It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a general life update. It’s hard to believe that our family has lived in Southern California for the last three years.
There were many good reasons to stay in the Midwest: family, friends, familiarity, financial security (and those are just the f’s). But the primary thing that drew us to California was possibility. California was a strange new place where we had few connections and little sense of what awaited us, and we were ready for an adventure: Three years later I am amazed by the ways that the Lord has provided for and taken care of us. Here are some of the features of the last year:
- Melissa and I recently celebrated our 13th anniversary!
- Benjamin is seven and one-fourth (which is what he will tell you), and Sophia is about to turn six. They will start 2nd grade and kindergarten in a couple weeks. Both are wonderfully average by most metrics.
- Our family is healthy and happy. We recently returned from a fun-filled vacation along the northern coast in the Redwood National Forest.
- This last year has seen a lot of loss, family members as well as friends. We remain “sorrowful, but always rejoicing” in the presence of Christ and the hope of the resurrection.
- I continue to serve on the staff of Grace Pasadena as the Pastoral Assistant for Teaching and Discipleship. Being back in a regular preaching rotation (twice a month) has been incredibly life giving to me. I’ve also been overseeing our seminary intern program, as well as the student ministry. Our church family has been grieving some inestimable losses this summer as well, and we are thankful to get to be a part of such a vital community.
- We’ve transitioned out of our role as the coordinators of Fuller’s intentional community, though we continue to live in the community. We were quite happy to pass it off leadership to our friends Josh and Melody.
- Melissa is “straight fire” at her job. (I hope I’m using that right.)
- I’m not quite at Mel’s level, but I have had some cool vocational opportunities. The most exciting one is the opportunity to teach a class this fall at Fuller! I know I will probably grow and be challenged more than the students. I am excited and intimidated at the same time. Pray for me!
- I’m in Europe! Actually right now I’m typing this on a train from Kampen to Amsterdam, having just presented at an academic conference. I was thankful for the opportunity to share with an international group of scholars that has so enriched my doctoral experience.
- I am slowly moving forward, hoping to finish my dissertation by the end of next year.
What does the future hold for our family? We have no idea. Well, we have some ideas, but we are holding them loosely. God is faithful, and continues to prove himself worthy and trustworthy. Further up and further in!
I knew I’ve been remiss in posting here; but it blows me away that I haven’t posted anything since April! I’ve taken a several breaks from social media over the past three months, and so perhaps the best way to share what I’ve been thinking is to share my three most recent sermons:
The Spirit Poured Out (Acts 2): I’m not sure if it will come through on the recording, but I remember feeling a peculiar sense of empowerment during this sermon. This sermon wrestles with what it means to live between a past that we cannot change and a future we cannot control. The main idea is that the gift of the Spirit reframes our past, releases new possibilities for the future, and redirects us in the present.
No Other Name (Acts 4): This was a heavy sermon, preached the Sunday immediately following the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police, and the Dallas attacks. It asks, in a broken world, what does the church have to say that no one else can say? The sermon reflects on the sixth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) and draws from Rene Girard at the end.
The Clean and the Common (Acts 10): This sermon, preached last Sunday, was a mediation on the tensions of Christian community. It starts with my reflections on attending the CrossFit games, and is an exposition of the way the Holy Spirit challenges our categories, confronts our self-congratulation, and clears a path for encounter with Jesus. (Can you tell I like alliteration)?
Now that I’m preaching regularly again, I feel a deepened sense of both the weight of the word as well and the joy of the gospel. I deeply love to preach, and am thankful for the opportunity to do so at Grace Pasadena. I pray that those who take time to listen to any of the above will be blessed!
Here is my latest sermon from Grace Pasadena, drawn from 1 Samuel 4. The central idea of the sermon is not new, but it is pretty important to me right now. It takes awhile to get going as I re-tell the strange story of the Philistines taking the ark. But if I can say so, the sermon really starts around the 14:00 minute mark. But do listen to the whole thing if at all.🙂
Here is my latest sermon at Grace Pasadena on the song of Hannah. It’s the first in our new series on the book of 1 Samuel entitled “Prophets, Priests, and Kings.”
I will confess to struggling with the preparation of this sermon more than most weeks. But God is gracious. I hope the sermon is a blessing.
Here is my latest sermon from Grace Pasadena, entitled “If You Had Been Here”. It’s taken from John 11, and is about walking with Jesus through grief and loss. It was a heavy sermon and I pray I did it justice.
Here is last Sunday’s sermon, entitled Walking in the Wilderness, from Matthew 3:16-4:11.
A few people have asked about my weekly process for sermon preparation, so I thought I would share.
- I budget 8-10 hours during the week for prep. In the early days of preaching, it usually took twice that.
- On Tuesdays, I budget 3-4 hours for exegesis, consultation of commentaries, etc. I create a word document where I dump all I of my thoughts on the passage.
- On Fridays, I budget 4 hours for composition. Here I am trying to organize my scattered thoughts, distill a clear central idea, draw up an outline (usually three movements), and come up with at least two compelling illustrations, in 5 pages of uncluttered prose. I send this sermon draft to a dear friend who then comes over and talks me through what worked and what didn’t. This last component has been so valuable to me.
- On Saturday evenings, I budget 1-2 hours to revise and to practice the sermon. I want to listen to how it sounds, and get a feel for the flow of the text. I want to be familiar enough with it so that I’m not too tied to my manuscript on Sunday. As I go over it, I underline key phrases and write key words in the margin to trigger my memory.
- On Sunday mornings, I budget an hour to look over the sermon once more, and to take a prayer walk so I can offer the sermon to the Lord.
- I currently preach from a standard size three-ring binder. In the past, I tried preaching from a half-size binder for about six months, preaching without notes for about four months, and preaching from an iPad (using Good Reader) for about a year and a half. Since moving to California, I’ve gone back to the binder.
- I experience the act of preaching as a very personal, vulnerable, and (in my best moments) worshipful activity. Most of the time, I want to hide or disappear after I sit down. Thus, I am so thankful for the opportunity to take Communion directly after the sermon each week, and that the climax of our service is not the sermon, but the Lord’s invitation to the Table. No matter how well or poorly I feel like I did with the sermon, at the Table we are tangibly told that God is with us and for us, and He is known to us “in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35)
Here is my latest sermon from Grace Pasadena. It’s about walking with Jesus in the midst of failure. It clocks in at 22 minutes, but keep listening for Jim Belcher’s excellent Communion meditation at the end. (For some reason my sermons keep getting shorter!)