Monthly Archives: September 2008

when human weakness meets divine calling

I just began reading a phenomenal, enjoyable, easy-reading but theological book titled, A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World.  Charles Drew is a pastor in Manhattan who writes after thirty years of pastoring churches in university cities.  In other words, as Tim Keller comments, it is “clear, personal, and culturally up-to-date.”  I found it for four bucks on clearance at a bookstore – showing that many of the greatest gospel-centered relevant works are unmarketed and unknown.  This is one of those.

My reading Drew coincides with my sermon prep-work on the Book of Jonah, our first expositional series at West Valley PCA (which started corporate worship 2 weeks ago).  I am joyously amazed at how the themes of the early verses of Jonah dovetail with the beginning chapters of “A Journey Worth Taking.”  It was not an intentional undertaking – I just needed a good read in the midst of the chaos!

Here is what I stand amazed to see: Jonah was a weak man who fled the presence of the Lord when he did not like the call of God to go to Nineveh.  I am a weak man who wandersand sometimes runs from the gospel of God himself when I do not like how life and churchplanting and ME are too hard to figure out.  THEN, in winsome gentleness, Charles Drew writes about the CALLING OF GOD that gives purpose to all of our weak and broken lives.  For all of God’s children, there is the primary call to God and people, the secondary call to a faithful and joyful expression of who we are as our very selves, and there is the tertiary call of God to service (to certain tasks and duties that, in a fallen world, simply need to be done). 

There you have it – the gospel is that as weak as we are in the quagmire of our own survival and self-definition (perhaps self-hatred)  and sin, there is a Caller who is our Creator who created us to only know purpose according to his call!  AND… his call is first and foremost to himself and to others (to relationship not task), secondly to ‘be ourselves’ as he created us uniquely, and thirdly to be agents of service in a broken world… 

But here’s the thing – while it is glorious that God would call us in our weakness.  (The voice of the perfect God calling the wayward heart of even you and me?!?!)    While THAT is glorious, it is sad that much of the misery in my life – in the life of Jonah – occurs when we mix and match and confuse our primary, secondary and tertiary callings!  When I live life such that my primary calling is to figure my own identity out (Secondary calling) – miserable.  When I live life such that my primary calling is to be really good at a task or a job or whatever (tertiary calling) – miserable.  We are called by the God of the universe to himself – nothing parallels or should ever supplant that!!!  And yet, my pain in life comes when I define myself as a pastor first (great if things are easy, stinks if things are hard – either way WRONG).  My pain comes when I define myself as a husband or father or soccer referee or soccer coach or bread-winner or whatever…  Those are callings under the CALL to God himself! 

This is where Jonah shows us the pain.  Jonah fled the call of God in his life (at that particular time) to go to Nineveh to cry out against the city as a means of God’s gracious mercy to Nineveh.  He didn’t like that call.  But the text scares me in how it describes his flight.  He fled the presence of God (1:3)!  In other words, Jonah did not like the tertiary call to service, so he fled his primary call to know God himself!  How could he cut himself off so!  O my gosh, it’s a picture of me. 

O God, would you help your people as we struggle through our secondary calling of ‘being our true selves’ in a world of conformity, or as we struggle through our tertiary call of serving your broken world well (our jobs, etc)… would the struggles in those departments NEVER supplant our submission to the JOYOUS primary call to know YOU.  Thanks be to God for the Call of Weak people – called first to nothing other than being known and perfectly loved by the God of glory, Hallelujah!  Why would we desire to be called to anything else first?!

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west valley presbyterian church – services have begun!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

our worship space before the addition of people and folding chairs!

 

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Psalm 127:1

We are so thankful that the Lord gathered his people and inhabited our praises this past Sunday as west valley presbyterian church (pca) gathered for our first preview service.  It was an unadvertised sacrifice of worship wherein we planned to give God our new expression of praise, unsure of exactly what it would be!  The Lord was gloriously present in our worship and community – and he brought more than we expected… college kids, neighbors and friends in our target area… close to 100 people to hear his gospel, to offer our broken but made-beautiful selves in thankful worship.  The text that resounded throughout the service was John 17, where Jesus prayed that we might share in both the GLORY and ONENESS of the Father and Son.  And that, I think, we did!  Through the gospel, we are glorious not grotesque.  Through the gospel we are one with each other and the Godhead!  What a gift.

kids sermon, the first try.  "I spy..."

kids sermon, the first try.

 

It is clear, that like children, we at west valley pres are being cared for and fed by our Creator and Redeemer and Father.  We are bruised reeds whom he holds and cherishes.  We are conduits of his kingdom into our broken world.  O God, may your kingdom come to the west valley as it is in heaven.  May we receive your gracious gospel in your church even as you extend it through your church.  O God, what is man that you are mindful of us?  What is a new chuchplant that you would gather people to yourself through us?  What is in store O God!

If you live in the lowermac and emmaus (west of allentown) region of the Lehigh Valley, come check us out!  We long to be a “come as you are community where Christ is celebrated and brokenness renovated”   www.westvalleypres.org

 

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weakness and awe – churchplanting

friends who discover Christ in your weakness and are awed at the magnitude of the gospel…

will you please join us in prayer and anticipation as West Valley Presbyterian Church launches out its preview services THIS Sunday at 322 Main Street, Emmaus at 9:30am!!!

God has met us in this perfect place of weakness and we are in awe.

grace and thanks

jim

home is where the hard is

ok, so i haven’t blogged in 2 weeks.  Longest draught, I think. 

May I simply say that God is gracious and good.  He has given us a promise of his finished work in Christ – and life is well… hard as we anticipate the final fulfillment of that finished work!  The grace of God has hit home over the past 2 weeks.   Literally.  Before we went on vacation to South Carolina, I was tired and joyless, judgmental and and anxious…  it was hard.  By proxy, the hardness of churchplanting details that revealed the hardness of my heart made it so that “home is where the hard is.”  It seemed that in every conversation, Kori and I were tracking through something difficult and distressing… deceived into thinking that life has to be this HARD! 

Well, since vacation God has revealed something profound.  In the home, hardness of life is the catalyst of true heart-to-heart honesty and dependence!  Home is where our hearts are dependently one, precisely because home is where the HARD things in life are meant to be dealt with.  I confess that prior to our needed rest and relax, the hard details of people and planning and pride (not always in that order) associated with West Valley Church Plant made life in the home of Jim Powell unbearably hard.  But now, by seeking to give ourselves to one another – seeing we NEED one another, confessing our sighs and groans toward the complexity of one another … the home has been where the heart is.  Thank you God.  You are greater than the heart (1 John 3:20).  Jesus, thank you that you are interceding right now for your people… in our congregations, in our homes, in our jobs, in our churchplants!

More info will be coming… but pray for the Powells and West Valley PCA church plant.  We are launching our preview services (aka family worship) with 70-80 people on Sunday Sept. 14.  Much to do before then… and even more dependent prayer to be given.  There are forty adults and forty kids who are weak and needy of a God who will do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Many of the homes of these folks are hard right now – kids in new schools, family distress, relational angst in moving out from the mother church and her security… pray for our homes and hearts and humility to surrender to God in this season of flexibility. 

Time to be done.  My allotted time to blog is now ove

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