Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Have you ever said,"If only......"? When, as a child I used the term, my grandmother used to say, "If only the dog hadn't stopped to soak the post he would have coaught the rabbit!"

Well! She's not here and I'm going to have one of those "if only moments".

If only we could start life from the other end, especially those of us who believe we are called of God to lead His people. The zeal and ambition, the worldly approach to "succeeding" which fills the hearts of most younger leaders, and accompanies every conference I've ever attended, even though they are well camouflaged with "spirituality", would be redundant, and the lessons we WILL learn with age, could be passed on.

At seventy years of age, I realise that I have lived the normal allotted life span, and that every second, minute, or year afterwards is a bonus, so, before it's too late, I sometimes feel like shaking the young church leaders I know to see if I could wake them up out of the idealized, almost zombie-like, religious state they seem to have been hypnotized into.

The certainty revealed as they tell the congregations that the answer is in having the right theology, or "we must preach doctrine,doctrine, doctrine". Others will disagree: "the answer is in preaching right through every book, verse by verse" (one young fellow I know is in his third year preaching through Marks Gospel), and the list of formulas and recipes for "success" is endless, as is the conferences.

Dave Black, is revealing , not only that that the years are creeping by, but the truth of what I've just written. He says:

"I must confess that in my own life, I have not been immune to failures as a man, a husband, and a father. What a terribly negative thing to say on a blog that is supposed to encourage its readers! But I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not consider myself to have arrived when it comes to the task of living the Christian life. While it may sound odd to you, I spent the great majority of my adult life being a good church-goer and pursuing all the advantages and comforts of evangelical scholarship in an atmosphere of shortcuts, easy formulas, and rules that simply could not hold up for the long haul. Today I have no "easy answers" that will clear up the issues either in your life or mine. I do know one thing, however. If you want to sort out the priority issues in your life, do not wait for a severe mercy from the hand of God, as I did. The central secret that determines the outcome is the choice to yield one's life to Jesus and to His humble service. With regret I look back on the wasted years of my life as a "good evangelical." I am always quite sympathetic to young people who visit me and reveal a similar sense of futility. My message to them is, "Do not wait as long as I did to become available for sacrificial service in the kingdom. The life that I've discovered to be far more important than my career is the beauty that reflects the humble Christ and His power to make people into whole human beings." I've learned the lesson of Helen Keller: "Life is an exciting business and most exciting when lived for others."

I started out my ministry as a scholar. I'm finishing it as a servant. With the passage of years, I've learned to own up to my failings as a "good evangelical." I would never have sought out any of those failures, those sins of omission, but having failed, I consider the resulting lessons priceless.

As for me and my house, the buck stops "here," not with Becky or anyone else. Jesus is not calling me to the "good life" of American churchianity. The smallest acts of humility and beneficence are to be imitations of the condescension that brought Christ from highest heaven to the obedience of the cross. That is what will always attract to the life of the apostle Paul the longing eyes of Christians -- the power of the Holy Spirit energizing his every thought and action, the love and light of God spilling out into the hearts of others, the willingness to do for other people with genuine unselfishness. Above all, there was his divine mission to preach Christ despite the bitter hatred of his enemies. He lived -- and died -- with the knowledge that he would have to give an account at the judgment seat of Christ, and his heart was renewed through every discouragement and shortcoming by the vision of the crown of life that the Lord would place on his head, if he proved faithful to the end."

OH! Dave! How familiar that sounds!

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