Tag Archives: weak

still here

We are still here… no blogs of late.  My apologies.  Too many hours away from home as it is.

God is doing an amazing work in my heart, in the lives my children, in the eyes of my wife, and in the congregation that God has called us to serve.  Times they are a changing and they are a crazy.

Sunday we had more folks at WVPC than ever before, and we are praying for wisdom.  We are cramming people into a space that doesn’t fit us.  We are seeking wisdom on facility mayhem.  We are praying for small groups that are forming, for discipleship relationships that are beginning, for broken people who are hurting, and for both the comforting and exposing AFFECT of the saturating Word of God -in all whom we engage!  I am preaching through Colossians.   We are having membership classes.  We have transitioned into year numero two – budgeting, leadership training, etc.  We are out hosting community events.  I think the buzz is contageous.  Acts 2 tells us so!

O God have mercy.  We are in over our head.

As I told our congregation at our annual meeting on Sunday – I believe they are crazy for following a 31 year old.  Someone said: Jesus was only 33.  To which I replied: no one here actually knows how badly I need Jesus.

I do.  Jesus Christ, thank you for rescuing me from sin.  Covering me with righteousness.  Giving me your Word.  Implanting your Spirit.  Being my Wisdom from God that appears foolish to the world.  For letting me fail time and again so that I can meet my need for you face to face.  thought to thought. 

O God, draw people into your midst in all churches that declare your gospel for the glory of Christ.  Do it at West Valley.  Bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven – by your people declaring your Word and embodying your resurrection power in a spirit of humility and weakness.  The powerful work, then, is all yours for your namesake.  Amen.

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where have I been

I recently heard that the first way to lose blog readers is to not blog.  Brilliant.  In by bogged downedness I blog lessedness.  So my taking a month off has surely made this post worthless… can I find a reader?

Well, just in case a bloggerby stops in (in addition to my tech saavy grandma), perhaps I should post a prayer update.

I have been to the mountains for five days, virtually alone.  I journaled, slept, read, hiked, yelled at the rocks and trees, and bowed my knees before a Creator who reminded me that he alone makes the trees sway.  More than that.  He moves me.  He did so in the woods.  I came to a stop in the woods… Haven’t stopped like that in 10 years.  Seriously.  O, and I was in the woods as the speaker/preacher for a camp of Lehigh University college students.  I gave six 45 minute sermons, and they gave me five days of rest and rediscovery.  Thanks to God.

I came back from the mountains.  I struggled.  God, you are good – so good to expose me to your grandeur in the hollowed hills, then to  expose me to myself and my need for a God as glorious and merciful as YOU.  I have been back for 2 weeks now, and I am amazed at my stress, anxiety, busyness and well… wrestling match to remember the God of creation who communed with me in the quiet winds of the woods.  I know now why mountaneering is worshipful.

I went to the NJ shore with my family.  Thanks to God for community and friends – laughter on the roof top under the stars.  Playing with the kids in the sand.  Suddenly all three of my kids love finding and holding crabs.  A long way since last year…

I came back from the shore.  I struggled.  God, you are good – so good to expose me to your grandeur through the magnificent ocean, then to  expose me to myself and my need for a God as glorious and merciful as YOU.  I have been back for 2 days now, and I am amazed at my stress, anxiety, busyness and well… wrestling match to remember the God of creation who communed with me through my family on the shore.  I know now why beach vacations are worshipful.  (deja vu, I know)

Apologies for my bloglessness.  God is continuing the good work he has begun in me – in my family – at West Valley PCA.  He is making us feel our need for Christ… “the only fitness he requires of us is to feel our need of him” (Come Ye Sinner Poor and Needy).  But our immaturity and Satan’s devouring presence lay close at hand.  O God have mercy as you show us the powerful KINGSHIP of Christ over our hearts, our heads, our happenings.

Since blogging is clearly slow… If you desire to check into my oral “writing” that I actually spend time on each week,  visit www.westvalleypres.org for sermons on Ecclesiastes. 

This weakchristian is dependent evermore on a strong Savior and King.  Sorry for my failure to devotionalize on this blog site.  Some stressful seasons don’t allow for time… even more, they don’t need public blogging so much as private journaling and gospel-dependent prayer.

Much love to my family and praying friends.  A formal “prayerletter” from a West Valley PCA coming soon!

jim

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don’t feel bad for your self, just contempt

I am reading a newly published biography/collection of essays – John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine and Doxology (Reformation Trust, 2008).  I have read and re-read a particular statement by Sinclair Ferguson with regard to Calvin’s view of himself and God’s kingdom.

Calvin sought, personally, to develop a balance of contempt for the present life with a deep gratitude for the blessings of God and a love and longing for the heavenly kingdom.

This is killer.  As the Sonship (World Harvest) curriculum teaches us about the gospel… we only magnify the cross as we grasp the magnitude of our sin.  And therefore if we minimize our sin and stuggle, we shrink the cross.  SOOOO – contempt for my life and this broken world it is… contempt for my perpetual struggle to control my tongue, my rash anger, my attitude. Contempt for my struggles to listen to people, to have my heart break with/for people.  Contempt for a broken world of oppression and ignoring people who hurt and disease and death and broken relationships.

Only by that contempt comes a CROSS magnified comprehension of all for which Christ came to live and die!  Only by that contempt comes KINGDOM passion and desire and surrender. 

Should I feel bad for myself when life does not work out the way I want, when my weaknesses in my flesh get the best of my body, mind or soul?  No, not bad… just contempt, whereby I might have a contemptuous comprehension of a comprehensive cross.  Amen.

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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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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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Jesus my King

This morning – for multiple reasons – is quiet.  I am quiet. 

Anyway, I was going through the Children’s Catechism with Lina – and question 75 beautifully engaged my quiet consternation:

Q: Why do you need Jesus as your King?

A: Because I am weak and helpless.

There you have it.  I am often asked – or pressed – as to why I am content proposing that we be weak Christians.  Why not rather call people to be strong and righteous Christians?!  My answer is simple – I am calling us to be who we are.  Weak.  Helpless. In need of a King that will be our strength (because we are not); who will be our righteousness (because we are not). 

I need to meet my King in my unrighteous and helpless weakness all the time.  It seems so obvious and clear and almost easy when I am quiet…  Why am I not quieted all the time?  This is where I find gospel peace.  If Christ is truly King – then it is a hopeful quietness.  Thank you Jesus my King.

 

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resolving to rest and quit resolving

This new year, may our gospel-centered lives be evidenced by our RESTING in the finished work of Christ our Redeemer… which means recognizing our continual weakness and brokenness and need to be held by him who will not bruise even the weakest reed.  May THIS new year actually be about NEWNESS, as we seek to REST in our graciously given new-creation-identity, and not just RESOLVE to do more… to be stronger… to learn more… to be better. 

Yes, may we be vigorously attentive to our weaknesses and not our perceived and often deceived strengths, such that we might live more dependently (and very newly) on Christ.  

Make your resolutions if you must, but may the first resolution be to not resolve to find strength in anything other than the Strong One whom you and I can only see in his glorious fullness when we observe him through our weakness and need! 

May your new year be Christ-dependent and new and risky and secure as you resolve to REST on him alone and to quit resolving to be a better you (which subliminally often becomes resting in self-progress)!  Rather, resolve to rest on the perfect you through his righteousness and the gospel given to you last year, this year, and for eternity to come.

Grace.  Jim

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