Tag Archives: brokenness

west valley pca prayer update – september 2009

blog checkers, below is the prayerletter for West Valley PCA, where i am growing up as the planting pastor of a church that God has richly blessed in both exposure to his glory/goodness and exposure to our need/sin/dependence.  Would you pray  for us?
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September 2009

“Jim, do you think I’ve made enough progress in my journey to join the church and receive communion?”

It’s not about progress. It’s about righteousness from God given to you in Christ.

“It just sounds too free. I must be missing something. It can’t be a free pass.”

It is.

“But what is to keep me from living however I want?”

Now I think you understand grace.

“Can I still wrestle with my questions?”

A man once said to Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.

“Sounds like me.”

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“Jim, can you recommend the names of some biblical counselors?”

For a friend, or for you?

“For us. I think we need some deconstruction and rebuilding our marriage on the gospel.”

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“Jim, someone just came into church. He wants to see you.”

Jeff, is that you?

“Yeah, its me. How do I look?! I’ve been clean for 90 days, since the trip to the hospital. Like my new glasses?”

You look great Jeff! Like the man of the tombs resurrected. Where are you living?

“Still at the homeless shelter.”

The above fragments answer the question: What is church planting like? Maybe you’re not asking that question. But I did. Almost every day (before we started) I asked myself: What will it be like? Sure, it will be like vision casting, like demographic and sociographic research, like searching for a facility, organizing teams, setting up a unique historic-indigenous worship service, preparing contextualized sermons, marketing and praying and networking in our community. It will be like trying to learn how to lead a group of gifted and diverse people. It will be vision REcasting again and again. It will be like small group formation over and over! It will be like setting up of an office – with all the administrative hoopla.

It has been all that. BUT.

More than anything church planting has been an exercise in repentance and faith – realizing and repenting of my duplicitous fear-of-incompetence which somehow manages to coexist with excessive-self-reliance. It has become a daily exercise to believe in the glory of God to rescue sinners not once at their conversion, but daily in innumerable ways according to his sovereign mercy that is ALWAYS undeserved. That’s the gospel! It has been the complicated world of trusting the Spirit to restore marriages, to rehabilitate the homeless and addicted to a place of sobriety (even in the suburbs). It has been the pleasurable discovery that God is at work breaking the calcified in his church, and rebuilding the contrite. It has been the experience of watching an intellectual skeptic bow the knee to Jesus Christ in the most existential of experiences – his Creator’s converting his heart!

What am I saying? I think I am saying that church-planting has been like… well, church. In a sense, I am coming to believe that we are not a church-plant, but the CHURCH in fullness (just recently planted)! As I leaf through the pages of Acts, for the first time I am recognizing a connection between my world and that of Philippi, or Thessalonica, or wherever. This summer I have preached through the Acts of the Apostles (aka- the Acts of the Spirit) and we have discovered an uncanny connection to kingdom/church then and now. We have asked the Lord with expectation to define our experiences like THAT… that church in that day with that God!

Robert Coleman, in his work The Master Plan of Discipleship writes:

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 prevailing 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.

Is it happening? I think so. I need so. I want so. I surrender so. I pray so. I die so. Whatever church planting is… whatever the stories above are… I can’t help but think that, well – we’re a church now. HERE IS REALITY.

at home: Please praise God with us for our family growth and maturity that coincides with his work at West Valley. By God’s grace (and ashamedly for the first time in my life), I want to lay my life down over and over and over for the love and beauty of Kori. Then the kids. I want to do it more today than yesterday. Through a painful and disciplinary year of trials and ‘ministry’, the Lord has brought his kingdom of righteousness and mercy to a home that I had subliminally and self-righteously pervaded with gospel-less standards of performance and happiness. HERE IS REALITY.

On the homefront, please pray for our homeschooling of Lina and Meggie’s adjustment to Kindergarten in our local school district. Pray for Nate as the footprint of the “torNATEo” is expanding as he grows and participates in family! Pray for Kori to find an excellent set of ear plugs, as she needs the quiet moments to be the strategic and beautiful gospel-loving mom that she is.

at church: For West Valley, pray for our continued facility needs, for the establishment of discipleship and digestion strategies (i.e. small groups and theological/worldview training), for staffing considerations (sounding way ahead of myself, I know – but as we grow, this is REALITY!) and for a sacrificial conformity to the norm of the early church!

Even more, please pray for our financial situation, as the Lord has seen fit to grow the church numerically in a way that has increased our expenses above our income. I have been commissioned by our session to seek to raise Twenty-Thousand dollars, Lord willing, to supplement ministry and vision. Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us and/or honoring any pledges you may have made in 2008? We are at a key phase of ministry and identity confirmation, and we need the resources to grow into what we are – a Jesus Christ celebrating, culture engaging, brokenness renovating, gospel declaring, community invading church! HERE IS REALITY.

Much love to you all, and may Christ expose your REALITY and need for his mercy! -jim

Should you desire, 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.

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Letting Go, by Fenelon

A church member and friend has coerced me into reading a book by Fenelon, “Letting Go: to get peace and real joy”.  I say coerced because I know he asked me to dig through it (short but stout) because of my desire to control aspects of life that, well… are in need of God’s continual control.  Say, like pastoring a church plant that is the living body of Christ.

It is a brief book of letters written by Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France during the seventeenth century.  He was writing to a small group of people at the Court of Louis the Fourteenth.  Apparently they lived in a world of shameless immorality and struggle, kinda like us.  Try his words on for size and may they be a blessing to you.

The good that comes from any experience of personal weakness is the realization that God wants us to be lowly and obedient.  So may the Lord keep you!

I am amazed at the power that comes to us through suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross.  Of course, I tremble and agonize while it lasts, and all my words about the beneficial effects of suffering vanish under torture.  But when it is all over, I look back on the experience with deep appreciation, and am ashamed that I abore it with so much bitterness.  I am learning a great deal from my own foolishness!

The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife.  He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up.  And how it hurts!  But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed.  Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead.  Do not misunderstand me: He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life.

Learn to cultivate peace.  And you can do this by learning to turn a deaf ear to your own ambitions and thoughts.  Or haven’t you yet learned that the strivings of the human mind not only impair the health of the body, but also bring dryness to the soul.

Love of self, which the world advocates, is a thousand times more dangerous than any poison.

Be careful about your motives in this eager chase for knowledge.  You are aware, aren’t you, that all we need is to be poor in spirit, and to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.  Although being a know-it-all makes us feel important, what is really needed to strengthen Christian character is love.  You certainly don’t think it possible that the love of God and the dethroning of self can only be reached through the acquisition of knowledge.  You already have more knowledge than you can use.  You would do better to put into practice what you already know.  Oh how we deceive ourselves when we suppose that we are growing in grace because our vain curiosity is being gratified by the enlightenment of our intellect!  We need to be humble, and to understand that we cannot receive God’s gifts from man.  The love of God comes to us only from Jesus.

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Sexual Brokenness and the Gospel

This weekend, Cornerstone PCA and Calvary Bible Fellowship Church are hosting Harvest USA’s

Sexual Brokenness and the Gospel Seminar

Unfortunately, the myriad of sexual-brokenness related needs have skyrocketed in our church and sexual culture.  The normalcy of pornography and image desensitizing has risen to epidemic proportions.  I could put statistics here, but that would only be shock valule about how many others struggle.  If you struggle with sexual brokenness – guilt from the past, addiction in the present, family exposure (perhaps you are a casualty of some else’s struggle) – and you live in our near the Lehigh Valley of PA, join us for this incredible gospel-centered weekend.  Email me for details.

It is not a conference on sexual perversion or sexual evil… but the reality of sexual brokenness.  How many of us break over the misuse of something God created to be good and beautiful and guiltless??!!  The weekend is for men and women, singles and marrieds, parents and youth.  All of us live in a sensual culture that leaves its wake of tears. 

Join us.  If you cannot or live outside of our target, pray for the Harvest USA speakers and the individuals/families who will be joining us.  If you personally struggle with an addiction and desire to discover release and resurrection victory but you don’t know where to turn, email me should you choose (jim@cornerstonepca.net). 

 The gospel of Christ’s righteousness given to us IS relevant to this broken need.  It is a safe solution that is no longer costly to you and me… Christ has borne the cost of your freedom from this enslavement.  There is hope!  There is freedom!  There is forgiveness!  There is guiltlessness!  There is a Redeemer who was broken for our brokenness, that we might be whole.  Soli deo gloria!

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sick and tired

pray for the Powells as we are sick and tired.  The flu and the cold and the spiritual/relational/emotional apathy that comes with it. 

Honestly, I feel like we  (I) would choose temporary progress (starting with the head and sinuses and relational happiness and quiet kids) over real transformation from the heart outward (which clearly comes through physical and relational and spiritual weariness/sickness, which I have in abundance at the moment).

now you know. 

feeling under attack (ergo appropriately weak),  jp

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West Valley church planter(s)

At our initial West Valley PCA church plant gathering on Sunday night, I tried to be intentionally vague about most things while annoyingly clear about other things.  For example: where will we worship?  vague shrug.  When exactly will we begin? vague shrug (with clearly stated ‘launch indicators’)  What kind of music?  vague shrug.  Frequency of the Lord’s Table?  vague shrug.  Interestingly, I have my hopes and convictions about each of those things… but they are not for now… nor is this church plant enterprise about my hopes.

One of the things that I hope to make excitably clear is that the West Valley PCA project will NOT be about one church planter who (by God’s grace) ministers among core group, out of which a launch team is formed.  Rather, the kingdom prayer is that God would CALL church planters (plural) to engage our neighborhoods with the gospel and Christ incarnate through the body of the church.  I failed, in the midst of the details, to share a text that invigorates me in this regard.

Isaiah 32 speaks of the King.  God’s King.  The King whose kingdom we are to be praying would come to earth in justice and mercy and extravagant unconditional gospel-love. 

32:1 – Behold, a king will reign in righteousness.

But as the text moves on to describe his rule… it includes his people!  … and princes will rule in justice.  EACH will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like strams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

Notice, it is not merely the King who is the hiding place from the wind.  His kingdom is made up of princes (plural) who shelter others from life’s storm and brokenness, who are like streams of water bringing satisfaction to the people in our dry and despairing world; our weary land!  The picture, for me, is one of Christ being the King of a kingdom made up of princes who PLANT the benefits of his glorious kingdom in our weary context (wherever that might be).

The translation into church planting is simply in the plurality of planters, much the same as the plurality of princes!  O God, would you call out churchplanters, such that “EACH will be like a hiding place from the wind (for their neighbors being blown like tumbleweed), a shelter from the storm (for their family and friends who are sick and tired of being beaten be the storms of guilt and family distress, etc), like streams of water in a dry and weary land (in Emmaus and Lower Macungie and all of the West Valley).  May your work be so ‘pluralized’ among church planter(s) that we embody one unified Christ-centered community!

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