Monday, November 1, 2010

Plans change. Vision remains the same.


On April 22, 2009, I prepared myself for the unknown.  I was heading to a leadership conference called Catalyst West.  This was pre Paragon Church.  As a matter of fact, it was actually where the idea for Paragon Church came to light.

The first speaker came and took the stage.  Andy Stanley.  His whole talk encouraged leaders to lead through uncertain times.  I didn’t think much of it at the time.  Honestly, I was a youth pastor and though uncertainty would show itself on occasion, it was nothing I worried about “getting through”. 

But in the last few days, uncertainty has come my way.  What I thought was, may still be, but not at this time.  What am I going to do?  How do I lead through the unexpected changes in our plans?

You may ask… “What are those changes?” … over the last months and weeks, we have been dreaming big about getting into Cleveland High School here in Rio Rancho.  It is in a prime location to reach all of northern Rio Rancho, a state of the art facility, and more than enough room to grow.  As of last Wednesday, we were just one step away from being locked in.  Meetings had taken place, budgets had been set, and we were moving forward.  Then the unexpected happened.  The last step didn’t go as planned.  So now our plans have to be changed.  At first I was disappointed.  I tried to figure out if this was (A) a speed bump trying to disrupt us or (B) God closing the door.

That was when I remembered back to that first talk on April 22 of 2009.  Leaders lead in uncertain times.  I went back to my notes that I took that day.
Here’s a recap of what Andy said… plus some quotes from that day’s teaching…

He pointed out… when leaders are uncertain they need to focus on two elements: clarity and flexibility.
Clarity means focusing on your original calling. What's the essence of your ministry? That can and should remain crystal clear even amid confusing circumstances. Andy's biblical reference was Joshua clearly telling the Israelites to pack their provisions and organize themselves to approach the Jordan River even though he was uncertain exactly what would happen when they got there.
Flexibility means knowing the difference between your vision and your plans. Don't mistake your plans for your vision. Your plans can and MUST change frequently but the vision remains the same.

Here are some of the quotes that resonated with me in the current situation I find myself…
·       “Plans change.  Vision remains the same.”
·       “I will always be uncertain. I’m certain of it.”
·       “A story without uncertainty isn’t a very interesting story.”
·       “You don’t learn anything when everything is going well.”
·       “As a leader, it is okay to be uncertain but it’s not okay to be unclear.”
·       “Pull back to that thing that God called you to do in the beginning.”
·       “Clarity will trump uncertainty.”
·       “We’re going to trust God to take care of the part we don’t know about.”
·       “You can be clear even when you’re uncertain.”
·       “Retreat to the vision.”
·       “What can you do proactively around what God called you to do?”
·       “Don’t confuse the plan with the vision.”
·       “In times of uncertainty, plans change a lot.”
·       “No decision is ever sacred, but the vision never changes.”
·       “Leadership is not about making decisions on your own. It’s about owning the decisions once they are made.”
·       “You have to pray like crazy for God’s wisdom and direction.”

The challenge that sat with me the most was this… "Be confident even in uncertainty.  Admit that you don't know the future, but you can confidently follow what God has told you to do."

And that is exactly what I plan to do.  I WILL follow what God and do what He has called me to do. He has called me to lead a church that will reach Rio Rancho and the rest of the world with the gospel of Christ as well as lead Paragon Church into the next phases of growth as a church. God has laid it on my heart to see 10,000 people come to know Christ through the ministries of Paragon Church in the next 10 years (a 2020 vision if you will).  If that is at Cleveland High School… GREAT!  If it is at Sandia Vista Elementary (our current location)… GREAT!  Anywhere will be fine.  The question is… Can we do it… No, not on our own… but by the grace of God flowing in us and through us that number will be easily attained and probably surpassed.  I love what Paul has to say in his letter to the church at Ephesus.

Ephesians 3:7-21 –
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This is God’s church, not mine.  I am just fortunate enough to be asked to lead it.  Pray like crazy for this church and that we never lose sight of the vision.


Monday, October 11, 2010

It's been SEVEN weeks...

October 11, 2010

It has been seven weeks since I last “blogged” about Paragon Church. A lot has happened in that span of time.

The last time in blogged every NFL team was undefeated… today there are no undefeated teams left. The last time I blogged my son Payton was three… now he is four. The last time I blogged school had just started… as of now, we have just completed Fall Break.

The last seven weeks have been filled with lots of great things that God has been doing.
September 5, Labor Day, we had our highest attendance ever @ 147.
September 12 was our Fall Kickoff Sunday as we started a series called “One Month to Live” (which focused on living life to its fullest – as if your days are numbered).
September 19th allowed me the opportunity to baptize SIX people (Jodi, Zavier, and Zane Ridgely – Vanessa Briggs – Ed and Jesse Rodriquez)




The 26th was a challenge for us to Love like Jesus Loved… Completely… even those that hate us (that is what He did – Romans 5:6)

When October hit, a new plan to reach our community started to really swirl in my brain. On October 3rd, I let the people know that people are always changing, either moving closer to God or further from Him. We cannot stay the same. We cannot be happy with what we are or assume that we have done “good enough”. We have to keep reaching, keep pressing on, and keep straining for what is ahead. That doesn’t only go for each individual, but for the church as well. I laid out a 2020 plan. I want to reach 10,000 people for Christ in the next ten years. It sounds crazy, I know. As a matter of fact, it sounds impossible. How can a church of 120 reach 10,000 people in the next ten years? With God’s help and direction. Steven Furtick has a new book out called “Sun Stand Still”. My favorite quote from that book says this… “If the vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, it is probably insulting to God”. The same God that used 120 average people in the book of Acts to change the world is the same God we pray to every day. We might not be able to do it alone, but God can definitely do it through us.

October 10th was the last of the points for One Month to Live. It was titled, Leave Boldly (Leave a Legacy). The main question I asked (and I asked many), was if you were to die today, what kind of legacy would you leave? How would you be remembered or better yet, would you be remembered? It was a sobering thought for me and for many who were there that morning.

As I look back on this “One Month to Live” series, it has really got me thinking about church in general. Not just Paragon, but all churches (and the people that make up those churches). Are we living like people we know are dying? Do churches really care about people outside of their walls? A friend of mine posted on his facebook… “Are churches disconnected from real life?” Have the people of the church compartmentalized their lives so much that the church and God are not a part of their “real life”? The One Month to Live Series has really brought out what we should do with our WHOLE lives…

The first point was to Live Passionately – That Found People find people. There is a world out there with no hope, and we live right in the middle of it. You and I have friends and family and neighbors and co workers and classmates and… that need to know the cure for their disease called sin is Jesus Christ… yet we do nothing to help them. Would it be the same if we had a cure for cancer… could we walk into the cancer wing at the hospital and have the nerve not to share the cure that would save their lives… NO – then why do we do it with the spiritual cancer called sin?

The second point was to Love Completely – That saved people serve people. We talked about the good Samaritan and how he got off his “donkey” to help someone who needed help after the priest (someone who knew the Bible inside and out) and the Levite (someone who spent time in the church daily) walked on by. Who do we walk by every day that needs our help?



The third point was to Learn Humbly – that growing people change. Our pride gets in the way CONSTANTLY – we want to be in control. SO does God. Only one person can lead – who is it going to be? How do we let Him lead? We learn humbly and put our pride and ego aside.

The last point was to Leave Boldly – that we can change the world, now and after we are gone. How will people remember you? Will people remember you? Have you invested in the lives of those around you? Have you taken a look at your own life and where you are building your legacy? Is your legacy merely a sandcastle waiting for the next wave to wipe it away without a trace or are you building things that cant be taken away… your convictions, your character, your community.

I take no credit for these points that we need to APPLY (not just know) in our lives. I feel fortunate that God would allow me to bring his message to you. The challenge now is to DO SOMETHING with it. APPLY it. REACH OUT. LIVE, LOVE, LEARN and LEAVE as Jesus did.

DO you ever wonder what life would be like if Jesus had chickened out of his calling… what if he told God it was too hard, or he was too busy, or he was afraid of what others might think?

Stop making excuses, get off your donkey and go change the world!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moving Forward...


It is August 24 and I am sitting here wondering where the summer went.  As you can see, the last blog post was July 25, right after Vacation Bible School (VBS).  A LOT has happened since then, and I am excited about it.

VBS has introduced us to a handful of new families with children and also got the word out that Paragon Church exists.  We have had over 120 each Sunday since VBS and each week we are seeing new faces.   The funny part is, neither Scott nor I really had anything to do with it.  We have been faithful to do what God has led us to do, but the rest has been up to Him.  I wish I could take credit, but I can’t.  As a matter of fact, a prayer I have weekly is “God, please help me so I don’t mess this up.”

Looking back, this time last year I was in the very beginning stages of planning to plant a church.  I was trying to figure out how to make it all happen by Easter of 2010.  I was visiting successful church plants to learn from their successes and their mistakes…. calling companies that specialize in “churches in a box” to see how much money I was going to need to raise… looking at schools to meet in… putting together proposal packets to answer the question “why?” (when in all honesty, at that time I wasn’t even 100% sure of “why” myself).

It amazes me to be able to look back and see God’s hand in all of this.  The people He brought together to support this.  The churches He has partnering with us.  None of this was me, it was all Him.

He is changing me every day and I hope the same for you too.  I hope you are excited about what is to come and that you WANT to be a part of it (not just HAVE TO be a part of it).

Over the next few weeks, I am going to talk about why church is for everyone and why I love this church… and that will carry into our One Month to Live church wide six week event.  As we head into these crucial weeks, I want to encourage you with a few words…

1.     God can and will use you if you are willing and open.  God did not call me alone on this journey to plant a church – you are here for a reason.

2.     There is a difference between following Jesus and merely attending church. 

3.     Followers of Jesus see change taking place in their lives.  Those who follow Jesus NEVER stay the same.

4.     While numbers in the gym where we meet are good, we are not just trying to build up an audience, but rather build up an army that is ready to do what God has called us to do – REACH PEOPLE!

5.     I can see the passion in each and every ordinary person (that is all of us) that sit in the seats.  God isn’t done with any of us yet and the best is yet to come at Paragon Church… so buckle up, hold on, and invite someone else for the ride…

Know that there are hurting people all around you – no matter where you are.  How are you reaching out to them?  At the very least… Invite them to a place where people will love on them with the love of God.  What is the worst thing they can say?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sunday, July 25


One of the several objectives of doing a VBS so early in our history as a church was to reach families in the community through their children.  With all the excitement towards the end of VBS, I couldn’t wait to see what God was going to do on Sunday morning.  Sunday morning it seemed like new families just kept pouring in!  You could feel the excitement among the people in the sanctuary.  We had 126 (35 of those were kids) coming to worship with our Paragon family today.   That is the second largest Sunday we have had in our short history. 

I think many of us were actually surprised.  It was pretty funny because as I walked out to the parking lot to get something from my car and saw all the cars out there, all I could say to myself was “God, please help me not to mess things up this morning.”  Then I walked inside and was greeted by Scott saying, “I just don’t want to be bad this morning.”

It was a great morning and I think we (mostly “I”) should have learned from our July 11 experience that it is not about us, but instead it is all about Him.  He is what makes things great, not us.  I know God has A LOT in store for Paragon and I am glad that He is including me in it.

VBS 2010


For three months, Scott, Laura and I have been talking about Vacation Bible School.  We talked about the who’s, the what’s, the when’s and the where’s.  After all the planning and preparation, door hangers and work days, the week finally arrived.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect as the doors opened on Monday Morning.  As all of the volunteers arrived the excitement grew.  Kids started to pour in to the final tally of 105.  We did crafts, games, heard Bible Stories in a giant Hefty Sack Space Bubble, and had a lot of fun with the Lads.  During our Worship Time, Scott and I threw out a challenge for the students to bring in money for Mosquito Nets to protect kids across the world from malaria.  Our challenge was if the kids could bring in $250 (the amount it would take to buy 25 nets) Scott would shave his head.  If they got $300 I would shave mine and Scott would also take a cream pie to the face. It could not have been a better day for Paragon in our Rookie Season doing a VBS.

Day Two arrived and we had 15 more students register but about 20 were no show’s from the day before (giving us an even 100 for day 2).  It is hard to “not” think about numbers in a situation like this.  Thoughts go through your mind on why people didn’t come back but in reality, you have to think on the positive side – why did 85 return and have 15 more come with them.  By the time it was all said and done, it was another great day of fun and excitement.  The kids were really warming up to the Lads Band and starting to know the songs and the motions to them.  You could feel the energy starting to build.  Also, the kids brought in over $50 on the first day for Mosquito Nets.

On Wednesday, more kids came (107), and we finally used the hefty sack black light bubble for the Bible Story time.  It was a whole new excitement that got going and the kids loved it.  (Honestly, who doesn’t love black light and the way it makes your clothes glow?)  We had fun playing dodgeball with the older kids and tag with the younger ones.  The snack of the day… OTTER POPS.  What a great day.   Oh, BTW, The kids stepped up the plate on day two for mosquito nets and brought in $169, bringing the total to $219 and making it very real that Scott would be bald by Thursday Night.

The Final Day arrived and it seemed like the week had flown by.  We had such a great time.  We went through the day waiting for the final Worship Time for a couple of reasons… (one) Mark of the Lads was going to give a gospel presentation… and (two) we were to see how much money was brought in for those mosquito nets.  Both events were definitely worth waiting for.  When the Gospel was presented, over 50 kids stood to respond to the message and we know that at least 26 of those accepted Christ as their Savior (THAT IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT).    Secondly, after the $$ was tallied, we not only reached our goal of $300, the kids DOUBLED it!!!  We were able to present Compassion International with a $600 check to buy 60 mosquito nets for kids in need.

The wrap up concert and cookout on Thursday Night saw over 350 kids and Parents show up to have a good time and wrap up a great week of blessings from God.  We really could not have asked for more as this week exceeded ALL expectations.

And now for my Award Winners Speech… I would like to thank every volunteer who helped with every aspect of this Vacation Bible School.   From door to door to publications, from WalMart to Set Up/Tear Down and of course all of the teachers and helpers, you were all amazing and it was a huge help.  Without you, this week would not have been able to run as smoothly as it did and would not have been the success that it was.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What a Sunday...

Notice anything missing in these photos?
Curtains... Sound Board... Speakers... Coffee...

staging... lighting... draping...
projectors... screens... almost everything...

This morning (Sunday, July 11) was like any other Sunday morning over the last 4 months… wake up, shower, get dressed, help Christy get the family ready and head out to Sandia Vista Elementary School.  Then a text message came to my phone from our associate pastor, Scott Brownson.  The text read “Who’s getting the trailer today?” and I thought it was a joke.  You see, if you don’t attend Paragon Church, everything we have is stored in that trailer… it is our “church on wheels”.  Without it, we are up a creek.  After calling Scott and realizing it was not a joke, I began to panic, sweat, and make calls to figure out who was getting the trailer.

It turns out that nobody was assigned to get the trailer this morning.  It was completely my fault in the scheduling department and when I tried to locate a quick back up driver, none were available.

All I could think was “what are we going to do?”  No Sound System.  No Video projection.  No staging.  No cool lights.  No carts full of supplies and toys for the nursery.  No coffee for those who can’t survive without it.  We didn’t have any of the things we “needed” to hold a church service… or so I thought.

Knowing there was nothing I could do, the fam grabbed some toys from the playroom and we headed to our church home.  When we arrived, outside sat the group of men that would normally be setting up all of the equipment.  I walked into the gym where we meet and it was bare except for some chairs.   As I stood there looking over the situation and trying to figure out how to “salvage” this Sunday morning, Matt Petre came to me.  He said this was going to be great and to remember that there are groups of people meeting in the jungles of Vietnam with nothing but the Word of God… and Christians meeting in a house in China afraid for what might happen to them during their service.  That really opened my eyes to what God could possibly do this morning.

And He did exactly what He wanted to do.  He opened the eyes of our congregation.  He reminded us of why we really meet in this school.  He let us know that, while all the stuff we have is great and can be put to good use, all we really need is Him.

Our time of worship through song was better than it has ever been.  Just a guitar, a bass, and our voices.  Pure.  Authentic.  Real.  Worship.

The message wasn’t long.  It was not eloquent.  As a matter of fact, it was probably just short of rambling.  I put the message I had prepared all week long for on the shelf and just “went with the flow.”  God was moving and I didn’t want to get in the way.  He brought our congregation back to the roots of why we started this church in the first place…  it was not because we wanted something different, not because we didn’t like what was going on at any other churches we were attending… but because God called us to Enchanted Hills to reach people and we are answering His call.  He reminded us that all the stuff we have doesn’t impress visitors, and it doesn’t lead them to Christ.  It is not about the presentation or show we put on, but it is ALL about the love we have for others – no matter who they are, where they’ve been, or what they have been through.

I had this morning all planned out.  Thank you God for ruining my plans and implementing yours… 

Isaiah 55:8 (NLT) “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fourth of July Weekend

The fourth of July weekend was a blast (literally and figuratively).  It all started off with the Annual Rio Rancho Parade where we hooked up the trailer, the kids grabbed their bikes, and we passed out candy and VBS information.  While it was hot, we had a lot of fun and have already received registrations from some in the crowd.

Later that evening, we had a party at our house to watch the City of Rio Rancho's fireworks.  There were about 70 people who dropped by to eat some food and have a good time of fellowship.



We wrapped up the weekend with a service on the morning of the fourth.  It was a great time of worship as we talked about the FOURTH commandment (probably the most broken commandment) and the freedom God gave us from constant work.  That is what the Sabbath is all about... rest.  When was the last time you just sat back and chilled with God?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

12 Weeks down...

We have officially completed 12 weeks at Paragon Church. It is funny to think about all that we have done in such a short time as a "church". God has really blessed us more than I could have ever asked for. We have great people coming together for a common goal of reaching our community for Christ. We have had great Sunday mornings that were "glitch free" and we have also had some challenges to overcome. We have had lots of people come and a few people go. If someone were to ask, I would say that we have been successful in what we have set out to do but I think William Pollard said it best... "The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow."

I look forward to what is ahead and the new challenges we will face, the new people we will reach and the church that we will continue to become.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baptism - Life Change Celebration #2 - June 20


Another great time at Ryan and Angie’s down in Corrales where I had the privilege of baptizing Ben LeFevre and Mike Napier got to baptize Alexander Armenta.  We had about 50 people there to celebrate with Root Beer Floats and have some fun in the pool on a hot summer day.

Father's Day 2010


Guns, camo, ammo boxes, root beer bottles and cheeseballs greeted our men on Father’s Day.  Thanks to the New Mexico Military History Museum for bringing out displays of old guns as well as a 1971 six-wheel drive Gama Goat.  I am grateful our church is filled with godly men that serve their families and church.  It was a great day!

Communion Service #2 - June 6


On Sunday June 6th we had our second communion service and as promised, it was different than even the first.  We took the beginning of the service to prepare for communion by looking at commandment #1 found in Exodus 20:3 – where God says “no other gods before me”.  Communion was a great time to reflect on what we put before God and get our hearts right with Him, not only because He said so, but because He is the only thing truly worthy of our praise.

Memorial Day Parade 2010


Following our “Be The Church” Sunday, we gathered as a church family to get the word out about our church and have some fun in the Annual Rio Rancho Memorial Day Parade.  We hooked up the trailer, the kids jumped on bikes, and we passed out our remaining flags to hundreds of onlookers.  It was a great day and a lot of fun.

Be The Church Sunday (May 30)


It was time to take our vision out to the community.  “Be The Church” Sunday was our chance to tell the surrounding neighborhoods that we were willing to go to them, not just expect them to come to us.  We passed out American flags with a business card attached reminding people what Memorial Day was all about… remembering the sacrifices that gave us our freedom (both physically and spiritually).

Vision in HD - Vision in 3D


The month of May a time to recall why our church exists.  We took at look at our vision in HD (making it clear why we exist) and our vision in 3D (making it real).  We need to constantly be reminded to look outward and not inward.  It is about being a life saving station, not just a club to come hang out at.

Baptism - Life Change Celebration #1 - April 25


The afternoon after our communion service, we gathered as a church family to have  our first outdoor baptism.  It was truly a celebration!  Being the fact we don’t have a building or a baptismal, we met down at Ryan and Angie’s house in Corrales.  What an awesome privilege was to be a part of baptizing Matt Petre and his two sons Brett and Daniel as well as Mike Peralta and his daughter Alix. What a beautiful picture of our commitment to live for Christ.

Communion Service #1 - April 25


Following our first sermon series, we held our first communion service.  It was an entire service dedicated to remembering what Christ did for us.  For so many churches communion is just a part of the service… 10 minutes here and we are done until next month.  Almost a ritual instead of what it is supposed to be… a time of remembrance.  We wanted something that would put all the focus where it needs to be… on Christ. It was a great service with music, scripture and times for sharing throughout.  Each person/family could come to take the elements when they felt they were ready.  It was a great time of remembering what Christ did for us.

Follow. Believe. Obey. Simple Sermon Series #1

Our first series for the new church was entitled “Simple”.  We are a church that encourages people to come as they are, just as Jesus did from the very beginning.  We first looked at how Jesus approached Matthew at the tax collector’s booth and asked him to “follow”.  He didn’t tell Matthew to change “this and that” and only then could he come and follow… instead Jesus told Matthew to follow knowing full well that as Matthew “follows” his life would be changed.

The second week we focused on “believe”.  We took a look at Paul’s letter to the church at Rome as he explained what it means to go beyond following… to move to believing…  Here is a little slice of the sermon that was taught…

Here is what he says…
Romans 3:21-26
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

BUT NOW (that means something new has come along – there was an old way of thinking BUT NOW there is something new)

A RIGHTEOUSNESS (which is defined as a “right standing with God – which is something we all want)

FROM GOD, APART FROM LAW, HAS BEEN MADE KNOWN
So this right standing with God comes from God – and here is something shocking to them and even to some of us  - APART FROM THE LAW – our right standing isn’t the way it is because of what we do – but because of what God did – and guess how that happened – because it was “MADE KNOWN”

Why did we say that Christ came – to help people understand who God is and to make Him known…. HMMM

TO WHICH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS TESTIFY…
So all the Law that you guys have been studying and memorizing and all the religious systems they derived from it, (and Paul was one of those religious guys so he knows what he is talking about)  guess what, it has always pointed to Jesus coming and being what gives us a right standing with God.

So here is that verse in a quick breakdown…
Paul says – all that doing that every religious system makes you do to have a right standing with God (something we all want – no one wants to be on the wrong side when we die)  That giant cosmic scale that we think weighs our good stuff and our bad stuff – it’s all over!

Here is something new – something that God himself has provided… HE – GOD – has provided the RIGHT STANDING WITH HIM and it doesn’t have to do with how good we are or how good we think we are.

He says there is a way to have a right standing with God APART FROM THE LAW – Apart from HOPING you are good enough

Vs 22 – THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM GOD COMES THROUGH (here is the new part – because it used to come through the Law) FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST TO ALL WHO BELIEVE

ALL who BELIEVE - It is not through anything but believing – Why is that necessary for ALL
Because ALL HAVE SINNED (some may be worse than others but if you have sinned – which you have – guess what happens)

YOU FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD (God is perfect  - that is his standard – one sin or millions of sins = not perfect)

So how do we get a right standing with God when expects perfection…

Not by trying hard (the Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 - All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Not by being consistent - Not by weighing out a huge scale in our favor

So how are we justified… what does it say in verse 24
AND ALL ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT CAME FROM JESUS CHRIST

We are justified FREELY (when we see that word – FREE – we always think – what’s the catch?)

No catch – It is a gift given freely – just like you don’t have to earn Christmas gifts or birthday gifts – it is given freely – all you have to do is accept it – believe IT
Verse 25 helps answer the question of how we get right standing with God through Jesus…

GOD PRESENTED HIM AS A SACRIFICE OF ATONEMENT – the people understood this because from the beginning of sin, God had set up a sacrificial system because he knew we would screw up – a sacrifice to make up for when we fail.

Jesus became the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE… THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD (you see sacrifice wasn’t just giving something up – it meant blood)

Why did God do it…
HE DID THIS TO DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE – BECAUSE IN IN HIS FORBEARANCE HE HAD LEFT THE SINS COMMITTED UNPUNISHED

(26) HE DID IT TO DEMONSTRATE HIS JUSTICE AT THE PRESENT TIME SO AS TO BE JUST AND THE ONE WHO JUSTIFIES THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH IN JESUS

Why did he do it – God saw a problem – the problem was sin.  Sin came between you and Him – between God and myself.  Since God is perfection, He could not lower the standards, he used Christ to justify our imperfections.

So God saw a problem and he became the solution.  Everyone is invited.  Jesus died for ALL because ALL have sinned and fall short.  The perfect lamb (Jesus) was sacrificed because we are all screw ups.

Because there was a problem someone had to pay – our payment of good deeds isn’t good enough

I know that is a hard pill to swallow…
But I want to challenge you to just follow.   Listen to His words, Watch what He does, Learn from the master

Someday (maybe today) the light bulb will click that Jesus came to explain God and also give us access to Him.

We all want that right standing with God.  Christianity says it is completely free… all you have to do is accept it – to believe it.

That was week #2 – then week #3 was obey… the next logical step after following and believing.
 Matthew 7:24-29
 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

What foundation are you building your life on… what set of rules are you obeying?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Paragon Launch

It has been an amazing journey to this point and I look forward to what God is going to do… here is how we got here

It was March 2009 and a friend of mine in Phoenix was going with his church staff to the 2009 Catalyst West Coast Conference in Irvine, CA. It sounded fun and a lot of great speakers were going to be there, so I went and little did I know what God was going to show me.



It was an amazing conference with guys like Francis Chan (author of Crazy Love and The Forgotten God), Craig Groeschel (author of It and The Christian Atheist) and Perry Noble (a church planter in South Carolina – leads the church “where the sinners go”). With ten speakers in less than two days, by the time it was over I was leaving with a headache because my brain was literally full-- so many thoughts, so many ideas, so many people to be reached for Christ. I didn’t know what to do or how it was going to get done. One thing was for certain; I was never going to be the same.



As I sat on the plane leaving Orange County, I thought about all the things that were said but one the one speaker that kept ringing in my mind was Andy Stanley, the Lead Pastor at NorthPoint in Atlanta. He shared his story of planting a church in Atlanta in the mid 90’s and all that it entailed and what God had done to bring it to where it is today (tens of thousands weekly over 5 campuses). I kept saying to myself that I would never be a church planter and I didn’t want that stress or to put that stress on my family or my friends. I guess we don’t tell God “no”.



I got home and really prayed about it. I didn’t even tell Christy right away. I wanted to hear from God to see where He wanted me and what He wanted me to do. As the time came and I shared with Christy, I was excited that she was completely on board. During that same time, before I even mentioned “church planting” to anyone, God was moving. People at First Baptist Rio Rancho were coming up to me “out of the blue” and saying, “if you plant a church, we will go with you.” That happened more than a few times.



We didn’t know how, where, when, or even if this was going to happen, but we started to talk about it with some friends. The first friend that I talked to was a buddy by the name of Scott Brownson. (you might recognize that name because he is now Paragon’s worship leader) We talked about the possibilities of what God might do in bringing him along… but it was a long shot, a VERY long shot – nearly impossible by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn’t quite as long of a shot for our other friends. It was just the question of how to make this a reality.



The summer flew by (just as it always does for a youth pastor) and September came. We had a church informational meeting in the PowerHouse that brought a lot of people out to hear what God was doing (it also brought out a lot of people because they found out we were serving Hot Tamales enchiladas, beans, and rice). A few more weeks passed and we had our first meeting in the fellowship hall on a Saturday Night. The Hendrix, the Proctors, the Lundays, Juanita Peralta, Katie Carroll, and Christy joined me and pastor Si to kick this off. We started meeting every other week and two weeks later we met for our first regular meeting in Room 204 (seats about 20 comfortably) with 24 people.



We continued to grow every meeting we had through December 2009, so much so, we had to move into and out of two rooms and finally ended up in the PowerHouse at First Baptist.



That brought us to March, and Sandia Vista Elementary School. Our first Sunday there (March 7) we started our Spring Training series with 77 people. The second week we had 83, third week, 93, and the fourth and final week, 94.



Then, we launched. Easter Sunday was preceded with door hangers, mailers, and a fun outreach at WalMart. God did His thing and brought out nearly 150 people to our first official Sunday. It could not have been better.



It has been exciting to watch the transformation from a Bible Study to a church in the past months. We have seen decisions for Christ every week since we entered the school. We have a Baptism “Life Change” Celebration on April 25th with six people already lined up to be baptized. I really can’t wait to see what is going to happen next.

Until NEXT time…

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Training

March 7 was our first Sunday in Sandia Vista Elementary, the home of Paragon Church. The church family spent the day Saturday in preparation for this big day. We unpacked the trailer, organized carts and supplies, set-up rooms and transformed the school into a beautiful place for corporate worship. You could sense the excitement in each of the devoted people that have played such a huge role in the behind the scenes of Paragon Church.

After little sleep on Saturday night, Sunday was here. Our first service in the school was upon us. There was a busyness in the school as people had gathered early to make sure that everything was in its place. As a crowd gathered in the worship center/gym, you could feel God's presence. I stood in the back in awe of God's mighty hand in Paragon Church. He IS Paragon Church. As we continue through our own "spring training" in this season of ministry, we have already been recruited. We ARE on the team. Are we going to sit on the bench or are we going to get in the game?

Put me in coach.....I'm ready to play!!!