Saturday, November 8, 2014

Swinging for Fresno - Part 8/8

This is our last instalment of a story that's been developing in our lives.  If you missed part 1, click here.  For part 2, click here.  For part 3, click here.  For part 4, click here.  For part 5, click here.  For part 6, click here.  Part 7, click here.

It's our story.
It's the story that has slowly emerged in our lives over the last 11 months.
We hope you are encouraged by it.

If you want to hear our whole story listen to this podcast (33 minutes) of us telling our story to our church congregation.

Swinging for Fresno

Forgive the baseball analogy but as a family we are stepping up to the plate.  God threw us a curve ball and we are swinging.  It’s the swinging that’s the hardest – it represents major changes in our lives: financially now as donor supported missionaries, relationally now as replants into Fresno, geographically now as replants to the U.S., and vocationally as church planters with a dream for neighborhood focused churches across Fresno.

This wasn’t the pitch we were expecting.  But we are excited to swing.  We WANT to swing.  We want to see God put himself on display through our lives.  It doesn’t guarantee success but it guarantees obedience.  We want to obey.   

The other day Elizabeth and I were walking home from the park holding hands.  I looked down at her and said, “Elizabeth, why do you think we are moving to Fresno?”   Without hesitation she looked up and said, “Daddy, Jesus wants us to love a neighborhood”.  She gets it. 

A few days ago I asked Josiah (2.5 years old) why he thought we were moving into the Jackson Neighborhood.  He thought about it for some time while he wiggled his feet and shifted his eyes back and forth across the horizon.  Suddenly his eyes and feet were still.  He said, “Because people need Jesus or they will be lost, Daddy.”   He gets it, too. 

Psalm 8 says, “from the lips of children and infants He’s ordained praise.”  I have to believe that God has been preparing our kids to swing.

We want to thank you for following our story the last 8 days. So many of you  have sent personal messages and had words of encouragement.  Thank you! 

We are leaving Vancouver on January 10th and planning on taking the month of February to get settled into the neighborhood and rediscover Fresno.  We’d love to reconnect with any of you Fresnans who have read our blog!

We are praying every day that the Jackson Neighborhood become a spiritually vibrant neighborhood, transformed by the love of Jesus, and extending His kingdom in our neighborhood, city, and around the world.

We are swinging for Fresno. 

What is God inviting you to swing for?


Friday, November 7, 2014

The cost of saying yes to Jesus - Part 7/8

Tomorrow we are going to finish telling a story that's been developing in our lives.  If you missed part 1, click here.  For part 2, click here.  For part 3, click here.  For part 4, click here.  For part 5, click here.  For part 6, click here.

It's our story.
It's the story that has slowly emerged in our lives over the last 11 months.
We hope you are encouraged by it.

If you don't want to wait another day for its conclusion….you can listen to this podcast (33 minutes) of us telling our story to our church congregation.


The weight of vision was growing within us and the weight of responsibility grew along with it.  At some point, you need to start to ask the people around you, “Do you think I am called to this?  Is what I am dreaming the Lord’s vision?”   We started to ask the people around us what they thought.  We asked mentors, friends, family, and our bosses.  They all said the same thing:  We think Jesus is calling you to this. 

That’s when the fear set in.

Never in my life have I dealt with anxiety.  I’ve always had sympathy for people that do….but for the first time I was experiencing it.  About 50 percent of my day (and much of the night) was filled with restless anxiety – it felt like coffee jitters of the heart.

I thought: The vision is bigger than our capacity.  The vision requires other visionaries and passionate leaders than us.  And, if my salary ends, how will I support my family? 

Money worries -- Those were the toughest.  I read scripture – birds, daffodils, etc. etc. etc. Nothing put me at ease.  I learned pretty quick that I don’t really trust God fully.  I prayed, “God, please teach me to trust you.”  He would soon answer me.

We were driving in the car on a long road trip in July.  Heidi and I sat in the front seat quietly watching the road in front of us as our kids watched a movie in the back seat through their headphones.  I found myself driving distracted.  I couldn’t trust God.  I didn’t know how he was going to take care of our family if we said yes to following him to California.  I knew exactly how much it cost for a family of 5 to live in Fresno and pay your bills.   Friends and missionaries had opened their excel documents and showed us exactly how much things cost a family of our size.  For life and ministry, $5000 monthly would cover it all with a tad left over for savings if the car broke down.  I thought about that number 5000.  I said to myself, “It’s impossible.  The people we know are all in ministry.  God can’t possibly give us that much on a monthly basis.”  I turned to Heidi to break the silence between us and said, “Heidi, do you think God can really give us 5000 dollars?”  The word 5000 had just rolled off my tongue and Elizabeth pulled off her headphones and from the back seat yelled up saying, “Daddy, can you read that story of Jesus feeding the 5000?”.  I was stunned.  She has never asked for that story before and she couldn’t hear my question to Heidi through her headphones.  My heart raced…..I knew God was about to speak to me.  Heidi pulled out the kids book and began to read that story from Matthew 14.  It was like every time that word 5000 was spoken in that story God was saying to me, “Joseph, if I can feed those 5000 hungry people with 5 loaves and 2 fish….do you think I can feed your family of 5?”    

The only answer is, “yes”.  So that day, as we drove, in my heart I said to the Lord.  Yes.”   

Since then, I’ve been learning to trust Him.  I am much less anxious and I see this as growth in my own life.  I am learning to trust him. 

It became clear that if we were going to say yes to this Call from God, it was going to cost us:  financially (a fixed salary), emotionally (leaving our home & friends), and spiritually (leaving our Church). 

I’m not really sure when we decided that we were going to follow through.  I think we just realized that we loved God too much to say no. 

Someone asked us in August how we were doing.  We turned to John 12:27 which reads, “Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

The cost of saying yes to Jesus puts God on display in our lives. 

We had to say yes.
We were choosing to say, yes.


Part 8 (tomorrow) – “What’s your Fresno?”


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Learning to Love it Local: a church for the neighborhood - Part 6/8

For the next 3 days, we are going to tell our faithful readers a story.  If you missed part 1, click here.  For part 2, click here.  For part 3, click here.  For part 4, click here.  For part 5, click here.

It's our story.
It's the story that has slowly emerged in our lives over the last 11 months.
We hope you are encouraged by it.

If you don't want to wait for 3 more days….you can listen to this podcast (33 minutes) of us telling our story to our church congregation.


Part 6 - Learning to Love it Local – a church for the neighborhood

We said yesterday to be careful what you dream about because within your dreams may be God’s dream for you.  In the months which followed we began to talk about our own stories – Joe’s, of a kid whose visionary parents moved their family to the highest crime, lowest income neighborhood in Fresno to love their neighbors and to pursue Jesus’ plan for restoration in the Lowell neighborhood, in Fresno, and in cities all over the world.  We remembered Heidi’s story – a story of a kid who grew up under the care of parents who were totally committed to Jesus, who didn’t lead hypocritical lives, who loved their neighbors in practical ways and were committed to leadership in their church.   

Our dreams and prayers centered on the themes of neighborhood, leadership, and church.  We found ourselves getting excited.  We didn’t have plans to move at this point…..We just began to experience joy.  In fact, it was good for our marriage.  Our prayers, our shared dependance on God, our visioning was drawing us together in a new way.  

We started to ask ourselves questions like, “We’d never want to pastor a church in a neighborhood we didn’t live.  What neighborhood would we live in?”

We began to imagine a church that requires itself to get entangled with the neighborhood. A church that “loves it local” and invites imagination for how to announce Jesus' incredible message. A church that’s about family and local community – a church that isn't above its neighborhood, but a church of its neighborhood. We dreampt of a church that was the incarnate faithful presence of Jesus and called to demonstrate the gospel by serving the neighborhood – a church called to dwell beside its neighbors because that's what Jesus, our Emmanual (God with us), did for us.

Jesus says, "Love your neighbor" … but in my life I’ve often neglected to take this as a practical and geographical suggestion. As a church, if Heidi and I are to love our neighbor, what if we started right next door, with our actual neighbors? ... with the elementary school down the street, in collaborating with other churches nearby, with the park or community center down the street, and the businesses around the corner?

In our life we’ve often disentangled ourselves from a sense of place or neighbourhood or haven’t been present to our neighbors to begin with.  The arc of Scripture says, “get entangled.”  As we dreampt and prayed, we were sensing God’s delight and his Joy.  Something about this idea (prayer?)….excited us.

But what neighborhood would we serve by planting a church?  We didn’t desire to plant a neighborhood church in a neighborhood we didn’t live in.  So what about the neighborhood my brother  and his wife live, love and serve – a neighbourhood in which we too own a home.  Does the Jackson neighborhood (1st to 11th, Ventura to Tulare) have a Church for the neighborhood within it’s geography. No. Are there people there that are seeking it’s flourishing already. Yes, many.  Maybe we could join them!

"Lord, is this you?  Are we to do this? We sense our own excitement and are experiencing joy.  Is this your joy?"     

We were soon to hear God's answer to that question. 


Part 7 (tomorrow) - The cost of saying yes to God


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