Monday, August 29, 2011

Prayer, Testimony & the power of life change

Anyone who knows me, is a part of The Pathway or follows this blog has heard me say time and again that the prayer we as a leadership team have had for the city of Tacoma from day number one is that we would see life change brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. The question is, how do you measure life change?

First and foremost measuring life change takes time. Anyone can fake it for a while. Many people have mastered the art of temporary behavior change but true life change is only observable through time. Well, I've mentioned Gene on this blog before. He's a part of my Community Group and it's been incredible to see how God has worked in his life to bring about life change. I mentioned in a previous post that our Community Group has been praying for Gene to be reunited with his son Malachi for some time and by the grace of God through prayer and for his glory, Malachi came home permanently this past Friday!

What stuck out to me in the process was the fruit of what I believe is a legitimately changed life. Gene has been growing in his walk with Jesus and always has a lot of questions, but his confidence in the reality that God can speak through him has always been somewhat low. He doesn't think he knows enough to share the gospel and he hasn't felt ready to share a testimony. Well, this past Sunday we had a time of preparation at the beginning of worship. We basically listened to a song and watched a music video while spending time praying and repenting of sin. I told the church that when the song was over I didn't want them to wait on me. I wanted someone to jump up on their own and share a testimony of what God has been doing in their life. For some churches this may be an easy task but for us I often just get blank stares from apprehensive people. Not yesterday...

As soon as the video was over Gene jumped up and headed to the front of the room. He proceeded to give God the glory for bringing Malachi home. He shared with our church the power and blessing that comes from following Jesus and the result of the community of believers going to God in prayer. It was amazing not only to be a witness to the power of prayer, but to hear a testimony from Gene that actually was a testimony of his new life in Christ.

Life change. I can't wait to see more!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Balancing Urgency & Patience

Of all the character traits that compose the fruit of the Spirit, patience is the one I struggle with the most. I hate to say it, but I'm probably the most impatient person I know. God has grown me significantly in this area over the years, but I still have a long way to go. Most of the time my impatience is completely selfish. I find myself acting as if "my time" is the most valuable time on this earth.

Urgency is another aspect of life I deal with on a daily basis. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am constantly aware of the reality that Jesus is coming back soon, that life is fragile and can end any day, for any person, of any age, and that those who die without placing their faith in Jesus' atoning work on the cross will be tormented in hell forever... that's right... for eternity. This reality is haunting at times. I want to get the message out so fast. I want to shout at people, scream at people, shake some sense into people. But I also believe the reality that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

There is a balance between urgency & patience, but both are needed as missionaries of the gospel (which we are all called to be). We all must recognize that some of us plant the seeds of the gospel, some of us water those seeds, but God is ALWAYS the one who makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). Always. There are places in this world that are seeing revivals the likes of which I can hardly comprehend. Thousands of people placing their faith in Jesus for salvation. Then there is Tacoma. Spiritually open... closed to the gospel. Patience is key but it is only possible through faith. I have to have absolute faith that God knows what he is doing and it's the best plan possible.

One quick story about the patience that can often be required of the gospel. Last week I got an email from a bartender in Snoqualmie where we lived and helped plant a church prior toTacoma. The soil is so tough there. This bartender, Patrick, was a casual acquaintance of mine at best. He worked at the local Pub that Kelli and I occasionally went to and he was friends with the owner of the music store I worked with. I vaguely remember a time that he came into the music store and my boss was not there. I think I got to share the gospel with him... but I honestly don't remember for sure. Well, 2 years have passed... 2 years... and to be honest I have not thought much about Patrick. Then I received a facebook message.

He facebooked me and said that some tough things had happened in his life and he felt like he needed to explore God. He told me I was the first person he thought of that could help him with that... a sad reality about the state of our region (considering I barely know him)... and asked me if I knew of any good churches near him. Of course I said "YES!!!" and told him of a few great churches. We are going to meet up in the next week or so (hopefully) to talk about the gospel.

2 years. 2 years since I've seen Patrick. But God knows what he's doing. Patience and urgency. Excelling in one is not an excuse to neglect the other. We must live and share the gospel with urgency, patiently trusting God with the timing of the response.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Celebrating in Community

The Bible is big on community. That's why the term "Biblical Community" is getting so much play in recent years. I think that's a great thing. However, over the last 2 years God has taught me and my family how to live in transparent and authentic Biblical community in a way that we have never experienced before... heck, we didn't even know this kind of community was possible. It is frustrating, heartbreaking and often very messy. It's family. You get the good and you get the bad. But, you get it all together under the Lordship of Jesus.

Well, yesterday we had the opportunity to live out the "good" part of Biblical community. Those who follow The Pathway pretty closely have probably heard about Gene before. Gene's 59 years old, has a grown son named Joshua with cerebral palsy and is raising his twin 5 year old daughters all by himself... that's right, all alone! I can't even imagine. The girls mother is in Tacoma and Gene knows how to find her. But sadly, she is living on the streets, stuck in the grasp of addiction.

What many people don't know is that Gene has another son, 7 year old Malachi. When Gene was with the girls mother they had Malachi but through a series of circumstances Gene found out that Malachi is not his biological son. This was a crushing blow and due to some other extenuating circumstances Malachi has been in foster care for several years. Well, over the last year Gene has given his heart and life to Jesus! Gene was baptized on Easter and has been giving everything... good and bad... to the Lord.

He had been told he wouldn't get Malachi back and the best he could hope for was an open adoption. But Gene continued to come to our Community Group with transparency about the entire situation... and we prayed. We kept praying together through visits and court appearances. Several adoption possibilities fell through and then Gene told us that at a recent court appearance the judge told CPS that even though Gene wasn't the biological father, he was the only Father Malachi had ever known. Gene is doing a great job with his girls and the judge told CPS that they needed to find a way to get Malachi home!

We all responded with shock and amazement and to be honest, on my part there was some skepticism. How could this all just come together after years of not happening? Duh Bobby... Jesus! We continued to pray as a community. At one point the church pitched in some finances to get Gene out to eastern Washington to visit Malachi and one of our other Community Group members watched Gene's girls for him while he was going to court hearings. Finally, last week the order came. Malachi is coming home the first week of September!!! God is so good and so faithful.

At one point it looked like it was imminent that Malachi was going to be adopted by a lesbian couple, now he is coming home to be raised by his adoptive Father... a follower of Jesus. We finally got to meet Malachi at worship yesterday as he was home for his first visit as they slowly transition him to living with Gene full-time! I am humbled and amazed. Our Community Group got to see over the course of months the faithfulness of Jesus in the most bleak of circumstances. There were times we were frustrated, times we lost faith that this could happen, but God had a plan and the celebration is so much sweeter in the context of transparent and authentic biblical community!

Monday, August 8, 2011


So it was definitely a discouraging Sunday. Anyone who has read the blog or spoken to me knows that as a church and as a pastor we don't emphasize the Sunday worship service above all else. When someone tells me they can only be a part of the worship service or a Community Group for whatever reason, I always tell them to get in community first! The reality though is that the worship service is significantly more public and you never know what you're going to get. For a pastor, that can be exciting and it can also be very scary.

Well, throughout the summer we have had amazing worship services. We've had our Community Group members coming, families coming, kids and teenagers attending like never before. We've had visitors popping in from the various serving opportunities we've taken part in. It's just been encouraging and amazing! Until yesterday...

I knew yesterday was going to be hard because it was our first worshipleader-less worship service in a long time. However, over the course of the week I started to receive calls and texts learning that a lot of our people were going to be working or out of town yesterday. I was expecting a slightly smaller crowd but when service time came it was just awkward. If you've ever prepared a sermon... for a congregation of people... and then have to preach it to 12 people... you know it is extremely difficult. Sermons aren't meant for 12! But, we are called to faith, we are called to worship, and we are called to press on.

We've been praying for leadership and we did have a visitor yesterday... which was somehow discouraging and encouraging all at the same time. The man and his wife are new to Tacoma but have been a part of a church plant before and are good friends of our local church planter strategist, Gary Irby. The bummer is that he showed up on a Sunday... the Sunday we had no music and no people!!! Ahhhhhh! Can you hear my frustration?

Here's the deal though. By God's grace he allowed me to go on a personal retreat Friday and Saturday and I was able to worship, truly worship and pray and seek the Lord in a way I haven't done in quite sometime. Of course I assumed he was preparing me for something huge... which I still believe he is. But I believe God also wanted to see my faith remain in the midst of seemingly pointless frustration. By the grace of God I can honestly say I still trust him. And if next Sunday we have no music and 12 people... I will still trust him.

Thanks for your continued prayer. God is still moving in Tacoma. One frustrating Sunday doesn't change that. But I want you all to know this is stinkin' hard! One week we have 6 salvations and the next week... seemingly nothing. However, I emphasize the "seemingly" part because I am believing the promise In Isaiah 55:10-11 that says...

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.