Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 - New Year Letter to Timberview

Sunday January 1, 2012

Dear Timberview Nation

To those of you who have been here from the very beginning -- back when then Pastor Matt and his family along with about 30 others launched a new church on the northside of Spokane

to those who remember gathering to worship on campus at Northwest Christian and Whitworth University - who were part of that early team who set up early Sunday morning and tore down after each service

to those who helped locate this particular piece of property - this beautiful 13 acres of woodlands and saw in it the potential to become a fully realized ministry campus

to you who worked long and hard transforming what was then only a partially completed Christian retreat into a fully functioning church with a usable worship center and kid’s classrooms and kitchen and offices and even bathrooms that work

to all who contributed and sacrificed to add on this amazing worship auditorium and to renovate the older section so they formed a cohesive whole

to all of you who have worshipped and served within and outside these walls
in years or months or weeks past

who cut the grass or shovelled the walks
or held babies on your lap
or led teens on a trip
or made coffee in the kitchen
or led songs of praise
or tweaked sound and lighting boards

whether you have been here all 18 years or the past 18 months or just 18 days
blessings to you

grace and peace to you on this special day - the first of 2012.
I gladly follow in the footsteps the new testament letters in thanking God for each of you.

I am particularly thankful for those of you who have partnered with us in this ministry over the course of the past 4 years.

Many of you watched as your favorite and in some cases only pastor was selected by his peers to become an overseer - a bishop - and as such was no longer available to be your pastor. You felt a sense of loss - but you stuck it out.

You were also the ones who welcomed your new pastor - some unknown Canadian guy and his energetic wife from a big church out east who largely unfamiliar with the culture and history of your region, your community and your church family. But you helped us settle in and you hung in here.
And somehow -- by the grace of God -- he has made it work.
And for that we are all thankful!

I also write this to those of you who over these past four years have found a new spiritual home - a church family and sense of community.

Many of you have come to faith in Jesus here and feel more fully alive than ever before. Bless you.

Some were baptized right here in this very room.
You came up out of that fiberglass tank dripping wet for God to the cheers and applause of your spiritual tribe - as we celebrated your new life in Christ

Some are brand new among us and you already feel at home. I thank God for you too.

Many of you know that I’m pretty connected to the electronic media. I’m very comfortable emailing, tweeting, texting, or messaging, but there is something powerful about a well written letter. If only I could write one.

It takes a certain craft to get a letter right.
You spend time laboring over every word
crafting the sentences and paragraphs
searching for just the right word and turn of phrase.

If there ever was such a letter to emulate it would be the one the apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi.

Philippians 1:3-6 says this:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

or as the Contemporary English Version puts it

Every time I think of you, I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy. This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it. God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won't stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.

I love that.

We thank God for each other -- I certainly thank Him for you.
We pray for one another -- I am committed to pray for you.
We partner in ministry with God and each another -- I am blessed by my partnership with you.

Looking back over the past year I can truly say with the Apostle Paul that it has been a privilege to pray for and partner with you in this mission as a church family.

Together under God we are partners in a holy mission
we are team mates in a heavenly cause
we are brothers and sisters in a forever family
We are partners in the gospel.
How cool it that?

Every time you show up to clean up the grounds and it takes longer than we expected and we’re feeling achy and tired
Each week when you practice long and hard to lead worship

Every time you prayerfully prepare a lesson for a classroom full of high energy grade school kids
or you show up and speak up in your small group gathering
you are not just raking or planning or praying or sharing
you are participating in the gospel.

We’re playing together on God’s team.

We are sharing in something holy and sacred and mysterious - bigger than any one of us
We are partnering in the building up
of a God honoring
life transforming
biblically functioning
church community

In 2011 -- thank God for how he worked in and through us.

Like the way we began the year on our knees - last January.
Beginning each calendar year with a week of prayer has been a God-led spiritual adventure for us as a church. It was good for us individually and collectively.
So let’s do it again next week.

I thank God every time I remember the way our partnership touched and changed lives.

I remember with joy - what God did last February when our staff put our heads together and cooked up our first ever all church Ash Wednesday service.
We worked - but way better than that - God worked.
And when it came together on that Wednesday night God’s presence was palpable.

I remember Brenna Sloan’s soul-stirring call and response prayer
I remember sensed the quiet beauty of that deeply meaningful communion time
Best of all - I remember how powerfully present God was in those moments as we ventured out of our typical evangelical comfort zone, and received the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of those who came forward. We all knew that God was in the house.

He turned a moment that what might have been somewhat awkward - into something precious and holy and sacred - just like we’d hoped - only better.

I remember the joy-filled energy that was in this place a few weeks later on Celtic Sunday.

Instead of celebrating the Celtic Way in typical style with fiddles, tin pipes and bondran drums this room came alive with the skirl of bagpipes. I still smile at the memory of how we sang Amazing Grace that day with such verve and energy.

Those unscripted holy moments at Jesus’ feet are a great reminder that sometimes God chooses to do a new thing, in a new way by taking us to new places in our worship. So I thank God for every unexpected God-filled Spirit led moment along the way.

And then there was last Easter. That was quite a partnership.

You took risks inviting neighbors family and friends
I got to take the risk of asking our friends at Land Expressions to donate four large flat rocks to use in our closing prayer time. I still remember the puzzled look on the owner’s face when I explained the plan.

But to his credit - he said yes. And Tony Singleton and Rick Giles and a bunch of strong guys wrestled those rocks in place here at the front of this room.

Then came Easter. And in First service no one responded to the invitation.

Truth be told - in that moment humanly speaking - I felt like something of a failure. Did I miss a leading from God somewhere?

Then I got to watch with tears welling in my eyes at the close of second service when that long line of spiritually hungry men and women, couples and teens and entire families formed down the aisle. Praying over dozens of spiritual seekers, one or two or more at a time, was indeed a holy moment I will never forget.

That holy moment was a perfect example of what God meant when his word said that we get to partner in the gospel. Everything that happened that day was a result of our partnership.

Because you made the ask - this place was filled with spiritually open people.
Because others stepped up and served on the welcome team and the coffee team and the media team and the worship team, our friends felt welcome.

Because you prayed and worked together the moment was prepared for God, he then did what only he could do. He did drew the hearts of dozens of seeking people to Himself.

Another gospel partnership happened around here in June when we went “Outside the Walls” to demonstrate the love of God to our community in practical ways. “Outside the Walls” has become far more than a semi-annual event it is who we are.

Given the poverty, despair and deep need in this broken world of ours, some call it God-forsaken. Timberview is here to prove it’s not.

God so loved this world that sent his one and only son for it.
And when Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven he sent his Holy Spirit into this world through his people -- in us.

So now, here we are on the northside of Spokane at the turning of the year from 2011 to 2012, sent with a mission from God. Share his love.

“Outside the Walls” is one important way we do that.
So this past June we got to reach across racial divides with love and generosity
we got to serve the economically oppressed with kindness
we got feed a hot breakfast to hungry people at Citygate
we got to wash cars for free to an interesting assortment of our astonished neighbors

One of the greatest blessings of all was to have the director of the Martin Luther King Jr Community Center - Freda Gandy - came in person to our services the next Sunday and express her deep thanks.
I love it when a plan comes together - God’s plan.

Best of all the serving spirit that is at the heart of “Outside the Walls” has spread far beyond one weekend in the spring.

All year long we’ve been partnering in the gospel by finding more and better ways to demonstrate God’s love.

Teen and kids and small groups regularly host parties and provide services for senior citizens.
We regularly take hot chocolate to the homeless through our young adult “Remnant” ministry.
We consistently package and pay for weekend lunches for local elementary school kids through the Back-snack program.
We gather flip-flops - hundred of flip-flops and stretchy gloves to show love to street kids and hopefully help somebody escape the ugly slavery of the modern sex trade.

We get to do all this and more.
We don’t have to - serve and help and love - we get to.

And it wasn’t just outside these walls that God did some amazing things.
Thanks to the dedication of some selfless servants, God also did his wonderful life-changing work - in here.

We partner in the gospel every time one of us loves and holds some squirmy 4 year old on your lap
and when one of us puts our arm around the shoulder of a growing teenager looking to belong
or we challenge a young adult to honor God
or we support a healthy marriage - or nurture a hurting one

In 2011 Timberview became even more unleashed in our service to God and each other.

Together - we created new partnerships
we touched new families
we welcomed new spiritual seekers
we enfolded new Jesus followers
Thank God!

Together we did it! Together under God - he did it!

We built a church among the downtrodden Paiwan Tribe in Taiwan
We supported our brave partners in China who risk everything all the time to follow Jesus
We funded church planters in the strife torn nations of Egypt and Jordan and Iraq
We helped sustain the amazing work God is up to in India - planting new churches every day
We did it together, under God, as partners in the gospel

That’s why our leadership board went together to serve the struggling Free Methodist Church in Walla Walla - painting walls, reorganizing a community kitchen, landscaping the yard - in Jesus’ name.

In recent weeks we gave Thanksgiving baskets to dozens of families in need
and we supplied every gift requested through the “Tree of Sharing” program
and we provided bundles of Christmas gifts and baskets for every family we heard about that needed help in the holidays.
Thank God - we got to partner in the gospel together.

So looking ahead into this brand new year called 2012 - what can we except -- Lord do it again.
In fact Lord would you please do it even more!

“Every time I think of you - Timberview - I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers - Timberview - it makes me happy. This is because you - Timberview - have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it.

God is the one who began this good work in us - Timberview - and I am certain that he won't stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.

So thank you my partners
Thank you for sharing in the gospel.
Thank you for living it out.
Thank you for every act of kindness.

Thanks too for every encouraging note or tweet or text or email
for every generous donation
for every act of service
for every risky invitation.
Thanks partners.

None of what happened could have happened without you.

Can you believe we get to do it again - together - in the next 12 months?
I am convinced that under God and by his grace, even better days are ahead for us as his children.
I don’t mean to forecast all sunshine and no clouds - I wish I could but in good conscience I can’t.

But I can predict that the same God who walked with us through the hard times last year and the year before that and the year before that - is not about to leave us nor forsake us. Aren’t you glad?

The same God who has helped so many of us through dark times, will once more see us through the shadows.

Those to those of us who have been through or are in deep grief
or who have lost a job
or are enduring illness
or are struggling with a sense of personal betrayal
remember God is still with us.
He isn’t going anywhere.

Even in life’s mess
Even in the pain
His promise endures - I will not leave you nor forsake you.

Many of us have found that our wounds have made us more sensitive to the pain of others.
Our struggles have taught us to trust even when we cannot feel or see God’s hand.
Our defeats have made us more desperate for the God for whom nothing is impossible.

So let’s move forward into whatever lies ahead trusting in the goodness of our Senior Partner.
Let’s advance in faith knowing exactly who our real Leader is and who he is not.

Timberview has never been a church build on some kind of a personality cult of one particular leader or another. Relevant yes - hipster no.

So we move forward in faith.
Knowing that even if we endure hard times together God will indeed see us through.
This is His church!

Jesus is with us and will be no matter how dark or foreboding it gets,
joy comes in the morning
It may feel like Friday but Sunday’s Comin’

And maybe best of all I look forward to serving in partnership with you.
Especially with Chris and Pete and Karen and Cathey and Kathryn
and each person on our leadership board
and every one who serves kids and teenagers and young adults
and all of us who give our hard earned money
and our valuable time
and our best gifts of service
and in particular my dear devoted partner in life and in ministry - Nancy.

We get to do this.
We get to do this .

We get to go together on this new venture of faith out into the unknown, the unexplored, the holy wild of God! We get to get there with God.

And he will go before us and lead us.
In the laughing
in the crying
in sharing
in the serving
and the celebrating
he will be with us.

So I write this to all of us who stand here at the edge of our next chapter together in faith.
May this new year be so alive with the presence of Christ in us, that being part of this church fellowship makes our hearts beat fast and our hair blow back and our faith stand on tip toe, with holy anticipation for what God is going to do next.

May the adventure of 2012, include more
bringing friends,
giving money,
joining serving teams
participating in a small group
getting more involved.
practicing hope.
following Jesus.

As we do - may our Senior Partner -- take all that and making miracles happen.

Jesus Christ really is alive. And we are His Church.

He is still at work, healing people and liberating people and giving new life.
There is mission here, a cause, a purpose within these walls and beyond. We know it!
So we go in faith together to embrace it.

Let us begin this holy adventure called 2012 together with every person presently part of our congregation becoming even more engaged with the mission God has given us.

Timberview has been called by God to our own unique path. We have our own particular DNA and we must be true to it, or we will lose something vital about who we are, and why God brought us together.

We may face challenges but we will not give up in fear instead we will move forward in faith.
After all - we are people of faith.

Faith defines us - now that we know Jesus is alive and well.
Now that we’ve you've leaned over and looked into the empty tomb and ran huffing and puffing to tell our friends, insisting in between breaths, 'He isn't in there - He is Risen!’
No - fear is no longer the game we're playing. Faith is

We've been seized by hope.
And hope has it's own rules.

So the truth is that moving into 2012 - we're just getting started.
The past and the present and the future meld into one great eternal now
and we understand in that moment what Jesus was talking about when he said that he came to give us life to the full.

Jesus came to give us life
that is fully alive
really alive
abundantly alive
eternally alive

So I can’t wait to see where God takes us. But I want to go with you and with God.

So it is my joy to write these words to you - my dear friends and partners in the gospel
with a heart full of thanks for all God has done
and with a heart full of dreams for all the He will do.

Grace and peace to you - through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother

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