Awesome Things

A couple of short thoughts for this week:
    We have had friends and family stay with us over the past couple of weeks. Friends from Drayton, family from Drayton and Grand Rapids, and currently more friends from Hamilton have stayed with us. We are thrilled and humbled by these visits, and we are just so tickled pink that relationships can continue and even grow living so far away. From airports to Facebook to Facetime and Skype, God has provided amazing avenues to stay connected to friends and family we love.

      My brother Brad preached at the commissioning service, and his words were powerful all of us listening. He spoke with passion and boldness, preaching from the heart words from I Corinthians 2:1-5: And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

      I know I have been saying that the name, website, along with vision, mission, values, resources, business plan, etc. are coming soon. I am waiting on final details from the designer of the logo, and feedback from folks. It’s all coming soon, which means the ‘air attack’ of church planting is almost complete, and now it’s the work of a foot soldier.

      My mom snuck in and took a picture of the commissioning at First. Thanks, Mom!

      Now to Gathering

      Yesterday my parents flew in from Toronto. I just picked up my brother Brad, Christy, and their boy Isaiah at the airport this evening. Brad is preaching at the commissioning service tomorrow morning at First Reformed Church. My mother and father-in-law printed prayer cards for this new ministry to be handed out tomorrow before the service. They, along with other friends and family, will be attending First Reformed tomorrow as well. I am putting the final touches on the new ministry's website.  A logo for this new church has been created, and only colours in that logo need to be finalized. A name is chosen for the church, along with a vision statement, a mission statement, and 7 value statements.  

      Tomorrow’s commissioning service at First Reformed is the final official event of this preparation chapter. 

      Mentally preparing for this service is like preparing for a wedding.  Although I haven’t really done a lot of preparing for the service itself, I have been part of all the other stuff. All the other stuff involves trying to get all the ducks in a row for the new church plant before tomorrow’s service so that I can hit the ground running hard heading into the gathering stage.

      As this chapter of preparation closes this weekend, please pray for this gathering chapter. I’m actually a little scarred. This next chapter is already proving to be much more difficult. One has control over computer buttons, printing material, etc. One does not have control over people.  God alone has the power to change people, and we simply need to submit to His movement as we seek to multiply disciples.

      If you regularly pray for this ministry, please pray the Lord of the harvest will provide for this ministry.  Please pray that the Lord will give us patience, diligence, wisdom, and motivation to keep pursuing the lost, dechurched, and core leaders dispute results.  

      The Lone Donkey

      In the final page of Tim Keller's book Center Church, Tim retells a parable-like story he once read in a Christian magazine. The final pages feel like a personal commissioning. He recognizes the work ahead in ministry is inspiring but impossible. In this blog I have rewritten this short parable that captures how yes, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible:

      A donkey swaggers into the marketplace. His large nostrils point up higher than usual as he dreams of the events of yesterday. He plops down on his hindquarters in the middle of high traffic pedestrians. "I'm heeeeorr!" the donkey shouts in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Confused shoppers stare at this ridiculous site. They walk pass, some plugging their noses because of this foreign beast of burden. Thinking he hadn't spoken loud enough, the donkey shouts louder, "I'm heeeeooor!"

      The crowd grows impatient. "What are you doing here, you donkey, walking up in here like this?" A passerby slaps the donkey to get him up and out. But the donkey will not be broken saying, “Throw your garments down! Don't you know who I am?" The crowd stops and stares in confusion, but quickly move on to their list of important things to buy.

      Confused himself, the donkey waddles back home. "I don't understand," the donkey explains to his mother, “yesterday they were shouting 'Hosanna!' and 'Maranatha!' and today they treat me like I am a nobody.” Hurt and surprised by this turn of events the donkey asks, "What am I doing wrong?"

      The mother quickly responds with soft words of eternal assurance and firm rebuke, "Foolish donkey, don't you know that without him- you can do nothing!"

      With the installation service completed, and the work ahead, the daily reminder is that by myself, this ministry is impossible. Any ministry is impossible. But the work is only effective and powerful when the Lord is working through us. This life is not about us. It's about Jesus and the throne he sits on. Our talents, gifts, strengths, abilities, things, programs, homes, cars, careers, callings, family, churches- all these things are given to us in order be used to advance God's reputation. Don't
      you know that without him- you can do nothing?

      Disney/Pixar’s famous Donkey

      Weather and Accents

      We made the trip to Maryland yesterday for the installation service tomorrow. We are staying with family for a couple of nights. They live about 45 minutes away from Grace CRC in Burke, VA. Our trip was remarkably uneventful given that 800,000 less cars are on the road due to the government shutdown. The feel of fall is stronger here in the DC area. Some sprinkling of color exists in Raleigh, but stepping on crispy oak leaves here is a stark reminder that it is not spring or summer anymore. The weather in Raleigh has created some disorientation for me. It is certainly different from Ontario. Yes, North Carolina has 4 distinct seasons, which may come to a surprise to some of our northern friends. The winter is just drastically reduced. Spring, summer, and fall are stretched out a bit.

      This weather disorientation reminds me of some other cultural differences. For example, a popular morning radio program in Raleigh is called
      Bob and the Showgram. Bob has been on the air for some time now. The content is mostly made up of superficial pop culture talk. Bob has a thick and thorough North Carolinian accent. When I first moved here, I assumed that Bob is a DJ on a country music station. It shocked me when I first heard Bob introduce the latest pop song. It almost made me laugh. The joke is on me however, as 7 months later I do not hear the accent as much. What seemed so obviously out of place for me at first no longer feels that way.

      Back in February, the main newspaper in Raleigh- the News and Observer- highlighted on the front page:
      ‘Southern Accent in Danger?’ I may have mentioned this in a prior blog. With the large influx of people from other parts of the world moving to Raleigh, studies have proven that the intensity of certain North Carolinian accent idiosyncrasies are changing. This is not a hard and fast rule of course. Linguistics is an organic and general field of study. Still, there are changes happening here, which means that people who sound like me do not feel entirely out of place.

      The reality is, the differences and nuances are there and the alterations of weather and accent I have experienced have been both good and bad. Part of the goal for me is to be in the world but not of it. In other words, I am called to be, love, invest, serve, and work in southwest Wake County. However, I am called to be different, odd, distinct, set apart and unique as a Christian. This principle is true wherever I would live. It just feels more real being in a newer context. Being different is also easier. The challenge is for my faith to be the obvious difference for people to see, and not merely the differences of accent, nationality, background, or church affiliation. In other words, the challenge is for people to see who I am
      in Christ in a way that trumps my other optical and audible differences. My ‘context’ is found in Christ, and everything else is secondary to that primary identity. That is the glue that ties Christians together, and the attraction for others.

      If you are a Christian, how does your identity
      in Christ trump your ethnic and cultural background, church affiliation, and family ties? I’ll flip the question: how does all the things that make you you highlight and point to your primary identity in Christ?

      If you are not a Christian, the invitation is to discover the truest form of identity, which leads to the truest form of meaning and purpose. It can all be found when one is drawn to Christ, challenged by his message, and release with this new identity.

      Cross through Town2.jpg
      I so wish I knew who to give credit for this picture. I thought I’d post it still just to give an idea of what it symbolically looks like to be in Christ. We pick up our cross, and announce the Coming of the Kingdom through our lives, jobs, marriages, family, church involvement, service, etc.