On reflection of a solid year of intermittent blogging, I'd have to say the "best" post I put up last year was a review of 2007. Even if no one in cyberspace ever reads it, it was good for me to write. 2007 was definitely a year of blessing for my family and for our church. 2008 was a year of playing roshambo with the devil. But God is good and gave us much grace.
Tragedy struck early in hard in our little church family with the passing of the two year old son of one of our churches best couples. He died from the flu, of all things. This impacted everyone and the whole church rallied around them physically and spiritually, the way a church should. Last night the mother gave a very honest and powerful testimony about her struggles and how Christ is still rebuilding her life- but it is being rebuilt. That was a comfort to hear and a reminder of how important our time in the Word is.
One the heels of that group trial, I began a still continuing struggle with prostate problems. It started with a painful infection spreading throughout the region. It really struck hard while on a three day backpacking trip with my son and some friends which proved to make the trip generally miserable. After some time, the infection went away on it's own but other symptoms persist. The worst is the malaise - a sense of deep physical exhaustion- that comes and goes. It also has reduced interest in certain marriage related activities. On any given day, it's sort of like running on four out of six cylinders, so it takes God's grace every day.
Eyes up here!
Over the whole year, an enormous amount of personal belongings have broken. While things could have been much worse in that regard, it was just enough to be very frustrating. The worst loss was the big screen TV, which will not soon be replaced. But all of those "things" are not important and my wife and I realized the whole time it was nothing but distraction. So long as we have food and clothing we are instructed to be content, and we have so much more than that. We are truly thankful for God's constant provision in our lives.
The Presidential election was another occasion to remember that God is in control. There was a lot of Obama related fear and hysteria floating about the media and the internet. Maybe some of it is true, probably a lot of it is not. But either way it doesn't change our mission as Christians and my perception is that there is more determination to pray for this man on the part of the Church than there ever was with Bush. How can that be a bad thing? Maybe we're in a better political position now.
While you weren't looking...
God likes to be sneaky, but in a good way. While we tend to be focused on where we're at (especially when that place is not fun), a lot of times we miss "the big picture". Then it is only in retrospect that we see the things that the Lord has accomplished. While there was a lot of trials and discouragement for the whole church this year, there was also a lot of blessing.
We got to take several different couples through premarital counseling and really see them take hold to the ideas of a Biblical marriage. The Lord has also put a lot of things on my heart about how we can be much more effective in that ministry.
I had the privilege of taking a man through Directions and seeing God work in his life in some amazing ways early in the year. In the fall, God brought us a couple to take through Directions and the man has a friend who is now joining us. We are starting over in the lessons but these guys have a lot of energy and excitement to serve the Lord so this is going to be really good!
This year discipleship has begun in earnest with our older two kids, who both accepted Christ last year. The shiny-newness of salvation wore off and the gritty reality that knowing Jesus doesn't automatically make one "perfect" has set in. This year we spent a lot of time teaching about walking in the Spirit instead of the flesh and understanding that God has us here for a purpose. To that end, we attended the evangelism class as a family which was a great experience! It is awesome to see them grow in desire to tell others the gospel and refreshing for us as well. We're still praying for our last, little sheep to come into the flock!
The Lord has also opened up a huge door at Westport HS through wrestling and tutoring. Everything is just sort of getting off the ground now so we should see it come to fruition this year. I was glad to be a part of helping get it set up.
Our church was finally able to purchase it's building also! God really came through in providing the funds. When looking at the amount of money that is being offered, it's tempting to elevate that to "miracle" status. I think the reality is the only miracle is that so many people are being obedient. God has yet to prove himself- yet to do something truly miraculous. What has happened is what should have happened and we are only surprised by this because we're used to a lower standard. Praise God for His goodness being manifest through His people.
Good things to come
There were many more blessings along the way, these are just the highlights from my own perspective. 2008 has left some unfinished work that must be tackled in 2009. Among the things God is already in motion on:
-Continuing to pray for the salvation of our youngest daughter.
-Discipling the people the Lord has brought to us.
-Redeveloping the premarital lessons and ministry.
As a family, our vision verse for 2009 is Heb 12:1,2, with emphasis on running with patience while looking to Jesus. I am convinced that my own family has been over doing it and it’s time to scale back. You can’t start sprinting in the middle of a marathon- you won’t even finish the race! We have to pace ourselves slower for a bit to recover and then return to a “normal” pace that we can actually keep up with.