Today is my 40th birthday and with it comes large amounts of food, well wishes, and some really horrible singing. I’ve been blessed the to steal away with Denise to St. Augustine for a few days of rest and relaxation. While I’m fine with the whole ‘turning 40’ thing, it has caused me to stop and consider what I have learned on the first half of my journey of life and prepare for what lies on the ‘other side of the hill’. Here are a few of my musings and ruminations...
I’m not who I was and I am not who I will be I am so thankful for this truth. I so often cringe when I consider the mean, cruel, and thoughtless words spoken in haste and impatience. When I think back on the cruel things I did to classmates and rivals I am ashamed. I wish I could take back the hurt and heartache I caused. Far too often my actions and words were unbecoming of someone who claims the name of Christ. I’m am very sorry. By God’s grace, I am no longer that person. Yet, I am not what I will be. Each day I am waging war on my selfishness, pride, and vanity. I am clinging to the promise that the Lord has given me the Holy Spirit who is making me more and more like Jesus in my thoughts, actions, and motivations. There will be a day that my sin is wiped away and my body is clothed with the glorious righteousness of Christ. Yet until that day, I will cling to the promise that the Holy Spirit is transforming me into the image of Christ. My prayer is the prayer of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Ps. 51:10.
I overestimate my ability and underestimate God’s ability I cannot tell you how many times in my forty years I have bitten off more than I can chew, made a hash of something by my delusions of grandeur, or my innate propensity to only finish 80% of a project. Yet in my 40 orbits around the sun I have learned that God always does what is right. God provided faithfully during the lean years of my childhood, the day-to-day needs of my young family, and lavishly during Crosby’s adoption. He gives me what I need, when I need it, and in the proper amount. I will never be in error when I wait on him (Is 40:31; Ps 57). His grace is amazing, his strength unflinching, and his mercies unending. May I wait upon the Lord to renew my strength, satisfy my soul, and lead me in paths of life everlasting in these years to come.
I am not able but Christ is able - Recently, at a local pastor’s forum I sat down with a retiring pastor who was asked, “What do you want to tell these young pastors that will better equip them for ministry?” Wilth tears in his eyes he said this, “I am not able, but Christ is.” No truer words could have been said. I am not able to love my family, care for my flock, or guard my own heart like Jesus can. I must trust him for my daily bread and for those in my care. Though I am prone to wander, the Good Shepherd is quick to retrieve that which has wandered. My prayer is that I always have an attentive ear for the voice of the Shepherd, for when I am in his sight there is nothing I could possibly want.
My life is not my own I did not give myself life and I will not choose when it is over. Why do I think I am sovereign over the time in between? I don’t want to live my life as if my comfort, my pleasure, or my desires are ultimate but rather live it for the glory of Christ. To follow Christ we must die to selfish ambition, personal comforts, and individual goals. We follow his example by not demanding what is our due but willingly laying down our rights in service of others (Phil 2:6-7). My prayer for my remaining years is for the grace to, “not...think of [myself] more highly than [I] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” Rom 12:3. May I lay my dreams, desires, and goals down that I may be satisfied by the greater and more satisfying purposes of Christ and His kingdom.
I don’t want to waste my life - I have been given a sound mind, able body, and satisfied soul. I don’t want to fritter away my time on silly things or waste my mind, body, and soul on fleeting things but invest each moment of things that are beautiful, good, and true. I pray that I would put down the phone, turn off the TV, and get off the couch. That I would play with my children, talk to my wife, read my Bible, and love my neighbor. May I invest in eternal and satisfying things so that I will not be ashamed when I stand before my maker to give an account of how I invested each precious second. My pray is that “whatever [I] do, in word or deed, [I] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” Col 3:17.
I will be forgotten When I was a boy I used to dream of being rich and famous, recognized by many and appreciated by multitudes. I realize now how vain and dangerous that thinking was to my life and soul. By God’s grace, I have been brought to the comforting realization that I will be forgotten. Memories of me will fade within a few generations of my passing. All those who knew me and loved me will cry a tear, say kind words (hopefully), and move on with their lives. Yet the impact I have on future generations will not be my wisdom, efforts, or love. It will be how effective I was to point those I love toward Christ. He is eternal. He is everlasting. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I will have been a success in life if I have sowed the gospel of Jesus Christ into the hearts of my wife, children, grandchildren, and my congregation, for Christ will remain long after I am a forgotten footnote in the pages of history. May I be humbled by this truth when I am riding high in the saddle of self-congratulations and encouraged by it when I am downtrodden by the heaviness of life. My prayer echoes the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30.
Time is fleeting and God’s blessings are sweet Forty years have come and gone in a blur. Just yesterday, I was a little boy in Hebron, CT, lost in the imaginary world I created in the backyard of my parents home. Just yesterday, I was a clumsy kid running the halls at Cornerstone. Just yesterday, I saw my radiant bride in her wedding dress and promised her my life. Just yesterday, I was holding my newborn children in my arms for the first time. Just yesterday, I was a new pastor. Turning 40 will soon become a “just yesterday” as well as so many other wonderful moments. I pray that I will stop to savor each moment and savor the sweetness of God’s grace. May each blessing, large and small, turn my heart toward my Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children. May my prayer be, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lam 3:22-23.
I want to finish well - I am now the age of the adults I knew as a child. My teachers, my friends parents, and the adults from my church family. As I have gotten older I have witnesses the deaths of those precious people. Mr. McCauley, Pastor Beliasov, Robert Konemann, Mrs Ralston, Mr Edwards (CCS janitor), Auntie Grace, Dr. And Mrs Lapp. I remember their love for Christ in life and cherish their faithfulness in death. I have also seen others whose faith in Christ grow cold, hearts become unresponsive to the gospel, and love for Christ fade. I desperately want to finish well! Whether I die at a young age or live to see my great grandchildren, may it be said of me, “His faith Christ, hope in the gospel, and love for the brothers persevered to the end” (Col 1:3-5). I pray the words of the Psalmist for my remaining days, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24).
No one is guaranteed tomorrow (I know because I almost didn’t make it to this day). I am so grateful for the grace of my Savior, love of my wife, blessing of my children, and friends to share life with. I am truly a blessed man! May God be glorified in my life ‘over the hill’! .