Well, it's been awhile and life is vastly different now than it was just a couple weeks ago. So here is the update, in no particular order of importance or chronology...
LIFE I have left Philadelphia. The good news is that I have started an internship in a great church under a great pastor and preacher, and things are going great so far. I have been preaching at this church for months now, but I am finally getting constructive feedback on my sermons, and so far it has been a real encouragement. More on that later...
The bad news is that I now live back in New Jersey. In fact, I am back in the town I lived in up through 5th grade, before my parents relocated to PA. This is a nice town. It is not typical of many NJ towns I have seen. However it still has all the drawbacks of living in the state of NJ, like the most corrupt state government in the country, absolutely ridiculous property taxes (as well as other taxes), and more cars on the road than people driving (NJ is the most traveled state in the union). But other than that it is good to be back.
The WORSE news is that my wife is still in Philadelphia... Nothing has ever sucked so bad in my short 30 years on this earth. She's pregnant and miserable (on and off), and I am 100 miles away and can't be there for her or take care of her. She really has the worse end of the deal too, because I am staying with a good friend and have support and people around me constantly with my work at the church - but she dreads coming home from work because she is all alone. Her friends are not nearby, and all the neighbors probably think I left her because I packed my car and left with both of us in tears. I know she hates being there by herself - and that's killing me. But it can't really be helped right now. She is fulfilling a commitment at her job. (wow, I just posted something rather personal on my blog -- a first. I'll resist deleting it.)
The better news is that when she does finally join me in September, we have a really great house waiting for us to move into. It's is a great location, and the price is a real steal for the area. It's just the right size for the soon-to-be three of us to get comfy in for a couple years, or longer if the Lord wills. I'm sure pictures will eventually make their way up here... when I have my camera with me. Right now I only have my closet and a few choice selections from my library -- and that's it. The move up here is totally going to stink. I hate moving.
THE METS If you aren't watching the Mets right now, you are missing some of the greatest, most exciting baseball I have seen in about 20 years. Not since 1986 has there been a team in the league that is so fun to watch, so explosive, and that can win in so many different ways. Granted, I am obviously a bit biased, and it has been 20 years since the Mets have had a team this good. But this has been a really great season so far and I hope it continues. So much fun!
FRIENDS The guys from school are all going through similar things as I am. One got married and is back in Texas full time. One is still in Philly, starting an internship in September which should be great for him. One got called as the Associate Pastor at the church I just transferred from. Still others are still plugging away at WTS. They will all be great. I miss them already.
In Jersey, all my friends are either growing their families or planning to start them. Another getting married in a couple weeks, one just had his second child, we're working on our first. Man, these changes just keep coming faster and faster. I'm the oldest of all these guys mentioned here and I feel like I'm far behind them all really. In different ways...
PREACHING As I mentioned earlier, preaching is ongoing and things seem to be going well. The other day, I was struck with a thought that I would like to share. Many preachers, perhaps most, when appropriate will end their sermon with what is often referred to as a "gospel call". It usually comes after we have made our argument from scripture and are now calling for those who are not believers to come and put their faith in the Christ we have just proclaimed. Very few preachers I have heard are as good at this part of the sermon than the man I am learning under right now. I too have been using his style of call in my sermons. The thought that struck me the other day was this: I wonder if my mentor ever expects people to actually respond to the gospel call he makes at the end of his sermons. I ask that question because I realized that after I gave that call the other night, I had absolutely no expectation that people would actually be moved by the scripture and come to Christ. None whatsoever. Now granted, there may be several reason for this - the most obvious one being that most of the time, we do not expect that there are many, if any, visitors in the congregation - and if there are they are usually believers. (That's a different issue altogether - another post perhaps)
But this realization of my own response, or lack thereof, to my preaching made me think of a few things that managed to stick in my head from Seminary. 1) We need to preach to the empty seats. The way to get people into the church is by exhorting those seats to get filled - and believing they WILL be! It's amazing how little faith we have that our preaching will be effective. Even though the scripture says that God's word will not return to Him void and will achieve the purpose for which it is sent out. 2) The big problem that we have with evangelism, and in this case, preaching, is that we don't really believe that evangelism works. We don't really believe that the gospel can change people. Maybe we are frustrated with how little it is changing us - maybe we are afraid of really stepping out of our comfort zones in order to give the gospel to someone else -- whatever the case may be, our faith is small and seemingly ever shrinking. I am recalling an early anecdote from Seminary and I can;t remember who it was about, but it spoke to this very thing. A young preacher finished his sermon and was being critiqued by this famous but now forgotten (by me) preacher/theologian. And the elder asked the younger what he expected to happen after his sermon. The younger replied, "nothing". The Elder then said "Then you succeeded!" (or something like that, can't remember; perhaps one of my fellow theo-nerds can help) Anyway, as I quoted in a recent sermon, "We are far too easily pleased."
DIAL UP I don't care how cheap it is: Dial-up is TERRIBLE. Back home I have comcast cable internet and it is blazing fast and I swore that I would forgo eating before I ever went back to dial-up again. And yet, here I am at the mercy of those gracious enough to have me in their home for the summer. They've been talking about getting DSL for months now, but no moves have been made in that direction. I can't really complain though, at least I can still check my e-mail. I suppose I should not assume that the rest of the world has jumped on the high speed bandwagon just because I have been there for so happily for so long.
FATHERS DAY I love my dad. I love my wife's dad too. They are pretty much polar opposites, and yet both very valuable, good men in their own ways. Wise in their own ways. Funny in their own ways. I'm glad there is a day to honor them. I just wish I had an idea other than a nose hair trimmer that would do them justice while not emptying the bank. What do you get for the man who has everything (her dad), or the man who has nothing and wants less (my dad)?
I'm sure I could probably go on spouting for awhile longer, but I am getting tired and don't want to risk saying something I may regret, if I haven't already. It's weird how people find this site and who is actually reading it... surprising actually.