Final 2013 Thoughts

2013 has brought incredible changes to our family. Blogging has proven to be a very therapeutic process throughout all these changes, and so thank you so much to the growing group of people around the world who are reading it regularly.

This will be the last blog for 2013, and as I look back I am flabbergasted by God’s provision through what was a very cloudy future when the year started. We left Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, a community we loved and continue to love. I went through a residency that took me to Florida and Grand Rapids. We went through a visioning process that took me all over Wake County day after day meeting pastors, church planters and people all the while discerning where exactly God wants us to plant a church. The visioning process produced the website and all the information on the website. It has led to coffee/lunch/dinner meetings, a part-time job coaching gymnastics, Christmas parties and a Christmas parade, and practical things like an office, business cards, a logo, defining church statements, and much more. It’s been a full and enriching year.

The good news is that we are ending on a real positive note. As of today, we found out that Christ the King Presbyterian Church is another local congregation taking us under their wings. I had the opportunity to preach there this past weekend (and if you want to hear it, check it out
here), which was a real privilege. I am excited to see that local partnership grow along with the current local relationship with First Reformed Church of Cary. I look forward to monthly meetings with a local support group of church planters, as well as a monthly retreat with established pastors and other church planters. I am thrilled that three people are wanting to be a part of this new church plant in 2014, which makes hosting a Bible study a possibility sometime in the new year. Coffee meetings with perfect strangers are starting to pick up. I am surrounded by mentors, coaches, and family who pour into me and my family. The Lord has provided for us people who have helped us get through this year through their resources and finances. The Lord led us through a very challenging year, and we stand in awe for His provision.

So entering into 2014 brings a sense of bright optimism for us. Just two months ago when we went through the installation service, I was overwhelmed and a bit lost- even after a 6-7 month residency! Now that 2013 is coming to a close, I am excited to start this new work.

I do so, my friends, wearing God’s Armor. Ephesians 6: 10-20 remain a daily encouragement to me as we continue to draw people to Jesus, to challenge people with his message, and to be released as missionaries with that message. These verses from the Bible will conclude the blog for 2013 because they remind me of what is essential going into 2014. We wear God’s armor because of what Jesus has done for us, and so we stand guard for Thee because Jesus has work for us to do being his Body and his ambassadors:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Away in a Trough

Songs like Away in a Manger- as cozy as it sounds- doesn’t capture the filth in Luke 2. Away in a Trough doesn’t have the same ring to it, but for those of you who have had a child, you know that giving birth is anything but cozy. No, it’s crazy! It’s exciting, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s dangerous, and it’s exhilarating all at once. It’s not cozy- and I’m just speaking as a witness here. Imagine Joseph telling friends and family, “Oh, it was such a breezy, cozy, clean, quiet night in that home constructed for our furry friends.” I can then imagine Mary slapping him! Of course, she wouldn’t, because she’s Mary, but she probably did ponder it up in heart for later…

No, this night was normal, which means it was loud and messy. Think about this, Mary gives birth in a barn- so you have straw, feed, animals are somewhere nearby. If they aren’t, their manure is. I remember being struck after the birth of our first-born. Here we are in a hospital. White sheets, clean towels, a bed, a shower and prepared meals. Okay, maybe the meals belonged more in a trough than a plate, but still, we had our own room with bedside computers and fetal heart monitors.

The Father didn’t send his Son to North America in 2013. No, Mary’s given birth in a germ-invested barn, and she places the baby in a trough. That’s not varnish you see on that trough, that’s salivation. Salvation is in the trough, sheep salivation is on it. There lies the Son of God.

Once again, it makes one think, did God miss His target?

Of course, God didn’t miss at all. See, what this short story does so well is paint for us a picture of grace. The incarnation is about God entering into a broken and dark world for broken and sinful people. This story paints for us how grace reaches out to the outcast and draws them into God’s presence. Sin no longer separates. God draws the misfit in and sends them as missionaries out. And they do so proclaiming the Good News. Can you imagine a bunch of known shepherds strutting through the streets of Bethlehem that night? God gave those unfit to testify in a court of law the privilege to being the first- the FIRST!- to testify to the world that the Messiah is in that barn over there. This is God’s way of doing things!

God’s way of doing things is different. He is born in a barn. He trots into parades on a donkey. This Savior strikes up conversations with a promiscuous woman and sends
her off as a missionary to Samaria. This Lord talks to lepers as opposed to leaders, he reaches out to the sick as opposed to the Sadducees, he heals the cripple and wears a crown of thorns. He sends out fishermen as opposed to Pharisees. This King commands his citizens to turn the other cheek when slapped, to give a coat away to a cold stranger, and to show compassion to the untouchables in society. This King was first placed on dirty wood to begin his life, and it ended by being nailed on dirty wood- from a trough covered with sheep salivation to a our everlasting salvation. This is God’s way of doing things.

What's in a Name?

what is in a name

So why the name Resurrection Life? If you scroll down to the ‘I am New’ tab and click on ‘Name,’ you’ll learn about one major reason why we came up with this name. But this blog is intended to provide a longer answer. Coming up with a name is really hard as each name requires a vision and mission focus. However, as hard as it is, it has increasingly become a necessity because the name gives a sense of identity, direction and purpose. Pitching a real name and vision for those considering being a part of this ministry has proven very helpful. Along the way of picking a name, we threw around a number of others:
Living Water Community Church
Jacob’s Well
Church of the Cross
Ascension Church
Resurrection Way
The Way
The Ascent
Church of the Redeemer
Cross Wake Church
The Wake
Christ’s Church

I can give you more examples, but this list gives you a good cross section of what we have thought and prayed about. Someday, if we ever plant again, perhaps we’ll use one of these other names. So why Resurrection Life? Well, we tried to balance out two words that capture both classic and contemporary names that could balance well together. Southern culture has a mix of both the classic and contemporary. The word resurrection begins with Christ. Christ’s resurrection includes his rising from the dead all the way to his ascension to heaven. He is now the resurrected and ascended King. It’s more than an event, it became a new way of living. In that new existence as the resurrected Lord, Jesus conquered sin, he continued to proclaim the coming Kingdom to his disciples for some time, all along with a transformed body. There is so much hope and optimism in that new state, and it is a reality we are invited to experience as well by grace through faith here and now. At the same time, there is the recognition that without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection. We are called to daily deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus. We do not follow Jesus to Golgotha and stay there. Our sins do (and we have to continue to bring them daily too...), but not us! We move on to rise with Christ daily as well. It’s the picture of baptism that sets the stage with the hope that God will draw other people to Himself through Resurrection Life.

Other practical reasons exist as to why we called this new ministry Resurrection Life: feedback from mentors, friends, and family was invaluable. The context and people of southwest Wake County was another huge factor. Personal introspection and wrestling through who I am as a person and pastor was part of the discernment process. Other factors include feedback from local church planters and pastors, names of churches that already exist, and valuable random discussions here and there along the way. Another major contribution was the study of deeper cultural idols that exist here in the south and finding a name that will speak hope into these problems.

But at the end of the day, after conceiving ideas and reflecting and praying about them, a decision needed to be made. Perhaps if the process continued for a while yet, we would have another name. However, this part of the process had to come to an end, and God knew that. The Spirit brought us through a carwash of information, ideas, names, visions, and discussions, but at the end of a carwash the car needs to emerge. It would be silly for the car to stay put. So the car drove out and we press on with the Spirit’s power. We continue to pray that the Holy Spirit is working through our work. We continue to pray for reliance on Him, and pray that it’s not us (read: ‘me’) in the drivers seat.