Friday, September 4, 2020

When challenged to speak only truth

The following is a transcript from my Ordination Service on October 23, 2020, during which I was affirmed as someone who was committed to and able to teach the Bible accurately.  I was also challenged to do it more and more, with a growing love for the Lord and for people.  Here was my response during the service:

Thank you so much for coming.  I had no idea who was back there. I’ve been sitting up here this whole time.

I am thrilled to share this challenge with Birch Hills Community Church, those that are Covenant Members, those that call us their church home, and those who will.  Thank you, Dan and Jeff for your support of me and your faithfulness to the Lord. 

Thank you to all who have been and continue to be a part of my life, the life of my family, the life of this church.  I’ve said often that I’m so thankful that our church does not see our children as children that need to act differently than other children because their pastor’s kid.  Thank you to people in this community and for people in our neighborhood that have accepted my invitation this morning.  I will single out one person, though.  I don’t do it very often (pause as I start choking up, proving why I don't do this often :-)) because she wouldn’t want me to.  Becky, your love for God and support of me is truly a God send in more ways than you know.  I love you. 

I am willing to accept this challenge, personally, in as much as I know that you know something:

Everything that happens, good, bad, and indifferent, happens because of God’s perfect ability to manage life and it happens out of his perfect love for each and every one of us.  If you know me, you know of my foibles, my weaknesses, and the mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes I’m prone to make.  The more you know me, the more of these things you know about me. 

Standing before you is a man that is an exhibit of God’s grace.

  • My sins have been forgiven and God will never hold them against me.
  • God continues to graciously forgiving me as I come to Him day-by-day.
  • I know that I am forever His.

But this isn’t just for the ordained or the ones who have straightened out their lives or the ones that are “churchgoers”.  This is for every single person.  This call of the Lord that Dan alluded to.  This is why we’re here, this is why I do what I do – for those that don’t know yet how full and final and forever God’s love for you. 

Until the day the Lord calls me home, I will plant my convictions in the fertile soil of God’s Word.  Let's take Psalm 23 as an example.   As some of you know, our call to worship is many times the Psalm number based on the day of the month.  Today is August 23:

1    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Don’t you want your life grounded in a God like that?  In words of life like that?

Through this, and only through the Word of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can mankind make any sense out of a pandemic, out of ongoing systemic and individual hatred or racism.  It’s only through the Word of God that we can wade through the waters of disagreement and confusion in this world.  I am here . . . and we are here . . . to display to people that “turning to Jesus” is not just a nicey-nice pie in the sky statement that cannot speak into the “real issues” of the world.  “Sure, you can have your Jesus, but how is He going to take care of me?”  Oh, He does!  Rather, He is the only person, the only truth, that tells the truth into any circumstance, that tells us that repentance comes before any lasting personal change, that tells us that taking care of your own stuff comes before being able help or being able to fill other people’s needs, that He brings lasting peace to you, NO MATTER WHAT!

Finally, I want you do know that no one can speak against God’s activity in our world and that nobody can accuse God of anything until they’ve given their life to Him, until you’ve given Him a chance in their life.  Go ahead, give your life to Him.  

10 years ago, I wrote down all the things in my life that I hold dear on a rock – the names of each person in my family, my reputation, my most valuable possessions, my future.  I threw that rock off of the 3rd Ave. foot bridge over there, into the Sauk River.  I prayed a prayer of surrender and I threw it in.  I said, “God, this is Yours, all these things that I hold dear.”  We’re going to close after the prayer with a song that has spoken to me ever since high school.  Fortunately Daniel likes it to, and Kimi, who will sing with him. Enjoy it, the words are in front of you (written below).  It has those words that need to be said often because, I don’t know about you, but do you ever want to take your life back and say, “Well, I’m not sure I want you to have this part, God.”  So try Him, trust Him, dive in with us.




by Marc James

Verse 1

I'm giving You my heart
And all that is within
I lay it all down
For the sake of You my King
I'm giving You my dreams
I'm laying down my rights
I'm giving up my pride
For the promise of new life


And I surrender,

All to You all to You
And I surrender,

All to You all to You

Verse 2

I'm singing You this song
I'm waiting at the cross
And all the world holds dear
I count it all as loss
For the sake of knowing You
The glory of Your name
To know the lasting joy
Even sharing in Your pain

CCLI Song # 3033179

CCLI License # 11006188

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