The Path Laid Before Us

June 8, 2016

forest-trees-path-moss

The last 12 months have been a hugely for formative time for Michelle and me. At this present time, it’s difficult to describe exactly how God has brought this about, but we are doing what we believe God has called us to do: prepare to plant a gospel-preaching, people-loving, intentionally multi-ethnic city church. Our dear friends, Aaron and Andrea Beane, will join us; and Aaron and I will serve as the founding pastors, if the Lord so wills. A lot could change between now and then, but our eyes are firmly fixed on the pathway laid before us.

I’m writing this blog post to paint a simple picture of what we believe the road ahead looks like for us. I write it with the hopes of encouraging someone to step outside their comfort zone and get them excited about what God is doing in cities all across the United States and world.

The Calling of Every Christian

First off, let me say that if you are a Christ follower, He calls you to follow Him wherever He goes (Luke 9:23). This may mean following Him into an office building everyday for the rest of your life. It may mean selling your possessions and following Him to a third-world country. It may mean staying up at night and showing a small child His love. Whatever your unique calling looks like, you can be sure that God is calling you to go somewhere in the world and make disciples of those people He places in your sphere of influence. Those people placed before you by God’s sovereign hand are people whom He wants to tell about His saving grace.

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Big News for the Earls!

February 1, 2016


Earls-2014

This past Sunday at the conclusion of my sermon, I made an announcement to the members of my church: in early March, the Earl family will be leaving North Carolina and will embark on a new ministry journey.  My last preaching Sunday will be February 28, and we will ship out sometime in the following week, Lord willing. I realize this may come as quite a shock to some of you, so allow me to detail what God has been doing in our lives.

When we first moved to the North Carolina High Country, Michelle and I agreed before God that we would remain here, serving His church for as long as He desired.  We never had any intentions of making any ministry changes, and we resolved to stand fast – even if we faced difficulty. This Sunday, I will celebrate five years as the pastor of Higher Ground Church of God.  Those times of difficulty have been rare, and we have come to know and love a church family that, I would imagine, can be found in few churches in America.

Changes

But several years ago, I began to sense that God was going to be moving us. It’s kind of a long story really, but I began to feel a burden for the city of Chicago. Now at the time, I knew this had to be God because neither Michelle nor I have ever been there, and we zero connections with it. So, we made this “urging” a matter of prayer.  For the last several years, we have sought God and His specific purposes for our family.

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The Biggest Lie in the Universe

January 21, 2016

Pileofreceipts

Sales receipts.

Every January, Michelle and I comb through the previous year’s receipts and tally up what we spent in order to file our taxes. This is an arduous task, forcing us to look over every last one with the hopes of finding 50¢ there or $1 there that we can deduct from our taxable income.

Currently, those receipts are in a large pile, staring at us, laughing at us. It’s a job we’re slowly working through, Michelle having done most of the “combing” thus far. The other day I learned, though, that those receipts will not only reveal in the end how much of a tax refund we’ll get, they also revealed the ugly pride and selfishness in my heart. Let me tell you the story.

Michelle and the kids were getting ready to go somewhere one morning. I was helping the kids get their coats on and Michelle was gathering some things to take with her. As I awaited their exit, Michelle asked me a harmless question: “What are you doing today?” Immediately, I could feel a subtle but noticeable irritation welling up within. I had work to do, and I could tell it was about to be interrupted.

“I’m doing office work.”

“What kind of office work?”

“Office work!”

Seeing my irritation, she graciously responded, “I wasn’t trying to question what you were doing, I just wanted to see if you could work on some of those receipts.” Ashamed – and still irritated – I said a teeth-clenched prayer requesting safety over my family, and I climbed the stairs to my office. I’m just glad that right then Jesus was interceding for them at the right hand of God.

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Practical Ways to Make Disciples

May 12, 2015

On Sunday I preached a sermon entitled “Go and Make Disciples” (You can listen to the sermon here). I tried to make the point that making disciples is not a convenient option for the Christian, but because it is a command of Christ’s, we must live as disciples who make other disciples.

After I finished preaching, I realized that one sermon was not really enough to really drive Christ’s command home. As such, I really want to add to the sermon by giving some practical suggestions for what it means to make disciples in our own circles and community.

To “go and make disciples” seems like an overwhelming task. Just the sheer magnitude of the command “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) causes many of us to get overwhelmed. For this reason, it’s easier just to do nothing. After all, how could we as disciples of Christ possibly make that many disciples?

Rest easy, my dear friend. Jesus had no intention for his eleven disciples to travel to every nation in the world of their day and make disciples. I think what Jesus expected was that when His disciples set foot to invest in the lives of others till the point that those people become disciples, the whole process of discipleship would have a multiplying effect. In other words, when you and I reach and teach one, that person is then prepared to reach and teach one. And when each Christian seeks to faithfully obey Christ’s command, soon enough disciples will be made in “all the nations.”

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Living on Bread AND Water

April 29, 2015

breadwater

Have you ever gone without food for a period of time (other than fasting)? Maybe you were busy all day and had little time to eat. You kept yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water, but you didn’t eat. What began to happen to your body over that time? You became empty, weak, and irritated (i.e. “hangry”), even though you were well hydrated.

Have you ever gone without drinking water for a while? Maybe you ate a big meal or snacked throughout the day, but didn’t drink much. What happened? The longer you went without water/hydration, you became thirstier and more dehydrated – even though your stomach was full.  Clearly, we were created by God to sustain life by both eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water. They go hand in hand, and you cannot survive long with one and without the other.

It is my contention that we who are in the Church have been trying to live off of just bread or just water for too long. The Bible likens the Word of God to food/bread and sustenance (Psalm 119:50; Matthew 4:4), and the Holy Spirit to refreshing, flowing, life giving water (Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39).  And yet, so often do we seek after one at the expense of the other. Because of this, the church is weak – and it is dying of either dehydration or hunger (or both!).

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