Game changers.

So much of the time we’ve trained our selves to look at Jesus affection and assume material gain and temporal comfort best align with what he would desire for us. We may speak differently to one another but our prayers and our words to God reflect a different reality. Most often we readily identify this reality in Christian brothers and sisters around us and never see it in ourselves.

Our story won’t be taking us to Austin, at least not right now. To be transparent, funding simply never came in; but more than just that it became apparent that shepherding my wife and our family, loving her (soon to be them) as Jesus loved the church(Eph. 5), meant taking a step back with them in mind. This does not mean that we aren’t called to ministry, or that we weren’t called to Austin. You do not have to look any further than the Acts account of Paul’s ministry to see a biblical example of God given desires for ministry going unfulfilled to better accomplish the glorification of Jesus. I’ve learned to camp in this truth the last few months, it and the affirmation of many Godly men in our lives has been sustaining. Paul sought and desired to do ministry in Spain and routinely God turned his path back to Jerusalem instead; when he wanted to move south he was inhibited, when he tried to move he was turned around around (Acts scrips). We’ve been turned around as well. We’ve been questioned and doubted, but we are confident we have done nothing apart from what God has asked us to do. We are confident that we are doing exactly what he desires now.

We are on the front end of something that the church will have to learn to deal with: student debt. As education costs continue to rise there will be more like us, inhibited from the mission field due to it, doubted in support raising because of it, but no less called. We have done what we could and had to do to get as much of the education men require as possible to do the work God has called us to. Now we wait.

Now we wait not knowing if the day will ever come, in which we lead the church in the way Jesus through his Spirit has gifted and equipped us to do, but our God is faithful. We wait feeling the weight of the hurt that my youthful naivety has caused many around me, but our God is faithful. We wait with questions and a heavy heart, but our God is Faithful. We wait with joy and expectation, because our God is faithful. We wait with rejoicing that we get to continue to be a part of a community of believers at our church and serve alongside them for the glory of King Jesus in a city we love, because our God is faithful. And we wait willingly, with desire and contentment. If this whole life, our ministry, is to continue this waiting for all the days of this temporal fleeting existence, that is alright. We will wait, and hopefully we will do so faithfully, because ultimately it’s about Jesus and because our God is faithful.

What we hope this conveys is a simple truth: Jesus is better. Whatever circumstance you are in, whether you have every God given desire of your heart, or if like us there is some waiting and wondering in your life: Jesus is better. If waiting and hoping for the ministry we believe God has called us to and given us desire for helps to convey the Truth that Jesus is better to the people around us as we wait contently, then we will gladly wait this whole life to convey that message.

I can’t promise the road ahead won’t be bumpy for us, or that we will always live it well. The truth is I won’t. None of us do. But I ask you to extend us some grace in that. There isn’t a blueprint that explains our journey, but in my worst and ugliest moments there is beauty. Just as with our sin, it demands of us and drives back to the foot of the cross, so that we may make much of Jesus. And the beauty of repentance is that we rise again, daily and ultimately eternally, making much of Jesus and praising redemption and resurrection from our sin. I’m convinced this is why God wouldn’t take the thorn from Paul’s side, so that he would be driven to the cross to make much of Jesus and revel in his resurrection.

Thank you all for your prayer and support of us, thank you to those who were ready to financially support, thank you for hard questions and skepticism. Jesus has used it all to refine us, and he is better. We are content to be where God has us but we are looking for where he will ultimately lead us (yes, even if that means no changes). And in waiting we will continue to give, because he has given to us. We will continue to pursue our calling from him, because he first pursued us. We will play our part in his redemption story, because he has redeemed us. We will love the church, because he has loved the church. And we will do it all because Jesus is better and our God is faithful.

Blessings and Merry Christmas,
Doug & Emily

Tragedies and Heroes

My wife Emily, is a fantastic person, I really out kicked my coverage, if you know what I mean. It’s funny though, when you spend as much time around someone as you do your spouse, you begin to notice some tendencies in their life. Some drive you nuts, but some of them are absolutely adorable. One really charming thing that my wife does, it always makes me smile, is explain herself. I mean, even the smallest most trivial things she will offer you a long explanation for. If you spent some time in our house you would be likely to hear a conversation that went something like this: She would say “Honey we need some milk, we are almost out could you grab some on your way home from work today?” I would of course do just that and say “Sure thing.”  But that’s where the explanation kicks in. Emily tends to come back with something like “We’ve just been using a lot of milk this week, I guess I’ve used a little more than normal on my cereal, and you have to have that glass of milk every night before bed to appease the 8 year old hiding inside you, oh and I made cookies Friday night…” The list may go on for a while, for such a simple thing. It’s one of the things I love about her and it always brings a smile to my face.  I think it’s rooted in a need for justification, she needs you to know why her thought/opinion/request is valid.

It’s something we all do in our own way; we all seek justification and validation. With the little things like a trip for milk it’s easy to justify within ourselves. With the bigger things we are asked how it makes us feel, and somehow what’s wrong with each of us can fundamentally be blamed on our mothers. Sorry moms, at least the shrinks all blame you first. The church though has a different explanation for what ails us all, our sin. Bright side of the argument though is it looks to another place to fix that problem, besides repairing the relationship with our mother.

Look with me at 1 Timothy 1. Something really unique happens in the first verse of chapter one, that’s easy to miss. For most of us the tendency is to look past what we consider simple introduction or greetings. But if you dig in to this verse you see Paul dealing with some things going on in Timothy’s life. V.1: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope…” Did you catch what just happened? Paul referenced the members of the Holy Trinity individually here, and he does so in very unique language. We will deal with the other persons in a minute but let us look first at the phrase: “God our Savior”

The word for God used here, it can represent the Trinity as a whole, or it can speak to a specific person of the Trinity. But Paul speaks specifically of the person of Jesus in the same breath; I have to believe he is speaking about the Father when he says “God our savior” here.

Odds are that hearing Paul say that doesn’t catch anyone off guard, we have that same basic reference, and we will typically even forgive it if we think this is a little bit of word confusion on Paul’s part. But the language “God our Savior” is very unique, appearing only six times in the ESV, only showing up in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus and in the book of Jude. The Spirit through Paul is making a point with the language that is used here. Oddly enough all three of these letters where the language “God our savior” appears were written in 64-65 AD. Just using context clues here, but I think something was going down around that time that led Paul to address his letters in this way, wouldn’t you say?

If you go back throughout literary history you’ll see these little clues to what was going on in the world or region based on the language written into publications around that time, it’s incredibly easy to find now with our news media archives being so easily accessed. If you look at what has been written the last 15 years you see clues about tragedies such as 9/11, Katrina, Sandy, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombing. You’ll also see articles about the heroes that came out of those tragedies to aid others, the men and women who caught the bad guys, and even the folks who went out of their way to understandably save a dog or unexplainably save a cat. Because really one thing this world needs less of are cats.

The point is we love to celebrate a hero, and we dwell on tragedy. If you saw the opening of the New York City Marathon this year on television you would have watched a long opening montage about what the city and its people have been through dating back to Super Storm Sandy, and how they’ve all rose from the ashes, it’s a story of human triumph, which makes the way we’ve vilified Nero all the more confusing. We love to celebrate heroes, not typically to vilify them. And we aren’t talking about the burning software that came with your computer, I mean the Roman emperor from 54-68AD, although the fact we have a “burning” software named after him now adds to the dialogue. Sure, there was the whole burning Christians alive for entertainment during his garden parties incidents, I would guess even Nero would admit it wasn’t his finest moment. But that’s not the confusing dialogue around Nero, the refrain that surrounds him that’s problematic has to do with fire.

In June of 64AD something happened in Rome, a fire. We’ve seen events like this in the modern world, with the Great Chicago Fire even if it was in 1871, but what we’ve never seen is one man vilified for an event that destroyed almost half a city. Ancient Rome was divided into 14 districts and the fire totally destroyed 5 of them and did extensive damage to two more. Common thought suggests that Nero was actually responsible for starting the fire, an arsonist, to clear room to build his palace. Rome, however, was not a city immune to large scale accidental fires with others occurring in 69 and 80 AD. But Nero has something in common with Billy Joel, both sing “I didn’t start the fire.”

Unlike a modern disaster we don’t have a lot of information written about the fire in Rome, but we do have an extensive account by Roman Senator and Historian Tacitus who was alive at the time of the fire. Tacitus account actually has Nero in another part of the Roman Empire when the fire began, and states that the idea “Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned” was merely rumor. Not only that but Tacitus reports that Nero rushed back to Rome, and spear headed the relief effort, using his home as a Red Cross center, building a new palace to serve as head quarters for FEMA, and actually digging through rubble to find survivors by himself ordering his personal body guards to do the same in other areas. Tacitus paints a picture of a genuinely good guy and beloved Emperor when speaking about Nero.

Perhaps that’s why Nero began to refer to himself as the Greek word “σωτηρ (soter)” or “savior” the same word Paul in writing to Timothy in 64-65AD uses in verse 1 to describe the person and character of God the Father. Timothy was pastoring the church in Ephesus at the time, part of the Roman Empire, they had undoubtedly heard of all that Nero was doing to save his people. But Paul uses this opening to his letter to Timothy to remind him who our true savior is. He takes the opportunity to put to rest any doubt, any questioning, and to address the reality of what the church in Ephesus was hearing and experiencing.

There is a poorly kept secret about human nature that we are all looking for a savior. Sure we don’t always term it that, we call them heroes, hobbies, and goals. We are all looking for more from this life, because functionally we all understand this life isn’t quite as good as it seems it should be. So we rush out to super hero movies and cheer heroic actions, we pick up books about Seal Team 6 and how they caught up with Bin Laden, we get a Roomba so we don’t have to work so hard cleaning our floors; we want that new car like the neighbors got so that they will think differently of us. It’s in the way we dress, the politicians we vote for, how proudly we fly our flags, and how loud we cheer at the football game. For all of us there is a deep and quiet admission that this life hasn’t been what we’ve hoped for. So we look for a savior and blame anything we can for why life isn’t what we want. We gripe about politicians and pine for the next guy to be better, but he won’t. We get the new car, the new house, the better job, or maybe even the new boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse knowing that what is wrong with us is that the last savior we put our hope in, just like Nero, isn’t savior enough to fix what is broken inside of us.

What savior didn’t pan out for you? What gripes do you have about where life ended up? Are you fed up with the direction the government of this temporary earthly home is leading? What Paul is saying to Timothy in verse 1 is: “Brother don’t look anywhere else for a savior, they simply can’t do a good enough job.” Whatever you think you need to fix you, new job, new car, sex, alcohol, new friends, it won’t fix what is wrong with you. Because God is our only true Savior, and Jesus Christ is our hope.

If you want a hero to look up to, you don’t need to look any farther than Jesus Christ. What Jesus offers is so much greater than the fleeting temporal things we look to for a savior, the things we put our hope in. In fact, Paul, in one of his earlier letters, explained it this way in Romans 8:28-30: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Our hope is in this truth church! Our savior pursued us to the cross, sacrificing his son that we could be offered Jesus righteousness for our salvation! But he won’t stop there with us! He has called and justified us through the blood of Christ and he promises that glorification comes with that!

This life may not offer you everything you’ve hoped for in this meager temporary state. Life more often than not is hard, we all face tragedies. Anyone who tells you they haven’t suffered personal loss and tragedy is either lying to you or stupid. There is absolutely no way that we ever live our best life now if we are in Christ, because the promise of the life to come through Christ, the promise of glorification with Christ far exceeds everything you’re looking for in that temporal earthly savior. What are you looking to for a savior and what hope does it offer you?  It’s no savior at all, for in all that this life lacks, in our pain and suffering, in our sin, and in our depravity, there is only “God our savior and…Christ Jesus our Hope.”

We all know tragedy. I know my family certainly does. My mother had a cousin who was murdered while seeking help for mental illness, my Aunt was still born I never met her, my wife and I are expecting the birth of our first child in the spring but its only our first because we lost our first pregnancy. My family has tasted murder, hatred, death, and loss. We’ve been unsuccessful, seen business plans fail, been riddled with debt, and had friends turn their back on us. Tell me that is the better life you signed up for when you trusted Jesus. It is not. If your hope is in what I better now those are the types of things that break you. That’s why we have such a high suicide rate in this country, that’s why we have such a high divorce rate, that’s why we don’t see sweeping movements of the Spirit like is being experienced in places like China today.

If we keep looking for any other savior then our problem is just going to continue to get worse, our churches are going to continue to dwindle, and our heresy is going to further undermine the Gospel. I know some of you are undoubtedly unhappy right now, you think I’ve severely underestimated your faith, you think this isn’t a message that the church needs to hear, maybe a group of non-believers but not the church. You would tell me right now that what the church needs week in and week out is life application from the Bible. I’ll tell you this right now, if you’re looking to myself, or another minister for a life coach, you’re in the wrong place. I don’t know what certification a life coach is required to have but I don’t have those. All I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: day in and day out in your life, and in the Christian walk, there is absolutely no greater life application than the life that is applied to you when you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God Jesus Christ. There is no other life application that matters. If you’re walking with Jesus today it’s this truth that should allow you to sleep at night. It is the place you find rest, it’s the joy in the suffering, it’s all that is good about this life, it is the hope that is only in Jesus. We cannot move on from this truth, we have to dwell on it, we have to ruminate in it, and it should be the marinade that flavors our very soul and our every word.

If you don’t know Jesus today, I don’t know how you’ve made it this far. I commend you for that, but know this: it only gets worse from here. You see all the bad stuff, all the pain, all the suffering, and all the tragedy we face is the product of a thing called sin. I do it, you do it, we all sin, and we’ve ruined everything this world was meant to be in the process. But the great news is that when everything you turn to for savior fails you, there is both a savior and a hope waiting for you. His name is Jesus Christ. What you turn to now be it spouse, child, job, car, government, or something else, it will fail you just like Nero failed to be Rome’s savior so long ago. But the hope that Jesus offers, the promise of eternal salvation and glorification as an adopted child of the one true God, it is all that will bring you through this life with hope for anything getting better in the next.

Dwell in it, let it marinate your soul, and enjoy the hope that only Christ offers. In the midst of your pain and suffering find the joy that only comes from “God our Savior…and Christ Jesus our hope.”

His Kingdom Bring

The gospel of Jesus be declared,

As our lives lived to prepare,
For the weight of eternal glory,
His Word now my only story.
May His worth my voice proclaim,
Forsaking this my earthly name.
At the foot of grace and cross,
This life I lay most gladly lost.
To rise again on heavens shore,
His resurrection now much more.
Glory to the risen Lord,
The only one who has won the war.
On the cross and out of the grave,
My savior stands both bold & brave.
Forsaking comfort he overcame,
Laying waste to sin and shame.
His righteousness became my boast,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
God my savior, Jesus my hope,
His spirit come to guide me home.
In this battle I’m not alone,
My savior sits upon the throne.
Let our words his name exalt,
For he is blameless without fault.
To His Word the Truth, I cling,
May it soon His kingdom bring.

The only language we have.

Our hope was to be moving to Austin on September 1st, that’s the timeline that had been set. We won’t be making it to Austin on that timeline. Fundraising has been a hard journey, but it has been good. It has not seen success the way this world defines the word, but it has been sanctifying. You could say we have failed in one regard, but we do not view this as failure. It’s simply that the language of success and failure is the only language we have. Our desire in this has been so greatly that whether we “succeed” or not we do so to the glory of God, that if we “fail” we “fail” to the glory of God.

As of today we are at best 10% funded, we cannot move until funding eclipses 80% of our stated budget. I have seen God do big things in terms of funding calling, as has ASI. We are not counting him out but our timeline changes with every passing day now. That’s our new reality.

Fundraising is a process that is sanctifying and good for the soul; it exposes so much about the condition a person’s faith is truly in. It has exposed areas in my life where my faith in God is not big enough. It exposes the splinters of our broken idols.  It’s an opportunity to grow in faith and it has been just that for us. It’s a refining time in the life of the believer. It has been good for us, and we have learned so much through it.

There are reasons this is not a failure:

  1. Growth: This year has been a hard journey, but God has grown us in faith, in our understanding of the gospel, and as followers. That has been invaluable.
  2. Clarifying the call: I’m more certain in what God has asked us to do, how he has asked us to serve, and what our ministry should like than I have ever been.
  3. The Gospel: At the end of the day, no matter what happens in our life, we are bought by the blood of Jesus Christ there is no greater reason to rejoice in present circumstance than that.
  4. Confirming the call: This season has seen more outside confirmation of calling than ever. The men who have confirmed they believe in our calling are ones I greatly respect and for God to affirm us through them is incredibly reassuring.

What it looks like to fail to the glory of God:

  1. Joy: (James 1:2-4) We count it all joy, trial produce endurance, and Jesus has secured our greatest good. Knowing the truth of the gospel leaves us no option but to have joy regardless of our various trials.
  2. Speech: (2 Cor. 4:13-14) The gospel compels us to continue to speak the greatness of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross even in the face of “failure.” The truth of Jesus is that he has secured our eternal success and there is a dead/dying world that needs to hear that. We must work toward the end (Matt 24:14) and the fulfillment of the great commission (Matt 28:19-20).
  3. Hope: (2 Cor. 4:17-18) Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross our hope is secured. Our great good is eternal glorification with Jesus. We know that is secured in the propitiation of Jesus Christ on the cross, and because of this we have every cause for hope!

Barring a major swing in events over the next week, we won’t be making it to Austin. Regardless of what happens we hope God is glorified in some way. We may be delayed, but we are not defeated (2 Cor. 4:1-18). This is obviously a time where we may have to step back our efforts and reevaluate some things, but our calling is not among those. We know God has asked us to pursue ministry for the furthering of the gospel, through the building of the church, for the glory of God. We will continue to pursue that because #WeDoItForAnEternalPrize. (1 Cor. 9:25)

My hope and prayer is that our reality as it relates to support raising changes in these coming days. If it does not our prayer is that we “fail to the glory of God.” Either way our prayer is that God is glorified.  

The latest, the skinny, the 411, whats up with the what up…

Dear Family and Friends,

It may seem as though you have only just heard from us. I know it seems we have just spoken with many of you to ask for your prayers as we took steps to pursue God’s calling. There is simply so much going on, what an exciting time to be walking with the Lord! We are moving closer and closer to fulfilling our calling and a lifelong dream. We have been accepted to a position and will be taking an internship with the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX! Doug will be serving as a Campus Leadership intern; the internship is focused on pastoral skills, development, implementation of missional community and leadership development. We see this as an opportunity to be on mission in a strategic location; to live for the furthering of the gospel, through the building of the church, for the glory of God. My calling and vision for ministry has always been to preach the word and equip the local church to live on mission. A smart man, John Piper, once said “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.” God’s glory is the chief purpose of our lives, there is simply nothing more important. I have never been more satisfied in God’s character, presence, or calling than when I am on mission with him. We miss out on so much of what he has intended us to be when we miss that. His glory is worth a lifetime of pursuing his will to live on mission and to equip the church to pursue it as well. We are ready to go to the ends of the earth for his glory, but we are only one part of the story. We aren’t doing this for health, wealth, or fame; we do this for His glory, #WeDoItForAnEternalPrize (1 Cor 9:25).

For everyone who goes there is a team of senders who enables them to go through prayer and financial support. These senders are crucial for the furthering of the gospel for the glory of God and the fulfillment of the great commission. The relationship between go-ers and senders is a partnership; simply put the senders ongoing participation in the life and ministry of the go-er is an essential part of that ministry. Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” In the symbiosis between the go-er and the sender the work of the church is done and the love of Christ on the cross is manifested.

This is an incredible opportunity for us to live for the furthering of the gospel, through the building of the church, for the glory of God. To take full advantage of this opportunity we need to be able to devote our full time, energy, and focus toward the work and the training and equipping it offers us. That leaves me with two questions for you. 1.) Will you pray for us? 2.) Would you consider partnering with us financially? We want to share in this journey with you, and we want you to share in it with us. Our ultimate hope is that through all of this the love of Jesus Christ is made manifest in your life, in our lives, and in every sphere of influence we all hold for the glory of God through the furthering of the gospel by the building of the church.

 

Two ways to partner with us:

1. A monthly commitment for one year (preferred): $10, $25, $50, $100, or another amount.

2. Special Gift ($250, $500, $1,000)

Please fill out the donor card and send it along with your check made payable to The Austin Stone Community Church. Memo: Intern- (project number)

Or, if you prefer you can give an online donation through our blog page at treelineministries.wordpress.com.

If you would like more information about the Austin Stone Institute visit:  austinstone.org/who/interns_residents.

To Him be the Glory,

Doug and Emily Brannon

Image

Still my anxious heart

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7, 8 ESV)

It’s easy to get caught up in worry about circumstance. We’ve been in that very place lately. So much has happened over the last 6-8 weeks to rob our focus on Christ and discourage us. But thank God for the church. We walked in yesterday morning, in many ways, feeling defeated and afraid. But the spirit of our Lord had a different place he wanted us. Our pastor Mike preached on 2 Timothy 1:7 as a precursor to VBS week. But we needed that reminder that no matter how daunting the task, challenge, or circumstance ahead we serve we serve a glorious, conquering King who holds the world. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection secured our victory in his sacrifice. No matter what we fear, no matter if we fail He reigns victorious and it is his Spirit within us. If you’re afraid today, if you face insurmountable hardship or circumstance know that Jesus offers better. That doesn’t mean easier, and if this life is meant for hardship after hardship that’s ok by us, because we do this not for health, wealth, or fame. #WeDoItForAnEternalPrize (1 Cor 9:25)

The world as its always been.

“These are extremely exciting days to be walking with God” -Experiencing God.

Often you pick up a book and its words may resonate, they may reach out from the page and touch your heart. But never have I read more poignant words from a book than these, outside of the words of scripture. Maybe it just resonates with our journey, maybe I just feel like I should believe it more than I do. So many around me utter words of despair based on what they see to be the deteriorating state of our world. But what if we embraced the idea that there has never been a more exciting time to walk with God? If this is the culmination of days or not, if this is just the world as its always been, there has never been a better time to walk with God. Do I live like I believe that? Is it evident to every one I meet? It should be, I pray it is. I pray it’s evident in us as we step out on faith to follow God’s calling.

Are you living life like you’ve never experienced a more exciting time to walk with God? Because tomorrow it will only get more exciting.

20130511-155400.jpg

From Emily:

When Doug first approached me with where he believed God was directing us, I did not jump on board right away.  The desire, and what I thought was a need, to plan every detail out as far in advance as possible so I could be absolutely positive this is the direction God was taking Doug and me, took over.  I wanted to know the who, what, when, where, why and how are we going to make this happen.  I got in the way by wanting to take it all on instead of placing everything in God’s hands.  This is a sin we all easily fall into. In accordance with Jeremiah 29:11, I must trust in the Lord and know that His plans for us are far better than my own!  As I loosened my grasp onto wanting to be in control, an indescribable peace has settled in.  The ability to make this happen on our own is so far out of reach for Doug and me, God’s immense glory and grace will be showcased.  Our desire is to study and receive training in guiding others to lead a sturdy Missional lifestyle, send disciples to the nations, and train fishers of men all for our glorious Heavenly Father.  Thank you for being a special part of Doug’s and my life.  You each have played an influential role in getting us where we are today.  We are eternally grateful for your prayers as we diligently follow God’s will.

Tomorrow, God willing…

We all have a journey. For some of us our path is the result of meticulous planning, some of us take life as it comes, and for most of us the truth lies somewhere between haphazard and precise. Many of you have walked this path alongside us, as family and friends you have been drug along for this voyage whether you wished to be or not. We are so grateful for you and for your part in our lives. You have been with us almost every step of the way, and we would love for you to join us on the next leg of this odyssey. Our journey is one of gracious uncertainty, one in which we are painfully unaware of God’s greater plan for us, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am admittedly horrible at these things, but we want to share with you all where God has led us this past year. 2012 was a phenomenal year for Emily and I, not only our first year of marriage, but a year of phenomenal growth in relationship with Christ for both of us. I cannot tell you of a time I have been more confident in God’s direction for my life, now our lives, than what I am at this moment. It has been a journey in which we have had to embrace “gracious uncertainty” as Oswald Chambers would call it. We have full faith in the words of Philippians 3:8, that “everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” We are prepared to give it all away to follow where he leads; we are ready to lay aside all our plans and dreams to chase hard after Christ. We trust that the words of Mark 10:29-30 hold true for us today, as true now as the very moment Christ spoke them.

Paris served as a sweet time of confirmation of the calling God has put on our lives. I’ve tried to pretend at points that I could ever be happy doing anything beside this, I never will though. Getting to serve and help equip the team in Paris was undeniably in line with where our heart and calling lies, but after confirmation there must come action. That is where we find ourselves today. The time has come for us to pursue the action to which we have been called. The first step of that action has been for myself to humbly accept that I need to be equipped for this next step. My reluctance to pursue seminary training for several years has now changed. The reason is three fold and found in Matthew 13:52, the epistles of the apostle Paul, and the Greek word for “read.” Matthew 13:52 states: “Therefore,” He said to them, “every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who brings out of his storeroom what is new and what is old.” I’ve come to affectionately refer to this as the lost parable, I’ve never heard it taught or seen its truth declared. It is to me perhaps the single greatest encouragement in training and study that has ever existed. Pair with this truth that the most prolific author of scripture among the apostles was Paul, the only one who could claim the highest theological education of their time. Paul drew on his education and his knowledge of the Tanakh to discover the person and character of Christ, and he drew from these very scriptures to instruct the church in following Christ. And if that was not enough reason to pursue studies I learned the Greek word for “read” that is used in places such as Matthew 24:15 and Revelation 1:3. The Greek word ἀναγινώσκων (anaginōskōn) broken down into its roots is profound. The root word ἀνα (ana) carries the implications of an intense and repetitive coming to the text, while the root γινώσκων (ginōskōn) carries the weight of intimate knowledge. The exhorting to read the text repetitively, intensely, and intimately is littered throughout the pages of our bible, it begs us to study these words harder than any book we have ever touched. Through these three things I have come to accept that God has called me to pursue more intimate knowledge of him through study and education. But I cannot simply sit back and study, there simply isn’t time left for that.

Mission has become a mere facet of the Christian life, it has become something the Christian does. The fact that this is what we have relegated mission to in our society and churches frustrates me. Mission was not a facet or aspect of the Christian life to the apostles or early church members, nor should it be to us. Mission is central to relationship with Jesus Christ, it is foundational to being his disciple. We cannot continue to ignore this truth in our current church culture, we must return to a climate in which mission is essential to the daily life of the believer. I have long said that the greatest factor keeping me from the foreign mission field is a calling and desire to equip those in the local church in this country to embrace the Great Commission and lead Missional lives that glorify our Heavenly Father. I believe that this becomes possible only through community; as believers bond together, commit their selves to the scriptures, and begin to live their faith out loud great change becomes possible and sustainable.

So how do you marry a desire and a calling to be trained and equipped with mission and community? We believe God has lead us to a program that will do just that, while allowing us to work for the glory of God through the local church. We are meeting with this program at the end of February about the possibility of joining them on mission while being equipped and trained for the next step of our journey. I am at this point intentionally vague about where and what we believe God has called us to. We are confident in God’s direction but we are taking nothing for granted, until God has confirmed what we believe to be his calling to this place we simply pursue the idea and ministry he has called us to.

This letter is about asking, asking you to partner with us in prayer, nothing more. This step is huge for us; it is terrifying and it is joyous, it fills us with “breathless expectation.” We can’t take this lightly, it calls us away from home, away from family and friends, and away from almost everything we know and find comfort in. The thought of the moments that we will lose with parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and friends have all started to resonate acutely. The sweet moments of life that we are so fortunate to share in here carry such intrinsic value, we are not walking away from that lightly, but not only are we walking away from family and comfort but we are moving toward a support raised position. For up to the next two years we will rely completely on God’s provision and the generosity of his people.

I don’t know where this story goes from here, I don’t know if we will be accepted to this program, and I don’t know what life looks like on the backside if we are accepted. I can’t tell you about my grand plans for launching a specific ministry and how this position will benefit that ministry idea. All I can tell you is this: we are so excited about where God is leading us. We are asking only that you pray for us as we move along this journey. We don’t deserve your attention or prayers, but we are so grateful for them. If all of this becomes reality it will only be through God’s desire and power, may he be glorified in every aspect of it.

These updates will become the norm for us, that is our commitment to you who agree to take part in this journey with us. But from this point forward, it is optional. If you would like to keep receiving updates from us you’ll have to “opt in.” We will distribute a regular update/newsletter going forward via mail, email, and blog. If you would like to receive our updates or would be willing to consider financially supporting where God has called us, we would be honored. There is no expectation or obligation to do either, we simply want to share our story to God’s glory.

AtxSky

In Christ,

Doug and Emily

Jeremiah 15:16