Friday, February 4, 2011

From My Heart to Yours...

Journal entry 2/2/2011

Tomorrow I will be 56 years old. First I don't know where the time has gone. It seems like yesterday I was young, daring, active and secure. Second, I don't know how many birthdays I have left; only God knows. He has fixed both my boundaries and my times. Third, my heart is heavy this morning - so I unburdened it to the Lord and on paper.

God amazes me. As I grow older He amazes me more and more. First, He created the heavens and their hosts and this earth with all the vegetation, animals, and human beings in six short (24) days. He seemed to be a God of action and moved quickly. Second, He has been administering His purpose for creation between 6 and 10 thousand years now. Is that slow or what? Yes, I know that "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some count slowness, but God is patient toward all the elect [us], not wishing that any of the elect [any] should perish, but that all of the elect [all] should reach repentance." II Peter 3:9, (ESV)

Whether it has been a curse or a blessing I have the capacity to think and act quickly. It is easy for me to rapidly process information and make a decision and then act on that decision. Yes, there has been times I made a decision to quickly and have paid dearly for it. My point is, once I make a decision I am ready to roll, because that is how I roll! It is hard for me to wait around patiently for 6 - 10 thousand years, or really 5 years or so.

There may be a few of my friends, followers, fellow-pastors, and prayer-partners who think I am either unstable or flighty. I moved to Longview, Washington (sorry Longview, Texas) in order to plant a church. This was in February 2005. I had driven to Longview on business and took a liking to this place. Then it seemed God began to break my heart for this community and to give me a burden for it that at times was almost unbearable. So, I did what I, 99 and 44/100% do best - I made a decision and then was ready to go!

God did not open the doors I had expected. I got involved in business and was very busy. I kept thinking God will open the doors and I will walk through them any time now. Then I got involved in a local church teaching the Adult Bible Class and filling the pulpit occasionally. I began to convince myself that I had made a mistake. What do you do? If you are me, you look around, not realizing that God has to re-educate you, re-develop you, and re-make you so that you don't fall into the "cookie-cutter" mold and repeat history.

So, I looked at a number of other areas thinking that maybe God would have me be there. So, I looked at Vancouver, WA; Centrailia, Chehalis, Ryderwood, Toutle, Vader, Winlock, WA; looked at Portland, Gresham, and Scappoose, Oregon. All along, I could not escape the burden for Longview, Washington. I couldn't shake it. I can't shake it even now. If the loan modification isn't successful and we loose our home, one of my daughters has stated that she will take us in, but that is Portland. What of Longview then?

God has been using this past 5 years on the back-side of the desert to break me and train me. I have had ample time to read, meditate, pray, think, and to plan. I am an organizer and planner if nothing else. I have reams of plans, thoughts, goals, statements, lessons, and you name it. Here is how my education has gone.

First, let me say that I don't agree with everything in these books or the what the author has done. I read books like I eat fish, I savor the meat and enjoy it and I eat around the bones, I don't throw away the fish simply because it has bones. Second, don't try this at home. Not everything can be imitated for the sake of imitation with the same results. Trust God. Solomon once said, The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Ecclesiastes 12:11-12, (ESV)

The books that God has brought across my path this past couple of years are as follows:

The Lost Art of Disciple Making by Leroy Eims
The Church That Multiplies by Joel Comiskey
real-life discipleship by Jim Putman (no, I didn't forget to hit shift)
Ready? Edited by John M Bailey, Steve Canter, and Randy Ferguson
The Spirit-Driven Church by Timothy Robnett and Allen Quist
transforming church in Rural America by Shannon O'Dell
Radical by David Platt

I taught a lengthy series in our church in Federal Way, Washington entitled, The Church: An Instrumentation or An Institution? It was my contention or proposition that most evangelical churches, especially in my "association" were really institutions and had lost real effectiveness as an instrument in the hands of God. These books, along with a in-depth devotional study of Acts and the epistles of Paul over the last three years reinforced my conviction. I knew that if God allowed me to plant a work in Longview it would be different than the churches that are here now. Longview has some 56 churches for a population of 35,000. Of course Kelso butts up against Longview with some 12,000 people. Castle Rock and Kalama have another 4,000 people within 15 miles. Cowlitz County has some 100,000 people but for most, Longview would be too far to drive.

Radical is saying things that I have been either teaching or saying for the past five years. Granted I only got the book last night and am barely over half way finished as I write this, but thus far it has put my heart on paper. This is why I want to plant a work here in Longview. This is why I thought maybe God had shut the door here and why I looked elsewhere a few times. God was laying a burden on my heart and giving me a blue-print for something other than the average main-line denominational or evangelical "cookie-cutter" churches that exist.

I don't claim to be anything special. I have no unusual talents, educational triumphs, or even ministerial successes. But I have always been "radical" in my living. I have seemingly always tried to swim against the current. Here is my prayer:

"If I, a poor man, simply by prayer and faith, obtained without asking any individual, the means for establishing and carrying on an Orphan-House [read Longview Bible Church], there would be something which, with the Lord's blessing, might be instrumental in strengthening the faith of the children of God [read members of Longview Bible Church], besides being a testimony to the consciences of the unconverted, of the reality of the things of God. This, then, was the primary reason for establishing the Orphan-House [read Longview Bible Church] The first and primary object of the work was and still is that God might be glorified by the fact, that the orphans [read members] under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith without anyone being asked by me or my fellow-laborers [read: I don't have any fellow-laborers yet] whereby it may be seen, that God is faithful still, and hears prayer still." (George Muller)

Did you get that? Why did Muller start the orphanages? His primary purpose was not to care for orphans, he wanted to live in such a way that it would be evident to all who looked at his life - Christian and non-Christian alike - that God is indeed faithful to provide for his people. He risked his life trusting in the greatness of God, and the end of this life made much of the glory of God.

Do I dare ask God for this same thing? Do I dare think God would give me this same faith? God has certainly put me in the position to see. What kind of fool would want to plant a church with the uncertainty of his home and no financial resources? I want to make much of the glory of God, to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all people and for the glory of God. I want to have faith like this. I want to plant a church that truly carries out the great commission, goes into the hedges, by-ways, and highways, that makes disciples, that makes much of God and His glory, and impacts the community rather than warehousing, isolating, and disinfecting "believers" from the community in costly buildings, whether it be by cost or in maintenance.

Well, Journal here it is, my heart on the eve of this 56th birthday of mine. I am afraid, not of God's capability, but of my faith. Is it strong enough? Is it sufficient? Will it stand the process of being stripped of all that I have and all that I am in order to put my hand to the plow without ever looking back? Does God want another George Muller? 


Lisa said...

First, let me say Happy Birthday dear friend! You share a birthday with my older sister -- she turned 48. :)

Secondly, this post brought me to tears. My heart hurts with yours Brother. I know God is positioning you for "a future and a hope" and that His plans are always greater than we can begin to imagine, but it doesn't make the waiting any less difficult.

Praying for your strength that you will hold on as long as He means for you to.


Cathy M. said...

Happy Birthday, Brother Gregg. May God refresh you on this occasion by affirming His plans for you and granting you fruit to His glory.

You've been a blessing to me over these past few months since I found your blog. (I ordered the book _The Lost Art of Disciple Making_ on your recommendation. We look forward to digging into it when it arrives.

LibbyLibbyLibbyLibbyLibby said...

Happy day late birthday !!!! Happy birthday to you happy birthday to you, happy birthday GREGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy happy happy birthday to YOU!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thought it was your b irthday yesterday, so once again Happy birthday Gregg and many more to come.


Seams Inspired said...

Thank you for sharing your struggles and heart today. You have the strength and courage and faith it takes. God wouldn't place this on your heart if He didn't intend for you to flourish for His sake.

Praying for you.