Say Yes! To Michigan

If you had told me a year ago all that this year would have brought I would have probably hidden in a cave somewhere. Simply put it’s been the most difficult year of my life. However in this last year it’s been a time of growth and seeing much of the grace of God in our lives. Trial is many times a form of God’s grace to give us something greater and better for our good and his glory. God has been writing that story large in my life this last year.

Part of that story is in God redirecting my ministry path and opening a door for me to serve him with an incredible church in the Detroit Metro area. This last week I was called to work and serve at Woodside Bible Church in Troy, MI. Woodside is a church that has been impacting Detroit and the world for sixty years. Spread out over nine regional campus (plus an Internet campus), the church has been seeing the grace of God and the advance of the gospel far and wide. Under the leadership of Pastor Doug Schmidt I am confident and excited to be part of a dynamic team of campus pastors and leaders.

Specifically, I will be leading a campus and working to see people “BELONG to Christ, GROW in Christ, and REACH the world for Christ.”

Please be praying for our family as we get ready for a big transition to Detroit and need to find a place to live, setting on a school situation for our daughter, and restart life in a new place. Pray for me also as I settle into a new role and begin to labor for the sake of the gospel. We are eager to get to 2015 and see all that God has for us in a new place.

Michigan, Wolverine, Here We Come! 

Advent: Taste and See

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11–13, ESV)

“What are you waiting for?”

Advent asks that question of us. If we would slow down and listen the question is being asked over and over again. “What are you waiting for?”

Many of us, myself included, often find ourselves waiting (or wanting I should say) the good gifts of the Giver. We long for salvation, perfected bodies, sinless souls, heaven, and the end to misery, pain, and injustice. We want good things. But do we want the source of those things? Do we want the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17)?

I suspect we might, although we don’t know it enough to articulate it well. The gifts are, as C.S. Lewis put it, beams of light that trace back to the sun itself. The gifts make us long for the Giver. But I don’t think we know it well. The restoration of our broken and ailing bodies tells us of One who was resurrected from death itself. The healing of the soul tells us of One who has conquered sin by his sinless life. The joy of heaven tells of us of being in the presence of the One who is peace and joy and glory. The bringing of perfect justice tells us of the King who will right every wrong and reign over us all in the Kingdom come, making all things new. We long for these gifts, but they should really point us to the Giver.

Paul told Titus that the first Advent of Grace (God’s bringing salvation to all through Christ — Titus 2:11) prepares and trains us to wait now for the second Advent of Glory (the appearing of our hope, which is Christ himself — Titus 2:13).

This causes me to ask a question of myself, do I find Christ desirable? Or, do I long for and eagerly wait for Christ himself? Strip away all the the good gifts that I desire and long for, do I look forward to being with Christ forever? If not, why? What keeps both me and you from desiring Christ? Surely, one reason it is our sinful hearts that desire all sorts of other things beyond Christ. This is the great work of Satan to distract us from the best while causing us to settle for the good. Yet, another reason I find that keeps me from desiring Christ is that I haven’t tasted of Christ frequently. I find that I tend to lose my desire for Christ when I haven’t reflected on his “excellence” with regularity.

Consider our cravings for certain types of food (for some reason right now I’m hungry for a juicy steak). We find our desire for that meal increases as we contemplate it with increasing frequency. We might have in our mind that the meal is of particular splendor and taste. We salivate thinking about the goodness of the meal. It is the best we’ve ever eaten. In our minds we meditate and fixate on the meal and when we have it the joy is increased because the actual meal was better than our mind made it. The point is, if we aren’t meditating on Christ regularly, and particularly who he is, then we are starving ourselves of desire for Christ. No wonder the Psalmist tells us “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Frequent “tasting” of Christ births deeper longing for Christ. If we merely taste the gifts we will have a sugar rush of joy, but miss the greater delight of the Giver himself.

Advent as a season is for us to increase our appetite for Christ. It’s a time for us to reflect on the “excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In so doing we will increase our expectation and longing for the Giver himself, and not just his great and wonderful gifts.

So let’s find a banquet table of Christ himself. Let’s look at the glories of Christ. Let's gaze upon his wonderful and diverse excellencies. As Jonathan Edwards put it, let us find the “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” Let’s pause looking for the gifts and find the Giver himself. As we do, and as we wait, our desire, and our eagerness for that second Advent will only increase. We will sing and worship and rejoice in the Giver himself.

This is who we are waiting for. 

Give Thanks! — My Parents

Today I simply want to give thanks for my mom and dad. Often, it is easy for us to over look or take for granted our parents. We’ve known them all our lives and have been privy to their instruction, discipline, encouragement, and counsel all along the way. I suppose I am not any different in that regard myself. God has used the events of our lives in this last year to remind me of his grace that he has given to me in my parents.

More than anything I am thankful for the ways that my parents have remained faithful to the gospel all throughout my life. Dad prayed with me nightly before I’d go to bed, all the way up until I was eighteen. He presented the gospel to me as a four year old in the back of our station wagon when I asked for a story. Mom would pray privately every day for my brother and I that we would be strong men of the faith and useful for the Kingdom of God. She encouraged us to be students of the Word and to hide the Scriptures in our hearts. My parents weren’t about just the externals of religion, they wanted to see the gospel transform our hearts.

Their love for Christ was evident beyond just their desire to see their two sons know and love Christ, they wanted to make a difference with their lives for the sake of the gospel. The love of Christ was the compelling force for them that caused them to give up their lives and go overseas to work with those in need. They keep showing us, even after we’ve left the house, what it looks like to lay down your life for others.

You are probably familiar with my mom’s story that has unfolded over this last summer. God’s grace in saving her life is another display of his kindness to us. I am so grateful that my mom is alive. I am thankful that I can still glean wisdom from my dad. I am thankful for God’s grace in giving me two incredible people as my parents, who love me unconditionally, and more than anything love Christ and desire to glorify him with all that they are. I am especially thankful for the grace of my parents this year.