Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Step Three

Step Three:  "We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God".

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Romans 12:1).

Turning our lives and wills over to the care of God means meeting God on his terms--not ours.  "Jesus doesn't beat us until we give up.  On the contrary, he took the punishment that we deserve.  Out of his undying love, he woos us to himself.  As Jesus humbles himself before us and washes our feet, he breaks our pride.  Through his acts of mcercy, he crushes our hard hearts and fills them with his love and compassion.  Once this happens, at the very core of our being, our abandoned shame base starts to heal." (Don Williams, Jesus and Addiction).  Jesus doesn't beat us into submission--he loves us into submission!  The Gospel IS NOT the frightening news that God is angry and that he is going to hurt us if we don't straighten up.  The Gospel IS the very good news that God loves us and that He has already made a way for us to be reconciled with Himself through the sacrifical death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Step Three involves a conscious and heart-felt decision to trust God.

Don Williams writes, "I must confess that as a Church addict, becoming detached requires a lot of grace.  At times God has had to separate me physically from the Church--once when I resigned and once when I was fired.  At other times, he has worked on me through the Spirit by wedding my heart to himself in new ways, freeing me to love him once again.  Whatever the means, we must be separated from our addictive attachment to the Church so we can really love and care for the Christian community in freedom rather than with compulsion. . . . As the attachment to our addictions is broken, we will be free to deal healthily with the things that have bound us, including the Church."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Step Two

Step Two:  "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity".

"Everyone is an addict, suffering from personal, environmental, and generational sin.  Everyone masks shame behind proper costumes and false selves.  We need a Power greater than any self-help group.  We don't need another codependent rescuer.  This Power can't be another addiction in the form of drugs, relationships, or church.  This Power can be found in God alone, the only one who has never abandoned us, however lost or lonely we have felt.  This Power is no abstraction; this Power is a person we can trust.  That person is the Lord Jesus Christ, who brings eternal, unconditional love from God's heart to ours."  --Don Williams, Jesus and Addiction

The question is, will you believe that Jesus can and will break you free from your insanity?  Will you believe that Jesus can provide the fulfillment and the purpose in life that you have been searching for?  Those of us who have become desperate enough have found new life through Jesus.  Don't confuse Jesus with a nice-looking religious addiction.  Jesus is no religion--He is a person!  He is God!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Step One

For some time now I have been slowly reading Don Williams' book, Jesus and Addiction.  I have reached the point in the book where Pastor Williams discusses the 12 Steps of recovery.  My personal exposure to the 12 Steps comes exclusively through Celebrate Recovery and so I am deeply interested in another perspective.  In Jesus and Addiction, Pastor Williams is making the case that the church is by and large an addiction machine and that changes will be necessary in order for a church to become a place where individuals find freedom from addiction.  For example, rather than teaching people to serve out of their wholeness, churches often encourage service in order to find some sense of personal fulfillment--I now know that such a motive is called codependency and is anything but healthy.

Step One:  We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.

This first step, "painfully confesses that addictions, whether to substances, processes, or relationships, are no longer working and that we have to release them.  We have been pretending that we are in control, but in actuality, we are out of control."

"Giving up the illusion of control means abandoning the last defenses of our independent egos.  It means that false selves are now exposed for what they are.  Since destruction precedes reconstruction, these false selves must die."

"This admission of impotence only comes through crisis.  The crises of admitting that we are powerless over our lives comes as we hit bottom--sometimes with a bounce, sometimes with a crash."

"God will break the hard hearts of the self-righteously religious who come to Step One.  He will strip 'elder brothers' of performances, righteous works, presumptions, judgments, and secret rage.  As those elder brothers, we will give up the law and the spiritual pride that goes with it.  Where will that leave us?  We will be on our faces, mumbling that we are powerless and that our lives, yes, even our religious lives, have become unmanageable.  We will be on our faces, admitting that our codependent service to the church, our workaholism, and our continual rescue of others, hide the emptiness inside.  We will be on our faces admitting that our attachments to money, food, sex, relationships, and our own self-images are idolatrous.  This is the first step on the path of healing, and we must take it with guts and grace."

"I have admitted my own powerlessness more than once.  My first crisis was during my conversion.  I realized how much Jesus loved me and how I shared responsibility for his death.  My heart was broken; I knew in that moment that I could no longer manage my own life.  Another crisis came when my wife Kathryn and I, in deep emotional pain, admitted that we were powerless over our relationship.  Years later, I was broken once again when I was fired as a pastor. I then knew that I was powerless over the church.  I became separated from my 'drug of choice' and all of my codependent relationships.  Numb, depressed, and empty, I retreated into myself.  All my plans, hopes, and dreams lay shattered at my feet.  This was God's severe mercy and my first step to healing.  All of us will go through this crisis more than once as God brings down our idols, setting us free to love him.  Acknowledging that we are out of control is the first step to becoming like the fearless Jesus."

--Don Williams, Jesus and Addiction.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Forty Pounds of Puppy...

It's about time for a Gavin update.  He had a vet appointment today to get his rabies shot and it allowed me to catch up on his stats.  He is just a little over four months old and the Vet predicts that Gavin will grow to around 75 pounds before he is done.  He weighed 40 pounds today--up 10 pounds from this time last month.  According to the Vet's records, Gavin weighed just 4.6 pounds on his first Vet visit back on August 3rd.

Gavin graduated with honors last week from his puppy class.  He dominated his final exam and stood head and shoulders above his classmates (literally).  On a "stay" command, he held his butt on the floor longer than any of the other puppies.  He was able to run about forty yards right to me on a "Gavin, Come!" command.  He was even able to accomplish the highly difficult "roll over" maneuver.  He will start the intermediate class in a few weeks continuing on with several of his classmates.

We are currently discussing the options for neutering.  Tina says, "Yes".  The boys and I are not so sure.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cory Gardner for Congress

This race is easy.  When Betsy Markey ran for congress, she ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism.  At the time, I shared on this blog a tv commercial Markey ran that espoused the wisdom of her grandfather--"You shouldn't spend money that you don't have".  Representative Markey then went on to support the big dollar Obama expenditures which included the health care bill.  I can assure you that the 4th Congressional District that Markey supposedly represents was overwhelmingly opposed to Obamacare.  I personally called her office multiple times to voice my displeasure.  She chose to ignore the voices of Northern Colorado and to go along with her big-spending Democrat buddies.  I believe that Cory Gardner will represent Colorado well.  You can learn more about him at his website:  http://www.corygardner.com/home.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ken Buck for Senate

Ken Buck is my choice for US Senate.  I first met Ken when he was running for Weld County District Attorney.  He was interested in connecting with the churches in Windsor and Ken took the time to have lunch with me.  Having watched Ken over the past several years, I have found him to be a strong man of integrity and conviction.  He shares my values and I have no doubt that Ken Buck has the backbone to stand up to anyone who might suggest he compromise values in order to get along.  You can find out more about Ken by visiting his website:  http://buckforcolorado.com/

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tancredo for Governor

After quite a bit of deliberation, I have decided that I will be voting for Tom Tancredo for Governor of Colorado.  Perhaps I will disclose the others that I intend to vote for a bit later as well.  Tancredo's website is found here.  There has been a boat-load of very concerning facts revealed concerning the Republican candidate for governor, Dan Maes, that make it virtually impossible to support him.  The Democratic candidate is also plagued with ideas and a track-record that I do not want to support.  The latest polls show that Tancredo has a good shot of winning and I am pleased to throw my support behind him.  Tancredo for Governor!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grace River Pastors

Yesterday I was able to eat lunch with these guys at Santiago's in Johnstown.  I'm on the left right next to Derek Donohoe our Worship Pastor.  Derek makes a living as a personal trainer and he has one of the biggest hearts for worshipping God that I have ever seen.  It is not unusual for him to get choked up while leading us forward in worship, giving an offering of thankful tears.  He is a graduate of Ocean's Edge School of Worship in Florida and from what I've seen, Derek and his wife Kara will do absolutely anything that Father puts before them.  Derek cares about people, and anyone fortunate enough to call Derek friend, is truly blessed.  Next is Joey Scott, our Youth Pastor.  Joey and his wife Connie joyfully pack their home full of teenagers every week providing a safe place for learning and growing.  It's not unusual for Joey to use his day off as day with Grace River kids.  He loves kids and he loves to play!  Joey is one of a very few men that I have met that authentically desire to impact kids with the truth of God.  There is no pretending with Joey.  He is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist College in North Carolina.  Finally, on the right is Steve Ramsey.  Steve is our Small Group Pastor and is a proud graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.  Steve loves people and he makes a huge difference in their lives.  Steve has a heart for church planting and God has effectively used him at Grace River.  The best thing about these guys is that they are, each and everyone, my good friends.  Maybe soon, I will be able to show you the rest of our staff. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Addicted to Ministry?

There is a better way to do ministry than the one that I have spent most of my life dedicated to.  Don Williams' book resonates with my soul in more ways than I care to discuss.  However, as I have been recovering from many things over the past year (including church), I have found that there is a healthy way to do ministry.  Jesus is the example of course.  Here are few paragraphs on the subject from Williams' that you might find interesting.

"Jesus wasn't addicted to his ministry or relationships.  Unlike today's pastoral workaholics, he was free to leave a successful campaign behind and move on to other cities.  Since he was motivated by God's call rather than by the needs around him, he was free to withdraw from the masses and find rest and refreshment without guilt."

"Since Jesus loved people from wholeness, he had no addictively attaching relationships.  Unlike many pastors today, he didn't need to collect important people around him in order to shore up his fragile ego.  Being free from people, Jesus was free for people."

"Jesus not only freely loves us, he sets us free to love ourselves and each other.  As we receive his mercy and become merciful toward ourselves, we will be able to extend it to our neighbors.  Such love throws Christians into each others arms for care and comfort and enables us to bear the good news of Jesus' love into the world.  Since he doesn't condemn us, we won't condemn ourselves or each other.  Since he loves his enemies, we will love our enemies.  Since he forgives us, we will forgive ourselves and each other.  Since he comes to seek and save the lost, we will go to seek and save the lost.  The great commission will be fulfilled throughout the whole global village by a Church in love with God and its neighbors."

--Don Williams,  Jesus and Addiction

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Lincoln Brewster - Salvation Is Here

"Comeback"

"I am bringing you back again but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, which you dishonored while you were scattered among the nations" (Ezekiel 36:22). I AM BRINGING YOU BACK AGAIN! What an amazing promise. God's people had been taken into captivity and they had literally lost it all. God is setting them up for blessing but he wants them to know for a fact that the coming blessing has nothing to do with their earning it or deserving it. In fact, to make the point, the prophet repeats, "But remember, says the Sovereign Lord, I am not doing this because you deserve it" (36:32). This means a great deal to me personally because I have experienced a sort of exile only to be brought back again by the grace of God. And though at this point in time, I recognize that I don't deserve to be brought back, the day may come when I forget the pain and I forget the exile. In the day of plenty, I may become proud.

How does God restore us from our place of exile? "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean" (Ezekiel 36:25). God begins by cleaning us up. He washes away the sin and guilt with his clean water. It's a baptism of sorts. Don't miss the point that we can't clean ourselves up--only God can do it with his sprinkling. I have spent the last year working on me through Celebrate Recovery, through counseling, through learning how to be me without the need for pretense. None of these things though has made me clean. I was made clean when God put me in the shower and washed me with his water. He declared me righteous!

Next the prophet Ezekiel says, "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command" (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The heart is thought to be the seat of desires. It's the place where our "want-to" lives. Once God cleans us, he changes our desires. The desire of sin is taken away and the desire for obedience is put it in its place. "I want to sin" is replaced with, "I want to obey God". It's not intellectual and it's not willpower--it's a complete change of desires. My "want to" is transformed.

Finally, Ezekiel declares, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am ready to hear Israel's prayers for these blessings, and I am ready to grant them their requests" (Ezekiel 36:37). As a washed and transformed servant of God, I am ready to pray for the blessings that God is just waiting to pour out upon me. I don't know for sure what God is wanting to do in the way of blessing but I can tell you what I am praying for. I am praying that Grace River Church becomes a safe place for ANYONE to come and find hope and healing. I am praying that God will provide us with the space to do week day ministries and AWANA. I am praying that God will give us the resources to be able to meet real and relevant needs in our community. I am praying that each week, people will find new life in Christ Jesus as happened last week in our worship service. I am praying that signs and miracles will become the norm for the people of Grace River. I am praying that our church will be come vital in the communities throughout northern Colorado. I am praying that God will be glorified!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Freedom with Jesus...

Some quotes today from Chapter Six of Jesus and Addiction by Don Williams.

"From the study of addiction, it's clear that everyone is in bondage.  For us there is no 'natural' freedom.  Only when God's grace intervenes in our lives and we die and are raised with Christ can we progressively detach ourselves from all the things that had controlled us.  Rather than the bondage of desire, we increasingly experience the freedom of true desire.  This freedom means that we will not turn any substance, process, or relationship into an idol, losing control to anything outside the control of God.  This freedom means that we are now able to think, say, and feel truthfully without fear of abandonment or shame.  This freedom means that down deep in our guts we know that we are loved unconditionally by Jesus and are secure in him for eternity."

"As a result, we can at last love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and love our neighbors as ourselves."

"How can we nurture this new freedom?  How can we prevent relapse into addiction and codependency?  First, we must live with Jesus, the only fully free person on this planet, day by day.  As we experience his freedom, we will be set free from our attachments, compulsions, and addictions."

"Jesus found his freedom in open communion with God, serving as a channel for what the Father wanted to accomplish.  Consequently, Jesus was free from any external code.  He had no need to check out how people felt about him in order to know how he felt about himself."

"Unlike addictive and codependent people, Jesus had no illusion that he could control everything.  Because he was submitted to his Father, he didn't have to get control of himself.  This made him free from seeking to control circumstances or people.  Fear of failure, exposure, or of losing his addictive fix weren't hooks for him.  Since Jesus was certain of who he was, he was free from the bondage of human control and expectations.  Instead he was free to love, confront, comfort, heal, and save people."

"Through Jesus' example, we learn that freedom isn't found in autonomy or separation from God.  Real freedom is found in unity and communion with God.  No wonder Jesus says that apart from himself we can do nothing."

--Don Williams, Jesus and Addiction, 1993, Recovery Publications, Inc.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oregon Trail...

Tina and I recently made a trip into Wyoming to see some sights and to visit the place where we first met.  We have just completed 25 years of marriage and it seemed fitting to visit the space where it all began for us.  I love history and so our two-day trip focused on seeing some historical sites.  The picture is of me walking along some wagon ruts that were cut into the rock by the thousands of emigrants moving west along the Oregon Trail.  This is near Guernsey, Wyoming which is not a place that you will ever find unless you happen to be going there.  It's amazing to me that the trail still remains--after all of these years.  It was no easy task to make the trek across the plains and mountains to the promised land of Oregon, Californa, or even Utah.  It was often a deadly pursuit and only the stoutest arrived to begin a new life.  The pioneers would travel maybe 12-20 miles a day hoping to slip through a narrow window of good weather that would allow them to cross the mountains before the winter snows began.  I'm learning a couple of things from the Oregon Trail emigrants.  First of all, there is a trail for all of us to follow--we don't have to make our own way.  Others have gone before us and we can learn much from their journey.  Secondly, we don't travel alone.  The emigrants relied on the multiplicity of gifts contained in a wagon train in order to overcome the constant obstacles in their path.  In the same way we have fellow travelers joining us--gifted in their unique ways--working together to move forward to our common goal.  Thirdly, there are others coming behind us who will benefit from our experiences and signs of life that we leave behind.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Rebuilding & Restoring...


Allow me to share some quotes from the final chapter of Gordon MacDonald's book, Rebuilding Your Broken World.

"When you have been pushed or have fallen to the ground, there can be only one useful resolve:  GET UP AND FINISH THE RACE!"


"In recent years we've spent enormous amounts of energy asking how the church in the West might find renewal.  We've sought the answers in the pursuit of powerful preaching, evangelistic marketing programs group dymamics, and upbeat, contemporary public services.  Perhaps there is virtue in all of that.  But I would like to propose that if we were to rediscover the ministry of restorative grace, we might find an enormous number of people crowding forward to receive what God has offered to give through Jesus Christ.  There, in the ministry of restoration, may be a key to renewal.  Both inside and outside the church are broken-world people, and they are there in no small numbers.  They yearn for an understanding and wise ear; they dearly wish for an amnesty that would provide the chance to make things right and new.  If their spirit is right, they are not asking that their sins be diminished or overlooked; they are not asking that people pretend that nothing has happened.  What they seek is what the cross of Christ offered:  grace freely given; healing fully applied; usefulness restored"


"The objective of rebuilding a broken world is not returning life to business-as-usuual as if nothing had ever happened.  That could never be.  No, the objective is to come out of a dark time and finish the race with a depth of grace and humility that might not have happened under any other circumstance.  We broken-world people live with a strange irnony.  Not for one moment would we ever wish to repeat what caused the original collapse.  But we cannot ignore the fact that when restoration has had its way, we may be in a better position to offer insight and grace to others than we ever were before . . . Broken-world people are equipped now to understand other struggling people.  We know how to give grace because we have received it"


"Back in 1923 I once ran an invitational race (one mile) with Joey Ray and Ray Watson.  We three were members of the relay team that set the world record for the four mile relay held for over twenty years.  These two had a better time than I by three or four seconds.  They never beat me in a race; I never did well without competition.  Anyhow in this race we three were running along at a mile rate together--the first lap, then the second lap.  I suddenly hit a branch of a tree, a solid branch, (with) my left shoulder.  It was a terrible blow and stopped me cold.  The blow almost knocked me out.  For two or three seconds I could not think.  I cannot remember whether it knocked me on to the ground, but it knocked me out of my running place, stopped me cold.  I remember trying ot figure out what I should do next.  How could I ever catch them--should I bother to stay in the race.  Everyone would understand that the blow by the tree branch knocked me out.  Somehow I staggered back on the track and stumbled along.  I can see them (now) many, many yards ahead of me.  But I remember one clear conclusion.  I must keep going--even if I come in long behind.  I must not quit.  So I kept going.  I won the race.  This then is the lesson I learned:  whatever the difficulty--the blow--we must keep on.  God will lead to the result that will glorify Him"  --Dr. Raymond Buker in a letter to Gordon MacDonald.


"And some who are the most gifted in the things of God will stumble in those days and fall, but this will only refine and cleanse them and make them pure until the final end of all their trials, at God's appointed time" (Daniel 11:35, TLB).

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Grace River's First Day at Severance Middle School

Check out the pictures and commentary of our first Sunday at Severance Middle School at http://www.observing-grace.blogspot.com/.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Missing My Mom Today...

My wife and I were out at Windsor's Main Park setting up our church's display for the Harvest Festival that is held in our community each year.  This weekend is always sentimenal to me because it was this time five years ago that my mother suffered a massive heart attack and went home to heaven.  Tina and I were in Galveston at the time preparing to take a cruise in celebration of twenty years of marriage.  My parents were crafters and made it their custom to be in Windsor for the Harvest Festival.  Each year they would set their booth up on the east side of Main Park and sell their sand-blasted scripture signs.  The Harvest Festival, the park, the activity, all remind me of how much I miss my mom.  Below is the obituary from her hometown newspaper, The Floyd County Heperion-Beacon.

MONA SAMPLES


Memorial services for Mona Samples, 69, of Helena, Montana were held Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Windsor, Colorado. Her son, David Samples, Pastor of the church, officiated. The body was cremated and a separate memorial service will be held in Helena, Montana. Arrangements were under the direction of Marks Funeral Service of Windsor, Colorado.

Mrs. Samples died Saturday, September 3, 2005 in Windsor, Colorado.

She was born October 23, 1935 in Floydada to the late Raymond and Blanche Ramsey Williams. She graduated Floydada High School and received her B.A. degree from the University of Wyoming. She married Ted Samples in Floydada January 26, 1953. She and Rev. Samples were Southern Baptist Missionaries for twenty years. She was a housewife, mother and artist. She was active in Baptist Women's work.

They also served as beloved pastor and wife of Grace Fellowship Church in Lockney. During this time both she and Rev. Samples also worked for MHMR in Plainview. After retiring, they owned and operated Christian Crafts in Lockney, where they designed and created sandblasted wooden signs. They also travelled the Craft Show circuit selling their signs and ministering to the others there. They moved to Montana and were living in Helena.

Mrs. Samples is survived by her husband, Ted Samples of Helena, Montana; two daughters, Sandra Evans of Seattle, Washington and Cynthia Stauffenberg of Helena; two sons, Mike Samples of Reno, Nevada and David Samples of Windsor, Colorado; nine grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and one sister, Carolyn Ramazani of Lubbock.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Next Home...

Grace River has now experienced four different and entirely unique locations.  We have worshipped in a coffee shop / karate studio.  We have met in an actual church building.  We have worshipped God in a park.  And we have even celebrated the resurrection together in a funeral home.  We have done all of this in just eight months.  What's next?  September will be the month that we move to Severance--at least to the Severance Middle School.  The school is brand new and is perfectly located between Windsor and Severance.  It's about three minutes outside of Windsor and about two minutes outside of Severance.  Grace River has several families living in Severance and so this new location will be a special blessing to them.  For now we have two more weeks in Windsor's Main Park.  Then it's off to the Middle School...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Approaching Another Milestone...

These are really exciting days as Grace River moves out of her infancy.  We have survived our beginning in a coffee shop.  We have experienced four months in an actual church building.  We have enjoyed three months of worship in the park.  Each location has brought with it unique challenges as Grace River grows into her identity as a kingdom church.  I was thinking this morning that in the same way that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and journeyed with them in the wilderness on their way to the promised land--He is bringing us along in our journey.  The Israelites wandered in the wilderness in part because it took awhile to transform slaves into warriors.  They had to change from the inside out.  We are also changing.  Not everyone who began with us is still walking with us.  Each week brings new faces and new experiences of grace.  God has given us gifted gifts in many awesome people, some who were with us in the beginning but are now gone, and some who are just now arriving.  Each person along the way has contributed something to the river of grace that we are now experiencing together.  We are not the same as when we began.  Ironically, it's with a bit of sadness that we approach our final two weeks in the park.  We will be back on occassion but not in the same way that we experienced as we camped here for the past three months.  We have seen the providence of God as we have enjoyed good weather week after week.  We have made new friends with many of the families that live in the blocks surrounding the park.  Some of these new friends will travel on with us as we move to our next temporary home and set up the tabernacle if you will.  Ours is a journey of faith quite unlike anything that I have ever done before.  It's scary...it's exciting...it's hard...and it's overwhelming at times.  Last Saturday a group of us from Grace River hiked Greyrock.  The trailhead is several miles up the Poudre Canyon from Fort Collins.  The trail begins easy enough and it's hard to imagine that the whole group will not be there at the end to enjoy the beautiful sights from the top.  And yet, for a variety of reason, not everyone gets there.  Not everyone gets there at the same time and not everyone gets there at all.  There are places along the trail where one can rest and enjoy the beauty.  There are other stretches along the trail where the hiking is rough and the trail is hard to follow.  You may pass fellow hikers along the trail and you may get passed.  It's all included in the journey.  It's a good metaphor of our journey as a young church.  I'm reminded to enjoy each step of the journey--whether easy or hard.  I'm reminded that the day will come when I will sit with friends on the top of a peak that we have through God's grace ascended.  We will look around us and see the beauty that can only be appreciated when one has climbed a mountain.  We will laugh and we will share a meal--breaking bread together on the mountain of God.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Me I Like to Be...

The Word on Work...

"Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and woking with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Why do we work?

We work to EAT (2 Thessalonians 3:7-13). A big part of having a job is earning the resources needed to live. We should each do everything that we can to earn the necessary resources to live without unnneccessarily depending on others. The time may come when we all need help from our brothers and sisters and we shouldn't be ashamed to ask for it. The first step, however is making sure that we are doing all that we can under God's providence to provide for ourselves.

We work to GIVE (Ephesians 4:28). God blesses us so that we can bless others. When we understand that the resources that we receive belong to God and that He is merely resourcing us to do his work then we are free to give generously. Our perspective changes when we see our job as a way to finance ministry rather than a way to enrich ourselves.

We work to WORSHIP (Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-23). Our work is worship when we do our work as unto Christ. In every moment of every task, we can do our work's activity as worship of God. This may be especially true when our work is difficult or without reward. Do it for Christ. We never look more like Christ than when we are lovingly taking up our cross--those difficult tasks that force us to deny self.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Rejecting Rejection...

"Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it.  We may receve it gladly, with thankful hearts.  For we know it is made holy by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5, NLT).

To be clear, this passage is correcting the erroneous belief that certain foods cannot be eaten or that somehow it is less than spiritual to get married.  Paul seems to scream in response, "EVERYTHING that God created IS GOOD!"  It's stunning to see how easily we can move away from the clear teaching of God and embrace legalistic paradigms.  I guess that it is easier to reject the imperfect and the potentially or perhaps obviously flawed things among us than it is to make them holy by prayer.  "Everything" by necessity must include "Everyone".  This is where the rubber hits the road.  We are incredibly skilled at rejecting people who fall short of God's glorious standard.  The problem is that when we reject these good creations of God, we are in effect rejecting God.  Jesus has not called us to purify his church for him--he has already done that through the cross.  He has, however, called us to bring the rejected of the world to him, so that they might become holy.  How does it happen?  Through prayer and the word of God.  So the next time we're tempted to reject someone, perhaps we can join God in making them holy instead.  Pray for them!  Search the scriptures with them!  Everyone God created is good!  Don't reject any of them!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Gavin's in the House...

Five week old Gavin showed up at our house today as the newest member of the Samples' family.  He is half German Shepherd, half Labrador.  So far, he sleeps hard, plays hard, and pees hard.  Tomorrow Gavin will get to go meet the vet to make sure that he is as healthy as he should be for his young age.  Zach chose the name.  It's has something to do with the band "Dance Gavin Dance".  Tina bought "Puppies for Dummies" and it appears that Gavin is being raised by the book--at least on day one.  More to come...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to be Heard in Heaven

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

It's such a small simple verse and yet it can seem virtually impossible to accomplish. Just how does one "pray without ceasing"? This question drove a young monk to consider how his menial tasks in the monastary such as cooking and washing dishes could become worship and the opportunity to be present with God. If God is always present--and he promises that he is--then how can we become conscious of the fact and live in that reality? Brother Andrew's thoughts are contained in a short book entitled, "The Practice of the Presence of God". This book along with two others are excellent and have shaped my views on how to pray without ceasing. In addition to "The Practice of the Presence of God", I would recommend "The Hour that Changes the World" by Dick Eastman and "Prayer: Finding the Hearts True Home" by Richard Foster. More than any others these three books have formed my views on prayer.

Let me also suggest four streams in which it is helpful to pray:

#1--Passionately. If anything is worth doing--it is worth doing with all of our heart. To pray passionately means to pray with emotion and feeling. It is to feel the despair within the heart of the one for which we may be praying encouragement. It is to feel and then to pray from that feeling. We pray healing for the one suffering from cancer by imagining what it must be like to have cancer. Of course this is much harder than merely reciting a list of needs to God which is why we hardly ever do it--and perhaps why our prayers are often so ineffective.

#2--Relationaly. This week I saw a devotional by author John Eldridge that noted the different metaphors that describe our potential relationships with God. He lists six:

--Potter & Clay: Not much communication here--just breaking and molding.

--Shepherd & Sheep: Some communication happens but sheep aren't capable of much.

--Master & Servant: This is where most of us spend our lives--just trying to please the master--doing what we're told.

--Father & Child: I like this one. Pretty intimate. We can tell our dad all of our stuff and curl up in his lap and rest.

--Friends: This is a bit farther along in the relationship model. Friends share their lives.

--Bridegroom & Bride: Intimacy! Lovers! This where we can really learn to pray.

We can pray in each of these six metaphors but I think that you can see how communication would be different in each of the six depending on the relational intimacy. Where are you? Where would you like to be?

#3--Aggressively. Jesus tells us to "Ask", "Seek", and "Knock" in Matthew 7:7-11. Prayer is the stuff of asking--nothing more and nothing less. Do it aggressively!

#4--Yes! We need to learn to pray in agreement with all that God is saying to us. It is impossible to say, "No Lord!".

So, how do we pray without ceasing? I want to share with a very simple tool that I have been using for years in my attempt to pray without ceasing. I have a collection of colored beads that I carry on a keychain. Each bead represents a unique type of prayer. As often as I touch the beads on the keychain, I am reminded to pray. I pray the prayer represented by whatever bead I happen to touch. I have done this in many different ways. I have beads in my pocket. I have beads on my desk. I have beads in my car. I simply pull a bead from the collection and whatever the bead represents that's what I do. I would be happy to send you a set of these "prayer beads" if you would like them. You need only ask.

I include eleven types of prayer represented by eleven colors in these prayer beads:

GOLD: Worship. I think of the streets of gold in heaven and I'm drawn to worship God for who He is.

GREEN: Growth. I think of green grass that is healthy and growing. The green bead reminds me to pray that God would grow me four primary ways: Godliness, Relationships, Obedience, and Wisdom.

RED: Love. I think of red valentines with this bead. One of the most important aspects of prayer for me is simply rest in his love. I close my eyes if possible, relax, and attempt to feel and receive the love of God.

BLACK: Meditation. Much of what happens in my life can seem dark and meaningless. And yet I know that everything has a purpose. With this bead, I am reminded to ask the Father to reveal to me what he is doing in my life through the maze of seemingly unconnected circumstances. I am asking God to lift the darkness and to reveal to me the purpose of all that is happening in my life.

PURPLE: Intercession. Purple represents priestly royalty and reminds me that I am to do the work of a priest--the work of intercession. When I draw this bead, I want to become aware of everyone around me and to begin praying for their needs.

WHITE: Confession. The white bead represents purity--something that I can only find in Christ. This is a reminder to confess my known sins and to ask the Father to make me aware of everything else that falls short of his glory.

ORANGE: Sing. You may want to do this one quietly. I believe that God loves to hear his children sing. I often make up songs--simply singing my prayer. If you are able then sing out with all of your might making known the content of your heart.

BLUE: Deliverance. There are more prayers for deliverance in the Bible than any other prayer. The blue bead reminds me that I need to be lifted out of the deep waters. I need rescue all the time. Jesus taught us to pray in his model prayer, "Deliver us from evil".

SILVER: Petition. The silver bead reminds me to pray for everything that I might need--silver, gold, whatever. I use an acrostic here to guide this prayer. B-ody (the physical), L-abor (whatever I do), E-motions (whatever I feel), S-ocial relationships (whoever I know), and S-pirituality (who I am).

CLEAR: Holy Spirit. I am a leaky cup and I need constant refilling. This bead reminds me to pray for the constant filling of the Holy Spirit who empowers me.

YELLOW: Thanksgiving. We can never say "thanks" enough for all of the things that God does for us. Yellow reminds me of a bright sunshiny day for which I am truly thankful.

The purpose of this tool is to allow us to be reminded of the presence of God. It is not an idol and it is not magic. It is a symbolic reminder of our need to be in constant communication with God. Find a way to use it that allows you to grow in your faith. Change it, develop it, even learn to pray without it. Again, if you would like a set of these beads, let me know and I will drop a set in the mail for you.

Pray without ceasing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mind Your Own Business


"This should be your ambition:  to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded you before.  As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others to meet your financial needs" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

This passage was in my quiet time this morning.  It's significant because within the last week I have decided to seek out a part-time job substitute teaching and then my long-range plan is to get my teaching certificate so that I can support myself and cease to receive a salary from my church.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grace River in the News...

Grace River received a nice little article in our local paper.  Check it out here. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Vacation...

Timberline Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Rivers and streams are constant reminders for me of the gracious work that God continues to do in all of us who are willing to receive it.  Just above the falls is Glass Lake.  To get there you climb up a trail (more like a rock face) just to the right of the waterfall.  Beyond that there is a hard-to-follow trail that leads to Sky Pond.

Tina is undefeated so far at mini-golf.  I'm not sure how she is doing it but she seems to be gifted in this area.  The boys and I will keep practicing until we can defeat her...lol.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How to Hear from God

"And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent" (1 Samuel 3:1).

I grew up with a God who was silent--at least that's the way that I learned it. I was told that it was very important that I do the "will of God" and yet I never learned how to discern God's seemingly mysterious will. The stories from Scripture are of a very personal God who speaks, who listens, and who relates to us in a way that can be understood. That's not the God that I grew up with. My God was silent. Ironically, the Bible makes sport of silent Gods--idols who need a creator, who need to be propped up so that they don't fall down, idols who have the image of a mouth, eyes, and ears but yet can neither speak, see, or hear.

And then I met Henry Blackaby--at least I met his writings. Dr. Blackaby's masterpiece, "Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God" is a must-read for anyone who wants to discover and accomplish the will of God. I first worked through the EG workbook when I was preparing to teach it to my youth group in Monterey, Tennessee. It was absolutely life-changing! In "Experiencing God", Henry Blackaby insists that our God still speaks and that he has always been speaking--it's just that we have forgotten how to listen. I won't outline the course of the book in this post but I will highly recommend that you get a copy and study it for yourself.

1 Samuel 3 details an interesting occurence of God speaking to a young boy named Samuel. God was about to do something new. He was rejecting the priestly ministry of Eli and his sons who had become corrupt and he was placing the mantle of ministry upon Samuel. Allow me to walk through the text with you and make some application.

"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli" (v1). This is always a good place for us to begin. Like Samuel, we can find a place to, "minister to the Lord". This wasn't a perfect place for Samuel. The scripture records that Samuel's son's were doing evil things. You can read about it in chapter two. And yet Samuel was ministering to the LOrd--not to Eli, not to his sons, but to the Lord! Have you ever left a church because of people that you didn't approve of? Have you ever moved on because of people who didn't meet your standard? Fortunately for Samuel (in spite of the shortcomings of Eli's sons), he stuck around. We don't belong to the church that we necessarily like--we belong to the church that God calls us to! And none of us has the right to "move on" unless God clearly tells us to move on.

"And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent" (v1). Not unlike our day, people had perhaps grown accustomed to a silent God--a God who does not speak. Certainly in the churches that I have served, "visions have been infrequent" and "word from the Lord" has been rare. Let's see what happens.

"It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well)" (v2). Eli could not see well. How many of our church leaders "cannot see well"? I have to confess that there have been times when my eyesight has grown dim. There have been stages of my life where I was just going through the motions of ministry--doing the things that I knew to do without ever seeing any fresh visions. Some of the most religious people that I know are spiritually blind--doing religious work for all of the wrong reasons. You can always tell because God's work will produce God's results. Man's work will produce man's results. There is an undeniable difference between the two.

"and the lamp of God had not yet gone out" (v3). There is hope! God's light has not yet been extinguished. No matter how dead the church may appear to be--the lamp of God is still lit.

"And Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was" (v3). Don't miss the fact that young Samuel chose to dwell as close to God's presence as humanly possible. He slept near the ark. If we want to hear from God--maybe we should move closer to God. Look for God's activity and get there as fast as you can.

The rest of chapter three describes how God literally spoke to Samuel. Three times He called for him. Samuel at first believed that it was Eli calling him. It's interesting that Samuel could not tell the difference between the voice of the Lord and the voice of Eli. It was Eli who discerned that the Lord was calling Samuel. It was Eli who taught Samuel how to hear and how to respond to the voice of the Lord. Perhaps God spoke in a voice that mimicked Eli's because he was teaching an important lesson. Even though Eli is about to be judged by God--the voice that Samuel hears God speak through sounds like Eli's to him. God can and does speak through any voice that he chooses. Eli was the imperfect priest of God--and yet he was the priest of God. God continued to use his voice. Let me say it more clearly--God speaks through anyone he chooses--including sinful, prideful, wandering, and rebellious priests. We must learn to hear the voice of God even when it comes in a simple clay jar.

"Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him" (v7). I love the fact that we don't have to reach some spiritual milestone in order to hear from God. Samuel did not even know the Lord. He was certainly a seeker and yet he was not one of the spiritually elite. He was just a boy.

Eli taught Samuel a simple phrase to use in response to the voice that he was hearing, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" (v9). One of the main reasons why we might not hear from God is because we are not yet listening. I tend to get caught up in just living my life and I find myself on autopilot. I quit making decisions and thinking about my circumstances--I just go through the motions of living. We have to wake up and listen! The voice of God may come in a still small voice and if we are not listening--then we will miss it.

I've found four biblical qualifiers for hearing from God. Maybe these will help you in your quest to hear from God. Look up the passages that that accompany each qualifier and ask the Holy Spirit to make application for you.

#1--Belong to God (John 8:47).


#2--Believe in God (Matthew 13:58).


#3--Bring to God (Matthew 7:7-8).


#4--Obey God (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Finally, let me give you a very practical resource that God gave to my wife, Tina several years ago. I'll give you a very brief outline. If you would like to know more than you can visit my wife's website and order the workbook that she has written. Her site is http://www.tinasamples.com/.

A great way to get off of autopilot and learn to listen to God in the details of life is through the acrostic "JOURNEY".

J-esus: Read a verse, a paragraph, or even a chapter from the Bible asking Jesus to speak to you through the words.

O-thers: Notice and listen to what others may be saying. Be present in each conversation as if God was present and speaking to you.

U-nusual events: There are no coincidences! Every event in your day may be the voice of God. Consider why things happen as they do.

R-esources: God blesses us with extra resources many times for a reason. Learn to ask God why He has given you resources? He may speak through them.

N-eeds: In the same way that God speaks through plenty--He also speaks through our lack. Consider why you have a need.

E-motions: The way you feel can be influenced by the Spirit of God. Allow Him to speak through your emotions.

Y-our response: This is the most important part. The voice of God always requires a response. What is He saying? What do you do about it?

I'll conclude by reminding you that the Bible is full of instances of God speaking to people. Let the Bible be your authority and your guide on this and all other issues. People have opinions--but God's word is truth. Read it--Believe it--Live it! Learning to hear from God for most of us is a process. Don't grow impatient and don't give up.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

All About Grace River...

Find out more about Grace River Church at:

http://www.chasingrace.org/

http://www.observing-grace.blogspot.com/

Rivers and Rocks...

I had a powerful time of prayer this morning in the park.  The Spirit seemed really active in my heart and I am anticipating a great morning of worship.  God shared this with me from Psalm 78:13-16:

"For he divided the sea before them and led them through!  The water stood up like walls beside them!  In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire."

"He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring.  He made streams pour from the rock, making the water flow down like a river!"

This is especially meaningful for me today because there are people that I care about that question the path that we are on.  Some question my motives.  Some question my health.  Some question my sanity...lol.  I have been refering often to the imagery of a cloud by day and a fire by night to represent the way that God is leading Grace River on our faith journey.  I continue to believe that this is something that God is orchestrating.  He is in control and He is accomplishing His purposes.  God has brought Grace River out of the Rock.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Freedom on the 4th!

Grace River experienced one of her best days yet at the park on the 4th of July.  We had our second highest attendance in our brief history of 118 people.  There were an additional 15-20 who joined us later on for our cookout.  The message was on the freedom that Christ brings and the worship matched up perfectly.  The highlight of the day was our very first baptism service at Grace River.  When we were all finished eight adults and three children had stepped into the very cold water of our newly purchased inflatable pool and had followed Jesus in obedience to His command to be baptized.  The afternoon was filled with food, fellowship, and lots of games.

I want to let you know about a new resource that one of our members has put together for us.  It's a blog called "Observing Grace" and it's purpose is to chronicle our history as our new church continues to grow and to experience God's grace.  You can find it at http://www.observing-grace.blogspot.com/.  Amy has compiled emails and pictures dating all the way back to our beginning in December of 2009.  If you are interested in following the Grace River journey, then you will want to check in often at "Observing Grace".

July marks our seventh month of existence as a church and I have to tell you that I am thrilled to see all that God is doing with us in these days.  As our service was developing on Sunday, a lady strolled past the back of the crowd and sat down on a picnic table to listen.  She left before I could meet her but I'm trusting that God gave her what she needed that day.  That's the beautiful thing about being in a public space like a park.  Anyone can show up--and they often do.  I've done outdoor services with other churches but I've never had the opportunity to be in the park week after week.  I believe that it is a perfect worship center for us as we seek to be all that God has called us to be--a safe place where anyone can come as they are and find hope and healing for their hurts, habits, and hangups.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Freedom...

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another" (Galatians 5:13).

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1-2).

One of the basic tenents of the Christian faith is "freedom". Through Jesus' death and resurrection, He has provided a way for us who were once held captive to sin and the world's ways to be truly set free. Grace River Church is about freedom. Through Christ, we no longer are slaves to what we don't want to do and who we don't want to be. We are no longer captives to attitudes and actions that are unhealthy for us and that rob us of our God-given joy.

The law seems safer in that we know exactly what to do and how to do it. Freedom requires following the gentle urges of the Spirit of God. Freedom requires thinking and feeling and responding. When I was a kid there was not a speed limit in Montana. Each driver was given the freedom to determine what a safe speed was based on their own personal assessment of the road conditions. Your driving ability and the road conditions were the only basis that you had to determine the speed with which you would drive. Your were free to drive as fast as you liked. Of course, this freedom allowed stupidity to overule safety. A person could wreck their car or even kill themselves by not properly assessing the situation. People often abuse freedom by ignoring the Spirit's leading.

In Christ we are free from our hurts, habits, and hangups. We are free to spend our lives recovering under the Spirit's leadership. We are free to worship in a way that honors God. We are free to live with abandon while enjoying God in every moment of every day. We are free to laugh and we are free to cry. We are free to be exactly who God created us to be.

Friday, July 02, 2010

My Baptism...


I've decided to be baptised.

When I was five years old, I went forward during the altar call and gave my young life to Jesus.  I imagine that I did so for all of the reasons that a five-year-old would contemplate.  I loved Jesus.  I wanted to go to Heaven.  I wanted God to be pleased with me.  I wanted to make my mom and dad proud of me.

I don't really remember much about the day that I walked down the isle to take my dad by the hand.  I know that he had recently decided to become a pastor.  I know that it was early in his ministry.  I know that he was asking for people to come forward and that something in my heart said to go.  I'm certain that he prayed a prayer with me--though I don't actually remember.

I also don't remember being baptized but I know that it happened.  In fact, I was the first person that my father ever baptized.  I know because I possess the preaching Bible that my dad used in those days and my mom carefully wrote the names and dates of baptisms, weddings, and funerals in the front of that Bible.  My name appears first.

Much has happened in my spiritual journey and I have often considered being baptized again.  I've had mountain-top experiences at camps and retreats.  I encountered God in a transformational way in high school.  My call to ministry came following high school graduation.  I accepted my first church staff position the summer before my senior year in college.  I have suffered through the barren wastelands of life and I have also thrived in the lush gardens that life provides.  However, nothing compares to the journey that I have taken over the past nine months.  I truly feel like I have been rebirthed--given a new life--and I have for the first time really begun to live.  And so, I have decided to be baptized.

On Sunday morning, July 4th, I will talk about the biblical concept of "Freedom".  I'll describe my own journey to find that freedom.  And then I will ask my church to baptize me.  The old Dave has truly died and a brand new man has come into existance through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And so, even as I was the first to be baptized by my father some 40 years ago, I will now also be the first to be baptized by Grace River Church.  To the Glory of God!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sixty-One


The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord's favor has come, and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies.  To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy istead of mourning, praise instead of despair.  For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.


They will rebuild the ancient ruins, reparing cities long ago destroyed.  They will revive them, though they have been empty for many generations.  Foreigners will be your servants.  They wll feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards.  You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God.  You will be fed with the treasures of the nations and will boast in their riches.  Instead of shame and dishonor, you will inherit a double portion of prosperity and everlasting joy.


For I, the Lord, love justice.  I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known and honored aong the nations.  Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.


I am overwhelmed wtih joy in the Lord my God!  For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.  I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.  The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.  Everyone will praise him!  His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, filled with young plants springing up everywhere.


--Isaiah 61

Monday, June 28, 2010

Relevance

It seems to me that Jesus was always relevant--no matter where he went and no matter what he did. He simply shows up and he matters. He makes a difference--he is relevant. Around Jesus the blind start to see, the deaf start to hear, the sick get well, and the lost get found. Jesus was (and still is) relevant. Since we are the Body of Christ, I would guess that we are supposed to be relevant as well. We are to matter and we are to make a difference. We are to do the very things that Jesus did--we are to be relevant.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares the God's words are relevant: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof (authoritative standard), for correction (restoration and improvement), for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate (complete/perfect), equipped (finished) for every good work". My oversimplified translation of the text would be, "God's exhaled words are relevant so that God's people can be relevant." By myself, nothing about me matters, however when I am useful to God as a vessel containing the relevant word of God--then I too am relevant.

The prophet Isaiah had a near-death experience when he was caught up in a vision and saw the Lord of Glory sitting on His throne. "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because i am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). A moment later he is kissing a red-hot coal from the altar of God. Unclean lips become relevant evidently when they encounter the refinement of the altar's fire. Isaiah is commissioned then to take his coal-kissed lips and speak to the unclean people from which he comes. What an idea--send a man of unclean lips to speak to a people characterized by unclean lips. Isaiah was relevant.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus sake. For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will of God and not from ourselves" (2 Corinthians 4:5-7). What Paul is saying is that our relevancy comes through Christ's holiness--not our own. I preach Christ--not David (Thank God). However, the darkness that has characterized my life (unclean lips if you will) is a perfect backdrop in which to display the glory of Christ. If you should go to buy a diamand in a jewelry store, the jeweler will place the diamond on a black cloth in order to provide the best possible contrast. The diamond never looks better than when it is contrasted with the darkness of the background. Jesus looks awesome against the backdrop of my failures. His glory really shines when contrasted with the darkness of my heart. I'm just a clay jar--but I'm filled with treasure. My relevance comes not in my flesh (my jar, my unclean lips, my success and my failure) but rather my relevance is in the treasure that I display--Jesus!

James 2:14-26 further defines our relevance as those acts that meet the needs of others. James declares that our religion is worthless if it doesn't feed the hungry and clothe the poor. It's more important to be relevant than it is to be religious. Jesus was (and is) relevant!

God is calling us sinners to go speak to other sinners. We do so in a relevant way by meeting needs and by allowing Jesus to be glorified in our pain and weakness.   It's not a religious exercise--it's relevant and life-giving care.  We are to live in such a way that life-change will happen around us. 

Jesus looks great in you!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Submerge...


The Youth Ministry of Grace River (Submerge) is growing stronger every week. Joey and Connie are doing an incredible job of attracting, communicating, and building. I showed up tonight--camera in hand, to take a few pictures so that you can see it for yourselves. There were about twenty youth present and at least two who were here for the very first time. A couple of our regulars were missing and so it appears that the youth group is growing. A neighbor girl literally climbed over the fence to join us because the kids were having so much fun (and making so much noise). Joey and Connie are rock-solid in their biblical beliefs and in their commitment to the Grace River values. They are off to see the demolition derby on Sunday afternoon--wish I could go...


U2 Grace

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

www.CHASINGRACE.org

We are in the process of updating our Grace River website.  Check it out at http://www.chasingrace.org/

Monday, June 14, 2010

The River is Alive...


Yesterday was another first for me and for our church.  We held our worship service in a funeral home.  It wasn't creepy at all and it was perhaps a reminder of the fact that we who are alive in Christ live among the walking dead of the world.  History tells us that the early church met among the underground tombs in Rome.  I am also aware of another church in Northern Colorado that meets regularly in a funeral home.  It's not going to be a regular venue for us but it was much appreciated.  Mark's Funeral Service graciously allowed us to use their facility.  We had previously been looking to schedule all of our Summer services in the park but found that June 13th was unavailable at any of the city parks.  One of our members suggested weeks ago that perhaps the reason we could not get a park was because it was going to rain.  Sure enough--it was wet and cold throughout the entire weekend.  We were grateful to be warm and dry indoors.

I've been preaching through our Grace River core values and Sunday happened to be the core value, "Alive".  The biblical text was Ephesians 2:1-10 and there were five points of emphasis:  #1--We were Dead (v1-3), #2--We are now Alive (v4-5), #3--We are Seated with Christ in Heaven (v6-7), #4--We have been Saved (v8-9), and #5--We are God's Workmanship created for Good Works (v10).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Proud Papa Moment...

This qualifies as a proud papa moment.  My youngest son, Zach, was called up from the JV baseball team last week to play in his very first varsity game.  He was awesome!  From today's Windsor Beacon:

"Rightfielder Zach Samples may have been new to the varsity baseball lineup, but he swung the bat like a veteran to cap off Windsor's three-game summer series sweep of Berthoud on Wednesday afternoon.  Samples, who singled home Lance Harper in the 11-1 victory joined fellow freshman Patrick Fisher as the "call-ups" from the junior varsity squad to replace several varsity starters who were attending football camp."

Read the Entire Story Here

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The River flows in the Park...


Today was our first in a series of services in the park. We are nomadic and without a building for the next month or so. I have solid confidence that God is in control and that there are people that we will be meeting each and every week in our various locations. Today there were 94 of us at Windsor Main Park and we had a great time. The worship was upbeat and celebrative and we met some new friends. I'm very much looking forward to what God has in store for us each and every week.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cliffside Baptist Church

The first church that ever trusted me enough to let me pastor them was the Cliffside Baptist Church of Amarillo, Texas. Cliffside was a church on the verge of closing. It was a handful of mostly senior adults who were desperate to save their church. I was a young twenty-something, out-of-work, wanna-be pastor who had nothing to lose. We were made for each other. Somehow Cliffside grew under my leadership. We did the hard work of knocking on doors, reaching children, and figuring out ways to improve the broken down buildings. We painted, we prayed, and we refused to give up. I remember cleaning out the rusted baptistry for our first baptism (theirs and mine). I remember illegally digging and installing a new septic tank system (we chose a holiday weekend so that the city wouldn't notice). Remember, I was young and they were desperate. Lots of lives were changed in those days including mine. Whenever I'm in Amarillo, I always drive out to Cliffside and take a look. Here's a link to their website: http://www.cliffsidebaptist.net/.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Grace in the Park...


Grace River is in the early days of a new stage in our young life as a church--what I'm calling "Grace in the Park". It appears that we will be worshipping in the park for the next several weeks--perhaps through mid-July. Our first "park-Sunday" will be this coming Sunday and we will be meeting in Windsor's Main Park. It's a beautiful park with giant trees and lots of shade. Our stage will be the gazebo in the center of the park. I've attached a picture so that you can see our new sanctuary. I am mindful in these days that it is God who said that He does not dwell in man-made tabernacles. He is a God who dwells in the hearts of men. I fully expect that there will be new friends who discover us in the park and perhaps experience Jesus for the very first time. I expect that we will discover the purpose in our journey and the worship in our wandering. God has opened this door for us that cannot be closed and we will walk through it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

SHAME


"Shame is a kind of soul murder. Once shame is internalized, it is characterized by a kind of psychic numbness which becomes the foundation for a kind of death in life. Forged in the matrix of our source (family) relationships, shame conditions every other relationship in our lives. Shame is total non-acceptance. Shame is a being wound--in other words, it has to do with who we are at the deepest level--and differs greatly from the feeling of guilt. Guilt says I've done something wrong; shame says there is something wrong with me. Guilt says I've made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake. Guilt says what I did was not good; shame says I am not good" (Don Williams, page 35-36, Jesus and Addiction).


"Our response to shame is to try to cover up, for fear of exposure. We fear facing the results of abandonment: depression, aching loneliness, and the loss of our true self. In place of God's image in us, we create the false self, a Hollywood movie set behind which we hide. This screen is made from our own fears and fantasies. The scripts are written by other people. If we are honest, it often seems that we are acting in someone else's movie. We have become people pleasers, trapped by performing in order to gain acceptance" (Don Williams, p36, Jesus and Addiction).