“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves...
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...
“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
(Galatians 5:16, 22-23, 25)
We have been filled with the Spirit of God - the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. He is alive in you! His intent is to make us witnesses for Jesus, that the world might know who He is and what He has done for them. He also labors to make us more like Jesus, so we can demonstrate to the world what He is like. Though we have been filled with the Spirit, we can be filled again. If we are struggling in our witness; if we are noticing a lack of true Holy Spirit fruit, we can seek to be filled anew, just as the disciples did in Acts 4. And He is faithful.
You can walk in joy and in love and in peace and all of those things. The key is the Spirit. Paul admonishes us, “let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” We all need to step back at times and seek Him. We need to renew our vows to Him, and to once again give Him everything - every part of our lives. Give Him our futures and our ambitions and our money and our relationships and our sins and habits and addictions and hopes and all of it. Lay it before Him. Oh, the crazy fulfillment that comes with this! The cross demonstrates that He has already given us His all. He is faithful!
This Sunday I am praying for a time of refreshing and filling for each of us as we celebrate Pentecost. We will devote our gathering together to worship and prayer. I hope you can make it.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” — Acts 1:14
We’ll be observing the Day of Pentecost in a few weeks, remembering the day that the Holy Spirit filled the first disciples and thrust them into the world as witnesses for Jesus. Man, can you imagine that scene? A crazy noise. Something that looked like fire resting on each of them. And they felt something. They felt Him. And then all of them speaking in other languages they didn’t even know. Peter boldly preaching to the crowds, and three thousand becoming believers and getting baptized.
We’re promised that this same Spirit of God lives in us too. And His desire is the same as it was back then - to make us witnesses for Jesus. His purpose is to fill us with life and power and the very presence of God so that we can reveal the wonder and glory of Jesus to a world desperately in need of knowing Him. This is what I want from my life. I don’t care about success or a good retirement or cool stuff. I want to be filled with the Spirit like those first Christians so that Jesus makes Himself known through me. So that He draws people to Himself, sets them free from the lies and bondages of the enemy, welcomes them into the Father’s family, and gives them the ridiculous gift of eternal life. What could compare?
Even before the Spirit filled them, “They all met together and were constantly united in prayer.” We have been filled with the Spirit when we first believed in Jesus, but we still must seek Him. Maybe we just leak. In Acts 4, we see those same disciples again, huddled together after being threatened by the authorities, and again seeking the face of the Lord. And again He responded: “After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
Let’s seek Him and believe He will do something in this city for the glory of Jesus. Let’s believe He’s even willing to use a bunch of ragamuffins like us.
Someone suggested it might be good to explain BR leadership structure again. Some of you are newer and haven’t heard this before. Of course, if you ever have any questions you can always ask me or a spud leader. This info is also on our website in a different format - which you can see here: BR Leader Page.
The boiler room has three elder couples, who also serve as our board. These are James and Katie Bleeker, Oliver and Heidi Larrabee, and Tim and Jill Way. The Bleekers and Larrabees have served as spud leaders for more than four years (probably 5 or 6 for the Bleekers) and have consistently given of themselves for this community in countless ways. They have been the epitome of faithful service for years, and have given more time, resources, heartache, and life to the br than we can begin to comprehend. They have received no payment and ridiculously little thanks. They live full and busy lives with work, family, and other pursuits, and yet still give hours every week to serve us all. I am so grateful for them.
In addition to these three couples, two other couples participate in our monthly leader meetings. John and Nicole McVay have been leading a spud for the past two and a half years. Jill and I are part of this spud, not because we are obligated to be, but because we personally need it. Having a more experienced and wiser couple like John and Nicole in our lives is an amazing blessing to us, and the family environment that they have created in this spud consistently nourishes and encourages us. We are so thankful. Micah and Sarah Tilford are our ministry leaders over Thursday Night Light. Before the Tilfords rolled into town, TNL was starting to be a heavy and wearisome burden. Many of us were tiring. Micah and Sarah imparted fresh vision and energy, and this ministry has once again become a great joy and an energizing and significant part of our lives. In addition to TNL, of course, the Tilfords contribute and serve in many ways, and I’m so grateful for them.
Since we have gone down to three spuds, it can seem that our leader team meetings are rather large for the size of our community. However, each participant represents a group that we as a whole are called to serve, and it is significant to have the chance to check in and offer advice and encouragement on a regular basis regarding each of these spheres.
That’s the basic structure — but leadership in the br has always transcended an org chart. The truth is, everyone who is a part of the boiler room influences the whole. This influence is informal and not diagrammed out. It is also stronger in some and less in others. There are probably many factors which impact a person’s influence or leadership in the community. Some of these are: (1) Maturity / quality of life in Jesus. Spiritual power and influence come through the example of our lives. (2) Investment. The ones who invest most heavily into a community — with their time, gifts, availability, etc - will be the ones who exercise the most influence. (3) Initiative. Those who jump in and suggest things and develop ideas and solve problems and do stuff tend to have more sway. (4) Time. Longevity increases influence.
Undoubtedly there are more factors, but these are important ones. It goes without saying that this isn’t by design or intent, but is just simply the way human community tends to work. In the boiler room, we rely on this informal and relational form of leadership maybe more than most. Sometimes this lack of a strong structure can be a little disconcerting, but I think it’s what suits us, and it fits who we are called to be.
Another thought or two - our monthly leader team meetings are not typically the context for most decision-making in our community. Significant decisions about spuds are made in the spuds (such as the recent flurry of changing meeting days and times). It’s the same for TNL. We do our best to incorporate anyone who will be impacted by a decision into the process. In our leader meetings we typically decide on routine things like what weekend to have the Fall Retreat and what time to gather for Lent Prayer. We spend most of our meeting times checking in with the various spuds and TNL, praying, and me leading in a teaching or discussion. If you’re curious about what that looks like, let me know. I’m sure we can arrange for you to come hang out at one if you like.
The bottom line is that everyone in the br is invited to make suggestions, take initiative to begin things, ask questions, and lead. Everyone is connected with a spud leader who can listen to concerns, ideas, and insights. And of course I am open to getting coffee and hearing your ideas.
I love and appreciate all of you. I’m so aware that there’s a lot we don’t get right. But I am so grateful for God’s grace and yours, and for the friendships we share. I’m praying for you.
“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed...” (Rom 4:18).
How is your prayer life?
Seriously, how would you describe it? What is your relationship with the Father like these days? Are you spending time with Him? Are you trusting Him? How aware are you of Him? If you’ve not thought much about these kinds of questions lately, I’d like to challenge you to do so. Not to bring on guilt - or pride for that matter. Not to overthink or get down on yourself. But to grow. If it’s been a good season, I want to encourage and exhort you to continue. Don’t lose the momentum. Keep pressing in to His heart and keep ‘practicing His presence.’
If, on the other hand, those questions make you uncomfortable or wishful or unsatisfied or ashamed or guilty or just disappointed, take heart. Have hope. There is more for you. It can be different. Don’t let yourself be convinced that you just can’t have the kind of relationship with Jesus that you’d like - that you aren’t disciplined enough or are too busy or have too many responsibilities or are not very spiritual or really don’t like praying and probably never will or that toddler! No! There is more for you! There really is more for you.
Yes, it is true that something will have to change. But don’t be intimidated by that. The Holy Spirit is eager to help you. I want to suggest two types of changes.
First, there has to be a change of heart.
This probably includes multiple facets. You have to believe that He loves you, wants to hear your prayer, and cares about your concerns. You need to know that you can trust Him. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16). You have to realize that He wants to hear from you — not to check off a religious duty to satisfy Him, but that He wants you to know Him. Before you will grow in prayer, you have to know that it’s real and He is there and is listening and responds. Think on these things. You also need desire. Prayer certainly is a discipline, but it’s better when there is genuine desire behind it. If your desire for God is weak, it may be simply because you have not given Him much attention. My experience is that my desire tends to increase when I pursue Him more. When I meditate on who He is and how much I need Him. On what He has already done for me. Cultivate faith and desire.
Secondly, your habits need to change.
Do the work of sitting with your planner or your wife or whatever forms your days and create space for God. Find 20 minutes in the morning. Maybe 15 minutes at lunch and before bed. Or get up early and enjoy an hour before getting busy. Whatever it is for you, make the time. It will be hard at first, and will be constantly challenged. You’ll miss it and forget it and even deliberately sabotage it. You’ll be interrupted. Probably a lot. But that’s ok. Just keep at it. Ask for His help every day. Don’t give into guilt or performance or pride. Also get into the habit of praying throughout the day. Turn your attention to Him in all those spare half-minutes that come — driving in the car, waiting for your spouse, sipping your coffee, etc.
You can pray! YOUR prayers are powerful. Have faith. Make the time.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he
exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” — Hebrews 11:6
God rewards those who earnestly seek him. We have to believe this. Faith feels risky. It is making a
decision to trust something when you cannot see the outcome. Things could go wrong. But the truth is
that we do have confidence because putting our faith in God is always safe. It feels unsafe. It maybe
feels irresponsible. We haven’t received satisfactory answers to all our questions. We feel doubt. We
don’t know exactly what He will do. It might be painful. But it is good. Have faith. He rewards those
who earnestly seek him.
You can have faith and feel doubt. Faith is more a decision than a feeling. You decide to put all your
eggs in that basket. You take the step. The Father is pleased by your faith.
A couple of weeks ago we jumped into a study of 1 & 2 Peter as a church. I believe that the Lord has something He wants to say to us, and I hope we can do this together. Studying the scriptures individually and as a people is hugely important, and I want to urge you to take this opportunity to renew your commitment to God’s Word.
There are multiple ways we can and should engage with the scriptures. The public proclamation through teaching and preaching is huge (see 1 Timothy 4:13). This is one of the big reasons we as the br began meeting on Sundays. In spuds, we have the opportunity to have open discussions around the Bible and to share how God is speaking to us and how we are responding. This is so significant. We can also form Discipleship Groups (D-Groups), in which we read the Bible with one or two others and focus on submitting to the Word in obedience. And of course we benefit greatly from spending time on our own reading God’s Word. He can and will speak to you.
If any of this — or even all of it — seems like a drag, I understand. I’ve been there. There have been times I’ve loved listening to preaching, but hated trying to sit down with the Bible by myself. The professional teachers were able to pull so much more from this book, and my own feeble attempts seemed pathetic and dry. At other times, I’ve not wanted to listen to preaching. I honestly thought I had nothing much to gain anymore of real significance, and it simply wasn’t worth the effort. Clearly not true. I think of Peter’s words: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have” (2 Peter 1:12). And I’ll say this — if a teacher makes you feel like you need him or her to truly understand the message of the Bible, they’re not doing their job. And if your own experience and reading of the scripture does not cause you to appreciate what you can glean from teachers who put time into studying and delivering messages, you’re also missing out.
In addition to all that, at times earlier in life I doubted if I could really trust what I have in my hand as God’s Word. Isn’t it hard to understand? Who can really know what it means? And how do I even know it’s been preserved well? What about the translation process — surely it has been strewn with errors?
I read a story about Billy Graham many years ago that has impacted me greatly. He said that there was a time when he was haunted by doubts about the truth and the accuracy of the Bible. His evangelistic ministry was just beginning to be very fruitful. Thousands were coming to hear him preach. And yet he was inwardly tormented. He had a good friend who always cast doubt on the Bible, and his arguments sometimes made sense. One day, Billy went to an isolated place to wrestle it out with God. He couldn’t take it anymore. After spending time in prayer, he came to a decision that he would believe and put his trust in the Bible from that day, and would not pursue his doubts any longer. That decision freed him from the agony of unbelief, and of course he went on to preach confidently for many decades.
I’ve made that same decision, and have also become convinced that I can understand everything that I need to. I trust the Bible. I submit to its authority. I trust that the Holy Spirit has hovered over these writings for millennia — watching over the copying and the translating. I’ve had to leave feelings or questions aside sometimes and simply make the choice. I believe that God speaks to His people through this book. He gives us the ability to understand it. In fact, most of it — including that which is most significant — is easy to understand, but very difficult to follow.
When I read ‘rid yourselves of all malice,’ (1 Peter 2:1) I know what is being demanded of me. Like I shared on Sunday, I find that there is malice in my heart towards people, and God’s Word is telling me to get rid of it. I am obligated to obey. When I read, as we will together this Sunday, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21), I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. When I read, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9), I honestly have to think on it some more. I need to work to understand what is being said here — but by God’s grace, I can - at least in part. And then I have to struggle to believe it. We’re a chosen people? Really? Yes, we are. I’ve decided I’m going to believe this book and I am going to endeavor to obey it. It's a central priority in my life. This has made reading it myself, with a few friends, and in the bigger congregation such a different experience. God is talking! To us! What a gift!
To be honest with you, I love the Bible now. I really do. Even when I read very demanding sections, I get inspired. When I read of the Father’s love for me, I believe it — and sometimes I experience it right then. When a preacher reminds me, through the Scriptures, that I need to repent or pray or stop being jealous, I get convicted. Truly God’s Word is living and active! (Heb 4:12). Does that mean that every time I read or listen or discuss something magical happens? Heck no! I often don’t feel anything. But I have faith that something is being built up in me. And sometimes I do sense it. I know God has spoken, and I can almost feel the transformation happening. A mini spiritual growth spurt. But the point isn’t in the felt experience of the moment. The point is in the lifestyle of being molded and matured and strengthened by His Word. And we all need that — whether it’s easy, hard, exciting, fun, boring, or whatever.
Of course, this could come across as a guilt trip. That’s obviously not my intention. But I am writing to people who sincerely long to know God and to grow in Him and to do His will. We need the grace of God for any of that to happen — And that grace includes pursuing it in the ways He has given us. One of the most powerful gifts He has given is the Bible. The Bible is a grace for us from God. Let’s take full advantage of so wonderful an invitation!
Man, I am so grateful for this weekend and the prayer vigil. Thank you all for participating and supporting this truly special time. Seriously, I am grateful. It struck me throughout the weekend how tremendously significant and essential it is for us to take time like this and seek the Lord as a people. Jill did an amazing job in creating a space that draws the soul into prayer.
Both times when my scheduled slot in the room ended, I was disappointed and not ready to leave. This has not necessarily been my experience in prayer lately, and I am so so grateful for the beautiful and powerful grace of Jesus towards me. I will say — and I do not understand this or really know if it’s true — but it seems to me that He does tend to extend this grace for prayer in special places that are dedicated for that purpose. The very atmosphere seems to draw my heart and soul upward. Like I said, I’m not sure about all that, but I do know that my prayer times this weekend were refreshing and energizing.
I’m so grateful for the Merchant. It’s been at least a decade that I’ve been asking God for a prayer space in or near downtown for the boiler room — one that we could use for special seasons of prayer, but also for all the in-between times (yes, I realize that was before there actually was a boiler room). This weekend my mind wandered back to many times of walking around downtown, asking the Father for such a place. I also thought about the history we as the boiler room have had with prayer rooms. When we started eight years ago, we had a dedicated prayer space in the Harvest Market. Remember that?
Then we moved on, and wandered from place to place. I remember Karissa early on saying something to the effect of (sorry if I get this wrong) God is causing us to be the prayer room - a mobile prayer room. That we as a people would host His presence and foster prayer wherever we are. It seemed this was a significant lesson for us to learn, and an essential piece of who God was (and is) calling us to be. As this became a reality, we’ve created many spaces for prayer — some more temporary than others. Remember the old Ida Red in Brookside? The CORE Center? Retreat weekends at Shepherds Fold. Of course the Jesus Inn. The BC prayer room. Our homes. Wasn’t there a dance studio at some point? Last Fall Jill created a prayer shed in our back yard and we had a week of prayer there.
I’m grateful for all of those places and the things the Lord taught us, and how He used those experiences to shape us and grow us. And I am so grateful for where He has us now. Family, this feels like an answer to some deep longings I’ve been carrying in my heart for a long time. A place of prayer that is also a place of hospitality and significant Gospel ministry to the poor and the marginalized. A place of creativity and discipleship and partnership and mercy and equipping and welcome and transformation and sending. I'm so glad to be walking this out with you.
I’m incredibly grateful for the open-handed and generous way Paul and Debbie have invited us into this space to partner with them. I’m grateful for their desire to extend this invitation to others in the city, and I’m ready to do whatever the Lord requires of us to facilitate this.
I can’t end this without mentioning my gratitude for you who participated in our time of prayer together as a church family Sunday morning. The testimonies that were shared towards the end brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. Thank you for your vulnerability and faithfulness to give praise to the Father. We heard about people set free from addictions and depression and suicidal thoughts and severe anxiety. About the lonely welcomed into family and hearts of stone turned to clay. About the homeless being given homes and wandering souls received by the Father. God has done powerful things for us. These stories were not about distant people we barely know, but it was us and those we love the most. We are a people redeemed. A people whom God has set free, and is setting free. Praise be to Jesus!
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.”
— Psalm 63:1
I so loved how Heidi led us last Friday night in worship and prayer. Her confession of being dry and worn out, I think, resonated with many. I’ve been there so often. There are no easy “fixes” to such things. In fact, sometimes there’s nothing really to fix. God is simply working in silence, intentionally using the desert season to mold us more into His image, to mature us. This means that it is good - this loneliness, this longing, this discontent. He is wooing us to search for Him. He is strengthening our faith. Maybe that’s where you are. He’ll get you through it. Be encouraged.
At times, though, we’re dry because we’ve stopped the pursuit. In the psalm quoted above, David claims to “earnestly seek” the Lord. Listen to the intensity of his words: “thirst,” “whole being longs.” Sometimes we’re dry and worn out because we are no longer earnestly seeking. So, my exhortation and urging for you today is to shake yourself off and jump back in. You are tired, not because of too much seeking, but because you’ve allowed too many other things to become priorities in life above Him.
You can know God! He wants to be with you. He wants to speak to you and to listen to you and to be fully at the center of your life. But you gotta put in some effort, friends. Yes, it’s hard in new stages of life. Jobs, spouses, kids, responsibilities all conspire to pull you away. But He is more important! He is what you need most in every season. He is still there and still opening His arms to you. He knows your circumstances, and He still makes His invitations and His demands and expects you to respond. Because it is good for you to do so. It is right.
I want to urge you to pray as a significant priority. Make time just for you and Jesus. And I want to urge you to read His Word. Priority. Significant. All of us.
We’re having 48 hours of prayer coming up August 4-6. I highly encourage you to sign up for an hour or two or more. Seriously.
I also want to urge you to invest in your spiritual family. The boiler room is far from perfect. Oh so far. But, at least for now, God has you here. (Or if you’re reading this and He has you somewhere else, jump in there). You need us in ways you don’t realize. And we need you in ways you don’t realize.
“You don’t get it Tim, remember this: I”M TIRED!” I know. I do. Something's gotta give. Something’s gotta go. But maybe your “earnest seeking” of God isn’t that thing. And honestly, this is an intensely personal pursuit. But it’s also an intensely corporate pursuit.
I’m not wanting to put a heavy burden on you. That is not the way of Jesus. I want you to find His perfect burden, which is light and easy. His burden frees you from having to do all the stuff in order to be saved, to be forgiven, to be loved. He loves you! Now. Today. He loves you if you never pray or never Bible or never spud or whatever. It’s true. His burden also calls you to lay down your entire freakin life. Every single part of it. Every moment. Every penny. Every idea. Every. Thing. And then there it is — the freedom. The lightness. The joy.
I love you and want good things for you. I’m praying for you.
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
— Psalm 42:1-5
It's so hard to know where to start. The Boiler Room team returned from Uganda a few days ago -- Micah, Bob, Jill, and me. Jill's first visit to Uganda in twelve years was a special time, and we are incredibly grateful. We saw old friends, taught in pastor conferences, shared the Gospel, encouraged faithful servants of Jesus, preached in various congregations, and helped to facilitate a mission team from ORU. And we genuinely had a lot of fun as we did it.
We walked along once-familiar streets, muddied and messy in the current rainy season. Children flocked to stare, and called out "Bye Muzungu" as we ambled by. We drank endless cups of sweet, milky tea and made our way outside to relieve ourselves in the still-not-really-comfortable squatties. We ate matooke with g.nut sauce, posho, chapatis, sweet potatoes, cassava, pumpkin, chicken, beans, goat, beef, and lots of sweet pineapple and bananas. We gazed into the night sky, once again awe-truck by the uncountable starry host. We reveled in the untamed beauty of the Mountains of the Moon, and nervously closed our eyes as we bounced through them and over them and around them in our minivan crammed with missionaries and Africans. We slept under mosquito nets as the mice played with our stuff. We looked fondly at Lake Victoria, and took in the lights of Kampala from our favorite viewing spot on Namirembe Hill, in the shadow of the great cathedral. We were assaulted by all the odors and sights of outdoor markets and trudged through the overcrowded streets of Uganda's capital city. We enjoyed coffee and sweet rolls at Cafe Frikadellen in Masaka and good Indian curry at Faze 3 in Entebbe. We received the warm hospitality of Ugandan pastors and Western missionaries. We were entertained with concerts by groups of orphaned and abandoned children, and worshipped our God with many wonderful brothers and sisters.
One of the primary purposes of this trip was to investigate the possibility of deeper involvement in the equipping of leaders for God's work in this nation and beyond. We prayed into this and had some meaningful conversations with pastors and leaders of church networks. If nothing else, the great need in this area was certainly confirmed. It would also appear that an open door is there for us. The questions now revolve around discerning God's particular guidance for us, and in considering the hows and the whens and the with whoms and the cost and the feasibility. We'd so appreciate it if you would enter into prayer with us regarding this.
The first week we were in Uganda, we were hosted by our friend Pastor Robert. Robert oversees a network of 130 churches, spread throughout the Rwenzori Mountains in western Uganda. A number of the pastors in this movement were at the conference where Micah, Bob and I taught for three days. The second week we conducted similar teachings in Masaka, working with around 35 pastors plus other ministers and church members in the Mt of the Lord network of churches, lead by our friend Pastor Kintu. This network includes many churches primarily in central and western Uganda, but also with a few in Tanzania and Rwanda. We spent time talking with a couple of other church network leaders as well, each of whom confirmed the need for training and invited us to continue working together. All our teaching was simple but well received. The core message of the Gospel, particularly as presented in the book of Galatians, was our focus.
In between pastor conferences, Jill and I visited several homes for formerly abandoned or orphaned children, including one that is operated by our friends Fatuma and Darren. Fatuma is a dear friend who became part of our extended family when we lived in Masaka, and it is such a thrill to see her now so fully engaged in Jesus' work of caring for the vulnerable. She has been reaching out to Masaka's street kids for years, and has now been able to gather a number of them to live with her and her family in a big home. The kids experience the love and acceptance of Jesus, and many have testimonies of radically transformed lives. Such a beautiful work!