Wednesday, December 12, 2012
I am at my kitchen table this morning and I have just begun a sermon that I will deliver this Sunday morning. Why is this a gift? It is the faithfulness of God and the sure and solid confirmation that He has been with me through all the darkness and pain. It has been some years since I really have delivered anything to a church. Yet this Sunday at 10:30am I will deliver a message that is material proof that God is true to His. I am preaching in a church that was once my church. About five years ago, it all ended in a tragic nightmare that included comments regarding my personal integrity and honesty and ability to lead a congregation. It was said at that time that the building was of no use any longer but that it was ‘tainted’ and so the Spirit of God would never move within its walls again. That building sat vacant for almost two years. Yet in that time, there was support for the long famine that was to come. I remember getting calls about the building to use it as a funeral home and while it would have been convenient, the words that rang in that building in those nightmarish moments seemed to be coming into reality and I was helpless to stop it. Yet God told me by principle to not let the building be used for such purposes but within those walls life once again would be flooding that place. Months passed and yet there was still no clear direction. It seems that all I had built was on sand and not the rock and this was my fault. In the eyes of my family, I had forsaken the Way and deserved to be cast aside as a reprobate and even a heretic; such is the fate for those who see differently than what had been taught and practiced by rote. There was no doubt that I was now at the lowest spot in my life. Reputation maligned and given no confidence by anyone and it seemed all my wife and I could do was to survive each day. But in those times, I was forced to do one of two things: forsake the God who called me or begin to explore again who this God was. I embarked on studies that reviewed what I had been taught . I have to say that when the effort was made, the flaws were ever apparent and it was by the word itself I was able to assess all I had learned. I was able by that same word to construct a life based not on myopic teaching but based upon the Bible itself and supplemented by teachings from perhaps the greatest minds Christendom has produced. Friend, I have found truth welcomes scrutiny and it is quite ironic that in dysfunctional groups dialogue and debate is non-existent or quashed. In the finishing of that process, I received a phone call. Someone was interested in the church and I had mixed feelings on it because of what it meant. It meant a closing of a chapter and the beginning of another. Whatever base I had held to was at risk of being swept away and my heart broke. I remember walking down to the church from my home on an early spring morning to meet the potential buyers. I walked in and they were there. We had some conversations and I began to realize that they could not afford such a building. So I told them I would pray about them using the building. Pastor Jeff was a man who was just beginning a ministry as a pastor. He had been in the ministry for years and was very involved in a prison outreach and Teen Challenge. He had been through some rough waters himself but there was a spark I saw that the Lord let me see and it had been a long time since I had seen the fire of God in someone’s eye. To make a long story short, I believed it was the mind of the Lord to let their fledgling church use the facility. In that first service, Vicki and I came late and stayed in the back because it was no longer our place but we watched as God breathed His life into a corpse of a building. Friends, there were to be no funerals here – only a celebration of life. It has been almost three years since that first service. I continued to go there and to add what I could. With the graciousness of Pastor Jeff I was able to go to prison and Teen Challenge and lead people into the Lord’s Kingdom along with Pastor Jeff. I have seen many come to Jesus in that building that once sat empty and dead with the words of those who wrote Ichabod on the door post bouncing off its walls and ceiling. Yet it was not to be. God had other plans, good plans and plans for another life for my wife and I. The Association was established while still small is growing and able to support ministries bringing people into a better life. I am truly a blessed man.
So I sit here writing a sermon to deliver in a church where it was said God would never darken the door and where His spirit would never move again. I will on that day look around and remember the words of a gifted man the once spoke to me of ‘Ashes and Dust and Building Rubble’ you see what I did not understand then I do now. From the ashes has risen something beautiful and I am alive to see it and contribute to it. That sermon is a gift and I cannot help to think it is God’s way of telling me that the best is yet to come. If I could ever tell those who saw the death of this church that there is life after the death that was spoken to this church and to me. There is life and the heartbeat of that life grows stronger because the words and promises of God cannot be thwarted or denied. What was built lives on.
It is said that what God speaks and desires prevails in spite of circumstances because He has spoken and desired it. It never happens as we would have planned it or thought it would be but there it is: it would not be God if we could have conceived it. It is not and will never be. It is a gift.