Overwhelmed is a good word.

6675771445_c81ce29198_zOverwhelmed is a good word.

A little over a year ago my sweet wife and I had no idea what was coming.  In many ways I am glad that we did not know.  To this day there are things that I am quite certain we will not understand any time soon.  And that’s ok.

Today we find ourselves in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We have been overwhelmed by things outside of our “control.” Our recent memories are actually filled with words like concern, confusion, and at times… crushed.  I’m not sure that he realizes it, but our oldest son Nathan was great encouragement to our family when he said, “Even hard things are a matter of perspective… Where do we keep our focus?  On the difficulty or on the Lord?”

Overwhelmed is a good word.

Those overwhelming things have actually been the way God has been preparing us for major unexpected change.  When you finally recognize that God is in control (and not you) it is overwhelming to see His hand of providence, His unfolding purpose, and His plan for your life.

Did I mention that we are in awe of the ways in which God works in our lives?

We were not looking, we were not asking, and indeed we did not even realize that God was preparing us for a whole new chapter in our life.  Until now.  I have been asked and I have accepted the call to come and serve as the senior pastor of the South County Bible Church in south St. Louis County Missouri.

Overwhelmed is a good word.

We (our whole family) are excited about this new adventure.  We are thankful for the rich history and godly men who have served at SCBC.  We are eager to work with the team that God has in place and continues to build there.  We are overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord, the grandeur of God, and the opportunity to serve Him.

 

“Overwhelmed” By Big Daddy Weave

I see the work of Your Hands

Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross

Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God

And all that You’ve done is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful

Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful

You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful

Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful

You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious

Oh God, there is no one more Glorious

You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious

I delight myself in You

In the Glory of Your Presence

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

And God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

There is no one more Beautiful

You are the most Beautiful

Songwriters: YOLANDA YVETTE ADAMS, RYAN KENT BELCHER, RODNEY L. EAST, ERROL W. JR. MCCALLA, MARCUS ECBY

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By the way, you’re not Jesus.

authoritarian-parents-angry-father-scolding-boyRemember that time when your child (spouse or friend), sinned against you and you went to them with eloquent, pointed, correcting words, and they immediately saw their error, dropped to their knees, and apologized with repentant tears?

Wait!  That’s never happened to you either?  I have to correct my children for the same thing over and over and over.  Why don’t they get what I’m saying?  Maybe I need to say it differently, with more force, with more gentleness, with more scripture, with less scripture.  I just need to figure out the right combination of words, then they’ll get it.  Right?

OK, so, you may want to sit down at this point.  What I’m about to say may be hard to hear: We cannot change people.

One author put it like this: “Somewhere along the way, those of us gifted with words will receive a painful reminder that it is Jesus and not our explanations that can change a heart.  Words aren’t strings.  People aren’t puppets. Eloquent speech isn’t magic.”

Only Jesus can change a person’s heart.  We may have all the appropriate biblical ammunition, carefully crafted arguments, and even have righteousness on our side, but none of these things can change a person.

As a dad I can raise my voice, or slow down my words (as if I’m speaking to a foreigner), but none of these things will change my children.  My words don’t have the power to change their hearts.  Only Jesus can do that.

When tension rises in a relationship, we’re immediately confronted with the fact that we are not Jesus.  We cannot cause people to be convicted of their sins, no matter how eloquently or forcefully we speak.  Only Jesus can convict a person of their sins.  Only Jesus can change a person’s heart.

We need to spend more time asking Him to work.  Yes, I mean praying.  He must change our children.  He must work in our spouse.  He must soften our friend.  Trying to do the work of Jesus in the heart of others is both exhausting and frustrating.  I know, I’ve tried many times and failed every time.  We need to (must) let Jesus do his work in his time.

[See: Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 14:10; 15:5]

My prayer for Ukraine…

A week after 9/11 (2001) a small group of us spent two weeks in Kiev and Odessa Ukraine with Slavic Gospel Association.  It was… incredible.  (Though no-one prepared me for being greeted with “a holy kiss”…over and over and over…everywhere we went.)

The pastors we met were dedicated (and godly) men who love the Word, cherish the Son, exalt the Father and yearn for their friends and neighbors to come to Christ.  Whole communities came out for the 3-4 hour long services that often included 2-4 sermons.  People arrived early, quietly prepared their hearts before the service and tearfully sang with rapturous joy in their hearts.

We also visited orphanages full of children.  I will never forget the little boy Uri who approached me and in broken but clear English said, “My name is U-ri. Vhat is yours?”  I wish someone could have taken a picture of his expression when I said, “Clegguart” (pronounced clay-gert) … I was ready to adopt him on the spot (along with the rest of the children).

I often find myself praying for the pastors we met and the churches in which we ministered.  One in particular stands out in my mind. Outside of Odessa and down rough dirt roads (I’m being generous) and across several fields lay a tiny little village where church was held every week, in a garage.

Packed in like sardines and using a little Casio keyboard for accompaniment, we gathered for worship.  After the service we walked a short distance down the road to a pile of rocks (not finely crafted bricks – random rocks).  The enthusiasm and anticipation was almost unbelievable.  This was to be their new church building.  They were building, stone by stone, piece by piece, mostly with their bare hands, a church.

I don’t know the political ups and downs of the current situation in Ukraine.  I do know that God is still on His throne and the Gospel still saves.

My prayer for Ukraine: May God’s people be faithful, God’s Word be proclaimed, God’s Spirit be unleashed, God’s Son be exalted and God be glorified!

To my pastor friends in Ukraine… Remember: Preach the Word, love the people and trust the Lord!

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