A Personal Update

Big changes are in store for the Reinke clan in 2012.

We’ve begun packing up our home as we prepare to move back to Minnesota where I will soon begin working for Desiring God, providing a mix of writing, editing, and research. My wife and I are excited about the new opportunity, and we are delighted to rejoin many of our Sovereign Grace and DG friends that we met in the Twin Cities during our brief stay in 2007.

Of course this means I will be leaving the Sovereign Grace Ministries office in Maryland, and Friday is my final day on staff. It has been a delightful four years serving alongside C.J. Mahaney as his editorial and research assistant. I will miss working with him in the office, traveling with him to conference engagements, and of course I will miss the multitasking meetings that may have appeared to some as a simple game of catch in the parking lot. I will greatly miss working with my friends in the Sovereign Grace office, worshipping with our friends at Covenant Life Church, and serving the many incredible pastors in Sovereign Grace who are spread across the country and the world.

When I reflect over the last four years I am deeply grateful for the accelerated learning I received from every direction – in theology, in marriage, in parenting, and in my vocational maturity. C.J.’s generosity made it possible for me to use these years to challenge myself as a writer and a researcher, a trajectory that culminated in my book Lit!. Never have I advanced in so many areas of life than in the last four years, and that is largely a result of C.J.’s investment in my life. In this brief post it is hard to detail my respect for him, and thank him for his friendship and for his mentoring — personally, pastorally, and doctrinally.

C.J. was kind enough to help confirm my suitability for the DG role. He was sad that our time together was now drawing to a close, but he was also joyful and optimistic about my future. He said if I didn’t take the job I would be, quote, an idiot.

The move is marked by sadness for us, but I can hardly imagine another man beside C.J. that I would rather work with than John Piper. It is an honor of the highest degree to serve alongside two men who have been fruitfully used by God as agents of gospel transformation in the lives of countless thousands of Christians around the world over the years (and myself personally). My calling to steward the teachings of these men is a sobering weight of responsibility as much as it is a rich kindness from the Lord.

A beloved co-worker and friend of mine at SGM emailed this encouragement to me a few weeks back:

I am excited for you, Tony. Someone getting to use their gifts at full throttle is one of the best things we still have in the fallen world. You are going to have your tachometer pegged at DG, and that is going to be good for Christians around the world, the majority of whom you will not meet this side of glory. You aren’t leaving the body, just getting sewn on somewhere different. Like a skin graft, if that inspires you.

The skinning metaphor fits.

My family will greatly miss the east coast, our neighbors and friends, our church home, our proximity to D.C., and all the historical sites that are within driving distance. In the last four years I think our family has taken in as many sights as possible, though my untiring wife will probably disagree. Where we do agree is that when we move, a piece of our lives will stay behind. We love it here. And although I could check on the current weather conditions in Minneapolis, I’m afraid to look! Despite the frigid weather, our move to Minneapolis will place us much closer to our extended family, one of the big factors in our move.

We hope to be settled in Minneapolis by the first week of February. With the move we will transfer our church membership from CLC to Bethlehem Baptist Church (at the request of DG). We are happy to make BBC our new church home. I continue to believe that Sovereign Grace Church is one of the very best churches in the country. (You may remember that back in 2006 my wife and I closed our business, sold our house, and moved our family to Minneapolis from Omaha for the sole reason of joining the church. It was a great move.)

When I look back I see why the Lord brought us to Maryland from 2008–2011. This move has provided me with valuable training and experience that I maybe could not have received anywhere else. Likewise, I can see why the Lord brought us through Minneapolis in 2007. He was preparing us for a return. So much of life is a mystery, so when things come together like this, God’s plan for us becomes clear, and I can only stand in awe and gratefulness for the incredible opportunities the Lord has brought into our lives.

If you think of us, please pray for us during our transition.

Blessings!

Tony

Farewell to Minnesota

tsslogo.jpgAs life becomes busy for my family, the blog will grow quiet. Over the next few weeks we will be moving from Minneapolis out to Maryland for new ministry opportunities. Your prayers over the next two weeks would be greatly appreciated by our family.

We look forward to the transition, but at the same time we are very sad to be leaving our good friends at Sovereign Grace Fellowship. Our 12-month stay here in Minneapolis has been marked by the open arms and heartfelt loving kindness of our church. ‘Remarkable’ is not too strong of a word for this place.

Leaving our friends will be tough, but we leave here appreciating everything our friends have taught us here in “So-tah” (as my 2-year-old daughter says it).

For example, my friend Peter trained me to track rabbits. The key is in looking for coyote or wolf tracks or some other animal that hunts rabbits. Apparently I’ve already forgotten his advice, so if my family is starving and I have only a rifle and acres of woodlands I hope the advice will come back to me (or we’ll live off wild berries and salad). But Peter also helped me to learn the fine craft of firing a .22 rifle at a canister of gasoline beneath a flaming bonfire in driving wind and snow. As you can see it’s not easy to shoot accurately into a flickering flame.

Some other friends (who will remain nameless) introduced me to Minnesotan snow bathing in sub-zero winter air. But that knowledge will serve no apparent purpose in my near future. I learned this technique on a retreat last winter with my friend Chad and some other guys. Our long overnight drive North ended early in the frigid morning hours somewhere through South Canada and then into the little spike on the head of Minnesota called the Northwest Triangle, where Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario collide. The final two miles of the journey were completed on snowmobile through a dark and heavily wooded little trail that wound around until bumping into a river where the cabin sat. Over these dark few miles we nearly ran into deer on a snowmobile at 30-MPH which I’m certain would have hurt. It was a memorable trip (though images of late-night snow bathing I would like to forget).

And I will miss the local scenery. Compared to the flatlands of Nebraska, Minnesota is beautiful. My wife and I live within a few blocks of a gorgeous, rocky, wooded creek area. It takes a steep climb down into a valley to see the creek and walk along the trails, but in that descent, the bustle of city life fades away. And in the bottom of the valley, the rushing water of the creek splitting around the large rocks drowns out any remaining noises of the civilized world. The trail and view are both stunning and have provided many wonderful family outings, personal walks, times for meditation, moments of prayer, and hours of reading. At least once my walk along the trail was blocked by a stalled deer. I walked within about 20-feet of the deer and we just tilted our heads and stared at each other for a moment as if mutually puzzled by how out-of-place we seemed to one another. He eventually moved along into the woods and I continued my normal 2-mile hike along the graveled trail. But I walked along even more amazed at God’s glory in this place.

But despite leaving the wildlife (both men and wild animals), I will also miss the pastors up here – Rick Gamache and Mark Alderton. These men have modeled Christ-like humility towards their flock. The public preaching has always been challenging and biblically faithful. Many of their messages I have shared with you on TSS and you also confirm the special giftedness of these men. And I wish I had more time to express my thankfulness for their caring, discerning leadership. This is especially displayed in their very careful stewardship of the eternal souls and spiritual gifts given them. I know of at least one TSS reader planning to move his family to Bloomington simply to experience this church! I am grateful that he and his family, along with the rest of the flock, will continue to benefit from these men. I have no regrets that we left our life-long home in Nebraska to move 400-miles to experience this church for ourselves.

From pastor Rick I’ve also gleaned an appreciation for the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was born on January 3rd. Each year on this date the Gamache clan gathers together around the TV to watch all three extended LOTR DVDs in one day! Now, I don’t think I have that impressive an attention span, but I like their celebration and it’s one my family and I will be following this year. Kinda. We plan to be in our new home January 2nd and after a few days of unpacking and transitioning we’re going to break out the family Christmas present – Lord of the Rings on DVD. So while the snow bathing techniques I picked up from my friends will stay in Minneapolis, this Tolkienathon Christmas tradition will follow us East (albeit modified a bit).

But no movies tonight. Tonight our friends join us to help load essentially the same stuff we brought from Omaha into essentially the same moving truck we backed into the driveway one year ago.

When we arrived in Minneapolis on December 7th, 2006, we were greeted by several fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who appeared on a weekday afternoon to help unload the moving truck. Our crammed truck was unloaded in 20 minutes. But that wasn’t all. We came inside to find a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry, and a list of families who would be bringing meals in the week ahead. Offers for help with babysitting, unpacking, and cleaning abounded. Our new friends at Sovereign Grace Fellowship did not just show up for duty, but they actually thought through ways they could serve our family specifically (thank you, Jon Hansel, and your wonderful small group!). This obvious and deliberate sacrifice was (and the memory still remains) a very powerful example for our family. And this is an evidence of God’s work in the life of the church that brings its humble, Christ-like love to everything else they do.

Specifically we will miss our neighbors. For 12 months we’ve enjoyed the rare (once-in-a-lifetime?) gift of living directly behind likeminded precious saints. The Bice family – Steve, Joy, Rebecca, Grace and Josiah – are precious friends, and we delight in them (Ps. 16:3)! They have served us, encouraged us, fed us and babysat for us. Our families have experienced a close bond and friendship that is truly unique, made obvious last winter when we snowplowed a path through the yard from backdoor to backdoor. We will miss the times hanging out. We will miss the times spent around the bonfire in the back. We will miss the impromptu baseball games in the wide field our shared backyards afforded. God has been very kind to give us this precious year with the Bices!

And if I had more time I would share with you all that my wife and I have learned from our small group – which is for the record the coolest small group at Sovereign Grace Fellowship (i.e. the one who gave Gamache a life-sized Spiderman statue for his birthday). The group is led by Chris and Dianne, a couple who have modeled for my wife and I the character of Christ in some incredible ways. So we say, “Thank you” to them. Thank you, Whipples, Blooms, Huspenis, Anderstroms, Nygrens, Johnsons, Pepins, and everyone else who made the group a special place to share struggles and refuel with encouragement. How Chris and Dianne have stretched their group into sanctification and maintained a group level of ‘coolest’ status is a remarkable feat. And they will be greatly missed.

One year ago we pulled into the driveway of our house in Bloomington, Minnesota. We were welcomed by a large sign in the front window that read “Welcome Reinkes.” It was a special welcome indeed. But now it’s time to say goodbye to these precious friends, a goodbye that we always anticipated but never expected so soon. Sure, we will miss the ATF retreats, the wildlife, and the creek — but especially we will miss our friends, neighbors, small group, and pastors of Sovereign Grace Fellowship. Thank you all for caring for us so well and magnifying the beauty of the Cross along the way.

Much love and grace to you all!

Who does God worship?

tsslogo.jpgSermon excerpt
Rick Gamache

“Since saying that God loves Himself is so provocative, let me say this instead: God loves Jesus.

Jesus is at the center of God’s affection. That rolls off the tongue easier somehow. God loves Jesus. Well, yeah — only-begotten Son — of course He does! And there is lots of Scripture to back up the fact that God loves Jesus. Here are just a few.

Remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism. Here is how Matthew records it: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (3:16-17). Now whose voice is that coming out of heaven? Obvious answer: It’s God the Father’s voice. And He is making it clear that He takes pleasure in His Son. Jesus is the source of pleasure for God and He loves Him. This is His beloved Son.

We can go on and on with texts like this. Here are a couple more.

John the Baptist says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). In other words, the Father loves the Son so much that He gives Him supremacy in all things. That’s how much He loves the Son. He gives Him supremacy. He doesn’t do that for anyone else, only for the Son.

Right after Jesus has been transfigured only Peter, James and John are there. Their eyes are opened and Christ’s glory shines fourth brilliantly before them and they see it! And then in response to that display of Christ’s glory there is a voice from heaven again: “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matt 17:5). In response to this manifestation of the glory of Christ, the Father says, “I love my Son. I take ultimate pleasure in My Son!”

Let’s turn and answer this question: In loving Jesus, was God the Father merely loving an amazingly holy and obedient man? Or is there anything extraordinary about the Son or the Father’s love for the Son? Is there anything extraordinary going on here?

Here is something extraordinary: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). This is more than merely a holy and obedient man, this is a man in whom dwells all the fullness of God. This is a God-man. And this God-man existed long before He was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago which is why Jesus can say to the Father in John 17:24, “you loved me before the foundation of the world.” God loved Jesus before there was anything else, or anyone else to love. Before there was you or me to love, God loved the Son!

That’s why Hebrews 1:3 is so significant: “He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is God! This is why the apostle Paul says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The glory of Jesus Christ, the glory of who He is and what He has done for His people is the glory of the Father. The glory of Jesus is the glory of the Father. We know the glory of God the Father by looking into the face of Jesus Christ.

And when the Father looks into the face of His Son Jesus, He too sees His own glory and He loves what He sees there. He takes pleasure in what He sees there. He worships what He sees there! He loves, He enjoys, He worships, Himself! God loves Jesus with an infinite and omnipotent love. He loves Him more than He loves anything or anyone else. And Jesus is God. So God’s love for Christ — who is God Himself — is an expression of the love He has for Himself.”

– Rick Gamache, Who does God worship?, excerpt from sermon (Dec. 9, 2007; Sovereign Grace Fellowship, Minneapolis, MN).

And there are other goodies in this sermon. Listen here:

Or download (11.1 MB):

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Related: Current debate, Is God a narcissist?