5 Ways to Make it Through a Difficult Season

Institutions, like the weather, have different seasons. There are springtime harvests, summer droughts, autumn wanings, and winter freezes. They have “a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-4). Sometimes God calls us to be a part of an institution when it is passing through a season of extraordinary difficulty, decline, or dysfunction. It could be, for example, a family with several young children trying to make ends meet when both parents are working; or a church that is growing so rapidly that its infrastructure can’t keep…

Struggle, then Resolution

In the past year or so I have had a few moments where I wondered how I would be able to make it through my PhD. Trying to get through both my languages and my coursework while fulfilling all of my other life responsibilities in life and ministry has felt like scaling a mountain, and at times I have felt overwhelmed. But each time, I find, the feeling of being overwhelmed does not last. It comes—and then it passes. And once it is past, I am able to move forward with new energy and vitality. What I’ve learned through this…

Looking Back At Favorite Blog Posts and Series

I’ve been blogging for just over 6 years now. Its been a far more enriching experience than I had expected. My primary purpose in blogging has always been my own learning: I find that I learn best in a dialogical, two-stage process of both (1) reading and (2) writing. Stage 1 typically involves carefully reading a book with my pen in hand, making notes on the pages and inside the back cover as I struggle with how to place and understand the book. (Sometimes, of course, it could also be an article, movie, etc.) The key in this stage is…

Don’t Despise the Day of Small Beginnings

I am taking the youth through the night visions of Zechariah 1-6 on Sunday mornings these days. Its a lot of fun! I’m reminded of God’s wisdom in communicating to us in such rich and diverse genres as we find in the Bible. The pictorial nature of Zechariah, though at times bizarre and difficult to understand, communicates at levels where mere prose cannot. I’ve been encouraged and surprised at the student response. Its cool to see the pictures and images communicating in broader, emotional ways, even when we are not fully sure of all the details of interpretation. This week…

Hagar in Genesis 16

My Dad recently directed my attention to the story of Hagar in Genesis 16, and its been on my mind a lot over the last week or so. The other day I jotted down a tentative sermon outline with some preliminary notes. One way to divide the story is by the four characters and their contrasting behavior: 1) Abram’s passivity Abram’s passivity in this story creates the conditions for Hagar’s mistreatment. Instead of listening to Sarai’s plea to sleep with Hagar (v. 2), he should have said to her, “no Sarai, we have to keep trusting God and not take…

Lessons from Belize

I just returned from leading a missions trip in Belize. 18 of us were serving in a village near Orange Walk (which is in Northern Belize), partnering with a church there to lead services, serve the children in the village, and do home visits. It was a very meaningful experience in my life – something of a milestone in my ministry here, and very spiritually and relationally rewarding for me personally. Some of the things I learned: 1) I learned a lot about leadership and perseverance on this trip. The first night we were there was, to be quite honest,…

The Power of Calling

I’m in the process of being ordained, and its gotten me thinking a lot about the notion of calling, since ordination is essentially an affirmation of a calling to ministry. In my experience, calling is to my ministry what justification is to my salvation. It is where I must constantly turn to find stability and hope and perspective; it is the north compass by which to evaluate everything else, without which I’d be lost at sea. I’ve learned that I need to ground myself in my calling when I receive feedback from people about my ministry, whether the feedback is…