Some personal and ministerial updates from yours truly.
I wanted to take a brief moment and offer some personal and ministerial updates from yours truly, as well as to say that if you don’t see much activity around here over the next few weeks, that’s on purpose. Without burying the lede, I’ll be taking a break from posting regular blogs from today, December 10, through the end of the year. I’ll revert to a more frequent writing schedule after the New Year. In fact, I already have several posts scheduled and podcasts planned which I am eager for you to enjoy and — prayerfully, hopefully — by which you can be encouraged. (The Prodigal Hope sermons podcast will remain active, though.) This momentary pause on writing, however, comes on the heels of a fairly grueling autumn.
I always knew that ministry would be hard. I’m not naïve on that point. But the difficulties of ministry are sort of like the rewards and challenges of parenting: you can only know what that entails by way of experience. There is no true “proving ground” for raising a kid (or three), no matter how vexing buying and training a puppy might be. Which is just to say, regardless how “prepared” I might’ve been, or thought I was, nothing truly prepared me for the ministerial hardship I’ve recently endured. Without getting into the weeds on all that is involved with that, suffice it to say, I’ve found myself poring over the account of Paul and Barnabas’s split, which eerily parallels my own situation. What is, perhaps, most frustrating about that moment in Acts 15, however, is that both Paul and Barnabas were convinced that they were correct, that their position was one which brought honor and glory to God.
I recently preached on that passage, so I won’t rehash all of that here, but even after carefully perusing the text itself, along with the broader context, it’s hard to imagine how utterly devastated the congregants of the early church felt when they heard the news that their foremost voices and first missionaries were going their separate ways. And, perhaps, even more disconcerting is the mere fact that both made their decision based on their faithfully, in conjunction with the Word and the Spirit. In many ways, they were both right. (Listen to the sermon, as I explain why I believe that.) What does that mean, though, for John and Jane Doe sitting in the pew? Where should their allegiances lie?
That, I think, is the pivotal reality which underlies the text in Acts 15. The frustration and confusion and disillusionment that this moment might’ve caused for those within the church. What do you do? Who do you go to? How do you move on? The answer to each of those questions, and many more like them, is the same: you turn to and cling to a certain God. However uncertain the moment, however unnerving the day, there is One who remains unscathed by the changing of the seasons or the vacillation of our emotions. In times of uncertainty, when life seems to ebb and flummox, God remains constant and certain. His presence doesn’t fluctuate during the life’s ups and downs. He is with us, regardless. That’s who he is, after all; he is Immanuel (Matt. 1:23).
I’ve found incredible comfort in such truths. And I pray that you can, as well. Faith is often a trying thing, with the intensest trial being the unknown pathways and crossroads to which our Shepherd often brings us. But the point is, we aren’t abandoned when the tide of stress and trouble rises. In all such times, our hope and help is the same. “God is our refuge and strength,” the psalmist exults, “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). He’s my reprieve, my recourse, my rest. And he’s yours, too.
On a more personal note, I am delighted to share that my book, which is being published by 1517, is deep into the editing process. I hope to share more about its release in the coming weeks and months. Also, I recently finished some course work for seminary, which necessitated a ton of writing. If you notice some more theological writing appear on the blog, that’s where that comes from (the class was Theology I). All of which to say, this short reprieve from writing is warranted, I do believe.
Thank you for your prayers and your support. It is always encouraging to know that I’ve had some part to play in the blessing of others through this little slice of the World Wide Web. May you be enriched and enlivened during this Christmas season. See you in the New Year!
Grace and peace.