Nearly seven years have passed since I penned the fifth part of this autobiography. Much has happened in that time related to my walk with the Lord and his church. It seems appropriate to now update my story. Hopefully this chapter will shine more of the spotlight on the glorious grace of our Lord rather than on the wretched prodigal of this man.
To set the context, you may want to read the previous chapters.
- Autobiography (part 1): The Early Years
- Autobiography (part 2): Early Manhood – Years 16-21
- Autobiography (part 3): The Pastoral Years
- Autobiography (part 4): The Dark, Scarlet Letter Years
- Autobiography (part 5): The Winding Road Years
Two biblical characters give me hope as a fallen man. These men are David and Simon Peter. Both men lost their way and crashed. Yet both men found the grace and mercy of our Lord. Not only did God not destroy them, but He also restored them to fellowship to himself and his people.
The Example of King David
Chosen by God to be king over his people, David served with distinction and honor. In a sudden change of course, he became an adulterer and a murderer. He had fallen. Confronted by the prophet, David penned a song of repentance recorded in Psalm 51. This psalm has been a constant prayer of mine.
For years I wrestled with the ugliness of my sin as did David in the early verses of the psalm. I witnessed God’s hand of discipline on my body and soul like David experienced. But these past few years have allowed me to grasp what was at the heart of David’s prayer. That is,
Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
The darkness of sin’s shame is overwhelmed by the brightness of joy in the Lord and his salvation. His grace is greater than my sin. Knowing that causes joy to well up from within and delight all the more in this great God.
The next verse of David’s prayer stirs even more joy.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
My prayer is that God will take this story of his grace in my life for the benefit of others. One of my greatest joys is the teaching of the Scriptures (God’s ways) so that sinners return to him.
The Example of Simon Peter
As for Simon Peter, he was bold in his declarations of faithfulness to the Lord. Given the opportunity to demonstrate in action his bold words, Peter thrice denied even knowing the Lord. When the day dawned, he was crushed by his failure. But Jesus prayed for him.
When you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.
The depths of Peter’s sorrow was surpassed only by the heights of his joy. The Lord would restore him. Such joy did he experience that he would later describe it this way.
Joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
–1 Peter 1:8
Like David and Peter, I am rediscovering the joy of the Lord. In the Lord’s presence, there is a sweetness and satisfaction that is difficult to communicate.
Also like David, Peter would be useful again in service to the Lord. Jesus’ prayer for him included a role towards the brothers. He was to strengthen them. In fact, Jesus would later restore Peter by thrice questioning Peter’s love for the Lord. Each time Peter avowed his love, Peter was instructed to tend or feed Jesus’ sheep.
How gracious has the Lord been to me? While I do not serve as a pastor, I have the privilege of teaching and preaching God’s word. This takes place in my writing as well as in a classroom at church or from the pulpit during the gathering of God’s people.
One particular Sunday, the leaders at First Baptist Boynton Beach asked me to read the Scripture text during the worship service. As I stood before the congregation with an open Bible for the first time in about fifteen years, my body attempted to revolt. My legs trembled, my skin leaked water and my voice wanted to sound like a teenager during puberty.
Perhaps that is strange for a man who has preached hundreds (perhaps thousands) of times in the past. But I did not think this would ever happen again.
Suzie and I had returned to South Florida and took up residence in Boynton Beach. This move allowed us to connect with the brothers and sisters of the church. We have experienced great joy in fellowship with our church family.
The Lord closed down my career in the hospitality industry. He also took away my physical stamina and almost took away my life. In 2011 I had the first of four heart attacks. Doctors have split me open to bypass four arteries in my heart. In several other procedures they have added eight stents to the same heart.
Physically, I am a shell of the man I once was. God is preparing me for an eternity with him in a new body. The physical limitations also remind me of my continual need for the mercy and grace from the Lord.