Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Church Plant

This week has been a good, much more definitive week in making progress towards the church plant.  (For those of you who are catching this blog intermittently, Bryan and I are planting a church in Gautier through the Southern Baptist Convention and the Acts 29 network.)  We've finally started to make headway in the Acts29 application process but still have a ways to go.  Another good thing that's happened is we now have several verbal commitments from local churches to financially support us in the future, which we will need very much as we get things rolling.  Tomorrow night, our core group for the church plant will meet for the first time as an "official" worship gathering in one of our member's homes.  I'm looking forward to the sweet fellowship with these dear friends who have given up so much already to be on this journey with us.  If you are local and are curious to find out more about what the church plant will be about, we'd love for you to join us one Sunday night to worship with us.

At this point, how can you support us?  Primarily, we need some crazy serious prayer warriors.  Here's a quick list of things to pray for.

  1. Peripety Designs would support us financially.  We've had a couple of contracts fall through this past week after investing a great deal of time in them.  This has been disappointing and frustrating.  Thankfully, the large majority of our clients have been terrific, but these bad apples can really hurt our family when the main source of income is web design now.  Please pray that God would bring good business in so that we can pay bills and stay in the black during this time.
  2. Bryan and I would figure out how to live life now with our new schedules and responsibilities.  It's been tricky learning how to work together full-time with our different quirks and needs.  I think we are finding patterns that are beginning to click, but we would appreciate prayer in this area so we can be wise managers of our time and skills.
  3. Church Plant's Core Group- God would bind us together and make us one.  We would love each other well and be missional in our community for the glory of Christ.  Pray that God would help us all to be more effective in reaching out in our neighborhoods and making disciples for His name's sake.
  4. Church Plant Details- Bryan would have wisdom, direction, and clarity as he plans out the church plant and presents it to the different people we meet.  Pray that God would provide wise, committed believers to join in our Core Group who are willing to serve and do life with us.  Pray that God would bring believers and churches alongside us to support us with prayer and resources.
  5. Gautier- God would begin making a way for us to share to the many, many unchurched people here.  Pray that God would grant our Core Group favor with the people here as we seek to live out the Gospel faithfully in our own contexts.  Pray that God would send forth workers into this great harvest.  So few really have heard the Gospel here and have seen it lived out in a way that matters.  Pray that God would burden our Core Group with great love and compassion for the people around us so that we will minister to them out of joy instead of out of guilt or arrogance.
As the church plant progresses, I am more aware of how enormous this task is before us.  I think I have met nearly every Debby Downer within a hundred mile radius of our home this week, and the conversation has went like this.

Curious person-"So, what are you guys doing now?"
Me-"Church planting in Gautier."
Curious person- *Awkward Silence*

At that point, I know I am being sized up.  Understandibly, the person is probably considering our age, our lack of financial resources,  the completely crazy task of starting something new when so many churches are out there willing to give us a salary now, or something else.  I know.  This is insane.

Here's what it comes down to.  I KNOW Bryan and I don't have what it takes to church plant.  If it all depends on how talented, creative, or resourceful we are, the mission will fail.  I DO know God has called us to do it.  It all comes down to realizing that God is much bigger than us and knowing that if we are going to church plant here in Gautier it has to happen in God's strength and power... not ours.

Every time I begin to struggle and wonder what in the world we have started to do... this song plays somewhere.  I feel like it is God reminding me over and over again through the music who He is.  That is enough.  Who I am really doesn't matter in the end.  I'm simply called to be obedient.  It is up to God to plant a church as Bryan and I work through Him  Here's the song... enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter 2011

A few snapshots of our Easter fun with family.  Since Bryan and I were both sick Easter weekend, I didn't get the memorable egg hunt shots and etc., but something is better than nothing!  The blue dress Abby is wearing was the Easter dress my mom made for her.  Isn't it cute?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Revive us Lord!

I've been struggling with something for quite a while.  It's hard to put into words what I am wrestling with exactly.  The more I read Scripture the more this problem presents itself.

Something is horribly wrong with the Christian life that I have been spoon-fed for most of my life.

The sacrifice that Jesus demands doesn't seem comfortable or safe, but in many churches today, that is the only Christian life that is preached.

Now, the implications of this dilemma are two-fold. 

One, many churches are not preaching the Gospel faithfully and discipling their people well or at all.

Two, Christians are missing out on living the life Jesus called us to live.  It's not just hurting us- we are selfishly keeping the Gospel from the millions of people who desperately need to hear it.

Statements that Jesus made in the Gospels haunt me.

"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mt. 16:24

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets." Lk. 6:22-23

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Jn. 13:35

These are just a few verses.  There are many more.  When I read through Scripture, Christianity is a liberating, dangerous thing.  It is anything but tame and packaged nicely within a building.  However, when I look around, I see few churches that matter at all.

A "good" Southern Christian Church may produce neat families that have children who don't cuss, don't drink, and don't do drugs, but do they accomplish much else?   

Our empty pews testify against us. 

Francis Chan in Forgotten God  says, "The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished, having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world….We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God….shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?”"

So, this is where I am at... if Jesus is alive and real, why aren't we living like it?  Why am I not living like it?  Why am I more concerned about what outfits I wear each day than about how Spirit-led I am each moment?

I don't know about you, but I want more in this life.  I don't want to just produce a line of self-righteous, good two-shoes.  I want to have a family of Jesus-loving, world-rocking kids. 

Here's the hard part- it has to start with me... and you.

It's time to start a revival church.  Let's become part of the living, breathing body of Christ that matters.  Let's do church in a way that is Biblical.  In a way that our lost family, friends, and neighbors would find believable and desirable- not just another joke.  If the Word is true and the Spirit of God that turned the world upside down in the book of Acts is alive within us as believers, He can do the same with us.  Let's walk and live in the Spirit for the glory of Jesus so that our world will never be the same.

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus of the Gospels

When is the last time you wept in awe over your salvation?

For me, it was this morning.  The internet was down, so I watched "The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus" with Abby.  I didn't analyze it to make sure every point in the movie was completely accurate in every way. So if it's not, remember it came from Hollywood.  Today, I watched it as an onlooker trying to remember what it may have felt like to hear the Gospel for the first time (I grew up from the womb in the church).

Once again, I was completely blown away by the power of the Gospel.  I wept like a baby.  Soul-cleansing tears.  Humbled by how beautiful Jesus is and by how much He loves us.

I don't know about you, but I need to be reminded.  Life can be so hard- so hopeless.  Apart from Christ, what joy can we be guaranteed from moment to moment?

My dad's mom is aging very ungracefully.  I have a friend who is in a marriage that is grievous and void of any kindness.  I have sisters and brothers in Christ who are watching Satan destroy their children and their marriages.  I have a childhood friend who is slowly dying as various diseases shut down her body.  I have watched a church turn away from my husband because he preached the Gospel in a way that made them uncomfortable.  I still miss the children we never met.

If it wasn't for Jesus, nothing else would matter.  I'd be done with life.  Today.

We do have Jesus.  In the Gospels, He isn't indecisive, powerless, or a coward.  Jesus is the intentional, powerful, courageous God in the flesh.  Jesus died to absorb God's wrath over our sin and rose from the grave offering Life to anyone who who would believe in Him and follow in His ways.  He isn't panicking over this world gone mad.  Scripture says Jesus now sits at the right hand of God after defeating death. Sitting!  Does that sound like someone who isn't in control?  Absolutely not!

Do you remember what Jesus said when He took His last breath on the cross?  "It is finished."  Salvation is His work.  It is our responsibility to share to the ends of the earth the good news about our Jesus who does save.  We get to proclaim that Jesus has come to save us from our dead works and the endless lists of rules that we have failed to keep... Jesus has come to save us because of His goodness- not ours.  We get to be His Spirit-led messengers as we live each day.  We have a supernatural agenda from a worthy King.

This is weighty stuff.  If we can wrap our brains around this, it will change more than just the course of our day.  We will take part in changing history.  The Kingdom of God is now.  Let's repent and follow our Master, our Brother Jesus.  Let's make our Daddy proud.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Projects... A lifestyle

If you have known Bryan and I for very long at all, you will know we love to work on projects together.  Tonight, I thought I would show a couple off.

This was our old desk and setup for Peripety.  This is the screenshot of it ready to be sold.
This is the super awesome desk Bryan built for us for $25.  We already had a lot of scrap wood thanks to James.  Since Peripety has grown, our desk space needed to grow as well.  I love how bright and cheery this is!

Here's our kitchen before we painted it this week.  Very nice and formal but I wanted something more fun.

We used chalkboard paint to give it more of a coffee shop look.  I wrote the cabinet contents on the outside of each door.  It will be much easier for our frequent small group guests to make themselves at home now.

Here's the kitchen nook.  I love how fun the look turned out!  $10 updates are my favorite!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Future Plans

I'd like to take you on a mini photo tour of what we have been doing in our yard this past week.

We planted a mandarin tree.  Bryan has always dreamed of having tons of fruit trees in our yard.

We planted a kumquat tree that Abby absolutely adores!

We planted vegetable plants to try to save some money on produce by summer.

We finally began to do a little landscaping on the front of our house.  Our neighbors were probably ready to take a collection to help us out since we were lowering their property value by our lack of curb appeal.

Now, to the mere onlooker, this looks like the normal spring fever most families catch as soon as the weather begins to warm up for more than a day.  For us, it's not (though it could be a little of that too).  We are making a statement... a commitment.

We are finally free to announce to the world that we are bunkering down.  We are officially remaining in Gautier to church plant.  With every tree and bush we have planted, we are saying, "We are here to stay."

Continue to pray for us.  We have a long journey ahead, but I know God will be faithful.  He has provided for us in the past month in ways that have completely blown me away.  I can't wait to see what God wants to do here.  In Gautier, out of the 18,000 people recorded in the recent U.S. Census, over 16,000 are unchurched.  The harvest is beyond ripe, and the battle for souls here is intense.

Instead of running from the battle, we are digging our roots deeper.

So Gautier... here we are.  Willing and excited about what is to come.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Crucible

I've been taking a mini hiatus from blogging for about 2 weeks, because the truth is I have been far too emotional to write anything rational.  I've had great up's seeing God answer big prayers for us and loved ones and great low's as I see how messed up this world really is.  When I write, I'm sharing with you a piece of my heart, and lately, I haven't known how to put it into words.

This morning, I'm going to explode if I don't write again.  Here's what is on my mind.

I am absolutely going to freak out if I hear of another marriage failing right now.  

I am so tired of seeing sweet friends struggle with crazy husbands.  It breaks my heart.

As a girl, I am biased to our side, but here's the deal.

Guys, if you don't fight for your wives, we are doomed.  We are the weaker vessel, according to the Bible, not because we do not have anything to offer this world but because of the intentional way God created us. We are fine china.  When you beat us up verbally, emotionally, and physically, we break- sometimes permanently.  When you do that, you are not loving us the way you are commanded to in Scripture.  You are supposed to love us like Jesus loved and still loves the Church- talk about a high standard!

Ladies, your husband is a sinner.  He likely isn't the main character of a romance novel, but you can help him out a whole lot of you will just respect him and learn to practice Godly submission as the Church is supposed to relate to Jesus.  I'm not talking about bowing down to a dictator or enduring abuse (if this is you, get help fast from a Godly counselor!).  If we do not build our husbands up and believe in them, who else will?  The world is going to tear him down. Satan is out to destroy your marriage.  If we are not wise to that, he will.

I expect to hear about nasty stuff going on between unbelievers, because they don't know our Jesus.  Hearing about it going on in the Church is shameful and saddening.  I'm not talking about misunderstandings and disagreements that are inevitable when two different people come together to become one.  I'm talking about cut-throat fighting, verbal and physical abuse, and hatred pressure cooked in a home that is supposed to be living out God's grace.

Now, I'm not writing this to cast condemnation.  I'm pretty sure that we all feel enough of that each day from our own consciences that you do not need to hear it from me.   My marriage isn't perfect, and I am not the wife I should be yet.  Listen up.

Jesus does matter.  He died and rose again so we could have life now.  If your marriage is struggling, He can heal it.  If your spouse is a jerk, He can give you the strength to respect him.  If your wife is impossible, Jesus can change her heart (you can't).   If your marriage is in trouble, don't bury your head- admit it and find help.  Look for older couples that are happily married, and ask questions- lots of questions.  Seek a worthy Biblical counselor, and don't think that your pastor is always a good substitute for that.  Plenty of ministry marriages are in shambles too.  Pray big prayers with a trusted friend.  If your marriage fails or has failed, you are not hopeless and forsaken- Jesus can redeem that too.

I am convinced that God did not create marriage just to make us happy (though it is hopefully a great side benefit).  Marriage is the crucible that God often uses to purify us and sanctify us.   As a single person, I thought I was pretty spiritual and had it together.  Marriage has revealed just how sinful I am to the core of my being, and guess what, I found out Bryan is a pretty big sinner too.

Years ago when our marriage was headed down a path of destruction, God woke us up and began to really work in our hearts.  Today, I am so thankful that I stuck it out.  We'll be celebrating five years this summer.  I love my husband more than the day we married, and we have seen really good times and really bad times together.  I pray that as the Church we will strive towards seeing that our marriages represent the Gospel and become part of our world's redemption story.  May God give us the grace to live up to such an impossible goal.  May our children see the joy and fruit of our struggles and know that God really can make two sinners become one flesh. May God save our marriages.  An unbelieving world will find Jesus completely unbelievable if His love doesn't change how we love each other (Jn.13:35).

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