Christmas Eve was a historic day in Paradise, CA as they had the first large-scale public gathering since the Camp Fire with the theme, "I'll be Home for Christmas." Paradise Alliance Church received special permission to open up the church for the three services which ended up totaling about 4,000 people in attendance, with pastors from numerous churches in the community, all representing the whole "church" of Paradise. The water is still not potable, and PG&E brought in special gas tanks to heat the building, but the services went on as a tribute to the HOPE God is inspiring in Pastor Josh Gallagher and our church family there.
Towards the end of a home remodel project, I was leaving a furniture store with a new table destined for the house Janet and I had been updating with my sister and brother-in-law. While driving out of the parking lot, I unexpectedly found some deep happiness coming forth, but not for any reason I would have previously thought.
A.B. Simpson, the founder of this movement we call "The Alliance," said "God is preparing heroes, and when the opportunity comes, He can fit them into their places in a moment. And the world will wonder where they came from."
Occasionally, when I was pastoring, I would hear something like this: “Ray, I really believe that in our church God is saying to us that we need to move more and more toward prayer (or whatever). We’re beginning to move away from it and we need to move back towards it.
Do you believe that God speaks through His church directly concerning needs like that? I believe he does. I also believe if a message like that is from God, it will be felt throughout the body. It’s something specific. God will speak to his church, and he will communicate that message through his people – that’s prophecy. That’s all it is – it’s not as spooky as we think.
While the news coming out of Paradise and Chico has slowed down, efforts to help our CPD churches here have only ramped up. Our C&MA family across the nation has mobilized prayer and resources on an unprecedented level. We're also seeing support from non-Alliance churches as God prompts them with this great need.
While Neighborhood Church in Chico is no longer being used as an evacuation center, NC Chico is still housing our Paradise Alliance Church. Now that we're past some of the initial chaos, I thought it would be good for you to hear directly from Josh Gallagher, the new pastor at Paradise Alliance Church.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
I read this today and it hit me. The last thing Jesus says in the book of Matthew is one of the most important things we need to recall to thrive in ministry today: “I am with you.”
Let’s take a look at serving gifts that speak. The serving gifts themselves break down into two categories:
- Serving gifts that speak – prophecy, word of knowledge, word of wisdom
- Serving gifts that act, or do something – the gifts of mercy, faith, help, leadership, and giving.
At this point we’re talking about the spiritual gift or spiritual manifestation of prophecy.
In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, it’s easy to have shifting perspectives of both gratitude and grief. Some of us are grateful just to be alive while others are mourning the loss of loved ones. Some have gratitude their home was spared, while neighbor’s homes next door or across the street were lost. We all have gratitude for how the communities have come together to shelter and support evacuees, but we grieve for the loss of a city, of people’s livelihood, that life will never be quite the same for anyone who has lived through and been impacted by the events of the Camp Fire.
On a regular basis we have been introducing you to our CPD workers and their families. When we went to send our next one out, we realized it was Josh and Erin Gallagher of Paradise. We were speechless at the timing. But even with everything that has taken place [as a result of the Camp Fire], we wanted to follow through and introduce you to a family that while suffering great loss in their first 3 months in the CPD, are nevertheless leading this church with compassion and excellence even while scattered.
I thought I would be ready for what I saw today. I wasn't. Not by a long shot. I'm not sure I could ever be. I'm not sure I should ever be. Donice and I were back in Chico Sunday for the combined service of the Chico and Paradise churches, joined by Terry Smith, C&MA Vice President. At one point all the people were asked to stand that had lost homes so we could pray for them. As hundreds of people stood all around this large auditorium, the gasp was audible as we experienced a new depth of grief for those affected by this disaster. It was another service where tears flowed freely.