Every one of us has a story. Where we came from, how we got to this point and the things that have shaped us. Though we may all take different paths to get here, we have all been shaped by those early childhood to adulthood relationships. There is always a wound to be healed and a scar left behind, something that happened that was outside of our control. Even the best parents, teachers and mentors cannot keep us form having something go wrong. The question is whether or not we have come to recognize it yet. For we all have prejudices, practices and things we hold sacred; it doesn't mean they are wrong or bad, but the possibility is that we are repeating patterns and we just don't know any better.
If you have read any of the writing here before, you can probably tell what the themes of my life have been. I was raised in a Christian home, but not necessarily in Christ. I was taught to be good, but not taught to be God's. My life lacked lessons in Grace and I learned little about Mercy. Forgiveness was given, but had to be earned. Being good and following a list of rules became the goal, rather than following Christ. Unfortunately, and as we all know, we cannot ever be good enough to belong to God.
It was a very confusing time for me. The church and attendance seemed to be the priority, while cultivating my own relationship with the Savior was not. The church was wrapped up in being right politically, and having the right man in the White House would surely change the moral decline within our country. I would have benefited greatly from some discipleship, but I was not sure of what I needed. I walked away from the church in my later teenage years, partly due to my rebellious heart and partly due to the fact that I couldn't be good enough. It was a frustrating thing to belong to a God of Love, who would not love me because my performance was not up to par. So forgiveness had to be earned and I was held in bondage to that. So I walked away.
The journey home began as I saw a God of Mercy who was very Long-suffering. He was taking His time with me, even while I was still a sinner. His Unfailing Love broke through in my darkest hour, when I needed Him most. As I understood how Loved I was and that He had always Forgiven me, I had to unlearn things that I had been taught. Whether directly or indirectly; inadvertently even, I had learned things about Him that were just not true. And so, I began a journey of learning and knowledge that has helped to shape my life and correct the way that I thought about myself, God and others. There were many resources and friends that helped me through this initial struggle and these are topics and books that I highly recommend.
In The Grip Of Grace- Max Lucado
What's so Amazing about Grace?- Philip Yancey
The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller
Disappointment With God- Philip Yancey; actually pretty much anything written by him
God's Pursuit of Man- A.W. Tozer
Experiencing God- Henry Blackaby
Can you Drink the Cup?- Henri Nouwen
The Ragamuffin Gospel- Brennan Manning
He Loves Me!- Wayne Jacobsen
The Forgotten Jesus- Robby Gallaty
In addition, the teaching ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, really exposed me to the truth of God's Love for me and I try to catch his teaching as much as possible. There have been a number of other pastors who have poured into my life the Word of God and I thank them for their love for God and for others. They include...
Reverend Charlie Spencer, my pastor during those teenage years. He was the first pastor to help me with the stirrings in my heart, as God was calling me into a deeper relationship with Him. There are things that he said that have stuck with me these many years later. He prayed with me when my life was turning to a new direction and a chapter was closing. Charlie was one of the first transparent pastors I ever knew. He acknowledged his struggles during his messages and that was refreshing to me. I miss him as he passed away several years ago now, but I always felt that I had a friend in him.
Pastor Todd Gray, who first showed an interest in me because of his heart for discipleship. When we first moved to Kentucky, I was going through a lot of things emotionally- missing my family back in Virginia, anticipating the birth of our first grandchild, and the news of my father's cancer coming back. Pastor Todd took the time to listen and hear my heart, my feelings of inadequacy spiritually and not knowing what God had in store for me. I needed guidance and direction, but also someone to encourage me in my walk with Christ and Todd did that with me. He asked me if I had ever been discipled and I recall asking him what that was. I had never had another man walk with me and teach me the Word, who I was in Christ, and how to learn to walk with God. Up to that point, most of my learning was from books and the Word of God, by reading on my own. I am deeply grateful for Todd and his ministry.
Pastor Jon Akin was my most recent pastor. Jon was a friend and always encouraged me to pay attention to what God was calling me to. I still felt inadequate, but he helped me to see that God can use anybody. Jon's prayers for me and with me really meant a lot. Jon's teaching and preaching style was so different from anyone else I had ever heard.
The worship services at Fairview Church were so different from what I had grown up with. The emphasis of the Gospel affected every aspect- from the singing, taking up the offering and partaking in the Lord's supper. This was really a refreshing and different way of looking at things that were traditionally more somber and routine. Jon taught me so much about the Word of God and learning to view all of the Bible as pointing to Jesus. My aversion to the Old Testament has mostly worn off, because now I really see Jesus there throughout those pages. Jon and the staff at Fairview have really helped me and this explosion of growth these last few years! I am so thankful that Jon saw Jesus in everything, including some of our culture's movies and stories! Jon has taken another position now, but I am deeply grateful for his ministry, and for trying to point all of us to Jesus!
I cannot fail to mention Micah Fries, who like me, grew up under the umbrella of the Moral Majority/ Religious Right movement. His teaching at Fairview helped me to see the Kingdom of God as priority and everything else, including America, moral and social issues as secondary. The importance of the Gospel as the heart changer- and not the man-made organizations with a Christian theme or agenda- is something that has clearly come into focus for me. It is far more important for me now to want others to know Christ, not to be on the right side of political, social or moral issues. Thanks, Micah for helping me understand this!
We have entered a new chapter now in the life of our church, with Brandt Waggoner coming in as pastor. As a new pastor he is setting the tone for our church and what we will embody. I am excited to see all that God has for us as we grow into Christ-likeness and reach a greater level of unity.