Our Church Launch

Happy, happy Saturday to you all!

(What? Saturday? Sorry – technical difficulties – this was supposed to go live on Thursday!)

In lieu of missing my weekly blog last week, you may be happy to know that I am committed to blogging every Thursday again, especially because I will now have more regular wifi access. And if you’ve been keeping up with my blog regularly, you may remember that I recently made the move from Seattle to Johnstown, PA, to serve and invest in a church launch here as the Creative Arts Director. I never would have guessed that God would use me to help plant churches, but I am immensely thankful for the opportunities He has generously given me. Serving alongside the amazing Josiah Smith and the rest of our remarkable team has been such a wonderful treat for me, as well. I am so blessed.

This past Saturday, called “Day of Hope,” was the official launch of our church, CityReach Johnstown. We used the day to bless our community with 1500 bags of free groceries, free food, free haircuts (which was a huge hit!), free family portraits, a clothing giveaway, bounce houses & inflatables, face painting, a petting zoo, a fire breather, MMA-style performances, live entertainment, and more. About 1,100 individuals showed up to enjoy the day, and more than 25 people committed their hearts to Christ in a “Prayer Tent” that we offered. Praise God!! What an experience!

We concluded Day of Hope with a closing celebration, where I led the crowd with an awesome (!) team in a few songs of worship, some individuals shared exciting testimonies, and Josiah brought a message of hope and strength. (You will probably laugh, but whilst I was on the platform, I thought to myself, “Huh! I should probably blog one day about leading worship at outdoor sites!” Haha)

I have said this many times to many people, but I also want to publicly express my thanks and gratitude to the 200+ volunteers who served, smiled, laughed, and loved. Some traveled many miles, many hours, to volunteer, and some literally stayed up all night long to ensure that arrangements were made and details were taken into account (here’s looking at you, Tim!). There have been so many stories pouring in of how the smiles, hugs, genuine conversation, and positive attitudes have affected about a thousand lives for the better! Thank you, thank you, thank you.. I know that Jesus smiled on us all day long.

Let me share with you an exceptional passage from Scripture.. Lamentations 3:19-32.. regarding hope. I love the journey the author takes us on, how vulnerable he chooses to be.. Read the following and have a “selah” moment to contemplate it all..

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all – oh, how well I remember –
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
His merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great Your faithfulness!

I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it through the hard times.

When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself…
Bow in prayer…
Wait for hope to appear.

The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If He works severely, He also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.”

Friends, life can be filled with difficulties. Life can be filled with tragedies, tears, pain, loss, confusion, and loneliness. Even the Bible affirms this. But the Bible affirms an even greater truth, though, and that is “the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return.” His love and faithfulness have not run out. They are gushing toward you in steady streams. Let God lift up your head… He longs to show you just how good He can be.

Aaron Keyes wrote a tender song a while back that Michael W. Smith has recently made popular called “Sovereign Over Us.” The chorus declares, “Your plans are still to prosper! You have not forgotten us! You’re with us in the fire and the flood. Faithful forever – perfect in love!”

This is the truth. There is hope in Jesus! Don’t lose hope! Take your eyes off the chaos of life and fix them firmly on Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He is King – a supreme, almighty, gentle King – and His lordship and love are absolutely unshakeable.

Find hope in Jesus, and hold on to hope in Jesus.

My heart,
Josh

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