My Story (part 5) – Sharpening and Suffering

In the early part of 2005 Amy and I were actively looking for our next church body.  We clearly felt God calling us to a new church, but were still unsure of where that calling would lead us to.  By May, we had a clear answer as God brought us together with Emmanuel Baptist Church (EBC )in Mount Vernon, WA.  Our time at EBC has been and continues to be a sweet season of growth for both Amy and I.  The two great themes of this season so far seems to be “Sharpening and Suffering.”

PMC Church served a vitally important roll in my development as a Shepherd, but at the same time the lessons I learned at PMC Church were limited to a fairly small scale.  I was able to run my own program with very limited volunteer help, PMC Church didn’t really have any boards or committees that needed to be dealt with or appealed to, and I operated under the close observation of a very gifted Senior Pastor.  EBC has afforded me many opportunities to sharpen my skills in areas that PMC simply couldn’t.  At EBC I’ve been able to manage a large budget, oversee a staff of over 20 volunteers, learn the inner workings of committees, etc. in a large Baptist Church, serve as an active and vocal member of the board of elders and even work with a large denomination (BGC) on church planting strategies, etc..  In short, God has been very gracious in providing opportunities for me to sharpen my skills at EBC.

At the same time God has graciously provided a number of occasions for suffering during this time which have served to strengthen my faith and draw me closer to Him.  Upon my arrival at EBC I learned that things were not well.  The church was immediately faced with a tragic case of adultery on the part of a leading staff member, old wounds certainly ran deep amongst the membership when it came to divisive issues such as worship and church polity, and within a year the church faced a large financial deficit resulting in the loss of a pastor.  Even something as simple as a biblical understanding of the role of a pastor was a great difficulty.  All of these issues and a multitude more were the source of many sleepless nights and many tearful days.  Yet through it all God was quietly drawing me closer and closer to Himself and developing a deeper intimacy with me than I would have known otherwise.  So while the hurts of this season were certainly real, the joy which I have found through the hurt has been rich.

Even with the heartache that the church frequently brought, the greatest sorrow of this season has certainly been my son Micah’s difficulties with speech (which I have written about elsewhere), and the ensuing season of waiting.  There are few greater pains in life than watching a child suffer and wanting so desperately to help but not being able to.  Through all of these things God has proven Himself to be faithful and has remained a constant source of comfort and peace for both Amy and I.

Much has changed in the 4 1/2 years that I have been a part of EBC.  Our church has undergone what I consider to be a revival as old wounds have been healed and trust in leadership is continually being restored.  Micah has begun speaking much more and seems to surprise us with new words every day.  Neither Micah nor EBC have arrived, but God has certainly worked mightily in the lives of both and I give Him all the praise and glory for it.

At the beginning of this series I said that my desire was to point out two great truths that I have seen demonstrated over the course of my life: 1) I am a great sinner, and 2) Christ is a great Savior.  In reflecting back on the story of my life I am filled with reminders of how great a sinner I am.  Whether they be sins of pride, selfishness, or just plain self-centeredness the jury is in and I am clearly guilty.  While one would think that this guilt would drive me to despair, quite the opposite is true.  While I am a great sinner, the magnitude of my sin only serves to magnify the greatness of my Savior who took my sin upon Himself.  It is true that I am a great sinner, but by God’s grace I belong to Him because my great Savior has taken my sin upon Himself and given me His perfect righteousness.

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January 11 2010 05:00 am | My Story

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