SEEING JESUS, WITH NEW EYES

nativity sceneRecently, a story made its way around the internet from a man who admitted that he “sorta cheated” on his wife!  He was shopping at Target at the time.  In his own words: “As I went to pay I saw this woman in line that knocked me out. I thought, ‘Wow, some lucky guy is with her,’ and in a split second I realized it was my wife!”  The husband went on to say, “…I was taken aback by how amazingly beautiful she is, once again. I believe I see it often, but today, not knowing she was at the store, I saw her with new eyes and just couldn’t believe I get to be her fella. It made me blush – but no one could see it under my huge monster Movember beard.”

In this honest man’s confession, we can appreciate the shared human problem of “seeing, but not truly seeing.”  It is possible to assume a familiarity with someone and lose our sense of wonder over who they are, and who they invite us to be.  We need new eyes.

Perhaps no person in history has been more “seen, but not truly seen” than Jesus Christ.  His life and words have cast both shadow and light upon humanity, making him impossible to ignore, yet easy to take for granted.  William Lecky, Historian (and skeptic), writes: “The simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions (speeches) of philosophers, and than all the exhortations of moralists.”  Two thousand years later we see Jesus, the small-town Jewish peasant, enshrined in music and the arts, espoused in religion and philosophy, polarized in politics, and dropped like a common expletive in nearly every movie.  We need new eyes!

One of the most startling statements Jesus ever made was that, “Anyone who has seen me has seen (God) the Father!” (John 14:9)  As Christmas Day approaches, we have an opportunity to be caught off guard by the God of Wonder and his invitation to be loved unconditionally!  He comes to us wrapped, unexpectedly, in a manger!  Below are five highlights from the Christmas story, as told in Matthew 1:18-2:1.  I encourage you to read it this Christmas.

THIS CHRISTMAS, TO SEE JESUS IS TO SEE GOD!—TO BE FILLED WITH FRESH WONDER OVER:

  1. GOD WITH US—“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” (1:23)

We run, God pursues.  The entire narrative of scripture, from start to finish, is the story of restless rebellion & relentless love.  Will we stop running this Christmas, turn around, and fall into the embrace of a loving God!  He is here, closer than you could ever imagine!

  1. GOD LIKE US—“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (1:18-19)

God entered into his world exactly the same way we do, by messy process!  His Dad nearly disowned him and his mom before he was even born.  He would grow up and experience every ounce of our humanity; all the same trials, temptations, and heart aches, even death.  No other god in any religion has ever condescended with such grace & humility.  Cast your burdens on Christ this Christmas.  Pour out your hearts.  He is like us.  He understands!

  1. GOD FOR US—“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (1:21)

To see Jesus with new eyes, we must also see ourselves with new eyes!  We are not basically “good people” in need of small improvements.  We are perfection personified ruined by sin!  We are beautifully created “in the image of God” and grotesquely marred by a treacherous desire to be god.  We can’t save ourselves!  The name “Jesus” means, “God saves.”  Jesus was born for the cross!  Until we look into the mirror and see a person desperately in need of a Savior, we’ll never be able to look into the manger and truly see Jesus.  Through faith in Christ, there is forgiveness of sins, eternal life!  This Christmas, may our hearts initially sink with despair over our depravity, and then soar with hope as “the soul feels its worth.”  God is for us!

  1. GOD ABOVE US—“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (2:1-2)

These “magi” didn’t miss Jesus.  They were important men, with important lives.  Yet, they saw the prophetic star above them, so they traveled a great distance to a foreign land for the sake of worshiping Jesus.  To truly see Jesus, we must look up from our own important lives.  All around us are signs, evidences pointing to the majesty of Christ.  This Christmas, the ultimate invitation is to redirect our hearts and our lives to the undivided pursuit of worshiping the unrivaled King Jesus.  He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

May we have “new eyes” to see Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.”

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DO THE HELEN KELLER

helen keller

People don’t like to think.  If one thinks, one must reach conclusions.  Conclusions are not always pleasant.”  —Helen Keller

It’s time to do the “Helen Keller” and think!

In his recent article for the Christian Post Dr. Michael Brown discusses one of his controversial “tweets” following the terror attacks in Paris, France: “We know that most Muslims today are not terrorists. We also know that most terrorists today are Muslims.

As shown in his article, this sentiment is well-substantiated:  “According to Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes, since 9/11, there have been ‘27,000 attacks globally connected to Islam,’ many of which have involved Muslims killing Muslims. This number certainly dwarfs all other terrorist attacks worldwide by non-Islamic groups, reinforcing the simple message of my tweet.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Brown received a “flood” of angry, negative responses.

In response, Dr. Brown writes:  “I’m fully aware that the majority of Muslims are repulsed by today’s terrorism and that a large number of Islamic theologians and leaders say that these terrorists are misrepresenting their religion in the ugliest possible way.

In light of this, I always attribute these terrorist acts to “radical Islam” rather than to “Islam” in general.

That’s why I also tweeted out on Friday night, ‘Let’s pray for the millions of Muslims who are repulsed by these acts of terror in the name of their religion. May God open their hearts!’

Conversely, in his article, Dr. Brown asserts, “….it is undeniable that Islam has a violent history and that radical Muslims can point to authoritative texts and historic exemplars to justify their actions. And it is undeniable that there are multiplied millions of devout Muslims who are radical and who espouse violent Islam.

To deny this is to stick one’s head in the sand and perhaps, one day in the future, to lose one’s head.

In short, we can acknowledge that there are millions of peace loving Muslims while at the same time confronting radical Islam — and I mean confronting it ideologically and by name, in the radicalized mosques and communities as well as on the battlefield.”

This is where I want to challenge you to think.

Are most terrorists Muslim?  Are “radical” Muslims true Muslims?

The word “radical” means, “of the root.”  We tend to think of “radical” as meaning, “something new, or deviating from tradition,” when ironically, “radical” means a return to the truest, most essential (root) nature of something.

Accordingly, to speak of “radical” Islam is to speak of a return to the truest, most essential nature of Islam; the expression of Islam which is most consistent with the Quran, Sharia Law, and the example of Muhammad.  The Quran contains more than 100 verses calling Muslims to fight against “nonbelievers” for the sake of Islamic rule (Sharia Law):

Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.

Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.

Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”

When ISIS attacked Paris, France they were simply following the Quran in a radical “root” way.  As the Islamic State Spokesman Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani stated recently, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.

A common rebuttal which tries to indict Christianity for having a similar violent history, must consider two counter arguments:

  1.  PHILOSOPHICAL ABUSES ABOUND: Augustine said, “Never judge a philosophy by its abuses.”  The “Crusades,” slavery, the “KKK,” segregation, racism, Westboro’s hateful harassing, and other terrible outrages committed in the name of Christ are not consistent with Scripture, especially as Scripture is fulfilled in the teaching and example of Christ.  Therefore, these outrages are clearly “abuses” and cannot be substantiated as “radical” (root) or representative of Christianity.  For example, (to the contrary), in Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
  2. THE CROSS CHANGES EVERYTHING—MERCY HAS COME! In the Scriptures the entire world stands condemned before God for our rebellion against Him.  In both the Old & New Testament, divine judgment is the ONLY appropriate response to our rebellion from a holy God.  The Bible declares God to be perfectly just in His unleashing of a furious, unrelenting judgment upon the world.  In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is one of God’s primary instruments of judgment, as per Psalm 149:6-7 which reads, “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples…”   In reading the Old Testament there are moments we’re left covering our eyes as we witness the crushing weight of God’s judgment bearing down upon humanity in the way of war, infanticide, and slavery of the nations.  However, in the midst of his judgment, God chooses to relent.    He relents first with a chosen people, Israel, sparing them from the very judgment which He then dispenses THROUGH them.  Later, “in the fullness of time”  (as promised from the beginning) a major historical shift happens; Israel, once God’s chosen instrument of judgment, now becomes God’s chosen instrument of mercy (and blessing) for “all nations.”  Through Israel a Savior is given to the entire world.  Matthew 1:21 tells us he would be called Jesus (Jesus means “God Saves”), “because he will save his people from their sins.”  As Isaiah (53:5) prophesied 700 years prior, “…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  The cross changes everything, as a sinless Savior substitutes himself in the place of a sinful world.  The reason God no longer needs a nation of jihad warriors to dispense his judgment upon the earth is because God poured out his judgment upon Jesus on the cross!  Justice has been kept, and mercy has come!  As Romans 3:26 declares, “(God) did (this) to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”   The cross is the only place in human history where both justice AND mercy are preserved in perfect balance.

You won’t find mercy from Allah, in Islam, because Islam has no cross, no sin-bearer.  Accordingly, there has never been a shift in Islam’s historical narrative from earning & executing “divine justice” to embracing & extending “divine mercy.”  While they may use the term “mercy,” the only way anyone gets “mercy” from Allah, in Islam, is by earning it, which by definition, cannot be mercy.  (Mercy can’t be earned.)  Consequently, when the god of Islam withholds mercy so will the people.  And that is why Jihad rages on.

While the world debates the true nature of Islam, the surge of “radicals” will continue to carry out Allah’s “divine judgment” upon the world.   I’m praying to see a resurgence of “Radical” Christianity.  Our God has lavished his love and mercy upon us, at great cost to himself, (on the cross), and we’re privileged to extend this same love and mercy to the world, at great cost to ourselves.

So go. Be Radical.  Let’s show the world the true nature of Christianity.  Love.  Mercy.

Take 5: What’s New with Redeemer’s Love Houston

take 5 signIt’s Friday.  I hope you’ve had a good week.  Here’s a quick update on life & ministry.

“FOR THE UNBORN” RALLY—If you’re in the Houston area, would you join us tomorrow, (Saturday) from 9 to 11 outside of Planned Parenthood (4600 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 77023), as organized protests happen across major cities.  Email or text me.  Pastor John Piper explains why he will participate in his city: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/planned-parenthood-invitation-explanation-indignation

CAR WRECK—For those of you who don’t know, a friend and I were in a car wreck (involving 3 cars) on Sunday.  Praise God everyone is ok, with no serious injuries sustained.  I recount the wreck (w/ picture) here: https://rhymeandreason.me/2015/08/19/life-in-the-fast-lane-jesus-revealed/

GIVING TEAM:  We’re recruiting a Giving Team that will support us from the outside.  If you would like to invest in our church planting efforts, contact me, and I’ll share more.  Our goal is to raise FULL support, by September, for ONE YEAR of ministry (Sept 2015—Aug 2016).  We have a very easy, secure On-line giving option.  To learn more, click here: http://www.redeemerslovehouston.org/give-online/

RECRUITING CORE TEAM—Please keep us in prayer as we continue our recruiting efforts for a Core Team to launch Redeemer’s Love Houston.  If you have an interest, or know of someone who would make a good Core Member, please contact me, as I would love to talk with you or your friend!  Click here for more info: http://www.redeemerslovehouston.org/help-us-launch/

Thanks for taking a moment out of your Friday!

Have a refreshing weekend!

Brandon Durham

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”  —G.K. Chesterton

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE—JESUS REVEALED

Today I read in II Corinthians 4:7-8, 10 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair….We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body.”

What an incredible privilege we have, to display the life of Christ in and thru our very lives!  And this privilege is not always easy.  God often first displays his death in our lives, through suffering and hardship, which He then uses as the dramatic backdrop from which to “shine forth” His awesome resurrection power!

Third car that slammed into us!

I experienced this in a dramatic way on Sunday.  My friend and I were driving back from Galveston on Sunday night down an extremely dark stretch of I-45.  We were cruising in the fast lane.  Suddenly a black car emerged out of the darkness; it was parked in the fast (far-left) lane!  I slammed on the breaks!  We stopped mere inches from the car, only to have a third car slam into the back of us seconds later!  In the next moments, our lives would literally hang helplessly in the balance, as heavy traffic, including an 18-wheeler, continued to swerve and whiz by us at 65+ mph!  We were 3 black cars, sitting like a row of ducks in the two fastest lanes, and nearly impossible to see in the dark!  A brave man stopped to help us, despite there being NO shoulders on which to safely pull over (city law suit?)!  Suddenly a car swerved to miss us, crashing into his truck!  The man dove out of the way, barely escaping with his life!  We frantically climbed out of the car, and then pulled bleeding, crying children out of the smoking car behind us.  We huddled together, pressing tightly against the concrete median.  Somehow, by the power of God, and the help of “Good Samaritans,” this dark, dangerous highway, humming with heavy traffic, halted to a standstill, allowing 7 badly shaken people to cross safely to the other side.

no shoulders, only temporary concrete barriers
We had no shoulders on either side of I-45, only temporary concrete barriers.

I NEVER would have chosen this for myself, or for those involved, but, having made it to the other side, I can clearly see that God used this traumatic experience to reveal Jesus in a powerful way!  As emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they expressed amazement that we had all made it safely with no major injuries to speak of.  Just a hundred yards up the interstate lay a motorcycle from a wreck that had happened not even an hour before.  We later learned that it had ended in a fatality.  I’ll never know ALL the reasons why ours didn’t end that way.  But I CAN tell you that we were greeted on the other side of the interstate by two Nigerians who told us they were Christians and that they were “pleading the blood of Jesus” over us the entire time, even before the wreck!  It was their car parked in the fast lane.  They had a blow-out just moments before, and couldn’t get over, so they were left to abandon their car.  It was an impossible situation, but God had done the impossible!  He had answered their fervent side-line prayers, and 9 people had walked away from an absolute death trap!

There, under the dark shadow of death, the life of Christ shown forth brightly, in a myriad of unexpected ways.  With a 3 car pile-up tempers easily could have flared over whose fault it was, but instead, powerful moments ensued, as two Nigerians embraced hands with two Americans, in a blur of flashing lights, to give thanks to God for protection!  Then the courageous first-responder, who had nearly been hit by the car, said enthusiastically that he too was a Christian, as he joined us in expressing deep gratitude to God for sparing his own life!  Then we were able to wrap our arms around a very frightened Hispanic family who spoke very little English.  My friend held their little boy in her arms to comfort him, and I wrapped my arms around a sobbing mother and her trembling teenage son until the ambulance arrived.

I truly believe God was both merciful and powerful in sparing our lives!  And during the course of the night, several emergency workers approached me and said, “I hear you are a pastor.”  I was able to speak, to testify, concerning the goodness of God in that harrowing situation.  Even on the way home, our tow truck driver opened up to us that his brother was in ICU with health problems, and we were able to pray with him for his brother, encourage him, and express our gratitude for his help.

When death casts its lingering shadow upon us, God loves to display his power over death; his resurrection life in us!  What hardships, trials, or sufferings has God entrusted you with?  Do you believe God is able to turn these shadows of the cross into beautiful displays of HIS LIFE in you?

Have faith!  Trust in the goodness of God, even in the hard things, and let the world see JESUS REVEALED IN YOU.

INNOCENSE LOST

 

 

 

Her heart was young and beauty bright,
But in her soul, the darkest night.

He was a man of holy cloth,
With soothing voice and answers soft.

She went to him by faith and whim,
When times were tough and hope was slim.

He held her hand, her heart to earn.
With evil passion his did burn.

Will wool be pulled upon her eyes?
A wolf awaits her in disguise.

The door behind them both he closed.
In his embrace she shared her woes.

Now days and hours turn to weeks.
Her troubled soul more comfort seeks.

She returns to him, the man of god;
Satan in a sheep’s facade.

He says she’s special and that he needs her.
With skillful lips more lies he feeds her.

His promises dispelled her fears.
The months and weeks turned into years.

He pulled the strings of her young heart.
She danced along and played the part.

Let’s build a world, a secret life.
I’ll keep it hidden from my wife.

So now they pray, and then they kiss,
And then they laugh and reminisce.

Even evil seems so right.
An affair feels fair under certain light.

And so they skate upon thin ice
He takes her life and rolls the dice.

But just as quick the deep tide changes
He grows tired of her and then estranges.

She’ll keep it secret all the same
For fear that she will be the blame.

Someone’s sister, daughter, mother
Silent victim of her brother.

He tricked her heart and wrecked her soul,
Then tossed her to the depths below.

His twisted lies, like lead, do sink.
Her demise, it pulled her, to the brink.

Illicit lust leaves innocence lost.
Adam’s Eve pays the cost.

Poem by Brandon Durham

I doubt most of us realized that this past weekend was Clergy Sexual Abuse Awareness & Prevention Day.  I wrote the above poem, years ago, during a season of life when my then-girlfriend and I were just beginning to process the painful reality of her personal journey through years of sexual abuse at the hands of a “Christian Minister.”

She had kept that part of her life hidden for years, and I was one of the first people she opened up to about it.  It was devastating for both of us.  For the longest, she remained hidden in shame, and felt it was all her fault.

Through many tears, with the help of Christian counseling and the support of friends, this precious sister was able to find healing.  Today she is married, using her gifts to make a difference in this world, and, by the grace of God, thriving in life.  She is a testimony to the redeeming power of God’s amazing love!  It took a lot of courage and faith for her to step out of the shadows and shame, and walk in the light.

For men in positions of power & authority (bosses, pastors, etc), may we each take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, a man in pastoral leadership: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  I Timothy 5:1-2

I believe it is a display of wise and loving leadership when we purpose to not meet alone with a woman behind closed doors.  If King David succumbed to the temptation of using his power and prestige to take advantage of a woman under his care (Bathsheba), what makes us think we’re above faltering in this way?

The prevalence of both clergy abuse and adultery is staggering.  We must wise up, and set a new example of leadership that seeks to protect those under our care.  It begins with watching our own lives.  We must live in vital community; remaining accountable and vulnerable as members of the church, confessing our own sin struggles, and practicing regular repentance, both for our own sake, and for the sake of those we lead.

We must consistently model and teach what it looks like to relate in good and appropriate ways, so that even the most cunning perpetrators will be recognized and exposed for their wolfish behavior.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28-29

These are precious souls, and we’re entrusted with their care.

 

TAKE 5: What’s NEW with Redeemer’s Love Houston

LEARNING TO PRAY UGLY!

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” —Jesus, Gospel of Matthew 6:6


Greetings All,

Today I’ve had almost as many conversations in Mandarin as I have in English…which means it’s been a relatively quiet, yet pleasant day. 🙂

The past few me with signweeks have been quite busy for me.  I’m valet parking cars for Perry’s Steakhouse (again), which means I spend about 35 hours a week “pounding the pavement” (running) in the sultry Houston heat, drenched in  sweat.  It’s definitely exhausting, but I won’t complain.  I learned last week that one of my co-workers (Ever) has been running all this time….with a prosthetic leg!  Ever was evidently a very talented soccer player, playing on a minor league team, but it all ended after a terrible car wreck which left him in a coma for nearly two months, and gave him impressive scars on his arms.  Ever has an incredible story of faith & triumph, and really encourages me. He loves the book of Revelations, so we talk a lot about “end times” and Ever plans to join us one Sunday at Redeemer’s Love.  I want him to share his story one day.  My co-workers are also teaching me some Spanish!  There’s a video of me singing in Spanish floating around somewhere 😉 lol


We (Redeemer’s Love) are focused on two things at present 1) BUILDING OUR CORE TEAM & 2) CULTIVATING OUR MISSION FIELD.


In regards to the former (CORE BUILDING) we’re aiming to recruit a CORE TEAM of 10-20 crazy, committed people who will partner with Redeemer’s Love through giving financially, gathering frequently, and going faithfully to serve in our mission field.  So far, we have 3 of us who are “in.”  I’ve compiled a list of about 15 potential CORE MEMBERS that I am in the process of actively sharing our vision with, and I’m praying God will “send the workers.” Earlier this week, my boss at Perry’s (a believer) expressed a desire to come partner with us, and just today I met a Christian sister from Jamaica who is very interested in learning more about Redeemer’s Love.  Last month we met a Christian sister from L.A. who attended our gatherings, and may move to Houston and join us.  If you know anyone who may be interested, contact me!

In regards to the latter (CULTIVATING THE MISSION FIELD), God has opened many doors recently to build relationships with “unchurched” people, and to share the gospel.  I’ve compiled a list of about 25+ people that I am presently, actively building relationships & sharing the gospel with.  About 8 of those people are from Perry’s Steakhouse.  They include people from El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Africa, Vietnam, Mexico, etc…

In addition, about 20 college students from Slovakia & the Czech Republic have moved into my apartment complex for a summer work program and will be here for the next 3 months.  I spend many of my mornings & evenings drinking coffee with them in our courtyard, which is fostering some warm friendships and great gospel conversations.  Many of these students are atheist, agnostic, or “Christian by heritage only.”  Pray for Tereza, Jacob, & Milan to name a few.  I’m working with a local church to show them some warm hospitality & Christian love, and two have expressed a sincere desire to attend church & Bible Study with me.


This past Sunday I was honored to preach at College Park Baptist Church, and my text was Matthew 6:5-15.  I talked about “Learning to Pray Ugly.”  My definition of “Praying Ugly” is “to be gripped by an acute awareness of our absolute dependency upon the Heavenly Father which wells up inside of us and spills over into a fervent outpouring of raw, unpretentious pleading.”  “Praying Ugly” is in contrast to the “PRETTY PRAYING” PHARISEES & PAGANS mentioned in Matthew 6, who pray to try and impress men & God.  I’m becoming more and more convinced/convicted that the church must corporately, increasingly be hidden away in “secret prayer” if we are to see the mighty hand of God at work in and around us.  Contact me if you’re interested in having me come and share this message on a Sunday night, or during the week.

In closing, I offer my heartfelt thanks to those of you who gave, for supporting the work of Redeemer’s Love Houston!  Your gifts have helped me pay my bills, put 2 desperately needed new tires on my car, visit the doctor, and also helped a single mom in the Houston area with car repairs and temporary housing.  Thank you ALL for your faithful prayers!  Please continue to pray for us in this gospel work.  The Holy Spirit is opening doors, softening hearts, and preparing the way.  And as the song goes, “He’s still working on me…”

 
To God Be The Glory!

Sincerely,

Brandon Durham

http://www.redeemerslovehouston.org

MY ONE THING: TO CALL THE CORE TO A COMMON VISION


But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness...”

-Jesus, Gospel of Matthew 6:33


me with sign
New sign hangs behind me in our Sunday gathering space at College Park Baptist in Houston, Sharpstown!

I’m reading a thought provoking book called, “Essentialism; the Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” which is challenging and coaching me to “cut through the noise” and hone in on just “ONE THING” in which to invest myself wholly.  It’s not a “Christian Book” per say, although the author does draw principles from the Bible and quotes Christian authors at times.  In reading it, I’ve come to realize that Christ is the quintessential essentialist, and that he calls us to “the disciplined pursuit of less,” in his footsteps.

As I consider the call of Christ to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” and the practical implications of what that looks like for this immediate season of my life, I’ve realized that, presently, my ONE THING (my highest priority & task) is TO CALL THE CORE TO A COMMON VISION FOR PLANTING REDEEMER’S LOVE CHURCH.

This means sharpening and sharing the vision God has birthed in my heart, and it means pursuing prospective CORE MEMBERS; folks who love Christ and His Church, and are in a position to “throw in” with us on this new church plant.  It means prayerfully, diligently bringing our CORE TEAM together around this shared vision.

And such a thing will surely require a relentless, disciplined, repentant focus to see it through.  It’s amazing how, when we seek (attempt) to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” we suddenly find our flesh fighting us at every turn!

In 1521, with the Western World ablaze in the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther was holed up in Wartburg Castle, supposedly, for the undivided purpose of “working feverishly” on one of his greatest investments in the Kingdom of God, the German Translation of the New Testament.  Yet, in a personal letter to a close friend, Luther confides: “I sit here at ease, hardened and unfeeling—alas! praying little, grieving little for the Church of God, burning rather in the fierce fires of my untamed flesh. It comes to this: I should be afire in the spirit; in reality I am afire in the flesh, with lust, laziness, idleness, sleepiness. It is perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from me … For the last eight days I have written nothing, nor prayed nor studied, partly from self-indulgence, partly from another vexatious handicap [chronic, severe digestive problems] … I really cannot stand it any longer … Pray for me, I beg you, for in my seclusion here I am submerged in sins.

That letter has never been lost on me, and, down through the years, I have related, painfully.  Often, when we seek to “seek first the Kingdom of God” we find it to be a very lonely, difficult place.  And, perhaps most discouraging is that we often must limp forward with a divided “self,” as the “Kingdom of our flesh” surges violently against the Kingdom of God.

As I have embarked on this endeavor to plant Redeemer’s Love I’ve encountered various forms of trials, including several health issues (chronic neck pain and a hiatal hernia, which makes it difficult to breathe, to concentrate).  I’ve felt the sting of friends in ministry not supporting me as I had hoped, the frustration of doors remaining closed on jobs, the sense of drowning in my own areas of incompetency, the demons of past failures hissing from afar, and most of all, the pain of loneliness, as I sometimes sit in my quiet apartment wondering what the heck do I do now? And where the heck is my helpmate?  Far too often, in my isolation, I respond like Luther: I “check out;” become ‘hardened and unfeeling—praying very little, grieving little for the Church of God…”

But, with each new day, like the prodigal son, I find my way back to the gospel; to the truth that, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

And so, today, as I write, I can say with Spurgeon, that I may be weary IN the work, but not OF the work.  With renewed hope in the gospel, and renewed energy to invest, I want to focus on MY ONE THING: TO CALL THE CORE TO A COMMON VISION.

TWO WAYS YOU CAN HELP:

1.  Above all, as often as you think to, keep us lifted up in prayer.  Spurgeon reminds us that, “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.

  • Prayer Needs: Spiritual Vitality, Clear & Compelling Communication of Vision, Stability/sustainability: (meaning full-time job OR enough support to work part time, housing in Sharpstown by end of June.)  For God to send “the workers” (Core
    houston flood
    Houston Flooding, 2015

    Members),  Pray for James & Jane (they’ve both experienced some sickness & exhaustion in this new season as parents…but they’re doing a fantastic job!

2.  Help us pursue leads for potential Core Members.  If you have a relationship with someone in or around Southwest Houston who may be interested in learning more about Redeemer’s Love Houston, you may direct them to our website: www.redeemerslovehouston.org or have them give me a call 936.222.4260 or email jamesbrandondurham@gmail.com . I would love to talk with them!

Thank you all for your continued support.  You have no idea how much you have blessed me and Redeemer’s Love Church already!  Your “presence” is felt in so many ways, and you help us cling fast to the promise of Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Amen, Amen, Amen!!!!!!

Sincerely,

Brandon Durham