Preach

I am discovering, and learning these days to deal with random thoughts and memories that seem to come at me from out of nowhere. In Sunday Bible class we have been studying from chapter 5 in Matthew within the context of holiness. At one point in the discussions I was reminded of the Salvation Army College for Officer Training and my own training experiences there. Perhaps my most powerful encounter happened to me there. 

All Christians have been called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:14) God called me to do ‘my preaching’ through The Salvation Army as an officer. I was fearful of this call for so many reasons but the greatest worry for me was that I was terrified to speak in front of people. (I was so painfully shy that as a child I would skip school on the days when oral reports were to be given.) Nevertheless, with the intent to obey Christ’s command I answered God’s call to officership.

I will never forget the first sermon I ever preached. It was as a cadet during my field training assignment at the Times Square Corps. It was bad enough that I had to stand at a pulpit and preach to a group of people in the chapel, but I also had to contend with the fact that it was broadcast outside. While the message (and the meeting in general) was going on inside, there were cadets outside handing out tracts, talking to people (about the message, etc.), and inviting folks to come inside. This assignment to preach became a powerful turning point for me.  
As I stood to read the scripture I was so scared that I was shaking all over and could barely speak—I could even see out of the corner of my eye that the bow on my bonnet was shaking! I sat down in great fear and near panic. As the next item on the program, a band selection, was taking place I began imploring God. I prayed this simple prayer: “God you have called me and I want to be here but I can’t do this without your help. Please, help me!” At that moment I felt the peace of God envelop me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. No more shaking, no more fear. The band finished playing and I stood and delivered that sermon with confidence. I even remember the opening line: “Have you ever stood in the midst of a crowd and felt completely alone?” Now I don’t know how effective that sermon was for anyone else (or the grade I received) but it was a game changer for me. God showed me very clearly that He had indeed called me and that He would equip me and help me to do the work and ministry involved in that calling. 
Not only was this experience a confirmation of my calling I believe that it was a second work of grace much like the those at Pentecost experienced. The power of that moment brought about profound changes within me that enabled me to do the work that I had been called to do.

The constant prayer of my life has been captured in the chorus of Richard Slater’s song:

I have not much to give thee, Lord,

For that great love which made thee mine:

I have not much to give thee, Lord,

But all I have is thine.

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