Personal thoughts: The last couple of weeks have had all sorts of emotions for me. As most of you know, my dad passed away on December 1. This was not necessarily unexpected, but his Parkinson’s did hit him harder in the last 9 months than anytime in the previous 3 years. It was so good to be in Texas with my family and to be there when dad passed from this life to the next. I’m at peace knowing that my dad came to grips with his eternal state during his time with us this year in Oregon. He clearly knew that Jesus had forgiven him of his sin and he was trusting in Jesus for his eternal life. But…I miss him deeply. The last 27 years of my life, dad was a dear friend, a good counselor, and my biggest fan.
He was a great dad to my sister, Shari, and my brother Kevin. And he was a faithful husband to my mom, Barbara (December 3rd was their 52nd wedding anniversary). So much of the way I work, the tenacity to go after challenges, and the willingness to be honest with people, are from him.
One of the greatest honors of my life was to give his eulogy at his funeral. I have embedded it in this post at this link and if you have time, I hope it gives you a true portrait of my dad. I have always felt that Ephesians 6:2 was important for me as an adult man: “Honor your father and mother (for this is the first commandment with a promise).” My hope is that not only my eulogy, but the way I’ve lived my life and will live my life, will be an honor to my dad.
Our Church: I left on November 27th and returned December 8th. One of the emotions that has come to me during this time has been extreme gratitude for the work of God at CLF. So many of you reached out to me, offered your prayers and your support. And I felt it and so did my family. I never once doubted the church’s love for us and we never felt alone. I’m so grateful for that.
But I’m also grateful that the ministry at CLF continued without a hitch. Our staff made sure everything ran smoothly and Dave Quilla did a great job of preaching for me the Sunday I missed. Not to mention the fact that our church, during that Sunday service, prayed for us and gathered together to worship the Savior…together.
I love what God is doing among us and I am very grateful. I am a very happy pastor and I consider it one of the greatest highlights in my life to be a pastor at this church. CLF, please know that we love you and are grateful for your love for us.
Now…on to the sermon from yesterday: Funny thing about yesterday’s sermon…I wrote all of it on the plane home from Texas on Saturday. There was little to no time to run through it, cut things out of that weren’t needed and very little time to work on my delivery. I did what I’ve said so often…”studied it, wrote it and then let it rip”. So, I’m sure there were some examples that didn’t quite fit; maybe a quirky jab that wasn’t the best; or some way of saying something that could’ve been better. And to be honest, I’ve been so tired that I haven’t given all of that much thought.
But I would like to show you something that I find remarkable of what God has done for me (and us) periodically. The Tuesday I left, November 27th, I studied for this sermon because I thought I would be back home to preach on December 2nd. I wrote extensive notes, read commentaries and highlighted key verses that I thought were important. However, I did not preach this sermon on December 2nd. Due to my dad passing on December 1st, I stayed in Texas and I didn’t open my notes again until the following Wednesday, while I was working on my dad’s eulogy. And here’s where the Lord worked for me (and for you), like He’s done periodically. I came up with an outline in 15 minutes. Then, didn’t look at the outline again until I stepped on the plane, December 8th. As soon, as I started writing my sermon, the Lord brought to mind all that I had studied and gave me several things that fit with this text. And when I stepped off the plane in Eugene, I had my sermon done. Now…the family meeting notes for Sunday afternoon…that’s a completely different story.
Then, when I went to deliver the sermon on Sunday, to be completely honest, I was at total peace. I couldn’t wait to share God’s word with the church I love the most and I knew that our people would be eager to study God’s word with me. And the Lord met us.
Much of what I shared Sunday have come to me through experience. The idea that humble faith means we obey God and trust Him with the results is a mantra that I have lived by since I was young in ministry. Often there have been hard conversations and difficult situations to deal with, but I have thought, “what does God say about what I should do?” And then asked the Lord to help me obey Him, no matter how things turned out. 9 times out of 10, things turned out much differently than I had expected and most the time, it was better than I expected. It really is simple: obey God and trust Him with the results. He’s called us to trust Him; He’s called us to obey Him; He hasn’t called us to bring about the results…that’s His job.
And sadly, much of what I shared about arrogant presumption is also from experience. I have thought and even said, like Haman, “I’m kind of a big deal.” Sadly, it has cost me friendships and it has caused a ton of conflict. Thankfully, the Lord used those moments to change me, but honestly, it’s one of the deepest regrets I have. As a younger leader, I made many mistakes. Thankfully, God did not use it to hang me, like we’re going to see in Haman’s life.
Quotes: These are quotes I included and some I didn’t.
- “Character transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit, who brings to fruition the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in those who belong to Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:22–23). Without this transformation of character by the Holy Spirit, none of us can attain the full potential of our humanity. Without the work of God’s Spirit, we cannot be the persons God created us to be, nor can we attain fully to the purpose of our lives as agents of God’s redemptive work in history.” Karen Jobes
- “Emboldened by the presumption that he stands solidly in the favor of both King Xerxes (King Ahasuerus) and Queen Esther, Haman takes the advice of his wife. Zeresh counsels him simply to eliminate immediately the cause of his dissatisfaction. Haman builds a gallows of extraordinary size, seventy-five feet high, not realizing that its size is the measure of his own pride”. Karen Jobes
- “The deliverance of God’s people from death and destruction is initiated “on the third day” after Esther’s decision, when Xerxes extends to her the golden scepter”. Karen Jobes
- “His pride was the source of his sin. More importantly, v. 13 illustrates that one person can make a difference in life. Mordecai’s refusal to kneel down to Haman reveals that as long as there is one person willing to risk his or her life, God’s will can break through the oppression of society”. Mervin Breneman
- “Haman did not realize he was preparing his own doom, and he was not alone in preparing his own downfall. The Bible teaches that all are guilty of the same sin: “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5).” Mervin Breneman
- “Most people of faith have had a similar experience, stepping out with courage, conviction, and perhaps some faith-even if that faith is weak or tenuous-not really knowing what will happen when they do. Taking the step, they do not know-cannot know-whether things will end up going well for them or whether it will turn out to be a disaster. They do not know whether it will ‘pay off’ or whether it will cost them.” Bryan Gregory
- “Esther must step out in faith…However, even though she must step out in faith, she acts as shrewdly as she can. Wisely, she does not barge in; she just stands at the very edge of the court, doing just enough to get into the king’s line of sight and then waiting for him to notice her, hoping that her reserve and discretion will win her his welcome. In taking this approach, Esther shows a wise balance between bold faith and thoughtful planning.” Bryan Gregory
- “The cross convinces us that the same God who loves us that much must also care enough about us to be right there with his faithful and providential hands beneath us when we step out in faith.” Bryan Gregory