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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easter is HIS-story

April 25, 2010 a group of 50 or 60 people gathered at the Willis Johns Recreation Center in St. Petersburg, FL as the Launch Team of City on a Hill Church to Possess the Land for Jesus. We anointed the door posts and prayed the prayer of faith in every room and dreamed of what God wanted to and could do if we kept our commitment to Him to be sure this church would be all about Jesus. I remember standing in that huge gymnasium and thinking this isn’t an gym anymore it is set apart and holy on Sundays. This is now our sanctuary a place for the lost, wandering, broken, hurting, helpless, and hopeless to find Jesus. I dreamed of what it would look like all set up and ready for church services. We were telling His story and making HIS-story.
Fast forward and I do mean fast forward by God’s grace we find ourselves in a sovereign move of God. One year later, April 24, 2011, we stepped out in faith and held two Easter services and to the glory of God we saw 380 come together in two services for record breaking attendance. HIS-story was made again as we lifted up Jesus we saw people saved and we saw people recommit their lives to Jesus. At our Easter sunrise baptism we had 33 follow the Lord in baptism. Praise the Lord! One person said, “One baptism for every year Jesus walked the earth how appropriate for Easter”. Another God wink.
I sit here on Easter Sunday afternoon totally poured out but totally full. My first Easter as a Church Planter/Lead Pastor is HIS-story. It truly is His story and He, by His amazing grace, has invited me on this journey to tell His story in this city. All glory and honor goes to Jesus. It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus. We sang a worship song this morning that says, “I give my life away. So you can use me. Take my heart, take my life, as a living sacrifice. All my dreams all my plans Lord I place them in your hands. I give my life away.” When Lorena and I decided to plant City on a Hill we knew we would pay a high price. But we also understood that Jesus paid it all for us. As we sang that song this morning my mind raced back to the morning baptisms and all of the precious people we shared those scared moments with. I looked at all the people God has entrusted to me to shepherd and I thought, “Yeah this is worth it! 100% I’d do it all again for you Jesus no doubt.” I grabbed my wife’s hand kissed her forehead and with tears running down both our faces we knew this was the first of many Easters in HIS-story. We didn’t have to say a word we knew this church was meant to be. God called us to be and lead a City on a Hill.
 
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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in COAH

 

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Washed Away

I was standing on a dock on the Homosassa River over the weekend praying for my church, my city, the lost, the wanderer and Easter. While on the dock staring out over the water I was remembering my baptism and just what it meant to me. I remember October 1991 walking down into the waters of baptism in Dade City Florida and having Pastor Joe Register and Pastor Todd Neveu share in this sacred moment with me. They paused to let me profess my faith and new life in Christ and then down into the water I went. I felt like the whole world could see that Jesus had washed away my sins. I couldn’t take out my heart and my spirit and show them but I could follow my Savior and King in baptism demonstrating an outward sign of an inward change. I came up out of the waters with tears streaming down my face and my hands raised high in worship to Jesus. I will never forget that moment I had never felt so clean in my life. Jesus had performed heart surgery and then he washed away all my sins making me clean and free of all my guilt and shame. From that day to this I have always considered baptism sacred and holy. I have been privileged to be a part of hundreds of baptisms and each is just as special as the next. I really believe that the reason I hold baptism in such high regard is because of what it meant to me. Easter sunrise baptisms are just incredible from 2003 to 2009 I was privileged to be in the waters of baptism on Easter. Just when I thought baptism couldn’t be any more meaningful or special in 2003 I was invited to participate in Easter sunrise baptisms. My life was never the the same. When I saw the sun breaking forth on Easter morning and I was standing there with people whose lives had been changed by the Master I could hardly speak totally overwhelmed by God’s grace and filled with awestruck wonder at His love. For six years I was given the gift of baptizing people on Easter Sunday morning and I am forever grateful. I didn’t care about the weather, the cold, the waves, I was first to volunteer because there is absolutely nothing like it on the planet. Last year I was in a place of transition and I was unable to participate in baptism. I know I have brought it up a lot over the past few weeks but pain only goes away if you talk about it and let the healing begin. I felt so alone and so empty on Easter the biggest celebration in the Christian faith. I was looking out into the future totally uncertain of what would happen but full of faith and expectation. Yet I was crushed to dust on the inside and feeling like an alien in a strange land. I can’t apologize for how I feel. As I stood on the pier looking down at the long line of people waiting to be baptized I watched people’s faces and my heart filled with joy and a little bit of the pain was washed away. Some I had eagerly and strongly desired to be a part of their baptism but it wasn’t meant to be. I put on the best smile I could and tried to hide the pain for the sake of others. I stared off a few times into the rising sun worshiping God and remembering what that sun rise on this special day symbolized. I heard God whisper a promise into my ear. As I stood on the pier in Homosassa praying I was taken back to that moment and I heard that familiar whisper again. My eyes filled with tears at the grace of God. I thought to myself, “My salvation and all of this too! God you are so good, too good to me!” By God’s grace I am six days away from living out yet another promise that God has made to me. A little bit of that pain has been washed away each time I have worked through this over the past year. I have a feeling on Easter sunrise 2011 my pain will be totally washed away and my story will be used for God’s glory as I baptize people from my church plant at the Gandy Bridge Beach fulfilling a promise whispered into the ear of a broken warrior on the shoreline a year ago. Not only does Jesus wash away our sin He also washes away our pain. If you have never witnessed an Easter sunrise baptism I invite you to come out and join us at the Gandy Bridge Beach St. Petersburg, FL 6:45 am Easter Sunday morning you will never be the same again. Now to the King Eternal to the Lord immortal may your name forever be praised. My chains are gone I’ve been set free my God my Savior ransomed me! Today I, my sins, and my pain are being washed away in the waves of God’s amazing grace. Glory to God Forever!

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2011 in COAH

 

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Recognizing a Divine Timeline

It is hard to believe but this weekend we celebrated our 52nd week on this journey. That is right it has been a year since we held the very first Launch Team Meeting at Native Sun Warehouse. 45 people showed up and I knew God had divinely orchestrated something very special. Since that time I have been operating on a divine timeline. I recognized it right from the beginning. I was not going to be operating on man’s timeline but God’s divine timeline. I had thought we wouldn’t open until September 12, 2010 but God had other intentions. His intentions were to do something miraculous we opened May 23, 2010 just 60 days after my resignation and 43 days after our first meeting truly by divine design. That alone is a testimony to the unmistakable, undeniable hand of God on this church and my life. No one could have done this it is just about impossible, but with God all things are possible. I recently had to explain myself to denominational leaders who had not responded to my attempts to invite them on this journey on March 22 until April 15 by that time the divine plan was unfolding at break neck speed. I had no other defense for them but I found myself in a sovereign move of God. Of course that doesn’t always go over well in religious settings but it should! Anyway recognizing God’s divine timeline is far more important than trying to listen to experts or consultants or church growth books or anything for that matter. All of those things are great and have their place but recognizing God’s divine timeline for and in your life is of far greater importance and significance. My church planting experience is far from normal and for that I am forever grateful to my God. I truly believe it is not normal because I recognized God’s divine timeline and didn’t seek man’s wisdom or approval but followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and recognized God’s hand of provision and protection taking ground where ever and when ever He asked. I was sitting on the couch this afternoon with my wife just saying how amazing it is to recognize and follow God’s divine timeline. I was released by God from my former ministry position on March 21, 2010 and I was released from my former denomination March 21, 2011. Coincidence? I don’t think so. We had our first Launch Team meeting April 11, 2010 and we ordained our first minister through City on a Hill Church April 10, 2011. We witnessed our dream become reality and our vision being fulfilled before our very eyes. Coincidence? I think not. We were supposed to open September 12, 2010 instead we opened on the birthday of the original Church [Big C] the Day of Pentecost May 23, 2010 and had our first baptism September 12, 2010 baptizing 22 people. Coincidence? I’m thinking no! What I am trying to say is recognizing God’s divine timeline allows us to live lives of faith. It allows us to live life like a modern day Bible story where Jesus is the hero and there is no other explanation for our success but God. I feel like I have been living in Acts 29! [Just so you know Acts only has 28 chapters:)] When you recognize God’s divine timeline the sky is the limit. By realizing City on a Hill Church was going to be planted on God’s timeline and not man’s will, we stepped right into a sovereign move of God that has not stopped and one year later it continues to blow us away. Last year in September we were celebrating our first baptism this September by God’s grace we will have 26 missionaries on foreign soil in Belize sharing the love of Christ! We are a church plant people! Now that is by divine design and for God’s glory! Last Easter I stood on a pier and watched as a precious group of people entered the waters of baptism. My heart’s desire was to be in those waters with them. My eyes filled with tears of joy for them and sorrow for me. Right or wrong I felt empty and I was grieved. The Lord whispered in my ear next Easter you will baptize 30 or 40 as fruit from your labor at City on a Hill to my glory. I thought God’s divine timeline had caught me by surprise again because in September we saw our first baptism but now looking ahead in just a few weeks to our Easter baptism I recognize God’s divine timeline steadily and miraculously at work in my life and the life of City on a Hill Church. Glory to God! My hope for you is if you already aren’t recognizing God’s divine timeline that your eyes would be opened to see His hand working on your behalf. I don’t know what you are going through. I don’t know the challenges you are facing. I do know what it is like to be uncertain of the future. I do what what it is like to wonder how God is going to work this out. I do know what it is like to bet it all on Jesus and let it ride. This time last year I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no job, no insurance, no building, no equipment, no savings, and no answers. What I did have was Jesus and a dream. I had hope like I’ve never had before. I had faith that God is good and God is great. I had a giant standing before me that I couldn’t not beat without God’s help. I had an adventure to go on with God as the adventure guide. I found my invitation into a modern day Bible story that would be told on the pages of my life and through a church plant called City on a Hill Church. I can confidently say to you today this has been the single greatest year of my life! I have been living on the edge of a lightning bolt. I’ve got a tiger by the tail. I wouldn’t have it any other way. All of this has been made possible because I recognized God’s divine timeline isn’t subject to man’s wisdom, criticism, or will. The life I now live in I live by faith in Christ and the grace of God. I don’t know what the next year holds but you can bet your hard earned dollar that by God’s grace I will be keeping my nose to the grindstone and my eyes on God’s divine timeline. I stood this morning in our sanctuary with 220+ in attendance in awestruck wonder of our God as we ordained our first minister. My mind raced back to a house in January 2010 when 8 people gathered together to pray. Then my mind raced back to April 2010 and a borrowed warehouse where 45 people gathered to pray and dream together. All I could do was say thank you Jesus.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in COAH

 

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Cross Talk

As the first Easter for City on a Hill Church grows closer and closer it adds even greater value to our core value and the premise our church has been founded upon. “It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus.” Good Friday is the darkest day for the Christian faith. It is the darkest because it is the day Jesus was crucified and died on the cross for the sins of the world. My sincere prayer for every believer is that the cross of Christ never become common and that every time we think of the cross we are devastated but not destroyed. Some would ask why would I say that? My answer is simple. If the cross ever becomes common and no longer devastates us it leaves us to lead lives laced with cheap grace. We must always remember the cross was necessary to pay the penalty for sin. The cross of Christ is where the justice of God met the grace of God and His wrath was satisfied against the sins of the world. Christ’s death on the cross purchased our salvation and has the power to put us in right standing with God. Without the cross we are lost. If good works could save us the cross isn’t necessary. The only way for man to be put back in right standing with God was a sacrifice, not just any sacrifice the perfect Lamb of God Jesus Christ. I know it may seem elementary for my blog but so many I speak don’t seem is grasp the weight of the heavy cross of Christ. Many do not even quite understand the cross because it isn’t spoken of as often it is assumed everyone already knows the story. The cross is critical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is critical for every person who hears and responds to never ever forget what it cost to purchase their salvation. It is equally critical to never forget the awfulness of the cross. It is the single most horrendous act ever committed by mankind. It is so horrendous that the word excruciating was invented to explain it. The word excruciating literally means “from the cross”. One of the greatest scandals of the cross is that we as believers call it a part of the Gospel which means “good news”. We even celebrate Good Friday and it leaves many wondering when they hear about the cross, What is so good about Friday? The Apostle Paul explains the reason it is good news in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. In the passage Paul shares the whole Gospel and he allows us to see that the single most important event in history has taken place the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Scripture reveals that the reason it is good news is because Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus took our penalty for sin which is death and paid the ultimate price. Jesus became our substitute and atoned for our sin on the cross. We must never ever forget this truth. If this truth ever becomes common and if this truth doesn’t devastate us regularly it can lead to cheap grace. There is nothing cheap about the grace of God it cost Him is very life’s blood. Hebrews 9:22 reminds us without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. At the cross Jesus substituted himself and took our place. He suffered and died to offer us forgiveness, to demonstrate God’s love , and to embrace us. Jesus didn’t do this in spite of our sins, no, no, He went to the cross because of our sins and reconciled us to God by appeasing the offended power, who is God the Father, giving Himself as a sin offering and sacrifice for us. It reminds me of an Alvin Slaughter song Mercy Refused, “Justice demanded satisfaction the law had been broken again and again. Judgement required immediate action death wanted payment for sin. But mercy refused and love took my place there on the cross where justice met grace. Though rightfully death wanted me mercy refused. ” Jesus did not demand our own blood instead He gave His own for us. As this Easter approaches my prayer for every believer is that the cross will devastate us once again. My prayer is that we walk a little straighter and lives that are set apart because of the cross. That we will remind ourselves by the grace of God and the cross of Christ we have freedom. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead we are offered new life. I pray this Easter will be all about Jesus, because it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus. Easter Sunday morning I will be privileged to be a part of numerous baptisms at sunrise at North Gandy Beach. Those baptisms are only made possible through the cross. The cross of Christ is indeed good news!

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in COAH

 

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