Coming home: Thoughts on returning to Grace Brethren

In the last couple months our family has seen enormous change. This is always how we tend to do it– have a baby, start seminary, move, start a new ministry. We did that in the summer of 2010, with the birth of Emma, the start of my seminary training, and the move up to Woodland Hills for ministry at First Baptist Church Canoga Park. We did it again this winter. Baby Ella came in February, my third semester of seminary started in January, we moved to Simi Valley in October, and now, a new ministry at Grace Brethren Church starts May. Life just doesn’t stop.

It’s almost been moving too fast for me to slow down and think about it. Among many things that I’ve had to set aside during this time, my blog has taken a backseat. For me, that’s not good. I am among the Puritan ilk (in this one sense, at least), in that writing is a kind of therapy to me. Writing is thinking. Writing is reflecting. Writing is mediation. And when my writing stops, it’s a red flag reminding me that I need to slow down. For me, time is a wild, flitting butterfly that can only be captured with a net of paper and pen. I need to get these thoughts and memories in a jar. Otherwise, they get away before I have time to marvel at their surprising beauty.

So let me share a few thoughts of mine about coming home– coming back to Grace Brethren Church, that is. I am beyond excited about this. Here’s a few reasons why.

I have a stewardship that has been entrusted to me. Of course, primarily my stewardship is from God. He awakened my dead heart to faith in Christ, granted me repentance, and has sustained me since. He has gifted me and commissioned me. All that he has given me I consider a sacred trust, and I have the great responsibility to “fulfill my ministry” and “guard the good deposit.” My aim in life is simply to be faithful with that which God has given me.

Also, however, I feel, in a sense, indebted to Grace Brethren Church. Before we moved down to Fallbrook to serve as an associate pastor, I had never been a member of any other church. This was the church I was raised in, saved in, baptized in, mentored in, and trained in. In fact, were it not for a summer internship there in 2007, I maybe would never have entered the ministry. Who knows what Eric Durso would be like without this faithful church? How different would even my parents be if not for the faithful preaching of the Word by Pastor John McIntosh for all those years! I will never know all the ways this church has shaped me. And I say all that because now, in returning as a pastor, I rejoice that I get to give back all that’s been given to me. Proverbs 11:25 says “one who waters will himself be watered.” The seedling of my faith was watered by Grace Brethren Church, and I would be eminently blessed if I would be able to return the favor.

Furthermore, there are so many relationships that I’ve developed over the years with the people from Grace Brethren. Many of them I grew up with. It will be a new and refreshing experience to have all these close friends our age and in similar life-stages. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother,” and many of mine attend Grace Brethren. So for that, I’m grateful.

More than all these things I am excited to get on board with the gospel work that is being done there. How badly I want to be used of God to present the glories of His grace to our lost and dying world! Grace Brethren has a strong history of standing firm for the truth and moving forward with the gospel– and any movement that’s committed to those things is a movement I’m excited about.

My ultimate goal in coming back to Grace Brethren Church is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ by my service to his church. I hope to serve the brothers I’ll be laboring alongside, and do whatever I can to help them succeed in magnifying Christ and his gospel. My desire is to be a servant of the flock assigned to me, namely the students, and teach them the Word of God in a way that puts the breath-taking glory of God on display.

Please pray for me and my family as we make this move. As is normal for a pastor entering a new ministry, there will be some time of adjustment. Our prayer is that God would quickly knit our hearts together, and that in the next few months we’ll be able to lay the foundation for a long and fruitful ministry.

Soli Deo Gloria

Take hope, sin is the root of your marriage problem

The gospel story makes it very clear that the main human problem is sin. We are sinners who sin against each other. We are sinners who respond sinfully to being sinned against. We are sinners who often respond to blessing sinfully. That’s why Jesus came—to save us from our bondage to sin.

If it’s true that sin is the core issue of failing marriages, then we have reason to hope. Why? Because Jesus came to rescue us from the destruction of sin. And he can rescue a marriage from the sin that’s destroying it.

If marriage problems were genetic, there would be trouble because Jesus didn’t come to change genes. If marriage problems are purely circumstantial, we’re in trouble because Jesus never promised to make our lives nice and neat. Since every marriage problem grows in the arid desert of indwelling sin, we are hopeful because God has given Living Water in Jesus Christ. He is a Rescuer. He rescues sinners from their sin. He is our Living Hope.

Start family worship in your home

Ever since I listened to this sermon by Dr. Joel Beeke, my perspective on family worship was changed. He made me realize it’s not optional, it’s not useless, and denying it will cost you greatly down the road. I saw him at The Gospel Coalition Conference last April and thanked him for the impact he had on my life and family.

This short article from Donald Whitney helps us keep it simple.

If you haven’t started family worship in your home, start today. You’ll find that it is:

Fun. We like to sing in the Durso house. Every night I’m home for dinner (every night except Sundays and Wednesdays) I pull out my guitar after the meal and we sing a few songs. Emma gets on her stage (the couch) and dances like crazy. It’s hilarious. We have a lot of fun.

We want to instill in our kids that it’s a joy to be a Christian. We want to enjoy God, each other, and the gifts of grace he’s given us.

Ashley's blog tells of some of the ways we try to make a joyful home

Fulfilling. I do a lot of things in ministry– and I enjoy all the things I’m involved in. But family worship is probably the most enjoyable, fulfilling times of my week. I hate when I have to miss it.

Humbling. Right now, Emma could care less about which book we read for family devotions. For all she cares, we could read a story about Big Bird. So every time we try to sit down and read, I have to come to grips that someday this effort to teach her about the Lord will pay off. Results aren’t immediate.When I’m reading about Noah and the ark, and she’s pointing at the TV and saying, “Melmo, Melmo!” I have to patiently remember that this time is an investment for the future. And it’s humbling.

Profitable. For you, your wife, and your kids. It builds unity and trust. It puts us all on the same page. When we acknowledge the greatness of God and his purposes, our problems and disagreements tend to get smaller. We reaffirm our common goals, lay aside our personal agendas, and remember the point of our existence.

If you’re a dad, you’re the leader of your household. You need to bring home the bread– especially the Bread of Life.

Dating Ashley 2012: some traditions

I am a big fan of family traditions. They seem to bridge the past with the present and help us remember the faithfulness of God for the future.

Here’s a few things we’ve been doing since we’ve been married. They help us remember the past, plan for the future, and be thankful for the present.

Around our anniversary (June 20th) we plan a night out without the kid(s). In our first year of marriage we bought a nice anniversary journal that we only pull out twice a year (anniversary and in the New Year).  In it, we record three things:

1)     Major events of the previous year of marriage. Basically, all the things that stood out. We include vacations, celebrations, life-changes, etc.

2)     A specific commitment to each other. The anniversary is a great time to talk about our marriage and be honest about our strengths and weaknesses. After an honest conversation, we write down what we want to be better at (with the Lord’s help) in our next year of marriage. We sign it.

3)     Predictions for the next year. This is purely for fun. We go back and forth, making predictions. Sometimes they’re related to family (e.g. Ashley will be pregnant by August) and sometimes they’re kinda silly (e.g. The Lakers are going to win the NBA finals). We always get a laugh out of these when we go back and look at them.

Another special date is around the New Year. It works out perfectly for us, because the New Year is the exact halfway point of our marriage year. Six months after our anniversary we get to think through our marriage and family again. We don’t go to the movies because we want to be able to talk. We make sure it’s just the two of us, so we get someone to watch Emma.

On this special date, we start by talking about the previous year. We look at the journal, the commitments we made to each other, the predictions, and the major events.

1)     We look at the anniversary journal. We look at the commitments we made on our anniversary, the predictions we thought of, and the major events.

2)     We make a top-ten event list. We get out our calendars (Ashley keeps a calendar book containing most of the year’s events) and try to remember all the big events. We always have a fun time remembering; there are always events that we had forgotten that make us laugh. Instead of writing down all the main events, we pick the top ten events and write them down. We also pull out the top ten lists from previous years. It’s fun to see the top ten events of years past—some of which are nearly forgotten or seem so insignificant.

3)     We talk about the future. After thinking about the past for a while, we start to think about the future. I try to get us thinking about potential vacations, life changes, spiritual goals, marriage commitments, parental goals, etc. We together try to imagine what the year will look like. We talk about the things we’d like to do, whether it be ministry, dates, trips, achievements, or education. We consider finances (briefly—finance talks aren’t always the most fun), what purchases we might consider making, what we’d like to save for, and where most of our money is going to go.

We’ve found these things to be good for our marriage, especially helping us maintain a sense of unity, closeness, openness, companionship, and joy. It helps us communicate and plan. It also brings us the great blessing of remember God’s providence in the past and his promise for the future. The anniversary journal is for us an Ebenezer, a fixed stone of remembrance testifying to the great mercy of our God.

Husbands, I encourage you to date your wife. Be proactive and creative. Show your children how much you treasure her. Share, as much as possible, in the grace of life together. When you share together the joys and burdens of marriage, you will find, as Ashley and I have, that the old axiom is true: your joys are doubled and burdens halved.

 

 

Don’t sacrifice marriage for seminary

Don’t trade your marriage for your seminary education. Take it from this guy who did:

To my shame, I could spot the subtle ways heretical worldviews creep into the church, but I paid little attention to the subtle ways resentment crept into my wife’s heart. I jumped to unpack the mysteries behind Christ’s tears as He hung alone on the cross, but I left alone the mystery of my wife’s tears as she, once again, went to bed alone because her husband “needed” to study. After all, I was in seminary, and shouldn’t she support God’s calling on my life? She should be stronger, trust God’s plan more, and be more understanding of the demands of my calling, right?

Wrong.

At the end of the day, I gave heart service to my time at seminary, but only lip service to Ephesians 5, and it cost me my marriage.

Ashley enters the blogosphere: Simple Joys of Home

You should check out my wife’s blog, Simple Joys of Home. It’s brand new, and it’s already getting more hits than mine. If you read it, you’ll see why. Each post is an insight into why I married her.

It will mostly consist of short posts about organizing tips and funny family stories– all flowing out of her deep love for God and family. If you really want to know me, read her blog too– she’s my other half.

What message is your marriage preaching?

I’ve been thinking about buying this book for a while now. Tim Challies gave it a positive review, and I’ve been looking for a book that addresses how the gospel applies to parenting. Well, as the title indicates, Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley does just that.

Here’s an excerpt that Challies put up on his blog that I wanted to share.

“This mystery [marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Here is Paul’s point. From before time began, God had marriage on his mind. He was preparing a bride for his Son, whom he would marry forever. It would take the crucifixion and resurrection of the Groom to bring this marriage to pass. Think of it. God created the most intimate human relationship, marriage, to speak of the intimacy of his relationship with his church.

God created the institution of human marriage to reflect, or mirror forth, this eternal union. In other words, human marriage exists to point men and angels to the eternal marriage of Christ and his church. The gospel made this divine marriage possible. Here is our point: human marriage exists to preach the gospel. It exists to illustrate the fruit that should follow the preaching of the gospel in the church.

To whom does our marriage preach? Of course, the first audience is God and his angels. They watch and rejoice, or if our marriage is a war zone, they grieve.

Who is the second audience? Most of us think first about our non-Christian neighbors. Maybe they will see our attempts to model Christian marriage and want the gospel? They might, and we hope they will, but actually they are the third audience.

The second audience, usually overlooked by most Christians, is our children. What is our marriage telling them about Christ and his bride? They see it all. They hear our fights. They absorb our attitudes. They know who or what really sits on the throne of our lives. They watch how we handle resentment. They hear the way we talk to each other. They know when we hear the Sunday sermon and apply it. They also know when we ignore it.

The message that our marriage preaches either repels or attracts our children. God wants your child to watch your marriage and think, “I want a marriage like that, and I want the God that produced it.” Or, “When I think of the beauty of the gospel, I think of my parents’ marriage. I want to be part of a church that is loved by God the way my dad loves my mother. I want to be part of a church that finds its joy in submitting to Christ as my mother joyfully submits to my father.”