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Starting Number 5

I am very excited about the beginning of my fifth year of ministry here in Northwest Wisconsin. As I look back at the first four years, it’s amazing to see the changes in my life, in our marriage and our family. When I came to Hawthorne Assembly as your new pastor, we were still living in Northfield, Minnesota, commuting back-and-forth for the first nine months. Janet and I had all three children still living at home at that point, so it was a very different time then! Now, two of our children are married, we are grandparents, and we’re only 30 days away from our youngest graduating from college. These have been very interesting years, filled with great changes, great opportunities, great moments, and it has been a great season of ministry for Janet and I. As I mentioned in the sermon on Sunday, my timeframe for this part of ministry, in the sense of how long will we be here, is marked by having to do a funeral for a member of our congregation. Until that event takes place I am committed to this ministry. (Obviously, the previous statement is a lighthearted way of saying I’m sticking around for a while and it’s my sincere desire to be here until the Lord tells me differently!) Here is a very clear and simple way of saying we have no desire to leave. Any interest I would have in another church would be purely out of curiosity, period. You should be aware that all pastors look at other churches and observe the ministry opportunities, but the overwhelming majority of pastors do this only for information, and not for relocation. Sometimes finding out why a pastor leaves a church is a great learning tool on how to be a more effective pastor to your own congregation. I am 57 years old, and I have absolutely no desire to move to another congregation. Some of these things mentioned here I will share in the annual business meeting, because you deserve to know my feelings about this ministry, my long-term commitment, where Janet and I are spiritually and personally, and how it relates to our larger family - with her parents being in Kansas, my parents being in West Central Minnesota and our children in different locations. The scripture which speaks to me about my calling to this local congregation is found in James 4:13-17 “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” James 4:13-17 NLT My desire is to walk in the Lord‘s will for my life, as I’ve said multiple times, “to fulfill my calling” (“fulfill” is my One Word for 2019) and to have a purposeful and fruitful ministry which includes the skills and callings of Janet, whereby together we live out James 4. We are very confident that Hawthorne Assembly is where the Lord wants us in this season of our life, and we hope you feel the same way in your hearts. Let me take a moment to teach the congregation about ministry and the inevitability of change. If Jesus tarries on returning, one day Hawthorne Assembly will have a new pastor, and many of us will be gone from this side of eternity. None of us are immortal, which means the day will come when all of us who are reading this article, who have accepted Christ as their Savior, will be in heaven celebrating with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we become part of the great cloud of witnesses, cheering on the new leadership of those who remain. There is, of course, a great possibility we will be the last generation before the return of Jesus, before His second coming. What an exciting time to be alive! I personally want to be part of a lively and active fellowship who is anticipating the imminent return of our Savior. But until then, we keep pressing forward, we keep doing the things God has called us to do, we keep living out James 4, even to the last verse which says to fulfill the things we know we should be doing. As our theme declares, Together is Better! So let’s do it because we want to finish strong!

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