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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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  • sonnyholmes

So, Harriet and I have been watching The Crown, the historical drama series about the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth and the royals of England. It's been an admixture of education, inspiration, comic relief, and memory. One scene has prodded me most. It was a quote by Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Prince Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth. She was elderly and worn. She said---

There came a moment, around the time I turned 70, when it dawned on me I was no

longer a participant, rather a spectator---then it's just a matter of waiting and not

getting in the way.

Most of my baby boomer friends who have viewed The Crown remember and identify with that scripting. Being 70-ish in exponential times stretches and challenges us, our personal escort through a world changing fast---well, exponentially. Are we ready to be spectators cheering the world on from the stands?

Truthfully, I've never been much of a spectator. My personal achiever strength activated me in most life pursuits. Even more, there is this passion thing that keeps my personal fires burning. Most of the minister cohort will understand the passion ignited by our calling to ministry, God's guidance to redemptive service. Many years ago another Bible verse, what I refer to as my Passion Verse was printed, framed, and displayed on my office wall beside the Life Verse. It reflects my passion still today, the personal drive that keeps me in some measure of the participant category---

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your

might to another generation, your power to all those to come.

Psalm 71: 18, ESV

Hey boomer! Gen X'er! Millennial! Gen Z'er! What is your passion? Does it drive your life? Or, is it parked in a remote closet of your mind? It should be your motivating force as long as you live. Be passionate!!!

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