Updates

tsslogo.jpgBlogging is a lot like a steam engine train. Once you stop, it takes a lot of energy to get the water boiling again and patience as the steam begins to pressurize. I feel a bit depressurized today. But I’m starting to look out over 2008 this morning.

As I look over 2008, I am convinced that I want to spend more time researching and discovering wisdom from Scripture. Thanks to the 2007 TSS books of the year, my attention is especially drawn to the Old Testament. This year I aim to slowly work through some of the more overlooked (and perplexing) books of Scripture, and first on the list will be a 12-chapter book perfectly relevant for our age and generation: Ecclesiastes. It’s no easy book to interpret.

In this life we are subjected to the curse and to futility. But as surprising as it sounds, this futility is a magnificent gift of God, because as we read in the New Testament, this futility points us to the Cross. In God’s wisdom, the futility of this life is the means of discovering eternal hope (Romans 8:20).

And this vanity is the means of eternal wisdom! Take Waltke’s paradoxical conclusion of Ecclesiastes: “meaninglessness is the mother of meaning” (Waltke, 961). Or as George Bernanos says, “In order to be prepared to hope in what does not deceive, we must first lose hope in everything that deceives.” The book calls us to deal fairly and honestly with the details and motives of our lives and the reality of our death.

But even more important, I think a study of Ecclesiastes will ultimately help us better appreciate the Cross because we will better see the curse Christ endured in our stead (Galatians 3:13). Jesus alone redeems us from the vanity and meaninglessness the writer of Ecclesiastes suffered. Christ was forsaken by the Father so that we could draw near to the seeming distant God of Ecclesiastes. Christ died to free us from the vanity of this world and to see meaning now in all things! What grace.

More on that later. But I also want to pass along a personal update because several of you have left comments and sent emails asking why exactly we are now in Maryland. To be honest, I have been a bit reluctant merely because my new position provides me an opportunity to serve behind the scenes (and I’m looking forward to this aspect of the ministry). It’s good for the soul to serve the Lord outside public view. But I’m also aware it’s good to share exciting details of life with your friends. So here it goes.

My wife and I moved our family from Bloomington, Minnesota to Gaithersburg, Maryland after accepting a full-time ministry position with Sovereign Grace Ministries. Specifically, I have the humbling and overwhelming privilege to serve as personal assistant to C.J. Mahaney.

C.J. is one of the most gifted and yet humble Christian leaders I’ve had the chance to meet and know. His book Living the Cross Centered Live (Multnomah) is one of the most important books of the past 10 years, and a volume I return to frequently to be freshly reminded of the “main thing.” God is using C.J. to point thousands of Christians to recalibrate their lives on the Cross, and the opportunity to serve him behind the scenes to this end is thrilling beyond words!

But it’s also humbling because I would not be here if it were not for the careful discernment and leadership of the pastors in Minnesota. Rick Gamache, senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship (and former personal assistant to John Piper), especially assessed my gifts and calling and thought outside of his immediate church needs to get the ball rolling in a process that now has us in Gaithersburg. I would not be here today without the wise counsel and discerning wisdom of Rick and other men.

So what will I be doing? The job will define itself over time, but primarily my goal is to share C.J.’s wisdom and insight with the broader churches of Sovereign Grace and with the church in general. For example, scheduled Q&A sessions with C.J. are a particular highlight of the Pastor’s College experience at Sovereign Grace Ministries. Frequently, C.J. fields questions from the students and the students walk away with a lot of wisdom to consider in their personal and pastoral development. These powerful interviews, covering everything from marriage to preaching to trends in the church and theology, have largely gone undocumented in the past. I will be working to get these recorded and transcribed and developed for public distribution. And there are many other areas I can help out a bit.

What I know for certain is that I’m here in this position not because I deserve it. I deserve to be condemned for my sin. I deserve to be left wandering in the vanity of life (as I would choose). Yet here I am enjoying God’s overwhelming and abundant graciousness through God’s sovereign grace. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Our God is truly gracious to redeem our vain lives for eternal purposes.

6 thoughts on “Updates

  1. Thank you for your reminder that Christ redeemed us from the vain things of this world and, through His Cross, has given our lives meaning; that ministered to me this morning.
    Also, thank you for sharing about your new assignment. The testimony of the Sovereign Grace churches- from the way they ministered to you in your departure from Minnesota to your arrival in Maryland and now your revelation of the pastoral wisdom and humility that fueled this change- has been such an encouragement. Praise God for His grace working in their lives!

  2. Tony,

    I’ll pray for you and your family, what a gracious God as to bring you to such a place and time as this.

    What a privilege to use your gifting for the kingdom. May more and more grace abound as you seek to serve and to spend yourself in usefulness.

    What a privilege and joy. Congratulations.

    CJ in Texas

  3. Many praises to the Lord for this testimony, Tony! I will be praying for you as you begin your new duties. I agree with Ryan that your testimony of the Sovereign Grace churches has been phenomenal and encouraging. In fact, they have been so attractive that though I am committed to where God has placed me at this time, I almost find myself wishing we had one nearby to attend full-time.

    Almost. ;-)

    Perhaps in the future, then; until then I’ll just look forward to the ultimate SGC in heaven!

  4. Tony,

    Ecclesiastes is a great choice to read in today’s world.
    I don’t know if you saw the 60 Minutes interview of Tom Brady but he made the remark “Is this all there is?”. I thought of that when you mentioned Ecclesiastes.

    David

  5. Hi Tony,

    Re: Living the cross centered life, I’ve just recently read the older book “The Cross Centered Life” (the orange one), and I’ve read “Christ our Mediator”. Is there enough new content in “Living the Cross Centered life” to make it worth my getting it, or would I really be buying a book I already own?

    Thanks muchly

    The Rev’d Dr Who

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