Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Update: 5/11/10

So it's extremely hard to believe, but my first year of seminary is over! I don't believe I've lived through a faster 9 months in my life. Talk about a whirlwind! God's grace has been extremely evident and entirely sufficient throughout our time here at Master's and Grace Church. His faithfulness is abundant. May His name be praised for His faithfulness to His own name in the protection and grace given to His people.

Job Stuff

There's so much to report that I barely know where to start. On the logistical side of things, Janna has been working on a telemetry/oncology unit at the hospital since the end of January. After much prayer, He graciously granted us that job and a steady source of income. Janna has really enjoyed it, though of course it's been tough -- especially physically. But it really couldn't have been any better of a job. Three 12-hour shifts during the daytime was the best-case scenario in terms of scheduling. And perhaps the best part is that it's only 5 minutes away by car. She and I actually enjoyed a nice walk home from work the other day.

There's been a development there, though. Her hospital is beginning to move from a traditional, physical charting system to an electronic one. Basically, all the information that the nurses would record about the care of the patients will now be done on a computer rather than on a paper and clipboard. As they prepare for that, they need a few nurses to contribute to its development, as it's the nurses that the system will be designed to serve. Providentially, Janna has had experience with computer charting from her old nursing job in New Jersey. So they asked her to help out. What that's meant for her is that she's doing only one 12-hour shift per week on the unit, but also doing three 8-hour shifts in the office helping out with the project. The good news about that is that it makes her schedule a bit more regular (8:00-4:30 Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday). This means we'll be able to eat dinner before 8:30pm, and hopefully get into some good, steady routines and habits.


God has also provided great fellowship for us here at Grace Church. We've been going to the Cornerstone fellowship group at Grace, which is a young marrieds and families group. Pastor Tom has just wrapped up a series on heroes and heroines of the Bible, and will be starting a series on the life of the body of Christ next week. I think the impetus for that series has been at least partly from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne's new book, The Trellis and the Vine. I've actually just finished reading it and I really enjoyed it. It is, as everyone says, a must-read for those in Church Leadership.

We've also been going to a couple of mid-week Bible studies, which we've really been loving. In one, we've been studying the Christ-centered focus of the book of Hebrews, taught by Pastor Will Varner. We've so enjoyed getting to know Dr. and Mrs. V., as well as the dear brothers and sisters at that study. In another Bible study we've been attending, we've been studying Jerry Bridges' classic, Trusting God. Meditating week by week on God's absolute sovereignty, His infinite wisdom, and His relentless goodness has been a feast. And it's been great to apply the rubber of those wonderful, deep truths to the road of trusting God "even when life hurts," as the subtitle says. We've also extremely enjoyed the fellowship there, getting to know different brothers and sisters, and witnessing God's grace in each other's lives. God has done an amazing thing in the Church. How blessed we are to be a part of it!


God has continued to prove His faithfulness throughout my studies. I did have quite a heavy course load this past semester, and the combination of classes I had was particularly challenging. For most of the semester I would look at my assignment spreadsheet and just sit in amazement at the idea that somehow all that work was going to get done. At some points I actually wondered whether I'd be able to do it all. I thought about which assignments I would skip if I had to leave some undone. I remember saying to myself, "It will actually be a miracle of God if this all gets done." Well, it all got done. And all praise and glory and honor to Him. He deserves it. I deserve none. He has gone out ahead of me, and has given me the victory as He always does for His people. I do stand amazed and in awe of my God who answers prayer.


I'll probably talk more about seminary and this past semester in a coming post, but for now I'll move on to some ministry things. As you might remember, back in December we were praying hard about how to plug into Grace Church and what ministry(ies) we should be involved in. I continued praying nearly every day for God to present the right ministry opportunities. If I'm being honest, I was worried that I wouldn't get plugged in and that I'd not be able to couple my seminary education with simultaneous ministry, especially not a teaching ministry.

Well, God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think. Since then, Janna and I have begun serving on the New Membership team. Basically, if folks would like to become a member at Grace Church, the first thing they do is come down to the front of the sanctuary after the service, fill out some information, and sit through an initial interview. Janna and I are initial interviewers. It's been really fun, and a great ministry experience. You really do get exposed to a wide range of people, from those you'd love to hang out and talk a bit more with to the downright strange. It's confronted my own sinfulness, pride, and cliquishness. I guess something God has shown me is how much I like people who are like me, and how much I don't like people who aren't like me. I pray that He would give me the grace to shatter such conceptions, and to love my neighbor as myself. As a pastor, I don't want to shepherd only some of the sheep and leave the others to fend for themselves. I want to be faithful with God's own people, the sheep of Christ's own fold, such that I can present them to Him as a pure offering when He comes (Rom 15:16).

Soon after that, we were asked to serve in the welcome center after the second church service. Basically, new visitors to Grace are welcomed each Sunday by some folks who are there to talk with them, answer questions, and basically make their visit a pleasant experience. We serve at the information window, where people come and ask about the various events and opportunities that are going on. That's been really fun, because we've gotten to meet and help a lot of people who are lost amongst the madness of being at a huge church, a position we found ourselves in only a few short months ago. Plus, since we don't know too much about what's going on, being asked all those questions forces us to learn!

Just to make this move a little faster, I won't go into as much detail, but the ministry opportunities have kept coming! Grace Church is updating their membership database, and so has asked their 7,000+ attendees to fill out a registration card to provide updated information. I've been one of a few of guys to enter in that information in the database. Also regarding membership, I've also been asked to help coordinate the membership classes that Grace holds (between 8 and 10 per year).

As this gracious flood of opportunities to serve God and His people continued, folks at the seminary asked me if I was interested in being an orientation leader for the fall semester. I would basically be welcoming incoming students and helping them and their families make a smooth transition. I had benefited greatly from my orientation leader, and developed a great relationship with him and his family, so I was eager to have the opportunity to do the same. I'm looking forward to that come August.

One thing that all those great opportunities had left out was a specific avenue to apply the skills of handling the Word of God that I'm getting at seminary to a practical context of a teaching ministry. This is what I thought was most unlikely. It's not a common thing that every seminary student have a regular teaching opportunity, and so I was praying for grace to be faithful in little so that a time might come where I might have to depend on Christ for the grace to be faithful in much. Well, one of the graduating seniors was leaving behind a bi-weekly Bible study, and he asked me (after a couple of guys couldn't do it) to take it over. Janna and I are still praying about it and thinking through the various implications, but as best we can discern this seems to be from Him, and so I give Him the glory for yet another answered prayer.

And finally, as if it couldn't get any better, a good friend and dear brother -- the same brother who was my orientation leader -- asked me to participate in what Grace calls the Pastor of the Day. Basically, because of Pastor John's and Grace Church's notoriety, random people call the church often to ask for counsel and prayer. The church allows particular seminary students and ministerial interns to take shifts once or twice a month taking those calls. This will provide some very practical, and, as I've heard, very humbling, pastoral counseling experience.

And so for all of this and more, I continue to want to direct all praise and glory and honor to God, who is faithful to Himself above all things, and thus lovingly and graciously merciful to His people. Praise the Lord Jesus that He is patient with our weakness, He having also partook of the same, being tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin, and yet is also bountifully good and gracious.

Where We Are Right Now

At present, Janna's continuing her orientation to her new job description, and I'm taking a couple of summer courses. I'll be taking Historical Theology I, which covers church history from Pentecost to the pre-Reformation period, as well as a course called The Pastor's Home. That course is taught in the evenings, and so Janna will be joining me when she's not working late. It's basically a marriage and family discipleship course. It almost feels like pre-marital counseling felt, just now it's 2 years into marriage rather than 7 months before it. I'm thankful for such class. Our merciful Lord knows I need it. Oh to love like Christ loved the Church! How aware I am of how short I fall! And yet by grace I am equally aware of the fitness of Christ for such a task. And I rejoice that I was united with Him in His death as well as His resurrection, and so therefore I can walk in the newness of life that He Himself has walked ahead of me, and has prepared these good works in advance for me, that I should walk in them.

So please pray for Janna and me, as we seek to diligently steward this time of learning, of sanctification, and of preparation for full-time ministry. We love you all dearly and long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. May His grace be with you. Amen.

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
- John 1:16 -


Mark D. Twombly said...

Mike, what a joy to read, a feast of God's faithfullness! We miss you, but are grateful to experience God's work in your life, albeit from afar.

I'm reminded of John 1:16:
'For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.' May we continue to come to grips with the generosity of God.


Love in Christ,


Mike Riccardi said...


Thanks always for your faithful encouragement. And thank you especially for bringing up that verse. It's so appropriate, and causes my heart to well up with delight in Christ. I'm going to append that verse to the post.