Well, the year must be coming to an end, because I find myself presently sitting in my office, gazing out the window at the melting snow in anticipation of a soon-coming trip to the Carolinas! But as I anticipate the future, I am also contemplating the past, and in thinking over everything that 2005 has brought my way, I have much . . . . MUCH. . . .for which to be thankful!
-I'm thankful that God saw fit to have me lead the effort to plant new churches in what I believe is one of the most strategic areas on the planet!
-I'm thankful for an Association, and Director of Missions, that caters my job description to fit my gifts and passions.
-I'm thankful for a ravishingly beautiful wife, who is exponentially even more beautiful in spirit. I'm thankful that after almost 12 years of marriage, we are still dating sweethearts. She is definitely worth thousands of times her weight in gold. She is my partner in the ministry of Christ's Gospel, and her advice, encouragement, occassional rebuke, and unquestionable loyalty leave me wondering what I ever did to deserve such a wonderful gift from God.
-I'm thankful for an oldest son who started Kindergarten this year. I'm thankful for Sam's inquisitive mind and constant thirst for learning, his sense of wonder that reminds me that adults often take so much for granted, and his intuitive ability to have fun wherever we are. Most of all, I'm thankful for his interest in Jesus Christ, his love for reading his Bible, and his recent deep questions about what it means to follow Christ.
-I'm thankful for a church family in Glenwood Maryland called Gethsemane Baptist Church. I'm thankful for the way they so aptly meet the spiritual and relational needs of my family when I have to be away so often.
-I'm thankful for Dr. Jerry Cooper, my pastor. I'm thankful for the relief of knowing that when I am away, my family is receiving the sound and clear teaching from God's Word that I would expect. Having been a pastor for several years, It was difficult to trust another man to fulfill this role for my family. Pastor Jerry has quickly earned my trust, and my admiration. And he serves with a heart of love that is a rare find, even among pastors.
-I'm thankful for a group of professional colleagues, with whom I shared the experience of three years of research doctoral studies at Southern Seminary. These bright and dedicated men and women are located all over the world in church pastorates, mission fields, and institutions of higher learning, and I am honored to call them "friends."
-I am thankful for Rob and Denise Stephens, dear friends, themselves from North Carolina, who help us maintain our "Southern identity" in the midst of "Yankee country."
-I'm thankful for an extended family in South Carolina who fully supports us in the work we are doing. It can't be easy to be hundreds of miles from your grandchildren, but never have Amy and I heard even one negative remark regarding our obedience in moving away. I probably wouldn't truly appreciate this, were it not for friends of mine in mission fields all over the world who have to deal with the constant "nagging" of a selfish extended family. From both sets of parents, there could be no greater gift than that of unconditional support.
-I'm thankful for the music of Frank Sinatra, Guns and Roses, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rascal Flats, G. F. Handel, Keith Urban, and Eric Clapton. (Yep, I know its an eclectic mix, but God Himself is creatively eclectic!)
-I'm thankful that through movies like Cinderella Man and The Chronicles of Narnia, Hollywood demonstrated that it still has some redeeming quality.
-I'm thankful for the people of Rolling Hills Baptist Church, whom I have served during that latter part of this year as interim pastor, and for the privilege they give me each week of being able to teach God's Word.
-I'm thankful for the birth and quick healing of our newest son, Seth. He was a very sick boy when he came into the world in September. Now he is a robust 15 pounds, and eats like his dad! We can't praise God enough for this miracle!
-I'm thankful for that little black dress my wife owns, and that after almost 12 years, I still get "weak in the knees" when I look at her in it. ;)
-I am thankful for a church I helped to plant in Greenville, SC, now called Sanctuary, and that they continue to impact their community for the sake of the Kingdom.
-I am also thankful for Pastor Chad Howard, who was my "right-arm" during the planting of that church (previously called True Life Church), and for how his continued service to that body of believers builds them up as a crown jewel that he will no doubt receive back from Christ Himself at the end of the age. Also, the friendship of he and his wife Tiffani to Amy and me foreshadows what "community" will look like in heaven.
-I am thankful for the memories left me by a precious friend who passed away earlier this year. (Rest in Christ, Alan Weaver!)
-I'm thankful for mentors past and present, including, but not limited to Bill Cashion, Jim Ramsey, Keith Kelly, George Martin, Walter Johnson, Charlie Draper, Spencer Haygood, and Bill Crowe. I thank God for the men who have invested part of their lives in my own development. My failures are entirely my own. But my success is their success, and ultimately, the success of God, who sent them into my life.
-I'm thankful for the incarnate Christ, whose presence in this world brought about all of the above! But mostly, I'm thankful that His coming, living, dying and rising guarantees me that as wonderful as this life is, I ain't seen nothing yet!
2006 could be even better, or, exponentially worse! That's the thing about the future. We just don't know. But God does. Furthermore, Scripture tells us that He has already declared the end from the beginning, and that regardless of what life brings, good or bad, each is designed to fulfill the good future that God has promised each of us who follow Him. With that in mind, I look forward to 2006 with excitement.
God willing of course, 2006 will definitely bring more writing on this weblog. But for the next month or so, I and the family are enjoying the season, and prayerfully getting ready for God's best in the New Year. I wish each reader the same, and pray that our Lord gives you a Merry Christmas and joyous New Year!