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That Day: Warm Welcome Despite Cold Weather

Dirt Road Disciples worship band

Cold Reception?
Not a Chance!

On the heels of the first December snowfall, Sunday morning’s thermometer read 27°. Snow & black ice battered and threatened families in Dawson and surrounding counties. Some still had no electricity. We half expected a half-empty, chilly sanctuary for this Sunday’s “That Day” performance…

Instead… over 200 people from Gainesville, Cumming, Suwanee, Cleveland and beyond filled the room to around 80% capacity – WHOA! Further, our whole family was SO warmly welcomed by the Set Free Church family. It was amazing! We had heard the Dirt Road Disciples (pictured, left) play before, but they really kicked it into high gear with the worship set, including the 70s classic “Spirit in the Sky”, “Amazing Grace/Chains are Gone”, and “Where I Belong”. Set Free was originally founded as a biker church in Dahlonega, but has grown into a thriving family congregation with a wide outreach.

Pastors Marty & Jamie Dunkerly and us at Set Free Church

Great Set Up,
Greater Impact

Dressed in a business suit, Dan Matthewson doesn’t exactly “fit in” with the leather jacket, biker boot, and Carhartt wearing crowd. His opening line is a bit curt. After Thursday’s dress rehearsal, the pastor’s son, “Tank” Dunkerly highly recommended no segue between worship and the opening line of the show. Since Pastor Marty Dunkerly (pictured, left) agreed and hadn’t given the church at large a heads-up about the play beforehand, the crowd was perfectly set up for a shock. The potential culture clash and abrupt opening presented a fantastic opportunity to capture and hold the crowd’s undivided attention with the unexpected tale of Dan Matthewson coming to the judgment seat. And, it paid off.

Scott Biddulph, church member and editor-in-chief at Two Drops of Ink, later commented on the surprise opening:

“…to be transparent, at first I thought, ‘Here we go, [Pastor] Marty’s done brought some yuppie speaker into our church’ (laughing), but when he got going, it was such a powerful message.”

Later, he also said,

[That Day] “reminded me that the little things in life, the prayers, taking a moment to love on someone who needs love, to listen to somebody who needs to be heard, to hug somebody that needs a hug, and so many other things that remind me of what Jesus meant when he said, ‘What you do to the least of these, you have done unto me.’ Our father is so loving, merciful, and penetrating with his Holy Spirit. Praise the mighty name of Jesus.”

Another attendee commented:

Lots of things he spoke on hit me hard…balancing my daily routine has been thrown into the pit of hell these last few months and to be honest it has caused many many problems emotionally, physically etc.. I honestly have become so bitter to others it’s overwhelming..I’m just ready to be back normal…” – D.W.

Associate Pastor Sandy Reece (pictured, right)pointed out

“It makes me look back and think ‘there are some places my walk could be tightened up with Jesus’. I mean, even as a pastor… [we all need to keep our] eyes on eternity.”

In the play, a character named Mickey explains the gospel to Dan Matthewson through a thick, iconic New Jersey accent. Ministry professional Casey Sanders from Men Step Up called it “pretty idiot-proofed… the clearest presentation of the gospel I’ve ever heard.” Praise God.

These are just indicative of the reaction this story brings. We were so honored to share this story with Set Free Church and grateful for any chance to help others live every day with that Day in mind. A look at life from the judgment seat is setting people free from the disappointments, disillusionment, and drudgery of living in a Genesis 3 world and resetting their eyes on the eternal glory that awaits us all in His presence! 

A Unique Point of View?

As the performer, I have the blessing of being able to see the crowd reaction from the stage, for nearly the entire 75 minutes. People were visibly moved by thoughts of what it will be like to witness our lives as we account for them before Jesus. There were plenty of laughs (even from Bulldog fans, when the “Go, Yackets” line played!), lots of wide eyes and pensive looks, and plenty of heartfelt tears. The menfolk would have you note this: many of the women cried, too! 🙂 Thoughts were provoked, eyes filled, hearts moved, and many came to the altar at the end for prayer.

To God be the glory for it all. (Including the fact that I pinched a nerve in my lower back the night before while lifting a bin of That Day hoodies! God alone sustained me through seventy-five minutes of jarring, unpredictable back pain! Let’s hear it for the healing power of prayer!)

We’re so grateful for the opportunity to share this story with the body of Christ in this part of North Georgia. We look forward to whatever God has next for That Day. If you’d like to help bring That Day to your church or other organization, reach out to us online here.

 

Friends, new and old, visited Set Free for a That Day performance

Thanks, to our friends and fans who made the drive from Gainesville and Cumming, to Heaven’s Saints Motorcycle Ministry, Set Free Church and Dirt Road Disciples!

 

What is Gospel-Driven Productivity?

If life on earth is just preparation for the new heaven and new earth, why would we spend so much time, money, and brainwidth on things that aren’t going to last and instead focus all of our efforts on building for a retirement that will never end?

What About the Mundane?

Yes, the oil needs to be changed, the conference table has a big scratch and needs replacing, and your middle child needs help on her math homework. But is there anything in this list that can’t be done out of a spirit of eternal responsibility, faithfulness, and stewardship? Am I the only one who sees the connection between present obedience and eternal rewards? When we look at the menial tasks of daily living, do we do them knowing God is watching and waiting to reward us for being productive in all things, large and small?

Don’t Efficiency and Effectiveness Matter?

When it comes to productivity, I used to think only in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. But, if that’s where productivity ends, all I’d have wound up with are a lot of to-do lists converted to “to-done” lists. Gospel-driven productivity contains efficiency and effectiveness as elements, but the core of Clean Slate is not so much about getting more done in less time, rather being found faithful in the face of the Father.

The Aim of the Game

Jesus never told parables that ended in “well done, good and efficient servant”, did He? While Paul does command us to be fruitful or effective, God is the ultimate judge of what was effective or not. He will be the one to weigh both motives and outcomes and promises to reward us accordingly.

If we look at individual scriptures, we’ll find efficiency (Prov. 21:5, Eph. 5:15-16, Matt. 25:14-30, etc.). We’ll find effectiveness (1 Cor. 16:9, Philemon 1:6, Phil. 1.22, etc.). Heck, we’ll even find excellence & zeal, (Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:7) right? But, I believe if we comb the entirety of scripture, we’ll see something much more sizeable, significant, and simple as we seek God’s definition of productivity. Here’s my definition from a biblical perspective:

Gospel-driven productivity: Right things, done well, in God’s power and timing, for His glory.

Productivity happens when faithful followers take extreme ownership of the stewardships God has entrusted to them and in gratitude for what Christ has done and will do (2 Cor. 5:10), work diligently at them. It involves everything that comes across our desk, our phones, our inboxes and beyond.

What are you doing regularly at work, at home, and elsewhere to ensure you’re doing right things well in God’s power and timing and for His glory?

You Ought to Know

Great commission. Very simple – “Go, and make disciples.”

So, almost 10 years ago, we went to work on that as a public ministry of discipleship – encourage, rebuke, exhort, build up, wipe out the lies with the truth of scripture and watch people walk away a little more like Jesus. Less distracted by the world, the flesh, and the enemy that hates them… and a tighter focus on the Kingdom of God.

Help others get on track and stay on track with God’s plan for their lives.

That’s the job description. No pressure, right? 🙂

Why Press Pause? What Does That Mean?

It only took me 10 years to finally admit the following: to help others win the battle against distraction, I need to eliminate the biggest distraction of all – our very flawed funding approach of operating at 20-30% and “trusting God with the rest”. Over the years, that approach has worn me and a lot of people around me out. I recognized I needed to change that, but, it would mean pressing pause on all the things I love to do that God called us to do!

You may have heard that last month, we pressed pause on all ministry activities – no That Day’s, no Clean Slate’s, no discipleship, until we get one big project out of the way: stabilize the monthly support for the ministry at large once and for all.

Whatever God Wants, Whenever He Chooses…

Then last week – a week where most ministries (historically, us, too) are in the pit when it comes to summer funding – we have this crazy gift that came our way… a pledge! While we need about $6,800 for the remaining programming for August, we now have a whopping $2,500 challenge match at a time of year when matching funds have never been plentiful! Insane! Praise God!!!

What That Means:

First, a matching challenge means if you donate a hundred bucks, we get a matching hundred bucks – effectively doubling your impact. Second, once all of the August need is met ($6,800), I can quickly and completely shift my focus to one thing: running fast and focused for the entire month of September toward getting the ministry’s regular monthly support raised up to a much more sustainable level. That is a hill worth taking because it will help me be more effective at helping others be more effective.

Your Role?

Would you pray about this over the week? Pray about helping us position this ministry to make maximum impact for 2017 and beyond. Pray about how God would use you to impact people wherever He sends us and beyond. Then, give online or via mobile right here.

 

***Update: the matching gift is applicable to all giving done up to Friday, August 25th.

Situation Report: Prayers for Cristine

Thanks & Complications

Thank you, to all who have prayed or are praying for Cristine! Here’s the official update, complications, and addendum to prayer request:

Last week’s surgery was a success. Pain dropped significantly within a couple of days. Yesterday, however, she awoke extremely early, due to momentous pain. No, more than that… After a ride to the hospital and an ultrasound, doctors discovered an ovarian cyst (formed when an unfertilized egg, which normally disintegrates and passes with the monthly cycle, forms a fluid-filled sac). It had ruptured, causing a tremendous pain surge. They also confirmed two more things: this is entirely unrelated to last week’s surgery and the cyst had a much larger big brother waiting to explode in the wings. Fun, fun, FUN!

What Do You Do For That?

They explained we’d need an appointment with an OB-GYN, but ovarian cysts are a “wait and watch” phenomenon: wait on it, watch it, and if it ruptures, just come back to the hospital immediately. Doesn’t that sound a lot like “Here… sit on this landmine and call us if it blows up”? Pain level: 7 of 10.

Fast forward to this morning, roughly 5:30 AM… Cristine alerts me that the pain woke her up, danced a jig on her face, and hog-tied her to a wagon wheel. Level: 9 of 10. Back to the hospital, this time without the fancy ambulance ride. Happy Independence Day? The pain eventually bumped to 11 of 10. Loud screaming and flailing. Not a graceful affair. With good reason… see below.

Scans & Results

Today, after a harrowing ride through the CT scan (or “70 Seconds through the Donut of Doom” as we call it), the new doctor confirms: surgery will be required to remove at least the cyst and quite possibly a couple of personal parts. With one OB-GYN and 6 babies to deliver, we could be in for a long day.

Presently, she’s admitted to the surgical floor, resting on pain meds, and being prayed for by dozens of Facebook readers and friends. Oh, and pretty flippin’ thirsty. Can’t eat or drink with surgery impending.

Prayer Points:

  • Pray the doc gets a break very soon and can perform the appropriate surgery for Cristine.
  • Pray that if God’s perfect will is something other than emergency surgery that we find out about it ASAP.
  • Pray for a successful surgery, swift and thorough recovery, and God to use this to impact whoever He has ordained to impact.
  • Pray for continued favor for our kids, who have been lovingly and awesomely cared for by a few families from recent small groups.
  • While you’re at it… Pray for Bekah James, daughter our friend, Chris
    • Bekah was hit by a truck yesterday, car totaled.
    • Has several fractures: pelvis, left hip socket, and one on her spine.
    • Brain hemorrhage has stopped, regaining some memory of the incident.
    • Expected hospital stay 4-6 days.
    • Rehab expected 6-8 weeks.
  • Pray for me. I had plans to meet with several people over the week regarding this ministry’s mission and helping to fund it at a very crucial time. Those meetings will have to be put off a bit, but appropriately so.

UPDATE: 8 PM

Surgery was quick, efficient, and successful. THANK YOU, for all of your prayers. Clearly, the Lord heard them and delivered!

The surgeon removed a grapefruit-sized cyst from Cristine’s abdomen. Because of her recent hernia surgery, the typical laparoscopic route was not possible, so a small incision had to be made. This means muscle and pain recovery times will be a bit… longer

So, pray for complete and swift recovery, praise for all God has done with keeping our kids safe, peaceful, and well entertained in Mommy and Daddy’s absence. We look forward to a nice, chill weekend at home this week with a prayerful week of back to work (and Mommy back to bed!) next week. Your prayers for fruitful ministry on both parts are greatly appreciated.

Clearly, this summer, the Lord is reminding us that often the most pressing ministry is our private ministry. Praise Him for the grace to turn our attention there and be fully present with significance and grace.

in Christ,

AP

Staff Update: Prayers for Cristine

This week, Cristine went in for outpatient surgery to repair an umbilical (belly button) hernia. Many of you received the “calling all prayers” email and prayed like crazy. She and I wanted to thank you for your prayers. Today, I wanted to give you a quick update on her situation.

First off, the procedure went great. Dr. Goehring, who had done her previous surgery for gall bladder removal 2 years ago, led the team. In his opinion, Cristine is in phenomenal health and was a dream patient as far as this procedure goes. Having lost and kept off 75 lbs over the past couple years, this type of surgery is more often on people whose weight puts them in greater danger of complications. While it took her quite a while to come out of unconsciousness afterward, it was pretty well uneventful surgery.

Upon leaving the hospital yesterday, Cristine had all the pain that should be expected after such a procedure. On a 1 to 10 scale, she commented “it’s about a 4-5 when I’m sitting or laying down. But, standing? About an 8.” As of this morning, on minimal sleep, her pain level is down to a 2-3 when sitting or laying, but still about a 7.5 when standing.

Our goal today is to get her some uninterrupted sleep for a few hours, push fluids, and get her some experience standing and walking. Your prayers are greatly coveted for a swift and thorough recovery.

The ONLY Productivity Exercise That Matters

If you’re into productivity and getting things done, this is going to sound like the strangest exercise, ever. I get it. But, humor me because as I read the scriptures, it’s the only productivity exercise that matters.

You will need about 2 minutes and your to do list or calendar for this exercise. Before you begin, let me give you the essential backdrop for it:

What Does Matter?

One day, we will each come before Jesus. Here, I’m specifically referring to those who are “in Christ”, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We will be rewarded for the things we did while living here in the body. Here, for the first time, we will know the true measure of our earthly productivity from the only perspective that matters: God’s. See 2 Cor. 5:10. We call this the bema (BAY-muh) seat judgment. While we don’t exactly know what how it will go down, we know that it will go down. Some will hear the word “welcome”. Others will hear “well done”.

Exercise, Part 1:

Look at today’s to-do list and/or calendar, reading each item and appointment briefly. Imagine you accomplished everything on the list and met every appointment on your calendar. Imagine at the end of that day, everything you’d hoped to accomplish was not only checked off the list, but also catalogued in detail in the book of your life. From this book, you will account for what you accomplished – see Romans 14:12.

On that particular day, you die and appeared before Christ to account for everything He just recorded in the book of your life. You received some rewards for things done well and experienced loss for some things you did out of selfish motive, but you’re still saved and you’ll still spend eternity with Him. Suddenly, heaven disappears and you’re back here at the beginning of that day with your list and calendar. The day has just begun – and I sit down across the table or desk from you. “So, what did you see?” I ask. Could you tell me at that point?

Exercise, Part 2:

The prophet Daniel details a vision of standing before God. It’s a vision of national judgment, not personal, but gives us valuable insight regarding what it will be like to stand before God. Before you tell me about your encounter with Christ, you need a picture of what you’re about to describe to me. It’s crucial that you read this in a very specific way:

  1. Stare wide eyed as if looking off into space. (I know, weird, but you’ll understand why in a moment.)
  2. Read this in a whisper as if you’re telling me every stunning detail of what you actually saw with your own eyes just before being called to account for your life:

    As I looked,
    “thrones were set in place,
        and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
    His clothing was as white as snow;
        the hair of his head was white like wool.
    His throne was flaming with fire,
        and its wheels were all ablaze.
    A river of fire was flowing,
        coming out from before him.
    Thousands upon thousands attended him;
        ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
    The court was seated,
        and the books were opened. (Dan. 7:9-10)

  3. NOW… Look back at your list. Glance at your calendar. Is there anything on either that you don’t want to have to account for in front of the God you just described to me? Not because you don’t feel like doing it, but because you know our time on earth is short and if you invest time in doing that activity it will steal time away from something more important that the Christ you just described has called you to do?
  4. Eliminate what does not line up with this judgment. You know you have responsibilities. You know there are pleasant distractions you’d like to follow. But, you know there’s only so much time and you… will… receive rewards or suffer loss… (1 Cor. 3:12-15) in front of… the God of the universe – Ancient of Days (El Olam!!!) – seated on a flaming throne, attended by millions, aware of every detail of your life… longing to reward you with a “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

One day, we’ll all be called home. And, that’s great news because we’ll spend forever worshiping Christ. But, He promised rewards, detailed rewards, and commanded us to store them up in heaven (not for our glory, but to His). If we’ll spend forever enjoying Him and the rewards He’s given us (to which some would add “enjoying Him in proportion to the rewards attained”), why would we waste what little time we have here on things that will turn to ash at the bema seat?

Eternity is the only proper base line for temporal productivity. That’s the connection between That Day and Clean Slate. You’re going to be judged for everything you do. Make sure what you do is worth judging.

Now, go. Be eternally productive.

in Christ,

AP