Monday, December 31, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
A few hours later I was able to get outside and capture this scene in the aftermath. As you can see we received at least six inches of snow, with a two foot snow drift.
Last evening my oldest son and I rode along with one of our neighbors and his three children up to a place called Lee Canyon. It's only about a thirty minute drive from the house. There we found a virtual winter wonder land and thought we'd bring some back for the kids to wake up and see.
This has been the scene this morning as children from around the neighborhood are climbing the 15 foot hill and abandoning all caution as they roar down the hill at speeds reaching 3 mph.
We have so much to be thankful for. This year we are especially thankful for the relationships that our Lord has given us with our neighbors in just a few short months.MORE GOOD NEWS
Last week we were able to confirm our arrangements with a local middle school to use their facilities for Sunday morning services of worship. God has worked to give us a great relationship with the staff at the school. They have invited us to come on Wednesday afternoons for a couple of hours to volunteer some time in order to help beautify the campus. Please pray that our service will point to the Savior.
The theatre where we'll be gathering seats 104 people and the drama teacher at the school offered to allow us use of their sound equipment. This means that we don't have chairs or audio equipment to haul around! We will also be using another adjacent room for nursery care and one more for a morning lesson for our 4 - 7 year-old group.
God continues to introduce us to people that he is bringing into the kingdom and into his service as a part of the City-Wide Redeemer church family. We praise him for the opportunity to sit in the front row, as it were, of his activity in this place.
EVEN MORE GOOD NEWS
Today my father-in-law was able to return home for the first time since his motorcycle accident. He proclaimed today, "This is the best Christmas ever because I'm alive." It's the best Christmas ever for us too as we thank our Lord for his mercy in the life of this man so many of us hold so dear. He told me last week that he has continued thanks for those who prayed for him during his recovery. Today is just a short visit home. He may be at home to stay by the end of the week. Please continue to keep him in your prayers.
Merry Christmas from North Las Vegas!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
As I recline in my soft office chair just hours after preaching this text different realities of life are crowding for attention in my mind. I'm mindful of people I know who are suffering because of physical ailment. I know others who have lost children to the grave in past years right around Christmas and are struggling with grief yet again. I'm thinking about the people who are working downtown just a few miles south of here in strip clubs, catering to the influx of visitors to Vegas during this time of year--all people conflicted about where help can come from, confused about their own value before God, and some struggling to remember that God is making all things right. It is to us, to them, to all people that the good news comes. In the City of David a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord.
Each day I become more aware of my own need for a Savior, and my heart continually grows with gratitude and relief over the fact that God interrupted my dead-end lifestyle and announced good news. God is with his people; God is making peace with men and women, God is accessible to his people because of the person and work of Jesus. I'll be thinking about the wonder of that truth for an eternity.
I've got some other great news to share, but felt the need to ponder God's good news for today. I'll share the other news tomorrow.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Our home will be our place of worship for two more weeks and we should be able to squeeze in since a few of our families will be out of town for Christmas travel. We were praying all week that the sounds from the nursery and the children's lesson upstairs wouldn't overcome our service downstairs. God answered that prayer. He even brought an extra helper to join our 3-5 year-old group as they numbered twice what we anticipated.
God is growing his church. We have a sense that he is continually before us as he draws his people to himself and to each other in this local church. We already feel as though we are just hanging on for the ride.
Some of you might feel as though the need for continued prayer is lessening now that we are meeting for Sunday morning worship. Please don't stop praying. Several folks at City-Wide are new in the faith and will undoubtedly experience much opposition from the evil one. Pray that all of us will continue to grow in our faith, hope and love. Pray that everyone will readily find their place of service within the body and come quickly to a place of being able to come along others as God continues to bring new people into the body. Pray that our transition into the local middle school in early January goes well. Please also pray for our relationship with the school. We hope to serve the school by providing some janitorial help once each week. Pray that we will serve well. Pray that the many children of City-wide Redeemer will grow in their understanding of God's work in Christ Jesus.
Thank you for your prayers and for your continued support of God's work in Las Vegas.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The picture that I've included is evidence of God's gracious work in their hearts. Our two youngest took time yesterday morning to have a rehearsal of sorts. They set out some chairs and went to their stuffed animal closet to do the work of little evangelists. God brought five people to their first service of worship. We were delighted to see how multi-cultural this first service turned out to be! As I write this post we are only two hours away from beginning. Please pray for us today. Pray that God's word will have its way in the hearts of his people!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I just read an incredibly encouraging truth in the book of Hebrews. Jesus, crowned with glory and honor as the Son of God (Kingly language) is not ashamed to call us brothers (and sisters), saying, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."
Regardless of how nursery care goes and how much noise the children make, regardless of who is sitting on a chair or on the floor, regardless of where everybody parks and whatever else might challenge our being together Jesus has promised to be in our midst both receiving praise and leading us in our praise. Jesus will be with us, Emmanuel.
We are also glad to have learned this week that our invitation to use a local middle school theatre for a few months is all but final. God has given a good relationship with the administration there. For that we give thanks. We are just waiting for the school district's loss prevention office to verify that we have the proper insurance coverages.
I hope to share a video update and a few pictures after this weekend. Thank you for your prayers.
Friday, December 7, 2007
What a grace it is to have these moments of laughter just hours after we were faced with a mountain of fears when the news first came that Angie's father had been struck while riding his motorcycle. It was so great to see him today. We rejoice at God's kindness through this difficulty. When I told him that so many of you have written and/or called to express your concern and continued commitment to prayer he asked me to write on his behalf to say, "Thank you." Thank you indeed!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
We've made the rounds to our neighbors to cancel the neighborhood Christmas party open house that was scheduled for tomorrow evening. We have hurriedly packed and we are leaving as soon as I turn off the computer.
You may read this a few days after I am writing this post, but your prayers will still mean much, answered by our all-wise and loving King in his time and according to his gracious will. Please pray that our presence will be an encouragement to the whole family, and that our words will be well-measured with the love of Christ our Savior.
We are hurting and shaken. Our God is bigger than our hurting and shaking. He is our safety.
We'll update you soon. Thanks for you prayers.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
We have a treasure in clay jars.
Several of our neighbors just left and walked back to their homes after our small group meeting tonight. We spoke about brokenness. It was a tremendous delight for me to listen to different interactions during our study and to hear my new friends expressing in their own words their growing joy and confidence in Jesus. The gospel is at work in their lives, and in mine, and doing its work--making all things new.
It may seem silly to you, but the up-front seating that I have with several people right now has caused me to be freshly overwhelmed with the place that God gives his people in the story. We have been entrusted with God's message and means to turn the world upside down--or more truly to turn the world right side back again. God is redeeming his world and being part of the cast is a tremendous privilege.
City-Wide Redeemer has another community/small group that is starting up this Friday. Please pray that those God brings will quickly gel together, beginning to trust, learn from, and serve one another in due time.
We'll be moving from our rental house in early January into the house that we've purchased. We remain sure that God has opened this door, providing a great home in a central location at an astoundingly low price. On one hand it is a great sign of the end of transition. We've been moving since May. But we are experiencing sorrow at the prospect of leaving the neighborhood we've called home since early September. In just three months we have grown to sincerely love our neighbors.
To be frank, I feel pretty torn up inside. Our children will lose daily contact with yet another set of friends, and so will we. Of course, we plan on being in this neighborhood weekly to be a part of this growing community group, but we won't be privileged to the serendipitous encounters with our neighbors or their children. Please pray for God's will to be done, and that if we should stay that he would make that abundantly clear.
Joy and Pain...Sunshine and Rain
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
For some time I have also been praying for a good contact in a gated apartment complex that stands adjacent to our neighborhood. Today we found that two of the chaplain's assistants stationed at Nellis live there. We hope to have a meal with one of them soon. Perhaps God will open a door for us soon to minister to folks in this apartment complex. I'll keep you posted.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Without a doubt, the friendships that we've made here in this little community are on the top of our list of things for which we are giving thanks to our God and Father. We continue to experience the warm welcome of our neighbors and hope that they are experiencing the same from us as we seek to love others in Jesus' name.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
We have begun weekly meetings with two groups of families spread across the North Las Vegas area. The content of our discussion centers around the vision and values that will guide us as this local community of believers takes on its own God-given shape and personality. We have been encouraged to see and hear the responses of the people God has been bringing to these gatherings. What most encourages us is recognizing that they are not responding to any creative genius on our part (as if you were really thinking that anyway). Rather, we are all responding to the gospel.
We are responding to God's unique message in the person of Christ Jesus for the redemption and transformation of Las Vegas and cities like it around the world. As the gospel comes alive in our own hearts we experience further life transformation (sanctification) and we have a realistic hope to see our families and communities take on new life as well. We begin to embrace classes of people with whom we might not have imaged the possibility of any mutual love and care. We begin to take our calling as kingdom servants seriously, actively becoming equipped for the works God has uniquely designed for each of us. We serve others sacrificially without any expectation of receiving something in return. We take on all of life's activities with a renewed dependence upon Jesus, and a proper confidence that we will see him work. We start to see that God's advancing kingdom is bigger than us, our church, or our denomination. In sum, we become mature disciples, rooted in the grace of the gospel, who live our lives for others and remember that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. These are the biblical convictions that will guide us as we move forward.
Additional Note: Within the next few weeks we plan to have another web site up and running that will do a better job of communicating who we are to people living in Las Vegas.
We humbly ask that you will continue to keep us in your prayers as our Lord brings us to mind. Please pray that God will continue to provide financially for this project. Give if God is prompting you to sacrifice for the Kingdom in Las Vegas. (Information on how to give can be found on our current web page: http://www.missionnorthlasvegas.squarespace.com/)
Please pray also for the many contacts that are presently wrestling with the gospel. Pray that their eyes will be opened to the truth of their need to be reconciled with their Creator and that they will be given faith to trust Jesus as their Reconciler, their Savior.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
From the moment I met this man I have felt an affinity towards him. It wasn't based on any knowledge about his fame or accomplishments. But this afternoon I was pondering why it is that we become further excited to meet someone we admire and someone admired by the masses. I think that most of us, given the opportunity, would spend a weekend fishing with Payton Manning (no, I'm not a Colts fan) before taking the same fishing trip with our "average" neighbor. Why is this? I don't know for sure except to say that we all seem to clamor towards the opportunity to be known by the well known, to have a private audience with the popular one, the beautiful one, or the famous one. We wonder how it is that this new relationship might give us some advantage, more security, or a higher profile in our various spheres of life.
As I thought this through my mind wandered to John 17:3 where Jesus defines eternal life. "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." To have eternal life is to be in relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, to be known by The Famous One.
Guess what! Remembering that I am intimately known by the only true God frees me up to run in love to the "average" neighbor nearby who is longing for relationship himself. It was intimacy with the Father that freed Jesus to live not in order to be noticed by the famous ones of his day, but instead to notice the least of these, his brethren.
Why don't you join me tomorrow in reading the Creation account in Genesis, the Exodus account summed up in Psalm 105, and the gospel texts telling of Christ's resurrection. Behold the majesty, power, love, and fame of your God and then remember that he knows you, and that you know him. I have a feeling that it just might change the way you approach your other relationships this week.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
So, when I was asked that very question today at 1:28 in the afternoon I went. What a unique experience! Dale Davidson, host of an afternoon show on 1060 AM KKVV was a delight as he asked me questions covering a range of topics related to our work in Las Vegas, and my own family's journey to get here.
As I was driving over to the studio I called Angie in order to invite the children to hear their goofy dad on the radio. Then I prayed. I prayed that I would indeed be ready to speak with clarity and conviction about the gospel of Jesus, in season and out of season, when I would expect it, and even now when the opportunity came as unexpectedly as a fly in your mouth when you drive with the window open.
Of course I have no idea who may have been listening and who may have been prompted by God's Spirit to respond to the gospel, but I trust a local friend and resident of Las Vegas who heard the interview and said that the gospel was clear. I was relieved and thankful to hear that.
Please continue to pray for the people of this city. Pray that God's Spirit will lead us to those in whom he has already been at work to bring about new life in Jesus. Please also pray that we will be ready at all times to love people in this place with the truth and richness of the gospel.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
This Sunday we will begin a series of weekly home meetings at a couple of locations across northern Las Vegas. These meetings will serve as a place for prayer over God's word for this mission work, and will also provide the context for sharing our vision, values, and ministry design for City-Wide Redeemer.
I think that I mentioned earlier this month that we are also going to be hosting an investigation Bible study at our home. We are still pulling this together and gathering a few more committed souls.
On another night of the week we will also begin hosting a community group for committed Christians in our neighborhood. Pray that our Lord will lead me in determining the course of our study for the remaining weeks of this calendar year.
Our family remains very encouraged as we move along through each day and discover what the Lord has for us. We are regularly surprised and try to remain faithful with what is put in front of us, even if it wasn't on the radar screen when we woke up. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Then, knowing that his disciples were grumbling about this, he said, "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe," John 6:61-64.
We are sharing the gospel regularly with folks, speaking with them at different levels depending on where they are or what they've already been exposed to. Next week, Lord willing, I will begin hosting a six week study on the life of Christ. I feel a tremendous amount of anxiety. I long to say things well, to communicate the truth and facilitate genuine investigation. I want to see folks that I already care for experience the freedom that comes when we are reconciled to God and begin living life the way God designed.
As I read this portion of John's gospel this morning I was struck afresh to realize that when Jesus led bible studies there were some who did not believe. Why? How could this be? It is the Spirit who gives life.
Being mindful of this truth frees us up to take risks of love for others. It frees us up to be ourselves as we share the gospel with those around us. It frees us up to continue to share with others in the future if we don't see the response that we hope for. Certainly it is true that we must do all that we can to remove every barrier in our communication of the gospel. But it is also true that the Spirit gives life; the flesh is of no avail.
I'm going to pray right now that God's Spirit will lead me to those people in whom he is working to give new life. Will you join me in praying for that as well?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I'm pleased to say that we have chosen a name. From this point forward our mission work in North Las Vegas will be referred to as City-Wide Redeemer. This name captures both the centrality of the Lord Jesus as well as our vision to see a city covered with the presence of God's people.
We continue to meet and speak with as many people and families as we can. So many people we meet are feeling the pressures of a busy schedule, deeply desiring significant relationships with others, and struggling to hold their families together. We have found that many people here are also very skeptical of new people they meet. One could speculate as to the reasons that this is so, but I won't for now. I am finding that usually by the third, fourth, or fifth contact people will begin to open up and speak about things that reveal some level of trust. This isn't always true, but seems to be a general pattern.
Conversations about the gospel are beginning to happen as well. I look forward to one day soon being able to report that Christ has captured yet another soul in North Las Vegas with his love.
We will begin a Bible study in our home very soon (probably in one or two weeks) for those who wish to investigate and understand the claims of Jesus. Three or four families have indicated some level of interest. Pray that we will communicate the truth in love as we invite several dear folks into our home.
Will you pray about a couple of other things today and throughout the week? Will you pray that a building for public worship will become available soon? We are waiting to hear from a few schools in the area. Finding a building in our area is proving to be more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Secondly, please pray that God's Spirit would open the hearts of people in this city as we come in contact with them. It is clear that many people know they are looking for something, but remain unconvinced that Jesus is who they seek.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Yesterday morning this same boy appears to have taken our oldest son's wallet while visiting for a few minutes before we headed off to worship. For our son six months of saving his money only to have his kindness lead to this frustration has been very difficult to handle.
I can't tell you how disappointing this has been for me too. This low blow from the enemy is striking at the core of our children's willingness to be givers in a neighborhood where they've experienced the hurtful experiences of others being takers. When I went today to speak with this young man who appears to have taken the wallet his response was less than satisfying. Pray that God's Spirit will convict him and grant him repentance, if he indeed is guilty. Please pray that our attitude towards the neighbors will be consistently kind, remembering that it was God's kindness that led us to repentance. Pray that our children will maintain a spirit of generosity as well.
I've got much more good news to share about our progress in relationships, but I'll wait to update you with that information on Wednesday.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
On Monday Eric and Annette discovered a large boil like "thing" on the bottom of their newborn. Yesterday it popped hours before their appointment with a pediatrician. The doctor's diagnosis is a staph infection. This has been no fun for Annette, who like any mother, finds herself fighting against the inclination to fear and despair, especially while still feeling the full force of transition in every aspect of their lives.
This morning my doorbell rang at 6:20. You and I both know that when someone is at the door that early there is usually something wrong, so I raced downstairs to answer it. My neighbor and his daughter were standing there to tell me that someone had broken into both of my cars and that the same someone had broken into their cars as well. Thankfully our garage door opener wasn't left inside the cars, nor anything else of value besides a few of our favorite CD's. The downside is how an event like this plays with your mind. Immediately you start to ask yourself questions about the security of your family and whether or not this is the ideal place to begin our ministry here. Pretty soon, though, I realized that this was another move from the enemy to try and move us off center, to try and discourage us from moving forward in the mission.
The reality for Christians is that Jesus calls us all into difficult situations. We all find ourselves entering the edge of danger. But I am reminded this morning that the command to go into all the earth to make disciples (Mt. 28:19) is followed by Jesus' exclamation that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him (Mt. 28:18). It is this mighty and all-powerful, mission-commissioning Jesus that also said, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Sunday, September 23, 2007
In the hours to come Angie and I would sigh, laugh and cry. "Has this really happened? Can you believe it? I can't believe it! Wow, our Lord has called me to be a full time minister of his gospel!" These would be repeated phrases throughout the evening.
The moment of my ordination and the receiving of my definite call as an evangelist to North Las Vegas comes after years of anticipation and a sense of not being settled. While serving Grace Fellowship Church in Buckeye, AZ (2003-2004) we would have been so glad to stay, but felt in our hearts that God would be moving us on, and he eventually did. I studied for three years in St. Louis and have now spent the last four months preparing for ordination trials and continuing to raise funds for this work. After five years of constant transition through times of preparation and anxiety about the future we now find ourselves in a place where we hope to stay, and have a sense of long term calling. We finally feel as through the work is ready to begin.
Frankly, I don't really know what to do with myself. All I can say this evening is that with a healthy sense of fear and an awareness of the continuing spiritual warfare that accompanies us, I am filled with the joy at the prospect of spending years to come loving the people of Las Vegas and hopefully witnessing the work of God's Spirit in this place as he transforms individuals, families, communities and perhaps the entire city to reflect the redeeming work of Jesus.
Will you pray for us today? Will you pray that our Lord will continue to confirm his ordination and continue to grow us in the gospel?
I'll post pictures of Saturday's events soon.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
The families on our street are wonderful people. We have experienced a kind reception and a few conversations that have gone beneath surface chat about the weather and talk about careers. The cultural diversity on our street is refreshing, with each family giving evidence of a wide range of life stories. I'm using pseudonyms since I haven't asked their permission, but I want to give you a brief sketch.
Juan and Maria are both school teachers in the special education departments of their school. They come from a Roman Catholic background and represent a God-given love for all kinds of people, especially the least of those in society. We can't wait to get to know them on a deeper level.
Yesterday Kevin and Brandi welcomed their second child into the world. His delight was evident when he came over to my garage to share the news. Kevin works in real estate investment and takes great care of the trees in his front yard. Our daughter is looking forward to spending more time with their little girl, and of course the baby too!
Jeremiah and Leah are both serving in the Air Force. Their schedules are pretty hairy, but they still manage to keep up with most folks on the street, and they love their neighbors (hopefully they'll love having us as neighbors too). We got to know them more on Tuesday after Leah accidentally backed out of the garage before the door was fully open. With Jeremiah gone, I and another neighbor shared the task of getting the garage door back on its tracks.
Our oldest has met a couple of boys his age and is just starting to spend time with them. We hope to meet their families soon.
A little beyond our immediate neighborhood we've met a waitress who is hoping for a better job to come along that will be a greater source of means for her and her precious daughter. She longs to see her daughter's father get a job and to make a commitment in marriage. We've met a sales agent who is new at her job and hoping to find success. We've met a school teacher who is new to Vegas and trying to find his way. We don't yet have a clear picture of where some of these folks are in relation to the gospel, but we look forward to learning more about their lives and discussing the gospel soon as our Lord opens doors.
We know that we carry a treasure in clay vessels. Pray that new friends will see the gospel at work in our lives, through all of our own brokenness, and will be drawn by God's Spirit to find wholeness in Jesus. Pray that the message of redemption will be clearly articulated in our words and through our actions.
Monday, September 10, 2007
But he gives more grace. At that time we didn't know what we were getting into. All I knew was that Angie was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen and that I wanted to be with her forever. I'm not sure what Angie was thinking? I'm thankful for it whatever it was. As excited as we were, we were both without God and without hope in the world. We had no grounding, no sense of purpose, no security in the midst of the storms that would come in the early years of our marriage. We were living for ourselves and yet somehow feeling more and more alienated from ourselves and from each other.
Thankfully God did bring us to himself. In 2000 both Angie and I were given new hearts, made alive in Christ, and began living with a sense of grounding, purpose, and security. We often marvel at God's kindness to bring us both to saving faith within a few months span.
And now here we are called together to see God's kingdom expand in the lives of people who call Las Vegas home. We thank God for that calling, but today we are thanking him for his primary calling in our lives to live united to our Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. Today we invite you to rejoice with us over God's pursuing grace that snatched us from the despair of self-absorbed lives in order to bring us to a sense of our true identity in Him. Please continue to pray that this will be true for the people of Las Vegas in the years to come as well.
I'm as excited today to begin the rest of my life with Angie as I was when we first exchanged vows 13 years ago. Actually I'm more excited knowing that we don't enter into the future alone, but securely hidden in Christ our Savior.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Sunday, September 2, 2007
An hour later we were at a nearby Taco Bell to fill out the lease agreement. Not long into our time together she reached into her purse to grab a pen, but first had to pull out her cell phone, some cosmetic accouterments and AN OPEN KNIFE. "O this," she chuckled as she softly closed the knife. "I had this out in case I needed it, but tossed it back into my purse when I realized that you were not dangerous."
I have to say that in the past several weeks we have seen several evidences that God is allowing us to connect with the people who call Vegas home. But knowing that people don't feel the need to stab us at first sight is the greatest encouragement thus far. May God continue to give us an open door for relationships with those we meet!
Moving day to our rental house was yesterday, sort of. We moved most of our sojourning gear by pick-up, but will not make the move completely until Wednesday morning when our hosts will return from Wales.
Shortly before we came to stay at our current abode to house-sit we learned that this is the regular meeting place of a community group of Spring Meadows Church here in Las Vegas. Spending the time each Sunday evening with the group has been a great joy. Our topic of discussion each week has been the text from the morning's sermon. I have learned much by means of the discussion every time we've gathered. Tonight there were two new families represented and our discussion seemed to be fruitful and encouraging to all. The text we discussed from this morning was Genesis 16.
There was so much to apply to our own lives as we looked at a man and a woman struggling to wait for the realization of God's promises. Waiting is part and parcel to each of our human experiences, and front and center to this stage of preparation for planting a church in North Las Vegas. As Abraham needed to continue to wait on God to fulfill his promise of an heir (a promise unique to Abraham), we wait for the Lord of the harvest to send out his workers (us in this case) into the harvest field. We are waiting for him to do this in his way in his might. That is difficult. We long to begin our work in earnest, to minister to our community in a more fully integrated manner, to see the gospel break into lives, families, and communities through our humble efforts and proclamation. Waiting is difficult. Pray that we will have the courage and the patience to see God do things in his time as we submit to the process of raising funds and completing the other preparatory items necessary to ministering in this context.
God has just surprised our family with another great blessing. I'm going to hold you in suspense, though, and will write about this on Tuesday, Lord willing.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
We have been praying that God would provide a rental house within a mile or two of the community where we plan on living long term. Our Lord has done just that, and at a great price (for Las Vegas standards). Thankfully the homeowner has agreed to half his normal deposit. We should have the funds we need by Monday in order to move in Sept. 3rd. Pray that all will go smoothly.
Pray for the relationships that we will have with our new neighbors. Even though we will only be there short-term we are praying that God will allow us to connect with three new families and to share our lives with them in the gospel.
We are also meeting several families from the North Las Vegas area that are expressing an interest in being a part of this new worshiping community. Our close proximity will also make nurturing those relationships much easier. Soon I'll write more about our plans for gatherings with these families beginning in late September or early October.
Another reason that we wanted to find a rental home central to what will be our final landing spot is to be able to begin some relationships with the local schools. I am hopeful to do some tutoring at the high school just down the street. Pray that doors will open up in a couple of weeks when I approach the school administration. Please pray for one or two relationships with students there. As much as I want to serve them I'm also looking forward to what I'll learn about the Las Vegas culture from these teenage citizens.
I have been promising to update you on our fundraising progress. September will be a key month as several churches who have expressed an interest in partnering with us will be meeting to make decisions about their budgets for next year. During September many of our personal friends will also be deciding whether and how much to commit to our ministry work as well. Please continue to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out his workers with full provision.
Our budget for the first 3 1/2 years is around $681,000. The Pacific Presbytery will allow us to begin our work once we have raised around 75%, or $510,000. Thus far we have seen commitments of around $235,000, putting us just about half way to what we will need to begin. As we close in on meeting our funding needs I look forward to updating you regularly on the progress.
My church planting partner, Eric Phillips, arrived in town safely late Saturday night. He and his family are settled into the condo that has been provided for them free of expense while they make their transition. We are grateful to be in close proximity so that we can pray together again regularly.
One final thought: This week I've been pondering the Biblical account of Mephibosheth in the O.T. King David showed unbelievable kindness to this lame descendant of the outgoing dynasty because of his faithfulness to the covenant he had made with Jonathan, Mephibosheth's father. Of course, we are all beneficiaries of God's faithfulness to his covenant promise of redemption. We have been brought near to the table of great David's greater Son. My heart has been experiencing fresh joy over God's kindness. My heart has also been challenged to realize that our position as recipients of the King's grace means that we have only one kingdom to expand...and it is not our own. This touches every area of life as we live at the King's table. Think about it.
Friday, August 24, 2007
1. Several folks took the opportunity to let me know how God's word impacted them through the preaching this last Sunday at Spring Meadows Church here in Las Vegas. I continue to be amazed at God's pleasure to use us as mouthpieces of his grace. Indeed he has stored the treasure of the gospel in clay pots!
2. Eric and Annette Phillips will be making the journey to Las Vegas today. The details for their long-term stay at a condo here are still being worked out, but they have received accommodations for the next 10 days while the kinks are ironed out. We rejoiced to learn that a friend of the ministry paid for their airline tickets as well! Thanks be to God! Angie will be flying to St. Louis early this morning in order to accompany Annette and their four children back to Las Vegas. Please pray for safety, and that Angie will be able to make her connecting flights without any problem. Pray also for safety as Eric drives their van and a few remaining belongings across the country. He hopes to arrive in Vegas by Saturday night.
3. My meeting with the mortgage lender went well this week. It seems as though we will be able to get qualified for a mortgage later this week, and should be able to close on a home in late November or early December. Please pray this week that we will find a home to rent for the next three months.
4. Our oldest was able to complete his placement exams for the K-12 public school here in Las Vegas. Everything went well, and he should begin on-line classes this Monday. I'm sure that we will have more requests for prayer in this area as we begin to see exactly how the on-line classes, course work, and group activities will flow.
5. Today I was able to complete the last of my written exams for ordination. Thank you for your prayers for that too. My heart was warmed as I considered the Lord's Supper in my study and thought afresh about the reality that Jesus, being truly God, but also truly man, laid down his life and took upon himself such a cruel death, and the wrath of God, that I might be seen as righteous before my God. I deserve that death. Thanks be to God for Christ our Passover Lamb!
6. We continue to be encouraged by the process of raising funds in order to begin this ministry work. Please continue to pray with us that God will put it upon the hearts of his people to meet every need. Again, as promised last week, I'll be updating with specifics related to our fundraising in a couple of days.
Friday, August 17, 2007
My church planting partner, Eric Phillips, has received an offer to stay at a condo here in Las Vegas for several weeks--for FREE. This is tremendous news, but it isn't final yet. The owner of the condo is working out detais and should have final word for Eric and his family soon. Please pray that this opportunity will be a reality for thier family. They have housing in St. Louis throuth Friday, August 24th. Please also pray that our Lord will give them safe travel, especially for their newborn baby boy.
We are on the process of seeking pre-approval for a home mortgage. We have an interview with a lender this week. Please pray that our meeting will go well, and that we will be able to obtain a loan with good terms. We are hoping to close on a home in late November.
This week I'll be taking the last of my written examinations for ordination to the gospel ministry. Please pray that my study will not only be a means to an end, but that I will be all the more encouraged and built up in Christ our Savior. I'll be tested on 2000 years of Church history, the Lord's Supper, and baptism.
Please pray for our oldest son this week who will be taking a placement exam in order to enroll in Nevada's K-12 school. We were excited to learn that he will be able to attend this school tuition free.
We continue to watch in amazement as our Lord gathers together the necessary funds to support this work for the first few years. We are finding that many people are giving sacrificially as they trust God with us in hopes of seeing many Las Vegans submit to the loving Lordship of Jesus. We are so encouraged, and humbled. I'll be providing a more specific update on the finances in a week or so.
Finally, I'll be preaching in Las Vegas this weekend. I'm preaching from Matthew 9:1-8. Pray that God's people will be strengthened through His Word, and that those outside the Kingdom might find repentance and faith as they hear afresh that Jesus has authority on the earth to forgive sinners, to make peace between man and God.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
If you're like me you dread having to put together the necessary paperwork in order to get in line so that you can get a number to be in another line and wait...for a long time until some kind employee of the state looks at your paperwork only to tell you that you don't have what you need, and will have to return again with something else when you get it together.
Today I ventured out to obtain a Nevada state driver's license so that we can enroll our oldest son into school. Thankfully, in Nevada the person you encounter in the first line, who will give you a number for the next line, checks to see if you have your papers in order.
I didn't. One paper was missing an official seal. Another version of the same document had the seal, but wasn't an original. My third trip to the car to look through my medical file brought victory, though, and I was able to get into the second line.
Just then Angie called. She had finished grocery shopping earlier than expected and needed me to swing back by the store in order to take her and the children home before the frozen garlic bread cooked itself in the Nevada heat. No problem. With hours to wait I'd be able to make that trip and return to the DMV in no time. Problem. When I returned an hour later my number had been called just three minutes earlier. Thankfully, another citizen had left their upcoming number crumpled up on a counter top so I was able to use that without having to start completely over.
I would soon discover that God was at work. When I woke up I would not have expected to see God at work in the dreaded trip to DMV (except in the miracle of just getting through the ordeal). I would not have expected to see God answer a prayer request we've had for some time. But, God was at work.
Just after I took my seat I was joined by a young couple with their baby boy in his stroller. We began to chat. I learned that they are one of the many thousand families moving to Nevada this month. They moved to Vegas in order to begin teaching at the Andre Agassi College Prep Academy, a school that Andre began in order to reach out to at-risk youth in his native city. The answer to prayer came in discovering that this husband and father will be teaching African drums at the school, and at a community center on Sunday afternoons. He agreed to provide private lessons for our oldest. This has been one of our prayers, that we would find a percussion instructor.
We are praising our Lord for this connection, and praying that much more will come of it as we join the drum circle at the community center in a couple of weeks. Pray that many opportunities will open up for us to share the gospel to God-prepared hearts as we look to begin many new relationships in North Las Vegas.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
This afternoon our family enjoyed a beautiful drive through the Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas. Absolutely breathtaking! I've posted a couple of pictures. Just before our drive we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for some lunch. Over our meal Angie and I were talking about ways in which we will try early on to integrate into our new community. One of the things we spoke about is my desire to tutor in the high school just down the street, as there is a tremendous shortage in Las Vegas schools for teachers who specialize in the sciences and mathematics. For those of you who don't know it, I love math. Pray that those doors will open.
I told you that so that I can tell you this. You'll remember that the purpose of this blog is to communicate our progress and to share the challenges of our work. I'm finding again and again that progress at this stage of the work (and no doubt through a lifetime of ministry) must take place at the heart level. After we returned home from our short day trip I was watering some new grass seedlings at the home where we are house-sitting. At once our daughter came out the door looking for help with her "floam" that granny just shipped to us and our oldest son asked me to help him install some new software for a network card that my brother sent in the mail. I gave a half-hearted, "Yes, I'll be right in to help." I didn't want to help. I was tired.
Just then I realized that the desire I have to tutor young school boys in order to love them as image bearers, and to demonstrate the truth of the gospel, is unmatched at times by my desire to demonstrate the truth of the gospel to my own children through loving service to them. Why is it like this sometimes? I can't answer that, but can only thank our Lord for the grace to realize the need I have for repentance and growth.
Pray that we will be known as Christ followers by the love we have one for another, as well as the love we show the lost.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I was just sitting here thinking about all the things I hope to see happen. I was just thinking about the various provisions yet to be realized in order to begin this work in a new city. And into my want came these words: "Dinner's ready." How thankful I am to hear that when I consider all of God's care represented in turkey fold-over and broccoli.
We are praying for our Lord to work out the details of financing for a home purchase in late November or early December. Please pray that things will go favorably with the mortgage company this week and next, and that we will be able to organize our down payment by then. It will be a few days until we get word on our application for prequalification.
I don't know what some of your might be waiting for today, or lacking. I realize that some may be without the meal they hoped for. I hope that when you hear certain words throughout the day you'll be reminded of God's care even as you trust him for what remains to be realized.
I've got to run. My family is waiting for me in the dining room. Dinner's ready.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I hate to hear, "Wait."
My church planting partner, Eric Phillips, after catching up on some tasks that we've split up this week, asked me a great question yesterday. He said, "What are we supposed to be doing right now?" My reply: "Nothing, you are doing everything you can be doing right now."
Eric is studying for his ordination exams, following up with many friends who have shown an interest to support the beginnings of our ministry in Las Vegas, he is preparing to move his family west, and doing a variety of odd-ball activities related to this preparation phase of our work.
"No," I told him, "I'm wrong. You are supposed to be doing something right now. You and I are both supposed to be waiting. "
I haven't ever thought about how active the state of waiting can be. In the Psalms (27, 31, 130 just to name a few) the writer often calls the nation, the needy, the oppressed, and the weak to wait upon the Lord. What does that mean? I'm beginning to discover that it involves more than finding something else to do while you wait for your prayers to be answered.
The Biblical picture is one of continued, active waiting. Many of you have already begun to support our work and are eager to hear stories about how the gospel is advancing in North Las Vegas. So are we. But, for now, while we look to see how our God will supply every provision necessary to begin our work I want to invite you to do something with us--wait. Wait upon the Lord with us in prayer that the many pieces to our transition will come together in good time. I'll be sharing some more specifics later this week. Until then, take courage in our Lord as we wait upon him!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
During this six-week stay we are also trying to spend much time together doing things as a family. We want this initial experience in Las Vegas to be as positive as possible for our children and family as a whole. Today we carried some submarine sandwiches, strawberries and Capri Sun drinks to Mt. Charleston just 35 minutes northwest of the city. We enjoyed temperatures that barely got past 70 degrees at the comfortable elevation of 8243 ft. And what views! We saw portions of God's creation that brought us to a fresh awe of his creative power and genius.
Coming down the mountain we traveled more than 11 miles with the van in neutral. It was just a steady downhill back to the Vegas valley. While we cruised downhill in our over-sized bobsled we experienced incredible chattering in the brakes. I'll be changing out pads and repairing/replacing rotors tomorrow--pray for success!
Beyond the details of what we are doing this week, I wanted to communicate something that struck me during some time of quite thinking yesterday. I had received an email earlier in the day from a friend of our family who is going to support this work through regular prayer and with a three-year financial commitment. I know their circumstances and was amazed that our Lord has moved in them to give toward this work. Here is what I know. They understand the sacrifice that is often involved in the labors of spreading the gospel. They share a conviction that God loves people in Las Vegas. They delight in the opportunity to trust God with all they have. This is tremendously encouraging. This is tremendously humbling. We realized afresh that God is calling many of his people to love others in His name...through us. The sacrifice of others moves us all the more to sacrifice along with them to see God redeem the people of Las Vegas. May God give many more of his people the grace to sacrifice, and may our Lord give us the grace to respond to the sacrifice of others with an increasing willingness to follow Jesus wherever he leads us in this place!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The time in St. Louis was well spent meeting with potential ministry partners, catching up with a couple of dear friends, and spending time in prayer with my partner, Eric Phillips. Through my time in prayer over the last week I've come to realize something about raising funds for a mission work like this one. Jesus told his disciples to see that the fields are ripe for harvest. He then told them to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. What I've come to realize through meditation on that scripture is that fundraising actually happens in prayer. Praying to our Lord to send out workers into the harvest is fundraising at its most basic level for those who have already received the call from him to be sent out. I know that there is more involved, but it is at least that.
I want to tell you about the little flashing white light. On my return flight from St. Louis I boarded the plane and greeted the co-pilot. I asked him if there was any severe weather over the Midwest and he told me that there was. I then questioned to see if we would be flying around it as I did on my last flight from Nashville to Denver via south Dallas. He responded, "Nope. We're going straight through it." "OK," I thought, "I'm sure he knows what he's talking about."
The flight attendants were shuffling up and down the isle very shortly after take-off, making an obvious effort to complete the beverage and snack service in quick fashion. One hour into the flight I realized why. We were on top of several storms and the captain called for all passengers and crew to be in their seats. In just a few more minutes our plane was shaking more than anything I've ever experienced. A couple of times I tried to put my drink back down on the tray, but the sudden drop in elevation kept me from finding the tray with my cup. Again, another near death experience for me this month. I hated the feelings in my stomach. I felt like our plane would break apart at any minute. Those of you who have had these kind of flights know what I'm talking about. Outside I could see nothing. Clouds were thick and the sky was pitch black. All I could see out my window was the little flashing white light that perches over the end of each wing. "As long as I can see that light I'm fine," I said to myself. "That means there is still a wing between me and it."
As my fear mounted, though, I didn't want to look at the light for the fear of not seeing it blink the next time. I was praying earnestly for God to be merciful to us in that plane. I just wanted to be back on the ground, in safety. God was merciful; we did land safely after nearly two hours of turbulence.
Then came the news last evening of an Airbus in Brazil that did touch the ground after a flight in a storm, but failed to stop before plowing into a fuel station, igniting a terrible explosion, and ending in the death of more than 180 people. Even some pedestrians who weren't on the plane, who had been on the ground all the while, were killed.
Here is my thought. I continue to think that my security is based on my circumstances. I struggle to trust that I am just as secure in our Lord whether I'm 34,000 ft. in the air or on the ground. He is my shelter, not my perceived security on the ground. I needed this reminder; perhaps you did too.
Please keep us in your prayers, and feel free to email any requests for prayer to us.
Friday, July 6, 2007
The previous paragraph has nothing to do with this entry; it is just a slice of life in the desert. I want to confess this morning that transitions are hard. When my planting partner, Eric Phillips, agreed to join us in this crazy adventure he told me that his greatest concern was the transition that would be involved. He said that his experiences had taught him that transitions are hard. Seven weeks into transition from St. Louis to Las Vegas has made me a believer. But, even so, God has been faithful to remind us of his presence in wonderful and unexpected ways.
Please continue to pray for our family. Pray that God's Spirit would grant our children security in the transition. Pray for our Lord to continue to move in the hearts of his people to support this work through prayer and finances. Pray for me to lead and shepherd my family with the gentle care of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray that I'll find work to bring in the necessary income between now and when we begin our ministry in Las Vegas full time--hopefully in October. Transitions are hard, but our Lord is faithful.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Saturday evening I took my oldest over to the strip. As you can imagine, the many sights and sounds provided the basis for much conversation and mentoring. Our only stop was New York New York Hotel and Casino. I wanted to take him to a great pizza shop inside. Much to my surprise, though, when we parked on top of the garage he became very interested in the ginormous roller coaster that envelopes the hotel. At one point the drop is 144 mind numbing, stomach punctering feet. He said, "Dad, let's ride it...before eating our pizza." So we did. It was quite a thrill and we paid the few dollars to have the picture that was taken mid-ride in order to forever preserve the panicked look on his face. For his sake we'll just keep it in the family, but you can use your imagination.
On Sunday morning we worshiped with the Spring Meadows church family. After I finished preaching pastor Tim Posey led the church family in the Lord's Supper--what a wonderful and rich time of refreshment that was. Of course because we were in a new place with many new faces, our youngest children weren't settled so Angie got to hear the sermon in three parts with two intermissions. Young parents will know exactly what I mean.
Sunday afternoon and evening we spent time with a couple Spring Meadows families who both have many children. Our little ones loved the opportunity to make new friends. They did the same on Monday when we joined another family with their four year-old son at a local community swimming pool. New friends are such a blessing in the midst of such heart ache over missing old ones. Please pray that our Lord will provide many more opportunities like these over the summer.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I have been reminded of this very truth over this past week. Last Wednesday as I flew home from Nashville to Phoenix we did not take the straight path. Storms over Oklahoma forced our plane south of Dallas en route to Denver. Then in Denver the pilot had to quit for the day due to FAA regulations that determine how much time he gets in the cockpit every work day. After an hour's wait for another pilot to be flown in we were on our way to Phoenix. All the while, I was sitting in the front of the plane shivering and shaking. My head was throbbing and my stomach felt nauseous. By Friday I was in the hospital being tested for spinal meningitis. Thankfully those tests were negative and doctor's concluded that I had some other unidentifiable virus. Nearly all of my plans for last weekend and early this week were jettisoned. In weakness I lumbered through until yesterday when my strength finally returned. Last Thursday night, just before I landed in the hospital, I really thought that I was going to die.
What was God doing? More prep work. That's what. Things needed to be calibrated in my heart ahead of our work in Las Vegas. Only God knows how to prepare his people for the days that lie ahead. Even though he takes us on the zig zag path, I'm thankful for the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night--his presence is sure, and his love enduring. For those of you who knew to be praying last week, thank you. May the Lord bless you on the zig zag path today!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Just a couple of weeks ago our youngest was standing in front of a window and looking out onto the landscape. There were bushes, birds, and ants immediately before him. I'm not sure what he had been doing to come to this reflection, but turning to my mother who was standing right behind him, he said, "There's no power in these hands."
His words, and again the words of John 15, came to mind last evening as I sat shivering on a delayed airplane flying back from Nashville. Thinking of all that remains to do this week I couldn't believe that the onsetting sickness, that I'm still struggling with this morning (I don't know what I've got, but my whole body aches), had reduced me to a physical state of not even being able to stand up.
When I committed to undertake this task of church planting I think that in the back of my mind I was operating under the conviction that this was all about bringing the lost to Christ, maturing disciples, and watching God transform a city. Instead I'm finding, more and more during this season of raising support and preparing to be full time in Las Vegas that God is about transforming my heart, maturing me as a disciple, and bringing me closer to Christ. " There is no power is these hands."
Thank you for your continued prayers.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Our ABF trailer arrived in North Las Vegas more than a week ago and sat in the terminal until I could get up there to unload the 26' beast into two 10' x 15' storage units (one for the Phillip's things and the other for our earthly treasures) My father, Carl, offered to come and help--and I'm so glad that he did. When I pulled out of Phoenix last Wednesday morning toward Las Vegas I did not know of anybody who had confirmed their ability to help. But, God had already prepared in advance good works for four of his children to walk in that afternoon at the Storage West Self Storage on Craig Rd. in Las Vegas. An elder from Spring Meadows (PCA) phoned me in the morning to say that he would be able to help by 4:00 p.m. He help was tremendous. At 6:30 that evening my cell rang because another dear woman from Spring Meadows was calling to offer her service along with her two teenage boys. Wow! We needed them at exactly that time. Looking back on God's care for us that day I am reminded again of John 15. Apart from him I can not even unload a moving trailer.
We are adjusting to the climate now, and the children love swimming everyday. I've got to take our van in for service tomorrow. Please pray that they are able to make repairs quickly, and that they are covered by the warranty.