Nov 7, 2004
A Miracle in the Making
Against all odds Renton Christian Center receives coveted “Urban” status
Some things just don’t seem that miraculous at first glance. But under closer scrutiny, it becomes clear in some things that God has indeed been at work, and has been literally setting aside the Laws of Nature to do something supernatural.
Such is the case with Renton Christian Center’s recent inclusion to the Urban Growth Area of King County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The obstacles and impossibilities of such a change were mountainous to begin with, and then seemed to grow even larger as time moved on. But when God has a plan, there is nothing that can keep Him from accomplishing it, when His people are ready and willing to follow Him.
The first time God’s people were given land…
Back when Israel was being formed as a nation, God’s newly appointed leader, Joshua, sent spies into Canaan to scout the possibilities of victory over the occupants there. They came back with this report: “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.” (Josh 2:24 ) Although Canaan’s army was filled with literal giants (they were descendants of the Anakim tribe, of which Goliath was one), these spies looked right past the obstacles and remembered God’s promise: “Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’ ” (Joshua 1:11 )
In the same way, we needed to trust that we heard God clearly when He commanded us to appeal to the King County Council to have our zoning changed. When we began to look at the “giants” we would be facing, it was clear that victory would be impossible without God’s supernatural intervention.
“Giants” in the land: Obstacles and Impossibilities…
Here’s a list of the impossibilities that we faced in October 2003:
• We missed the deadline: In order to have our request on the docket by December, we needed to apply by the end of September 2003. We would have to wait four more years.
• The King County Comprehensive Plan itself -“The County’s rural area is considered to be permanent and shall not be re-designated to an Urban Growth Area…”
• The response of Paul Reitenbach, Senior Analyst, DDES – “Your request is therefore not consistent with the …Plan and not supported by this department…”
• The King County Hearing Examiner – Deputy Examiner Stafford Smith, the first one to hear our appeal, had never amended a single request in King County since 1995 when the Plan was first instituted.
• The King County Council – Had consistently attempted to thwart church growth in the past 10 years and had been known for making decisions based on political expediency rather than principle. Made up of 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans, the majority party had traditionally voted against conservative Christian causes.
• The Cost – $15,000 – We had only $3000 in our building fund at the time, and no apparent way to make up the difference.
But God immediately began to conquer those obstacles with miraculous intervention. First the deadline for applying was changed just for Renton Christian Center and we were able to submit our application and get the process rolling! Second, two members of our congregation came up with a way to raise $15,000 in just ten weeks! We committed as a church family to fast and pray, and to skip lunch every Friday, bringing our lunch money for a special offering we called “A Place for You.” The name signified our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of making more room in our church facilities for those in our community who have no church home. Although it ended up taking more like 25 weeks to raise the money, God abundantly supplied all of our needs!
The biggest “giant” still to come…
When the Israelites began to mobilize and move toward their Promised Land in Canaan, they immediately encountered their own “impossibility” – the Jordan River. But because God was the Author of the move, He was not about to allow anything so trivial as a river to stop His people: “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.” (Josh 3:15-16 ) As soon as the priests to the risk of obeying God, taking what seemed to be a life-threatening step, God intervened with a supernatural stopping of the river’s flow!
In the same way, RCC’s biggest challenge was about to be encountered – swaying the majority party on the King County Council in our favor. So with our consultant Tom Nishimura’s help, we prepared a statement to present at the next Public Hearing of the King County Council, and invited over 50 people from RCC to come and show their support. Trouble was, we were given only three minutes to present a case that took us six weeks to prepare!
But somehow, during that three minute speech, using words I can’t even recall (except some silly comment about Gilligan’s Island!), God began to turn the hearts of the Council members in our direction. Next, along with Tom, his assistant Rose, Kevin LaRoche, and my wife Pam, we began meeting with each of the Council members one by one. As expected, the Republicans were all in favor of our appeal. But the most surprising discovery was that God had somehow turned the hearts of the Democrats in our favor as well! That was nothing short of a miracle!
Dow Constantine, Democratic chairman of the Land Use Committee, said, “I don’t think we’ll have any problem seeing your request through.” What was even more astonishing was that when the final vote was taken, because of the way our amendment was packaged, the Republicans were forced to vote unanimously against us, while the Democrats voted unanimously for us!
Now that was a “God-sighting” if I’ve ever seen one!
What God is trying to teach us…
Just as God wanted Israel to learn how to live daily by His miraculous leading, so does He also want to teach us, His church family, to live daily by His miraculous direction. The miracles He’s performed in our behalf aren’t to be viewed as simply a great story to tell, or an amazing event to “ooh and aah” over. God wants us to daily listen for His promises, to daily look upon the obstacles before as nothing to Him, to daily cry out for His supernatural intervention. Just as He has begun this new work in our midst, God wants us to daily continue it in the same way!
A Miracle to Remember…
And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ [The Lord] did this so that 1) all the peoples of the earth might know that the Lord is powerful and 2) so that you might always fear the Lord your God. (Josh 4:20-24 )
Memorial stones would prove to be critical to Israel’s future. They would continue to face opposition as they forged ahead into their new land, and would need to remember God’s mighty miracles over and over again. If not, they risked shrinking back in fear in the face of opposition and losing all that they had gained by God’s grace.
That’s why we’re placing our “memorial stones” in the ground today. And that’s why we’re sending up helium balloons today. We never want to forget what God has done for us. There will be future battles to fight and there may be impossible odds to overcome. But as we have seen, nothing is too difficult for God! And we want to continue walking in this kind of faith so that we can acquire everything He desires to give us!
It’s important to remember, however, that the reason God has done these things for us is not just to let us build a building, nor is it just so that we can reach our community. Those things, as important as they are, are just temporal tasks. The over-arching reason God does everything and anything is this: That we might be in awe of Him, that we might know Him more, and that we might reverence Him. Every miracle of God is simply part of His larger plan to draw all men to Himself!
A reason for our enemy to be afraid…
Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. (Josh 5:1 )
It’s important to remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against dark spiritual forces in high places. Unlike the Israelites, we don’t want the people in our community to melt in fear of us! But we do anticipate that the devil will begin to understand that we mean business when it comes to the things of God. And I believe the victories we’ve recently won have indeed put him on notice that he must release the men, women and children of South King county from captivity in Jesus’ name!
A time for re-dedication…
At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” Josh 5:2
Before the Israelites were allowed to enter the new land, God commanded them to publicly declare their allegiance to Him. Like water baptism today, circumcision for the Israelites was an outward way to symbolize an inward reality – they belonged to God. As it turned out, none of first generation of Israelites were alive any longer. So none of them would be able to enter in to the Promised Land, even though the promise was made to them 40 years earlier.
In the same way, the majority of the church members who were part of our first building project are no longer with us. And I believe that those of us who are here were “chosen for such a time as this” – God thinks we are ready! We have an opportunity to move with God in ways that “first generation” never did!
God wanted to prepare this new generation for a whole new life. In the same way, I believe God is asking us to make a new commitment to him. He wants to know: “Are you Promised-Land ready? Are you willing to live up to the glory of these recent miracles?”
New beginning, new reputation…
One of the things that would need to happen in order for Israel to step into their new role as the “chosen ones of God”, was that they’d need to stop seeing themselves through the lens of their past. “Slaves to the Egyptians” just wasn’t going to cut it any more. Now they had become “Runaway Slaves” – and that was even worse. That’s why the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Josh 5:9 ) It was time to start viewing themselves as their God saw them: chosen, precious, and able to do great and mighty things as long as they followed God.
In the same way, God has spoken to us and said, “Stop living under the reproach of your past. Don’t allow your physical and human limitations to keep you down any longer. The fear of man and the fear of rejection must no longer determine your course. I am your God and I have chosen you to be My precious possession!”
And just as the Israelites shared the Passover meal to acknowledge God’s divine deliverance, I find it interesting that He recently prompted us to start sharing communion on a weekly basis too!
A whole new economy…
Then something very interesting happened. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan. (Josh 5:11-12 )
No longer would God spoon-feed Israel by supplying manna from heaven. It was time to grow up and learn to feed themselves. God was establishing a whole new economy that would require a mature, responsible approach to their sustenance. No more “milk” – it was time for “meat!”
I believe we too, need to be ready for some changes. As God provides new space for our meetings, new opportunities to reach our community, we can expect to be stretched and challenged like never before. We’ll need to prepare to live with new priorities, new people, new challenges, and perhaps a few new discomforts! But if we’re willing to take a mature, responsible approach to God’s blessing, I believe it will be one of the most glorious season of our lives!
God’s work from start to finish…
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Promised Land. Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Josh 5:13-14
Thinking he was “just doing his job”, Joshua mistook an actual appearance of Jesus (known as a pre-incarnate manifestation) for an enemy! But apparently Joshua needed the reminder – he may have had the tendency to think that being overly responsible was his job. But that’s not what got Israel to where she was – it was God, from start to finish. Yes, Joshua had an important role to play, but apart from God, he could do nothing!
In the same way, we all must remember that the recent miracles God has performed with the King County Council weren’t just a one-time spectacle for us to “ooh and aah” over, it’s the beginning of a lifestyle. This is a miracle in the making. He wants us to realize that what He’s up to treuly is beyond our ability to accomplish. He wants us to depend heavily on Him, and to trust Him even when things feel like they’re getting “out of control”.
The miracle that God wants to perform today is more than just altering a County Ordinance – He wants to transform our hearts – and the hearts of our whole community. And that will require a whole lifetime of miracles! Are you ready? Let’s go!
On the edge with you,
Alex and Pam