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!

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