As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”
When you read God’s Word as given to us in the Scriptures, how do you imagine God’s tone? Do you envision him as harsh, impatient, and disappointed by you? Or kind, full of grace, and delighting in you?
One of our pastors at Sojourn Church asks this question frequently and I think it is an important one. The reality is God has revealed himself repeatedly as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Tozer famously said, “What you think about God is the most important thing about you.” So much of my growth in faith, hope, and love these past few months has come from seeking to “unlearn” so many subtle, yet dangerously wrong caricatures of God that have been twisting and clouding my view of and intimacy with God as Father. And when our view of God becomes distorted, the lens through which we see everything else will be off, as well.
We have learned SO much during our time in Louisville, but by far the biggest lesson I have learned (and I pray will never stop learning) is “Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong.”
Beau is just now beginning to learn this song
and his mommy and daddy are just now learning to believe it.
God’s love for us does not ebb and flow. Sally Lloyd Jones describes the Father’s steadfast love to be a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always, and forever” kind of love. He is for us. He is proud of us and he delights to be with us. There is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, not because we aren’t worthy of being condemned, but because Jesus himself took our guilt, our shame, and our death and freely and fully gives us his righteousness, his favor, and his life as if it were ours. He chose us and he won’t change his mind. To say God’s commands are more like invitations to intimacy from Abba instead of orders barked from a slaveowner doesn’t mean God doesn’t take sin seriously or that sin doesn’t have serious consequences or that he doesn’t warn us or discipline us. It’s just that we must learn to see all these things (and all our doubts and inconsistencies) as they are and not how we may have wrongly learned them. This makes all the difference when it comes to our pursuit of joy, obedience, faithfulness, and empowerment for this mission He is letting us take part in.
Like many of you I have tried to carve out intentional time over these last few weeks to look back over 2017 & look ahead into 2018. While we may have grown more than any other season before, this past year was a really difficult one for us personally. And if I am entirely honest, while I am filled with eager anticipation for all 2018 holds, we have a great deal of anxiety and fear of the uncertainty and “bigger-than-us-ness” of all this.
For those of you who know me know that each year, instead of resolutions, I try to listen to what I sense God calling me into for the new year and identify a “theme” for the year. 2017’s was TRUST. Looking back it is startling how faithful God has been to deepen our trust in Him. I believe 2018 God is calling us into greater DEPENDENCE.
My prayer for 2018 is that we will continue to deepen in trusting God’s heart for us- that his commands are invitations to intimacy and his ways are better than mine could ever be. “If you love me, you will obey my commands,” Jesus tells us. I want my affections for my Savior to be so real that nothing he asks of me is too much and no area of my soul is off limits. I think this next season, though, is going to be one of relinquishing control and truly experiencing the Spirit’s power to be strong through our weaknesses and witness God do the impossible in our limitations as we seek to fully surrender ourselves to his control, his leading, and his agenda.
I so often see myself watching my strong-willed, stubborn, and naive 2 year old think he can do so much on his own already. And I also see myself when he becomes frustrated- and sometimes terrified or hurt- when his way doesn’t work or causes him harm.
I’m all for my way until it is exposed to be the toddler-folly that it is.
I pray I can begin to see myself more in more the way Beau runs up to me, his daddy, asking me to fix it or hold him or whatever it is...just trust and dependence after a broken will and a renewed confidence in daddy’s abilities and an embracing the safe place in daddy’s arms.
Dependence is a call to do all The Father has demanded from us, but to do it the way he always intended- to stand up and move forward being held up in his arms, with his wisdom and his power working through us and in spite of us. Let it be so!
Here’s a few specific updates & prayer requests. Thank you for locking arms with us!
We love you!
- Cayla & I received word mid-December that we have officially received the “green light” in our assessment process with The Send Network. As most of you know this has been an intense, but deeply transformative process that started for us early in 2016. While this doesn’t make us “more called or more qualified,” it has been very affirming for us and we are grateful for partnerships that work alongside our sending church to ensure we not only plant a church, but plant healthy churches that last. Hitting this mile stone means we are now able to take our next step, which means we will relocate to Denver on February 1st! We will ship our belongings on January 22nd and we will spend the last several days of January back in East Tennessee before we head West! Denver has been just an idea for so long, so it’s a bit surreal and really exciting to actually be packing boxes (again!!), but this time to actually move to this place!
- The remainder of 2018 will be the next phase of our preparation before we actually “launch” our life together as The Oaks Community Church. Starting in February I will begin serving as a Church Planting Apprentice in partnership with The Send Network and a local church in downtown Denver called The Summit Church (summitdenver.org). The purpose of these relationships is to continue to deepen in our development of what it means to plant healthy churches who are faithfully on mission in a unique cultural urban context like Denver, as well as cultivate kingdom partnerships to truly learn and seek the good of our city. What we’re called to is so much bigger than The Oaks and we long to collaborate in strategic ways with like-minded brothers and sisters who have been in the trenches serving faithfully. God is already at work in this city and we are just seeking to discern where and how and jump into what He’s already up to! Practically this means my family (and our team as they begin to arrive to the city) will be part of the community at The Summit and I will personally be invested in by the leadership there and we will seek to love and serve them for 1 year. Throughout 2018 we will focus on getting to know our city and will seek to deepen relationships, pray like crazy, cast vision, and equip one another on what it means to be on mission to make disciples through The Oaks church in our unique neighborhoods. In February 2019, The Oaks Church will officially “launch” and we will begin multiplying our groups, gathering together, and serving locally and globally in much more intentional and strategic ways. At least that's the plan right now, but we're learning to write our plans in pencil and to keep a really big eraser handy.
- God has absolutely humbled Cay & I as we have watched him write a story that we could’ve never even known to have dreamt up in the way He has built a team around us. Currently we have ~15 adults (and about that many kiddos) who have committed to join us and are at varying stages of finding jobs and planning logistics. One family arrived in the city on December 26th and another will make the trek this month. The rest will likely arrive at various times, but most should be in Denver by the start of the Fall. Please continue to pray for God to work out all the specifics as these people look for work and housing and make the expensive and complex process of relocating 2,000 miles away. Also, keep praying for God to raise up more workers to be sent & for the people in Denver who have yet to find their joy in Jesus who will join our church! I can’t wait for you to meet these awesome people in “guest posts” this year!
- I am excited to let you all know I have accepted a part-time job with The Upstream Collective (theupstreamcollective.org)! This is a huge answer to many prayers- not only for needed income, but also as an opportunity to pursue what I know God has called, burdened, and gifted me to do. Upstream is a nonprofit committed to helping every church be a ‘sending church’ and every Christian to live out their identity as ‘sent ones.’ I am joining their team primarily to help develop and implement a content strategy to help produce and market an intentional online/social media presence, blog & podcast content, and the development of other resources like e-books/books, tools, and papers to help equip the church on mission. May the nations be glad and sing for joy!
- An update on where we are financially: We are at ~$72,000 of our $100,000 annual goal from monthly support. God has also provided ~$15,000 in one-time gifts that have been helping with our vision trips & our team’s moving expenses and will help with start-up costs during our first years in the city. We also have $12,000/annually for our MULTIPLY Fund that is devoted exclusively to our global sending strategy. In 2019 we are anticipating our budget to increase to $250,000/year.
We invite you to invest in what God is doing and will do through The Oaks Church. Will you pray about how God would have you contribute financially? We are trusting God to continue to show himself strong for our remaining needs- and even the needs we don’t know to ask him for yet!