Saturday, February 27, 2010

A River of Men...

There just might be a revival beginning among our men at Grace River.  I don't know that I have ever seen anything quite like it.  I always remember being taught by Dr. Dan Crawford at Southwestern Seminary that one of the signs of authentic revival is a renewed hunger for the Word of God.  One of our men recently showed up at our men's Bible study with a brand new Bible.  He then excitedly began to share how he gets up an hour early every morning so that he can read it. Another one of the guys recently shared how he has four different translations open on his table and that he and his wife take turns reading each one until they understand the text that they are reading.  We certainly see a hunger for scripture among our men.  Men are also excited to come to worship services.  We have more than one wife who is thrilled to see their husband getting up early on Sunday morning because he can't wait to get to church.  These are guys, some of whom have never-ever wanted to go to church.  I should also tell you that this revival is also marked by brokenness and repentance.  We have several men who are recovering from various "isms".  We have found a "fellowship of suffering" together through our work at Celebrate Recovery.  There are nine men related to Grace River who are now doing work at Celebrate Recovery.  There is change going on in many of these men that is simply remarkable.  God is at work!  I am so thankful to be involved with Grace River and with these men that God is so clearly is at work among.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


It's a cold and icy day in Northern Colorado.  I went to the Grace River building this morning to pray and then on to breakfast at Senor Jalapeno's with some of our men.  It was pretty slick out early--a nice coat of ice on everything.  Ironically, Zach has baseball tryouts at the High School on Monday.  They've been training since December (mostly indoors) and the plan was for a nice Spring-like day on Monday.  It's not gonna' happen!  Maybe Tuesday...or Wednesday?  Even now snow is falling and it looks anything BUT like baseball weather.  I enjoyed breakfast with the guys this morning.  We have the makings of a true revival-like move of God among our men.  We have a half-dozen or so men in whom God is doing major work.  I can only laugh with joy as I hear their stories of how God has been moving in their lives throughout the week.  It's truly amazing!  Even with the weather bad--we had almost ten guys show up.  I love it when you're sitting around the breafast table and the guys keep talking about how they can't wait for church on Sunday morning.  God is good! 

I learned something new this morning.  I subscribe to an email newsletter from and the newsletter that I read this morning was about how we got Easter Eggs.  Bet you didn't know either...  Evidently in the second century the fast associated with lent included the abstinance from all things living--like beef, chickens, etc.  Eggs and dairy products were included in the fast since they came from living things.  The hens, unaware of the season of lent, would continue to lay eggs causing a surplus of eggs.  When the season of lent concluded, eggs were in abundant supply and they were cheap.  So, lots and lots of cheap and plentiful eggs would be eaten on Easter.  The article also talks about why we dye eggs but I'll let you read about that for yourself.  You can find the article here.  Personally, I prefer the candy eggs--especially the chocolate ones.  Those Cadbury eggs are pretty good too.  We don't buy Easter candy until after Easter at the Samples' household.  We usually make a trip over to Wal-greens the day after Easter to pick up some 50% off Easter candy.  Then....a few weeks later we're back for the 75% off candy.  Then, if we're really lucky....something is left for the 90% off sale.  Now that I bring it up--we do that with all of the various "candy" holidays.  I should say that "we" is me, Jaren, and Zach.  Tina mocks us for our candy addiction.

Tina and I just took a little drive around Windsor looking for future meeting spaces for Grace River.  The wonderful space that we're in at present is soon going to be too small.  There are a lot of warehouse-type buildings available and so I feel pretty good about our prospects.  The great thing about not owning a building is that it is easy to move when you outgrow your space. 

Blessings, Everyone!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Celebrate Recovery

Well, it's Friday--one of my favorite days of the week.  I love Fridays because it's CR day.  CR stands for Celebrate Recovery.  I started attending CR back in September when I was in the early stages of an excruciatingly painful three-month process.  CR became a sanctuary for me--a safe place where I could go and find acceptance, love, and support.  Five months later--I still love to go.  I jokingly refer to it as our date night.  Whenever possible, Tina goes with me and we make it a night out.

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered 12-step recovery ministry.  You'll find people at CR recovering from everything from drugs and alcohol to anger, codependency, and relational issues.  I've found that there are two kinds of people:  those who know what their issues are and are working on them and those who are still in denial.  I am convinced that EVERYONE has issues.  CR is a wonderful environment in which to come clean, get honest, and start to find healing.

Tina and I (and many of our friends) attend the CR at Crossroads Church in Loveland every Friday night.  There are other CR programs in the area but Crossroads is the only one that I have ever attended.  One of my patterns is to find something that I like and then to stick with it.  The Crossroads CR website is here.  Feel free to check it out and if you live in the area--come and join us. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You Ever Feel Like a Frog?

Frogs feel slow, low, ugly, puffy, drooped, pooped. I know. One told me.

The frog feeling comes when you want to be bright but feel dumb, when you want to share but are selfish, when you want to be thankful but feel resentment, when you want to be great but are small, when you want to care but are indifferent. Yes, at one time or another each of us has found himself on a lily pad, floating down the great river of life. Frightened and disgusted, we're too froggish to budge.

Once upon a time there was a frog, only he wasn't really a frog, he was a prince who looked and felt like a frog. The wicked witch had cast a spell on him and only the kiss of a beautiful maiden could save him. But since when do cute chicks kiss frogs? So there he sat, an unkissed prince in frog form. One day a beautiful maiden gathered him up and gave him a big smack! Zap!! There he was, a frog turned handsome prince and they lived happily after.

So what's the task of the Christian? Kissing frogs, of course!

--Bruce Larson, Ask Me to Dance (The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Charles R. Swindoll).

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Metaphor for Pastoral Ministry?

I saw this clip last week at Church Planter Basic Training and immediately began to think about the all the work that goes into pastoring a church.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Grace River Vision

"Grace River Church is a safe place where anyone can come as they are and find hope and healing for their hurts, habits, and hangups."

This is a statement that Tina and I wrote while at "Basic Training for Church Planters" earlier in the week. It expresses the passion of my heart for what Grace River can and should be.

Our name, "Grace River" is rich with meaning. A river begins (at least in Colorado) way up in the mountains when the snow begins to melt forming small streams. These streams find their way together and combine to eventually form a river that when big enough can literally change the landscape and cut through rock forming amazing sights like the Grand Canyon. Grace River is our combined experiences of grace coming together to form a powerful movement of God's activity--a river of grace.

Grace River is a "safe place". It is a refuge--a sanctuary--an escape (2 Samuel 22; Psalm 18; Psalm 31; Psalm 59; Psalm 91; Zechariah 9:9-17). It is the kind of place where people are not judged, found wanting, and then thrown away (John 4:7-29). It is a safe place to confess one's sins (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9). It is a safe place to share one's struggles (Romans 7:14-25). It is a safe place to be real without any need for pretense (Luke 7:36-50).

Grace river is a safe place to "come as you are". There is no need to vainly struggle to clean up your own mess (Romans 7). Our God makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). He will clean us up (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7-9). Come as you are--no pretending necessary.

Grace River is a safe place to find "hope". It is a place where we can allow ourselves to believe in a better future--a better life--a life filled with purpose and fulfillment (Psalm 10:17; Psalm 33:22; Psalm 42:5,11; Jeremiah 29:11-12; Matthew 12:18-21; Romans 5:3-5; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 4:1-6).

Grace River is a safe place to find healing. We are all recovering from something and Grace River is a place where God heals--regardless of our individual hurts, habits, or hangups (Psalm 30:2; Isaiah 53:3-6; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Hosea 6:1-2; Malachi 4:2; Acts 4:29-30; 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28; James 5:15-16). There is nothing too difficult for God.

Basic Training Journey for Church Planting

Tina and I just returned from spending four days learning how to plant a church. Even though we are well into the process of beginning this new journey of church planting, we learned a great deal. Much of what we experienced will be passed along to our church family as we continue forward. Overall, the experience was very good. There were, of course, stronger units and weaker units contained in the entire process. We had our favorites. We met some great new friends and we were grateful to get to spend some time with some old friends as well.

There were fourteen units of material that we covered between Sunday and Wednesday. I list the main emphasis just to allow you to understand in a small way the enormity of what was covered during the training.
#1--Biblical Foundations - the biblical basis for planting new churches.
#2--Vision - discovering God's preferred future as revealed by the Holy Spirit.
#3--Core Values - why we do what we do.
#4--Ministry Area and Focus Group - who is it that we are actually trying to reach?
#5--Evangelism Strategy - How will we reach people with the Gospel?
#6--Discipleship and Leadership Strategy - How will leaders be raised up?
#7--Gathering Strategy - related to evangelism--how do we reach new people?
#8--Small Group Strategy - creating biblical community within the church.
#9--Stewardship Strategy - the wise use of resources: time, talent, & treasure.
#10--Worship Strategy - What does worship look like in our church?
#11--Administrative Strategy - all the stuff that I don't like to think about .
#12--Church Master Design - understanding our church as a system.
#13--Developing Team - recognizing and growing the leadership that God has provided.
#14--Mileposts - a strategic planning strategy.

I don't really consider myself a true church planter. The "real" planters, in my opinion, start from scratch with nothing but a sense of calling and perhaps a few others who buy into their vision early on. They often, it seems, work through some very difficult days with little to show for their labor. A family here--a family there--a handful--then maybe a dozen. Growth can be slow and difficult. That is not my experience and if I can be honest--I hope that it never is. There is such a thing as an apostolic gifting--a Spirit-driven passion to start something new in a new place. That's not really me... I met a roomful of church planters this week who have labored to gather support, who have or are relocating their families to a strange land (beautiful--yet strange), and who are believing that God will work through them to grow a new church. These men and women really are heroes. I don't think that I have ever completely appreciated the task until I got to hear some of their stories, to see their faith, to see their passion, and to understand their love for Jesus and His church.

You can watch the entire "Basic Training Journey for Church Planting" webcast here. You will need to register for an account and then you will have access to the entire course.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Kingdom of Kids...

"Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned inthe depths of the sea'" (Matthew 18:2-6).

My recent journey through the valley of despair included some stops at some places that I had not visited for a very long time. These are places that I have not wanted to visit because of the pain that I have tried to bury in those places. I didn't want to visit the basement of our next door neighbor in Kimball, Nebraska where I was taught to confuse sexuality with acceptance. I didn't want to visit the handful of elementary schools that I passed thorugh during my childhood--the confusion of acceptance in one place--rejection in another. I didn't want to visit the locker room of the Jr. High in Ft. Yates, North Dakota where I learned that I wasn't allowed to fight back. I did not want to visit the home where the sacrifice of one's family for the sake of the church was a virtue. I did not want to visit parents who failed to notice the tell-tale signs of the molestation of their children. I didn't want to visit those places. I didn't want to acknowledge the little boy that was living in all of those spaces. Afterall, it's in those places that David learned that he was not safe to feel, he was not safe to trust, and that he was certainly not safe to "be a child".

As I meditated on the words of Jesus this morning, He took me back to some of those places. These are places that I have now learned to visit more frequently and with less fear. There was a time when I wouldn't step foot in those towns but now I've found that I can come and go without relative freedom--though I still enter cautiously. For me, Jesus is saying this morning, that in order for me to fully enter into the Kingdom that He is inviting me to--I must allow myself to enter as a broken, hopeless, guilt-ridden and molested child. God loves that little boy! God wants me to run and play. God wants me to trust Him. God wants me to find sanctuary in his loving arms. He is safe! It's a great thing to be a child in the Kingdom!
By the way, the picture is of the elementary school in Kimball, Nebraska where I began Kindergarten. I took the picture when I visited last Fall...

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Allow me to send you over to visit my wife Tina's blog today. She is an excellent writer. In fact she has had several articles and devotionals published. She has written for "The Quiet Hour" and "The Secret Place" click. She also has devotionals included in "The One Year Life Verse Devotional" click. She has written two small group Bible study resources: "The Journey" and "Under the Broom Tree". In addition to writing, Tina is a gifted song-writer/worship leader. She has produced two CD's of original music. You can discover more about Tina at her website

Tina has an excellent post up today at her blog that you will enjoy reading. You can visit Tina's "Journey Moments" blog at

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Eight Weeks of Grace . . .

Grace River is not quite two months old and yet the progression of events that we've seen in the first eight weeks is simply amazing. The scriptures that the Holy Spirit shared with me this morning in my quiet time are perhaps an indication of what God is all about. I have a list of God's names that I systematically work through, taking one each day. God reveals himself to me today as "God of Grace". This is found in 1 Peter 5:10 where it says, "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you". There is no doubt that I have suffered--as have others. It now appears that the "God of all grace"--the very one who called me--is perfecting, confirming, strengthening, and establishing me.

Grace River began with a small group of people gathered in my living room imagining what could be and asking the Father to show his intentions. The attitude with which we began continues to be one of sorrow and brokenness and yet great hope and expectation. Most, if not all, of those who have found a home at Grace River, would readily confess to having "suffered for a little while". Some have been suffering for a long while. Grace River IS a "fellowship of suffering" (see Philippians 3:8-11).

Our first seven worship services were held at Martin and Joanna Castro's coffee shop/karate studio in south Fort Collins (Hwy 287 & Carpenter Road). Martin is a true friend who has willingly, lovingly, and sometimes sternly walked with me through some of the darkest days of my life. Visit his website at, especially if you live in the area and would like to look into top-notch martial arts training from a Christian perspective.

Our attendance while at Martin's steadily grew:

December 13th - 67
December 20th - 69
December 27th - 76
January 3rd - 68
January 10th - 72
January 17th - 88
January 24th - 96

As the attendance has grown, so has the atmosphere. It's hard for me to describe because I have never been a part of something this exciting. It's a feeling of love, a feeling of home, a feeling of honesty and authenticity, a feeling of hope, and a feeling of sheer joy. It is the truest manifestation of the Spirit's presence that I think that I have ever observed and experienced in any church.

The first seven weeks were marked by "BYOC" (bring your own chair), less than quiet babies, tears and laughter, communion at the coffee bar, lawn chairs, food, hugs, and lots of testimonies. There has been a continual reminder (almost a mantra) that Grace River is a safe place. It is a place to come as you are and to share your deepest hurts, habits, and hangups believing in a God who loves to heal the broken-hearted.

Our eighth week together was marked by worship at the new building (1450 Westwood Drive). This is a building that formerly housed a Lutheran Church. It's a fairly new building (1999) that has been empty for two years. We started negotiating for the building back in December and were not able to sign the lease until Friday, January 29th. Our people came together on Friday evening and Saturday and cleaned the building, put anything we wouldn't use in the shed, and created worship space that we previously had only dreamed of. Ironically, we initally counted 96 chairs in the building (the exact number of our last service at Martin's). We would later find one more chair. Utilities were subscribed to with no deposits being required. The deposit for the building was donated by one of our families. In trying to get water, we realized that the connection was frozen at the street. The Town of Windsor readily sent someone out late Friday afternoon to solve the problem and to get our water flowing.

Our first service at the Westwood building was simply amazing. Worship, led byKyle Donohoe, was honest, passionate, and Christ-exalting. Our first song was the old Hank Williams standard, "I Saw the Light". My message was a continuation in our series, "New Beginnngs". We're looking at the creation narrative and making application to the creative work of Christ in our lives. The text for Sunday was Genesis 1:24-31 and emphasizd five truths: #1--We are the image of God (v26-27), #2--We are made to rule (v26,28), #3--We are blessed by God (v28), #4--We are provided for by God (v29-30), and #5--We are VERY good.

The 97 chairs that were set up would prove insufficient. Just prior to beginning the service, folding chairs were brought out of storage in order to seat the 113 worshippers that gathered for our first service in the new building.

I am thrilled to look forward to what God has in store for us in week nine. We are just beginning. May God continue to grow his church by adding day by day the broken and the hopeless. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Peter 5:10).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

We put our dog to sleep today. I've never done that before--they usually just die on their own. We've had Pooh for several years and so I'm feeling the loss. It's really good that I'm feeling the loss. My old way of thinking did not allow for such messy feelings. The "putting to sleep" process involves two steps: #1--anesthesia to make him sleepy, #2--an overdose of anesthesia to stop his heart. It was quick and apparently painless. Pooh has cushings disease, a collapsing trachea, and a host of other issues. His breathing had become at times labored and he had a hacking cough that was becoming non-stop. We thought about putting him down way back around Christmas but he seemed to recover--not unlike that poor stiff in Monty Python's Holy Grail movie, "I'm feeling better (British accent). Really, I think I'm ok". dogs go to heaven? St. Francis thought so. The book of Revelation 5:13 states that John saw in his heavenly vision, "every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea" worshipping God. Hmmm...