Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Deep thoughts. By josh eppy

Just some thoughts:
being inundated by exciting church or extreme church, with loud music, funny videos, heart wrenching and tear jerking stories has taken it's toll on us. As I've been thinking about this whole identity thing and it being tied to purpose, we should be getting our new identity from Christ. A new self as the scriptures say. By the renewal of our heart, soul, and mind we are being made new in the image of Christ.
Out of this image, there is a uniqueness which we have all our own. Things that we can only relate to some, rather than the whole. Things like teaching/communication skills, usefulness in using our hands in a specific skill, a nurturing and warm personality, being creative, being organized, etc. This is the picture of the body of Christ. We pick up where others leave and partner with those who suck at what we're good at and support the opposites to be more balanced.
This new identity is pretty rare. We see it in some and that includes the leaders we look up to. There are certain attributes of this identity we will all share. Being holy. Humility. Being righteous. (not self righteous) I even think there's a verse in there that says we should be perfect. (name some more if you can) These are the things that we should look like. Together.
Understanding these things about yourself should be essential. From this newness there can be a sense of zeal and knowledge that brings us to this understanding and our relationship with one another.
Being entertained on a Sunday is hard to pull this identity in. it takes more than just an hour or so a week. I once heard a guy say that in order to become a professional golf player, from nothing, you need to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing. I'm not aiming to become a professional Christian but we've got to consume ourselves and change our agendas to be around those who are going to show us this new image, all the while looking to Christ. Can't forget that one.
Moses was given a call to lead Gods people to the promise land. I'm sure it was quite exciting at first. The whole killing an Egyptian and plagues and magic battling a king. But the whole 40 years in the desert sure must of gotten old. But he still had purpose. He still had identity. Bearing the image of God, he was bringing a blessing.
How easy it is for us to caught up in an identity that's not of God and not of our own. What image are you bearing? How can others be your opposite? Do you know what that image looks like and would you recognize yourself if you looked in a mirror? In what areas do you need to renew yourself? Where are the best places you've seen a good look at Jesus? Can you or will you let others in on the secret?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What are you building or not?

Since I've been back home in Valparaiso it's been a constant busy. The normal unsteadiness of work in the winter has been occupied by a project to put an addition above the garage that was at a time a roof. I've been learning various skills that I would otherwise not encounter if I were not employed here.  Deconstruction of the roof, framing, putting a new roof back on, shingling, plumbing, electric, drywall and mudding and most recently painting. These are all things that I've been able to see firsthand and learn from guys who've been at it for a long long time. I know it'll take time for me to get the hang of any of it. We've even hired people specifically trained in certain jobs that are masters of what they do. Just by watching I've learned so much about home construction, at least putting a master bedroom addition on an old roof.
I look at this work, just from this past winter alone and see how it correlates with what I've been experiencing in the church. As I've assumed a different role in the body of Christ, it's something quite new to me. There a certain skills and pedigrees that distinguish themselves amongst the others that make each unique. As I've been working alongside other men and women working out their role in the body of Christ it's been quite uneasy. A lot of awkwardness and uncertainty has been encountered along the way, much to that of learning a new skill or trade. Questioning yourself, hitting your thumb with a hammer, getting in the way of others, not knowing the overall goal, let alone having any idea on how to get there.
Many of the people we've been meeting are still going through this process of seeing who they are in the body of Christ. I for one can admit that I'm still growing and learning but yearning to master they trade that God has placed before me. There's beauty in not doing this alone though. As we disciple each other, we are iron sharpening iron and building each other up. We are looking to each other for the examples of what this looks like, all the while looking to Christ. We know the goal of planting the gospel to all the world but there are many different ways to go about it.
It's been a joy to build into the lives of others. For some they're starting new, with a fresh slate and a fresh foundation. A lot of watching is going on and they're looking for the body of Christ to provide that example. Some are still trying to function with some 70's retrofitting style, with shag carpet, wood panel walls, and some funky green and mauve colors. But you know what, it still works. But only if it's rooted in love. Some are seeing that they need to rebuild. Their foundation was weak in first place or built on the wrong things. So it's time to tear it down and build it on what's sure and foundational.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DNA Discipleship

DNA – How the church functions to become restored into a living organism that is structured the way God intended it to be.
Divine Truth – becoming like Jesus
Nurturing Relationships – caring for others like Jesus
Apostolic Mission – being sent like Jesus
At the heart of the church and its lifeblood is Jesus. As Christians, followers of Jesus, it should be implied that we are striving to become like Christ. What Jesus did just by living, he set the example of what that restored life looks like with God. Before Adam and Eve mucked things up they were living a life with purpose, mission and nakedness. Their identity was that they were made in God’s image and resembled the characteristics of our God. As the story of Adam and Eve unfolds, they made the mistake of buying into the lie that they would become like God even more by eating the fruit that opened their eyes to sin and the separation from God that came with it.
As sin entered into the world bringing death, suffering, poverty, destruction and whole list of other crap taking us away from God, He still wanted us to see our identity and the life that He promised through His creation. As He was actively pursuing us with covenants and the Law of the Old Testament it wasn’t enough for us. It presented the life of blessings and Israel was to be the bringer of blessings. Israel failed. Not until Jesus comes in on the scene do we see the promises fulfilled and the restoration that he brings with it.
By looking at the D.N.A. we are hopefully and faithfully seeking a God to meet us where we are. Distraught. Separated. Prideful. Ashamed. Spectating. Active. The D.N.A. allows us to pick up on the journey wherever we are. Most importantly that it’s in the direction of life as God intended things to be. The D.N.A. isn’t meant to be sequential, that you must obtain a life like Jesus before caring for others or being sent out. It’s a continuation of all three together. With a renewed heart, mind, soul and strength our agenda, our daily life, is a reflection from that life.
Just as the D.N.A is more continual than sequential, you also can’t take anything away from it. If you were to focus more on nurturing and caring for other but leave out becoming and sent like Jesus you mess things up. The D.N.A. becomes retarded. It’s a mutation from what God intended. I reference it to a mental handicap when you leave out the becoming like Christ. A physical handicap when you’re not being sent out into the world. And an emotional handicap when you leave out the nurturing and caring for others. The D.N.A. functions to become that restored living organism of life with God, from the individual to the communal.
True Life. True DNA. What was life like before we were separated?
Where did God come from?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Community from Nehemiah

Nehemiah 4 - community - October 24 @ Life Bridge

Adversity coming from outside forces. Neh 4:14 don't be afraid of the enemy. Fight. Pointing to the fact that we don't need to live life alone, they couldn't do it on their own they needed each other. DNA to focus on what a group would focus.

Overall: it's time to build. (Healthy or strong community)


Nehemiah 1:3; cf 2:2 - loss of physical safety - the city was becoming an urban desert - reducing the wall to rubble symbolized the breaking of the bonds of community - no order - shame - not pride - dominated by foreign powers and estranged from city and covenant with God

Problem of being separated (sin) - restoration of what God intended - the garden walk

Nehemiah 1:4-11 - prayer - restoration of community

.: Nehemiah's crying out to God to be restored. Asking forgiveness of his sins, not only his sins but those from past generations."But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored." (Neh. 1:9)

.: Jesus provides the way back to the garden. Romans 3:21-24

.: DNA - it's the original framework for the church - not only community but for the whole body of Christ

Nehemiah 2:17 - city wide meeting - there's something wrong so let's do something about it

Pray - Luke 10:2-3 (NLT)  These were his instructions to them:"The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.

Nehemiah 4:2-3;8 - Luke 10:3(NLT) - Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.

Nehemiah 4:4-5 - taking action

Nehemiah 4:9-14 - deploying guards and security

Nehemiah 4:14 - Gods history of protecting people

Nehemiah 5 - breaking down of community - Acts 2:42-47 - restoring among believers and adding more

Micah 6:8 - Romans 12 - Worship in community

.: Even though this is what we strive for and see as what the church should be, you can't expect it in every culture and community.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September Newsletter

Church building update
In my last newsletter I mentioned that our building has been flooded and pretty much torn apart because of water damage. It's been over two months since that has happened and in that time we had been meeting at various places such as the Porter County Fairgrounds and the American Legion. In the meantime we were looking for other avenues, especially aboveground since it limits handicap access, to hold a church service. We found a place and have been meeting there for 2 weeks now. It came together pretty smoothly and it's not in bad shape. It's located right across the street from Valparaiso University and still centrally focused in the downtown Valparaiso area.

9 APEST test takers
Recently I had asked 9 people who are along in their walk with God to take the APEST test. The test asks 50 questions about yourself and you have 10 seconds to answer so you'll pick the one that comes to your mind first and not dwell on the question. The results were pretty accurate but for some it made them think about themselves in light of their role in the body. Next week we're all going to get together and talk about the results. It's not a final say in who you are but it's a tool that will help us along in our journey and the benefits it will be to the whole community. This will also help them look to others in their community that they can in turn build into and disciple.

Intentional discipleship & leadership
For the past couple of months I have been meeting with 3 other guys that are doing house church planting in the Valparaiso area. Our conversations have led us to share a common mission of discipleship in our churches and communities. We are brainstorming future plans of what this looks like and how it can be applied universally to those we're building into. Because of this mutual mission and growing friendships among us we're questioning what this will look like as we grow from our own communities and outward to other cities and states. As we continue the conversation with others were seeing a great desire among those who desire this discipleship journey. There are currently people from Las Vegas and England in on the conversation as well who are looking to partner with us on this mission. These relationships that I'm building here makes me even more joyful with the patience and waiting of what God is doing in Valparaiso. Right now my roommates are still planning to move out West to Idaho to start a house church and this would be a great opportunity to apply this intentional leadership with them and others such as Kris who's in Houston and Brian who's in South Bend. I know there are a few more months left in the year and a whole lot of potential growth in us and what's to come but I'm still prayerfully considering where God is leading me geographically. Please continue to pray for direction and the opportunities that arise. The four of us will be meeting together soon for a day retreat to look and pray for the possibilities that may come from this.

Spring Valley shelter
The Spring Valley Shelter has officially closed it's doors but there are still families residing there. NIPSCO (electric and gas) will be turned off at the end of the month. As of right now every family unit has been placed into new residences but have not moved out of the shelter. Me and several others have been in touch with Housing Opportunities, the organization that acquired the shelter, to make sure the families are still being cared for. The shelter will soon be opened when the grant from the government goes through. We are also trying to raise funds so when new families that come in will have a fresh start with a refurbished living arrangement. The units have been vandalized and could use a fresh coat of paint and furnishings.

Chicago Marathon
Last week I reached my highest amount of mileage with 22 miles! It wasn't as tough as i thought it would be and it also helped that I had someone to run with at my pace. Later in the week my foot started aching so I've been staying off it and was only able to put in 6 miles this week and I missed my long run. I think I also may have strep throat, but that seems to be going away.

Prayer meetings
Every Tuesday the staff at Life Bridge come together and pray for the connect cards that the attendees fill out during the service. We've been able to do this since we've started and it's been a great encouragement to us and the whole body. This weekend we are changing it up so that all the leaders of Life Bridge can be apart of the prayer. The focus is to start helping them to spend their time and energy on the individual as a shepherd more and not as much on the tasks.

Landscaping season coming to an end
The past couple of weeks the work with the landscaping company has been coming to a slow crawl with work. I've stuck with it but I am looking for work during the winter to get me through. I've applied for a job with In Touch Pharmaceuticals and have an interview next Monday. My job would be to deliver medicine to individuals and other pharmacies. So I would be kind of a drug dealer but the good kind. I am still keeping my job with AEC to work at the power plants because that's more worth my time but my overall goal is to make enough to support my living expenses to continue develop into others and Life Bridge. It's been interesting going down this road to do this but it has allowed for some good relationships to be built and priorities to be examined along the way. I appreciate the relationships I do have a lot more and the ones not yet made. This process also makes me question and wonder what's in store for this coming year. If there is more to what the intentional leadership network brings I will focus my time building into others. Within the next few months, if something more comes into fruition I will look to find support individually and locally to cover my financial provisions.

Community Group Block Party
This afternoon the two community groups that I've been apart of hosted a block party at the Elmhurst house. There were a number of things that went right today. Our goal with the block party was to meet some of our neighbors that we wouldn't normally have met typically any given day. Even many of our neighbors met each other for the first time or actually got to sit down and have an actual conversation not in passing. With our fenced in lots and garages that we can pull into without even seeing our neighbors this was a great opportunity to break down those walls and meet the people we live next to. Over 40 plus people came over to have some lunch and play yard games together. Below are some pictures from the party and the link here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August Update

Since the beginning of the summer it’s been quite busy for me:
● The landscaping job has kept me hard at it and worn out by the end of the day.
● I’ve been running roughly 20-30 miles a week to train for the Chicago Marathon in October (17 miles, the most I’ve ever ran, today!).
● For the past 3 weeks I’ve been traveling back and forth to Mt. Pleasant, TX for a job with Acoustic Emissions Consulting. One of the weeks, I was able to fly into Houston, TX for a weekend to visit Kris. He’s doing well in his job but told me it gets a bit lonely. He is still interested in planting a House Church but not on his own. He is currently going to his sisters church, which he tells me is a bit big and gets lost in the crowd.
● 4 weeks ago our House Church made the decision to branch out into two different locations. Since then it’s been great to see the different type of leaders come out and be who they are in the body. This has also been a good teaching moment about the body and why it’s so important to let Jesus lead as the head.
● The Tuesdays that I spend building relationships and praying with the staff of Life bridge has been very helpful. This past week I met up with one of the “evangelists” in our House Church to talk about a House Church Network. The idea is to provide the necessary resources of equipping and encouragement for those interested in being sent to start new House Churches. With an assessment strategy from Alan Hirsch’s APEST (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers) test and an online community to be connected wherever the Spirit takes us geographically. This will certainly need some prayer.
● Last weekend while there was construction being done along the sidewalk outside the church building, two huge rainstorms came through and flooded out the basement which is where the church gathers. We were already planning on doing some renovation but not to this scale. You take a look here for a video of the damage.
● For the past 10 days our church has had a booth at the Porter County Fair allowing kids to pull a sucker from a board and win a small prize. It’s been a good opportunity to meet new people and introduce ourselves to people all over Porter County. Last weekend we had the opportunity to host our church gathering Sunday at the fair for anyone to come and join us. This worked out perfectly since we were flooded in the basement. They also allowed us to meet there today!
● My mom found out a couple of weeks ago that her house is being foreclosed on. She had until this weekend to move out before it’s being auctioned off on the 3rd. She did find a place to move to and is in good spirits about the whole situation. Please pray for wisdom and wise choices to be made.
● I started playing soccer with the community parks league to meet some new people in the community. It’s been a good time and hopefully will lead to some new relationships. Please pray for that.
● Please also pray that I will continue to persevere where I’m at. It can be discouraging sometimes and a bit frustrating. My heart is not always pouring out God’s love and it can seem hopeless or even comfortable to be this way. Please pray that God will surround me with some present “great cloud of witnesses” to encourage and live the life with. Thank you for your love and support! josh

Saturday, April 24, 2010

DNA revealed.

Today I was thinking that it’d be a good thing to tell you guys about what we’re trying to plant into our house churches. I’ve mentioned before about the DNA (Divine Authority, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission) that is the core of our church. Simplified it means that we are a church that wants to: become like Jesus, care like Jesus and be sent like Jesus. It’s definitely not in sequential order by any means and if you take one out or focus on one more than the others, it’s just not the church.

Divine Authority (Being like Jesus)

Each week when we get together we’ve been going through the book of John. We just landed on John and stuck with it. When I or anyone else leads the discussion we try to make it a point to see what the passage is telling us as followers of Christ in light of the DNA. How are we becoming transformed? How are we caring for one another and building each other up? How are being sent into the world like Jesus? There’s definitely a lot that the bible has to say about this considering it’s at the heart of the church.

Nurturing Relationships (Caring for people like Jesus)

You can’t make anyone be nice. Even if you threatened with a spanking it wouldn’t be true. By fostering an environment that cares for each other by just doing it is the way to go. Just as we strive to become like Jesus it is a byproduct of a transformed life. This also helps when we purposefully build into each other. Trying to help others be better than yourself. Not only does this happen in our community when we gather together but it happens all the time.

Apostolic Mission (Being sent into the world like Jesus)

We believe that Jesus was sent into the world to restore all creation back to Him. As followers of Jesus we strive to partner with God in this mission. This past month with the Easter dinner and a food drive for the Food Bank we had the chance to practice that. As we care for and build into each other it doesn’t stop there. We’re always thinking about who it is we’re being sent to. As far as leadership goes, it doesn’t rely heavily on a lead pastor or minister but the whole community that has Christ as the head of the church. So as we seek to send people out they are DNA planters that carry the church with them.

This past weekend we had a great time celebrating with God. Brian, Amy, and Kris were baptized in Lake Michigan. FREEZING! It was awesome. Even Kim who was baptized a few months back had the chance to baptize Amy. So the life cycle continues building into one another.

click the link for pics!