Reno Christians

I want Reno to be a city full of God’s love. I want people to visit and actually see and feel the love of God that is poured out in this city. I want people to visit any coffee shop in the city and be unable to find some sort of bible study going on at a table near them. I want people driving around our city to witness other drivers stopping their cars to help the homeless on the street corners. I want people with dead cars in the middle of the road to be overwhelmed by how many people get out to help them move it somewhere safe. I want the people of Reno to reflect the love of God so much that the visitors to our town will know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God loves this city and that He loves them too.

I’m fed up with the long list of denominations that have divided God’s church. Why do we have to focus so intently on the different interpretations of the bible? God calls us to love Him, and to love one another. Can we have a gathering of God’s people that just focus on that? Would that be so wrong to have a Mormon and a Catholic hand out fresh watermelon to homeless people, all in the name that matters most, Jesus? Would it be wrong to have the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ come together to pray for people downtown on any given night? Would it be wrong for any of these denominations to meet together all in the name of Jesus?

I want to refocus the church to not be for themselves, but to show the love that Jesus has for His church by loving other people.

I think having a name like Reno Christians simplifies what we’re all about: gathering people who love Jesus around Reno. I want there to be bible studies, prayer meetings, worship nights, plenty of fellowship, and most importantly: outreach. I want Reno Christians to be a group of opportunists that live out the life that God calls us to live in the bible. I want people to get out of their church on Sunday mornings and have an opportunity to give back, to live out, and to love one another.

I think having an app that notified people of when and where these events were happening would make it significantly easier for people to live out this calling that we all have on our lives. What if there was a side of the app called missions that looked like groupon vacations. People could find the cost and the dates that work best for them and go about bringing Jesus to the nations.

On a bigger scale, I would want to create city-christians.com. A website that linked Christians from all around America to a city near them where there were Christians living out God’s commandments. These ideas could not only change a city, but a nation. God, give me the strength and endurance to live out these dreams that you’ve placed on my heart.

Party Town Ministry

Last week I went to church at Manly Life (our home church in Australia) and I heard a sermon from Brian Heasley, a pastor from the UK. He preached about his own experiences being called to the party island of Ibiza. He told stories of how people were touched simply by asking if his team could pray for them. He had countless stories of people pouring their hearts out and turning to God rather than alcohol.

It really spoke to me. The entire sermon. It felt like God was showing me what it would look like to love people in Reno. It got me thinking of a few ideas…

What if we brought cases of cheap water bottles (Kirkland brand) to give out to people walking the streets. What if each one of those water bottles had a message on it. It would be such a simple gesture, but I think it would show people that there is more than just a community of people that like to party, there’s also a community of people that love Jesus and want to be used to love others.

If I put myself in the shoes of the people walking the streets, (which I totally was that person walking around in my college days attending themed bar hopping nights called “Santa Crawl” or “Zombie Crawl”) then I would be VERY encouraged to see that there was another group of people that I could belong to that were doing godly things in my community. People are always looking for community; it’s in our very nature. And if we gave people the chance to belong to a Jesus-loving community such as the one that puts on this event, then maybe they would forego their sin and turn to God.

Jesus Uber: I was also thinking that we could have free rides back home. People could donate their time, and their car most importantly, to give people free rides home. Think about that. 1. It would be a great opportunity to share the love of Jesus with another person while giving them a lift back to their house. 2. People would absolutely love to save some money by not hiring a taxi or an uber. and 3. People love to talk about religion when they’re under the influence. It makes them feel unashamed about their view points and they’re more careless about debating the subject. I know they would wake up and remember how they got home that night, and I would hope that they would think fondly about the experience. Maybe even so much so that they reached out to go to a bible study or something.

I also feel like there would be a liability if it was backed by a church. What if there was an accident? What if someone got hurt? They would undoubtedly try and sue someone; either the driver, the church, or both! What if we had them sign a liability waiver? What if they were under the influence of alcohol and couldn’t knowingly sign the document with reasonable comprehension? Would that hold up in court? That’s just a fear that came to mind, but definitely something to consider.

What if there was an app for the church that allowed people to see what events were hosted by the church and also allowed people to donate towards that event in real-time. If our goal was to raise $400 to give out free water bottles to the people of downtown Reno, then church attendees could give until the goal was met. They could register that they were attending that night. They could register to pray for the people attending that event, etc.

What if the app could also keep you posted on where bible studies were happening and when. They could even give you a picture of the person hosting it with a short bio about them and a photo of the front of their house so you know exactly which one it is. Anyone could just show up, which could be a little dangerous now that I think about it, but also, fear is not of the Lord. And I think it would be so cool to be able to open up your home to anyone who is looking to learn a little about Jesus.

What if the Downtown Reno Water Fest, which I just named it, was also simultaneously a night of worship? What if people from all over Reno could get a chance to come downtown to worship God in the midst of so much sin. What if there were fire places where people could sit down and talk with other Christians about their faith? What if there was an Italian soda bar where people could drink something other than alcohol? What if there were bean bags and other outdoor furniture so that people could make themselves at home? What if this water festival happened every 3rd Saturday of every month at the exact same time that the downtown crawls were happening? That sounds like pretty perfect timing to me.

What if people fell into the fires and then sued us? What if people put alcohol inside the free Italian sodas? These are all fears, but something to think about nonetheless. What if this organization that put this on was called Reno Christians, a 100% non-profit non-affiliated organization that allowed people to walk out their faiths, regardless of the denomination of their home church that they attended on Sundays. What if we marketed it as the place for Christians between Sundays? It could be an organization where Christians began to put their knowledge into action.

All of these thoughts came to me when I was hearing about how this guy walked around the streets of Ibiza with a team of believers asking people if they could pray for them. Amazing things happened. All of his stories inspired my thoughts for the next half hour thinking about how I could implement the love of God in my own party town that I call home. Reno, Jesus is coming for you.

 

 

God’s Been At Work Within Me

As of late, God had really been taking me through how important it is to give. I read the book “Kisses from Katie” and ever since I have been feeling God tugging on my heart to give. I can feel it when I go to church, when I read His Word, and when I dream about our lives back in Reno. In the book, Katie has given up almost everything to benefit the struggling people of Uganda. She gave up her parent’s dreams of going to college (something I wasn’t strong enough to do), her personal finances, and her everyday life to provide a better life for her 14 children. I can see just by reading the book that she is constantly killing the importance of her “self”. God calls us to do that very thing.

I believe that it was God that lead me to read 1 John both during and directly after finishing her book. I cited it in my reflection on her book, and I’ll cite it again now: (1 John 2:15-17) “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

This is where the catchy phrase, “Be in the world but not of the world” comes from, and it couldn’t be more true. But at the same time, how incredibly difficult is this calling? Everything about the world that we all live in is constantly beckoning us to be more selfish, to earn more money, to spend more money, and to brag about all that we have and all that we’ve done in life. We constantly size ourselves up against each other, both in person, and especially on social media. But God is calling us to rid our lives of all of this.

One biblical principle in particular came to mind as I was writing this. God says in Luke 16:13 that “You cannot serve both God and Money.” Imagine what our lives would look like if we actually hated money. What if we trusted only in God to provide for our lives? What if we loved God and dedicated our lives to pursuing a deep relationship with Him instead of wealth?

Katie eludes to this concept in her book by telling us about her experience going back to the United States after living in Uganda for a year. While in Uganda, she had to trust God for SO many things EVERY day. While in America, there seemed to be so much excess provision that it seemed as though she didn’t NEED God like she NEEDED Him in Uganda. She felt sickened by the distance that she saw herself getting away with in America.

I am so guilty of that distance from God. Life can get so comfortable here in the 1st world that many days can go by without even needing to pray. This comfortability and distance from God that we can experience can often trick us into thinking that all of our blessings are coming from our own actions.

I thought about this as I was biking to work a while back. I was experiencing a strong headwind on my commute, which can really slow everything down and make it very tiresome. In my struggle, I wished that the wind would do a 180° turn and propel me faster towards my destination. This immediately made me think about how high on my own horse I was just a few days before when I was biking incredibly fast to work. I thought to myself, “Wow! I’m really getting some strong legs.” When in fact, I remember it being windy that day, it was just the fact that the wind was at my back that day, rather than fighting against me.

Don’t we all fall into that trap? We all think that the good things that happen to us are all direct results of our own actions. When in fact, God is just providing the wind at our backs so that we can live in His blessing. There are so many times that I am guilty of not giving God the glory that He deserves for the blessings that He has so generously given me.

Being in the Word and reading Katie’s book have all been speaking to me about the selflessness that I need to work on. They’ve been helping me imagine a life in America (and in Australia while we still live here) that would constantly need God’s involvement and reliance. What kind of life would that look like for you?

God,

Help me rely more on you, every day. Help me live a life that is so risky and so blessed that it would be impossible without you. Help me live a life that is so outrageously filled with the outpouring of love that it would be impossible for anyone to assume that it was all coming from me. God give me a vision for what this life would look like and equip me with the skills, tools, and people I need to make it all happen. I know that you can and I know that you will if I ask you to.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

 

Gospel Posts

I got another idea right after I just wrote about Wingfield Sundays. What if we stationed Gospel posts around the city of Reno. Where people from all kinds of Jesus-centered religions could meet together at the gospel posts and fellowship. Any time of day, any time of night, people could go to the gospel post and read their bible. Other Jesus-loving people could meet at that post to fellowship, learn each other’s stories, and to get to know one another.

All you need to do is bring a camp chair and post up. People could plan bible studies at these posts and then random people could join in whenever they wanted.

What if this post was a giant metal cross made out of quarter inch 7.5″ cross-sectional square tubing? How powerful and intimidating would an assembly mark like that be? Too much? Debatable. How much would people try and graffiti them? Maybe we could make them out of raw mild steel so that it would rust over making it harder to draw on and easier to buff out?

Anyway, I think that a public symbol and meeting place for Jesus could be a great symbol of how Reno could change into a city after God’s own heart.

 

Wingfield Sundays

Sometimes I day-dream as I read the bible, and I think that writing them down here is a great idea.

As I was reading in 1 John 3:11 I was thinking about what it would be like to dedicate a night to walk downtown and talk to homeless people. Not necessarily with a wad of cash in my pocket ready to hand it all out, but just to talk to them, hear their stories, and just be a hand of God willing to help pray for people and minister to them.

Then I thought about how impactful showing that continual love would be. The people would get to know you, they would have questions for you the next time you showed up.

Then I thought about how cool it would be to have church in Wingfield park on Sunday mornings, and even better than that, to have a time after service to go out and love on the people of downtown Reno. Take water, fresh watermelon, pancake breakfasts, books, bibles, blankets, umbrellas, sleeping bags, you name it, we’ll deal it out. But most importantly, just be there to see these people right where they are. Let God use us and our resources to show them love. People want to be known, to be cared about, to be prayed for, to be listened to. They want to be helped on an individual basis. And I think that’s the kind of love that God wants us to show them. Showing God’s love one person at a time.

It’s not about a church. It’s not about a certain religion, and it’s definitely not about the a specific denomination. It’s about showing Jesus’s love.

We can call it Wingfield Sundays. Where everyone can come after church to be with the church in Wingfield Park. To be one of God’s people. To put to action the call that is on every single one of our lives: to love one another.

Rain (which is highly unlikely in Reno), sleet or snow, we will be out there. Worshipping God in the morning, listening to the Word being preached, and then blessing others after. From 9-11 people can be a part of the church service, and then from 11-4 people can hang out and fellowship and show God’s love to the people of downtown Reno. After a while, a city could be changed. Crazier things have happened!

We could then branch out to Sun Valley, to Montello St., down 4th street, the Reno Gospel Mission. There could be branches of God’s love spread all over the city of Reno.

“Kisses From Katie” Reflection

I know I’m behind on this, but I just read the book “Kisses From Katie”. It’s about a girl who, at the age of 18, packed up everything and moved to Uganda. She wrote a book of stories that show God working through her life to improve the livelihood of others around her – lives that desperately needed to be shown God’s love. She has been used by God in a massive way and her story has inspired me and so many others to look at our lives through a new lense.

I was reading this book on the pristine beaches of Lord Howe Island: a place that is both extraordinarily isolated and expensive. It just made me feel sick; like I was caught in the act and there was nothing I could do about it. I was reading about the extreme poverty in Uganda, situations where parents would feed their children baked mud cakes (actual dirt!) with salt just to subside their hunger. Impoverished mothers were feeding their children homemade moonshine by-products (still containing high amounts of alcohol) to supplement a real meal and to help them forget about their poor living conditions. Whereas, I was eating steak every night with the “treat-yo-self” mentality. I felt completely convicted.

What does God have to say about this? I was reading in 1 John 2:15-17 and it says: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

I can immediately get down on myself for not selling everything I own and giving it all to the people of Uganda. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the point that God is trying to make. It’s about doing the will of God, however that applies to your life. If Jesus himself comes to you, just like he did with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18), and asks you to sell everything and follow him, then do it. But the important takeaway here is that we should all continually be in the mindset of doing whatever God asks of us. He might take us down different paths, but it’s important that we are all willing to go down that path with God right by our sides.

This was a hard blog to write, because I’m not going to start listing all of the things I own on Gumtree or Craigslist. I’m also not very good at hating the world. I’m human (and American, which we’re known for being over-the-top consumerists) and I’ve taken on the habit of enjoying the things of this world. So I’m trying to be transparent with the fact that God’s calling is a very high one and I’m not very good at holding to it; but I’m willing to start somewhere. And that’s why I’m writing.

 

I hope that you also found encouragement through this blog, just as putting it into words has helped me organize my thoughts as well.

Job’s Acknowledgment Of Who God Is

There are a lot of times in my life where God needs to send a lightning bolt down from heaven to knock me off the pedestal that I put myself on. Like, who do I think I am? This became a glaring issue as I read the humbleness of Job in Chapter 2. After rotting away from open sores that spread from his head to his toes, Job still continues to hold God in the high standing that he deserves. Job 2:9-10:

“His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

(Side Note: Can you imagine how bad his sores must have been for even his wife to wish that he were dead?)

“He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?””

This is a really interesting point. In today’s society people focus on all of the good things that God can give us. Like this verse in James 1:17:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

But what about the trials that God also puts us through? James 1:2 says:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

So Job has a really great point here, that we are supposed to expect both blessing and trials from God, not just blessing. I think Christians today get caught up in wondering why God inflicts trials into our lives, isn’t He only supposed to deal out blessing? We need to have the heart of Job in times of trial and continue to praise God no matter what the circumstances may be. What an incredible testimony that Job was able to bring to us through the life that he lived.

In Job’s suffering he continues to say great things about God, even in his horrible condition.

Job 9:4 “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast, Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?”

Job 9:7 “He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars.”

Job 9:10 “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”

Job 9:14 “How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him?”

Job really paints a picture for us of how great our God truly is, and he then humbles himself by admitting that questioning God’s actions is trivial. I think we all need to humble ourselves just the way that Job has.

God,

I humble myself before you. I acknowledge that you are the creator of the universe and that I could never fully understand your wisdom and reasoning. Help me appreciate and praise you more throughout my life for the wonderful things you’ve done for me, and also the trials you will bring me through. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.