come quickly

Talked with a young father a couple of days ago who is wrestling with one of the most difficult situations imaginable. His young son has been valiantly battling cancer for a long time and my friend just sounded weary. Weary of the pain and suffering his precious son was enduring, weary of the emotional turmoil on him and his beautiful family, weary of the constant barrage of medicines and consultations, ...just weary. And as we were talking about life and ministry and our pursuit of Christ, he said something so profound: "I've never longed so much for the return of Jesus." After our conversation and for the past couple of days, I've not been able to shake his statement, mulling it over in my heart time and again.

There is something so sweetly comforting about the promise of the Scriptures that Christ, the Conquering King, will return for the Church to establish His new kingdom and fully and finally put an end to the Curse and its effects. Something in the hearts of humanity screams that the world as we know it is simply "broken." And that something deep in the hearts of Christ's followers begs Him to fix it. I was confronted with 2 very profound thoughts when praying for my friend and pondering his statement.

First, suffering and illness and disease are results of the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden and the effects of sin entering into God's created order. As such, they remind us of the "temporary" format of this world, that the "way" things work here will one day be overrun by the glory of Christ and finally be "put to right" as NT Wright likes to say. Suffering and pain and illnesses force us to look to God and dream about what will be in that new world and long for its establishment.

Second, and more impacting for me today, is that those who have felt closely the disastrous and ravaging effects of sin long for Christ's coming more deeply. Those who have felt the sting of suffering and sickness and the destructive force of evil in this world are also those who desire most the coming of a new world.

So, what would God say to this young man, whose young son is hurting? He would say that He too, longs for the day when all is made right and all who are His will be able to be with Him unhindered by the Fall and its lingering. And He would tell my friend that He, too, knows what it feels like to see His beloved son ravaged and depleted by the effects of sin, tasting that sting and feeling that pain firsthand. And he would tell my friend the sufferings endured here on earth are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

And what do I say in a moment like that? Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus....Amen.


Deadlines and Angst

When I have a deadline for a project it creates in me a heightened sense of anxiety. The days are thick with unmet goals. The burden is heavy. Frustration arrives all too often and with increasing ease. And the project's completion weighs on me steadily, driving me to push all the harder to meet my goals, to accomplish what I've set out to do, and to see the progress.

Deadlines affect other areas of my life and ministry as well. They affect my perspective. Here's what I mean. When you're young (early - mid 20's) and you arrive at a ministry with the intention of giving a certain amount of time you have just created a deadline for yourself. No matter what occurs over the course of that time, the end date is still in your mind. The effects are significant. There are goals that you've set, plans you want to see to fruition, things you dream about accomplishing there. In effect, you begin to gauge success at that "stop" in ministry by how well you've done with your plans in that allotted time. As the "deadline" stays at the forefront of your mind, you are constantly evaluating progress against the deadline. The result is sometimes a mess for said random young minister (no one in particular here or anything). He places too much personal emphasis on his plan, often times fails to allow his teammates the time to adopt his plans and ideas, tends to get frustrated easily, and experiences a great deal of tension and angst. But, when the deadline is removed from the equation, joy follows right behind. The burden isn't as great. There's finally time. Time to enjoy the process. Time to wait for your teammates to adopt the vision. Time to develop deep relationships. Time to dream together about all that God wants to do. Time. The end is no longer looming. The deadline is no longer on the radar. And the angst is no longer as pressing.

Early this week I spent a large chunk of my day with our Executive Pastor, Scott, drawing up organizational charts for our ministry. Yes, I know that many of you are jealous of that stimulating meeting. When stepping back and taking a look at all that a church does - the services, the staffing, the conferences, the missionaries, the children's programs, etc. it can be a bit daunting. Even overwhelming at times. The plate is full. Seeing where we are and dreaming about where we feel God is leading us creates that same sense of angst. However, I was reminded today that I surrendered the "deadline." We have time. No need to rush. Leading well is more important than doing this quickly. It is a freeing thing to ponder a lifetime in ministry without the looming departure. It allows me to have patience. I am excited about what God wants to do in our ministry. But I am more excited about investing my life in a community of believers and pursuing God together. That, to me, is more pressing than any goal that we've set.


The Long View

My journey into the minds and hearts of these regional pastors who have wasted themselves for the Gospel's impact in the Capital District led me to Hoosick Valley Community Church last Thursday and to lunch with Clyde McCaskill, who pastors there. Clyde has been pastoring here in the region for 24 years and has followed the Apostle Paul's words in I Thessalonians 2:8 where he said that he did not share the gospel only, but his life as well. I was struck by Pastor Clyde's heart for his community. He is the "pastor" in his town - to his flock but also to his community. He advised me to do the same. To give and sow and to patiently wait for fruit. This is not an overnight thing, but a long process of health and maturity. Clyde has indeed taken the "longview" in ministry and cautioned me to do the same. Change, he said, is difficult to lead in ministries. In fact, his greatest struggles have come on the heels of change. His remedy? Simply trust God - for it is His church, not ours. Well spoken. The highlights of his ministry these last 24 years are relationships he has forged over time and is enjoying today. However, had he not persevered and endured, he would not be enjoying those beautiful relationships in this season. A gentle reminder to me that this takes time - so slow down a bit and enjoy it.

In addition to my pastoral visits, my studies in Ephesians have been a blessing this past week as I have been wrestling with Paul's words in verses 1-14 of chapter 1. What is it that we have been given in Christ? To what end did God lavish his grace upon us in Christ? And why us? Praying for guidance as I begin the series this Sunday at 10am @ Temple. Those who are able, please join us.

Our missions conference has been quite a blessing. Spending time with Jay Jackson, the Moore's, Perry Hooge, and the Brooks' has been a joy, to say the least. More about that later in the week.

thank you for following our leadership transitions here at Temple. God has promised to walk with us through this season the same way he accompanied us through the past ones as well. Settling into new roles and responsibilities has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one at that. Continue to pray for our church, her influence here in the Capital District and globally, and for the men who have been tasked by God to lead Temple. Thank you for your loving support. May God bless with fruitful ministry and kingdom impact.


Sacred Days

I am always amazed how ordinary days and ordinary places are "magically" transformed by the presence of God and become those "sacred" spaces in our lives. In real-time, you can sense that something significant is happening, that you are caught up in something bigger than you, that you are really just along for the ride, but I think that in the moment we seldom grasp the magnitude of what is happening. This journey we're on requires our attention, our energies, our resources. If you're like me, you think there's simply no time to stop. We've got things to do, places to go, people to see. However, every now and then God gives you a break at one of those scenic overlooks. Only then, when looking back on the road you've been walking can you see the significant course corrections and hard turns that were those "sacred days." Those were the ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill days that God visited and graced with His intervening presence; where you adjusted the course, changed trajectory, and followed down a dimly lit path because it was where God was leading. These sacred days are not the "whole" of our journey, but instead provide the road traveled with the bends and turns that get us to where we are today. Most of our days are ordinary days. The sacred days give our lives their "shape." For in those moments of decision, of crisis, of confusion, we are reminded of God's guidance, his leadership, and we are re-aligned with His plans for our lives.

October 4 was the 11-year anniversary of the "sacred day" when I bowed my knee to Jesus and followed him into ministry. In "real-time" not much was changing. A day or two later the decision didn't even seem all that significant. However, as I followed down this "new" road, I was able to rest and look back and see just how much God used that day to shape and form the rest of my life. I have been gifted with a few of those days over my life - the day I was saved, the day I was called to ministry, the day I realized that I had met the amazing woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, the day I sensed God calling me to a new state and a new ministry, and the day I sensed God calling me and my family to dig deep in upstate NY and lead Temple into its next ministry season. All of them, sacred days. All of them, foundational. All of them, anything but ordinary. Today, I was able to connect with some local pastors and hear their thoughts on ministry and our transition here at Temple. I am still trying to process all that the Spirit spoke through these godly men. I am fairly certain that, looking back in a few years, today will be one of those "sacred days," providing my ministry and life the shape that is so needed. Thankful today for sacred days. Praying that you each receive one soon too.


the latest

What a week it was. You know, as I sit down to write this blog/update and try to narrow down the events of a full week into a few paragraphs, I'm a bit overwhelmed by all that's happened in the past 7 days. It was indeed a chaotic, packed week and I wonder how I'll get it all in here, but I'll make an attempt at it. So here goes:

1. Monday I got to have lunch with Pastor Bob Hart, from Sonrise Bible Church in Rotterdam. Here's some of the thoughts that stood out from my time with Pastor Hart. First, was his rock-solid sense of his calling; that God has uniquely called him to this place for such a time as this and, until God releases him from that calling, he is not going anywhere.

I asked about his family - how did he find balance between pastoring his wife and kids and pastoring the church? He cautioned me against taking "work" home, but he did advise me to involve my family in my ministry, so that they could see the benefit and blessing of serving God. Powerful for me, because, to be honest, I don't want my kids to reject the church because it stole their daddy. And I left more committed than ever to choosing my family first. I am convinced that, in so doing, I would model for our men in our congregation their first priorities at home above their careers. To learn some more about Pastor Bob Hart and the ministry of Sonrise Bible Church, visit their website here.

2. Grace Road - I got a call from Kevin Maloney, the founding and Lead Pastor of Grace Road Church, a young and growing church located in the South Wedge of Rochester, NY. Temple has supported his church plant in a significant way because we believe that God is using this young man in the heart of his city. So encouraging to be a part of a great church that has a heart to plant churches. To see what is happening at Grace Road Church, or listen to a sermon from Kevin, visit their website here. The Maloney's will be with us at Temple on November 1 for a Lord's Supper service. Don't miss that one.

3. Elder Team - Thursday morning we spent nearly 2 hours discussing what the Bible says about "elders," of all things. We had done a study on Israel's OT elders and their victories and failures and were struck by Israel's leaders' failure to do the right thing in the face of opposition, their abdication of their shepherding role, and their tendency to embrace something other than the Name of the Lord as their hope. May God help these men that I serve with avoid those pitfalls. Please continue to pray for us.

4. Ephesians - I preached Sunday here at Temple on Ephesians 1:15-23, as a model for my heart in ministry here for the next season. Click here to listen to it. I'm just thrilled for the opportunity to teach through the book of Ephesians starting October 18 during the Sunday School hour in the main sanctuary at Temple. We will be recording and posting those messages online for those who are unable to attend or who are currently serving in our ministry. Please consider joining us for this study as we allow the Spirit to reveal to us the "mystery of the gospel."

This week promises to be yet another whirlwind. I've got an appointment with some local pastors from Grace Fellowship, Faith Baptist, Terra Nova, Loudonville Community Church, among others. I am humbled to think that I will be able to sit with these men and hear their counsel regarding ministry in this region. Blessed beyond belief to be part of the gospel's advance here in the Capital District. I'll be meeting with some other pastors as well later in the week, studying for my Ephesians class, and working with our team of Elders here at Temple to provide oversight to our ministry. Thank you for staying closely connected to what is happening here. Please continue to do so as we work through this season of mentorship.

Please check back often and continue to pray