Late-December Update

December 29, 2016


For our December/January newsletter, we thought we’d dust off the old blog page and do a more “public” update on Earl Family current events. FYI, we send out a paper newsletter several times a year, so if you would like to receive it, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up. Thanks for stopping by!

A Time of Transformation

As we look back over 2016, it’s pretty incredible to see all the ways God has been at work in our family. To try to describe the past year in a short phrase, it might be consistent renovation. No – we don’t have a house we’ve been remodeling. This is a reference to those many (some small and some large) heart and attitude adjustments that God has been so faithful to work in us.

Ephesians 2:10 says “we are God’s handiwork” (NIV), a phrase that depicts God’s activity in the life of the Christian to form them into what He desires them to become. We are not self-made. We are not self-autonomous. Those He redeems are, by necessity, both the object of His tender love and His careful sculpting. Just as a sculptor forms a lump of clay into the image he or she envisions it to be, so the Lord is faithful to shape us into the image of His own dearly loved Son, Jesus (Rom 8:29).

This sculpting is often painful and self-revealing. But the blessed truth we cling to is that God never exposes His children’s sin to leave us to ourselves, wallowing in guilt and self-pity. Every exposure is redemptive, for it forces us to acknowledge our lack and run again and again to Christ – who lived the perfect life (we so often fail to live) and who bore our every sin upon Himself in death (Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:24). And now, with Christmas fresh on our hearts, we are reminded more than ever that unless God came to us (in the form of Jesus), we would be left to ourselves, destined for death. Instead, coming as a baby, He provided the only way of escape, bringing us from death to life; so that the life we now live we live for Him. He is so good!

Organized Disorder

Our oldest two, Kaelyn and Connor, have made it through the first half of the school year, and are doing very well both academically and socially. They have enjoyed forming some new friendships, though they do recognize that they are temporary. This has been challenging. We all look forward to the day when we can settle down in the city we will be ministering in, where our children will be afforded the opportunity to forge lasting friendships.

This simple desire (and temporary unfulfillment), however, has been a valuable teaching tool for us. As a family, God has been showing us that sometimes in His plan, personal comforts are exchanged for organized disorder. It is “disorder” because our lives seem to lack the structure that produces our desired comforts, but it is organized because God is fully in control of it and is using it to prepare us more fully for the work He desires for us to do.

One particular way we have experienced this divine organized disorder is through a two-month-long flea infestation we’ve been dealing with in our apartment. Y’all, first of all, if you have pets and don’t treat them for fleas – do yourselves a favor: treat them. We never thought Ollie (our mini schnauzer) would bring fleas into our home simply because he doesn’t spend any length of time outside, which is the nature of apartment living. But on one warm early November evening, we saw the first flea. We’ve been washing, cleaning, and vacuuming every day since; and now we think, finally this whole ordeal is coming to a close in late December.

The point is that God used those wretched little creatures to expose our need for peace and comfort. What’s the big deal, you may ask? Everyone deserves to enjoy comfort in your own home. There is certainly truth to this. But if those comforts are removed and anxiety comes rushing in (along with frustration, fighting, and stress), God has just proved to us that our hope is not ultimately in Him, but in our pleasant situation. He won’t have that. He won’t let us exchange the true, lasting peace that comes from our relationship with Him for cheap, fleeting temporary peace that comes from our natural comforts. So, sometimes He causes disorder to happen to us in order to refocus our gaze upon Him.

This is just one of the many ways God has been changing us. Time would fail us to speak about the challenges created by Joshua’s heavy workload, raising children, marital disagreements, concerns related to fundraising, etc. that have been tools in God’s hands to shape us and make us less dependent on us and more fully dependent on Him.

But friends, God is so good to us. Even in all of this, time and again He has visibly cared for our every need – and some of our wants! For example, we had a most wonderful Christmas this year, just the five of us together. Since we’re in this season of fundraising, we decided to cut back quite a bit on Christmas presents for each other and our children. We were so very blessed, however, when on xmas16kidsChristmas morning our children opened up lots of thoughtful gifts from our family. God used them to remind us all of His love and grace again!

In addition, He has raised up some precious people to care for us financially, He’s given us deep friendships within our church and Pastors College family, and we’ve enjoyed many wonderful moments with our children. Most of all, He’s deepened our trust in Him and our peace and joy is now fuller than ever! We’ve been truly blessed here in Louisville and it will be sad to leave in the summer time!

Details on the Next Step…Sort of

On that note, there are plans in the works as we prepare to enter into the planning phase of the church plant. After Joshua graduates from the PC in June, we will pack up our things and move to another state in our region to do a “church plant residency” at a local Sovereign Grace Church. This phase will more specifically prepare us for church planting by training us on the ins-and-out of starting a brand-new church. For the time being, we’re intentionally being vague on exactly where we’ll be, simply because these details are currently being worked out by the leaders of our region. But we will give more specific detail in our next newsletter!

For now, here’s how you can pray for us, as you feel led:

  • We will begin our next phase of fundraising soon. We’re asking God to provide for us financially as we enter into this new phase of preparation and planning that will give us the tools we need to launch the new church. Again, we will provide more details on this in the coming months, but we ask that you pray that God would continue to stir people’s hearts to give to us for the sake of His gospel being declared in this country. Maybe He is stirring your heart for us? If so, you are always able to give to us here.
  • Joshua is entering into the second and final semester of the Pastors College. He will have a number of papers and projects due in the coming months. He will also be preaching at a Sovereign Grace Church in the spring as part of his preaching practicum (more details on that soon as well). Please ask God for continued grace to sustain him and our family as he approaches his various academic deadlines.
  • As we prepare to make yet another move as a family (location TBA), please ask God to continue to provide for our every need, and especially for his joy and peace to fill us as we make decisions that affect our family. Pray especially that God would increase our faith to trust him as he leads us in his plan for us.
  • Please ask God to continue to deepen our relationship with the Beane family. As we plant together, we’re praying that God would unify Joshua and Aaron in their preparation to lead the new church, as well as strengthen Michelle and Andrea as they care for our families. Ask God to humble us all, keep us from selfish ambition, and most of all, empower us for the Gospel mission He is giving us!
  • Please pray that God would encourage and protect Kaelyn and Connor as they begin the second half of their school year in public school. Pray that God would provide them with relationships that will build them up and not draw them away from him. Pray that they would be the light of Christ to shine in the darkness, and that God would give them opportunities to point their classmates to Christ.
  • Lastly, please ask God to continue to make us faithful. With all the uncertainty of Christian ministry, it is easy to get discouraged when we don’t see quite clearly what God is doing. Our desire is to continually follow Him into the unknown of His will, which He always intends to be for our greatest good (Rom. 8:28).

And thanks be to God for loving us enough to consistently renovate us, making us into who He created us to be! Thank you for praying!

One Last Appeal…

If you’ve read this far, thank you! We so appreciate the precious friends and family God has given to us that care about us and want to know what is going on in our lives. If you have not already, please prayerfully consider becoming a monthly financial partner with us in our journey to church planting. Every dollar you give brings us one step closer to planting ourselves in a city in need of God’s amazing Good News. If you feel led to come alongside us in this way, please visit our giving page here. Thank you so much for your love!

With love and gratitude as we begin a new year,

Joshua, Michelle, Kaelyn, Connor, and Malacai

“To know that nothing happens in God’s world apart from God’s will may frighten the godless, but it stabilizes the saints.”
― 
J.I. Packer

 


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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.”

Read the rest of this entry »