I received an unexpected surprise yesterday (May 26th) when the mail arrived. It was an certificate, acknowledging my “50th anniversary of ordination” into the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament. I was ordained on May 24, l970 in my home town of Negaunee, Michigan.
Why do I mention my ordination certificate? It is a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy. “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin fresh each day” (Lam 3:22-23 NLT).
In my Cambridge New International Version, I have Ps. 71:18 marked “my retirement (5/11/10),” the day I retired from full time ministry. These words have become my guiding light as I now approach my 79th year. “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Men, this is why I write!
Isaiah 46:4 has been a great encouragement in these later years. “I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” Every morning when my bride and I pray together I thank God for how he has cared for us for almost 55 years.
So men, here is a brief testimony. “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never had made it apart from sheer mercy” (I Tim 1:14-15 MGS).
First and foremost, God loves you unconditionally. I am a “beloved” sinner. It took me many years to let this reality sink into my heart. Remember you are love in all your stink! You are loved as you are – period. Take it from me – you can only receive this by faith. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (I John 4:18). Receiving God’s love for you is foundational to all the rest of your spiritual journey.
Second, trust Jesus. Sounds simple. Trust means to lean totally on Jesus. There have been times, when all I could do was to cry out to God for mercy, as I wallowed in my darkness and despair. When you trust Jesus fully, you can cry out for help and be met at your point of need. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Third, Jesus is Lord. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Always have that up and out posture, as you seek to follow Jesus. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Ps 27:8). All authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth. He will see you through anything that comes your way
Fourth, live in daily repentance. Humbly see yourself as ”an unfinished follower.” “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Fifth, make sure that you are a kingdom man. Jesus reigns and already has won the victory for us. We read in Revelation, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth (Rev 5:10). We know the rest of the story as we follow Jesus.
I could say a lot more, but if I were talking with one of you, this is what I would want to know from someone ordained to be a pastor 50 years ago.