Devotional: December 20th
I've "been around." That is a polite way of saying that I have not settled in a church for the long term and had that landmark ministry of more than twenty years. As a result, my children have vowed that they were going to try to settle in one place and stay there for the rest of their lives. The thing is, they'd like us to stay where we are for the rest of our lives, too. We would like that and are working toward it. But there are a lot of memories from the different ministries I have served.
Becky and I will be at one of those places this weekend. We leave after she gets off work this evening and head toward Bainbridge, Ohio. The Bainbridge Church of Christ was my first legit full-time ministry. As such, there are a lot of memories of great triumphs and crashing mistakes. I was an arrogant recent Bible College graduate when I went to Bainbridge who had just guided a little country church for three years and almost doubled its attendance during that period. It was at Bainbridge that I was re-introduced to God as the mover and shaker in the church.
Twenty-two months was the total length of time I was there; from January, 1975 to October, 1976. I grew a lot while there. But I also lost a lot. The Sunday before Thanksgiving in 1975 we had a short board meeting following the morning worship service. The phone rang in the fellowship hall and Dick Higgins, one of the elders, answered it. "Tom, it's your dad," he said as he handed me the receiver. For some reason Dick didn't sit back down. He just stood there near me as I took the call.
"Dad's gone," I heard my father tell me over the phone. I remembered thinking it was terrible that Pawpaw would take off from Granny that way. So I asked, "Where'd he go? Did he tell Granny he was leaving?" I was not prepared for my dad's next words. "He's dead, Tom." My knees suddenly buckled and I would have fallen had Dick Higgins not reached out and taken me in his arms. Dick was six feet five inches tall and weighed over three hundred pounds. He held me as I began sobbing. I felt as though the arms of God were wrapped around me.
In that moment I remembered a passage of scripture with which I had become acquainted while a student at Johnson Bible College. "The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27 There in that moment I discovered what being in Christ was all about. It was having God as a Father and being His child. I began to realize the safety in God and the comfort of His everlasting arms. That day God became more real to me than ever before and my faith in Him began growing from then on.
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