Wednesday Wisdom 🙂
Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: 4: 1-3
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
It’s been many years since the first time that I walked into Parkview Baptist Church. Ashley Grace attended Youth Group and Bible study there with a friend, and had recently begun to attend Sunday morning worship there as well. I was in the midst of a “rut” in terms of my own faith, and feeling a bit lost. My fourth decade on the earth was teaching me all of the things that I didn’t know, thereby eroding the confidence with which I was used to facing life. Amidst all of the unanswered questions, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to share faith with my girls. So, I followed the request of my oldest child and drove 15 miles down the road to Lexington, NE to see what she was inviting me into.
That first Sunday, I walked in the door with quite a lot of trepidation and absolutely no idea what to expect. My background in the Episcopal and Catholic churches did not offer me much of a window into the community of a Baptist church. Two very friendly and earnest gentlemen named George and Randy welcomed Matt and I at the door, and we found seats in the back of the church. I held Matt’s hand as we stood to worship and I spent some time wrapping my brain around a different type of church service. And then, a soft-spoken preacher named John Shields opened his Bible and started to read and share.
I had not spent significant time in my adulthood reading my Bible. It would be accurate to say that I’d done more wandering than journeying in terms of faith. I had gotten *stuck* dedicatedly working to try to earn my way instead of seeking to be in relationship with the Savior that humbly and steadfastly loved me. But, that day Jesus used Pastor John to begin to inspire me to dig into God’s Word to get to personally know the Trinity that was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, praying over and thinking about the message shared each week on Sunday morning began to bring me back regularly until Parkview was not just Ashley Grace’s “home church” but it became mine and our entire family’s as well. For the first time in my life, I intentionally joined Jesus’ church and it changed my heart and my perspective.
I was blessed to be a part of more than five years of Pastor John’s ministry. I have many favorite sermons and hundreds of pages of notes. But, I think perhaps what I hold the most value in are the times spent watching John lead with a heart full of Jesus and a resulting agape love that marks him as Christ’s own. He is what Paul describes above in the passage from Ephesians: humble, gentle, patient, and compassionate. His actions initiate an inspired call for us to unite in the Spirit. One of my favorite “Pastor John” sayings is that forgiveness is our super-power.
On Sunday, John preached his last sermon as head pastor of Parkview Baptist Church. He reminded us that Jesus is the cornerstone, and called us to steadfastly radiate His love as we share the Gospel. Our church family has shed many tears over the past month as we’ve prepared for John and his wife Julie’s 25-year ministry to draw to a close. Honestly, that kind of loving leadership is hard to let go. John now answers a new call to serve and mentor pastors all across Nebraska and Kansas. He and Julie leave a legacy of love, passion, and faithful obedience to Jesus for all of us in the Parkview family to tend and grow on into the future.
I will always carry with me John’s reminder to harness my super-power of forgiveness in order to honor the invitation that I accepted when I joined Team Jesus 🙂 Thank you, John and Julie, for loving, guiding, and supporting our family as we journey in faith.