Sunday, August 28, 2011

A letter to our partners

On August 26th, I sent this letter to our "partners" and thought that I would post it here in case I didn't have your mailing address (or if you just wanted to know what was going on)

Dear Paragon partner,

I hope this letter finds you well and walking with the Lord.  I must admit that I am not one who likes informal, impersonal, form letters, but I figured this is the best way to let you know where we are as a church, and where we are going.

When the idea of Paragon was birthed, we wanted to make sure to stay on task and have more of a “rifle type” approach to ministry rather than a “shotgun style.”  We wanted to focus on five key areas of ministry.  They are WORSHIP, CHILDREN, YOUTH, CONNECTION GROUPS, and MISSIONS.  I would like to let you know how I think we are doing in each of those areas.

WORSHIP – Our Sunday morning worship services have been going very well.  With everything that happened in May, things could have gone very poorly, but by the grace of God and the help of you all, it was quite the opposite.  Our new worship leader, Gerome Fragua, transitioned in seamlessly, and the six weeks of guest speakers went better than I could have ever expected. We have a lot of great ideas for the weeks and months ahead, please don’t miss the upcoming Sundays.

CHILDREN – I could not be happier with what Laura LeFevre and her team of volunteers are doing in the Children’s area.  All the kids I talk to have been loving doing Children’s Church and are excited about being there.  Laura has some great events planned and I would encourage you to get your kids involved. The only issue that we have had in the children’s ministry is so many of our great teachers and volunteers have moved away over the summer.  If you are interested in working with our children in any area, please contact Laura LeFevre to get plugged in.

YOUTH – Our youth group meets every Thursday night at the Napier’s house under the direction of Corey Proctor and Lorraine Pratt.  Things are going very well and our biggest problem is not having enough room for all the kids.  This is a great problem to have if you ask me.

CONNECTION GROUPS – Because we do not have a building or the space to meet for a typical “Sunday School”, our focus has been on getting together in people’s homes for Bible Study and fellowship.  While there are still kinks to work out, the connection groups are progressing nicely and we will be starting a new semester of study on Sunday, September 18th.  This new semester will have each of our groups going through one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of James.

MISSIONS – Of all the areas of our focus, I will admit, this is our weakest, but getting stronger this fall.  We are in the process of creating opportunities for you to reach outside of our church walls and show Rio Rancho and the surrounding communities the love of Christ.  Please keep an eye out for opportunities to serve and remember, there is a mission field right outside your front door.  We don’t have to have an organized event for you to do missions work.

All I can say to wrap up this letter is “GOD IS GOOD” and I am excited to be a part of what He is doing at Paragon.  I hope you are too.

Have a great week and we will see you Sunday,

Pastor Matt

Thursday, August 11, 2011

(some) Lessons learned

It has been a while since my last post for Paragon.  It seems since March that the posts have been sporadic at best and I hope to change that as we move into the fall.

Today’s post is all about what God has been doing in my life over the past five to six months.   Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church in California and author of Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life tweeted something the other day that I found to fit very well with my life since February.  He said “God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a life message.”

As I look back over the last six months, it has been a blur (though, while going through it, it seemed like an eternity).  And after all that I went through (and some things, still going through) I really do think it was a big test that people can eventually benefit from, even myself.

How can anyone benefit from a test/mess like this?  Here are just four of the many things that I learned.

#1 – God is in control and not me.  I am very much a person that likes to be in control.  I like to be the one driving.  I like to be the one leading.  I like to be the quarterback during crunch time.  No matter how much I like it, when it comes right down to it, I am merely a man that God has chosen to use in whatever way He deemed fit.

For example, my biggest fear was Paragon slipping up and faltering because I wasn’t there to have my hands in the mix.  Boy, was I wrong.  The people of Paragon stepped up in every way to do what God had not only called me to do, but also what He had called them to do – reach Rio Rancho for Christ.  The church didn’t miss a beat.  As a matter of fact, two of the Sundays I was out, we saw our largest attendance outside of Easter and our overall averages for the summer were higher than January-March of this year.  All that says to me is that God is in control and I am along for the ride.  The funny thing about this point is, about 3000 years ago, David penned this passage that we now know as Proverbs 3 –
 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.
 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
   fear the LORD and shun evil. 
(Proverbs 3:5-7 - NIV -
You would think that it shouldn’t/wouldn’t take cancer for me to realize that my “understanding” is pretty worthless in the grand scheme of things.

#2 – God works in mysterious ways.  You have probably heard that before and you may even think it is in the Bible (FYI – it’s not)… but it is true.  I have never fully understood the way that God has brought me to where I am, but there is no doubt in my mind that my past experiences have shaped me to exactly what God wants me to be (at least right now).  Who knew that God could use divorce, death, dysfunction, and now cancer to His glory, but He did.

#3 – Life is short.  I know Reebok used that term back in the 90’s, but I never really thought about it then (probably because I thought I had a good 60+ years still ahead of me).  Now, I think about it a lot.  I am 35 with three kids – one of them in double digits.  I have had cancer twice.  I have seen a lot and experienced a lot – but most of all, I have noticed that the phrase  “it seems like only yesterday” pops into my mind quite often.  Where has the time gone and what did I do with it?

Benjamin Franklin once said “Lost time is never found again.”  Going through all of this… surgery and radiation and healing – I don’t remember much other than being miserable through it.  I know I didn’t accomplish much other than watching Food Network and the Travel Channel.  I also remember just wanting the last day of radiation to come so I could be done.  When all was said and done, I felt as if I had just wasted the last eight weeks of my life.  Nothing to show for it other than a few scars and some different side effects.  How often is that the case in all of our lives.  When New Year’s comes in a few short months, what are we going to look back and say we accomplished in 2011?

Finally - #4 – We are more than conquerors.
I’ll be honest with you… CANCER SUCKS and sometimes other parts of life aren’t that great either but one passage (that I have read probably 100 times before) stood out to me during all of this.
Romans 8:31-37
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
(Romans 8:31-37 - NIV -

This life is only temporary… the afterlife is eternal.  If you know Jesus as your personal Savior, that is great news – if you don’t know Jesus – remember, life is short and now would be a good time to meet Him.