It’s all about Jesus.
You can listen to the sermon here.
You can listen here.
You can listen here.
March 31, 2013 marks the end of a season of ministry in the life of a man who I have never met, but who has, nevertheless, had a profound impact on my teaching and ministry. Dr. John Piper, who has been the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church for 33 years, is leaving his current role as a local church pastor to follow God’s calling to minister primarily through writing and speaking. His main influence in my life has come through the many books that he has written in his time as a pastor, and I believe that He will continue to be used by God in amazing ways as he devotes himself more completely to that task.
You can read more about his ministry transition here.
March 31, 2013 also marks the beginning of a new season of ministry for me. Tomorrow morning, I begin serving Terra Verde Community Church as their Lead Pastor. This is a calling that I am convinced is from God, and I am excited for the task ahead.
As I was thinking about both Dr. Piper’s transition and my own, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the unstoppable nature of the Kingdom of God.
For 2000 years, year after year and decade after decade, God has called men to lead His Church and advance the Kingdom of His Son Jesus. The Lord has never once failed to provide precisely what the Church has needed throughout the millennia that have passed since He lived, died, resurrected, and sent us out.
He has always been in the work of building His Church, and He will never misstep in the advancement of His Kingdom. This is comforting to me, as I take on a responsibility that is bigger than I am. I look at Him and see that He has had this well in hand from the beginning, and that He will provide all that I need to fulfill the task that He has called me to. This is His Church, and He knows how to lead it.
So, as we remember Christ’s resurrection tomorrow, let’s also take a step back and remember what God has done since then in His Church. He has been faithful. He is building the Church. And one day He is coming again. Until then, year after year and decade after decade, He will provide exactly what we, the Church, need.
There was a night, many weeks ago, when Jesse and I left our children in the care of someone else to take an hour long drive to a place which our eyes had never seen, to meet with a group of people we did not know. We located the home where we would be meeting, then drove a little way off to pray without interruption before we knocked on the door that had been placed before us, both figuratively and literally. We asked the Lord for continued clarity and peace and so much grace, then parked nearer our destination and stepped out of our vehicle. It was cold out, which gave me some excuse other than nerves for the tremors which had overtaken my body. We knocked and waited. The door swung open and we found ourselves surrounded by what seemed a sea of smiling faces and outstretched arms. We ate, and then we talked. There were many questions asked and answered, but one has not left me since that night. “Do you have any apprehensions about coming here?” I replied no in the beginning, but, by the end of the questioning, I found that I did, indeed, have one. “Is there anything else anyone has to add?”, they asked. “Actually, I do”, I said. “You asked earlier if I had any apprehensions about this, and as I’ve thought through things, I’ve realized that I do. I have one. I want to go home…”
Jesse has served at Bay Area FBC for six years now. He has filled a variety of job requirements here, and currently holds the position of Pastor of Discipleship and Families. We love this place. The people are lovely and we have seen restoration in our marriage and growth in our family in ways we could not have fathomed several years ago while serving in the midst of them. We have been thoroughly blessed here, but we have also been waiting. This has been our home for many years, and we have given our hearts over to this community. Last year, though, God in His graciousness placed a feeling of unrest in my heart that has caused me to examine, as fully as my finite mind can, my own calling. I stated earlier that I want to go home, and I do. But, I have come to realize that the “home” I long for isn’t a particular state or city, or even family. I have been yearning to go home, but not so much in the physical sense. I have been longing to belong, to be in a place in life where I can use the gifts the Lord has given me in ways that I do not yet even understand. I have been called to Jesse, and Jesse has been called to lead in a specific way. I cannot be at home in my calling until he is in his.
In the interview process before he came to be the student pastor here, he was very honest about his calling. “I am called to be a lead pastor.” I’ve heard him say this numerous times over the past 6 years. It is a calling that has never left him…or me. Which brings us back to that cold night. For months now, the Lord has been working in ways only He can, and He has given an answer to a call He gave Jesse many years ago. Jesse has been offered and has accepted the lead pastorate position at Terra Verde Community Church in the Tomball area. I also stated earlier that we found ourselves standing before a literal and figurative door several weeks ago, and that is the best way I know to describe this. We have been walking, knocking on doors, and stepping through them as the Lord allows. We knocked, the door was answered and opened, and we crossed the threshold of our last door on this journey last Sunday. We now find ourselves looking out at a new task. Our time of waiting has ended. I have been both aching to go “home”, and dreading leaving this one. If ever there was a decision made with conflicting emotions, it is this. Grief is swirled together with joy and anticipation so thoroughly that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. We grieve for the loss of our community here, but find such joy in our memories and such great anticipation for what the Lord has for us all. God is not surprised by any of this. He knows. He has always known. He will always know exactly what we each need, and He will surely provide. We are grateful. So, so, so grateful for each of you for reasons far too numerous to be listed. We have been blessed beyond measure by you all. We have walked through dark shadows and glistening patches of light together, and you have borne it with such grace. Our lives have been forever shifted by the way you have loved us. Even so, God has called and we must answer. We must gather up our children, our belongings, and the many things we have learned here, and go. You have made these years of waiting so wonderful and full of joy and worth the longing. Though simple words don’t seem adequate, they are what I have. So, thank you. Thank you for loving us so completely. We will never be the same because of the Light we have seen in you.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. -Psalm 25:4-5
The Lord has captured both my heart and my attention with these verses in the Psalms. This has been especially true in the last few months as Ashley and I have spent a great deal of time seeking His will in regards to a new path that He has laid before us.
Throughout this time, we have asked Him to lead us in His truth, grant us clarity, and teach us to trust in His ways. Now, having found ourselves at a fork in this path, we are fully convinced that God has called us to shift our direction and step onto a new path.
Specifically, the Lord has called me to resign my position as the Pastor of Discipleship & Family at Bay Area First Baptist Church, and take up the responsibility of becoming the Lead Pastor of Terra Verde Community Church, in Tomball, TX.
For more than a decade, I have known the Lord’s call on my life to be a Lead Pastor. Although there have been seasons that I have struggled with the precise timing of this call, as I look back, I recognize God’s sovereign hand directing the course of my life to build the layers of character, humility, and experience necessary to walk the path ahead of me.
6 years ago, when I was hired as the Student Minister at Bay Area First Baptist Church, I could not have imagined what God had in store for me and my family here. He gave me the opportunity to be challenged beyond my limits, utilized for kingdom work beyond my capacities, and, all the while, He granted us life-long relationships with a church body that I and my family love dearly.
The knowledge of these things weights our hearts, and stepping onto this new path is not something that we take lightly.
Even so, we are compelled by a love for God, our family, you, and the body of Christ at Terra Verde to take up this new calling.
Accordingly, the resignation of my position as the Pastor of Discipleship & Family will be effective March 24, 2013, and I will begin to serve as the Lead Pastor at Terra Verde Community Church on March 31, 2013.
We are thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to serve the body of believers at Bay Area First Baptist Church, and we will treasure our time with you for the rest of our days.
Jesus and the Kingdom – (Matthew 4:17, 4:23, 6:33, 9:35-38, 24:14)
What is the Kingdom?
So how should we live in light of the present/coming Kingdom?
I confessed Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 9 years old through the teaching of my parents and the ministry of First Baptist Church, DeRidder, Louisiana. When I look back on that time in my life, I remember a distinct calling that I sensed from God, and I recall a clear desire to learn from His Word. Over time, however, as I went into Jr. High and High School, I chose to pursue the idolatry of the acceptance of people over the acceptance that I had received from God through Jesus. This idolatry led me to attempt to suppress any evidence of the salvation that God had brought about in my life, and I lived several years with both a spirit of rebellion and a deep sense of spiritual conviction. That remained the status quo in my life until the summer after my junior year of High School.
That summer, I participated in a National Student Council Convention in Derby, Kansas. During the convention, I was paired in a host home with another student from Colorado who read from an exceptionally large Bible. One night, I asked him what he was reading. He told me that he was a Mormon and that his text included both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Lord used my next question to change my life forever. I asked him, “What do Mormons believe?” His answer took hours of explaining and left me broken. Not broken because he was convincing. Broken because God used the conversation to pierce me to the heart. Here was a teenager with both zeal and passion, but who lacked one thing, the truth. In stark contrast, there I was, realizing that at the age of 9 God had given me the truth, but that in return I had spit in His face through my rebellion. I was thoroughly broken that night, but the road back to my Father (Luke 15), took some time. I struggled with doubt. I fell back into old habits. But the Lord fought for me all the way.
By the time I entered college, I had decided that I would start over. I saw my new start in a new place as an opportunity to chart a new course that honored God. During college I had the opportunity to work in a campus ministry along side my future wife Ashley, and spent my summers as a camp counselor at Dry Creek Baptist Encampment. God used this time to bring me to a couple of life changing decisions. First of all, the Lord called me to marry my amazing wife Ashley. As Ashley and I dated through college, the Lord showed me that His plans in my life were to fully involve her in the future. I couldn’t be more grateful for the grace He has shown me through Ashley, and I am unspeakably blessed to have her by my side. Secondly, the Lord called me into full-time ministry. Although Ashley and I were already ministering together (primarily through leading worship) this decision marked a new path for our lives together. From Dry Creek, I started working as a Minister to Students in Sulphur, Louisiana, and I began my seminary education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In order to attend class, I commuted each week to Houston from Louisiana. It was a long trip, but it provided me with the opportunity to continue my education while in full-time ministry.
But God used Hurricane Rita to change our direction in 2005.
After our house was destroyed, my wife and I sensed a clear call from the Lord to move to Houston so that I could complete my education. At the end of a year of full-time school, (and a year of incredible provision from the Lord), I was hired as the Student Minister at Bay Area FBC. Now 6 years later, I have served in 5 different roles and have had the opportunity to learn much more than I could have imagined. I have also been blessed with life-long relationships and the opportunity to serve this incredible church body in many various ways. In this time, God has built layers of character and humility into my life through both success and trial. And even though there are still times that I struggle with a desire to receive my acceptance from people, He has shown me the all-encompassing value of His Gospel for both salvation and sanctification. More than anything else though, He has again and again proven Himself faithful and worthy of my undivided worship and affection.
All said, my story is that Jesus saves, Jesus loves, Jesus pursues, Jesus provides, Jesus is gracious, and Jesus is worth it all.
This is worth 40 minutes of your time.