A minister of reconciliation got me back on track
It was a spiritually dry period in my life. I had dipped deep into the misleading treasures the world offers, but it hadn’t always been that way.
I was saved when I was 10 years old. I have never doubted my salvation. I knew the Holy Spirit was drawing me to God, had revealed to me that I was lost. So I walked down the aisle – alone with tears rolling down my cheeks – that Sunday morning in 1964 at Grace Baptist Church in Springfield, Tenn., and told my beloved pastor, the late John Brandon, that I was lost and needed to be saved. I did not yet understand all the theological implications of what was happening, but I knew I was lost and I knew I had heard Bro. John speak the truth. He quoted John 3:16 and asked if I wanted to place my faith in Jesus and live my life for Him. I answered, “yes,” without any doubt or reservation and was soon baptized.
I did not know until I was well into adulthood (when my mother told me) that on that morning Bro. John had whispered in her ear, “I think we may have a little preacher here on our hands.” Years later in our high school newspaper when it predicted where members of the graduating class of 1972 would end up, when it got to me it said, “He will take the Gospel to Mars and beyond.” I guess most everyone thought I was headed into the ministry, but the timing was not right. God eventually led me to 10 very enlightening years in the Air Force where I learned how to be a journalist and just how big this world really is.
I turned down an offer to be a foreign correspondent in Tokyo, Japan, for Pacific Stars & Stripes in 1987 and accepted an honorable discharge so I could go back home to Tennessee and help my mother care for my father, who would die two years later at the age 60 from brain cancer. Following dad’s death (he was saved and had served as a deacon for many years) I began to drift. We were devastated by his death and it took time to recover – and by God’s grace our family has. I began working as a hot-shot business reporter for The Tennessean in Nashville and with it began making bad choices. Wearing my three-piece business suits and with permed hair past my shoulders, I moved in the most powerful circles in Nashville’s business community, dining with bankers, hobnobbing with politicians, socializing with sports celebrities. But I came to see that not all that glittered was gold.
I became dissatisfied with everything. I stopped going to church regularly. I became mean, vindictive and exhibited other qualities that I know grieved the Holy Spirit. I thought I was a big shot – and then it happened.
I hit rock bottom, like all prodigals do and at wit’s end, ran to the only place I knew I could find answers: to Jesus.
I got to where I would go to First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, on Sunday mornings for worship. I would always sit on the back row (in a sanctuary that seated 2,000) so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I was undergoing a mighty spiritual battle within. God was beginning to break my rebellious spirit. I would just sit in the back of the church and cry as I heard the congregation thunderously sing the great old, theologically rich hymns that I had memorized as a child.
I’d cry even as Pastor Glenn Weekley stepped to the pulpit and delivered beautifully woven expository sermons that crushed my desire for worldly things. This went on for several Sundays and it’s safe to say I went through more than a few handkerchiefs.
On one particular Sunday morning Bro. Glenn preached a magnificent sermon from II Corinthians 5:18-19. I knew I had been saved, but I had taken for granted that God’s free gift is not ordinary. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin, reminded me that I belonged to God and therefore must forgo the world because I am not of the world.
He went on tell us how we are charged with being ministers of reconciliation and that God was in Christ (and Christ was in God) and that He reconciled the world to Himself by His intercession. I recalled how I was to be satisfied with Christ alone, because in Him I find God.
He introduced me to another word that day: propitiation. The Bible teaches that the sin of man has incurred the wrath of God. That wrath is averted only by Christ’s atoning offering. From this standpoint His saving work is called “propitiation.” I understood, at a deeper level than ever before, the wondrous work God did on Calvary. I soon began to walk closely with God again and experienced the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
About 10 years later, I had the privilege of hearing Bro. Glenn preach at our associational meeting and I jumped at the chance to tell him what his preaching had meant to me and that I was answering God’s call into fulltime Gospel ministry. He was kind and encouraging. I am so glad I got to tell him because I would never see him again this side of Heaven. Bro. Glenn died Sept. 11.
Now everytime I think of Bro. Glenn, I think about words like “reconciliation” and “propitiation.” I also think about how he understood that God had called out men like him and like me, to spread the Gospel, that indeed a gracious God had given us ministries of reconciliation. I also think how wonderful God has been to me and my wife, Bernadette. How God has blessed us and allowed us to humbly serve Him.