Monday, February 20, 2012

Ember Monday

We've officially moved past the half year mark of services: Last night was our 27th service. The message was from Mark 9:30-50, where the disciples are arguing over which one of them is the greatest. (On a total side note, some scholars would have us believe that the Gospels were written to solidify certain disciples' standing and position within the larger Christian community. If that were true, then why do the disciples consistently come off looking bad in the Gospels? To put it simply, these guys are not the heroes of this story; Jesus is.) Jesus' answer to their selfish ambition is to say this: If you want to be first, be last. If you want to be great, serve. Where Jesus is King, greatness is measured by an upside-down standard.

If I had a main point to the sermon, I suppose it would be this: The path of greatness can only be traversed by those who have forsaken greatness altogether. The aim of our lives is not greatness, achievement, or the actualization of our potential; the aim of our lives is Jesus Christ, the one whose purpose all along was to die at the hands of the authorities and rise again three days later.

One of the best parts about Ember, for me, is watching my wife's heart come alive as she sings with the music team. She's done it 4 or 5 times now, and it's been a revelation for her. And I get to have a front row seat for the experience! It couldn't be better.

We also welcomed a new member to the music team tonight, Emi. She's got a great voice and has been serving at the church since just about the beginning. It's so cool to see people like Emi get involved.

If you live in central Ohio, you should come join us for worship some time. We meet on Sunday nights at 5pm at 401 E. Schrock Rd. All are welcome!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God Came Through

About a year ago, Breena and I decided to step out in faith and move forward with planting Ember Church. Though we were surrounded with a great group of friends who were also committed to the task, we knew that I needed to find a full-time job to support my family while we planted. This is called bivocational ministry, and while most church planters and pastors don't go this route, there are some of us who choose to minister the way Paul did. (Paul was a tentmaker and a leather worker, trades he held while establishing churches in the various cities to which God led him.)

Very early on in this process I had a serious conversation with God. It went something like this: "God, if you want me to plant Ember Church, you've got to get me a job. In this economy, and with my past history of job searching, it's truly going to take a miracle for me to get a job. So I need you to move for me." I didn't sense God telling me anything in that moment, though the first Ember sermon ever proclaimed this truth: God is with those he calls. I believed that God would come through for me, for my family, and for this church.

Months went by with no progress on the job front. The church started on schedule, but still no job. Then Bexley was born, but still no job. Thanksgiving. Christmas. I was beginning to doubt that God was with me. I was beginning to doubt that he would come through with a job.

Sometime during the holidays I had pressed through my period of doubt and began to trust God again. I was more confident than ever that he would come through with a job, and very soon. Then came the new year, and companies started posting job openings again. There was one job posting that caught my attention for it's unorthodox language, and I determined to give this one a little extra attention. I wrote the most audacious cover letter you've ever seen. My opening line read like this: "You can stop your search now, because I'm your guy." I got a call from them the same day! After a year of submitting applications and resumes with no response, I got called back the same day.

I waited and waited to find out if I would get that first interview. On Tuesday of the following week I received an email from the HR department asking if I was still interested in the job, and whether I had gotten the email the previous Friday to set up a phone interview. "What email," I shouted! "I never got an email!" Some technical glitch had occurred, and I never received it. The most important email of my life, and it got tied up in cyberspace. What is this, 1997?

Of course I responded right away, and had a great interview the next day. Then the waiting really began. Would I get the second interview? Would I make into the next round? Several days passed before I heard anything, but I finally got the good news. They were bringing me in for a face-to-face interview!

I called my parents and they offered to buy me a suit. (How am I this old and still don't own a suit?) I gladly took them up on the offer, and had a really good interview. That was Friday, and they were interviewing two more candidates on Monday. So, once again, I waited. But I had been waiting for about a year for God to come through for me, so a few more days wasn't going to be too bad.

It must have been Wednesday when I got the next call. They wanted me to come back for a third interview! This was unprecedented, for me. Not that I've never gotten a job anywhere, but that I've ever participated in this many rounds of interviews. This time, I interviewed with the team members with whom I might be working, and then with mentors within the company. Both of these interviews were to determine if I fit with the team and the culture of the company. I thought both interviews went really well, and had a strong sense that, by this point, there weren't any other candidates being interviewed. When I got home, I told Breena, "I think I'm going to get this job."

That was Friday, so we had another weekend of waiting. Monday came and went, so I decided to call the manager on Tuesday. When I got through to him, he dropped this bomb on me, "I was just getting ready to make you a verbal offer. Can I call you back in an hour with the details?" BAM! And like that, I had a job. A great job. At the best place to work in central Ohio.

God came through. It was his time (not mine), but he did it. He came through for me, my family, and Ember Church. I've only been at work for a couple days now, but I already love it. I'm excited to go there. I'm excited to get started on video production. I believe in the company and what they're doing. I believe in the culture they're trying to create. I simply can't imagine how things could have turned out better for me, and I am very grateful to God for his faithfulness. I pray that he will come through for you as he has come through for me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ember Monday

Last night at Ember we reached the midway point of our series through Mark, and we came to the story of the Transfiguration. It's a truly remarkable story, and we saw how it is a picture of the great redemptive arc of Scripture. In fact, I made the audacious claim that I would explain the entire Bible in that one sermon. I think I managed to do it, but you can judge for yourself. Listen to the sermon called The Gospel According to Mark 07 - The Glory in the sermon player. Or, if you're a reader, you can download my sermon manuscript here.

We tried something a little bit different with the music last night, as Kelly and Garth led from the floor, and went unplugged. I enjoyed the change of pace as it felt even more intimate than we typically do, which is saying something.

The big announcement is that God came through for us in a big way by providing me a full-time job, which I started today. We prayed and believed for a long time, and God came through in his time, and in a big way. My new employer is the #1 rated place to work in central Ohio. I'll be doing a lot of cool stuff with video, and I get to work with a great team of people. I couldn't have asked for more! This means that Ember is free to move forward with the only financial constraint of rent. There's no stopping us now!

Come and join us sometime for worship. We meet at 5pm on Sunday evenings at the beautiful American Baptist Church in Westerville: 401 E. Schrock Rd.