life change.

Well, God didn't even let me finish the day before having to put my money where my mouth is. That night, as Kelli and I were falling asleep I got a call from a homeless man named Pat who is a part of our Community Group. He is a great guy. Honestly, he is busting his hump to get off the streets. He loves Jesus and is sharp mentally, he just has a really bad back and struggles to provide for his own needs. Well, Pat called and said he had been staying with some people the last couple weeks and the husband was beating the wife so he finally just took the wife and left. The wife just happens to be a paraplegic who struggles to live independently. They were borrowing a phone just to get ahold of us but they needed help... now.

Well, I could have not answered the phone. I could have said, "Pat, my wife and I are in bed, we have a busy day tomorrow, our twins are asleep and our oldest daughter Tiffany is already in bed too." I could have said, "Pat, we'll just figure this out tomorrow. You left so you're going to have to figure out tonight." Fortunately, by the grace of God, not 12 hours earlier I had claimed to be learning to "be the church." Well, we rolled out of bed, woke Tiffany up and gave her the baby monitor, and we went out to the park to meet up with Pat and Shannon.

Long story short it is a messy, painful and sad situation that I'm certain does not have an easy solution. We were able to get a voucher in the middle of the night from the YWCA to get Shannon a hotel room in a safe place. Now, my normal southern baptist self would never have agreed to allowing Pat to stay with her in that hotel room but God had set out a perfect plan. In talking with Shannon privately Kelli learned that she really couldn't easily stay in a hotel room by herself. She needed assistance. Still, Pat? A man? Not the husband? Well, Not 6 hours earlier God had taken us to another church service to hear a friend preach. They were teaching on the story of Ruth and Boaz. I was reminded of how Ruth lay under the covers at Boaz's feet and because it was God's plan, Boaz's heart was pure and she was safe. Although it was not the ideal situation that you would advice every woman to put herself in. God had put Ruth their for a reason. The same was true for Shannon and Pat. They are not Boaz and Ruth, but Pat was able to be there for her in a way that we could not. More than that, he was willing and his heart was pure. On top of it all, we were able to share with Shannon the hope she can have in her true Kinsmen Redeemer... Jesus Christ.

Being the church.
Is it messy? Yes.

Is it beautiful? You bet.

Thank you Lord for your providential hand.

Please pray for Shannon as we are still working through the possible situations to keep her safe and keep her off the streets. Specifically pray that she would be open to going to live with her daughter in Oregon and that her daughter would be open to having her.