Archive for ‘Sabbatical’


Mark 6 and Ministry

Last Sunday I preached from Leviticus 8 about the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. I highlighted Jesus as our Great High Priest who truly “meets our need” (Heb. 7:26). And then I focused on the idea of the “priesthood of all believers.” I used it as a call for every Christian to see him or herself as a minister, to be deeply involved in the lives of others, ultimately pointing them to Jesus. I said that to be in up to our ear lobes in ministry is the great purpose for our lives here on earth.

On Monday morning I was second-guessing whether that was the right call. I never want people to leave a sermon with the idea that they just need to do more. I’m sensitive to burning people out. I realize that in my being in up to my ear lobes in ministry sometimes sinful frustration and resentment can come out.

Then in my regular Bible reading plan I began to read Mark 6. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” Jesus gives rest. He says it’s okay when you’re in ministry up to your ear lobes to take a break and be refreshed. Maybe I was off in my emphasis and needed to stress the rest for the weary more. Certainly boundaries and time off and recognizing your limits is wise and necessary.

But then I read what came next and made a connection that I never had seen before. As they were trying to get away, a new crowd coalesced around Jesus and his disciples. They were more people in need of ministry. “When Jesus… saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” Jesus didn’t say, “I’m on vacation. Go away.”

And then, get this: When the day was getting late and the disciples pointed out that these people would need to eat and should be dismissed, Jesus called his tired disciples to serve them. Was he crazy? They had already done a ministry trip. They were in need of some rest. They had next to nothing – five loaves and two fish. And yet Jesus multiplied that miniscule amount and fed five thousand people through his disciples!

We shouldn’t feel bad calling people to minister above their abilities or resources. We should be in up to our ear lobes so that we feel weak and incapable, for it’s then that we see the Lord working through us to miraculously take our pathetic efforts and multiply them to do amazing things, for his own glory.


Back from Camping

We arrived back in Wheaton last night after a week of camping in Iowa near Andrea’s grandparents’ farm. All of Andrea’s family was there. Here’s a video of me catching a whopper!

We got to visit with some good friends in Waterloo on the way back. He’s a pastor and we were able to visit his wonderful church.

Here’s another great quote I read this week that I’ll share with you:

The gracious and most excellent assistance of the Spirit of God in praying and preaching, is not by immediately suggesting words to the apprehension, which may be with a cold, dead heart; but by warming the heart, and filling it with a great sense of the things to be spoken, and with holy affections, that these may suggest words. Thus indeed the Spirit of God may be said, indirectly and mediately, to suggest words to us, and indite our petitions for us, and to teach the preacher what to say; he fills the heart, and that fills the mouth…. But since there is no immediate suggesting of words from the Spirit of God to be expected or desired, they who neglect and despise study and premeditation, in order to a preparation for the pulpit… are guilty of presumption.

By the way, that’s from Jonathan Edwards.

Two more weeks of sabbatical! I can’t wait to get back and get caught up with everybody!



The Church Retreat was great! Dane Ortlund gave us some refreshing ‘gospel defibrilation’. One of the best parts was celebrating two baptisms!

This week has been busy helping people move in and out of our apartments, but we’re excited to be having more people from church living in the same building with us.

This afternoon we head out for Wheaton. Next week we will be camping with all of Andrea’s family in Iowa and then we’ll be living out in Wheaton with Andrea’s parents for the rest of the month.

I leave you with a great quote I came across recently in my reading:

But there is no understanding the period of the Reformation in England until we have grasped the fact that the quarrel between the Puritans and the Papists was not primarily a quarrel between rigorism and indulgence, and that, in so far as it was, the rigorism was on the Roman side. On many questions, and specially in their view of the marriage bed, the Puritans were the indulgent party; if we may without disrespect so use the name of a great Roman Catholic, a great writer, and a great man, they were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries.

By the way, that’s from C.S. Lewis.

If you want to see what I’ve been reading lately, check out my Goodreads page.


Life in Chicago in July

It’s been good to be around Chicago this month. God is teaching me more and more how to relax in the gospel and not base my worth on my productivity, to enjoy the good things he gives me from the overflow of his grace.

I started Physical Therapy last week for my back and actually started to see some progress. Pray for healing there so I can be free to love and serve people better (Mk. 1:31). I also got a tooth repaired and next week will get an eye exam and new glasses. So it’s been a lot of knocking stuff like that out.

We’ve been visiting other churches this summer and that has been a good experience. It’s a blessing to be served and preached to. It’s also refreshing to see that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence, as the saying goes. I’ve learned that every church has things you can nit-pick. There is no secret out there that I’ve been oblivious to the past 8 years. Church is church. People are people. It’s making me eager to dive back in to our community and plow ahead together with everyone there.

I’m very pumped about seeing the whole church again this weekend at our Annual Summer Retreat in Streator! The speaker is top notch – Dane Ortlund. But more than that it will be great to be all together with my church for an extended time. We’ll also be having a baptism or two!

See you there!!


The Bathroom is Done!

Finally! If only I was being paid by the hour! I just put the finishing touches on the bathroom and took an inaugural shower in it this morning.



We ripped into this the first week of the Sabbatical (May 27th – June 2), thinking it would be done then. That’s funny now. We got back from Indiana on June 30 and resumed work pretty much non-stop with several 12 hour days. But alas it is done and it looks pretty nice (although I’m tempted to wonder if it was worth it????; having a new bathroom certainly won’t solve all my problems in life). Some tips if you’re an amateur and want to tackle a project like this:

(1) Plan for it to take longer than you think.
(2) Use the pre-mixed adhesive.
(3) Always count on two coats.
(4) Have the right tools.
(5) You shouldn’t cut the tiles to fit right up next to the faucets.
(6) Don’t ask me to help.
(7) There are probably many more…

We had a truly marvelous time in Indiana. It seems like a distant memory now. We’ve been busy with this project since settling back in to Chicago. I’m excited to have it done and spend more time reading now. We had a good Fourth of July with Andrea’s parents. This weekend is the Elder Retreat with their families. I’m really looking forward to that time together!



Last night Andrea and I had our fourth and final counseling session together. Every Monday in June we have been leaving the kids with grandparents and driving 45 minutes west to Faith Biblical Counseling in Lafayette and then going out for a date afterwards. It’s been very helpful and we are grateful for their ministry. We met with an older pastor and his wife and were able to openly share our struggles in ministry and marriage with them and get wise counsel. There was a lot of homework (videos to watch, exercises to do, articles and books to read). It didn’t bring us to complete sanctification, but it was very good at exposing idols of the heart and giving us more insight into how to apply the gospel and strengthen our marriage. We’re looking forward to continuing to grow in grace together for many years to come.

This Friday is our 10 year anniversary! We will be getting away for a couple days to a Bed & Breakfast nearby:
Pray for Andrea, though, as she is suffering from Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease right now and painful blisters all over is not anyone’s idea of a romantic getaway!


Preaching this Sunday

I’ll be preaching this Sunday (6/24) at my grandmother’s church – Russiaville United Methodist. Please pray for that as I will be trying to show that there are actually TWO ways to avoid God – irreligion and religion – from the ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son. I think this is a much needed message around here…

Things are going really well. I continue to read most mornings at the library and work around the farm in the afternoons. It’s fun to work real hard in real hot weather, call me masochistic. And yes, I am getting a pretty nice farmer’s tan!


The Library

Most days I’ve been riding a bike a couple miles into town and studying at the local library.

In the afternoons I’ve been generally helping my dad around the farm with sundry projects and work in the fields. One day last week I packed a lunch and took it over to my grandma’s house and ate with her. She’s 94 and still full of energy, but knows her life here is winding down. We got to talk about that a bit. I changed the battery in her smoke detector that was beeping and changed the settings on her computer (yes, my 94 year old grandmother emails every day!) so that the screen saver wouldn’t come on as quickly (she thought that meant she had to reboot the computer 🙂 ). And then I read on her front porch for awhile.

It’s the perfect place to slow down and we’re enjoying it very much. A verse that the Lord has been giving to Andrea and I lately is 1 Timothy 4:4 – “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” We’re learning more how to just receive his good gifts like lightning bugs and chili-cheese dogs and rippling brooks and sunsets and the smell of hog manure (I find it strangely delightful) and hay mows and children’s laughter and porch swings and stories and family and games and many more simple pleasures that are pointers to his greatest gift – Jesus Christ – and his love for us in him. Continue to pray for us to soak in this love and be able to extend it more when we come back.


We Need to Pray

Just read this today from Anthony Burgess (a Westminster Divine; d. 1664) on prayer:

Why in these latter days [is it that] the Word preached makes no more wonderful works? At first propagation of the gospel, so many fish were caught in the net that it was ready to break. And at the first Reformation out of Popery, the kingdom of God suffered violence, but now he that is profane is profane still, the blind are blind still, the proud still proud. What is the matter? Is not the Word of God as powerful as ever? Is not the Lord’s arm as strong as ever? Yes, but the zeal of people is grown cold. There are not such fervent prayers, such high esteems of the means of grace. Men do not besiege heaven, giving God no rest day or night till he come with salvation into their souls, and truly the Spirit of prayer is a sure forerunner of spiritual mercies to be bestowed.

I look forward to getting back to Immanuel and seeking to increase our corporate prayer life this fall. But it would be cool if corporate prayer took off and flourished even this summer while I was gone! I’ll be praying for that…


Settling In To Russiaville

Saturday evening we rolled in to my parent’s place, honking the horn loudly, because we can do that out here and not bother anybody. Here’s a picture of where we’ll be living for June:

Our room is the one right above the porch.

Yesterday we went to my parents’ church in nearby Kokomo – Morning Star Church. It was very different than Immanuel, but we met with the Lord in worship and heard from him in the sermon. I’m eager to experience different churches this summer to gain insights into our own.

As we were driving to Indiana my oldest commented, “I miss my neighborhood.” It is very different out here. Everyone is white. People talk with a drawl. And there’s a cultural form of Christianity that is still prevalent. For example, after church we stopped by the ‘Western Days’ festival in Russiaville (population 1000, 6 churches), and the ‘mainstage’ was featuring a ‘Christian Concert Extravaganza’ with gospel and praise music and calls to accept Christ if you haven’t already. “We’re not in Chicago anymore!” I remarked to Andrea. It’s a good place to relax – the change of setting is helpful, the pace is slower, the scenery is gorgeous to me… Yet there are deep spiritual issues here too, just of a different variety.