Thursday, February 27, 2014
“Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing.” ― Rick Riordan
My first year of college (1963), I was toying with the idea of going into the ministry, but when I saw how the church (and all of organized religion) was doing so little to stop segregation, injustice, and poverty, and how religion managed to decide that war was okay and killing hundreds of thousands of people while killing over 50,000 of their own was somehow justified and supported by the church—I turned my back on the church and God. I worked to set things right with the idealism that comes with youth especially in the sixties and seventies, and we did help make many changes in civil rights and ultimately brought the Vietnam War to a halt, but it wasn’t the church who did these things—in fact they were done in spite of the church as it existed then. There were a few church leaders (very few—like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and later Archbishop Desmond Tutu) who were at the forefront of the fight against poverty, injustice, hatred, and hunger. I swore then that I would never be a Christian, but in my forties, I learned that Christ had lived, suffered, died, and rose for even me. I remember the day very clearly when I had my Aldersgate experience (see John Wesley) and surrendered to Christ. I had also sworn that I would never become a minister as they represented all that was wrong with the church in my mind. In 1992, I became the pastor of the United Methodist Church in Gravette, Arkansas, and an ordained elder in the church beginning twenty years service as a pastor. At that time, I swore I would never become an evangelist (like Jim Baker and others), also swore that I would never become a missionary because they were just goody-two shoes messing up people’s lives in foreign countries. Of course, by 2003, both of those things had come true and I had traveled to five countries and four continents as a missionary and evangelist. Years before, I had also sworn I would never become a bishop because in my denomination they were highly paid, highly protected, and did little to change the lives of the people the way that Christ described in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Naturally, in 2010 (see picture at the right) I was consecrated as a bishop of the Methodist Church in Tanzania after having been elected the year before by the annual conference (non-paid, of course). The moral of this story seems to be not to swear unless you want those things to come true. The power of God over my life has been complete no matter how much I denied it for my first forty years of life. All the seemingly unrelated coincidences over all the years of my life now seem like I had been dropped into a greased chute that ended in Bunda, Tanzania. All I know for sure is that I have never been poorer but never richer, never had less but never had more, never had security yet know now that God will provide and protect. I also believe (will never be convinced otherwise) that if you are doing what pleases God, He will send you thank you notes—even in the form of a warm puppy. God is good—all the time, and you can take that to the bank.