Wait! I Have One More Thing to Say . . . in Three Points!
In the fall of 1981 I was ordained into the ministry. The text I chose to be used as my ordination theme was Psalm 22:22-24.
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants, of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear him will I fulfill my vows.”
One of the men who addressed me from this text said, “Jim, there must always be someone declaring the praise of the Lord among congregation. No matter what the circumstances, in verse 25, David will “fulfill his vow”, that is, to praise the Lord. This is what you are being called to do--to praise the Lord even if you are a voice of one.” So I would like in my last post on the web site to declare my praise for some wonderful things he has done.
1. I praise him for the worship at New City East Lake. Always a product of many hands and voices, yet it seemed to me always blessed by God’s Holy Spirit to lead my heart to a better place than I was when I entered the church in the morning. I tell you there were Sundaymornings that I could barely function when I arrived, and when I gathered with the worship team for prayer, I could barely pray. But from the moment I hit the worship service, something started happening. Something that we prayed for a few minutes earlier. God’s Spirit was moving on me and changing my heart. Almost every Sunday it seemed like I had experienced a miracle of his grace. I marveled at his faithfulness from week to week. I give testimony to his love and grace to me in this way on a weekly basis. I praise and thank him for the joy of our worship together.
2. Next I want to shout my praise to my Lord Jesus for using me at East Lake. I know that I was quiet at my last Sunday at East Lake. Quiet about my feelings about being at East Lake. I think I was trying very hard to make the worship about the Lord and not me. Perhaps I forgot that I had a lot to praise him for regarding how faithfully he answered my cries for help as a pastor every step of my ten years at East Lake. I am in so many ways an afflicted man and enough so to be disqualified from even being a pastor. Yet, God called me to serve him and in so doing has kept me crying out for help. And, in his love and mercy has answered the cries of this poor man and even more astonishing--used me in his kingdom. As the Gospel song says, “Thank you Lord; my soul looks back and wonders, how I got over.” For this, among you as my brothers and sisters, I can only give God my praise and thanks, and wonder at his great mercy.
3. And finally, I give the Lord highest praise for you, the congregation and leaders of the church. For you are the most generous people I have ever served. You are generous in many ways but I want to stress one particular way. It is in your patience in allowing an afflicted man to be your pastor. Many of you thank me for being transparent. But probably the more accurate truth is that I am just not very skilled at hiding what a fool I am (please feel free to choose your own word to replace “fool.”). As I have said elsewhere, I know at times it has not been easy. Therefore, I want to thank you for your patience and love. Thank you for allowing the truth of the Gospel not just be a message preached one direction in this church but that many times you have had to preach to me the forgiveness and love of Christ. Finally, you gave me a precious gift that so few pastors understand--the freedom to be myself. Therefore, I praise God for this experience. As a result, I love you very much and will never forget my ten years as your pastor.
To my Latino Brothers and Sisters:
Incluyendo aquí cuando estoy expresando mi gratitud al Señor por la congregación deEast Lake son mis hermanos y hermanas Latinas que igualmente son mi comunidad y familia durante de los diez años pasados. Quiero que Uds. saben que a pesar de que yo no tenía mucho tiempo con Uds. y que este fue un gran desencanto para mi, sin embargo mi corazón y mis oraciones fueron con Uds. Uds. constantemente fueron y continúa ser una inspiración para mi. Cuando yo y mi familia estábamos en las luchas de la vida este año pasado con tiempos cuando se sentimos que nuestro esperanza perdería, el ejemplo de una gran cantidad de Uds. ayudamos a aguantar. En un difícil clima política, con todas las igual problemas de familias como nosotros, Uds. con su feen el Señor, con ayuda uno a otro, y con valor and perseverancia, han sido bendecidos por Dios como un senal del voluntad de Dios que este país es su hogar y esté iglesia necesita su ejemplo y sus regalos espirituales. Hermanos y hermanas, como Uds. saben, estaré en deuda de Uds. por su apoyo y amor que me han dado por los años enEast Lake. Por estos años, nunca te olvides de todos o dando gracias a mi Dios cada vez que me acuerdo de ustedes. Hasta que reunimos hasta entonces que Dios les bendigan con el amor y gracia del Espíritu Santo.
In closing, many of you thanked me for preaching the Gospel to you. I couldn't have received a higher complement. New City East Lake is a Gospel centered church. The Gospel is the heart and soul of the church. So preach it. Preach it to each other. But don’t forget, right outside the doors of this church are people who think they know it, who think they have heard it, but they need to hear it from you. It is why you are here in East Lake. You particularly--need to be in these streets with these residents of this community. This church is no accident or coincidence and this church was not a denominational experiment or peculiar phenomenon. It is a work of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in order to reach this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You are his ambassadors. I know that your works are important too. But please don’t ever forget--the power of the Gospel must be heard. Heard from your lips. Heard from your lips even when people don’t want to hear it sometimes. I know. I was one of them once. I listened anyway even though I hated what the preacher was saying. Jesus used it in my life anyway.And, look what happened to me!
I love you East Lake. I always will. My prayers are with you, my thanks ever for you. Jim