Reflecting on the year, I thought I'd list a number of things (ten this time) that have been especially encouraging for me.
1. I have never seen my daughters more outgoing and comfortable than the year we've had in Grand Cayman. Naturally shy (like their dad), they've really blossomed here.
2. I've never seen my girls receive so much love and care from so many people young and old. The way the saints at FBC have loved my children has been tremendously encouraging as we've settled here.
3. There is simply no way to place a value on my wife's constant encouragement, support, and words of wisdom. She has been a phenomenal helpmeet in life and ministry.
4. We've seen the birth of our first son, Titus. What a blessing he has been. And like the girls, the folks here have just loved on him to no end.
5. Someone said to me before we left for Cayman, "Don't be surprised at the friends you'll make... some you expect and many you don't." How true that's been. The Lord has blessed us with new and dear friendships that we're enjoying all the time.
6. I'm heartened by the way many people in the congregation have been growing in response to God's word. The ways are too numerous to list really. But many are fighting sin like Christians, others are soaking up as much of the word as possible, some are trusting the Lord in difficult situations when they had once given up, the Lord is making visible many men with strong teaching gifts, and lots of people are shaping their families and life decisions by the word. I'm sure this was going on before my arrival; I'm not taking credit for any of it. But it's been a rewarding privilege to see the Lord working this fruit.
7. There is a sweet unity in the church.
8. I'm settling down as a preacher and getting to know the body better. That's been fun. Though I enjoy the privilege of laboring in other places from time to time, by far, my favorite place to preach is FBC.
9. The word of God is becoming more and more central in the life of the congregation in terms of how we understand our responsibility to one another and how we care for one another. The most brilliant example of that is the church's recent decision to remove an unrepentant brother from membership. It would not have been my choice to deal with something like this in the first year of service, but with meekness the congregation received the word (James 1:21), submitted to the very loving and able leadership of the elders (Heb. 13:17), and loved our brother the way Jesus would have us love him (Matt. 18:15-17). In my mind, this was a defining moment in the life of the body made possible by the congregation's love for and submission to the word of God as sufficient and authoritative.
10. I feel the significant partnership I have with the congregation in ministry here and outside the church. When I'm away, I know the saints are praying for me. Many pray for and encourage me in writing projects. And sending me off to serve in other places is an investment both in my own development, growth, and refreshment, and we trust an investment in the lives of other congregations and saints. I can't imagine a better congregation with whom to share and labor together in ministry.
There's much more I could list or describe. But suffice it to say that the first year at FBC has been a tremendous joy and the evidence of God's grace appears everywhere. I am thankful to the Lord, my family, and the saints at FBC for the privilege of laboring as a pastor here.