Why post a photo of a burned down building and title this post as I have?
The photo is of one of the structures lost in the 2013 Rim Fire that came dangerously near to Tuolumne City. Yesterday I was encouraged by seeing the foundation being restored of the old Carpentry Shop in Tuolumne City (just over 1,800 population, very special little historic town only minutes from the neighborhood where I grew up – Ponderosa Hills). Dave Atkins Sr owned and labored hard in this dear old building for decades here in Tuolumne County. I remember him building some of the cabinets in my childhood home and in the home where my parents live now. He of course was always my reminder of what Jesus must have been like while physically walking this earth, a calm carpenter, kind, gentle, patient, attentive to the details of your needs and desires, and a friend; beautifully, Dave is a godly brother in Christ. His son, Dave Atkins, is now one of the pastors at Calvary Chapel, Sonora. He’s a good friend, and I’m so grateful to know him in this labor of love here in Tuolumne County where I truly believe God is doing some amazing work of revitalization and renewal spiritually and morally.
Seeing the foundation of this building being restored under the ownership and management of the Delgado family is so exciting. I stood and discussed hopes for this little town of Tuolumne City with an old friend, Jerry Dean. Jerry has been around the block in this town, witnessing a great deal of the efforts to reach this community for Christ. He told me even of his and his friends’ efforts to start outreaches and demonstrate God’s love through the years to the residents of this community.
By no means do I pretend to know the exact future of this old carpentry warehouse, but it does show signs of being a wonderful context for believers to show hospitality to one another and to the lost, to strike up conversation and mingle, to worship God together. Jerry and I talked about how it could easily become a place of worship one day, or it could be a place where believers from all the different churches in the community mingle and share Christ with one another and the lost. Either way, it’s very exciting to see this labor of love, an intentional effort to create contexts for Christ to be shared in common contexts, places where people live, showing the hope of our Savior to whomever we encounter day-to-day.
As the foundations of a work like this are built, it can be easy to question, caution, evaluate, criticize, or doubt what God may be up to. My challenge to all of us in our county is simply to honor one another, even seek to out-do one another in showing honor, between churches, between siblings in Christ. Whatever the future of this building might be, what is certain is that there is an under-current of families in Tuolumne City longing to see renewal in Christ among believers, unity around the Gospel of Christ, and a more united effort of showing the love of Christ to this little town’s inhabitants. At this news, all of us can shout for joy, quite literally! Ezra 3 and 4 are very challenging for us and exhilarating! In Ezra 4 we see the challenges to the courage of God’s people, challenging a labor to awaken worship to God. In Ezra 3 however, we see God’s people uniting to “shout with a great shout when they praised the Lord”!
Additionally, the older and wiser, like my friend Jerry Dean, “wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid”. How do we take this? We should all together shout and weep with a little volume and passion as we see God’s amazing work of reviving and renewing our community.
I’ll make it clear here that I don’t think this is just for little Tuolumne City. There is something brewing under-ground around here. Young singles and couples are talking enthusiastically about God again in this county. That just doesn’t happen easily in our culture. That is often a sign that God has something up His sleeve, something worth jumping into and participating in as a community.
God seems to be placing a desire to see more home contexts where believers are mingling and growing together, which spills over into healthier local churches and possible more local churches. Either way, it leads to increased health among believers and less critical spiritedness toward each other and toward reaching out in love and Gospel presentation to the lost.
Old, young, and everyone in between… It also seems evident that all generations are getting excited about what God is doing together. I’m interviewing and meeting folks whom I’ve known for years who have prayed and labored in love here in this county for decades, half a century, working tirelessly to see God’s people fed and the lost finding their home in Christ.
Jerry pointed out a beautiful picture for me yesterday. He said that it’s important for everyone serving and laboring to build foundations now to realize that these have been labored on for years and years back. Any “harvest” we all start to see together in the next five to ten years is not just possibly ministry being done more holistically… That’s where I could have gone in my pride, to think it’s ministry being done “better”… Rather, it’s simply GOD AT WORK THROUGH HIS CHILDREN. All glory goes to God, friends! What a wonder, to all together bend our knees and worship the Living God, Who gets all the credit for renewal and revival now matter how small or great it may appear to be happening. It’s all amazing! Because it’s God’s work.
May the sound of shouting and weeping increasingly be heard here, as we praise and thank our God for showing us love in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. May our shouts and weeping ever increase as we see the foundations restored throughout our county, our church buildings full but also our homes and parks, full of God’s children being centered by Jesus Christ, amazed by His good pleasure being realized in us, His awesome worth being prized by us as His people.