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Timothy was baptized at Two Cities on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 by his father, Gilbert.

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It’s been one year since we launched Two Cities Church into every week Sunday services. We had been networking, fundraising, and praying for what seemed like forever. It took us 6 years of waiting, praying, seeking, listening, learning and dreaming, plus two years of ground work, to get to our launch day. We were filled with expectation, curiosity, and nerves on that day. I remember being a ball of nerves. I don’t get nervous, but on that day I was. We launched with a vision message that we called #WeAreTwoCities. One year later, we took a look back and celebrated what God has done. [You can listen to that here or on our iPhone app.]

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These photos were from our One Year Anniversary after party. See more Photo Booth pictures from our One Year Anniversary here.

After one year, a lot of heartache, ups and downs, changes in our team, changes in the faces that volunteer and attend and more… I continue to say, “It’s Worth it.” It being church planting that is FOR our community and the people in our community. But here’s the thing, it’s worth it because Jesus said with his actions, “You are worth it.” When he spoke to people the religious leaders avoided and he forgave people who didn’t deserve forgiveness and he taught and healed and loved… he communicated that each person, each individual is worth it all. And ultimately, when he died a gruesome and embarrassing death, he did that to pay for the sins of each “worth it” person. You and me.

When I say, “It’s worth it” — it’s worth it because of the stories depicted in the video below, and many more untold stories that have arisen within our community at Two Cities Church.

I know I’m right where God wants me and I can’t wait to see what he does in and through Two Cities Church in our second year.

It’s Worth It. Part 1
It’s Worth it. Part 2
It’s Worth it. Part 3
It’s Worth it. Part 4
It’s Worth it. Part 5

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When we started Two Cities Church, we literally thought to ourselves, “What would a church that (insert name here) would go to look like?” Jamie Medeiros was one of those names. Erica and I have known her for many years now and we’ve never stopped praying her and her family. At one point she told me, “I hate that $%#&*#$* bible.” And now she proclaims Jesus. I am blown away at how God has worked in her life. Now because of the faith she has in Jesus and because her and her son Jack come every week, her son is now telling others that Jesus loves them.

In her story, you’ll notice the many different people played a role in Jamie’s story. One of my favorite quotes is from one of those people and reads, “You are his princess and I love you.”

Imagine how differently our lives might be, if we honestly knew and lived as if this was true.

If you’re looking for a place…
  • that you can be yourself
  • that you are not judged for not knowing about the bible
  • that you can ask the questions you think
  • that you can explore faith without pressure
  • that you can remain anonymous as long as you want
  • that you can belong before you believe
  • that you can believe before you behave
  • and that you can get a sense of family and acceptance

Come and See what we’re all about.

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Holy Week is supposed to be an emotional roller coaster. I mean, it’s the week Jesus entered into Jerusalem triumphantly, had an epic meal with his best friends, was betrayed with a kiss, put on trial and executed by the Romans by the pressure of the Jewish leaders and some of the people who were praising him, just one week earlier. That’s a roller coaster.

Add to that the sixth-monthiversary of Two Cities Church and our very first Easter service! There’s some emotion there too.

But this year, Easter weekend was marked by a life-event I never wanted to experience.

Easter Sunday I preached a message about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that’s the first-fruit of the resurrection of all of God’s adopted children. But what made that so extremely personal was that as I was preaching, my mom was on her death bed and hardly responsive. She had spent the previous 2-weeks in the hospital and at one point we thought she made a turn and was in recovery mode, but then took another turn.

On Thursday night, the night before Good Friday, I got a call from my sister saying, “You’ve got to come back to the hospital. She’s ready to go home.” Which you’ve got to understand home was not her house. Home meant heaven. So Erica and I rushed over to the hospital and all I could think was, “Of course. She’ll probably wait until 12:01am on Good Friday to go home.” But she didn’t, she hung on. She hung on for my brother to fly in, for my uncle Larry, my aunt Melody, my grandma Dessa and a whole host of others to come say good-bye.

One of the most heart-breaking and memorable things I’ve ever heard was my grandma walking into my parent’s house, seeing my mom on hospice, sitting by her side and saying, “I came to go with you the rest of the way. We started this journey together, just the two of us, long ago and we can finish it together.”

Two days after Easter, on April 7, 2015 Cheryl “Mots” Foster died. My biggest cheer-leader. My go-to person for some encouragement or wisdom. My spiritual role-model. My Mots. But not just my Mots, my dad’s wife, my brother’s mother, my sister’s mother, my wife’s mother-in-law, my kid’s grandma. Our Mots and maybe even your Mots.

The last thing I ever said to her was, “I’ll either see you tomorrow or in heaven. I love you Mots.” And I really do believe that I will see her again.

I could write volumes upon volumes on my mom. Maybe one day I will. But for now, I’ll leave you with this… a video of the celebration we had in her honor this past Saturday. Here are some details.

  • I had the honor to officiating and planning the Celebration.
  • My sister read the obituary.
  • My Uncle Larry told some great stories.
  • My Dad told the story about how they met in Yosemite.
  • My brother talked about her legacy.
  • Around 300 people from all over California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Texas came out to celebrate her life.
  • The majority of us wore RED because that was her favorite color.
  • She had one request in relation to her celebration… she wanted Jill Douty to sing ROAR by Katy Perry. It was her life anthem this past year.
  • We didn’t have a traditional guest book, because that just wasn’t her style. So I had asked my friend’s Josh and Hilary Dildine to create a thumbprint tree for our guest book (pictured below).
  • And we feasted on some great food after the celebration.

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Entire Celebration:

Starting at the eulogy and to the end:

Thank you to all of you who have provided meals, support, love, lent your talent, given hugs and prayed for our family. We have felt your love and will continue on with the mission of Jesus Christ. We love you all.

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A couple of weeks ago I woke up to a Facebook message from someone that I don’t hear from often. There’s a transcript of the conversation:

Friend: Do you need anything?
Me: What do you mean?
Friend: Money?

Let me stop your right there from reading the rest of the conversation. I mean, who wakes up to someone asking them if they need money? That doesn’t happen in real life, right? Well, it did and it happened to me. Ok, keep going…

Me: Well, we are trying to raise 50k to upgrade our elementary environments, invest in chronically hungry kids in Fresno, and hire a second staff member.

I was thinking he was talking about the church, since we’re trying to raise money for our end-of-year giving campaign and expand the work of the church. He responds…

Friend: Nice! Well, I woke up feeling like I needed to give you $300?
Me: Well, I woke up to a crying child and so that brightens the day! LoL
Friend: Haha I should be out of work by 4
Me: Ok, you can also do it through text. Just type WATC to (559) 745-7009. It will ask  you to register a card and then you can text in the amount (300) and it will deduct if rom your account.
Friend: I think it’s cash for you

At this point I was shocked. I thought, “So, you mean to tell me you feel like God is telling you to give me $300 cash, personally… for me? Not for the church?”

Have you ever had an experience like that? No? I wouldn’t expect you to.

Here’s the thing, I met up with him in the Target parking lot. I’m sure it looked like a drug deal to onlookers because we both got out of our cars and he shook my hand with a wad of cash in it and gave me a hug.

I said, “Did God tell you what I was going to do with he cash?”

“No.” He replied.

I thanked him, we chatted and he left.

Imagine the burden to do what is the right thing with this $300. In my family, we have everything budgeted out. We have specific amounts that go to specific categories. We do not frivolously buy anything. We weigh it out because we want to be good stewards of the money God entrusts to us… but for some reason, this $300 weighed extra heavy on us to do the right thing. The problem was, we didn’t know what the right thing was.

So for three days, we prayed about it and one verse kept coming to my mind:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”
Luke 16:10 NIV

At the end of those three days, I reached a decision. We were going to give it to the end-of-year campaign at Two Cities Church.

Not even five minutes after I made that decision I got a text from a church planter in Rohnert Park, CA.

Friend: I just saw something on your Facebook about year-end-giving… did you receive our cashiers check? We mailed it.

I had just been thinking about how we need to be faithful with every little gift and God will entrust us with more. That’s exactly what was happening. Now I realize that they had already sent the check and we would’ve received it either way, but I believe God withheld the information until we made the decision he knew we would make.

Later that day I went to the box and do you know what was in that box? A check for Two Cities Church from Discovery Church in Rohnert Park for $1,000. That’s right one-thousand dollars.

Want to see God do miraculous things in your financial life? Don’t squeeze every penny for yourself. Be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18) In fact, when it comes to giving, it’s the only thing God actually says to test him on.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the  Lord  Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Malachi 3:10

You have an opportunity to invest in something amazing, the local church. If you do, I think God might do something miraculous in your own life. Be a part of something amazing. Be a part of funding the church so that we can expand our efforts, reach more people, and feed more hungry kids in the name of Jesus Christ.

How?

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4 Simple Ways You Can Give to Our “WeAreTwoCities” end-of-year campaign:

  • Send a check to Two Cities Church
    1865 Herndon Ave K304
    Clovis, Ca 93612
  • Send a Text
    “WATC” to 559.745-7009 and then the amount you’d like to give. Here’s a little video to show you how easy it is.
    https://vimeo.com/111665925
  • Give Online by clicking here
  • In Service
    Drop a check or cash into our offering bucket during a service

Your gifts are tax-deductible and you’ll receive a giving receipt in January.

Thank you for being a part of something amazing, the local church, which is the hope of the world.

Annette is a powerful story of God meeting us in our darkest moments and raising us from death to life again. I love it when she talks about getting out from under her addiction and asking God to take away her obsession to use. She says, “He did and my life was changed.” Annette is part of our Guest Services team at Two Cities Church, part of my community group and a friend. Watch her story.

Donny is one of our volunteers at Two Cities Church, part of my community group and a friend. He was raised Mormon but didn’t understand who Jesus was or is. Watch his baptism story below.

The following post is part of a series of guests posts from people involved with Two Cities Church. This post is written by Tim Douty. Tim is one of our group leaders, our band director and he is also on our board. Tim recently emailed me some thoughts and I asked him to expand on those thoughts and write a guest post for my blog. Thankfully, he agreed. Enjoy.

My wife and I are church planters.

I’m not sure if I ever imagined I’d say that about us, but I suppose that’s what you call it when you start a new church. A couple years ago, we, along with some close friends, felt a nudge or heard a call or sensed something – whatever phenomenon you want to call it. It was a moral imperative for us that could not be ignored. Start this church.

So about two years ago, we started meeting and getting people together around a specific vision. You see, we weren’t just going to start another church in Fresno and Clovis. These two cities that I have called home all my life do not need another church. They are filled with hundreds of great churches. I met my wife in one of these great churches. These churches are reaching people and helping people grow and they are making a difference in our community and around the world. We are not seeking to duplicate them or replace them. These cities need a different kind of church.

We are going after a completely different market.

We are creating a church that un-churched people would love to attend. This is a place where anyone, regardless of their previous experience with church or religion, could come and feel welcome and would find it so captivating and helpful that they would want to come back. It is a place where the life-long Christian like myself and the person who has never cracked open a Bible or knows any of the Christian songs or lingo would feel at home. This is a place where the good news of Jesus is presented without shame or reservation, but where all the clutter of religion is removed to make it clear and practical. This is a place where people who are curious about God, or have questions or doubts, or believe in something greater than themselves but have found traditional churches lacking can come.

We want to reach people that no one else is currently reaching.

We call this place Two Cities Church because we are for these two cities of Fresno and Clovis, as well as the whole Central Valley. We have friends and family members – names and faces of real people – that we want to introduce to Jesus. But these people are not currently attending church or they have had bad church experiences or have simply found organized religion irrelevant. These are who we want. We want the rejects, the down and outers, the underdogs. We want the imperfect, the have-nots, the ones who don’t have it all together.

Because Jesus is for everyone.

So the Church should be for everyone.

This is a daunting task for several reasons. In the traditional church world, most churches are planted by other churches. One church either outgrows its facility or wants to expand their influence so they get a group of people together and they send them. They put together volunteer teams, financial support, and they plant the new church.
Well, Two Cities is different.

No one is really sending us. We have not received a massive influx of cash or volunteers or attenders to start this thing. We are starting from scratch. We are starting this church from nothing but the vision God has given us and the relationships we have. We are sustained only by the people who give to the church and attend each month at our services and by those who come to our small groups. That’s it. It’s a daunting, and at times lonely process.

In effect, we have started something from nothing.

But we are in good company.

In Romans 4, the apostle Paul writes about the faith that Abraham had. Even if you’re not religious, odds are you have heard of Abraham before. In the book of Genesis, you can read his story. God makes a covenant with him, an agreement, and he promises that he will make him a great nation and that from his children will come generations of people that will follow the one true God. Sounds great right?

Except Abraham didn’t have any children.

His wife, Sarah, was barren. And by the time God makes this outrageous promise to him, he was old and incapable of fathering any children anyway. In regards to the promise to father a great nation, Abraham had nothing. There were no kids, and there were no fertility doctors or medical procedures to attempt. As far as Abraham was concerned, it was hopeless.

But in Romans 4, Paul writes that Abraham still believed God in spite of what the circumstances told him. Paul says that Abraham believed God even though there was no earthly reason to do so. And because of his faith, God honored Abraham, gave him right standing with God, and honored his promise. Abraham became a great nation, in fact founding what would become the nation of Israel.

In telling this story in his letter to the Romans, Paul makes a startling phrase about God. This is a phrase that I could not gloss over when I read it recently. I had to stop because it was so astounding.

He says that Abraham became the father of many nations because “Abraham believed in the God who brings back the dead to life and who creates new things out of nothing” (v. 17, NLT).

I love that line. It’s almost as if the defining characteristics of God is a.) he brings back the dead to life and b.) he creates new things out of nothing.

After reading this, I immediately thought: that’s us. That’s Two Cities Church. There was nothing, and then, through a vision that God gave us, suddenly there was something. I also immediately thought of people I know who have experienced this amazing characteristic of God’s character in their own lives. I have seen God bring dead things back to life. I have seen marriages that were dead that God resurrected. I have seen futures given new life after it was believed they were gone forever. We have seen dead relationships with siblings and friends revived. We have seen families created from noting. We have seen impossible diagnoses miraculously healed. We have seen lives that were dead turned around by the incredible grace of God. And we have seen God take nothingness and turn it into something incredible.

We are Two Cities Church, and in this phase of growing, praying, waiting, pressing in, we know that at the same time we are in the exact center of God’s will for us. Because the God we serve is a God who makes something out of nothing, who takes dead things and gives them new life. He did it for me, he’s doing it for many others, and he’s doing it through Two Cities Church.


 

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What if… That’s one of my favorite phrases because it unlocks my imagination to think about God’s divine potential for my life, our community and the church. Here’s a few “What if…” statements you might resonate with:

  • What if… your teenage son or daughter became a volunteer at Two Cities and began to see God work in his or her life through connecting the dots of children and a relationship with their heavenly father?
  • What if… you could be completely debt free within a few months or years?
  • What if… those feelings of being overwhelmed suddenly stopping ruling your thoughts because your relationships with Jesus Christ and your trust in Him were outgrowing your fears?
  • What if… Two Cities Church was known, among non-church people, in our community as a place where Nobody’s Perfect, Everyone’s Welcome and Anything’s Possible?
  • What if… we believed Jesus when he says, “You are the light of the world” (Matthews 5:14) and we actually lived like it?
  • What if… your husband began to love you like Jesus loves the church, to the point of laying down his life, his preferences, and his way, for you?
  • What if… your wife respected you because of how you love and lead your family in all things, but specifically, spiritually?
  • What if… we stopped reading the Bible in order to check-off a box on our to-do list and started applying what is revealed to us through God’s Word in our lives?

Sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? It’s not.

We are FOR CLOVIS and FOR FRESNO We want something FOR our cities far more than we want something from them. That goes for you too.

God has a spectacular plan for our communities and I would be doing you a disservice if I did not offer you an opportunity to invest in this Kingdom effort. We have a couple of needs that you have the opportunity to help meet:

  1. During our February monthly glimpse service, we blew a speaker and had an immediate need to replace the speakers, amp, amp rack and cabling. The good thing is that we knew it was on its way out. Replacing this gear cost us $2,147.13. We ordered them on the church credit card because of the immediate need and could not wait for funds to come in. But now we need to pay that back to the credit card. Please consider helping us cover this cost.
  2. In addition, we are looking for people to begin asking the question “What if… we became monthly percentage givers to the mission of the church?” Jesus talks about monthly more than any other subject and there’s a reason. That reason is the same thing we struggle with today… the idol of materialism. Giving does something in us, it frees us. That level of freedom is impossible to know, unless you step out and try it. Trust Him and you’ll see. Our average monthly giver, gives $250 a month. If you already give monthly, consider upping your percentage by 1% and see what happens.

3 Ways to Give

What if God has something better for us than we could ever ask or imagine? I believe He does. Will you join us in our effort to expand the kingdom? Will you give? Will you pray? Will you come? Will you invest? We’ve got a big imagination, but God’s design is bigger. Our vision is huge, but God has something even better than we could ever imagine… and you might just be part of that vision.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

At our Launch Group (pre-launch small groups for the church we are planting, Two Cities Church) the other night, the question was posed:

What’s the last big bold prayer you prayed?

Recently my prayers have been changing. [See: 5 Tips to kickstart your prayer life and 5 Things Every Christian Parent Should Pray Over Their Kids Daily]

Historically, it’s been a lot of asking for things… but not a lot of significant things. Don’t get me wrong, there have definitely been seasons or moments when I prayed big and I prayed often. But that’s not a natural thing for me. What’s natural, what’s comfortable is something like this…

Dear God, Thank you for today.
Thank you for my family and all the blessings in my life.
Help me to steward those relationships well.
Please help _____ and _____ get better quickly so that they can continue to be productive members of society.
Help me be patient with my kids and know how to be a great parent.
Thank you for the sacrifice you made so that we could be in relationship with you.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

I mean, that’s fine. But it’s primarily self-centered. It probably isn’t much of an exciting prayer to receive. It’s the same ol’ hum-drum prayer. It’s nothing special.

But what if we, Christians, learned to be sincere in our prayers for OTHERS and for the MISSION of Jesus Christ, “to seek and save that which was lost.” What if it wasn’t all little, me-centered, prayers? What if it was BIG, Jesus-centered prayers? What if we prayed like first century Christians, who when their lives were threatened didn’t pray for protection… as I would probably do. But instead they prayed this:

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. – Acts 4:29-30


You know what happened to those first century Christians who prayed that prayer?

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:31-32

That’s pretty amazing. I want to pray like they did. I want to pray Big Bold Prayers. And I am. How about you?