Since the days of the early church, followers of Jesus have looked to Paul’s word in his letter to the Ephesian church as a reminder of what we can expect as we journey into the future. It’s a good word. A word on which we will hang our hopes and live into the vision for the ministry of Poplar Springs Baptist Church. It’s a word that describes well that which this dear congregation has known in Andy and Kim Oliver over the past decade as well. The word is “Immeasurably!” Here’s how Paul wrote it:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
Yes, over these past eleven years of ministry at Poplar Springs, Andy has been God’s servant through whom the Lord’s presence and encouragement has blessed your lives together. In fact, even after marking his retirement with celebration and appreciation, the sense I get is that you all have just scratched the surface of all that Andy’s ministry has meant to you. You didn’t realize what the years would bring but, sure enough, they have brought the Lord’s grace in “immeasurable” ways through the service of this dear pastor.
God is good this way! Before we know it in life, we look back and realize the ways the Lord has been there to strengthen us and forgive us and direct us and move us to be more and more like Jesus. He always does immeasurably more than we can ever imagine.
Because this is true, and even though there is a real measure of grief in your hearts with Andy’s retirement, when we ask ourselves “what we can expect ‘in the interim’ between now and the coming of a new pastor?,” the answer is simply…profoundly…boldly, God will do “in the interim” immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. His work will include caring for your grieving hearts even as he works to lead you to keep being the church he’s called you to be over the past decade.
Janet and I have been blessed to hear Andy describe the immeasurable blessings from the Lord as he and Kim have served with you. We are so thankful for the ways it is obvious how the Holy Spirit is leading you to be followers of Christ in a world that needs a Savior. We are glad to be able to begin serving with you and we look forward to getting to know you and witnessing for ourselves the immeasurable works of the Lord through your lives.
Not long ago, during a casual trip up to Asheville, I walked into one of my favorite coffee houses up that way — the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Now, Janet indulges me on a visit there because she is all about coconut, but I always look for some chocolate! Of all the wonderful delicacies they make there, I love the liquid truffle most of all — it’s a ‘drinking chocolate,’ served in a demitasse cup, and is soooooooo good!
Well, on that particular rainy day in the mountains, I went in there ready for a cup of coffee and a dark or milk chocolate liquid truffle. I couldn’t decide which one because they are both my favorites. That’s a godly way to consider chocolate, don’t you think, because when God looks at each of us he sees us each as his favorite — it’s a mystery for sure but it’s also a great strategy for enjoying a variety of chocolate, even as it was Jesus’ way of dying on the cross for each one of us!
The problem I ran into that day was when I stepped up to order my liquid truffle, mouth already watering with anticipation, the barista said, “Any of these flavors are available…..except dark or milk chocolate.” I was frozen in mid-order at his announcement and forced my eyes down the menu to see what other flavor they might land on.
But, I had driven all around that busy uptown circling the place twice before finally finding a parking spot, totally focused on the ‘hunt for dark September’ chocolate, knowing that milk or dark would always be available. But they weren’t!
So, knowing that a day without chocolate is, well, not a real day, I made another selection from the menu. After all, nobody knows the truffles I’ve seen! Bringing on a new flavor can’t be a bad thing. It was just not what I was expecting.
Not what I had been anticipating.
Not what I was planning to find!
But, when the barista brought me that truffle of caramel and salt drinking chocolate, I savored every sip and took that demitasse spoon and scraped out every possible drop before I surrendered my cup. Yes, that flavor too was soooooooo good!
Therein is a picture of how God keeps working in our lives. While we might have expected one thing, we have to face another. Though the blessing on which we have always counted is not available, there will be another blessing on the menu, viz. the very presence of God — who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine. This is what we can expect “in the interim.” I thank God for your faithful eye to watch him work, immeasurably, as you join him in that work where you scatter to serve each week!
In the Love of Jesus,