59 and ???

It started in ’05 with my 53rd birthday. I attached to September 15 that year and every year since a little rhyming ditty to capture the spirit of another year in my life post-cancer.

Allow me to review:

  • 53 and cancer free
  • 54 and ready for more
  • 55 and staying alive (with apologies to the US government)
  • 56 and up to the same old tricks
  • 57 and not ready for heaven
  • 58 and feeling great

Normally I know well in advance what the next year’s slogan will be, but not so for my 59th. That one didn’t gel until the day before on September 14 at 6 AM in the pantry. Why then and there I have no idea. But it hit me like an all-pro linebacker tackle on a 4th and one.

59 and gospel primed.

Let me explain. Not too long ago someone came to me after I embarrassed myself in one of our services with a tirade in our announcements. This brother confessed that he walked away from that Sunday suffering from an ecclesiastical identity crisis. It took a lot of guts for this person to confront me. To be honest I reacted at first rather defensively. The more I thought about it the more the Lord convicted me that he was right! I determined then and there that I would never let that happen again if I had any say in it. Since that time I have enjoyed something of a gospel renaissance in my personal and pastoral life that I never want to lose a grip on.

Ergo this year’s saying. At every turn I want to be primed for gospel-action, preaching, counseling, obedience and to commend the same to everyone with which I come into contact.

My prayer is very much that of Scotty Smith’s:

Lord Jesus, one of the many things I cherish about the Bible is the way it robs me of my penchant for hero worship. Who but God would write a book documenting the foibles and failures of so many of his sons and daughters? Who but God would chronicle the ways his chosen leaders, like Peter, limp along and prove themselves to be in constant need of mercy and grace?

This gives me great encouragement and hope. It also gives me freedom to acknowledge that I need the gospel today just as much as the first day I believed it. This will be just as true tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Keep me convinced, Jesus, because I’m much like Peter.

It’s one thing for me to get irritated and angry about the ways this generation is downplaying your work on the cross. But it’s quite another to see the subtle ways I try to keep you from the cross. Deal with me as you dealt with Peter.

When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and shame, I deny your cross. When I’d rather do penance than repent, I deny your cross.

When I gossip juicy tidbits more than I gossip the gospel, I deny your cross. When I pout more than I praise; when I show more fear than faith; when I want to be right more than I want to be righteous, I deny your cross. When I talk about people more than I pray for the same people, I deny your cross. When my grip on grudges is tighter than my grasp of the gospel, I deny your cross.

By the gospel, help me to mind the things of God more than the things of men. May your cross get bigger, and may my boast in it grow louder. Jesus, you’re the main hero in the Bible. The rest of us are totally dependent on you. That’s never going to change. I need fresh grace today. So very Amen I pray, in your patient and persistent name.

What he prayed.

Only 361 days until I turn sixty. For every day God gives me may they know fresh grace and gospel power for God’s glory, my joy, and the joy of those who attach themselves to my so often flesh-compromised ministry.

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