He was 16 years old when he tasted death for the first time. His father’s sister died - cancer was the culprit. She was in her late 40’s and told her 4 children that she was ready to meet her Lord. Six short weeks later his uncle died. Alcohol was the largest contributing factor that ended life for this father of 5. The contrast between their life and their death was striking.
He was grieving in silence the loss of his aunt and uncle. He found death too final and too confusing and too bitter. He did not have an answer for death and life made no sense without that answer. Weeks of agony and angst followed.
It was the week before Easter 1991 when he tuned into ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ on television. He watched a presentation of the life of Christ and it made sense for the first time. What a beautiful, meaningful life. Three thoughts came to him at the end of the week. He turned these thoughts into his first prayer. 1) My life is not right with you. I am wasting my life on small, selfish things. Forgive me. 2) I have nothing to offer to you, but I need you; I need your forgiveness. Can I have your salvation? 3) My life isn’t worth much, but you can have it. I give it to you freely. Use me. Make my life matter for something.
Years later he learned the Heidelberg Catechism. It is structured around three great experiential truths: misery, deliverance, and gratitude. Every Christian learns and lives these three things; how great his sins and miseries are, how he must be delivered from his sins and misery, and how he should live in gratitude for such a great deliverance. He then remembered his very first prayer. It contained those three elements of sin, salvation, and service. God had begun a good work in him that night and started to guide and shape him.
He had thoughts of the ministry early often but quickly cast them aside, knowing his great ignorance of God and the sins that so easily beset him. He had a wife and two kids. They needed him and seminary was an impossibility. An impossibility, that is, until it became a necessity. If God wanted me in the ministry, no one can take my place. God had decided on a specific man to serve a particular congregation and neither the man nor the congregation could avoid it. God is sovereign, isn’t he?
So he trudged off to seminary with a wife, two kids and no money to try to fill some of his ignorance and grow a little godliness. He is still working on both as he ministers to Westminster Presbyterian Church from Sabbath to Sabbath. The miracle of grace, that is earned and verified in the cross and resurrection, still amazes him, and still works through him. Resurrection power produces such miracles of grace every day. In fact, dear Christian friend, you too are a miracle a grace!