Psalm 37:4 (ESV) Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
I am starting my third month as the lead pastor for the church I grew up in. I didn’t realize it at the time but, a little over 27 years ago, my journey to today started. When the journey started, I wasn’t completely sure what the desires of my heart were other than wanting to serve the Lord and give back just a small amount of service for the many great and large acts He had done in my life up to that point. It has been quite some time, so I do not remember every detail; I am not even sure the details I remember are the actual details or if my mind has completed a Reader’s Digest condensing of the pertinent facts.
The church was looking for someone to lead the youth. As I sat in the pew, I was overwhelmed by the thought that this was what the Lord had been preparing me for. Almost immediately, after starting to lead the youth, I had an incredibly strong desire to want to become a Pastor. Looking back, I see clearly it was the Lord’s leading for which I am incredibly grateful. I was working for the State of Florida and I was trying to discern the Lord’s will with regard to attending seminary. Some may be thinking at this point – “well, of course, He wanted you to go to seminary; God would not call you to be a Pastor if that calling didn’t include seminary training”. I wasn’t convinced that was God’s plan for me and our young family. (Please understand, for many men, that is God’s plan and that is fantastic, but God doesn’t take everyone on the same path even though the destination is the same.)
Pastor Randy Weekley (Pastor) said that he would be willing to train me and shepherd me through the process of being licensed and then ordained as a Pastor within our Fellowship of churches. Words are not sufficient to convey the love I have for Pastor, for believing in God’s calling in my life and his willingness to walk the path less traveled with me toward being officially recognized as a Pastor. There were literally years of early mornings and hundreds— if not thousands— of little chocolate donuts with copious amounts of coffee, as he met with me before I would need to go to work, as he trained me in doctrine, theology, hermeneutics, “theory” of ministry and practical shepherding.
After several years, Pastor felt I was ready to go through the licensure process. I would fill out an “application” and then, on an appointed day, a board of Pastor’s would hold an oral questioning and decide if I was adequately trained and prepared to be a licensed Pastor. I am also grateful that these men were less concerned with whether or not I went to seminary than they were with my certainty of God’s calling in my life and my preparation by Pastor. I am not sure if they all thought it was a good idea, but none of them made me feel I was or would be lesser of a Pastor simply because I did not have a seminary degree. My licensure exam “trial” is one that I remember the context pretty well. You might wonder why I used the word “trial”; its use will become clear as I tell the story.
Pastor had done an excellent job mentoring and training me but one thing he hadn’t counted on was that I would have an abscessed tooth the week of the oral exam. The pain was excruciating and since the dentist could not fit me in until the end of the week, he gave me pain meds to get through the week. The prescription did a great job of alleviating the pain but also made me a bit incoherent with regard to thinking clearly. I didn’t want to tell Pastor because I was afraid he would suggest postponing the exam until a later date and I had already taken off of work and I wanted to move forward. I made the ever so wise decision (aka: foolish or stupid) to not take any pain pills for the 24 hours before the exam so I could think clearly. I do not remember the details of the oral exam itself because I was in such tremendous pain I was trying not to tear up during the questioning. When it was over and they said I had passed, some of them were surprised I was not “happier” to have passed. That is when I told them about my tooth and that all I could think about when they said I passed was finding my medicine and taking some.
A few years later I underwent another round of questioning before the board of Pastors to see if they would recommend me for ordination. There was no “abscessed tooth” this time; the ordination time was still stressful but at the same time, wonderful. Through all this time, I was leading the Youth Ministry and the desire of my heart was to pour as much of God’s Word into the hearts of the young people I was privileged to shepherd. I really wanted to work full time as a Pastor of teens but the timing and finances never seemed to make it obvious that was what I should do. From time to time, someone would ask me if wanted to be a “senior Pastor”; I would say yes, if I could hire someone to take care of the adults. My heart’s desire was to work with teens and I thought that is where I would spend my entire ministry life.
I still love young people and want to see them taught the Word as I believe what they need most is Jesus and His Word. That leads me to today; I am sitting in the office of the lead Pastor of a local manifestation of the body of Christ and no one is going to walk in and ask me to leave since it is “my” office. It almost doesn’t seem real; I think I might wake up and find that this has all been a wonderful dream. I am privileged beyond all measure to be serving my Savior in full-time pastoral ministry. Let me be clear, I am not here because I am gifted, terrific or wonderful, I am here because God is gracious to thirsty beggars.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. There are so much truth and rich blessing in this verse; also, there are two sides to the “coin” marked “desires of your heart”. I have found Him to be faithful to give me the desires of my heart. I wanted so much to impact young people for Jesus, and He has, indeed, allowed me to do just that and to do so for an extended period of time. I have also found Him to be faithful to give me the desires of my heart. I did not accept the lead Pastor role because I am too old for youth ministry; God has been building this desire in my heart for the past two years – perhaps longer, maybe I just didn’t recognize it before then. I am excited and a little terrified (ok, maybe more than a little terrified) for this privilege and opportunity. That the Lord would bring me to this is nothing short of miraculous. My prayer is that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit would be glorified above all else and the truth of His Word would be boldly proclaimed; regardless of what the future holds for this local body of Christ. Would you, no matter where you gather with other believers, make this your prayer as well.