During our all-church family meeting last month, someone asked, “What is our vision for growth as a church?” Our vision is to help people become passionate, devoted followers of Christ. One dimension of that vision is outreach. 93% of people living in Denver are not connected to a faith community. Many people are neither experiencing God’s great love for them nor God’s purpose for their lives. We hope to respond to that need by intentionally reaching out to more people in our 30-minute footprint with God’s love. We love because He first loved us. We pray God will fill and flood your life, your neighbor’s life, and your families’ lives with His light and love until no seat is left empty when we gather in worship.
Alongside reaching out, our vision is that God would transform you and I into his likeness and form us in community. Transformation happens as we understand and embrace in ever-increasing ways that we are God’s beloved, precious in His eyes. Community happens as we respect, honor, and enjoy each other. Our vision is that God would so knit us together that no one in this city would be alone. Our vision is for little groups of friendship to form all over Denver where love and laughter and friendship would spontaneously spring up, and everyone would know that they are never alone.
Our vision is that when we run out of seats in our sanctuary, we start planting churches, rather than building a bigger building, which furthers the vision of helping more people become passionate, devoted followers of Christ. Here is why we care about this vision: 1) People matter to God, 2) We exist to represent Christ in this world and convey to others that they matter to God. 3) We see our church as an eco-system, similar to a river. Every eco-system has a carrying capacity. If a river has a carrying capacity for 500 fish, that means the river is designed to care for 500 fish. 500 fish can thrive there. But if that river suddenly has far fewer or far more fish than it is designed to carry, the fish will begin to die. Churches, like eco-systems, have a carrying capacity. The carrying capacity of a church is determined by the number of worship services, the number of staff and volunteers, the size of the sanctuary, etc. The carrying capacity of Platt Park Church is about 500-600. Last Sunday we had 225. Platt Park church could double in size today with our exact same facility, staff and programing! Whatever our size, our mission will always be to help people become passionate, devoted followers of Christ. This vision is compatible with growth, and we’re excited to live into it boldly, exercising our responsibility to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us to continue to reach out to people in Denver.

He First Loved Us

“We love because God first loved us.”

This wisdom comes from a man named John, who knew Jesus personally and had experienced God’s love firsthand. What did John mean about love? I think he meant that we can’t generate our own love from out of nothing. We can’t imitate, copy, or fake the sort of love John is describing.

If I think I’m going to wake up in the morning and gut it out – just love, love, love everybody I see, then I do not understand real love. Love is a gift first, a “grace” from God. We can’t earn it through holiness. We can’t measure it by time or worth. God’s love is higher, wider, deeper, and longer than we can ever imagine. We can only receive it.

We love because He first loved us. John was telling us to receive first, give second. If we don’t receive God’s love, if we haven’t fallen into the arms of love, it’s going to be very hard to extend any genuine sort of love to others.

So, today, what can you do to receive God’s love? Take a walk maybe? Sit still for a bit? Marvel at a mountain, or stand by a tree? Pray, hike, read, journal, bake, create, stare out the window, or do whatever is nourishing to you. And as you do, remember you are God’s child. Imagine yourself as a child in the loving arms of God, and allow Him to love you. Receive!

Then, give.

Adopting Lyla: Part 5 – You Are Chosen

When we said “yes” to adopting Lyla, her caregiver posted this photo on Facebook with the words, “I am chosen.”

I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus says, “I have chosen you,” and how often I take that as a pressuring message. You’re chosen, blessed, redeemed – so get busy serving meals and hosting groups and working hard in the church.  Your duty as a chosen one is to be responsible and pay back the gift you’ve been given in being chosen.

Then I think about Lyla. I think about how my mama-heart jumped for joy when I saw this picture of her sweet little face next to the words “I am chosen.” I wanted to reach through the computer screen and say, “Yes, you are chosen, sweet baby girl,” and hold her in my arms.

I want Lyla to know that as her imperfect mom I care infinitely more about her BEING than her DOING. I hope for her to BE brave, to BE free, to BE true, to BE God- honoring, and whatever she does out of that center is just by-product.

It doesn’t matter to me if she does anything great in the world’s eyes. Maybe God sees us the same way.

Imagine a photograph of yourself right here. God looks at your face and is overwhelmed with delight. You are chosen…

But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.

Isaiah 43:1-4

Morning Snuggles with Russell

I’ve loved Russell from the moment we found out he was only the size of a poppy seed inside of me.  But there are moments lately when I look at him, and the depth of love I feel towards him nearly knocks me off my feet.  The other morning he came into our bed early in the morning. Tim was already gone, and Russell lay there quietly holding my hand. The sweetness of his little fingers wrapped around mine, the features of his face, the warmth of his little body, the quietness of that moment, the stillness of early day-all came together and made me want to weep in its beauty. In such moments, I think to myself: I would lay down in front of a train for you. I would learn how to fly for you. I would go anywhere, do anything, pay any price because I love you so much.

Then I think about God’s love for me, and for you, and for Russell. I think about God’s love for all people. For all people he created. For all people of every nation, every political belief, every religious belief, and every status. All people, even annoying people and crazy people and irritating people and the ones who try so hard to be good and the ones who gave up on any attempts at goodness long ago. God created, He birthed all these creatures-all these beings-and His love for His creation is fierce.

I’m certain that Russell’s 3-year old brain cannot fully comprehend or fathom the depths of my love for him. I’m certain that my little brain cannot fully grasp God’s love for me either. But if my love for Russell is a fractured, incomplete & imperfect picture of God’s love for us, then that realization of the immensity of God’s love changes everything. It makes me wonder…

Why would I ever fear in this sort of love?

Why would I ever embrace or support hatred or violence?

Why would I ever hold on to a grudge?

Why would I ever choose doing over being?

… The list goes on and on.

The depth of Gods’ love is an ever-deepening spiral, unfathomable, and it is our only context for enduring transformation and change. So, let’s not be afraid to be like Russell and put our little hands in God’s hands in the stillness and quiet and in the turmoil and terror of this life. We are loved.