Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Day of Closure

This morning the City-Wide Redeemer church family gathered together to mourn as a community over the loss of Tom Phillips. No, we don't grieve as those who have no hope, but we do grieve.

It must have been a sweet thing for Eric's mother to have her son lead and preach at his father's funeral. Eric spoke with such compassion. Eric shared the gospel with such loving urgency. The pundant was right. It is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart (Ecc. 7:2).

We had another CWR family suffer the sorrow of a miscarriage last week too. I hope that the promises found in the gospel today were an encouragement to their heart too.

I have been especially encouraged to see how others at CWR have loved those who mourn so well. The gospel is alive and well in North Las Vegas.

Logistical Note: It was quite an orchestration to prepare for two services of worship in the school building. We have 4 hours from the time they open the doors until they close them. Set up and set up again went very smoothly thanks to so many CWR families who love to help. God continues to gather a group of people with gifts that He's given that I trust will be used to show Christ to many more people in this city.

We are in the middle of planning many new ministries for our city. I'll have more details in the days ahead.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I was able to hang out with Glenn for a bit yesterday. I'm still learning more and more about what it is like to be homeless. The local Salvation Army shelter provides a cot for $8/night. While this is not a place where he can settle in with safekeeping for his belongings, it is at least a relatively safe and dry place. The other evening someone stole some of his things while he slept. That stunk.

When Glenn was first fitted with his new leg there was pain that developed almost immediately. He walked, but with the help of his wheelchair, and only in small increments at that. Ten days ago he went in for a follow-up. The doctor was able to make a minor adjustment that made all the difference. Glenn is now 6 or 7 days without his wheelchair and he looks great. He said that the pain is gone.

Yesterday he spent time at a job fair. Hopefully something will open up for him soon. He needs to work. He wants to work. We are trusting God for some work.

Glenn was able to get permission from the shelter for a late entry on Tuesdays. Usually he would have to be checked in by 8:00 p.m. This will allow him to join us for the community group that we host at our home. His contributions to the group will not be small.

I'm exhausted. The week has been full of sorrows. Some dear friends lost their baby this morning. She was 11 or so weeks pregnant. That brings back painful memories for us.

Eric's father was taken off of life support this afternoon. He is still breathing, but his recovery is not expected. Death sucks. The empty grave of Jesus becomes much more real in weeks like this.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

That's My Boy

I am thankful for the kind of environment that is being shaped in our services of worship. Parents are feeling more and more comfortable with having their children seated with them. No one is shocked or jolted from their concentration when one of them inadvertently makes a loud noise. I like that. I think that it rightly communicates to our children, "Hey, we want you." I hope that it communicates the same to our guests.

Because of the learning needs that 3-6 yr old children have we are providing a children's lesson for them during the time I am preaching. They love the crafts. They cover the same text we do, and are hopefully prepared to talk about what they learned with their parents via our family discussion guide posted each week on the web site.

Today, about half way through my sermon, a little blond haired four yr old came prancing through the seats on his way to the bathroom. He thought that his mother was with him. She wasn't. She was teaching the children's lesson. He noticed that he was alone. He blurted out, "Mom! Where are you?" I wanted to say, "She is teaching the children's lesson. Where else would she be? Why aren't you there?" Instead I had to say, "That's my son. Could someone please help him?" Thankfully, three mothers stood up immediately to help.

When reflecting on that moment I thought about the kinds of interruptions and oddities that must have occurred on days when Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee. I'm sure he saw it all.

I've been tired. I'm hoping to take all of Tuesday and Wednesday off for some R & R with my bride and children.

Eric's father is still in critical condition at the hospital. That is very sad. Today Eric said that there was some response, however, but very little. Tomorrow Eric and his mom will have to make some difficult decisions with the doctor. We continue to pray for them.

This event has rightly distracted Eric from his final ordination studies. I'm so glad to see him loving his folks and delaying his ordination. That says much about a man who is called to care for people under the Great Shepherd. This has not been a typical ordination exam, but this trial has proven much about his calling.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Our City

Even as a young church plant we talk much about planting other churches, both here in Las Vegas as well as in other parts of the world as we might have the opportunity.

I spoke with a fellow pastor this afternoon who is about to move to Puerto Rico to begin a church plant outside of San Juan. I hope to travel there to visit the area and to get a feel for the work that they are trying to do. Maybe CWR be able to have some kind of partnership with their work in the future.

This morning I drove the extreme eastern edge of the city. Las Vegas is bound up by mountains on all four sides. The view from the rise on the eastern edge was dramatic. I drove about an 8 mile stretch weaving through a 5 square mile area and did not find a single church building. There are many apartments and there is new development around a middle school and highschool that are both under construction. The area is predominately hispanic. I am hoping to begin making more contacts in the neighborhood so that we can begin to think through the logistics of beginning some outreach efforts there with the gospel in word and deed. For now we will being to pray.

I have been learning much this year about what it means to be homeless. Because of my interactions with Glenn I am down on "homeless row" at least once each week, sometimes three times. Yesterday I counted 25 tents or so that line the expressway coming north out of the downtown area. Just 50 feet away along the railroad tracks is another smattering of makeshift shelters.

From this mecca of hopelessness a long line of people filtered and trudged down the hill away from the expressway toward the Salvation Army shelter. I noticed that several women coming into the shelter had children with them. (There are more than 200 homeless students in Las Vegas public schools, according to the local food bank.) I noticed that several other women were without undergarments. Only thin white T-shirts afforded them minimal modesty. How uncomfortable that must be in this heat! When I was actually at the shelter I encountered three or four souls who are mentally disturbed/ill. Glenn has told me that many of the homeless are mentally ill. I don't know what to think about the number of families that have abandonded these weak ones to scrape out an existence on the streets.

One mentally disturbed man asked me for a ride. He hadn't showered in days, it appeared. He knew where he wanted me to take him. The bus stop. He was going to get a ride to visit his sister's house. "Am I missing something here?" I thought. Apparently she keeps his money for him and gives him a little bit at a time as he needs it.

He wanted to pay me for the five-minute drive. He opened his wallet and drew out a $20. He thought it was $2. I urged him to keep it with him, but came away from that brief interaction with a new sense for the vulnerability of these people. Who would have thought that a homeless man could be taken advantage of for a quick $20?

The needs and opportunities to share the hope of Christ Jesus are without end.

I'm preached on the following last weekend and continue to reflect: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

Monday, September 1, 2008


This morning brought some cool breezes across the Vegas desert floor for the first time in months. It was nice to be out for a bit this morning. I might even take a bike ride today.

I crashed into bed last night exhausted. It was a long day, and a long week. It seemed appropriate that I was keenly aware of my need to experience God's strength on a week when I was preaching about his ability to "make all grace abound to us, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we may abound in every good work."

About 1/3 of the City-Wide Redeemer church family was out of town yesterday, taking advantage of summer's last three-day weekend. It will be nice to worship together with them next weekend.

I've been getting to know some other pastors in town. Some of those meetings have been more encouraging than others. A few of those guys seem to want no sense of fellowship with me. They believe the gospel. I believe the gospel. They are indwelt (as far as I can tell) by God's Spirit. I'm indwelt by God's Spirit. I don't know what I'm missing. I'll wait on God to work.

Our oldest is preparing for school tomorrow. He doesn't want to go. I'm praying that God will carry him through this semester.

God has added another community group to City-Wide Redeemer. Very cool.

My piano playing is coming along. Slow, but sure. It continues to be a great relief from the stresses of the day.

Eric's dad, still hospitalized from his stroke last Tuesday morning, is responding a bit more today. He is still in the ICU. We continue to pray.

The following quote is from an AP story on hurricane Gustav. It is from an interview early this morning while the hurricane was coming ashore. I find it to be classic.

"We wanted to be part of a historic event," said Benton Love, 30, stood outside Johnny White's Sports Bar with a whiskey and Diet Coke. "We knew Johnny White's would be the place to be. We'll probably switch to water about 10 o'clock, sober up, and see if we can help out."

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010