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This Is Our City

I am in a sermon series right now called “This is our City” I have been thinking about it and dreaming about it for months. Praying about how God could use me and the church he has ask me to shepherd to make greater impact for His Kingdom.

In the meantime, I have been reading books, studying scripture and keeping a close eye on my city and my interactions with it. For some they maybe wouldn’t call my City an actual city compared to other large cities in the US. But Allentown is the fastest growing City in PA and is experiencing growth all around.

This series has been eye opening, gut wrenching and thought provoking. But honestly shouldn’t all series be that way? I started with the scripture found in Deut. 14 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. 28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.

This scripture I have read many times, but new insight popped out at me. God loved community so much from beginning to now, he put a structure in place to care for it. He loved is to much he put “churches” in community to protect it, to care for it. He puts a whole tribe in place to guard community. And if the church operates like it is supposed to then we would need a whole lot less government involvement. And yet, the church hasn’t done a stellar job at times in history of protecting the community and meeting its needs.

The directions are clear on how we are to care for the community and the people in it. First, I should say, I do not have an answer for the crisis on the border. I am not smart enough or educated enough to know how to handle massive amounts of people seeking a fresh start, safety and basic needs of life. And I am in no way making any kind of political statement here, laws and the ability to support this must be in place or people fall through the cracks, children get lost in the shuffle and lives are damaged not helped.

What I do know is that as a Christ Follower, I better be taking care of them, showing them kindness, helping them in any way I can when they show up in my community. That is the church’s job. Maybe it is helping them navigate a broken process or helping them with basic needs or simply being a friend with open heart and open home.

Taking care of the marginalized, the widows, the orphans, I wish it was easy and clean. But it isn’t, it is difficult and messy. Looking at the state of PA alone, over 15,000 children in our foster care system, and over 15,000 churches… what if just one family from each church stepped in… we would take care of every child needing a home in the state of PA.

I love Jesus with all that I am, and sometimes I get it right but often I get it wrong. I love the church, the body of believers called to live out the great commission of Jesus Christ. My eyes have been open of late to things I have never picked up on before. My heart has been broken in fresh ways for the way the world is broken. But if I throw stones at the church, who does that help? No one. It just shows the world that we can’t even get along so why should they be part of it.

A year ago, March, something significant happened in my life. I became a Gigi. Michel’le our beautiful bonus daughter gave birth to our adorable little Nora. Her life was prayed over and for long before she took her first breath. My days with Nora are filled with snuggles, giggles and playing.  Maybe you wonder how this has to do with love our city… Let me explain.

Nora looks a little different than me, I tell everyone she has my eyes and smile. I don’t see her different than me, but that isn’t the reality of the world we interact with. Recently we went to the store together, she had her Starbucks Tea, I had mine (Shhh… don’t tell her mommy!) and I noticed with fresh eyes how people begin to look at us. Some ladies gave me the bless your heart for caring for “that” child look. Others looked away. But then there was a young couple with their little boy, who waved, smiled and interacted with Nora and we stopped and talked. Then as we were leaving a beautiful African American couple stopped and talked to me about my beautiful granddaughter. We exchanged names, information and where we went to church.

I left sad that racism on all sides exist.  I left reflective on how I can be a voice of change. The church I shepherd is 84% white and although it reflects our immediate neighborhood it doesn’t reflect our city. We strive to honor God in our worship not just reflecting just one style or ethic groups. Finding worship music that transcends all races and styles. Looking at the global church and seeing what can be done in multicultural, multi-generational settings. And yet even then, those would still stay, we are just not doing it right or effective or reaching other groups.

I just don’t have the answer, other than my heart is that we find ways to close gaps, heals hearts and be a true representation of the global church of Jesus.

As I continue this Series “This is Our City” my prayer is that it just won’t be four weeks in the year we look at how to make in roads into making a bigger impact on our city. My prayer is that we take seriously how to be the pastors of our neighborhoods, missionaries in our communities and the people that carry the Hope of the world. That one day we will look back and see that walls have been broken down, and God’s kingdom came here as is it in heaven.

I leave you with this quote from the book that I am reading and rereading by Alan Briggs, Staying is the New Going, For God’s work to become tangible, it must become local, invading our everyday thinking and the places we inhabit.

His kingdom comes here…in our city through us!

For the One Percent…

Let me tell you a little bit about a place located in Allentown, PA. It actually sits in Upper Macungie Township. One of the fastest growing townships in PA. Allentown is the fastest growing city in PA. This place has been doing ministry for 102 years in Allentown. (more…)

It’s Just Not Fair…

I was reading this morning the parable of the Vineyard worker found in Matthew 20: 1-16. Jesus is telling the story of a man who owned a vineyard who needed workers. So he went to the marketplace to find workers. He hired them through out the day and promised them all a days wage. (more…)

to trust means less than ideal circumstances….

to trust means less than ideal circumstances….

My word for the year is trust. I should expect circumstances that help me grow in my ability to trust.

And really even though the plans aren’t going like I thought, I still do trust Him. I believe that He has the best in mind for all of us. I don’t doubt Him or His plan.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about my plans vs His plans. And really I believe that the plan that I had laid out was His plan, He just wanted to shake it up a little bit (or a BIG bit.) See my plan did include construction and prayer, just not now.  It did include a makeover for the youth room, just not today. My plan did include prayer, just not on this level.

This is how life goes though. We have hopes, dreams and plans.  God honoring dreams and plans. I know because my life has been filled with such things. And because we are human and only see the right now we make the best plans we can with what information we have. Sometimes we see the death of dreams take place so that better dreams can happen.  But only hindsight shows us those things. In the moment we feel the sting, we mourn the loss, or we question the why?

Here is the key and a question only you can answer… Do you believe God has your best in mind? Do you believe that God really wants what is best for you, your family, your community, your church? And if I am honest, sometimes I just think I know what is best. Only to realize I don’t know what He does.  And then….trust comes in the door. Faith takes root a little deeper… I read a quote by Nancy Willard…

” Live in your roots, not your branches”

I love that. If we live in the roots of our faith, we won’t be blown away when the plans change. Because we are safely secure in the roots of the One who created us, who loves us and has our best in mind.

So the journey of trust continues…

Oops… you just thought you knew what was next…

Have you ever had a really good plan? I mean you knew that it was the best next step and you were prepared to take it?  This year I laid out a plan. I wrote out a calendar. I even shared it with a few others. I knew the plan. I knew the best next strategic plan for our church, for our family and I was so excited about it.  I even prayed over it and about it. I sought counsel! I did all the things you are suppose to do….

Then all of a sudden, the plan isn’t working. Things happened. Big things. Little things. Medium  things… and all of the sudden I don’t know the plan. I know Who is writing the plan and I trust Him, but the plan I had isn’t the plan anymore.

Instead the new uncharted unplanned plan is leading me to intense time of prayer. It is leading me to lead others in a time of spiritual renewal and seeking. Instead the new plan will involve a huge construction project in the middle of Easter Season. In the middle of what I thought I would be doing, I find myself on my knees more and learning to wait in the hallway of unopened doors.  The new plan  requires more faith than perhaps I have ever had. The new plan will ask me to take risk, make big decisions. The new plan will propel me, my family  and my church into the next chapter a little quicker than I thought we would go.

Maybe like me you thought you knew the plan…and like me you find yourself just riding the waves of uncharted territory. I am thankful that even in the middle of the new plan I can rest in Him, Jesus. He is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), is He not? He knows what each chapter looks like from beginning to end, and He laid it all out before I even took my first breath.

So today I fall to my knees a little more frequent. I learn new things about Him and His next step and I throw my plan into the wind….