Monthly Archives: October 2008

it’s not easy

This morning I went to Philly for our regular “Church Planter Community.”  As is usual, we discussed an issue pertinent to church planting (today it was “philosophy of ministry”); then we prayed together and for one another; then we had a round-table discussion that addressed one particular planter’s situation.

It’s not easy. That’s all I have to say.  I praise God for my brothers and how they are serving Christ.  Today, we sat and prayed with a pastor who is serving, wrestling, struggling, fighting, and wondering if the investment is worth it.  It’s not easy.  Should we keep going?  Why is it so hard?  What about my family?  Am I called to this?  What about the joy of seeing the kingdom expand?  Wouldn’t God rather me be productive in some other way? …these are the kinds of hand-holding, ear-opening, prayerful conversations we share.  Church planting is for very weak Christians – no wonder I find myself in such common company!

I guess it is supposed to be as Paul said, “And I was with you in weakness and fear and in much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

So brothers in the pastorate and church planting – I am praying for you today.  I agree, that it is not easy, but I know the struggles we face are from and for the God of glory.

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Stop Jonah, Stop… Jim

At West Valley PCA, we are 4 weeks into our preview services.  God is so gracious as he has provided us a visible and strategic start-up location, even as he has more gloriously inhabited the praises of his gathered people!  We are so thankful for the many college students and families who have stopped in and stayed.  Throughout these preview services, we are preaching through the book of Jonah, emphasizing that our God is the God of Jonah – the sovereign dispenser of relentless mercy!  Our unchanging God pursues us just as he pursued Jonah… even as he is pursuing our West Valley target area just as he pursued the target of Nineveh through Jonah.  The focus of our series has been on the truth that churchplanting has/will reveal the hiccups in our sinful flesh, so that we might experience the truth that through our struggle to obey his call, God is ultimately doing the gracious work of pursuing US, not just the West Valley!

This week, the focus is on the prayer Jonah offered to the Lord in 2:1-10.  What poetic words from a desperate and rebellious man!  All through the book, Jonah has been running from the presence of the Lord – not once has he stopped.  And so, with his relentless mercy, the Lord has finally stopped him dead in his tracks, and the poetic prayer is his recognition of who God is and what he has become. 

There are a million apropos applications, but the key thought for me (and our West Valley churchplanters) is that God is so gracious and sovereign that he doesn’t wait for Jonah to stop running.  He stops him.  While I hope we are not running from the presence of the Lord in our churchplant endeavor (though I know we are capable of wanting to run in our own directions to set up our own gig called church), isn’t it great to know that the Lord is powerful and has all things at his disposal that he would STOP us from our frantic running to put us in THE place of discovery – discovery of what we have become in our ‘do it ourself’ strength; discovery of the depth of our weakness and dependence on God’s rescue; and discovery of his grace and power to deliver us to new life, continually! 

So guess what.  Yesterday I was stopped with 24 hours of hell – the flu.  Laying on the couch as Kori took care of the kids, me being the biggest baby.  Today I am back at the office catching up on everything, and for the first time in all these crazy weeks, I felt like stopping all the minutia details just to blog and enjoy writing about life and things again.  (This has always been a means of grace and meditation.)  Tonight, Kori and I will stop and enjoy our weekly one-hour date on the couch, watching NCIS.  I like stopping (vomiting aside).  But the glorious thing is knowing that God will STOP us to be still and know that he is God when we have been running round and round and round thinking that we are in control (or hopelessly trying to keep it all from falling out of our control)!

So, below are the words of Jonah’s desperate prayer.  He was finally stopped to see his weakness.  Yep, weakness and G0d-dependability are beautiful… very beautiful.  So stop us God.  Stop me in my weakness that I may see the extent of your “salvation owning” strength. 

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish,

2 saying,”I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
3 For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!”