Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Cool...I'm Good...I'm Thankful

Sometimes I wake up and the first thought is the dread of going in to work, followed by the weight of bills, and then the sadness of shattered dreams and expectations. But then I look over at the love of my life lying next to me, who has stayed by my side for nearly 29 years and suddenly nothing else matters. I'm cool... I'm good.... I'm thankful.

So I get up and go face another day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fighting Discouragement

Saturday night we spent quite a bit of time in worship and intercession for Harrisburg. The Lord brought forth another new song. I can’t remember it because
it was definitely a song of intercession for the moment. We sang, prayed and worshiped for about 40 minutes before we began our teaching and instruction. We were revived and refreshed by it, which was really important since we were worn out from a full day of ministry.

One of the couples that we mentor, reminded us that our ministry has always been about long term therapy. They reminded us that even when we were living in
St. Louis and working on staff in the church, our ministry was not dynamic or eye-catching. We were about building relationship and providing the long, very slow process of healing therapy. They reminded us that a lot of people missed what God wanted to do in their lives because they wanted something fast and instant to happen. So they didn’t receive from us because that’s not how God uses us.

I remember how it took from 1992 all the way until 1997 before the youth ministry was strong and vibrant. It took from 1998 until 2002 for the young adult ministry
to really begin to soar. In both ministries, we started with the slow process of just building relationships. We met in small groups and we brought forth Biblical and everyday life foundational teaching.

Now to find ourselves in a city where people run away from relationship building, it’s like having the only thing that God has given you to do, to not work. We fast and pray. I sit down and study the Word of God, pouring over the life of Jesus and the early church apostles, just as the Lord has led me. Yet, we don’t see people coming, who want that in their lives. They want to receive the benefits of this kind of church, but they aren’t willing to give of themselves to make that happen.

However, every time we minister outside of this community, people are weeping and crying under the presence of God. They receive and welcome the very same message and ministry that, in this community, gets nothing but a yawn.

I was about to believe that something must be wrong with us until the Spirit of God reminded me that any place that did not have faith, and every place that was deep in skepticism, unbelief and offense, even Jesus Himself could not do any miracles or mighty works there, except for a few people here and there who were open to receive. Now we know what that feels like.

The only exception has been those who consistently come each week, but we can tell that even they are growing weary in waiting for something to change. This is where the whole validity of our calling and purpose gets challenged and questioned. I know this because we went through it in St. Louis. Just before the ministry began to grow, we lost a wave of people who were tired of waiting for things to change.

I know these faith steps should be working, but it seems that HERE, the atmosphere is filled with people don’t seem to want it. They seem to prefer to be where they are lost in a crowd and unaccountable to anyone. They prefer to live searching for the next thrill and the next feel good session. (This applies to people in and out of the Kingdom of God.)

Urban Life Church is like the exercise class that you must attend in order to become fit for Kingdom service. If a person just wants sweets and desserts, playing around and games all the time, this isn’t the place.

I recall that our sister DeVata told us that we are a special force unit. She mentioned that very few people can last through the training to become a part of such a unit. Some have even lost their lives in training. I guess that’s the part that is discouraging. I realize that we are still in training and everyone won't make it that attends Urban Life Church. The past five years haven’t even been the war yet. I can say this because I know what it is like to REALLY be in the war.

This past weekend was very hard on my family. It was tough, yet well worth it. I find myself guiding them through an aspect of the SPECIAL FORCE TRAINING that involves sacrificing your time and energy at a whole new level. We ministered in Lancaster Saturday morning, and drove back to Harrisburg, set up everything again, and ministered Saturday night. The whole day was taken and we were wiped out.
IT WAS AN IMPORTANT TEST to see where my family really is in the process.

Weekends are very valuable when you’re a bi-vocational pastor, but we don’t belong to ourselves, so we went for it. I’m very proud of my wife, sons, and mother in law (love). They were real troopers.

I can recall the REAL war meaning, the windows being broken out of my vehicle on several occasions, our home being burglarized, having the police show up at our door because we had been accused of harboring a runaway, rushing my son to the hospital because of asthma attacks, burying my brother, comforting a teenager after their baby died, fighting city hall’s attempts to shut down the ministry, being deeply, deeply wounded by church members and leaders (yet refusing to quit), and countless sleepless nights because of demonic visitations.

We’ve had some tough stuff to happen in Harrisburg, but we have been out of the front lines of the REAL WAR, for a long time. Right now, it’s very difficult to obtain and maintain a small group of people for the battle that is yet to come.

So I’m just waiting before the Lord during this season.