Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm Going Away for a While...

Okay, not really for a while, but it is for a day. I can remember going to a church planter's boot camp before we moved up here to start The Pursuit and them telling us, "You've got to block one day a month on your calendar to get away with just you and God." I committed to doing that to keep myself fresh and hearing from God.

Oops! I think it's been at least a year since I've gone away so tomorrow I am taking a bottle of water, the Bible on CD and my prayer list and going for a drive. I don't know what I'm expecting to hear but I am expecting to be refreshed and "let the Word of Christ richly dwell within" me. I am hoping to listen to all of the gospels in one day, something I have never done before.

It is supposed to rain, which is a bummer, but hopefully I can still see the Sawtooths, observe some wildlife and get recharged to come back for next week—after all, Evertything Changes March 1! I'm going to be ready!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Here We Go Again...

The one time of year that it really pays to have very little income and three kids is tax time. It is like Christmas in February for our family. Thanks to the EIC and the Additional Child Tax Credit, it is usually nice chunk of change. I think it is the government’s way of saying, “I’m really sorry you have to try to live on what you make.” We actually feel pretty blessed because we try to live on as little of God’s money as possible and we have more than enough.

I believe strongly in having financial goals. Our short term goal, outside of giving, is to pay off our house sometime next year. That is a big step toward my long term goal of working for The Pursuit for free. (Last week I spent some time writing out a salary reduction plan over the next 35 years!) A big part of the house-payoff plan is to use our tax-time “gift” to put extra on the mortgage and then put a good amount in savings. After giving, mortgage reduction, and saving, we planned on spending a little of the money on ourselves, just for fun.

But here we go again. Giving at The Pursuit can't seem to get any momentum. Even though attendance continues to grow, giving is about 70% of what we were anticipating. We were already planning on giving a good percentage to God and suddenly it didn’t seem like it was enough. My flesh was frustrated. “Don’t we have a right to have a savings account? Don’t we have a right to spend something on ourselves?” And then in my spirit I thought about what is really the most important thing to me. My savings account? A new toy? No way! God has abundantly met our needs and I was reminded that we had decided a long time ago that the priority for our family is God and His work. We haven’t settled on a percentage, but we are excited to give again. Who can put a price tag on having a front-row seat to a movement of God? That is priceless.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Preaching to the Gentiles...

I am sitting here reflecting on yesterday's message as I am working on the one for this Sunday. I once again praised God for an email we received from someone who came yesterday who hadn't been to church in 10 years. It was exactly what she needed according to her. She is looking forward to continuing on her spiritual journey with us.

The Apostle Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, that is, those that didn't grow up knowing the God of the Bible. I always said that I wanted to pastor like Paul. I was speaking of his passion, his devotion and his willingness to give up what was due him. But it just clicked in me that I am more like him than I thought. I feel called to make sure that no matter what someone's religious background is, that they would be able to connect to the word of God while I am preaching. I dreamed that this would be the case when we started The Pursuit. On July 19, 2003, I wrote, "What if seasoned believers could be challenged to grow and seekers could discover who God is in the same sermon?" This was one week after we had visited Boise for the first time!

I think God is allowing that vision to become a reality. I don't think any follower of Christ who was there yesterday would say that they were not challenged by the word. I know I was. I know that is my responsibility as a preacher—to preach the word clearly to those who follow Jesus. But I also know that I am called to preach to the Gentiles, those who are far from God. To my knowledge, The Pursuit has never held a service where there wasn't someone in attendance who hadn't yet crossed the line of faith. The first Sunday we had 10 adults and only 7 of those were followers of Jesus!

I pray that God continues to trust us with the people He is pursuing. The Pursuit really is a church for anyone. Keep on investing in the lives of unchurched people and inviting them to attend. We'll be ready. You never know what God is going to do!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Answered Prayer...

The 7 hour drive from Boise to Reno to get an In-N-Out burger is always a joy. The anticipation grows as we get closer and closer to taste bud bliss. I was apparently a little too focused on food upon our arrival. I turned off the car and attempted to pull out the key and it wouldn't come out. I realized that I hadn't even put it in park, I was so excited!

When we got in to order, I reached into my pocket to get my wallet and realized I didn't have any keys. I asked Angela if she had them and her facial expression told the story. She informed me that I pulled the keys out and set them on her lap (I didn't even remember doing it!), which is something I never do, and that she assumed that I must have had my keys, so she put them in the glove compartment. She wasn't too worried because she thought we had AAA. I informed her that the day before I had talked with them on the phone and declined renewing. I figured we probably wouldn't ever use them!

Angela called a lockout service and found out that it would be $55. We decided to give God a chance to work, so I explained to the kids that this was either going to be the most expensive In-N-Out of our lives or God was going to have to intervene! We prayed right there that God would send a police officer with a slim jim. About 10 minutes later, a police officer pulled into the adjacent parking lot. The kids were excited as Angela went over to speak with him. As she was talking to him, a tow truck driver pulled in to return a Red Box DVD.

It turns out that police officers in Reno don't carry slim jims as he was explaining to Angela as the tow truck driver was pulling in. Angela approached him and figured she would offer the guy $20 to get us into our car. He declined the money and even dinner but said he would love a diet coke! He opened our car for $1.59 and we got a chocolate milkshake to celebrate!

People wonder how we can make it on our limited income. God does stuff like that for us all of the time. It is really cool when He does it as an answer to a prayer that we prayed with our kids so they can learn to trust Him too. He sent us a police officer like we asked (even though he couldn't help) and sent what we really needed—a tow truck driver—and not just any but probably the only one in the country who wouldn't happily make an extra $20 on the side! Keep trusting God. He is worthy of it!