Tuesday, June 30, 2015


The church was born, according the promise of our Lord Jesus (Cf. Matthew 16:18), on the Day of Pentecost.  In miraculous fashion, by a work of the Spirit of God, ordinary men were supernaturally empowered to proclaim an extraordinary message—the gospel.  3000 souls were saved on that day (Cf. Acts 2:41).  And the church continued afterwards to grow in depth and breadth (Cf. Acts 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, etc.).  The Spirit worked through the early church to turn the world upside down (Cf. Acts 16:8). 

2000 years later the church in our day bears little resemblance to what it was in its beginning.  Spirit-born love and devotion have given way to apathy and complacency and self-sufficiency (Cf. Revelation 3:17).  Anemic religiosity has taken the place of the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” which was borne of the Spirit of God in the church in its beginning (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 3:5; Revelation 2:4).

I like this quote by Francis A. Schaeffer, and though he said this many decades ago, it still holds great relevance in our day: “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us.  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.  The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

As the “Pogo” cartoon once put it, “We’ve met the problem and it is us.”  So the problem which works to threaten and weaken the church is not any external force.  We serve a Risen Savior who has availed to us surpassing power and immeasurable love (Cf. Ephesians 1:19, 3:18-19).  The Lord Jesus, who is the “same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), still “stands in the middle of the lampstands” (Revelation 1:13).  He, the One who promised to build His church (Cf. Matthew 16:18), privileges us to have a part in His triumphant and glorious work (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).

We would do well to evaluate ourselves according to what we find to be true in that historical church.  Those early believers believed in Jesus.  The loved Jesus.  And because they loved Him they continually devoted themselves to certain things.  These were not religious things they did out of duty or external constraint, these were things they were led to do by the Spirit of God who indwelt and filled them.  They did these things because they loved Jesus more than anything else.  Nothing mattered more to them than Him.  What was it they were doing?  Acts 2:42 tells us: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

What if we did the same?  What would happen if all of the born-again believers in America were to return to the same pattern of behavior that we find in the early church?  What if all the Bible-believing churches across the land were filled to capacity on Sunday?  And not for the sake of entertainment, but of out of a sense of need and worship of the Jesus Christ (Cf. Philippians 3:3).  What would happen if churches reinstituted their prayer meetings?  What would happen if we all gave attention to confessing our sins?  We’ve quenched the Spirit and grieved Him in our churches.  Let’s cry out to God for forgiveness.  He is full of grace and mercy and stands ready to forgive (Cf. 1 John 1:9).  We’ve left our first love.  He’s prescribed for us a remedy (Cf. Revelation 2:5).  There is no political or social or economic solution to that which ails us.  No church growth plan or new methodology can make up for what is lacking by way of the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.  Let’s throw off all vestiges of self-sufficiency and self-confidence and depend instead fully on the All-Sufficient and Powerful Helper (Cf. John 14:16; Ephesians 5:18-21).

The Supreme Court issued a verdict last Friday which is direct contradiction to God and His Word.  God has issued a verdict too and He has called us, His ambassadors, to proclaim it.  In the courtroom of Divine Justice He amazingly declared His OWN SON guilty of OUR sins (Cf. Romans 3:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21).  In the greatest act of love ever demonstrated He has provided for the salvation of all who place their faith in Him (Cf. Romans 5:8, 10:9).  Divine justice has been fully and finally satisfied for the believer on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection (Cf. Romans 5:1, 8:1).

The Supreme Court’s verdict made the news last news and people soon gathered in places around the world to celebrate.  In the weeks and months to come its effect will spread across our land in unforeseen and unimaginable ways.  And what will be the response of the church?  Will we, God’s people, carry on in our complacent, compromising and apathetic ways?  God forbid!  There is too much at stake.  The battle that is ongoing is a battle for the souls of men.  It is a good fight to which we’ve been called (Cf. 2 Timothy 6:12).  “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).  We’ve got a message to share.  Over the course of time it spread from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the earth.  God did that!  He did it through ordinary men and women who had availed themselves to be used by Him.  They did not succeed in their own abilities, but by the power of the Spirit of God working in them (Cf. Colossians 1:28-29).  Let us respond to the Supreme Court’s decision with the message that God Himself has founded in response to man’s sin problem, His glorious gospel (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:11).  And may we, in the proclamation of His gospel, “spread His praise from shore to shore” (“O The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus”).

So here’s some simple advice for myself and my fellow believers.  The other side (i.e. those lost in sin and led by the devil; Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3) are fighting hard on their side of the battle to win the right to justify their sin (though in reality that is something that they can never do).  Let’s endeavor, by the Spirit, to enthusiastically devote ourselves to the good fight (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:12).  Ours is a good fight constrained and instructed by love (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14).  We follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Himself who has set forth our path (Cf. 1 Peter 2:21-23; Hebrews 12:2-4; Ephesians 5:1-2).  We fight with “divinely powerful” weaponry (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  I think if you look around you might find some fellow soldiers who are discouraged or who have fallen down or been wounded in the battle.  Perhaps you could encourage them (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  Let’s encourage one another.  I’ve read of the close comradery of fellow soldiers on a battle field.  Surely they need it if they are to be “strong and brave to face the foe.”  The day demands that we respond in kind.  That we stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).

Go to church.  Go to worship.  Go to serve.  Stop making excuses for not going.  What can be more important than gathering together with your brothers and sisters to worship your Lord and Savior?  Go to church on Sunday as if it matters, because it does.  And if your church isn’t preaching the gospel and teaching the Word—find another one that is.  And enjoin yourself to it.  And find your place of serving in it.  And take is seriously.  As I mentioned before—if all the professing believers were to take the next Sunday seriously and fill up the Bible believing churches across this land it would make a difference.  It would make a difference in the church.  We could not help but be mutually encouraged by such a thing (Cf. Romans 1:12). 

Pray.  I’ve said it before…if there ever was a time for believers in America to pray this is it.  We need to pray for our fellow believers in Christ (Cf. Ephesians 6:18).  And not just for our earthly concerns.  There’s nothing wrong with praying for such things, but let’s be careful to pray not only for the good health of others, but for good spiritual health of us all (Cf. 3 John 2; Colossians 1:9-12).  Go to prayer meeting.  Pray yourself.  Encourage others to pray.  The early church prayed.  A prayer meeting preceded Pentecost and devotion to prayer came on its heels (Cf. Acts 1:14, 2:42).  When the church faced its first great obstacle, the people gathered together to pray (Cf. Acts 4:23-31).  We’d do well to follow their example.

Devote yourself to the Word.  Those early believers were continually devoted to the Apostle’s teaching (Cf. Acts 2:42).  They were Spirit-borne to a love for the truth.  Ever since the church has been “the pillar and support of the truth” in the world (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).  But the pillars and the foundation are crumbling away in our day.  Too many professing believers have no appetite for sound doctrine (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:2).  And it shows.  History shows that there is a cause and effect relationship associated to the devotion to the Scriptures.  Spiritual decline is always accompanied by apathy and inattention to the Word of God (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:3, 3:1-5).  Spiritual revival, on the other hand, happens when the Word of God is taken seriously (Cf. Nehemiah 8; 1 Peter 1:22-23).  Love the truth.  Grow in it (Cf. 1 Peter 2:2).

So these are some things we need to do.  But not just do, do for the right reasons and in the right spirit.  We need to do them “by the Spirit,” because apart from Him we can’t do a thing that is pleasing to God or that is done in a way or manner that is of any spiritual benefit (Cf. John 6:63; Philippians 3:3).  And we need to do them because we love Jesus—we want to worship Him; we want to be with His people; we want to spend time with Him in prayer; we want to grow in Him through the teaching of His Word; we want to be used by Him in doing things that matter for eternity; we want to be made to be like Him.  For all these reasons—and many more besides—let’s give attention to these matters.

“Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.”
One to Every Man and Nation (Text: James Russel Lowell; Music: Thomas J. Williams).

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Pastor Henry is a little man with a big heart.  I initially met him on my first visit to Uganda.  My uncle, Pastor Bob Emrich, had invited me to accompany him on a trip to Uganda.  He’d been working together with Paul Mwesigwa (the African Director of Hope and Mercy Mission) and some folks from US churches in ministering in a variety of ways to some churches in the villages surrounding Kabaale Village in Uganda.  My daughter Carissa joined us on the first trip.  We held a conference for a group of 25 or so pastors.  Pastor Henry was in that group. 

Over the course of the subsequent visits, I got to know Henry better.  He attended the Bible Study methods training that I taught.  He served as my translator on numerous occasions.  I’d say a phrase in English; he’d provide the translation.  We’d sometimes tease our translators.  “How are we to know what you are actually telling them?” we’d ask.  And they would smile and suggest that we’d just have to trust them.  From the beginning, I’ve been blessed and encouraged in my friendship with Henry.  I’ve been to the church he pastors, People of the Way Church, on many occasions.  He loves the Lord, the Word, and the church in Uganda.  He asks a lot of questions and soaks up instruction from God’s Word so that he can then pass it on to others. 

The breadth of the ministry in the area has grown since that first visit.  What began as a ministry to a handful of pastors has expanded to encompass ~150 pastors and churches in five separate pastor alliances.  These alliances have been formed to provide for the mutual encouragement and accountability of the village pastors.  They have also allowed for a venue through which we can assist the churches in providing Bibles, gospel tracts, pastor training, and other things like tarps for roofs, etc.  Pastor Henry was chosen to be the administrator of the five alliances.  He meets regularly with the leaders of the alliances and oversees logistics.

The churches in that region have a lot of needs.  Many of the pastors have not attended Bible College.  It is only in recent years that the churches have had a more adequate supply of Bibles in their own language.  Most of the pastors do not speak or read English.  Bible study tools or books in their language are scarce.  They yearn to have such tools.  Pastor Bob and I had promised to do what we could in providing them.

It was on my fourth visit and near the time for our departure.  I sat down with Henry on the steps outside the guest house.  Pastor Henry speaks and reads English, and I had some tools, in English, to pass on to him.  I explained how each could be used.  And then I discussed with him other ways in which we might be able to help the pastors.  He spoke to me of the need for assistance in the discipleship of new believers.  I didn’t know exactly how we might be able help in that way, but his need planted a seed of thought in my mind.

I returned from that trip with the desire to do something to address the need.  Most believers know that there are certain spiritual disciplines that are essential to the believer’s growth in Christ (i.e. devotion to the word, prayer, and fellowship; Cf. Acts 2:42).  I myself had gone through studies that address these matters and thought maybe something similar could be done.  Sometimes, the practice of these spiritual disciplines tend to gravitate to a kind of “religious” exercise, so I wanted to clarify the “how” and “why” with respect to them.  How?  By the Spirit.  Why?  To grow in Christ.  I wanted to keep the book simple.  Four chapters, I thought.  I also wanted to include the referenced Scripture passages in the book, in case the reader didn’t have access to a Bible.  I was also aware of a concern that we had regarding their understanding of the true nature of the “by-grace-through-faith-in-Christ” salvation we have received.  I wanted to clarify these matters up front in the book.  One other thought governed my thinking as I wrote—what did I myself wish that I had been taught early on as a believer to help me in my walk with Jesus.

I asked the church family to pray as I began to work on the book.  It took me a couple of months, spending some time on it whenever I had the opportunity.  I had already been doing some thinking about the translation of the book into Lugandan.  I knew of a Ugandan fellow, Alex Kmba, who lived and worked in the Seattle area.  He attended Edgewood Bible Church where my uncle Frank served as Pastor.  I got in touch with Alex and asked him if he would be willing and able to translate the book into Lugandan.  He said that he would love to, so I sent it to him.  And the church family began praying for Alex as he did the work of translation.  He spent several months working on it.  Sometimes, he would call or email me about language in the book that was difficult and ask if it could be written in a different way.  He spoke to me of how he sometimes worked until late at night, praying all the while for God to lead him and give him the right words.  Finally, it was done!  Of course, since it was now in Lugandan, I couldn’t read it!  I sent it to Paul Mwesigwa who reviewed it.  It was almost ready to be printed.

I gave a lot of thought to the cover of the book.  I’d already decided on the title, “First Steps with Jesus.”  I wanted to put a picture on the cover, something with a path on it to coincide with the title.  I have on my computer thousands of pictures from Uganda.  Some are mine and some are from teammates that have come along on previous trips.  I started looking for a good picture with a path.  I narrowed my search down to a few and finally found one that was perfect.  Using a computer program, I digitalized it.  It looked real good and I sent the book off to be printed.  On that next trip, we took 500 copies.  And we distributed them amongst the pastors to be used in the churches.  It was on that trip that Pastor Bob asked me if I knew where that picture had come from.  I honestly didn’t know.  It was one I had found on my computer, but I couldn’t recall the spot where it had been taken.  He said that it was a picture that he himself had taken and he could show me the exact spot.  We got up from our seats in the guest house and crossed the field to a path that leads to a valley.  I recognized the path as one that he would frequently transverse on walks in the morning.  We went down the path a little ways until we arrived at the spot.  Sure enough!  It was the same tree, the same path, and the same background.  He went on to explain to me how he had come to that spot on his first visit to Africa.  He had spent some time in prayer there asking God to take the gospel message beyond that valley and the hills that lay on the other side.  And I’m thinking, “Isn’t that amazing that God would work so that a picture of that place would end up on the cover of the book!”

We’ve distributed over 1200 copies in the region.  It costs over a dollar each to print them and some more for the extra baggage necessary to get them there on our flights.  But we’ve never lacked for funds in providing them to the people.  On one occasion, I was approached by one of the members of our church.  She said that her family had some money set aside to support missionary endeavors like ours.  She wondered if we could use some funds to help with the printing of the books.  I said, “Sure!”  On another occasion, a good friend and fishing buddy called me at home.  It was just before Christmas.  He said that he had something for me and asked if he could come over.  We invited him in.  He didn’t stay long.  He explained that his wife and he had talked about the work in Africa.  He wondered if I could use some help with funds for the printing of the books.  Teary eyed, he handed me a huge wad of money.  I counted it after he left.  It was $400.

The intent in writing the book was for the more mature believers to use it in the discipleship of new believers.  On our last visit, we saw that God had a different plan.  We heard some testimonies from pastors on how the book was already being used.  Pastor Henry spoke about how he was taking his entire congregation through a study of the book.  The pastors themselves suggested that they would be best served by doing the same.  How encouraging that was too hear!  During that visit, we were able to distribute 5 copies to every pastor in the alliances.  About 100 teens/young adults attended a youth conference that was held at Our God Reigns church.  We were able to give each of those attendees a copy of the book.  We did a lot of home visits on that trip.  And every time our team visited a home, they took along a copy of the book.  The book has found its way into 100+ churches!  I’ve kidded with folks that I’m the best-selling author in that region of Uganda.  Of course, that’s not too hard when yours is the only book and you give it away for free!  We’ve also passed on 70 copies of the book to Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry (located on Lingira Island in the Buvuma Island chain of Lake Victoria, Uganda).  First Steps has also been translated into the Turkish language and is being used by missionaries in that region.

LCBC commemorated our 25th anniversary a couple of Sundays ago.  We were so blessed by the services that day.  Many visitors came, including some long-time friends from St. Helens Community Bible Church where we used to attend many years ago.  My friend Mo made a point of coming to me and thanking me for the First Steps with Jesus book.  He said that the church had been using it in their Men’s and Women’s Bible Studies.  So I thanked him and thanked God.  I got an email the other day from a friend in Colorado.  He attended LCBC years ago and recently contacted me via email.  I sent him a copy of the First Steps with Jesus book.  He soon wrote me back and asked for more copies.  In the more recent email, he wrote to tell me how the Discipleship Pastor in their church has decided to use the book in a new small group discipleship class.  So I wrote him back and thanked him.  He said in that email, “I get such a kick out of watching God work.”  No kidding.  The book was not my idea; it was Pastor Henry’s.  LCBC folks prayed about it.  Alex translated it.  Paul Mwesigwa reviewed it.  Pastor Bob took the picture for it (without even knowing it).  Others helped to pay for it and paid to get copies to Africa.  The pastors are using it.  And all along the way, God was, and is, at work.  How privileged we are to serve Him and watch Him do what He does in His “exceeding-abundantly-beyond-all-that-we-ask-or-think” manner!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


It has ever since been referred to as the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.  It was a big storm; the biggest in my experience of living on the North Oregon Coast.  It packed winds in excess of 100 mph.  In fact, a gust of 127 mph was recorded not too many miles south of here in Bay City.  The storm also brought heavy rains and produced widespread record flooding.  But it was the wind that folks remember.  Not only was it strong, it went on and on for hours and caused a lot of destruction.  Officials estimate that the storm downed some 3500 acres of timber.  Around the county, blue tarps soon covered many roofs.  As a result of downed trees and flooding, the storm blocked all road access to the North Coast for a couple of days.  Both landline and cellular phone services were out.  Power was gone for days and in some places weeks.

The winds began in earnest on a Sunday morning when we were at church.  As the wind began to roar, the metal roofing of the church began to rattle and the building groaned and shook.  The lights flickered and then went out.  The after-church fellowship time was cancelled.  As soon as some downed wires were moved from across the road, folks hastily made their way home.  The wind steadily increased through the afternoon but it was that night that I remember.  Power was out.  My daughter Claire was unable to sleep.  She and I stood a frightful watch in our candle-lit living room, listening to a ghastly choir of noises.  Branches and limbs crashing into the house accompanied the steady roar of the wind.  The loud cracks and thuds of falling trees accentuated the fearful cacophony.  Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night.  By morning light, we gauged the damage.  A dozen or so hemlocks had crashed to the ground and crisscrossed our pond like fallen matchsticks.

On Monday, Jason, my friend and neighbor, and I carefully navigated storm debris and made our way to the church so that we could survey the damage.  The first thing we noticed was the grey metal roofing scattered across the field to the north of the church building.  It was everywhere.  We drove around the side of the church and were taken aback by what we saw.  There was debris littered across the property.  The pole barn had collapsed and spilled out some of its contents.  The storm had blown off a portion of the roof of the church building.  Pieces of lumber were hanging and swinging in the wind.  We saw enough to know that the needed repairs were beyond our abilities.  We were insured.  I’d find a roofing contractor.  We’d soon get things taken care of.  So I thought.  But I had no idea as to the severity of the damage.

There was no phone service for a couple of days so it was impossible to contact anyone.  I supposed that as soon as I could I’d call Helligso Construction since I was familiar with the company and knew the family.  I had that thought in my mind as Jason and I headed to City Lumber to see about buying some generators.  Without power, it would be necessary to power our refrigerators and freezers.  We parked and entered through the front of the store and as we were walking in, guess who was walking out!  None other than Larry Helligso, owner of Helligso Construction.  “Larry, did you hear what happened to our church building?” I asked.  I went on to explain the situation and asked if they could help.  He said that he would be glad to come and check it out.  They came the next day.  They were on site for the next 10 months.

The church moved to the nearby elementary school for the next several weeks.  Then the Building Codes Department gave us the okay to meet in the smaller undamaged portion of our building.  We met in a 50 by 50 ft. room that we commonly refer to as the “play room.”  With little amenities and far away bathrooms, it made for an austere setting.  But it was cozy and folks came to appreciate the intimacy of fellowship in that environment.  I began a study through the book of Nehemiah.  And we prayed for God to guide and direct the rebuilding efforts.

As the weeks passed, we learned more of the extent of the damage to the building.  Though there was some uncertainty as to the extent, the building had been “racked” (tilted slightly northward because of the wind).  The steeple was definitely visibly tilted.  A gaping hole in the roof had caused water damage to the kitchen, library, and downstairs bathrooms.  The tall north sanctuary wall had buckled and would need to be rebuilt.  The storm revealed certain structural deficiencies that would need to be resolved before we could reoccupy the facility.  Some of these deficiencies could only be corrected by removing sheetrock and/or siding. 

The big question in the early days of the repair efforts was what the Building Codes Department would require us to do with respect to meeting the building codes requirements that had been put in effect since the time when the building had been built.  We had plenty of insurance to cover the cost of the general repairs.  But our policy had a $100,000 limit to what is called “Building Code Upgrades.”  That amount could have been easily exceeded and multiplied depending upon what we would be required to do.

We hit an impasse in the repair efforts.  There were too many entities involved in the decision making: the church, the insurance company, the insurance adjuster, two engineering firms, the general contractor, and the Building Codes Department.  There were varying opinions as to what needed to be done and we couldn’t go forward with the repairs until someone made a decision that everyone else would be willing to abide by.  But I was preaching through the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah led the wall re-building project in Jerusalem.  He faced many obstacles.  But he trusted God and prayed.  We prayed too.

I was in my office when they came.  There were three of them.  Three building code officials.  Two were from Clatsop County.  The other one, from out of town, was obviously in charge.  I led them on a tour of the building.  As we walked from room to room, one of the local officials pointed out the particular issues that needed to be addressed.  And the one in charge gave instructions as to what would be required in each particular case.  We were on the platform in the sanctuary when he asked me, “So I suppose, Pastor, that you are preaching through the book of Nehemiah?”  “How did he know?” I thought.  And then, wondered “Why would he care?”  I responded that yes, in fact, we were.  A bigger surprise was forthcoming when we came to the end of the tour.  The one in charge suggested to the others that they go outside and examine the big barn that was under construction next door.  He turned to me, put his arm around my shoulder, stepped out of his official role, and asked, “Pastor, would it be okay if I prayed for you?”  So he prayed for us.  He prayed that God would superintend our rebuilding efforts and bless our church in the process.  I was obviously surprised and thankful for God’s intervention.  From that day forward, the rebuilding proceeded according to plan.

The blessings that ensued as a result of the remodeling of our building are too numerous to recall or list.  But these are some of them.  When I came to the church in 1990, the building, though constructed in the early 1970s, had never been finished.  We had a list of projects to be done 100 items long!  But when the church celebrated its 50th anniversary in October of 2008, after the rebuilding effort, it was finally finished!  God used a storm to finish our building!  The steeple had leaked for years.  On rainy days, we would set up buckets on the platform to collect the rain falling from the ceiling.  But the rebuilding resolved that matter.  No more leaks!  For years, being next to a dairy, we had had a problem with flies entering into our building in the fall.  During the reconstruction, it was discovered that there was a wide gap at the top of the west wall of the sanctuary where it met the roof where the flies would enter.  That problem was resolved.  No more flies!  The rooms of the building that had suffered water damage from the rain were all completely remodeled.  We were blessed with a new kitchen, bathrooms, and library.  We’ve made much use of the kitchen ever since.  And now use it weekly in providing for a free Sunday School breakfast.  The sanctuary was completely remodeled with new carpet, windows, and paint.  To strengthen the building, foundation ties, load bearing walls, and horizontal blocking were added.  The roof itself was strengthened.  A new metal roof was installed over the entire building.  In exchanging Hardiplank siding for the original hard-to-get-and-expensive redwood cedar siding, we gained “credits” that were applied to other improvements.  We were able to pave the east end parking lot.  The pole barn collapsed in the storm.  It was old and decaying and we had planned to tear it down anyway.  But insurance paid us $5000 for it and paid to clean up the mess.  The parsonage roof was in need of replacement.  It had the maximum three layers of composite shingles.  It would have been a big project for us.  But it had lost some shingles in the storm so insurance paid to do the reroofing from the plywood up.  There were many more things that were fixed or redone or improved.  In the end, the cost of the repairs exceeded $900,000.  We paid only the $500 deductible.

When Jason and I first saw the building on the day after the storm, it was a mess.  We had no idea at that time how God would use that storm to bless us.  But as I’ve said ever since, “The storm was the best thing that ever happened to our building!”  Storms happen.  Storms in life happen too.  They are an unavoidable aspect of life on this sin-cursed planet.  But we serve a God who is able to bring blessings out of them.  The before and after pictures of the building speak to the radical transformation that ensued through the process.  The end result was “far more abundantly” beyond what we would have imagined (Cf. Ephesians 3:20).  God is even now at work to do such a thing in the lives of His children.  They come to Him by faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.  By grace He saves and works to transform rebel sinners into loving worshipers who are ultimately conformed to the very image of His Son.  The trials of life have a role in the process (Cf. Romans 5:3-5, 8:28-30; James 1:2-4).  It’s sometimes difficult to ascertain God’s purpose in the trials that we face.  But we can trust the One who sent His Son to die for us (Cf. Romans 8:32).  It’s hard now for us to imagine what we will be when He works to “transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).  But it’s important to remember, amidst the storms of life, that He will finish the work that He's started (Cf. Philippians 1:6).  He does such things “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14).  Praise God for the big storm!