A Call to Gospel Ministry – Then

I grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player. I dreamed of standing on a well-manicured, thick, dark green grass infield, singing the National Anthem, and waiting for the umpire to yell, “Play ball!” Playing ball was virtually the only occupational desire I had, at least until the summer before my senior year of high school.

My summers were filled with baseball. The summer before my junior year I joined a traveling team and missed eight weeks in a row of Sunday services.1 Even in my state of spiritual immaturity I knew that if my soul was going to survive, I would have to do something I had never done before: read my Bible on my own. And I did. It wasn’t deep study. I used the Campus Journal booklet, a “student” (read: “dumbed down”) version of Our Daily Bread. But reading a verse, or part of a verse, and a couple paragraphs of thoughts, heated my cup of zeal hotter than ever. Sadly, when school started I lapsed back into spiritual slackerness.

The summer before my senior year brought more baseball, more missing church, and more personal Bible reading. I loved it. I don’t remember anything I actually learned, but I do remember craving the Word.

The season ended and I attended our high school church camp. I actually paid attention during the sessions though I was easily satisfied with (what I now know was rather) milky truth. I delighted to talk about the Bible in our cabin, with fellow students and with staff leaders, as well as with my youth pastor. I wanted to serve and I volunteered at almost every opportunity.

A week later I went to our church’s junior high camp as a counselor. Again, I loved every part. I had no idea what major changes (in me) God was working.

One of the messages that week, the only one I remember, was about how to know the will of God. I had been taught that the perfect will of God was a line of successive dots and that each dot represented a choice. Our responsibility was to identify the next dot on God’s “perfect” path for us. Of course, if a person failed to connect the dots of God’s will then they would fall away from the line and urgently needed to swing back to be in His perfect will again.

This preacher had a brand new (to me) paradigm. He explained that God’s will, as clearly revealed in Scripture, is that one be saved, being Spirit-filled, making progress in sanctification, and submitting to authorities. If those things are in order, then God’s will for us may be whatever we desire most.2

Psalm 37:4 provides the governing principle. If we delight ourselves in the LORD, then He will give us the desires of our hearts. That sort of freedom sounds scandalous to some. But the idea is that if He is our greatest want, then He is working in us accompanying wants that accord with Him.

I was obeying God with a clear conscience (while I acknowledge now that a better informed conscience would have challenged me regarding my church absenteeism). The possibility that God’s will was what I most wanted floored me but also filled me with fear, especially because my increasing and consuming desire was to serve Him in full-time ministry. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than feeding on the Bible, telling others about Christ, and serving His Body.

I didn’t tell anyone about my thinking for over a month. I had seen too many disavowed “camp decisions.” I was not the son of a pastor, nor was I aware of any vocational ministry types in our extended family. I finally communicated with my youth pastor who could hardly have been more excited. Soon after I told my parents and, though my dad was thoroughly against it for some time, the desire in my heart grew stronger.

Everything changed that August in 1991, though not overnight. I pursued baseball through my sophomore year of college and now I look at the fancy grass from the bleachers. Back then I had no idea how much I didn’t know about the call to gospel ministry. I never would have guessed the road would lead to where I am today. Almost nothing I expected has happened, and almost everything that has happened has been better than I could have imagined.


  1. I do not recommended this approach to determining God’s call, that is, neglecting the assembling for few months. Like I said, I had a lot to learn.
  2. I don’t remember the preacher’s name. I also don’t know if he plagiarized John MacArthur’s book, Found: God’s Will, first published in 1973. Either way, I’m thankful for both of them.

Why International Adoption

Why International Adoption

A long time friend of mine, Dave Cleland, and his wife are well into the process for their third adoption, their first international (from Ethiopia). He recently began to offer some specific reasons for adopting beyond our domestic borders.

“Why adopt a child from a godless country so far away?” Because God our Father adopted us to be His children even though we belonged to a godless country far away from Him. Distance and sin didn’t stop God the Father from bringing me into His family. And for this I am eternally grateful.

Dave also posted Part 2.

No Conclusion Necessary

Abraham Piper posted about why sermons are easier than other kinds of public speaking, namely, “All pastors have to do is pause—after any point they just made—and then say, ‘Let’s pray.'” I try to apply at least a little more effort at my conclusions than that, but maybe all the extra effort isn’t necessary in light of this comment by Chris Roberts.

It also helps that 80% of the people aren’t listening to the sermon anyway; 15% of the remaining 20% will forget the sermon as soon as they realize you are winding up; and the remaining 5% contains the preacher’s wife, a deacon, and two old ladies looking for ammunition.

Not What I Once Was

In his T4G 2010 message, Mark Dever mentioned a paraphrased version of the following quote by John Newton.

I am not what I ought to be–ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be–I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be–soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection. Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

—Newton as quoted in The Christian Pioneer (1856), edited by Joseph Foulkes Winks, 84

I appreciate Newton’s quote as I’ve taken to titling my journal entries as a “changelog.” “Journal” seemed unimaginative. I liked Edwards’ Miscellanies, but those entries are broad in type and besides, the name’s taken. A changelog is “a log or record of changes made to a project, such as a website or software project, usually including such records as bug fixes, new features, etc.” I’m a project of a different kind.

You might also say, He’s still working on me.

Disclosure: My mom had my sister and I sing this song in nursing homes when we were kids. Also, that’s not my mom in the video.

Chill Out

Wisdom, Complexity, and Chilling the Heck Out

Kevin DeYoung offers some perspective as he responds to responses to Justin Taylor’s repost of Jared Wilson’s thoughts on gospel freedom.

There are some in the church who need to step back and inhale, and it’s not only young Christians.

Young Christians, especially when they are getting meaty theology and God-centeredness for the first time, can be prone to manic bouts of self-flagellation, spurts of judgmentalism, and unhealthy hyper-watchfulness.

Also, maturity knows how to use wisdom with relevance without being relative.

It feels safer at times and more heroic to be unrelentingly consistent in every situation with every individual. But in reality, maintaining gospel consistency means we understand that the same piece of advice is sometimes wise and sometimes foolish.

Migrating to Jekyll

Subscribers to my blog are now seeing some of my most recent posts for the third time in less than three weeks. I write this post to apologize for that and to explain what’s happened. From this post on things should be back to normal in the RSS feed. If you care to know more, here goes.

The reason for the disruption is that I’ve moved to the Jekyll blogging engine. I started with Blogger six years ago this month. I switched to WordPress in 2006 and have developed at least six other sites with WordPress since. I’ve also used Tumblr and Chyrp. Each of those platforms work but none of them were what I’ve grown to want for working well.

Jekyll is “a blog-aware, static site generator.” I’d read about it a couple times and I thought it could be a great solution, but I also knew that I didn’t own the right tires to navigate the terminal and Ruby learning curve. Of all the changes to the Void, this is by far the most drastic, the most challenging, and the most nerdy. I also believe it is, or will be, the best change.

Jekyll Is Good

These are some of the reasons I’m excited about Jekyll.

Everything (I interact with) is a text file. I write posts and pages in Markdown using TextMate. I code the layout in HTML and CSS (and some Liquid), but no php. Every file is saved on my local drive under a “mother” folder and I keep that folder in my Dropbox. That means I only edit in one place, that means I have an always current “backup” of my site on my computer, and that means Dropbox keeps all my machines in sync.

The local file directory becomes the site directory. For example, when I save (a properly formatted) file to /folder/_posts/articles, Jekyll turns that file into a post in the articles category. The same is true for scraps and series. I was dissatisfied with the simple timeline approach to navigation that, almost by default, weighted relevance by newness. Specific dates are helpful, even necessary, to make sense of more time-aware posts, but series articles are better organized in other ways. The directory structure shines even more brightly for pages. See the sitemap for examples of pages in the works.

My previous workflow annoyed me. I used to write the post in TextMate, select all, copy, open a browser tab, navigate to my blog’s web backend, create a new post, paste the content, add meta information, then hit publish. If I saw that an edit was needed, I had to repeat the process or risk not having the corrected version on my computer. The process for updating a page was even more tedious, especially if the page was buried in a sub or sub/sub/subdirectory. MarsEdit is a great program but recommends only keeping a copy of the 30 most recent posts due to server load. It doesn’t support pages at all.

Jekyll also includes a built-in server for local development and testing. That means I can add or edit and see the changes in my browser before updating the online site. Jekyll also makes deployment (possibilities) simple. After I learned enough, now I can push the changes in under 10 keystrokes (with the help of TextExpander).

The site is a simple directory of html files hosted by an online server, in my case Media Temple. Because the site is static, not dynamic, there are no worries about cache or security. That also means comments are not possible. Many Jekyll sites solve the “problem” with a third party service such as Disqus. I don’t want comments anyway. Maybe someday I’ll want to bring comments back; I doubt it. In the meantime, after each post I’ve extended an invitation to respond by tweeting @tohuvabohu. Plus, most people who read my blog (or who understand how to find information about a web site’s author) know my email address.

There are no plugins to manage or WordPress security updates which may or may not break said plugins. Also, now I’m not forced to view a thousand things I don’t need from ever swelling software bloat.

I’ve also decided to combine Scraps (from Tumblr) into the Void, while still identifying them in their own category. As I mentioned above, the sitemap page shows the site’s direction even though I’m far from the getting her to the destination. Lots of links are not yet resurrected, and transferring the older Scraps and Void on WordPress will take some time. I’ll see how easy it is to keep a recent updates page recent for a while.

In Hyde Sight

I have only two concerns with the new system at this point.

There isn’t yet a way, or at least one that I know about, to add or edit things from my iPhone, iPad, or even from any public computer. Both WordPress and Tumblr have apps and web apps. That said, in almost three years of iPhone use, maybe I blogged from it twice. More important to me, if my iPad hopes to succeed my laptop with joy, I’ll need to figure out a solution.

The other negative is that, during this remodeling process, those who are subscribed to the site received some old posts in their Readers up to three times. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m sorry about that. Please hit “Mark all as read” and forgive me. I’ve now made my final decision about the permalink structure and back-added enough posts that I think all additional back-adding will fly under the RSS feed.

I’ve enjoyed the process, learned some new things, and been the right amount of distracted by the project. Now it’s time to move beyond the meta.