Hello Brothers and Sisters,
Today marks the start of my third week of sabbatical. Here’s a few thoughts from the first two weeks (in no particular order):
- I miss you! By God’s grace Church on Mill is a really great church family. I’ve found myself countless times in the last two weeks thinking about you as individuals and also what God is doing among us as a church. Know that I deeply love you, miss you, and genuinely look forward to being back with you soon.
- God is doing something special with Life Among the Nations. My first week of sabbatical was spent with the church I served prior to Church on Mill, namely Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma. Originally the trip was planned to teach and coach staff members and leaders, but when the merger with iCOM and LATN happened, it seemed God providentially planned this trip to talk with the church about opportunities to get involved in international work at ASU. HHBC is a church particularly strong in missions. I’m pleased to tell you people were enthusiastic about what God is doing with LATN and our vision for sending indigenous people back to India, Saudi Arabia, and China to plant indigenous churches. We really could be part of reaching and training people who become some of the world’s greatest missionaries! HHBC plans to send a group in the fall to explore future possibilities for ministry partnership. Additionally, a church member heard the vision and gave $10,000 to help get new initiatives off the ground! Let’s pray both for fruit with LATN and for the opportunity to bless another church the way Henderson Hills has blessed us.
- Email is addictive. For the first time in 7 years of pastoring at Church on Mill I turned my email completely off. Staff members are monitoring what email does come in and responding to it. Everyone I’ve talked with about sabbaticals says you must unplug if you are to grow spiritually during time away. So, I went for it. My first several days were ridiculous! Many times every day I found myself going to my phone and opening the email app before realizing what I was doing. Email is addictive. Frankly, it was nearly impossible to stop these automatic habits over the first few days. It revealed to me how little time I spend unplugged, fully present, and quiet. I encourage you to try it sometime.
- God loves his people. I’ve been using this time to read books I don’t normally have the time to read. One of them was written by a british pastor and author in the 1600’s named John Owen. Reading John Owen’s Communion with the Triune God is like eating fruit cake – it’s dense, hard to swallow, but surprisingly good. Owen’s core conviction is that God has provided on-going, joyful, genuine relationship for his people with himself through Jesus Christ. He talks extensively about God’s love. People regularly assume God is love without thinking deeply about how that is possible and how good God’s love really is. Owen has helped me grow to enjoy and appreciate God’s love more. Here’s a sample, “And this is love – free, undeserved, and eternal love…This is the great discovery of the gospel…Christians sometimes walk with exceedingly troubled hearts concerning the thoughts of the Father towards them. Now this out to be so far away, that his love ought to be looked upon as the foundation from whence all other sweetnesses flow” (Owen, 107-110). Christian, enjoy and share God’s love today!
- Pray. Would you pray for me? As we enter this third week of sabbatical I am focusing in on intentionally asking God to reveal my sin and help me to know him more. Honestly I’ve found it difficult to pray and read for extended periods of time if focusing only on personal spiritual growth. Part of that is good but part of that is unhealthy. Slowing, resting, and reflecting don’t come natural to me, so pray for God to supernaturally come to my aid to help me obey him. My inner life is rather quiet without the noise of the rapid pace of every day life. Pray that quiet becomes full of God’s good voice through his Word. I want to know him (Philippians 3).