At Polishing the Pulpit in 2013, I was privileged to listen to brother Dan Winkler present a lesson on "book ends."
He presented the book ends of Psalm 23. This psalm begins with "The Lord is" and ends with "The Lord forever." What a wonderful thought of how our lives can be shaped and sorted.
Today is my final day preaching and working with the saints at the church of Christ at Elkins in Woodbury, TN. It has been a 2.5 year journey that I will never forget. I have certainly learned in what I will term as my first "full-time" work. I have learned that no matter what happens in your life, no matter if something is said that hurts your feelings - or you hurt someone else, no matter whether there are 1,000 people at each meeting of the saints...or 2, no matter if there are visitors or members present, no matter if there is something causing a distraction, no matter...well, you get the picture...no matter whatever happens, this book end lesson from Psalm 23 will apply!
"The Lord is...the Lord forever!"
People will come and go. Ministers will change positions. I know of several preachers that right now are seeking new works for one reason or another. I recently read a book titled "Preacher | Elders - a relationship that lasts" that stated that the average "life span" of a preacher in one position is just over 2.2 years. Sadly, I know this is true in a lot of situations. Mine, no different. Leaving was a decision that was mine to make. Sometimes you just have to make those types of decisions. I spoke with my wife about why I felt the need, and she supported me as my help meet.
The old cliche has been told to me so many times in the past few weeks that I have been looking at open doors anywhere I go and wondering if someone opened it just so they could use that cliche. It is certainly true of opportunities, but not so much about the Lord. Closed doors reveal opened doors. But, the Lord NEVER changes (Heb 13:5-8). He is always there. He was, and is, and is to come.
The Bible tells us to "lean not on our own understanding" and certainly that is the attitude that I am trying my best to possess at this juncture in my life...and my ministry. I want to preach. I want to serve Him. I want to worship my God with those that love Him just as much if not more than I do. Elkins has been that family, and I know that there is another one that will love me and my family just as much, if not more, than this precious family as well.
As my wife can attest, some time ago, I prayed (and made sure I told her that I did) a prayer that I had never really prayed before. I prayed that God will take my life and do what He desires. Sure, I have prayed for His will, but this time was different. It was more of an "okay God, I realize that maybe I am leaning on my own understanding more than Your words." It was a "release" if you will. It was a feeling like getting on that big roller coaster for the first time. That grin that you know you will be extremely pleased with the outcome, but butterflies in your stomach as you get closer kind of feeling. Since that time, I have seen so many changes in my life, and I know that they are not finished yet. In just 3-4 months, I have had multiple secular job offers, was approached twice about selling the business that I was a partner in, in which I now own, and am in discussion with the second approach currently to see if this is the best avenue, I have been asked to speak at various functions, successfully helped establish a youth function that is already moving toward its second event, and now I am leaving my first full-time ministry work and pursuing more. Oh yeah, and I finally started writing my book "Preacher in Steel-toed Boots!"
Then, a few weeks ago...against some wiser thoughts, I prayed for patience. In all of these changes, I have certainly seen times, days, moments in which my patience has been tried, strengthened, and sustained. Am I sorry that I prayed for these two things? Absolutely not. No matter how things end up, I will always seek my Lord first. And no matter how many times that I pray for rain, if I never carry an umbrella (hypothetically since I never use one anyway), I can't expect it to rain. God will answer prayers...He will answer them His way, in His time, in His terms. Not my own.
And...I will have to remember in all things that "The Lord is...the Lord forever!"
Psalm 23 (NKJV)
A Psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.