1-24-2011 Merry Christmas, We are Getting Ready to Go!!!
There is so much to be thankful for this Christmas. This is our first Christmas back in New England in eight years. When we left Somerset, MA in August of 2004, I had no idea what would become of our family, only that I wanted to do Christian ministry in Fall River, MA. God has seen fit to bring us back. The path is definitely one I would not ask for any of you, and yet for most Christians it must happen.
Suffering is a part of the Christian heritage. Remember for all eternity we will continue to see the holes in Jesus hands (John 20:27). First he had to break us. As many of you know we went through a season, where life was horrific and downright unfair….. so we thought. Sometimes God can do more in your life when he has you alone than he can when you are surrounded by favorable circumstances. The bible describes God’s word as cuttting, sharp,piercing, and discerning. (Hebrews 4:12. It goes on to say in Hebrews 4:13-16-And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.
This is the God I have come to know and yearn for others to see. You are not hidden from his sight. He knows everything about you from the number of hairs on your head, to the thoughts and intentions that no one else ever gets the opportunity to hear!!! A God who can be approached, CAN sympathize, ‘even if I fail you, he won’t', and wants to use your life for his glory!!
In other words, God has to grab hold of YOU, not what others see in you but the real you. This is found in the deepest darkest recesses of your inner being, whether you call it your heart, soul, spirit, mind… It is the painful path, the narrow path that we all must travel. While Jesus suffered unjustly, there was a reason for this. It was for the unjust (Romans 3:26).
I have prayed that God would open a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ (Colossians 4:3). He has recently done this. There is a place in the city of Fall River called “Corky Row”. I get a little nervous being there on my own sometimes. It has been notoriously known as the roughest place in the city to live. My grandparents and parents lived there in the 1940′s and 1950′s. They lived in an apartment on the corner of Third and Morgan. it is no longer there, but the memories remain of walking down to Al’s Variety which to this day is.
I’m an outsider, and yet God wants me and those he sends to our small gathering to love and embrace this place. I am sure there are many that are looking for hope and community just like we are. I want many to be an insider!!! The Apostle Paul spoke of a WIDE door for ministry- “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries”. (1Co 16:9). I’m sure there are those who may not identify or may not want to identify with people who have had to struggle. If you’ve been around me long enough, I pray this is not you.
It’s easy to sit and hang out with people you are comfortable with, but is that really the mission of God. I mean Jesus who was perfect and in perfect fellowship with his Father and the Holy Spirit, came from perfect heaven to hang out with a bunch of dirt (thats you and Iwith a soul), who continue to sin daily, who often blame God, and often are indifferent to the ones we love MOST. We often have an inflated view of ourselves, and yet in the scriptures I listed above, God KNOWS who we truly are. And inspite of ourselves he has chosen many to put into service for his glory (Romans 11:36).
We will be discussing this Tuesday how we can start to make friends with those in Corky Row. We hope to start doing services in February. There is a Spanish Pastor willing to share his church with us. It’s on the corner of Fifth and Morgan. You might miss it because it doesn’t have a banner flying in front, (has a couple of bullet holes on the side….. just kidding)BUT it is a church and God is using it to build his kingdom.
In the last book of the bible, there is a place where John speaks of an open door. John is speaking to the Church of Philadelphia (ironic huh, the city of brotherly love) and says in Revelation 3:8- ”I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name”. The same God who had spoken to John about the church in Philadelphia has opened a similar door for Redemption Fellowship in the city. He also said NO ONE can shut it. Pretty powerful huh!! It may not look like a church on the outside, (it was a former bar, closed down for a murder some years back), but God has seen fit to redeem this place for his glory.
My question is, are you up for the task, or do you want to play it safe. I have lot’s of friends who claimed to be reformed, believe in God’s sovereignty, and yet ministry in the city is TOO risky. I hope this isn’t you and I pray you consider using your giftedness for the glory of God. We will need lots of help. Lots of resources and EVEN money.
Starting in January, I need to speak to people of our plight. It is real, and it is possible to change this place and bring hope if only people will get involved with their time, treasure, and talent. Hope and salvation happens for a person when they turn from their sins, repent of them and trust alone in the perfect life of Jesus. It happens like this. 1-Jesus lived the perfect life we couldnt live to appease God who required all of mankind to have a perfect standing (no sin). So Jesus does for man what man can’t do on their own (live perfectly). 2-Then when Jesus died on the cross, the sins of those who would trust in Jesus were placed on him so that we (those who repent)would no longer be seen by God as sinners. THE GREAT EXCHANGE TAKES PLACE. 3-While our sins are placed on Jesus, his perfection is imputed or granted to us. Now God sees those who have trusted alone in Jesus as having a righteousness that is acceptable in his sight. It’s not mine to claim or give away!! Remember Jesus will judge us all some day (Acts 10:42, 2 Tim 4:1,1 Peter 4:5) and this is what we need to be in right standing with God, HIS righteousness.
If you are not involved in a local church or feel stagnant because their is no place for you to serve, please consider coming Tuesday. God doesn’t want you sitting in a pew, but being part of growing his kingdom. Your voice can count here, and God wants you to be active in discipling other people. Are you being discipled? Are you discipling others? Isn’t the great commission involve discipling (Matthew 28:19)? The command is to MAKE disciples. We aim to do that here in the upcoming months. My prayer is that all of us get out of the pews and start impacting our local church and community.
God bless you all and have an amazing Christmas!!