“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-14
It was a Wednesday evening, twenty years ago, when the Holy Spirit arrested my heart during a sparsely attended midweek bible study. A missionary was sharing what was, honestly, a rather dull presentation about printing Gospel tracts so that people might be able to read the truth of Jesus in their own language. Somewhere in the midst of his monotone voice I began to hear the summoning voice of God within calling me to preach the message of Jesus Christ. I was shaken inwardly and told myself that this could not be authentic because I was not fit to be a preacher. God had saved me from a horrible lifestyle just four months earlier and I knew nothing of preaching other than what I had heard from others in a couple of churches since my conversion. When the preacher at Meadow concluded his message that night I was ready to vacate the church as quickly as I could to get out of that place. I found myself deeply unsettled, even ambushed by the unexpected calling from God. As I stepped from my place in the pew to make a beeline to the exit, an elderly man placed himself between me and the door and said gently with a smile, “Jeff, I believe that you will be the next preacher that God will call in this church.” Somehow I extracted myself from Roy Stringer’s obstructing presence and got into my little blue Toyota to drive the mile back to my apartment. It was there, in that same room where I had been saved four months prior, that I opened my bible behind closed doors and let my eyes fall wherever the pages opened. Looking down, what I read was the paragraph heading which said “Ezekiel Receives His Call” followed by verses which read, “I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:4-7).
The date was 12/14/94. Twenty years ago today. God called me to preach His word and I pledged that I would do so.
Preaching is a privilege and I have no doubt that the entire purpose of my life has been to communicate God’s truth. I missed it for the first twenty four years of my life but have spent the last twenty doing exactly that wherever God allowed. If I am being honest, I have nothing else of value to offer this world. Granted, I am a husband to my wife and a father to my children, but my God-given function in the Kingdom is that of a herald, a proclaimer, a preacher – yes, I am a mouth. Today I simply want to say thanks to God who has ordained this, empowered this and blessed this. I love to communicate and He has deposited something with me that was worthy of my words. No more vile jokes or caustic communication from me. No cutting sarcasm or not-so-subtle innuendo would mark my vocabulary. Four letter words were somehow turned into theological terms. God invited me to build people up with my words instead of shredding them downward. He could have sent me in another direction and I can only hope that I would have just as content with serving Jesus as an architect or clerk or brick mason or grocer. Yet it was His divine grace that welcomed me to use my words to advance His Kingdom. This pleases me to no end and today I just wanted to write a public Thank You to Him for the privilege that brings a greater thrill to my soul today than when I began twenty years ago. He called me twenty years ago today and I will stand in the power of that moment this morning at Meadow.
Now I am off to the Sunday pulpit. I still have something to say.
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