Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Telling My Story: Part III--The Call

We moved to Waterloo Iowa in the early '90's. The para-church organization Promise Keepers was in its heyday. The men's group at the church that we were attending had sent a small group (about 35) to Kansas City's PK rally the year before. One of the men wanted to see a larger group go to the upcoming rally in Minneapolis for the coming spring. He put 50 tickets on his credit card and the pastor announced that there was a sign-up sheet in the foyer and that you could pay Dean for the tickets. I had never been to a PK rally, although they had been around for a couple of years.

The following Sunday, the pastor mentioned that the tickets were going fast and there was only one left. I got up from my seat, left the worship service and went out to the foyer to get the last available ticket--my ticket (later I would feel that God was saving that one for me!). That weekend really refocused my life. The rally itself was quite motivational, but it was the aftermath that really made the difference. We formed small accountability groups when we got back home. They were called triple-cords...from Ecclesiastes 4:12--"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

I'm still not sure how I ended up with the two guys that I did, but I couldn't have asked for a better triple-cord--one was our pastor, the other was the guy that had the faith to put 50 tickets on his credit card! The three of us met weekly. Some weeks I really wasn't looking forward to our get together. I knew that they were going to ask about my prayer time, my Bible reading, how my relationship with my wife and kids was going, what kind of an example I was setting at work...they were going to ask the hard questions that we should be asking ourselves--but don't. They were my own conscience on steroids.

But I grew.

My sentence in Waterloo only lasted four and a half years (the first winter in Iowa seemed to last four and a half years!). Then we moved to Ozark, MO. We found a home at Hopedale Baptist Church (that's a story all its own) and God continued to place men around me that would help me to grow in His wisdom and will. At an annual business meeting, Pastor Terry was looking back at where we had been, reminding us of how we arrived at where we were, and casting the vision for the future. He suggested that we each do the same type of annual review in our own spiritual lives.

That fall, I began to look for a personal ministry. I was already pretty involved in "church" life. I was a Sunday School teacher, a Deacon, I served on a couple of committees and was generally at church when something was going on. I was serving the church, but I wasn't certain that I was really serving God. As I looked around to see what others were doing in personal ministry, I noticed something that they had in common. They were all doing things that they loved and using those things to bring glory to God. Some were singers, singing praises to God. Some used their instruments or wrote music. There was a professional bass fisherman that went to churches teaching men to fish...and sharing his personal testimony. I began to look at the things that I liked to do and wondered how I might use these things to glorify God.

I had always had an interest in magic. I never went beyond learning a few effects to share with friends and family. Now I was looking at magic as a way to talk to people about Jesus. I began to take magic much more seriously...if you are doing something for the King of Kings, you want it to be your best! I practiced effects. I practiced performing. I read the Bible for the stories and lessons. I worked hard to make magic an effective ministry tool.

But something was still missing.

Have you ever made a deal with God? Looking back, I can see that magic was my deal with God. It was as if I was saying, "I'll do this, God. Just don't ask me to preach."

Preaching the Word of God; the office of an evangelist; that is my true calling. I feel incredibly blessed that God still lets me use magic and I still get to "play" in the ministry. (It is hard to call anything that is so much fun work.) I'm getting more and more calls for preaching and I really feel that God is moving me in that direction. I still get asked to use magic, but I am feeling less excited about it than I once was. The more I move toward sharing the message of Salvation, the less important the magic is. John the Baptist (the guy from the Bible, not me) said that He (Jesus) must increase and I (John the Baptist) must decrease. I sense that it is becoming the same with the magic part of my ministry. I recognize that is always going to be a tool that I have available...I just think that it will become something that is used less often in my work for the Kingdom.

What about you? Have you ever considered that God has been preparing you for a Kingdom Ministry? Have you ever thought that you are not serving Him the way that He has called you to service? Have you made your deal with God?

If you have a marker; an event that you can go back to in your memory, look back and see how far you've come. If you can't think of one, drop a stone today. Look back in a week and see if you've moved forward at all. Look again in a month, a year. Figure out what is helping you to grow and what is holding you back.

Or better yet, look ahead. Are you growing closer to God? The Apostle Paul says that we should forget the past--just keep moving forward!
Paul wrote, "...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14.

Press on, readers. Press on. Move toward the high calling of Jesus.
Trust Him.
Embrace Him.
Walk with Him.

John <><


Pat S. said...

Hey Brother - Thanks for sharing. I found it very interesting. Please do me a huge favor and pray for me. I know that God brought us to Tyler, TX but not sure why? It has been almost one year and I am in a very dry place.
Pat S.

Sicilian said...

I always wanted my X to attend promise keepers. . . I think that one thing men miss is having some really good men friends. . . I love the concept . . . I think it was instrumental in your life. . . . I love hearing stories. . . yours is a great one.
What you haven't talked about is how that Democrat thing works in your church community.

John said...

"What you haven't talked about is how that Democrat thing works in your church community."

1. I'm actually registered as a republican.
2. For myself, I'm as conservative as they come.
3. Most people that have argued with me in the past, don't any more. If they do, they better know their stuff and better know that I don't care if they know it. They are free to disagree with me.
4. True to your Sicilian heritage, you just have to try to stir things up, don't you?

I was working with a controller one day and we were talking about another controller. He said to me, "He's on my list."

I asked, "What list is that?"

"The list of people that I don't argue with."

I said, "Ken, am I on that list?"

He said, "Bubba, you're at the TOP of that list!"