Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Divine appointment pt. 1

I'm at Panera Bread in Cedar Hills right now. The PB in Rochester became sort of an office for me after I resigned from my previous church. (Free Wi-fi and coffee refills: what more could you want?) I would search for jobs on the internet, and fill out applications online.

Besides being a good place to get some work done, I've had a number of "divine appointments" in PB and other coffee shops. On my way to PB this morning, I had a sense that God had something for me here. I quickly forgot about that when drove into the parking lot. As soon as I walked in, however, I saw two men with their Bibles out sitting and talking to each other.

"Hey guys," I said, "I saw your Bibles and thought I'd introduce myself." They invited me to sit with them, and we spent the next 2 hours talking about our lives, our families, and how we wanted to serve the Lord. Both men were involved in ministry in their local churches. I had told them that my family and I recently arrived in Dallas, and that I was looking for a job to support my family. One of the men, "Bob," said, "I know the city manager of _____. He runs the whole city. I'll see if he can help you out." He called the city manager's office right then and there and left a message for him. He also called the pastor of a local church and left a message for him about me hoping that the pastor could help me out in some way.

About fifteen minutes later, that same pastor walked in to PB! He had not gotten Bob's phone message, but just happened to show up. We were amazed. I told him my story, he gave me some good counsel, and he left after a time of fellowshipping together.

Eventually, a friend of the first two men showed up and joined our group. This was not planned either—at least, it was not planned by man. "Joe" had a call to ministry on his life, but was running away from it. The three of us who were there encouraged him to "just surrender" to the Lord. From what I could tell, Joe did. After more time of testifying to one another of God's grace in our lives, we joined hands and prayed.

I love it when God does that.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

God's work

Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
—Colossians 3:23

Since before arriving in Dallas, I've been looking for a job. I've sent applications out all over the U.S. to a variety of companies and organizations. Everything from NASA, to Verizon Wireless to various community colleges to the Transportation Security Administration ("Please remove your shoes and any metal articles and walk slowly through the gate.") We know that we want to be involved in ministry full-time at some point, but for now the focus is my finding a job to support my family.

There's no command in Scripture that tells you what job to do. The only command is related to how you should do that job: "heartily as for the Lord and not for men." This is a good reminder for me as I seek a job and realize that at least in the short term, it may not be something I would naturally enjoy. Whatever I do, I must put my heart into it. I don't have the luxury of being lax. I don't have the freedom to cut corners. I'm not justified in having a bad attitude. Why? Because it's for the Lord. Whatever job I have must be done "to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). How is God glorified if I'm constantly moaning and complaining about my job?

When I read the Scripture above recently, I was struck by the fact that it says to work "for the Lord and not for men." I would have expected it to say that we should work "for the Lord as well as for men." To me, this says that every job is sacred. All work is God's work. When you work, you really are "serving the Lord Christ."

So pray for me that I find a job I would enjoy. But more importantly, pray that whether I'm laying bricks, arguing a case before a judge, building a spacecraft, teaching a child or making a Happy Meal®, that I do it in such a way that Jesus Christ is glorified.

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West Africa or bust

Yesterday, we attended Wellspring Church in Ft. Worth. Pastor Jack Deere was out of town this week, so guest speaker Ronnie Matheny spoke. Ronnie leads Mission Barnabas International, an organization dedicated to encouraging and equipping church leaders in East Africa by connecting them with churches and resources in America.

Hearing Ronnie speak reconfirmed my desire to go to West Africa again and serve. The church in America has so much in the way of resources. I've been given so much. I continue to pray every day for West Africa that God will send workers into the harvest field. I pray, too, that He will allow me to return and help out in some fashion.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We made it to Dallas

(Update: Picture of POD.)
All our stuff was packed into a POD and was picked up for storage last Friday. The idea of a POD is great. I wish I had thought of it.

After Amy's doctor appointments on Friday afternoon, we said our last goodbyes to our neighbors and drove off. I cried once as we drove out of our neighborhood, and again as we got on I-390 leaving the Rochester area. "Lord, let Your Kingdom come in Rochester."

We drove both our cars. Amy did an amazing job driving 1500 miles in three days--especially considering she was driving with three kids under 7, and is 7 months pregnant. (Yes, she chose that arrangement. She prefers driving our Pilot over the Camry.) I found out later the secret of why everyone was so happy in her car. Two words: Halloween candy.

Our first overnight was at a Motel 6 in Strongsville, OH, a small town just outside of Cleveland. On Saturday, we drove to St. Louis and stayed at a Super 8 in nearby Fenton that night. We attended Jubilee Church in the heart of St. Louis Sunday morning. We enjoyed the service, and were blessed by the friendliness of the people. A pastor on staff and his wife took our family out to lunch after the service. The restaurant was a half block from the church building, so we walked there.

After lunch, we continued our journey southwest. We initially planned on driving to Springfield, MO, but we decided to go all the way to Tulsa, OK so that the drive Monday would not be so long. We stayed at a Country Inn in Tulsa. Our lodging in St. Louis and Tulsa were free because we used reward points from our credit card spending. Interestingly, the room number we stayed in in St. Louis and Tulsa was "113." Coincidence or a sign from God? Maybe our baby will be born 1/13. (The due date is 1/20.) If you're wondering about our room number in Strongsville, OH, it was "116." Close, but no cigar. How about the birth happening at 1:16 a.m.? Hey, it's better than Amy giving birth to an 11 lb. 6 oz. baby!

We arrived at Amy's parents' house in Dallas on Monday, 11/19 at about 11:45 a.m. We were tired, but we all made it safely. There's only one question we have: What do we do now?

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A fresh start

I recently resigned as pastor of Grace Church (soon-to-be-known-as Vineyard Christian Church). This came after taking a six-week sabbatical to discern the Lord's will regarding my future with the church. It was a heart-wrenching process. Much time was spent in prayer, talking with my wife and corresponding by phone, email and in person with pastors, friends and family in the U.S., Switzerland, Ghana and Mali. I want to thank everyone who has given of their time to pray for us, give us counsel, supported us financially, spent hours listening to our story and shown us incredible patience and love. We are deeply indebted to you, and thank God for your support for us.

The Lord had been speaking to us in a number of ways. One Scripture that kept coming back to us before we left on the sabbatical was Genesis 12:1-3. When we were in San Diego during the sabbatical we visited a church called The Rock Church. On the Sunday we were there, Pastor Miles preached on Genesis 12:1-3. It was another confirmation that we needed to pay attention to how this Scripture applied to our lives. We believe the Lord is telling us to go, but we don't know what the final destination is. We're trusting His promise to go with us and to bless us so that we can be a blessing.

Once Amy and I were in agreement that I should resign, we knew the next step was to put our house on the market. God has worked miraculously so far in that area. Without the use of a realtor, the Lord brought us buyers within about ten days of when we put it on the market. We hope to close by the end of this month.

Our plan is to stay with Amy's parents in Dallas, Texas temporarily until we figure out the next (semi?) long-term location. Lord willing, we will have our possessions packed so that we can leave Rochester this Friday. Our stuff will stay in Rochester in storage, while we drive to Dallas. Our tentative travel route is: Rochester->Cleveland->St. Louis->Springfield, MO->Dallas. On Sunday, we'll visit Jubilee Church in St. Louis because we want to know more about Newfrontiers, a family of churches of which Jubilee is a part.

In the meantime, I have sent out job applications all over the country, but have not heard back from any yet. I've applied in various fields, including aerospace engineering, counseling, customer service and teaching. Long term, I want to be in full-time ministry, but I don't want to jump into a ministry situation prematurely. We're praying that God will open and close doors accordingly. Amy will continue to homeschool our two oldest, and prepare for the birth of Baby #4 in January. She's been collecting all her free homeschooling information onto one website.

Recently, I met with a couple who used to go to our previous church. The husband said he believed that God was giving Amy and me a "fresh start." Our desire is that God would indeed give us a fresh start that we could bear much fruit for His kingdom.

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