Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crippled by Fear

I continued my reading this week in 1 Samuel at chapter 17, and something caught my attention as I was reading.  Goliath, the Philistine giant, comes out and shouts defiance before the armies of Israel.  The part that caught my attention is found in 1 Samuel 17:11 and 16.  It says, "On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified...For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand." And the Israelites, for forty days, did nothing but shrink back in fear!  It wasn't till David showed up that anything was done about this Philistine who was insulting the armies of the living God.

These two short verses reminded me of how easily the giants in our life can cripple us.  The moment that they appear too big for us to handle, the moment we believe that they are insurmountable, that is the moment that they defeat us and render us ineffective within the kingdom of God.  We must adopt the attitude of David.  We must believe that anything that stands in the way of us accomplishing the will of God is simply an insult to his power and his kingdom mission and vision.  We mustn't allow such things to go unchallenged or unchecked.

We must remember Scriptures like Matthew 19:25-26, John 14:12-14, Romans 8:37-39, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, and 1 John 4:4, just to name a few.  Paul says in Ephesians 1 that God's incomparably great power is available for those who believe.  What do we learn from David?  One thing we ought to learn is that we should never underestimate the power of God within the believer when we need him most!

May you realize the power of God that lies within you!  As a popular Christian author has simply said, "Face your giants!"


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Heart Gazing

"This ole boy...he ain't what he used to be!"  Ha!  That little catch phrase has monopolized my mind and my heart on more than one occasion lately.  Just this last month, I turned another year older.  As with any birthday, it made me think of the days gone by...when I was young, when I had not a care in the world; and, of course, when I was in shape.  Without going into detail, let us just say that this ole boy ain't what he used to be.

Unfortunately we live in a time where everyone, most of the time, is judged by their outer appearance.  In our world, we are only as good as we look.  Our looks make us popular...our looks make us likable...our looks make us marketable.  Things haven't changed all that much.

In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel has gone to meet Jesse and his sons so that he can anoint the one who is going to replace Saul as king over Israel.  Jesse parades his sons in front of Samuel one by one.  Samuel, like many in our world today, falls prey to judging these young men based on their appearance.  As soon as he laid his eyes on Eliab, he just knew (based on what he "saw") that this young man had to be the Lord's anointed.  The Lord's response to Samuel should strike a chord deep within each and every one of us...

"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Be honest with yourself for just a moment!  Have you ever been guilty of judging someone by their appearance?  I think we all have.  All of us, at some point or another, have decided that someone was not worth our time, our money, and/or our energy, because they simply did not look like they could be trusted.  To all of us the Lord would say, "Be careful!  Do not look at the outward appearance, look into the heart."  We should all challenge ourselves to give people a fighting chance.  Before we too quickly dismiss them, we should get to know them...we should get to know their heart.  The thing that scares me...I wonder how many truly great people I have missed out on knowing because I judged them too quickly!

Lord, forgive me for judging others.  Give me the eyes to see people as you see them.  Give me the patience to let them in, and the strength to invest in them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Obedience is Best

Today I began reading in 1 Samuel 15.  Why there you might ask?  Well, I have bee thinking an awful lot about King David; you know, how he is labeled as "a man after God's own heart."  I wanted to spend some time studying his story - looking into the struggles that he faced, the mistakes that he made, the kingdom that he led.  Despite all the pressure that David was under as a king, he still managed to glorify the Lord and inspire a nation.  I just thought it would be interested reading...and who knows, I might even learn something along the way!

Although David is not mentioned until 1 Samuel 16, his story actually begins in chapter 15.  King Saul is given specific instruction by Samuel, a prophet of the Lord.  The Amalekites attacked and "waylaid" the Israelites as they came up from Egypt.  God intended to use King Saul and his armies to punish the Amalekites for their brutality.  To make a long story short, King Saul took matters into his own hands and simply refused to obey the Lord's instructions.  He chose to carry out what parts he wanted, and chose to rationalize his decision for ignoring the other parts he didn't want to carry out.  On the one hand, his rationalizations seem attractive simply because he sold them as sacrifice and worship to the Lord.  On the other hand, it was disobedience to the Lord's instruction - plain and simple.  The Lord's heart was broken and he was grieved that he had ever made Saul king.

Why did the Lord suffer from a broken heart?  The Lord God is trying to save humanity.  He has people like Saul in place to protect and carry out the mission.  As king, Saul has influence and is an example to a nation of people.  His decision to ignore the Lord's instructions revealed his weakness as a leader.  His heart was not complete surrendered to the Lord and his purpose.  That alone was enough for the Lord to remove him as king...removing his influence over a nation of people.  Some might say that was harsh...others might say that was necessary.  Like Saul's heart, people will be divided.

Either way, this got me to thinking - to doing some self reflection.  I am a leader, a pastor, and a teacher; not to mention a husband and a father.  God has called me to this place because he believes I have influence.  With this influence, he will instruct me and use me to inspire others to protect and carry out his mission - redemption of humanity.  It is stories like this that become a sobering reminder of the importance of this mission.  All of which caused me to ask a few questions of myself today.  I thought I would share and challenge you to wrestle with these questions yourself.  The truth is...we are all leaders; whether it is as pastors, parents, employers, friends, etc.  We are all leading someone!

First, where has God called me to lead others in his kingdom mission and vision?

Second, (and very important) am I even truly listening for God's instruction in this important position in which he has placed me?

Third, if and when I hear him, am I listening to his instruction, and can he rely on me to carry it out?

Some important questions for all of us to consider...in my honest opinion.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Journey Lorena's Fourth Gathering

Well, God just continues to bless our work in Lorena, Texas. We are still in the beginning stages of building a launch team. As such, we have still not done any PR or marketing in the area. Anything we have done up to this point has been strictly word of mouth. And still...God continues to send new faces and new energy our way! I am completely humbled at how God works in His people.

Last night we had our 4th gathering in our home at 111 Northern Star. We kicked everything off at 6:00pm. And only about 30 minutes into our evening, I began to look around the room and see that it had filled up rather quickly. We had 45 people in our home last night, all united together to worship the Lord and study from His Word. The crazy thing was that we had at least 7 that were out due to illness or having to work late. In the picture above, you can see how full our living room is at this point.

Our original plan was to spend our time, until November, building our launch team and establishing various ministry teams. We didnt' plan on moving into the school until the first of November. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this plant growing so quickly. As such, we have had to move up our timeline...TWO MONTHS ahead of schedule. We have absolutely no more space in our living room! If we are going to continue to grow, we are going to have to make some adjustments. There are several families that have said, "I have some people that would come and check us out if I invited them, but honestly, where would we put them?" That is a great question ;-)

So, we have entered into an agreement with the High School, and we will be renting the High School Commons, or cafeteria. It is a sizable room that will give us quite a bit of time to grow and continue reaching people in Lorena and the surrounding communities. Last week, I was able to finalize our insurance and set the opening date for our first morning worship service on September 11th, 2011...our new 'soft lauch' date! GOD IS GOOD!

Now this creates some problems, but they are good problems to have. Since we are growing quickly and having to move into the school, we are now in need of items that we were not expecting to buy until middle to late October. So, we could sure use your prayers! Journey Lorena could use some additional funding. If you, or anyone you know, would like to help support the work in Lorena, please contact me by email: cory.journeylorena@gmail.com.

God is working in some amazing ways right before our very eyes. I am so blessed to be a part of this work in Lorena. I am also very blessed that God has sent those that he already has as partners with us in this work. I want to say a huge "THANK YOU" to the following families. They have officially committed to being a part of the Journey Lorena Launch Team! So "Thanks" to:

David and Melissa Middlebrook, Corey and Lindsey Freed, Rick and Gloria Cobb, Mark and Cassie Williams, Scotty and Bobby Jo Wilhelm, Nick and Crystal Radke, and Chad and Rachel Fineski.

I will continue blogging to keep you informed of all that is going on with Journey Lorena! We ask that you would continue to pray for our team; that God would watch over and protect each of us and our marriages and our families. Please continue praying that God would put people in our path who need to hear the story of Jesus. Please continue praying that God would open doors of provision for us as we seek to obtain the things that we need to begin meeting in the school come September 11.

Thanks to all of those who are already financially supporting Journey Lorena. Thanks to all of those who spiritually support us by praying for us on a daily basis. May the Lord shower you with his riches blessings of love, grace, and peace!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Journey Lorena's Third Gathering

I cannot wait till tomorrow! I had to write about our gathering tonight! I am so very excited about what the Lord is doing through Journey Lorena. I wrote briefly just a few weeks back about our first gathering. We had 30 people. It was awesome! Our second gathering was just as great, and we only had 15 people. Three families were all gone on that same weekend. However, they were all back tonight for our third official gathering. ;-)

Tonight was such an amazing experience. All three of those families were back tonight, along with a few new families that we didn't expect. We had a total of 40 people for our gathering tonight. We had three new families that joined us for worship and Bible study for the first time. What made it so very amazing, two of the families that visited announced that they wanted to be a part of our Launch Team...on their very FIRST night! God is so amazingly awesome. The third family hasn't committed yet, but they said they would definitely be back. On top of all of that, two other families from our original first group announced tonight that they were officially "IN" as a part of the Launch Team. This now makes 8 total families on our Launch Team! Wow! God is amazing.

We had a great time in worship tonight! As usual, David Middlebrook, our Worship Pastor, did an amazing job! He put together a great worship set tonight and everyone was engaged. We had a great Bible study from John 5. We all soaked up the fellowship after the Bible study, several families staying for quite some time. The numbers naturally guided our conversation to a vision for the future. If we are going to have 35-40 people on a consistent basis, we really need to consider a bigger space. Can you believe that!? We have only had our third official gathering and we are already talking about outgrowing our living room. Have I mentioned how amazingly awesome God is?

I love what God is doing! I love the people that he has already introduced us to! I love that they are on fire for God, and passionate about His mission! I love that fact that they already have a vision for the future! I love where God has placed me at this time in my life!

I would like to ask that you pray that God keep us focused on His mission. Pray that he gives us a heart for the lost. Pray that he protects our families, our marriages, and our ministries as we proceed with our planting plans. Pray God's richest blessings on Journey Lorena!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

First Journey Lorena Gathering

Well, I promised a detailed description of how our first Journey Lorena gathering went...so...I will deliver!

First of all, I want to take a moment to say a huge "Thank You" to Mark and Cassie Williams for opening up their home as we begin our church plant in Lorena, Tx. Their generosity is overwhelming, and it is a blessing to have them share in this experience.

So, we met in a home for our first official meeting. We asked everyone to be there at 6:00pm, and the fellowship began immediately as everyone began to trickle in. From what I could tell, everyone seemed to connect with one another from the beginning. I saw hugs, handshakes, and many conversations taking place. It didn't take long to notice that we had 30 people gathered together for our first meeting, because the living room was shrinking as people continued to arrive. Out of those 30 people, there must have been about 10-12 kids - looks like a healthy future for Journey Lorena!

We began the evening by letting the kids go outside for some activities, while the adults remained inside. "Thanks" to Gloria and Leslie for volunteering to take care of the kids for the first evening together. The adults discussed the Mission/Vision and Core Values of Journey Lorena. We talked about what kind of church we sought to be, who we sought to reach, and how we hoped to get there. We also discussed John 4:27-42, asking God to give us the eyes of Jesus.

Following our study, we invited the kids back in for our time of worship! David Middlebrook, our Worship Pastor, did a wonderful job leading us in our time of worship. With his guitar on his knee, he lead us in some wonderful songs which helped us focus on Jesus, the one who loves us unconditionally. Great job, David! When the time came, Leslie led us in our thoughts for the Lord's Supper. She fittingly discussed the unity and fellowship of the first century church, focused on a resurrected Christ. A great way to start off Journey Lorena!

As we wound up the evening, it was awesome to see how no one was in a hurry to leave. There was still a lot of fellowship and relationship building taking place. I feel so blessed to be a part of this experience, and I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for Journey Lorena. Thanks to all of our financial partners, and thanks to all of those who are covering Journey Lorena in prayer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Beginnings

Well...to say it has been a while since my last post would be huge understatement. However, I believe that it is time to try and get back into this whole blogging thing. Why? Well, Leslie and I have recently accepted the call to plant a church in Lorena, Tx just south of Waco. This is just as good a place as any to share stories from our journey in church planting. So, I hope you might enjoy keeping up with us and what God is doing in and through our family.

To begin, we moved the first weekend of June to China Spring, Tx to live (temporarily) with my in-laws while we are trying to close on a house in Lorena, Tx. I will spare you the details of our experience in buying a house - for I do not want to bore you, nor do I desire to relive the frustration. In short, after many headaches we should be closing on Friday morning on our first house!

We have spent the last month making contact with several families, sharing the mission/vision of Journey Lorena, hoping they will become a part of the Launch Team. We also have spent a great deal of time incorporating Journey Lorena and non-profit, obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number, and have now begun the process of securing Tax Exemption Status.

Leslie has begun her new teacher training for her new job at La Vega Junior High within Waco ISD. She found out she has 13 days of training before she begins her new job the second week of August. She feels like school has already started for her!

We are excited about what God is already doing...the doors he has already opened...the contacts we have made...and the blessings we have already received.

Stay tuned, I will share very soon how our first official gathering went in detail. It was amazing!