This is one of the most moving passages in all the Bible…to me.  You may not have the same reaction at all.  But for me, both in my ministry and life, this story is the crux of the matter.  Let me tell you more.  Always have admired pastors who have faithfully served their congregations for years and years.  I’ve known some.  Some are reading this blog today.  Happy for them and their church families.  So good to have a long pastorate,  well-served and well-appreciated.  That has not been my story, however.  The Lord has been most patient with me.  He has had to take His shepherd’s crook and pull me out of many ditches and wrong turns in my life.  Guess I’m a ‘different cat’ after all.  If you’ve been reading this ‘Reflectionsoutoftime’ blog for awhile, you already know that!  It was years after leaving full-time preaching, that I was asked to fill in for a fellow pastor of my old denomination in a nearby town.  I hadn’t preached in any of that denomination’s churches for over 10 years.  But, it was time, I thought…but still I wondered.   Not quite sure.   Anyway, I was asked to fill in one Sunday helping a brother pastor in need.  Why not?  Indeed!   But being a faithful member(sort of!) of the higher judicatory of that old denomination, I thought I had better check in with one of their innumerable committees–you know, a courtesy communication.  However, when a hard decision had to be made, they formed a committee!  And there was no lack of them.  Not my cup of tea or kettle of fish!  Not then…not now!   Nevertheless, I met with those pastors and elders… who didn’t even know me.  I said my peace.  Thought they would roll out the ‘red carpet’!  They said they’ld get back to me.  Now remember, by this time I was a rather successful financial planner with a large U.S. brokerage firm.  I didn’t need(or really want) a full-time job in a church.  Or part-time, for that matter.  I had a good job that the Lord provided for me.  Being a financial planner was personally a very good fit.  I only wanted to let those church ‘high mucky-mucks’  know that, if needed( let me emphasize the word ‘if’),  I could fill  in and preach.  ‘If’ needed…and ‘if’ wanted.  Too much to ask?  Didn’t think so then, and don’t think so now.   Well, I heard from them…and it wasn’t a nice letter.  Not at all.  Rather pointed…don’t call us and we won’t ever call on the likes of you.  I was in shock.  Hurt.  Angry.  Betrayed.  Rejected.  A ‘dear John’ church letter!  Went to my usual Tuesday morning pastor’s Bible study(where I had always been most welcome as a fellow clergyman),  and brought that ‘red-hot’ letter with me.  What could these pastors say?  Not much really… but one did.  An old pastor, who had limited education.  Maybe high school,  possibly a little Bible school training.  He pastored a very small church on the outskirts of our out-of-the-way town.  He heard my moaning and groaning.  Boldly, he cut me off.  ‘Fischer, did God call you to preach?’  I said unequivocally ‘yes’… as He surely had.  ‘God called you to preach?  Then why do you listen to those people?  If  God called you to preach,  you preach.’  It was as if the Holy Spirit was speaking directly to me through this rough-and-tough,  grizzled, old pastor.  That moment,  the shackles fell off.   I got up.   Was freed up almost instantly–  to serve the Lord who had called me into His service…many, many years before!  Soon after I was asked to assist a local pastor in a wonderful church(not of my old denomination!).  Hosted a weekly evangelistic TV show in two counties for 5 years.  Pastored, in that same hometown, the best little church anywhere for 14 years where many people,  both young and old,  came to know the Lord and then to grow in Him.  Now, I’m honored to be their pastor emeritus!  Wow!  Can you see why those verses mean so much to me?  “Peter and the other apostles replied:  ‘We must obey God rather than men!’…Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go…Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ'”(Acts 5: 29, 40, 42).  I know what it’s like to be muzzled.   I also know that it takes the Holy Spirit’s courage to make us bold.  I don’t deny His necessity at all.  I’ve seen Him work,  faithfully opening  doors that no one else could close.  Enough about me, already.  How about you?   Need to follow the Lord and not man? To stand up and be counted for Jesus, when and where it hurts and may cost you something?  Be bold!  Be open to His leading; even when, in your past,  you’ve gone down dark alleys and taken wrong turns.  He’ll be there for you… as He was (and is) for me.  Just ask for His help…and watch out!  Those doors will open wide!  Praise His name!  Welcome into His service!  Surprise…surprise!

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for never giving up on us.  Others have and will, but never you.  Your love is so precious.  Thank you from the bottom our hearts and souls.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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