One Sunday when I was in high school, I glanced at the church bulletin and thought, “That’s weird. I wonder why Pastor Terry is preaching on trigonometry this morning.” Of course, he wasn’t. When I saw the single-word sermon title “Sin” I read it as the abbreviation for “Sine,” the ratio of the length of the opposite side of a right triangle to the length of the triangle’s hypotenuse. Of course, Pastor Terry’s topic was Sin. As in, as Billy Graham once described the phenomenon, any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. My mom was sitting next to me in the church pew. I nudged her and shared my sin vs. sin confusion…we still laugh about the mix-up.
Come & See
This space has its roots in the history of how this congregation came to be - a group of Jesus followers inviting others to come and see Christ as well. Once a month, we will bring forth a devotional from years gone by. Today we re-member (put together again in our minds) from thirty years ago in the Lenten Devotional of 1987 - March 27th to be precise:
"When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
It is traditional to 'give things up for Lent.' But God challenges us to give up much more than some one thing or one addiction, and for much longer than a few weeks. "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24 )
Check out Part I of John's story here.
While I was at peace knowing that I would be following God’s direction in some manner, I was confused about my experience. Why would God call me to the ministry and then lead me in an opposite direction? Obviously He knew ahead of time what decisions I would make, but did I know? Maybe God was showing me that I was willing to give up a budding career to serve Him. This was certainly a reordering of my priorities, and I had to demonstrate to myself that I was willing to give up this job-centered priority for a God-centered priority.
Once I understood that, He set me on a different course that He already had in mind for me. Interestingly enough, I didn’t take the position that was offered – RCA asked me to come back from my layoff into a new, more interesting position. I returned to RCA and my career “took off.” I continued my career for a total of 45 years, retiring about two months ago.
Have you ever been surprised by something unexpected? We all have had a moment when we stopped dead in our tracks and wondered at the amazing timing of events? Most likely you thought of it as good luck or a coincidence. Life certainly has these moments and they often make us smile or say “wow”.
Every year as we prepared to leave for Florida, I promised myself to spend my free time writing. I could spend many hours writing, but in the past, often stymied as to what I should write. I would wait for God to give me a nudge, wanting to please Him. Probably 10 years ago, after several weeks of not writing anything, I was in my same old rut; willing, yet uninspired.
After receiving my degree from Adrian College – a United Methodist school in Southeastern Michigan – I accepted a position in the up-and-coming semiconductor industry as a second-shift manufacturing engineer. Findlay, Ohio, had a multi-denominational seminary run by the Church of God with faculty from various churches in town, and since I had my days free I enrolled as a student. I had no aspirations of going into the ministry; I just wanted to increase my theological knowledge as a means to deepen my faith. I had been very active in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in college, including participation in a month-long resident leadership course my senior year, and this seemed to be a good continuation of those studies. John Charles Cooper, a former student of Paul Tillich and a well-known author (Religion After 40, etc.) took me on as a graduate student.
Two years into my studies – about half way to my Masters of Divinity – I was called into the Plant Manager’s office and assigned as Resident Engineer to a facility that we were contracting with in California’s Silicon Valley. This was a huge career opportunity, especially for an engineer as young as I was. I jumped at the chance, dropped out of seminary, and went off to California without looking back. Things continued to go very well and I was given gradually increasing responsibility. I was on the fast track.