Monthly Archives: July 2008

weakness unexpected

this post will be vague but,  much like when Jesus called out the bleeding woman in Mark 5… when he oddly said, “Who touched me?” amidst the pressing crowd – no one knew to whom he was talking except the one for which his words were directed.  May this be the same to the ones I love whose life is upside down, I can only imagine.

i guess that weakness discovery and God-dependence is often more about our not knowing the future than it is about our inability to handle the present.  i know people who have been graced with God’s strength to continually manage the present for his glory… but what about the sudden change of future?  when the “unexpected” ravages our ordered life, disrupting and changing and reordering the narrative of our life – what an awesome place of helpless dependence on God the author of life whose eternal narrative remains untouched and equally full of redemptive turns, here and there. 

what do we say when the “unexpected” attacks people (robbing sleep and schedule) who have sought to order life for the glory of God?  what is there but quiet contemplation… and all under the listening ears of a God who knows no frazzled unforeseen circumstances.  they are his to order, and so our cries are his to hear.  i am stuck resting in that – i hope you are too.

thank you God for showing us who you are when we least expect it… when life has to go on after it seems to stop.  when you are with us in the stillness of the reordering. 

“I once understood the gospel as God asking me to let him into my narrative, to find room for him in my heart and life.  But now I realize that God bids me to find my place in his narrative.  In God’s story, he, with his own two hands – the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit – recapitulated and reversed the human situation so I can now live in him.  Through him I can live in the expectation of a restored world…Here and now, because God became incarnate and recapitulated all things, I live in him, in his narrative, and he lives in my life, which is to be a witness to his narrative for the world.” (Robert E. Webber) 

i can’t imagine not knowing WHO it is that turns our life plans from the left to the right for his glory and our good.  thanks be to God – be with your servants in the well of the unexpected.  may they live the gospel for others in the midst of weakness.

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west valley pca website

please visit the west valley pca website (wordpress turned temporary church website) to learn about our recently defined values.vision.mission!  WWW.WESTVALLEYPRES.ORG

This is but the work of our hands… and O God our King – in spite of and through our brokenness, show us how you have been at work among your servants in crafting these words and in bringing them to fruition!

Psalm 90:1-2; 16-17

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands!

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God, candles and a back-porch breeze

Tonight is nice. 

Outside on the back porch, I sit.  Kori is on my left reading an enjoyable book.  The breeze is cool.  The candles on the table flicker.  She is beautiful, short hair and all.  We have been through so much together, and it is quiet moments like this that cause me to ….   pause in thanks.

Psalm 27 makes it boldly and memorably clear: because God is gracious, we will see his goodness while here in the land of the living.  Tonight, this is goodness.  The gospel has made us guiltless.  The quiet peace sitting beside one another has evidenced the contentedness that (in our marriage) has been oft slow in coming.  Thank you God.

The only thing that makes tonight better is experiencing it subsequent our glorious weekend.  We spent Friday at the pool (two of them to be exact).  Saturday we took the kids on a hike at Hawk Mtn, not far from where the Appalachian trail passes through.  In fact, prior to our landing at the trail head, we picked up a hitch-hiker, Young Blood, who needed a ride to a nearby town to catch a ride home.  It was our duty and honor to pick up such a kind and gentle smell-of a man… and we tried to do uncle Kevin proud.  Thru-hiker that he was… is.  Then our hike was incredible.  That was Saturday.  Then yesterday I was privileged to preach at Cornerstone on the crucifixion (Mk 15).  It was my first sermon at CPC in 4 months.  It was beautiful, as at the end of the service, the entire congregation bowed on our knees in prayer before the King of kings (seeking to offer true worship to Christ.  We bowed to offer true worship – contrary to the false worship that the soldiers offered to Christ when they dropped to their knees in mockery before his cross).  I will remember yesterday’s corporate worship for a long time.

Yea, this is the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

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west valley prayerletter (July 2008)

Below you will find West Valley church plant’s July newsletter… sorry to those who also received emails with the pdf version (and you came here for something creative to read – not today!).  – Jim

 

  west valley PCA church plant – lehigh valley PA

a historic place     a new place. 

a historic Church       a new church.

 

The above duality adequately describes the nature of our church planting context in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.  Our target area is both historic and new, from the gentrifying ‘buy local’ Borough of Emmaus (settled in the 1740s) to the suburban sprawl of Lower Macungie Township, the fastest growing municipality in the Commonwealth of PA in 2005-2006. 

 

 How do we faithfully and relevantly contextualize the gospel in such a place as this?

 

 We believe it can only be through the historic Church – the very “dwelling place of God by his Spirit” – being incarnated as a new church, a new community of broken-but-redeemed, weak-but-strengthened people who contagiously communicate and celebrate Jesus Christ as their only hope.  Just as the apostle Paul confirmed the new status of the Ephesian church, we believe that we – 40 adults and 40 children from Cornerstone PCA in Coopersburg PA – are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”(Ephes. 2:22).  That dwelling place is a new church plant.  More particularly, it is a church in the west valley of the Lehigh Valley.  God is birthing West Valley Presbyterian Church (PCA).

 

Much has happened since we have corresponded with many of you:

1.       We have incorporated as West Valley Presbyterian Church, Inc.

2.       We have travelled from Chicago, IL to Florence and Columbia, SC fundraising and visiting friends and speaking at churches.

3.       We have vacationed, trying to manufacture the calm before the storm (Lina, Kori and her dad, Doug/‘papa’, biked across Georgia – not exactly rest).  

4.       We have “gone to the mountain” with other West Valley church-planters to seek the Lord’s vision for West Valley PCA, and are in the process of honing and owning that vision now.

5.       We have found a local artist for logo and web design.

6.       We have begun regularly gathering on Sunday evenings for ‘prayer/planning’ – eighty adults and children prepping for a Fall public launch, Lord willing.

7.       We have continued to probe our target area for a place of worship that will be accessible, functional, strategic and aesthetically apropos for the purpose of beautiful, God exalting worship.

8.       We have an office, thanks to numerous hands and feet (and sweaty brows) that worked to ‘flip’ our Main Street space – where we anticipate being a gospel-incarnating blessing to our community for years to come.

9.       We have begun cutting the umbilical cord, as my duties at Cornerstone are tapering off so that I might focus on West Valley.  Thanks be to God for giving CPC a vision to release people for the extension of Christ’s kingdom!

10.   We are resting on the power of Christ to extend his kingdom and build his church amidst our weakness and brokenness, even as we are struck by the lengths Satan has gone in effort to undo us.

Please pray:

1.       Pray for a hedge of gospel-protection around Kori and myself (our marriage), and on Lina, Meggie and Nate (our parenting) – as well as on the families who are launching out with us.

2.       Pray for our vision/values/mission process as we are clarifying (by Word, Spirit and community) the identity that God would give us for his glory and for the West Valley.  I look forward to sharing more acutely who we are in the next prayer letter.

3.       Pray for a worship facility within the target area of Lower Macungie or Emmaus.  Pray for wisdom as we network to discern options – whether churches, community centers, colleges, etc.   Pray for a space and lease term that will provide us with consistency and flexibility.

4.       Pray for our Sunday evening ‘prayer/planning’ meetings.  Pray that God would grow us in unity and maturity.  Pray that a culture of refreshing transparency and prayer will define us prior to our launch of public worship. 

5.       Pray for the children of the West Valley church planters.  My children frequently ask, “Daddy, are we going to church with the same people but in a different building again?”   “Yes girls, ‘cause the church is not the building”… yada yada yada preacher-man.  Actually, with serious intentionality we are seeking to craft an environment where the 40+ children participate in the kingdom calling of their church-planting parents.  From day one our children must be a centrality, not a casualty.

6.       Pray for the formation of ministry teams – from Children, to Worship Arts, to Hospitality, to Community Groups, to Administration and Finances.

7.       Pray for the formal establishment of a “provisional” session of elders (through presbytery).  Rather than starting with our own elders, we will begin with oversight and accountability provided by a select group of presbyters – pastors and ruling elders from sister churches.

8.       Pray for the “skeptics studies” that we intend to hold at our new church office in late July and August.  Our hope is to provide a safe place for the un-churched and non-believing to engage and question a biblical worldview as it relates to their own presuppositions about life/God.

9.       Pray for the budgeting process along with my continued fundraising, as we will be on our own as a church (living off of tithes/fundraised money) beginning September 1st.  Pray for wisdom in forecasting the ministry opportunities of the year in light of anticipated local tithes and outside gifts.

10.   Finally, please pray as Christ taught us:

 

Our Father in heaven,

thy Kingdom come in our West Valley as it is in heaven.

 

We are excitedly docile as we pray, knowing that this is the Lord’s work alone. 

Our hype and strategies and zeal and winsomeness will not build Christ’s church. 

He does not need us to bring his kingdom to the West Valley (Acts 17:25)!  We are set free! 

 

I  will  build  my  church

Matthew 16:18

 

What a privilege of grace to get to participate in Christ’s work –

a work for which we ourselves are indebted

a work that our efforts cannot impede

a work that we cannot do alone

 

Confident in Christ and in you,

 Jim

__________________________

 

Tax-deductible contributions, send check to: 
Mission to North America,
1700 N Brown, Suite 101,
Lawrenceville, GA 30043-8122
(write Jim Powell on memo)
online debit/credit cards:
 https://processor.pcanet.org/mna/donationsII/donation.cfm
under ‘church planters’ menu, select “Powell, Jim / West Valley”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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processing the gospel amidst the process of churchplanting

I am becoming delinquent.  God has been gracing me with deep lessons on his gospel and his Church – lessons that I am processing amidst the busyness, but not as much over the blogosphere!  I do intend to keep writing… (I apologize as if I have regular weakchristian readers who have missed me – prideful man that I am.)

an update on how I am processing the gospel amidst the process of churchplanting:

I am reading in Ecclesiastes.  Enough said.  If you have a Bible and time, check out the parallel-but-contrast between Ecclesiastes ch.1 and Psalm 104.  What an amazing difference in the heart and soul of one who has a God-centered view of reality (Ps. 104) and one who rightly conteplates the vanity/meaninglessness/emptiness/vaporish-ness of life under the sun apart from awareness of the glory of our Creator!  I am chewing on that as I prepare to perhaps preach through Ecclesiastes as our opening exposition series at West Valley PCA (launching this Fall – hence the craziness)!  What a culturally apropos book, with HUGE gospel flashing lights to give us hope!

The other thing I am chewing on is the nature of the CHURCH as part of the Gospel, not just as the collection of “recipients” of the Gospel.  God has chosen to dwell among a people that he has formed by his Word and Spirit – we are his incarnated good news to our culture and neighborhoods!  See Ephesians 2:11-22.  We are a central tenent and irrevocable part of the gospel message… an awesome biblical truth to rediscover and ponder in an age of increased spirituality, yet decreased churchiality (ecclesiology).  I will share more of this – thanks to some studying I am doing on “the Sacramental Gospel” – by Preston Graham, Jr., pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New Haven, Connecticut.  Preston, you’ve got a new disciple.

Tomorrow (or soon thereafter) I will paste my July Prayer-letter to update you on the progress of West Valley PCA (a churchplant in the 3rd trimester, but still in embryo).

Grace and transformation amidst your brokenness and mine, your community and mine – solely through the gospel of Christ’s kingdom manifested in his church by his Word and Spirit!

jim

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