“Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” – Psalm 28:9
How many times have you longed for relief. A dear friend and pastor who was my mentor for years back in Northern Virginia, Bob Donohue, used to tell of a story of a pain he had after a nose surgery. He laid there in agony and just called out in a quiet aching cry, “Relief… relief…” I’ve never gotten this image out of my mind as a picture of where we often are at in our thoughts and fears regarding this or that sorrow or struggle in this life. It feels more like a slow death at times instead of life at all, right?
For my birthday, my wife graciously let me buy myself a toy, and as a thank you I am selling two of my other toys – bought a kayak and am selling my two old lake lifeguard rescue boards. Turned out a net $15 cost for my new toy. Thanks, God! Long story short, the kayak purchase was this week through me driving out toward the coast for a long night to pick up my beat up camouflaged kayak. What a treat to work the next day and then hit the Merced River on my drive home. While floating out there, nearly landing a nice size trout, and then seeing a big beaver swim right in front of my little vessel, I thought of what a relief I felt. I’ve longed to enjoy sitting on the water in the calm of God’s creation ever since my little canoe got stollen from the top of my truck last year. When I’m on the water especially in a river, I think I get a sense of what God’s power is like in our lives, His carrying of us along from season to season and through each season, all with His gracious care.
There is a season ahead for Tuolumne County that I believe will be notably renewing and refreshing. God has helped me to calm my ambitions of church planting and seek to just serve and help wherever He opens doors – to use a worn down but excellent to keep using cliche. I’ve gotten opportunities to encourage and be a part of conversations about renewal and revitalizing the hope in our county in ways I hadn’t while using church planting as a plan. As I’ve put down this hope, God has awakened far more conversations as to the opportunities in this county to reach believers and non-believers with the hope of the Gospel of Christ.
My hope with this blog is to simply document what I’m witnessing that is going on without making anyone too uncomfortable. I hope to share stories of inter-church unity around the Gospel activity such as the hoped for worship nights and the existing worship nights in Tuolumne City, various community efforts to both formally and informally care for one another. Specifically, I hope to document what is happening in Tuolumne proper because I truly believe that out of this poor and broken down little town, God is going to restore the unity and hope we have known at various points in time here. I am not the source in any way of this hope. My wife and I are weak and broken and simply want friendships and joy and useful participation in this amazing community just like anyone else. God is raising us all up to stand and worship and follow hard after Him.
This Friday morning was an exciting reminder of this very theme of unity around Christ. As I hear men sharing about their hopes and desires to grow and change, and as I get a chance to share the same hopes for my life, I see God working humility into our very hearts. He is breaking us down and filling us with His presence and truth, His joy and purity, His courage and discipline to grow and change for His glory. We want nothing more than to see the mighty name of Jesus lifted high across this land, that all men and women might see the truth and know that Jesus Christ is the Way to Heaven and the hope for eternity – as the song you’re thinking of right now speaks of so beautifully. We want to see Jesus lifted HIGH!
Father, Holy GOD, Holy Spirit of God, Holy Son of God and the Savior of our souls, we worship You and are overcome by Your glory, Your reality, Your sweet and kind attention to our every need. Please remind us that so often You show up in our lives through the love of our siblings in Christ. Please build a sweet and kind attention to the needs of one another both between each of us and between local church families. Please help us to become more aware of the believers who live right next to us, literally. Help us to build in each neighborhood a genuine reality of community between believers, and then from that health and warmth, may non-believers come to more and more want to participate in such love and kindness and friendship. In that context, may Your Gospel of forgiveness and repentence/turning from our sin be gently but consistently shared. May our “evangelism” be “God, and make disciples of Jesus”… May our gentleness and kindness be the context in which words about our Savior’s sufficiency show up.
Be our Shepherd God. Forgive us for seeking to control the growth of one another like I have been guilty of plenty of times. Carry us and transform us into a community where Jesus Christ is elevated and recognized as the Great Shepherd. May we know Your voice more and more and return to our First Love more every day in our private and public moments.
We love You and want to grow to believe and love You all the more TOGETHER!
In the righteous and beautiful character and name of Jesus Christ we dwell and live and move and have our being.