• sonnyholmes

One of the certainties of Christian faith is that Jesus is our example. Yes, my humanity limits the degree to which I can successfully walk where Jesus walked or follow his steps. Our trendy attempt in the 'what would Jesus do?" craze several years ago exposed how feeble we are in this regard. You know he is God and we are not. It's the wrong question anyway. It's not "what would Jesus do?", but rather, "what did Jesus do?" So, his example should always be our guide. Legalists would micro-manage this likeness and free spirits would tend to ignore it. He did say, however, "For I have given you an example that you should also do just as I have done to you" (John 13: 15, ESV).

That he often escaped to a lonely place for prayer is attested several times in Scripture. Mark 1: 35, listed above, is one such reference (see also Luke 5: 16; Matthew 26: 39; 26:42; 26:44; and other Gospel accounts of his passion). Jesus, who was also fully human, showed us the personal discipline of prayer and reflection, the human need to live above our circumstances under the sure guidance of heaven. In several examples he retreated from grueling times in the early morning, as exemplified in the Mark reference printed above. As a morning person that fits me well, personal spiritual preparation before the rigors of daily life capture my time. But, early morning doesn't work for everyone. The emphasis in his example is knowing that a time of prayer and devotional thought is a significant life element.

The statisticians at Pew Research indicate that 55% of American adults pray daily. Many of these prayers are circumstantial, a plea induced by pressing life demands. Life does toss us some curves at times and we experience tests and trails that pivot us upward in our response to them. All prayer matters. Still, the example of devotional Bible study, personal reflection, and prayer give us a more level stability in navigating these very complicated times. And, Jesus is our example.

Set aside a few minutes today to read Scripture, give thought to what was read, and offer the Heavenly Father your heart in prayerful response.


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  • sonnyholmes

Right up front Harriet and I knew that seminary would be the next chapter of our lives. The ministry or purpose verses God gave me that day in Binkley Chapel provided clarity about the basic assignment of this calling---"to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery" (Ephesians 3: 9, NIV). We also believed that part of that calling was the nearly ten years I had spent in the business world. As a result, our conviction was that God would use us in suburban congregations. The seminary deal was to prepare for one of the foundational pastoral roles that is, being able to teach---

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled,

respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle,

not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

1 Timothy 3: 2-3, NIV

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing,

not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest

gain.8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-

controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy

message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and

refute those who oppose it.

Titus 1: 7-8, NIV

Of course, each of these qualifications humbled us greatly and required personal adjustments in our family life. But, being able to teach seemed basic and primary. And, in my opinion, this ability had nothing to do with rhetorical skills, gifts of gab, or any other speaking niceties. Being able to teach for me was about Biblical accuracy, sound doctrine, theological preparation. You know, 84 hours of Master of Divinity preparation.

My point? God has a purpose for our lives and we must fulfill that purpose as accurately and completely as possible. In our instance, being "able to teach" meant a life of study and preparation. Fulfilling your life purpose may require some adjustments as well, and some lifetime discipline. Remaining "able to teach" is still among my greatest challenges. But, there is a promise I cling to and offer to you as you seek to discover and fulfill your life purpose---

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through

the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence---

1 Peter 1: 3, ESV

All things. He gives us all things that pertain to this life and the purpose for which we were created. Even making us able to teach!

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  • sonnyholmes

No, Harriet didn't marry a pastor. Today is our 48th anniversary and we'll reflect on our early years and the many ways she helped me discover my purpose in this here life. Yes, she married a young banker intent on a top floor office and keys to the executive wash-room. Five years later I was given the keys to the local 300 bed county general hospital as Assistant Administrator/Director of Finance. In that service oriented environment this calling from God became real, and there was Harriet, ready to sell our new dream house and move Elizabeth (age 4) and Brian (age 2) and I to the seminary campus in pursuit of that Master of Divinity graduate degree. It was a unique and blessed journey, learning the lessons of life with this wonderful partner.

Along the way I had to make some decisions about ministry. What exactly had God prepared me to do with the gifts and strengths he had provided? Harriet and I discussed it often, praying intensely for us to know the direction of our ministry. One day, in one of those lower moments I wandered into Binkley Chapel on the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary campus. The chapel was empty and I had a pity-party, whining a prayer for some clarity and direction as I wrestled with the 84 hour M. Div. curriculum.

After a few minutes Dr. Ben Johnson, organ professor in the music school, came in, settled at the pipe organ and began to play a glorious rendition of the hymn Be Thou My Vision. Just minutes later I was searching one of the pew Bibles and was stopped at Ephesians 3: 8-9 (NIV)---

Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to

preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,9 and to make plain to everyone

the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who

created all things.

There it was, what I now call my ministry verses. Yes, this text hangs on the wall beside the Life Verses and Passion Verse. My calling is to "make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery...". I'm not all that academic or scholarly, or eloquent for that matter. Making things plain is what I do. There's also a beautiful cross-stitch of this hymn on my wall too, a precious gift from dear friend Jean Boos.

Another yes! God has a purpose for your life too. The Apostle Paul wrote---"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8: 28, ESV). It affirms what the Prophet Jeremiah had written centuries earlier---"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV).

Ask him to show you his purpose! And, get ready to obey. And, Happy 48th anniversary Harriet.

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