January 19, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
What do you want? What is the chief thing you would like to do with your Christian life? Twenty nine years after I became the pastor of First Baptist Church of Johnsonburg, PA, I was the spiritual leader of my sixth church, and I felt a deep need to do something meaningful for God. Oh, I was preaching at the time in a small Presbyterian USA church. I had been invited as a one-week speaker, and they kept me for three years! But something seemed to be missing in my service to God, and I felt restless.
Our dear friends, Steve and Shirley, had come to my church to hear me preach one Sunday in the fall of 2001. Then they treated us to dinner at a nice restaurant. They were older than Hope and me. Steve was retired from being a steel mill executive. During our time at Sunday dinner, Steve asked me “So Chip, what do you really want to do?” Maybe he had sensed my restlessness.
My mind went back to my first church after I had been there as pastor a couple of years. I became acquainted with a young man who was about to be ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood. He invited me to a Bible study that he was hosting at the Catholic Rectory where five or six young adults were gathering each week to learn more about the Christian faith. I attended, and that first visit I thought I had blown it! I kept insisting that evening that salvation was by faith alone in Jesus Christ, and “…not by works of righteousness which we have done.” (Titus 3:5). One of the guys attending that study, Earl, told me later that he could not get to sleep that night. As he lay in bed, he kept hearing the words in his mind, “It’s by faith alone, and not by works!” Finally, he got up in the middle of the night, knelt down beside his bed and – with a wide-open heart in complete faith – asked Jesus Christ to be his Savior!
About two months later, my young Catholic friend – yes, still my friend! – was ordained. Hope and I were there at Saint John’s Church in the front row as his guests. But he was being transferred to another parish, and he was concerned that none of the other three priests serving at Saint John’s wanted to take over the young adults Bible study. So he asked me to lead it! And half a dozen young people of Catholic faith moved down to the Baptist parsonage for a once-a-week Bible study!
Oh the blessings of that time! How we got to know and love one another! I remember one night we crowded 23 into the living room for our Bible study – and most of them were Roman Catholics! We saw the faith of many young people both begin and blossom! The head pastor at Saint John’s was beside himself concerning the ‘loss’ of all those Catholic young adults to the Baptists. But he could never figure out why they didn’t leave his church. They even became stronger Christians ready to serve, teach, and lead other Catholics to deeper faith in Jesus Christ!
So when Steve asked me about 25 years later, “So Chip, what do you really want to do?” I had a ready answer: “I would love to have another Bible study like the one we had in Johnsonburg in my first church.” And I shared with him and Shirley much of what I wrote above. Steve said, “Tell you what; you pick a date to come to our house, and I will have the people there!” We picked every other Tuesday starting in November of 2001. And for thirteen years now, this Bible study group has been a great blessing to me! No, it is not all young adults there – but we do have two or three! Then again, I am not so young anymore myself! But we have seen several people come to Jesus Christ in saving faith, including Harry at 81 years old! Willemena still attends when she can at age 94! And I think the most we have had at one study was 23 – just like in Johnsonburg! We average around 15.
It makes me think of a passage from Psalm 37:3 through 6:
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His
faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD; and He shall give you
the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in
Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteous-
ness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
I try to “Delight…[my]self also in the LORD; and He [certainly has given me] the desires of… [my] heart.” I have “Commit…way to the Lord, trust[ed] also in Him, and He…[has brought] it to pass.” God is so good and faithful!
Steve went on to his heavenly home several years ago. He is now in fellowship with Harry and some of the others who have entered glory – including Steve’s sister whom we led to Jesus Christ when she was in a nursing home! But Shirley still opens her home to us every other Tuesday where we gather in the family room downstairs and enjoy sharing, study, fellowship, and always some snacks!
Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” I believe it! For He has given me My Hearts Desire!