Big Changes, No Problems

I haven’t posted for over two weeks. I apologize. When I first started blogging, I figured a few friends and my wife would read, and maybe on a good day, I could get my mom to read. As it turns out, there are more of you reading that I would have thought. And now I’ve let you down. Please forgive me.

In October 2010, we planted a satellite campus of Puyallup Foursquare Church. This was a thrill for us; planting the first out-of-state satellite for a church we helped plant in 1998. We faced challenges, we were personally stretched, and Cheryl and I were greatly fulfilled in our leadership roles. The Lord is doing an incredible work here.

Several months ago, the leadership team at Puyallup Foursquare began working with us to make some adjustments. Through our planning and prayers, we determined as a team to plant a church under the Southwest District of Foursquare. Roger Archer and team encouraged and supported our decision.

I never purposed to become a senior pastor, and I’ve been very reluctant to accept the role. The pastoral examples I’ve watched over the last dozen years are charisma-driven and animated. I would call myself neither. After two weeks of careful prayerful consideration, I have pledged to become the senior pastor of Desert Foursquare Church. (Our denomination will still have to appoint me to this position).

At the age of 18, at Northwest Foursquare Church, a woman prophetically shared that I would be a pastor. Worship, teaching and ministry are all passions, but the responsibility of shepherding feels simultaneously constricting and freeing. This is not my comfort zone. Here I am, a willing, joyful servant who loves to see Jesus work in people’s lives.

The last several weeks have presented many obstacles. Our equipment is heading back to the NW to serve Puyallup’s needs (they have a very busy summer), and we are not incorporated as a 501 (c) (3). There are many other details, but I shared those two with a visitor to our church on the Sunday we made the announcement that we are transitioning to a church plant. I didn’t know this when the silver-haired couple asked me about our church that Sunday morning, but they used to pastor a Foursquare Church in La Quinta.

Dale and Patti Downs are their names, and they offered to connect us with the resources we require. The most important resources was the gift of their friendship, and the relationships they have here in the desert. Within two weeks of their visit, they connected us with many people in the desert that are excited and encouraged that we are launching this fall.

So for the last few weeks, my pastoral duties have just about doubled. Now we are going through the process of incorporating and building a team of people who will launch Desert Foursquare Church. We are excited to spend this summer incubating our core team of staff and members (about 30 people in all). This is a critical time for praying and seeking God’s will for our church. If you’re reading this now, please take a moment to pray for us in this journey.

I could write a book about our adventure, but I’ll keep it short for now. I’m happy to respond to questions to this post, so feel free to ask any question. Thank you to all of my brothers and sisters who are praying with us.

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Reading through the Stewardship Study Bible

About 4 months ago I purchased the Zondervan NIV Stewardship Bible. The idea of stewardship comes from the realization that at no time throughout scripture does God relinquish ownership of anything. Operating our lives from this standpoint is vastly different than the idea that God gives us ownership of what we have or who we are.

One of the most profound readings I’ve read is a commentary on Pride being one of our biggest obstacles to good stewardship. Pride puts us in the owner’s seat. It is impossible for God to be the Lord of our lives and for us live pridefully at the same time.

Pride of: Accomplishment, intellect, possessions, appearance, elitism and influence. Each one vies for us to create subjects, and each one gives Satan a foothold in our lives. He is the prince of pride. His reason for falling was pride. Pride in our lives gives birth to other sins, and ultimately to death.

Our lives are a struggle between master and mastered. Understanding our place helps us to submit our flesh to the one who owns our very being. This is what I’m wrestling out in myself… I’m dragging me out of myself. What do I own? Nothing. God is offended when I take any part of creation as unto my own. The Stewardship Bible is helping me to understand my role in stewarding my relationship to God, self, others and creation.

One of my favorite quotes is from Watchman Nee. “That strong self-assertive will of mine must go to the Cross, and I must give myself over wholly to the Lord. We cannot expect a tailor to make us a coat if we do not give him any cloth, nor a builder to build us a house if we let him have no building material; and in just the same way we cannot expect the Lord to live out His life in us if we do not give Him our lives in which to live. Without reservations, without controversy, we must give ourselves to Him to do as He pleases with us.”

This study Bible has quotes and commentaries from Larry Burkett, Dr. Scott Rodin, Randy Alcorn, Chuck Colson, John Piper and many more. It also provides an incredible index on savings, charity, the poor, debt and more. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of this incredible resource, but it is already doing more than just scratching the  surface of me.

The Teleios Man

It’s been four years since the death of one of my closest friends. His name was Sean T., and we met our freshman years at Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington. Sean was a local boy, like me. That’s about where our similarities ended. My family cared for and protected me. His abused and neglected him. Especially his dad.

If you prefer to look away from the ugly underbelly of sin, stop reading. Sean’s dad was a predator. He feasted on the sexual identity of his own son, stripping Sean of innocence, his purpose and his social belonging. Sean opened up his pain to me on the first day we met. He shared how his dad had molested him from his earliest memories. He shared how he had prostituted himself to make money in high school. He floundered for the words to express the anguish he felt… and the shame… from his severely broken relationships.

Sean was new to the faith. He had recently given his heart to the Lord and was attempting to break ties with the friends that would drag him into all kinds of sin. Pot, alcohol (which eventually took his life), lies and other types of evil were a perpetual temptation. Through me and my friends, we loved Sean with a love he had never known. He expressed how much  he loved to belong to our group.

Sean’s social awkwardness was compounded by ADHD, obesity and very low self esteem. People sometimes ran away as though he had the plague. I sometimes wanted to run too. I knew that I would never know the full extent of the grace Sean was given, and somehow, the Lord let his grace flow through me to Sean.

When his liver finally gave out, I was at Harborview Hospital by his side. I encouraged him to stop fighting and be with Jesus. His mom flew up for his well-attended funeral, and as we ate together before the service she made this comment:

“When someone does that to a child, they kill the soul and let the body walk around.”

What she hadn’t seen was the restoration work God had done to redeem Sean’s soul over the years. Sean was working on becoming complete in Christ, a “Teleios Man” as my friend Larry Titus would say.

In his book of the same name, Larry writes about mentoring and helping men to be complete. We’re all born into a broken state; broken relationships with sin-infused desires. Teleios is the Greek word for complete or finished. Larry writes about his experiences and expertise in mentoring men towards completeness in Christ. Some of these men are more wounded and abused than my friend Sean.

My challenge is not to figure out if I’m better or worse off than other guys. I’m challenged to live the most complete life I can, centered around my pursuit of God. My passion is getting as many men around me going in the same direction. I really don’t care if I’m at the front or the back of the line. I care about which line I’m in.

Do you have a Sean in your life? Are you being mentored and mentoring? At church about a year ago, the pastor singled me out to point out that I intentionally mentor younger men. He commented from the pulpit that I was probably mentoring at least three or four men. A quick mental tally (this isn’t really something I regularly tally) and I had the actual total: 12. Nice biblical number. I’m proud of those men. I love sharing my life with them, and I really love seeing their lives become more complete because of Jesus working through me.

Colossians 1:28-29 “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”

Why We Moved

In October of 2010, my wife and I partnered with a core team of people in the Coachella Valley in Southern California to begin Desert Foursquare Church. This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived further than 10 miles from the hospital where I was born. It’s the first time we have uprooted our children from their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the school they’ve attended since they were three and five years old. It doesn’t take an expert to do what we’re doing; it takes a calling.

II Timothy verse 2: “To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. Grace, mercy and peace. You’ll need those in abundance, regardless of the path God chooses for you. Here’s how God is choosing me.

In the summer of 2009, I was working for Cascade Christian Schools as the Director of Development. A wonderful, secure, comfortable job with phenomenal people (that I miss terribly). That summer I had a $250,000 construction project that I was overseeing. The sports fields improvements were entirely donated, and I had a responsibility to our donors to ensure that things went according to plan. When my window for a vacation came up, my wife and I booked our trip and hoped on a plane two days later. It was a high of 116 degrees for each of the seven days we were in Palm Desert. It cooled down to 100 degrees at night.

At the end of our stay, I was really looking forward to coming home. We didn’t know anyone in the desert, and I can’t say that I have a natural affinity for the area. I like cool weather, rain and the rich green of the Northwest. Driving towards the airport, my wife began to cry. “It feels like we’re leaving home!” was all that she could say. I couldn’t understand that at all.

Over the course of the next several months, we began to pray about whether or not the Lord was calling us to something new. By October, we took our second trip down to the Coachella Valley. Several friends came with us, and we met up with some friends that had just moved down to Palm Desert. After several days of seeking the Lord, fasting and praying in the Spirit, we knew that we knew. We flew back on Saturday and I submitted my resignation on Monday (one of the toughest things I’ve ever done).

Because of my involvement in several sensitive areas of work, we chose not to announce my departure until January. Even my children weren’t aware of our decision until after Christmas. Of all the things I’ve ever achieved in work, leaving CCS under the best of circumstances, with the best possible hand-off to an incredibly anointed successor was my greatest career highlight.

There was never a single moment where I felt a call to “do” something in the desert. I had a lot of ideas… ways to make a living, things to accomplish, etc. The best way I can sum up our journey to La Quinta was that I was searching for who God wants me to “be”. This radical expression of our faith in God’s leading has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. We could not have scripted what this would look like when we started, but now that we’re here, I wouldn’t trade the adventure for anything. My purpose, meaning and identity are more complete in my weaknesses, which Christ is using for HIS purpose. That’s who Christ wants me to be. More dependent upon him and less on myself.

The story is just beginning, but the thing I am most grateful to God for are the relationships he’s orchestrated in ways we never could have anticipated. My closest friends are people I either didn’t know or barely knew just two years ago. Cheryl and I are much more dependent upon one another; more connected than ever. My children have a greatly increased appreciation for their family relationships, especially for their grandparents. Our lives are greatly enriched through our church relationships. We need lots of grace, mercy and peace, and we are increasing in our ability to be who God desires us to be.

I am burdened for the people of the Coachella Valley. Watching people come to our church and seeing them grow closer to God gives me an incredible sense of belonging. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with Rooftop 519 for anything. Thank you Jesus for your divine leading. May I continue to be your willing servant.

My eulogy for my father, given at his memorial on 1-15-2011

The following is my eulogy, as read word-for-word today at the memorial service for my father, Rex D. Manley.

I looked up the definition of “eulogy” in Wikipedia. If my dad were here, he’d be thinking “wiki-what?” It’s an online encyclopedia. Anyways, the definition of eulogy comes from Greek. It means to share good words. My father deserves many good words; he was a great man.

Rex Duane Manley lived a life of tenacious integrity. I can say without reservation that my dad never lied, cheated or stole from anyone. He was faithful and completely committed to living a life for Christ.

One example of this was in the way he treated people in business. I remember going with my dad to work. Even in my elementary years, people my dad worked with told me what an honest man my dad was. He didn’t spend much time lecturing me about how to live in veracity. He just did it.

Proverbs 4:23-27

Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

My dad did have a habit of fibbing, but it wasn’t what you might think. Some of you may not know the name “Mr. X”. This was the persona that dad created when he gave gifts in secret to people in ministry for Kingdom work. I first met Mr. X when he wrote me a letter in high school for a mission trip. He enclosed $100 to help me in my efforts to travel to Mexico with Northwest Foursquare Church. Mr. X helped a couple more times with mission trips.

Early into my 20’s, he shared with me his secret. He told me that he’d helped many other people, always anonymously. He derived great joy from giving to people, especially in secret. I believe that we are never more like God than when we give, and this action of giving was very much a part of his worship to the Lord. When he told me about Mr. X, he told me about some of the people he had helped, and what types of people he’d like to help. I arranged for some of these gifts.

His favorite gift was to a friend that wanted very badly to travel to Washington D.C. to be a part of a Christian rally. He told me whom he helped, and that after Mr. X passed on, I could reveal my dad’s hidden identity. You know who you are.

My dad had many great attributes. Here are a few of my thoughts that define his character.

I remember when he kissed my mom every day before he went to work

I remember when he spanked me when I needed it, never in anger

I remember when he honored my wife and his daughter and daughters-in-law by taking them all out for dinner around Christmas (I think he just liked all of the attention that these pretty ladies gave him)

I remember when he taught me how to drive

I remember him coordinating our family reunions

I remember at one of these reunions when my aunt Becky told a group of us that he was the dad she never had

I remember how he faithful he raised me in the house of the Lord

I remember how much he could be in the moment with a person, never too busy listen intently and crack a joke when appropriate

I remember how he demonstrated admiration for my mom

I remember how he never stopped doing something just because it was hard

I remember our last conversations were about how he didn’t think he could wait any longer to be with Jesus

On this very patch of earth, exactly 20 years ago, I had a conversation with a youth leader about death. I made the comment that I didn’t think I would cry if my parents died. It was a statement made by a naive 16 year-old who was attempting to work out his theology. At the root of that statement is a belief that God works all things together for good for those who love him, and a knowing that death is an inevitable part of our existence on earth. It is in some ways the best part, as it is the moment in which we pass from sickness, brokenness and fatigue to a complete immersion in God’s glory.

During the last year of my dad’s life he had many, many struggles. There is nothing wrong with my dad now. He’s been healed.

I Corinthians 15:54-55

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

I have since shed a few tears for my father. I don’t think from his Heavenly stance he would even understand why. I’ll have more grief to sort through, and I cannot imagine the struggle that my mom will endure, but I am grateful for the 36 years we’ve known each other.

About two months before my dad’s accident, the Lord called my wife and I to move our family to Southern California. In the midst of our move, I took on two roles that greatly pleased my father. I am now a campus pastor for Desert Foursquare Church, and I am the President of an organization that brings injured or ill children who need surgeries from other countries to the U.S. for surgical procedures.

Each new trip to his bedside brought similar responses, “Hey nurse – let me introduce you to my son the pastor”. Or, “Hey, I found somebody that would want to help you with those kids”. Just a few weeks ago he called me up to give me the number of a doctor that might help with our kids. I stopped writing the phone digits on my notepad when I realized that through his mental haze he could only think of his home number.

That was my dad. Always connecting, relating and encouraging… even to his last breath. He fought to live his purpose in spite of his battered flesh. And now, he’s up there, making new friends, connecting them to the old friends that have preceded him. He is reunited with his parents, his two siblings and many other people he’s shared this world with. I’ll bet that right now he’s trying to convince someone they need a foodbank.

Thank you, Dad. You were a great man.