Dedicated to Pastor Steven & Barbie Hepting.
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
I John 3:16
I used to work for someone for whom every task I did seemed to go off the rails. The simplest tasks would always have errors. Now, I’m not above making mistakes. We’re all human and will have errors in our work but with this guy, I just couldn’t do anything right! It was embarrassing and defeating. To make matters worse, he offered me zero encouragement. I had gone into the position with confidence and left it four years later feeling insecure and inadequate. It took years for me to rebuild my self-confidence. Life at that time had several difficult transitions; therefore, I didn’t have the encouraging support around me that I needed to get through that season uninjured by the enemy. Needless to say, this guy I worked for wasn’t a great shepherd. In the time since, I’ve learned more about my strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, I’ve found supportive people who help me walk in the areas of life for which God can use the strengths He gave me and who encourage me when I must face my weaknesses head-on.
Now, I open my mouth; My tongue speaks in my mouth. My words come from my upright heart; My lips utter pure knowledge. The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
We are the best versions of ourselves when we choose to surround ourselves with lovers of Jesus. The enemy will always try to discourage me and tell me I’m not good enough but by submitting to healthy biblical teachers, I will be transformed into the image of Christ and see myself in His Light. Although these teachers and leaders will also be flawed, their love for Christ will cover a multitude of inadequacies. If you can find people with a pure heart towards God, the breath of the Almighty will give life to your brokenness. When they open their mouths to speak, the pure knowledge of the Lord will heal the wounds. Two specific individuals have led the way in helping me and many others to the Love of Christ in pureness of heart to be a part of encouraging supporters we call “our church.”
In the coming days, God will be releasing these two special people, our pastor and his beautiful wife, from their pastoral role at our church into the next season God has prepared for them in ministry. When our pastor shared that God spoke to him in prayer about the changing season of their lives, I had peace knowing that God is now, and will continue to be, preparing them for the area of ministry deeply rooted in their hearts. Weeks have passed since they announced their plans to move on. Now that we are approaching the door God has opened for them, my heart is filled with all kinds of emotions. I’m sad to see this pastoral season end. I’m excited for what God has put before them. I’m humbled by the faith they’ve had in me. I’m blessed by the love they’ve shown me. I’m confident because of the encouragement they’ve freely given to me. Most importantly, my path is straighter for the direction they’ve given me.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
The direction of The Shepard in Psalm 23 is about life, not death. It illustrates the attributes of the Lord as our Shepherd. Likewise, those chosen to lead us in Christ, to Christ, should adopt the same attributes. My pastoral shepherds have led me to peaceful pastures during painful times. Through His Word, they restored my soul. They have gently guided me to a path of righteousness in Him. They have walked with me in the valley of the shadow of death when I faced cancer; I feared no evil. Their gentle love and correction guided me and gave me comfort knowing their desire was for me to continue to walk in ways that would lead me to the foot of the cross. Because of my pastoral shepherds, the table the Lord prepared for me before my enemies was never empty. Because of their goodness and mercy in Christ, my cup runs over. Their loving encouragement has given me confidence to serve the Lord, knowing God will equip me for the work.
But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
The work of pastoring is not for the faint of heart. During the time they have mentored and taught me, I’ve watched and experienced how subtly the enemy attacks. These roles as leader and pastor they’ve taken on are no small things. The enemy will come at them harder and the accountability is higher. Who would take on such a role? (As treasurer, I can attest it’s not for the money!) Why? John 15:13 says, “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” A pastor and his wife daily lay down their lives for their friends. Their lives are no longer their own, but they belong to the God they follow. They give up activities and attitudes of the flesh, knowing that all eyes are on them. They carry the burdens of the congregation and community that calls on them to fix all the hurts. They sacrifice free time to counsel the friend in need. They constantly thirst for the Water that satisfies because their wells cannot run dry. They must learn every facet of Jesus’s image so that they may be transformed into the same. Their simple and magnificent prize is to stand before the Lord and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:11).
Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
A Personal Note
My words pale in His Light. I can only simply say, thank you. Thank you, Pastor Steven, for trusting me with opportunities that humble me. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for your overwhelming love and encouragement. Thank you for building and rebuilding my confidence when I got struck down time and again. Thank you for the gentle correction when needed. Thank you for the prayers. To Barbie, you are the Proverbs 31 woman. Your quiet humility breaks me. The depth of my admiration and love for you cannot be expressed by words. I can only pray God reveals it to you. You are gentle and strong. You are humble and mighty in the Lord. You are a tiny little thing, but you’re fierce and I almost pity any principality that tries to come against those you love. Your prayers and tears are sown into the foundation of our church. You shy away from being the center of attention, but glow in the light of His love. You are my brother and my sister knit together in His Love.
Blessings to you in the love of Jesus Christ . . . now, excuse me while I go clean the snot off my keyboard.