For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Reflections on a Personal Silver Anniversary

25 years ago today was a pretty special day for me.  It wasn't my wedding, since that was over 27 years and counting.  Not the birth of our first child, though she did turn 25 just a couple months ago.  And I would not rank this above either of those, or any of our any other children's birth.

Perhaps the most significant event in my life, my salvation by God's grace, was over 33 years ago.  Actually, now that I'm looking at all these numbers, I'm beginning to feel a bit old.  But I digress....  So what is this silver anniversary?

25 years ago today I was ordained to the Gospel ministry by my home church.  I had already served as a youth pastor for a time, as well as worked in Christian radio, lived with a homeless ministry, and various other ministry endeavors.  In fact, I had even started pastoring my first church in those seminary days.  But the church where my wife grew up, where I came to know Christ, where I was baptized and married, seemed like the right group of folks for this particular event.

So while I've been “in ministry” longer, the date of my ordination has always been a significant one to me.  It was a very intense time of being examined in my faith.  It was a very humbling experience as men I had come to love and respect and look up to in the faith, laid their hands on me and prayed very personal prayers of dedication over me, affirming my calling to this service in the Kingdom.

So, 25 years.  What do I have to show for it?  I could look at the little “ministry log” I was encouraged to keep all those years ago, which records the dozens and dozens of baptisms, weddings and funerals I've done in those 25 years.  I do occasionally look through those lists, remembering those people, those events.  Wondering about the people and families the represent that I've lost touch with. Thanking God for the privilege of serving them during those significant times in their lives.  But is it really just about those lists? Is it just about "the numbers?"

I could look at the literally thousands of sermons and Bible studies I've prepared and delivered in 25 years.  And since I'm a bit OCD I have files recording them all, and in fact have paper copies of the notes/manuscripts of most of them.  Occasionally I've gone up to the sound booth at our current church, where we've served over 13 years, and look at the boxes of recorded sermons (yes we still have tapes; we do digital as well, but...).  I'm somewhat intimated by those boxes, especially when I consider those are only about half of the total over these 25 years.  Is this how I'm to be judged?

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by it all.  25 years of trying to share the Gospel, trying to encourage the saints; or as someone once said, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  Each time I step into the pulpit, I feel woefully incompetent.  And I'm sure there are many who would agree with that assessment.  But is that all these 25 years have been about?

In the end, as I reflect on this very personal silver anniversary, the one thing that stands out above all is this:  Grace!  The grace that God gave me in Christ to save a worthless worm like me.  The grace that God gave me in allowing me the privilege of speaking His Word even once to a congregation of His people, let alone for 25 years. The grace God gives me each and every day, not just to wake up and breathe and eat and walk; but the grace to study His Word, to share His Word, to represent His Son. I am so not worthy of that privilege.  And I fail time and again.  But His grace is always there.  Chances are I will fail today.  But I know I'll still have His grace tomorrow. 

25 years ago I was young, and a bit cocky, thinking I had the answers and could change the world.  Today, I know who the Answer is, and know He can change the world.  But first I want Him to keep changing me.  I want to keep growing in that grace, and just pray He let's me keep sharing that grace from the overflow, maybe touching a life here or there for the Kingdom along the way. 

Maybe it will be another 25 years.  Maybe He'll call me home in the next 25 minutes.  Either way, all I want is to stand before Him and hear 7 little words:  “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  May He give me the grace to achieve that goal.

Happy Anniversary to me!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

As You Vote

Unless you just landed here from a distant planet, or just woke from a 20 year coma, then you are painfully aware that today is election day in these great United States.  This isn't another piece about the candidates, or the parties, or who you should vote for. If you really care what I think about that, you can read here.  This is just a simply reminder of a few things to remember as you go to exercise your right to vote today. 

1. This is an Amazing Opportunity.  As you walk around with your “I Voted” sticker on, stop and consider how many millions would give almost anything to have that cheap piece of paper.  Consider the thousands of men and women who have fought and died over the years to give us this remarkable freedom.  Consider the historical glory of having a peaceful transfer of power every four years, and that you and I have some say in that process.  We are indeed, so incredibly blessed.  Don't forget that.

2. This is an Amazing Responsibility.  As you step into that booth to exercise this remarkable freedom, remember that this is a grave thing indeed.  This isn't just about personalities and sound bites.  Too many Americans vote based on emotion rather than a serious look at policy and posterity.  What we do now will have lasting effects on our children and grandchildren.  Furthermore, as a Christian voter, you also have the responsibility to vote in such a way that honors your God and gives good testimony to His people.  Don't forget that.

3. This is Amazingly Unimportant.  Seems like I'm contradicting what I just said, but hear me out.  John MacArthur addressed his congregation on Sunday with an amazing reminder to not overestimate the significance of this election.  People are calling it “historic” and all, but in the overall scheme of God's grand design, this is relatively insignificant.  Like it or not, America is not the center of God's plan for the ages.  Jesus Christ is.  America is not the answer to the world's problems.  Jesus Christ is.  America is not where our hope lies.  Jesus Christ is.  As His people, we are to be more concerned about our true citizenship in heaven, about being the people of God following the will of God for the glory of God, than about presidents and princes who come and go like a “drop in a bucket” Scripture says.  So while this whole thing is a great joy and great duty, it's nothing compared to serving the great King of the universe and knowing that His plans will stand, His purposes will be fulfilled, and His people will be victorious.  Don't forget that.

Recently, there have been two fantastic songs released that reflect this last truth.  One is by Ross King and more recently one by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I'd encourage you to listen to both and remember the truth they speak as you vote today.