"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" - Psalm 51:17
Having your heart truly broken by God is the most essential pre-requisite to being an effective minister of any kind. To the inexperienced, ministry can seem so blissful, even romantic. We often dream of our own effectiveness and how great the rest of our lives will be.
Then comes the first heartache. It is often a significant disappointment - not as many people came to the event as expected, the church leadership did not give approval, too many details were forgotten and it all fell apart - these are often difficult to take for the first time. They cause us to doubt our idealism, "Maybe ministry isn't what I thought it was going to be..."
The true heart-breaker comes when our ministry ideals hit the wall of disillusionment. This pain is of a greater weight - getting fired by someone you respect, betrayed by a confidant, even realizing you're not as good in ministry as you hoped - they come with a driving force into your gut and leave you breathless. You are brought to the point of despair. All prior dreams feel paper-thin. You feel unqualified.
It is here that the LORD can forge us into the person He is calling us to be. Right here, in this despair and pain when all seems ruined, is when the LORD walks with us through the unimaginable.
On the other side of this heartache is the road prepared for us. We are sober-minded, maybe a little jaded, toward ministry - knowing that we are all just fragile and sinful people. We know the road won't be easy, but we are ready for the storm this time. Instead of battling against our idealism, we fight to stay hopeful. We don't wonder how large the number of people will be, but how many of them will stick around.
And in a funny way, the LORD uses this to teach us that ministry has everything to do with Him. Our hopes and dreams in ministry revolve around Him and His plan. We can no longer get caught up in how things look or feel within our church; the disillusionment has set for too long. We are smarter now. We can do our best and trust God to move how He sees fit.
It is here that we can begin to increase our effectiveness, precisely because we are no longer concerned with it. How our church is doing doesn't reflect our identity anymore, and it is the pain that reminds us to stay this way.
Let our hearts burn with the pain of past lessons. Let us watch as fear and pride melt away to reveal a mature passion for the LORD. It is only the trial that can burn us this way, and we can embrace them as the LORD's blessing.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
I had been asking Jesus for an opportunity to preach, and out of nowhere St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church called me because my pastor (who has never heard me preach) recommended me. I almost said no because of time constraints (I was learning Greek this summer), but remembered that I'd been praying for this opportunity, so...
After meeting with a committee, we landed on preaching for six weeks through the Book of Galatians. Not exactly light fare, but the challenge was going to be fun. After the second week, I asked the sound guy if we could record the services. He agreed (thanks, Frank).
For all interested, here's some preaching on Galatians.
ht: Sermon Cloud
Galatians: To Christ Through Abraham - 3 of 6 | listen or download
Galatians: Why the Law? - 4 of 6 | listen or download
Galatians: Resisting Slavery - 5 of 6 | listen or download
Galatians: 6 of 6 | coming soon
Happy 2009 from the Fort Worth Capertons!
We're doing well, but didn't get the Christmas card done in time, so it turned into a New Year's email. Here's a little bit about how everyone is doing:
ALL OF US
We love being a family of seven. The big family atmosphere and the friendship that comes with it is a testament to God's grace, and we're thankful. We're active in at 121 Community Church in Grapevine, TX, and we've just started (along with two other families) a Life Group there. This past year has been a great time of new beginnings and healing.
DREW AND KRISTY
Kristy is enjoying life at home with five kids. Somewhere between the twins spitting up, the dirty diapers, and the whirlwind of the older three kids, Kristy maintains great composure and is a grounding force of all of us. Thanks to some help, Kristy gets relief for a few hours a week and spends time giving our children each some special attention. Sometimes she takes the girls out to lunch; other times it's a coloring date with her boys. Additionally, Kristy has found great friendships among some of the seminary wives.
Drew is working full-time in graphic design for the seminary and loves his job and his co-workers. It's been a real blessing to get to know other seminary students and to hear how God is directing them. Right now, he's taking a winter term course which brings the total to 16 hours completed over the first year (3 A's and 2 B's). With 10 hours planned for this Spring, the course is set for three more years at seminary.
Jedidiah Brooks will only be 5 this January (21st), but he's as tall as a first grader. He's also growing up in other ways- taking on a few house chores, changing diapers, and being a terrific big brother. Lately, Jed has shown an interest in super-heroes and wild animals, and it's not unusual to see him flying around the corner or growling at his little sisters. He's also found a creative outlet in drawing and he draws everything from family portraits to animals to monsters to buildings. He's really very good at it and we hope to encourage it in any way we can.
Riley Ember is 3.5 years old and blossoming into a lovely little girl. She loves to pretend to be a princess, opting only for dresses and jewelry. Riley also is starting to help around the house with cooking and helping with Cash and Canon (whom she calls "her babies"). She's becoming more able to share her thoughts, and a funny one that came out recently was, "God is the best keeper of the whole world."
Story LaRue just turned 2 and is learning quickly. She is using sentences, improving her articulation, and is in the middle of potty training. The "terrible 2's" have set in as she can be quite independent and defiant, but overall, she's pretty obedient and likes to help in any way she can. Story likes playing with Cash and Canon, and spends most of her time singing, running around, and eating random ground objects. Her affinity for dirt is astounding.
Cash Urban is 5 months old and is all smiles. He's been having trouble getting sleep lately, but overall he and Canon are getting good at sleeping all the way through the night. Cash is a little bigger than Canon (14.5 lbs to Canon's 12.5 lbs) and has a deep baby voice (imagine a man saying "goo goo" and you're close). He's also learning to lift his head up, hold a bottle, and pretty soon he should be crawling.
Canon Gabrielle is the daintier of the two twins. She is very mild-mannered and entertains herself well by rolling around and reaching for her hanging toys. When you talk to her, Canon will open her eyes very wide as if extremely interested in what you're saying, and it's very cute to watch her move her eyebrows up and down while smiling. When she's eating, she will sometimes reach out to grab Cash's hand. They already seem to have a very cool connection.
Thanks to all who have prayed for us and helped us. Our family is blessed for it and God is honored in it. Have a happy new year.
Drew, Kristy, Jed, Riley, Story, Cash, and Canon Caperton
I've been dreaming lately. It's probably because I've been on The Island for a little bit now, but in any case, I've been considering what life after seminary will look like. So when we were able to take this assessment during class yesterday, I jumped on it.
This particular assessment laid out four leadership styles: Pastor, Apostle, Poet, and Prophet. It turns out I'm a Prophet first and a Poet second. I was a little surprised by the "poet" tag, but it made me think. Here's a description of each one:
The prophet wants to see the church shaped by God’s kingdom vision for the world.
They are drawn to the speaking the Word into the cultural context.
Hearing what God is saying about being a biblical people is of the highest importance.
They want the church to recognize its captivities to our culture and discover a more radical, biblical way of life.
The prophet wants to move people toward a vision of how God is shaping them in the midst of transition.
The prophet brings that Word that comes from the outside and addresses the people with a fresh sense of direction.
They thrive in the world of vision and a big picture of the future, they find it hard to spend much energy in the here and now.
Planning and strategy are secondary to vision and creating new futures.
They are future directed, the immediate is a gateway to tomorrow.
They love to connect people’s confusion and struggle with the stories of God’s purposes in Scripture so that they can see things differently.
Poets call forth that which is hidden.
They listen, giving words, images and experiences that help people see things differently.
They don’t criticize nor judge but bring God’s story into the reality of people’s longings and pain.
Poets listen beneath the surface levels of the attractive and trendy changes in the culture and the church.
They focus on people touching the feelings and inner drives forming their lives.
Poets are not strategists with solutions or plans.
Poets take time, they immerse themselves in the multiple stories of the culture understanding their power and critiquing their claims.
They use words with reverence, get immersed in everyday particulars, spy out the glories of the commonplace, warn of illusions, attend to the subtle interconnections between rhythm and meanings and spirit.
They work with the question: How can I help people to see differently?
They stimulate, give hints, paint pictures, and create imaginations that run counter to the dominant ideologies.
While Kristy and the kids are in Arkansas and I'm busy studying and working in Fort Worth, I thought I'd conduct a little experiment and observe the differences between living with my big family and living on The Island of Constant Solitude.
Everything seems frozen in time. Without the constant movement of big family life, the world around me seems to move in slow-motion. The peace and quiet of The Island is nice, but I have a feeling I will tire of it soon and begin to go stir crazy. In this way The Island is like Vegas in that it's a nice place to visit, but living there doesn't work out so well.
My brain moves at half-speed. This might sound strange to some of you who are more thorough in their thinking, but on The Island I am much more aware of what I'm thinking about. Usually, I'm so busy doing and saying that I'm barely aware of my thoughts before I act on it or say it. It's like watching something happen right before it happens. Right, I'm weird, I know.
Inspiration knocks on my door. On The Island, I become very inspired. I'm not sure why, but a lot of new ideas begin taking shape when I'm alone. Right now I really want to reorganize the entire house, complete with pictures on walls, a chart for the kids, and a couple of bookshelves. Ideas like these come in droves.
Nostalgia is at its height. Memories from yesteryear come flooding in on The Island. I am often reminded of people I haven't seen or heard from in years (speaking of which, has anyone seen Pete Smit?). And the slightest thing will throw me back to the significant events of my formative years (like the time I fell in front of Brad Olivier's Volkswagon Bug). Usually a photo album or old video will make its way out during these times.
My surroundings get ignored. On The Island, the thermostat is lower, the lights stay off, I forget to eat, and the trash piles up. I think this is mostly a bachelor phenomena that hasn't made it out yet, but it really has nothing to do with saving money. I simply forget about them. I've heard many bachelors talk like this, can I get an amen?
I go to bed earlier. Kristy is a night owl of the most tenacious kind. Our entire family (for now) is made up of morning people and she is still undeterred in her efforts to stay up late. But consciousness stops around 9 or 10pm on The Island.
The only time I've really written on Christmas, it was full of complaints. A re-write is in order.
When I was younger, Christmas was one of favorite holidays. We'd either be in New Orleans or Thibodaux with a set of grandparents and other assortments of extended family. We had the staple of presents, football, decorations, drinking, and food that is typical of most white, suburban American kids. My family did a bang-up job making Christmas special.
What I loved the most was seeing all of these people coming together. And it usually was not just five or six people getting together, it was a ton of people. By the time we began opening presents, the party had reached its zenith and it was sometimes difficult to squeeze through. I can vividly remember 20 or 30 people on several occasions.
It made me very comfortable to know that I was a part of this big family, and never thought that this seemingly endless stream of people would dry up. But when my parents split in 1985, and then all my aunts and uncles divorced before 1990, Christmas shrank and became much less comfortable. Before long, I didn't like Christmas that much.
In college and early adulthood, I would often tell people I didn't like Christmas because it was over-commercialized and hollow. The underside of it was that it hurt to think about what Christmas had become for me, and how I wished I could go back to the big family parties of my childhood. As the disillusionment and frustration set in, I became more content to despise Christmas and blow it off.
Bigger than all that (and more than I can adequately discuss here), Jesus wasn't really in Christmas for me. I just never saw the connection between my walk with Jesus and how my family celebrated Christmas. I honestly didn't know if Jesus cared about Christmas.
Fast-forward to now, with more than ten years of the Bah-Humbug pattern in my wake, and I'm tired of my Christmas ritual. I'm looking forward to Christmas again, but my hope is not in toys or even large families. It's in Jesus.
The greater portion of my spiritual walk this last semester has been to understand what God intends for my family and how I fit into that equation. From God's Word (including Deut. 6:4, Ecc. 3, Eph. 5) I have been shown how God intends for families to embody a culture that will both point my children to Jesus and prepare them to live in a real world (a lot like a church, really).
Specifically relating to Christmas, my gift as a father is to show my children the gospel story and celebrate it with them in a way that is fun and instructive. Through the way our family celebrates Christmas (and a myriad of other family "institutions"), I can display God's love for us in Christ and our response to His great Love.
So, if you're the wife of Christian Christmas-hater dad, take heart and pray for your man.
And if you're a Chrisitian Christmas-hater dad, wake up and smell the eggnog (yum). Christmas might be jacked up and commercialized, but it's an opportunity to display to your family Christ's gospel story in the midst of the hollow gift-giving and well-wishing of the season.
The hiatus is ending soon. But first, an explanation.
I haven't blogged in seven months because I've been busy. Busy having more children, busy at home with my great family, busy learning at seminary, and busy working.
Also, I haven't been able to put my insides into words. Either I had something to say but couldn't quite figure it out, or I couldn't even figure out what to say.
So, the hiatus is ending soon with a redirection and a redesign in the works. I want to blog and I think I'm ready to put things out there again.
Of course, I've been wrong before.
Possibly the best vacation I've ever had, definitely the best I've had in my adult life: Galveston. The Capertons, Kristy's immediate family and their former (German) foreign-exhcange student from 10 years ago, Christopher Klein. Good times.
For more pictures, check out our family's blog.
I know, I know, it's a seminary textbook, but it's fascinating stuff. To submit the Scripture as God's authoritative revelation and also hold to its historical facts is great for me to read. Christian Hartlich says it like this:
The fundamental theological axiom at work here can be understood in one sentence: Without an objective, ontic grounding for Christology in the resurrection event Christian faith has no basis. At the same time, however, there is also the desire – so far as possible – to proceed in a historical-critical way, in order to make the event of the resurrection of Jesus historically plausible.In short, I believe that Christ imparted grace to me by defeating death in the resurrection, but I also believe that Christ's resurrection was an actual historical event. It might not sound like a big deal, but it's a big deal.
The fact that this guy said it in 1978 is also humbling because I am just now coming to these realizations. Slowly.
As my Dad flew through town a couple of months ago, we briefly got on the subject of certainty and relational truth. As always, the debate was very respectful and fun. In the middle of it, I happened upon a really great truth and now I'm attempting to process it a little.
It came up that someone could know God, but only in a personally interpreted way, the same way I know my friend, Dallas. In this case, I could not make absolute claims about this friend like "Dallas is a gracious person." I could only truthfully say, "Dallas is gracious to me." It would always center on my perspective, and not on Dallas himself. In terms of knowing God, it was said that I can know God personally, but I cannot be certain of who He is. That's where I had a problem.
Stuck inside the cage of our own perspective, we can never know anything about God. We cannot be certain because we can never have all the facts about Him. I do not believe either of these statements because of one word: revelation. And even though I know it's not that easy, it is the beginning of understanding that we can make know God [and things about Him] outside of anyone's perspective, including our own. To illustrate this, I'll use a simple, three-person relationship consisting of Ann, Ben, and Cal. This is their [fictional] story.
Ann and Ben are great friends. Ann and Cal are also great friends. Ben and Call don't know each other as of yet. One day in a chance encounter, Ben and Cal meet and discover that they both know Ann. This is where the trouble begins.
Ben declares, "Ann is one of the mildest people I know. She wouldn't even hurt a fly." Ben then tells a story to illustrate his declaration. Cal interjects, "Really? The Ann I know is extremely violent and everyone is constantly fearful of her." Cal then shares a story about one of Ann's violent tirades. Ben and Cal go back and make sure they're speaking of the same person, and that the stories they told were recent, and they were.
The questions arises for both of them, "Who is Ann?" This is not merely one mood of Ann, but a totally different persona. Relationally, this is a problem that only Ann herself can rectify. Either she is an impostor to some degree, or one of her friends is wrong. There is no other option.
Back to reality. One person might say something like, "God would never let someone hurt themselves" while another says, "God just allowed my mother to commit suicide." Either God is an impostor to some degree, or one of them is wrong about God. There is no other option. The answer begins with revelation. Relationally, God is the only one who can clear His own Name, and He has... in revealing Himself to us through Scripture.
I know this isn't a complete treatment of this problem, but it's a beginning. The road I go down from here involve questions like: why is Scripture so difficult to interpret? What has God revealed about Himself in Scripture? Moreover, what about those who don't believe Scripture, what are they to understand? All really good questions. Hopefully, I'll get some good answers.