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.
I am the Pastor of Tolar Baptist Church, Tolar, Texas. I am the author of, "Messed Up Men of the Bible: Seeing the Men in Your Life Through God's Eyes" (Kregel, 2016). The book received the Golden Scroll: Non-fiction Merit Award. I am the founding pastor of Grace River Church in Severance, Colorado. Previously I pastored Cornerstone Baptist Church, Windsor, Colorado (9 yrs) and FBC, Lipan, Texas (6 yrs). My first church to pastor was the Cliffside Baptist Church of Amarillo, Texas. I have served on staff of the FBC, Monterey, Tennessee, Olsen Park Baptist Church, Amarillo, Texas, and FBC, Camden, Tennessee. I have served the Colorado Baptist General Convention as the Chairman of the Executive Board and as a Vice President. I have served as a Trustee for the North American Mission Board of the SBC. I have been blessed to walk alongside the love of my life, Tina, for the past 32 years. She is a talented author, teacher, singer, and song writer. Tina writes at www.tinasamples.blogspot.com and is the author of, Wounded Women of the Bible, 2013 by Kregel Publications. I have two amazing sons, Jaren and Zach, and one extraordinary granddaughter, Abigail.