People Matter

One of my stated core values is “people matter.” Today we put feet to that value by spending the morning at Mission 911. Mission 911 is a community of hope, help and unconditional love that is located around the corner from our church storefront. Mission 911 did their formal Thanksgiving dinner last week, so we came up this morning to just “hang out” and get to know people.

One of the things that I consider important in my ministry is relationships. I do not want to be a church that shows up throws some money and materials at a problem, takes a few pictures and leaves. So the priority today was to build relationships and look for opportunities for further ministry.

Throughout the morning we got to know some of the local children who enjoyed some intense games of Uno and Monopoly. We got to know a man who has bicycled throughout the Southern US and Mexico. We met a man who was hoping to find housing with the mission. Another man, who a year ago was a resident, returned today in tears as his family had fallen apart in the past few months. I watched as tears flowed from his eyes and ultimately God reminded Him that He was not alone.

The mission has no spiritual activities on Saturdays and there are no activities for the local children. Mike and I will spend time seeking God’s direction as to our role in the lives of these precious people that God loves deeply.

Drinking from a Fire Hydrant

Over the past few days I have been explaining these first few weeks of Simplicity as “drinking from a fire hydrant.” The Lord has opened so many avenues of ministry, allowed me to have so many incredible conversations and brought me into communication with so many people…I am simply drenched in the enormity of His goodness.

Today was just another example. This morning I started out with contact from a pastor in Kenya who runs a school for local pastors. He was introduced to me by the man in South Carolina I have been conversing with about Simplicity. This pastor needs to be affiliated with a ministry organization for his school to be recognized by the Kenyan government. I believe this is a need we can easily address for him.

Next I had my final city inspection from the fire department. Tomorrow I will go turn in all of the inspection reports and get the certificate of occupancy on the building.

My next meeting was with the director and founder of the local rescue mission that we are going to partner with. Wouldn’t you know, by Divine design of course, the mission is up a few blocks and around the corner from our church building. The opportunities to bless one another were staggering and Mike was nearly in tears as he got to see the working reality of a dream he has had for 8 years.

I ended the day praying with a Christian business man who is supposed to have surgery on a tumor in the morning that has overtaken his sinus cavities. This man’s heart is to bring Jesus into the world of small business and his affirmation of my efforts was a great blessing. We prayed together trusting Jesus to do the impossible.

I am privileged to have been invited to drink from the “fountain” of God’s work in my generation.

The Weekend in Review

Last week, the ministry was given a 1992 Jaguar that needs a new fuel pump and fuel filter. Other than that it seems to be in working condition. Saturday a man showed up at the house and asked if the Jaguar was for sale. I told him that it would be, but I wanted to get it running first. I explained that it had been donated to our ministry.

The man kept asking me what I wanted for it. I told him that I was unsure, but I gave him blue book values and said that if it was running, I would be looking for a certain amount and if it wasnt’ running I would be looking for a certain amount. The man said he would like to buy it, but if it was running what he really would like to do is trade a 1997 quad-cab Chevrolet pickup for it. Immediately, I saw prayers being answered.

Mike and I are both in the process of downsizing our debt loads to become much more fluid and flexible with the ministry. He will be working on selling his car and I am asking the Lord to help me pay down the note on my truck so I can sell it. The Lord impressed upon me that this truck would be a ministry provision for both of us. Since Mike and I both ride our motorcycles for regular commuting, we don’t particularly need a second vehicle every day of the week. The provision of this truck would allow us to both utilize it as needed and would be beneficial in our ministry as we seek to touch lives with the hands of Jesus. The man will be checking back with me next weekend to see if I have the Jaguar running, your prayers and knowledge of Jaguar automobiles are both welcomed.

Since launching Simplicity, we have had the privilege of getting to know a young woman who has beaten an addiction, staying clean for over two years now. She recently completed a job training program and has also come to faith in Jesus Christ. One of the desires of her heart has been to have her husband join her as a close partner in faith. Yesterday we had the privilege of seeing her husband join her in our Sunday celebration. God is so awesome.

One of the ladies who had attended Simplicity our first weekend was having difficulty finding our building yesterday and nearly gave up on coming. On the last attempt, I was able to guide her to the building and this morning, I learned why she was having such difficulty Yesterday the words of Christ set her free from a burden she has been carrying with her for 30 years. Nothing compares to the freedom Christ brings to our lives.

Body Life

Romans 12:4-5 (NASB)
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Last night was a beautiful illustration of life in the body of Christ. Since launching Simplicity, we have come into fellowship with a couple who have been walking on a wonderful journey with the Lord. Their heart is for the broken and forgotten of our world, but they had not found a body to be joined together with.

So last night we got to sharing our various journeys and how God had stretched us in our understanding of His working within our lives. The greatest part of this interaction was watching the Holy Spirit speak to and through one another in profound ways. Words were shared that were freeing, reaffirming and directionally oriented. In some instances the person speaking did not realize that the words being spoken were directed towards the heart of another in the room.

This by far was one of the greatest of experiences in the early life of Simplicity.

A blessing, a bummer, a test, a provision and repentance

Yesterday was so cram packed with opportunities, challenges and blessings that it took me a day to process it all.

I began Tuesday with a phone appointment with Ben in Hilton Head Beach, SC. God has been stirring this man’s heart towards a simplistic expression of faith for the past 4 years. He has been to conferences, read books and talked via phone and internet with some of the experts in house church life. We came into contact with each other when I saw a request he had put out over the internet for a church planter to help establish a new work in his community. We spoke for about an hour and both agreed that the Lord seemed to be bringing us together. I gave Ben some thoughts on how to find others who were yearning for the same expression of faith and we will begin working together to establish a new faith community in his community. As you are praying for Ben, ask the Lord to identify for Ben those who will join him in launching this new work.

That phone call was a high point for sure. Shortly there after we received the bummer. Our property manager in Pennsylvania called to inform us that our tenants were moving out at the end of the month, because we had not replaced the roof and it was still leaking. I actually handled this one fairly well, but Carol took it hard. I prayed for her and then left to meet with our other pastor, Mike.

While I was meeting with Mike, the Lord showed me something. The phone call with Ben was the work of God’s kingdom. It is the kind of thing that Jesus tells us to seek first. The Lord reminded me that He had already promised the provisions for my family,and that I needed to focus on seeking the provisions for the opportunities that come about. So the direction was clear, forget about the roof, God already has that in His hands, but instead focus on Ben and the planting efforts in SC, focus on the pastors in India, focus on the Organic Groups…why? The words of Jesus say it all: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” With this marching order I shifted my focus back to the work of the Kingdom.

As I blogged about earlier, the Lord used a question about my needs to expose and confront an area of pride that was preventing the Lord from caring for me as He intends to. On Monday afternoon I had sent my needs to those who had asked and to my prayer intercessor. My intercessor wrote me back reminding me of a sermon illustration I have used about missing God’s provisions. She also reminded me that God simply wanted me to extend my hands to receive His provisions with a thankful heart.

By the time our Organic Group started last night God had brought forth three separate provisions for our family. One of these provisions was directly related to the tearing down that God did within me the previous afternoon.

One of the things that the Lord has helped me see these past few days was the error of my ways in some of my financial decisions of the past several years. This is what I mean…we currently have two vehicle payments. When we bought these vehicles we prayed and thought we were making prudent decisions by purchasing low mileage vehicles that appeared to be capable of giving a good life of service. There is a problem with those decisions they never took into account that God might ask us to drop everything and I do mean everything to follow Him in a walk of faith. We were not listening for God’s voice or allowing ourselves to be fully dependent upon God’s provisions at that point in our lives. I had a good salary and didn’t expect that would be changing, except perhaps increasing. I realize now that I need to stay as financially lean and mean as I can so that I am never prevented from following where God leads. This morning Carol and I spent some time in confession and repentance of these decisions. We are asking the Lord to show us the way in removing those burdens from our life.

What can I do for you?

You wouldn’t think this question would send your day spinning off into a gut wrenching soul search, but today that is exactly what it did. This morning I was at a friend’s office when he and two other dear brothers sat down with me. One of the men asked “what can I do for you?”

I will have to say that I’m still at a place that I’m not truly sure what I need these days. The Lord is moving so rapidly around me, but I do have needs. So what did I answer…”pray for me.” The Lord then used my friend to speak some deep truth into my life. I don’t remember the exact wording, but the jist of his statement was this: “I’m asking how I can walk with you, prayer is a given.”

Ouch! The Lord let that one resonate like a gong. As the day wore on the Lord impressed upon me that He is knitting people to me who will become integral in His provisions in my work. What He needs from me is to die to my need to create my own answers, solutions, etc… Before the day was over the Lord had me send an email to those who had been a part of the conversation this morning, listing out every need I have. Very transparent, very humbling…not easy to do, but as I took this step, I could feel the support beams of a pride stronghold in my life giving way.

Tonight we met with the Organic Group made up of high school and college students again. These young people are so great. They get the idea of getting closer to Jesus and letting Jesus touch others through us. These guys energize Mike and I.

Tomorrow I will be speaking with a man who is wanting to plant a work in South Carolina. It is my hope that God will open this door for us to walk along side of him.

At the name of Jesus

Philippians 2:9-11 (NASB)
9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Tonight was an incredible night of seeing the power of Jesus Christ at work through His body. I returned a call from a woman we have been able to minister to since launching Simplicity. Her adult daughter has been in bondage to addiction for many years now and only by the grace of God is still alive today. Today things hit rock bottom for this woman and her daughter, the woman had to make a gut wrenching decision to leave the situation and let her daughter deal with the consequences. She asked if I could come over and pray with her and also indicated that her daughter might be willing to speak with me.

When my wife and I got to the house, the daughter opened the door. Her countenance was dark and tormented. When I asked if she was who I thought she was, she began to say no. It was at this time her mother spoke up and invited us in. The daughter immediately fled to her room and shut the door. She had told her mother that she no longer wanted to speak to me.

After ministering to the mother for a few moments, my wife and I prayed over her in Jesus name. The peace of Jesus began to surround her and she wept as she laid her burdens at His feet. As we were finishing, the Lord prompted me that I needed to lay hands upon her daughter and speak the name of Jesus into her bondage.

I asked her mother, if she would seek permission for me to pray with her daughter. I had her promise that I would not preach, lecture or even ask any questions. The daughter came out and sat down across from me. I asked for permission to anoint her head with oil to set her apart for the Lord’s touch. She gave me permission and I placed my hands upon her and prayed as the Holy Spirit led me to speak. When I was done praying I stepped back, and the daughter’s countenance was visibly transformed. There was a sparkle and life in her eyes and her face was no longer dark, but illuminated. She even began to converse with me declaring her need and desire to once again seek after God.

As soon as my wife and I got in our vehicle to leave, my wife said “I need to tell you something.” She said that as I began to pray she immediately saw the room enveloped in the radiant glory of Jesus’ presence and in the middle of that radiance she recognized the person of Jesus Christ watching over all who were present.

That was exciting enough in itself, but I got to see another display of the power of Christ tonight as well. When I arrived at the home where the Organic Group was meeting tonight the host told me that we needed to pray over the house. He said that his wife had seen a horrific image in her dreams the previous night as the devil tormented her young daughter.

During our Organic Group, the daughter went into the adjacent room and was looking in a drawer when all of the sudden she began to scream. Her mother asked her what was wrong and she said that something had scared her, of course there was nothing in the drawer.

After we had celebrated communion together, the Lord directed us in the following manner. One began to worship in song, one began to read scripture, two began to pray and I anointed the doorposts of each room and spoke in the name of Jesus as the Holy Spirit led me to speak.

As I made my way to the final room of the house it was as though I had walked into a chamber of perfect peace. The others could feel the same change in spirit throughout the house.

We sometimes forget just how much of a battle is waging in the spiritual realm all around us, fortunately for us…”Greater is He who is in me, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Knowing God

Right now I am working through the book of Hosea in my personal Bible study times. Today I was dealing with the 6 chapter and was drawn to focus on these words from the 3rd verse:

3 “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD…(NASB)

Those words rang in my spirit most of the day. Getting to know the Lord…what does that truly mean?
As I was talking with a friend today, he made a statement something like this: “I want to have such a relationship with the Father, that I can ask to watch Him as He goes about His work. To ask Him, Father why when you move you hand in this direction do these things take place?” My friend likened the knowledge to the example of a child watching their father working on projects around the house.

I really liked this thought. I too want to know the Lord in such intimate ways. To know His ways, to hear His heartbeat, to feel His breath upon me as I cling tightly to Him.

Tonight was a real highlight for me. Our Organic Group at the coffee shop ended up being myself, Elishba (our intern from India) and my 7 year old daughter Caitlyn, who had asked if she could join us. Since we had gone over the passage for the week from Mark 5 on Tuesday night, we prayed and asked the Lord to guide us. After we prayed, Caitlyn said she wanted to discuss the Great Commandment from Matthew 22:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together.
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

What a treat it was listening to this 7 year old as she leaned into the Holy Spirit’s understanding and began to glean the truth of God’s Word. Our discussion was once again wonderful as the Lord led the three of us through a journey of His heart for us.

For me the greatest part of the day, was having my daughter hold my hand and pray for my prayer request. That one will be treasured all the days of my life.

It’s all God

This morning, I received an email alert that a comment had been added to the overview video I had created for sponsors. The email was from a woman in North Carolina, who found a resonating tone in the video with all that God is doing in her life. As she and I messaged back and forth, she shared that she and her husband have been through a retooling journey in their faith. She was wondering how they could start a Simplicity work in their community. She and her husband will be watching the video together this evening and we will be talking and praying through this decision in the days to come. One of the purposes of Simplicity is to be rapidly reproduced anywhere there is a God given opportunity.

Today, I was looking at the participation we have had in this first week and a half of Simplicity. Our initial Sunday service had 28 people in attendance, but in the last week and a half we have touched 60 different lives through the Organic Groups. I was awestruck by those numbers…only God can do that kind of math.

I was talking with the insurance agent that handles our policies for Simplicity today. He was asking how the launch of the ministry had gone. As we talked about the increase we have already seen…we both agreed, it is all God.

This afternoon I had the privilege of meeting with two of the three pastors who will function as overseers for our ministry. What a joy it was to share the workings of God and the vision of the future and to hear their affirmation. Of course they have a wonderful task on their hands, guiding a type A, often impulsive dreamer…it’s a good thing God’s hand is upon them.

Tonight’s group saw 5 new people joining us from multiple age groups and back grounds. The joy of my evening was twofold, once again I listened as the the Holy Spirit directed the thoughts of young children. Secondarily I was profoundly impacted as I saw tears in the eyes of others as we prayed over them and partook of the Lord’s Supper.

The place was packed

Tonight we launched our 4th Organic Group in Corpus Christi with a group of high school and college students. In all there were 18 people present this evening. The conversation wasn’t very free flowing, but the enthusiasm to do it again was there.

I asked everyone what they had been told about tonight…the answer was “food.”