There is nothing like a comment from an old friend to motivate me to blog. Sometimes I have so much to do that I cannot take the time to write. Then after awhile, I forget that I have this opportunity to speak to people. Blogging works better for me than facebook. I have met tens of thousands of people over the years and simply cannot work a facebook account with all my other tasks. A blog allows me to speak a word to those who bother to read.
The first comment on the previous blog was from a young man that I have known since Kingsville days. Randy Clayton was one of the most memorable young men that I worked with there. God in his providence placed him in Austin around the time that we came to Georgetown. I thrive on good relationships. God was so gracious to bring Randy and several others around us with whom we had a history. I spent several pleasant mornings over coffee or breakfast talking with and praying with him about the great challenge that Crestview would present. In those days we operated on a budget of under four hundred thousand dollars and gathered only a little over two hundred people for worship on an average Sunday. There was no way to know what the future held. Having a few people around who knew us from the past meant more than we can express. Phil and Gayla May and family were in the church having just finished leading music at a small church in Austin. I had known them for many years prior to our arrival. Mike and Janet Chandler and family joined within the first month. I had been their pastor in Kingsville. Stan and Michelle Ray joined also in the first month. I had been Michelle’s pastor in her high school years. Countless other persons visited the church who had known us or been members in other churches and encouraged us. All of these people were an important part of God speaking to our hearts to confirm the difficult decision of leaving a wonderful pastorate in Kingsville to basically start over in Georgetown. I still thank God for these human blessings. I am thankful for the way he used people from our past to help us move toward the future he had planned for us. Now there are so many wonderful relationships around us after twenty years that it is beyond describing.
Glory to God!
Shannon and I are blessed beyond measure by your kindness and generosity toward us. The gift of a new truck was overwhelming. The many gifts and kind words that Shannon and I have received were amazing and humbling. Greater than all are the relationships and friendships that God has brought to us in these twenty years. You are an amazing church. We are thankful for your loving ways in ministry and service to the Lord as well as to us. We pray that your kindness toward us will only further serve the cause of bring glory to Jesus as we share him with one another and with those around us. Thank you for patiently allowing us to serve the Lord in this place along side each of you.
Early this morning I was stopped at a traffic light on Williams Drive when someone in one of those tiny red pickups pulled up beside me. It had obviously been driven over one hundred thousand miles in service to the owner or owners as the case may be. My mind went back to our years in our twenties when I had a similar small red truck; one of the first of its kind. I had bought it greatly used and drove it extensively on numerous ministry visits. That little truck had such a bad starter that I always parked it on an incline so that I could Jump in, release the emergency break, and pop the clutch at just the right moment as I rolled forward to cause the engine to start. I drove it that way for several years. I actually had several vehicles over the years that were equally in great need of an unaffordable repair. As I sat there this morning, I thanked God that in all those years he never allowed us to be bitter or feel regret for the difficulties of raising our family on meager salaries. In fact in the leanest years, he always showed us that it was the Lord and not the various churches who ultimately determined how we would be provided for. As I sat there this morning, I could only say, “Lord, you are amazing!” So are you, Crestview Baptist Church! Shannon and I are overwhelmed by your loving ways.
Dan and Shannon Wooldridge
This morning I preached my heart out about the Lord Jesus. I never ever feel that I have done justice to his wonder and glory. I am absolutely convinced that real revival is as simple as a real encounter with the real Jesus. How I hunger and thirst for the people of America to have a fresh transformational encounter with the Lord, Jesus Christ; to not merely repeat biblical phrases about him, but to be “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” All of our petty problems would pale in comparison to his soul illuminating light. The foolish and blind arguments that so many put forward as a mask to cover sin would be set afire by the glory of his gaze until we stood naked before him without excuse and with cries for mercy and grace. There could finally be another great awakening in America that would blow away the tired rhetoric of those who are bent on reinventing the faith of our fathers in their own twisted image. America has always needed revival. It needed revival to make it one nation and the First Great Awakening played a major role in that. It needed revival to end the evil of slavery and the Second Great Awakening sowed seeds of conviction about this national sin and disgrace. It has had other movements that have met other needs such as the Jesus Movement in my own lifetime that breathed new life into the American church and resulted in thousands of young adults surrendering to Christian service.
Surely it is very late and the time is very short. Lord we need to see you afresh and anew. Open blind eyes in our churches and in our nation. Bring us to our knees! Break our hearts! Make us new!
I would direct you to the website peoplesharingjesus.com in order to listen to the message from Galatians 5 titled LIBERTY VERSUS LICENSE. For further study let me give you some additional resources. Read David Platt’s COUNTER CULTURE and Chip Ingram’s CULTURE SHOCK. Both of these books are recently written and explore the same issues in a loving and Christian way. There is no attempt to suggest that this is a dialogue between totally righteous people and hopelessly immoral people. The argument is rather that whenever we refuse to face sinfulness and demand it be regarded as good or wholesome, we do great damage.
Two names that were mentioned should be pursued by anyone seeking further light. Dennis Jernigan, a well known composer, singer, and musician, has a blog and a website. His testimony of leaving a homosexual lifestyle, finding a new identity in Christ, and becoming a happily married father of nine children is powerful and compelling. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s testimony of going from a militant lesbian professor at Syracuse University to a born again Christian who later married a Presbyterian minister and became a mother and speaker is powerful as well. You can find articles and videos telling her story. There is also a book entitled THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT. These two people illustrate that one is not a helpless victim of passions and impulses, but can bring their lives into line with God’s design by his grace and power. This is good news for all of us since we all need to be brought into line in some way or another. Critics complain that surely people like these two are merely bisexual and that those who are homosexual were born that way and cannot change. Here is a thought. How can you on the one hand say you are born a certain way regarding your passions and attractions and therefore God does not view your choices as sinful, and then ignore that you were born a certain way physically (male or female), but this reality has no purpose or relevance to how you were designed to live? Neither Dennis Jernigan nor Rosaria Butterfield would support this argument. They were not redeemed because they became heterosexual. They were redeemed because they refused to let sexuality define them and found their identity in Jesus Christ. God in his grace blessed them with marriage and children, but even if he had not they were blessed by his deliverance to a purer and better life.
I have been doing some deep thinking about what Jesus taught about turning the other cheek. I had always thought of this teaching in terms of persecution that was undeserved that comes from the enemies of the cause of Christ. I suppose that I really knew it had other applications, but I had not contemplated them to any great extent. For instance, dare to think about what might provoke being struck on the cheek. Shouldn’t we think about the reality that sometimes occurs when we have gravely disappointed someone or carelessly offended them. I am not suggesting that these actions deserve being struck, but frankly I would sometimes rather be struck than rejected or counted as unworthy of further contact. Over the years there have been instances where members of the churches that I have served have so strongly disagreed with one of my decisions, or even the deliberative process that I seek to follow in order to make good decisions, that they left the church in disgust. It is impossible to explain the pain that my heart feels when people that I have sought to lovingly serve turn their backs. Especially when they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Being struck on the cheek would be mild in comparison and may even give some release through venting at such treatment. It is always possible that one deserves to be rejected from time to time, but this in no way lessens the pain. So how do you turn the other cheek? By continuing to love and pray for those who reject you, you leave yourself open in heart toward them and vulnerable to further injury. This is the Christlike response. The Lord forgives us knowing that we will likely fail again. We can also turn the other cheek by blessing and honoring those who have rejected us. We can make clear that we refuse to feel the same way toward them as their actions have displayed toward us. We can promote them and recommend them in appropriate ways based on our truly known awareness of their abilities and gifts. We can speak well of them on as many occasions as we have opportunity. We can continue to greet them warmly and profess our ongoing love and concern for them as we have opportunity. To some these actions may seem like weakness, but in reality they show a level of strength and maturity that is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit. Recently I caught a glimpse of such an action of turning the other cheek that I was in awe of the one who did so. We all fail. Pastors fail. People fail. Leaders fail. Church members fail. Failure can be turned in to victory when we can gracefully turn the other cheek. Somehow I think Jesus was teaching us about a way to turn our brokenness into blessing when he gave this difficult command. Grace is not only amazing; it is beautiful.