Monthly Archives: July 2009

a word-picture that resonantes

The quote below resonates powerfully with my considerations as a church planting pastor. 

When considering church, kingdom and discipleship…  

Interest turns primarily to humanistic considerations, like more astute communication techniques or better institutional programs.  All this is helpful, of course, but unless there is genuine commitment to the essential Gospel of Christ, merely changing ways of doing things is like

rearranging chairs on the Titanic

We must come to grips with the faith once delivered to the saints and then let IT set our agenda.

-Robert Coleman, Master Plan of Discipleship

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thoughts, not mine so enjoy

Been a while since blogging anything.  I am not apologetic, just up to my eyeballs.  Life has CHANGED!  A church has been planted.  God, plant maturity and discipleship and direction in it.  What a new season this is!

God give me the wisdom to prioritize my FAMILY.  My LIFE basking in the love and calling of obedience of Christ.  My PREACHING.  My PASTORATE.  I have never thought life could go mach speed like this.

So, below are some quotes from people I have been reading as a means of keeping me grounded in truth.  Typing them out for you all (my minimal blog friends because I never post anymore) – that the typing would also implant them into my heart, soul and mind.

Since I occupy a position of responsibility in the church, I think I am more responsible to be humble even than others are.  God demands that I be DEAD to EVERYTHING.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

The moment we decide to start listening to the voice of self screeching its complaints in our ear, we can no longer hear the more modest wisperings of divine love… The love of God desires that self should be forgotten, that it should be counted as nothing, that God might be all in all.  God knows that it is best for us when SELF IS TRAMPLED under foot and broken as an idol, in order that He might live within us.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

I have no doubt that God considers you to be one of his friends.  Otherwise, he would not trust you with so many crosses, sufferings and humiliations.  Crosses are God’s means of drawing souls closer to himself.  And these crosses accomplish his purposes much more rapidly and effectually than all of our personal efforts put together.  Crosses DESTROY SELF LOVE at its very root, down in the depths of the human spirit where we can hardly detect it.  But God knows where it is lodged, and he attacks it in its greatest strongholds.  (Fenelon)

Die to jim jim.

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By know means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it? … We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  (apostle Paul, Romans 6)

Die to jim jim.  Never has the thought of noNOT being ME been so freeing to be ME in Christ.  Sorry for all the excessive self – emphasis.  Kind of ironic in light of a DEATH to self and life to Christ consideration!

Well, one more quote … using it at WVPC as we consider the book of Acts this summer as far as WHO we are called to be as the church of God in this place ast this time.

Getting into the book of Acts is like opening a window in a stuffy room.  The wind of the Spirit blows through it.  HERE IS REALITY.  Feeling its emerging freshness, we should neither try to excuse our spiritual ineptness, nor relegate its vitality to a bygone era.  The apostolic church, not the prevaling mediocrity of our religious community, sets the norm.  Where we perceive our shortcomings, in all honesty, we should seek to bring our lives into  conformity to the New Testament standard.  (Robert Coleman)

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west valley pca update

below is the West Valley PCA church plant prayerletter that I sent out for July… read away, please pray, and contact me if you have any questions or desire to share in this great – BUSY – work!  -jim

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July 2009

 Which round is this?  No, not a boxing match.  Not a night at the bar.  Thinking golf here.  Yesterday, Kori and I were privileged to join a church member at the USGA Women’s Open at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, PA.  Picture it: 80 degree sunny skies.  God-glorifying perfectly green grass (man-toxic with fertilizer).  Beautiful fairways leading up to exquisitely raked sand traps, dense and layered roughs, and greens that were… well, unputtable.    

 Throughout the course, lucky volunteers wore matching polo shirts with red hats, exerting their awesome authority.  They told us where we could and could not walk.  They told us when to stop walking and stand there.  Actually, they didn’t tell us anything.  They didn’t even speak.  They simply held up their hands – silence people, professionals at work.  Silence is the only way to treat a pressure moment.   Every shot in a USGA tournament is a pressure moment, but we were privileged to be seated at the 18th green grandstand to witness the pressurest momentous moment of them all.  23 year old Ji Eun-hee rolled in the birdie putt of her life.   We had just observed 18 golfers in a row miss every putt attempt over 5 feet.  Then it happened.  Ji delivered a 20 foot putt worth $585,000 (that’s $29,250 per foot and $2,437.50 per inch). 

No pressure Ji.

 Wait a minute.  It wasn’t a $585,000 putt.  Ji had just completed the fourth round of a long tournament.  She shot 284 times over those four rounds.  Forgive me, that’s $2,059.86 per swing.  And since Saucon Valley’s Old Course was approximately 6,740 yards (times four), that’s $21.69 per yard that Ji had to walk.  I’d walk a yard for $21 bucks.

 It’s amazing how pressure moments seem to exist irrespective of their context, isn’t it?  That I am naturally inclined to think that Ji’s putt was worth half-a-million dollars is absurd!  Be realistic, Jim – it was one putt in the context of 284 swings, walked over 26,960 yards… in addition to multiple practice rounds, countless previous tournaments, millions of practice putts, chips, and drives over the span of 23 years! 

 (the following sentence will sound familiar)

 It’s amazing how pressure moments IN CHURCH PLANTING seem to exist irrespective of their context, isn’t it?  That I am naturally inclined to think that the prayerful decisions of today are decisive pressure moments that could blow the whole West Valley PCA thing… what a horrendous practical theology when my systematic theology declares that God is sovereign over every detail and decision… most gloriously in his church!  See Ephesians 1.

 Still, the pressure is on at West Valley PCA!  We are in a visible and fantastic facility that will soon be fighting against us, if it is not already.  We simply do not have feasible space for children.  But what to do?  Suddenly the thought of short term vs. long term vision, plus the reality that space in our target area is scarce and we NEED a form of facility expansion before the Fall when college students return and family vacations stop and, Lord willing, more visitors continue to join us … well, the pressure mounting.   Then there’s the pressure of training up leaders in recognition that we are a churchDiscipleshipDevelopment.  On top of that, there are God-fearing newbies and oldies at West Valley who are being painfully deconstructed by the Word of God for their good and the glory/joy of God.  It is pressure shepherding.  Or, then there’s the pressure of giving exhausted teachers and sacrificial church planters a needed respite, even as we don’t have the critical mass to fully raise up a new ‘shift’ of SS teachers and volunteers!  Pray against burnout and for renewed energy!  Then there’s the pressure of financial resources.  We are not yet self-supporting.  (Nor were we when we started in September ’08.  Thanks to God for many of you who have helped provide!)  Our church is expanding along with our expenses.   It is fully under God’s control, but – no pressure – the gap seems to be widening between local tithes and ministry need!  Did I mention a necessary facility change or expansion?!  Please pray for resources as we are budgeting for our fiscal calendar launch in September… pray for the resource capacity to have continued administrative staff and to expand our ministry to children and parents, to our community… in the right facility.  No pressure.

 (Did I almost make you feel like we are facing our own pressure putt that is make-or-break?)

 Seriously, no pressure.  These putts are a part of a LONG round of eternal golf.  They do not exist irrespective of CONTEXT… and that context is the church of Jesus Christ having been provided for over the centuries.  The church of Jesus Christ declaring the gospel to a broken world for centuries.  The church of God seeing transformation and kingdom-realities by the power of the Spirit in us, giving us the power of the resurrected Christ to us, under the sovereign authority of God who owns all things, including us!  Seriously, no pressure.  This Sunday’s sermon is one sermon in a gagillion.  Our worship space is one worship-house of a bajillion.  Our budget-v.-resources need is a drop in the bucket of an eternally deep well of the Lord’s possessions.  Context is everything. 

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think,

according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus

throughout all generations forever and ever.  Amen.  [Ephesians 3:20-21] 

 

Will you please pray for us to believe THAT. 

We know we believe it if we feel, well… no pressure.

 

On the home course…

Is it really the middle of July?  Yes.  Is Lina really turning 7 in tomorrow?  Yes.  Is Meggie really prepping for kindergarten?  Yes.  Was that Nate who just spoke in a clear and coherent sentence?  Yes.  Kori and I are so thankful for the beauty of our children – they image God to us more than anything in all creation. 

We need them more than they need us… and in this stage, they need us!  They are curious and creative.  They are observant and obsessing.  They are in need of a gospel-worldview in a secure home!   No pressure.

 Please pray for a (remaining) summer of family rejuvenation and joy (still trying to recover from Disney World and 4th of July weekend!).  Pray for Kori as she is seeking the Lord regarding her role as a mom, wife, church member, community member, and pastor’s wife.  Pray for our parental discernment regarding schooling options.  Pray for our getting to know our new neighbors.  Pray for a sacrificial – dead to self – leader to model the gospel in our home.  (Yes, that would be a bold prayer for me.)  Quite honestly, I think that this summer has exacerbated the distance that we are from our families; we fight loneliness regularly.  Please pray for contentment and surrender to the call of God to be here, on a mission field.  Please pray for a joy that surpasses circumstance.

 Finally, (and let me be explicit here) – we are extending our Powell family Myrtle Beach trip and staying in South Carolina to preach and fundraise for West Valley PCA.  From August 24-30th I would love to sit down with many of you and share more clearly the conversions, convictions and Kingdom-work that God is doing in our midst?  Would you partner with us?  Or, if you pledged to financially support wvpc over three years, would you honor that pledge?  If so, please contact me at jim@westvalleypres.org and/or send any gifts to West Valley Presbyterian Church, 326 Main Street, Suite 1 – Emmaus PA 18049.  All gifts will be tax-deduct and a year end statement will be provided.   I can’t wait to see many of you! 

 Entrusted with something way too powerful for my comprehension or control, -jim

 

 

 

 

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me, responsible?

I try to live a responsible life.  Getting up early, physical exercise, reading a book in the morning, not procrastinating on sermon preparation… I am respectively responsible, I think.  I even just returned from taking my family to Disney World, and I responsibly lost none of my three wanderful children!  (It was the airline that irresponsibly lost our luggage!)

But while running the beaches of New Smyrna, Fl – I listened to and meditated upon a few sermons preached by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  1 Peter 3:1-6 – “Marriage and Women.”  1 Peter 3:7 – “Marriage and Men.”  OK, so maybe Driscoll has a rep of being a theological bully, but I will say… most men, myself included, need to be kicked in the crotch by Word-expositing preachers.  Driscoll did just that in his sermons (GO! Listen to them – http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/trial?page=2).  Take notes, repent…

There were a myriad of bruise-inducing applications for any man or woman, and I could not help but pray for marriages and husbands and wives in our congregation – sometimes in anger at the extent of the “accepted” brokenness in the homes of the sons and daughters of God.  

But what hit me most was the consideration of my not-so-responsible, gospel-shirking self.  Jesus Christ is the perfect husband to his bride the church.  True.  He laid himself down in full, sacrificial, life-giving headship.  True.  He did not take away the weakness of his “weaker vessel” bride, but he did make himself RESPONSIBLE for her security, identity, health and care.  He did not commit any of his bride’s sins – they are hers (mine are mine), but he did lay his life down on the cross as though he were RESPONSIBLE for her condemning sin.  He took RESPONSIBILITY for the beauty and purity and magnanimous freedom of his bride!

Am I that kind responsible – as a husband and father?  Ahem, well… I mow the lawn weekly, wash dishes most nights, read bed-time stories…  BUT AM I THAT KIND OF A GOSPEL-LIVING, WIFE-HOLDING, CHILDREN-SECURING, CHRIST-EMBODYING RESPONSIBLE HUSBAND AND FATHER? 

[silent, repentant, joyous, intentional consideration…]

Likewise, husbands live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  – 1 Peter 3:7

Responsible me?  No, it is responsible me.  Period.   Responsible to hold and honor and humbly lay down my life for the sin and struggles and specific growth of Kori, Lina, Meggie and Nate.  O Lord, in my weakness I take it.  I want it.  That responsibility will change me as much as it will change them, because its the gospel!!!  Thank you Responsible Jesus for covering the irresponsible me.

O, did I mention I do our banking?  I wrestle with the kids? 

Shut up and quit shirking your responsibility.

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