Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clinging to God

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die" -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yesterday some called me "Missionary Piantine", Sunday I was called "Pastor Tony", today I was introduced to a group as "Little Tony", and my kids call me "Dad". These are titles, something I have always felt uncomfortable with because they often can be misused by people. Titles do not make you into something you are not, they confirm what you are in Christ and can be used to remind you of what God wants you to be. Ministry is hard, in that if you are doing it correctly, you really are no longer you, you become what God wants.

I have always been drawn to the story of Jacob and when he wrestled with the Angel in Genesis 32. In the end, God changed his name, to be in line with God's plan. Jacob spent much of his time acting like Jacob, a man who was messed up and made problems. God needed him to set his mind on being what He needed him to be, which was Israel. God does the same in us, giving us names to help set our minds on who we are to be in Him. This story starts with Jacob spending a night wrestling with an angel, at some point near the morning Jacob grabbed on and would not let go. He clinged to the angel and asked for blessing.

I get Jacob, I am a fighter, I mess up, I deceive, I can get caught up in earthly problems and with people rather than by getting caught by God. I fight God way to much. I know that when I stop fighting and just cling to Him, that is when He works in me. When Jacob was clinging on, asking for blessing, he could no longer fight. At that point God disabled him, he hurt his hip. Jacob was weakened, and at that point was ready to be strong. God then blessed him.

So often our motives are to feel good, to take what God wants and twist it into something we can use. I think we all would like to have a blessing, but usually to be something that makes us feel good or to be strong. While the blessing my mind wants makes me feel good or strong, it pushes me away from God, not needing Him. If I would just learn to stay clung to Him and allow Him to weaken me so He can bless me, I could be so much more effective. His blessing can feel good or it can hurt, it has little to do with me here and now. It has to do with His eternal plan, a plan that takes me to heaven where I will feel good forever! I know I am like Jacob, I attempt to deceive and I hurt others and myself. I so desire to just cling to God and let Him have His way.

Jacobs name change makes much sense to me, The interpretations as to the meanings of the names are many, yet it seems that Jacob simply was a fleshly man that held onto men and their ways but became Israel who held onto God and His ways. I want to accept the name God has given me, I want to cling to God and experience His blessing to help me be what He wants. Weaken me God, so I can be strong to accept your blessing.

Friday, April 1, 2011


"Don't be pushed by your problems be led by your dreams" -Ancient saying

Have you ever dreamed dreams so big that their fruition seem so far away that you may never see them? I do, but I am a dreamer and am used to seeing many things from the sky of unlimited thought and possibilities that a dream frees our creative minds to think from. So I have many dreams, some small, but many that are big. My simple mind can sometimes question whether it is sane to dream like I do, yet God has given me a creative brain for a reason, I believe. Anyway, I say all of that to share that a dream came true tonight for me. It was an incredible, confirming night. One that helps me realize I am on the right path and that I translated what God put into my heart some years ago in a way honoring to God. Tonight we had the funeral for our friend, camper and Able Church member Phil. You might say well that sounds completly crazy... you dreamed of having a funeral??? Well not exactly, let me explain... We started Camp Daniel 15 years ago with a basic concept of seeing campers get saved. So many did in those first few years that the problem of where they would go to church came about. Most did not end up getting connected to a church after they left camp. So became the opportunity to dream a new dream. We started a monthly program called PowerHouse Fellowship in Crivitz. My friend, brother, and fellow dreamer, Pastor John Koch, was instrumental in getting this rolling. Together, we are a dream machine; in fact, people would laugh at many, many of the conversations we have had over the last 10 or so years. We have dreamed up ministry after ministry, one idea leading to another and then on to the next. We have had the opportunity to act on some of these and see them lived out, and that is exciting; and others well, are better left being dreams! So we started PowerHouse Fellowship and eventually dreamed of starting a church for people with disabilities where everyone's gift would be valued and used to grow a family or community of people serving and growing together. During that time we also started Firehouse Fellowship in Green Bay with the help of Nancy List and then started The Able Fellowship in Green Bay. 4 or 5 years ago I really felt that God was pushing us to begin to live out this dream of a church as I described above and we consolodated our fellowships into a church called The Able Church. The concept burned strongly in me, enough so that the push towards it, even though incredibly hard, was worth pursuing. It took its toll; two good friends and board members left as they saw it as something that would only serve to sidetrack me from getting Camp Daniel finished. That was a very painful time of great questioning. Why would God put this dream in my heart and the opportunity to see it through? Why would he take the people closest to me away as I began to pusue this dream? We have pushed ahead with the dream and God has blessed it, and brought along many, many people into my life to be part of it. I began as it's Pastor and God brought Pastor John on full time so I could hand it off to him. From there, John handed its leadership over to Pastor Tim Mandich, whom God has annoited as His servant to lead the church. We have Jen and Marceaux, Molly, the Weidner family, the Woods Family, Wendy, and so many others who work hard in service with their Able Church Family. So even with all God has provided in this pursuit of this dream, I still at times would feel lingering doubts, as the words of my friends who left at the front of this dream would ring in my mind. So all that brings us to tonight's funeral. A historic day in the life of our church family; one where we became a full fledged church, experiencing God in way only a church family can. This is the fulfilment of a part of this big dream of having a church that was recognized as being whole, as being filled with the worlds definition of weak people, and as being a community that would celebrate life and death together. So tonight well over a hundred people joined togther to celebrate Phil's life, His faith, and his chruch. People with disabilities greeted Phil's family and prayed for his friends, worshipped God together, preached about heaven and led us in saying goodbye to one of our own. It was a night I will never forget, one that confirmed the first part of a dream so big only God will be able to see it through. I look foward to how it will all unfold. I stand with my heart full of confidence that God's purpose will prevail, yet I know my doubting mind will question if it was just a dream. Father God, I am thankful for the dreams you have given, and for the patience to help me grow into what you want me to be. Thank you for The Able Church and all that you have done to bring it to where it is today. Amen