Monthly Archives: February 2009

what God is doing

A friend of mine recently said to me that he thinks faith is what broken and unbelieving people (whom we have seen at West Valley PCA church plant) are curious about.  Faith… what to believe in?  Then he made the observation that hope is what believers long for… people who attend our churches, who sit in our small groups, who maybe read the Bible daily and pray before meals – they long for hope… “Show me God that this is making a transforming change in my life…”  I hope, anyway.  Transforming me from the inside-out – my anxieties, addictions, depressions, obsessions… I hope, anyway.

Well, I blog today filled with hope that has renewed my faith.  How’s that for a combo?  God is at work!  He is at work in his church through Christ, through his Word, and through his people.  He is at work in family and self… 

A few weeks ago I attended my favorite – the Workshop on Biblical Expostion (Simeon Trust, see links), and since my return, my Word-work for Sunday sermons has been transforming.  Actually ,the times in the Word are slower, filled with more struggle, checking and rechecking context… slow to apply to modern life – and God, through the work, has given POWERFUL textual links to my life and family and our congregation.  God is at work in his Word!  O, and Ecclesiastes is an awesome mess of a book – mirroring its message, and connecting with the magnanimous mess of the people/world to which we are seeking to engage with the gospel.  God is at work!

He is so at work in our family and personal life – bringing us glimpses of new life out of the funk for his glory and service… that I am content to say nothing in reflection.  How’s that for different.  Yeah, I know. 

We were told that church planting would put us in the line of fire and that spiritual attack would be unlike any we knew… Wish they would’ve told us more.  But thanks to God for showing us personal immaturity, giving us new patterns, and now we open our eyes and realize that the gospel is our HOPE of transformation, even as our faith has been tested more than I thought possible as a “pastor/church planter.”   Hope is… well, not just a word. 

Truly, it is as if (Ephes. 1:18ff) “we have had the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which we have been called…”  And you know what, the whole “weak christian” concept I have wrestled with over the years – am I being too emphatic on the power and discovery of the gospel in moments of weakness?  It has proved realistic for me these past 4 months.  There is a God whose gospel of transformation is real.  It is not real for me apart from my being so desperate, so parched, so scared, so worried, so pushed, so attacked, and so weak – as we have been in these launching days of West Valley.

Today do I feel strong and ready for the glorious task of where God is taking West Valley PCA?  No, I don’t feel strong!  I do have HOPE that transformation in this life under the sun is possible according to the work of God, through his Word and his revelation/power shown us in Christ! 

Amen and Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.

Below is a snipet from our recent prayerletter sent to the prayer and financial partners of WVPC – if you are desirous of learning a bit more of God’s work on the churchplant front.

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Allow me to share this update.  We are still meeting at our Main Street store-front location, and are in process of reconfiguring the space to fit 150 rather than 100 chairs.  Very needed!  We have been blessed of late to have web-connected, friend-connected, and not-so-random-connected visitors who have returned time and again.  We continue to study the sobering book of Ecclesiastes, salivating more and more for the redemption promised us in Christ from a world filled with futility, vanity and suffering.  We currently have four Community Groups gathering weekly in homes with approximately 25 family units represented.  The goal of our Community Groups is transformation through the Word in a context of safety and exposure among God’s people.   In tandem with our Community Groups, our ladies have begun multiple small groups to study “Gospel Transformation” (World Harvest Mission) and we have finally begun our College Student Adoption as 5-6 families have been linked to pairs of students.   

 

Organizationally, we are on the front end of reassessing our Sunday morning Kids Ministry (due to energy-stewardship and discipleship-effectiveness).  What to do with the responsibility of 40+ kids?!   To help with this and other strategic decisions, we are forming an Advisory Team of men and women who will help “assess and advise” the needs and direction of West Valley, giving on-the-ground thoughts to our provisional session, which is made up of sacrificial elders from regional presbytery churches.  This Advisory group will be a brain-Spirit trust to discuss issues such as our rented facility (Is it working?  Is there a better option?), kids ministry discipleship (Are we effective? Are we burning people out?), etc.  In addition to the strategic formation of an Advisory Team, our session of elders is also prayerfully discussing how to effectively shepherd God’s people as needs and people are mounting (beyond what I have wisdom/capacity/experience for)!  It is not easy for a plurality of elders to shepherd God’s people, when the majority of the plurality are not in the vicinity!  Please pray for us.  In one respect, however, my pastoral role of shepherding and textual study has already been greatly enhanced.  We have hired a part-time Administrative Manager!   Alex is finishing his Bachelor’s degree in business, and while in school, he is using his budding business acumen to organize our office for the sake of stewardship and effectiveness.  Already, this has enabled me to rediscover and prioritize the prayer, expositional preaching (study!) and shepherding tasks of this glorious calling.  Will you pray for wisdom as we discern the changing stages of West Valley’s maturation – that we might structure and prioritize ourselves in a way that enhances our obedience to Christ and helps fulfill our vision for his glory?  These are exciting and uncharted organizational waters (at least for me)!

 

So, having said all that, where are we as a church?  We are in the wilderness.  You may find us in coffee shops, the grocery store, our places of work (hospitals, banks, offices, shops), out sledding if the weather’s right, or at our homes among a myriad of children.  You surely can find us at 322 Main Street in Emmaus on Sunday mornings!  But make no mistake by the thankful and exciting report above… we are in the wilderness.  An artsy-town/sprawling suburban wilderness.   Revelation 12:6 describes the wilderness like this: “and the woman (church) fled to the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished.”  So there you have it.  We are in the nourishing wilderness.  Right now it happens to look like a Main Street church plant of people who meet in Community Groups to study the Word and who are in process of organizing…  But in a deeper sense, we are simply being nourished and preserved by God in our corner of this earthly wilderness where, indeed, there is a tumult of pain and brokenness and temptation and sin.  God is nourishing us by his gospel, by his Word, and by his people until the day when Christ who has ascended to the throne of God (Rev. 12:5) returns to set up his kingdom.  Come Lord Jesus Come!

 

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learning where I’ve been

Monday night, I took out the trash – and like in the movies – looked to my right, and my neighbor Wil and I were synchronized in our husbandry.  Two dads simultaneously taking out the trash at 10:45pm.

“I like your beard,”  he said.  “It makes your eyes pop.”

To which I said, “Don’t ever tell me that again.” (or something)

Then I told him that it has nothing to do with a beard.  Maybe its because I haven’t been a person for about the past 6 months.  You see that in peoples eyes, right?  Distance, disengaged, empty.  So now my eyes pop, and neighborhood men have noticed.  Sweet.

Actually, he’s right.  I feel a bit like Paul in Acts 9, after his conversion encounter with the resurrected Christ (not conveying that I have recently been converted).  After he had been stricken with blindness at the appearance of Christ, Ananias was sent to say to him, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  After which Scripture says, immediately something like scales fell from his eyes.  Maybe passerbys taking out their trash noticed the change in his eyes.  Or was it the beard?

Seriously, I am daily learning where I have been.  Something like scales are coming off of my spiritual eyes as I feel like the calcification of my heart is chipping away.  I can weep for people, pray with people, study Scripture to preach to people… and all to discover Christ who alone can cure blindess. 

It’s weird to feel like I can see again, because now I want to look back to figure out where Ive been in the months of launching out West Valley PCA (www.westvalleypres.org).  But its hard to look back to where you’ve been when – at the time – I wasn’t seeing much of anything.

O God, help my eyes to pop.  My tears to flow.  Your heart to care.  My eyes to read.  Your Word to convict. 

Maybe the patchy beard is here to stay…

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preaching – nothing greater

I am humbled and filled – simultaneously.  Once again at the Workshop on Biblical Exposition in Philly (Simeon Trust – www.simeontrust.org).  God speaks through his Word!  I have heard it, received it, and submit to it.  I will build my life and ministry around the Word – and seek to do the work necessary to preach the Word faithfully.  I will for God’s glory, for his power, and for his people.  I will surrender all.

Tonight, I sat in a Philly Cigar bar with a friend who I count to be a hero of biblical exposition.  He took a night to sit with me.  Me.  What encouragement for a young pastor, a young preacher, a committed learning-preacher!  Encouragement sent by God in one whom the Lord has used to engage all of America with Biblical Exposition.  Thank you God for your words to me through him: “Stay the course, Jim.”  I praise your name and I long to know you through your Word.  I long for West Valley PCA to move forward by your Word exploding your people and engaging our lives and culture.  No gimmics.  Nothing flashy but the power of your people bowing to your glory as it is revealed in your Word.  Take me O God and make me O God into a servant who works hard.  Works wisely.  Works passionately.  And then leaves the WORK of transformation to you through your Word.

As I am away from my family, sitting under the text… I add this, O God.  Thank you for my family and wife who have surrendered to this call and supported me in it.  May the work in the Word translate into a transformed husband and father in body, mind and soul.

Amen.

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