God pays close attention to many anniversaries, memorials and annual reminders. The Sabbath after Thanksgiving is one date I remember each year. It was on this day in 1994 that my family attended services with the Philadelphia Church of God for the first time.
That makes 20 years in the pcg. Being 22 at the time, I’ve now spent almost half my life here, the previous years being in the Worldwide Church of God. My sister was 20, so she’s had an almost perfect split between the two.
A full human lifetime is only seven or eight decades. Two decades is a pretty decent portion of a life. It is intriguing to remember back on the 22-year-old—and then 32-year-old—and compare to today. Such reflection inspires overwhelming gratitude for the blessings of these past two decades.
I can survey more than 19 years of being baptized—possessing and growing in the Holy Spirit, the source of spiritual understanding, power, love. Over 17 years of working at headquarters in Edmond, directly contributing to God’s Work. Nearly 16 years of marriage, building memories and absorbing all the lessons it offers. Over 14 years in God’s ministry, and 14 years teaching at God’s college, helping others’ spiritual growth. Over 13 years as a father, and seven as a father of three, working in partnership with God and my wife at shaping future God beings.
What a marvelous education. When God begets someone with His Spirit and brings him into His Family, He is so generous with opportunities to learn and grow.
Developing a relationship with Him through daily prayer, continually striving to make it more Spirit-minded, godlier, more vigorous and robust. Learning the skills, the workmanship, of productive Bible study; coming to accept the piercing of God’s spiritual sword into the joints and marrow; learning to convert words, stories, abstractions, into redirected thoughts, words and deeds; seeking biblical guidance to answer life’s questions, to speak to one’s own needs and the needs of the family. Building relationships within the body of Christ, being sharpened by the iron of Christian fellowship, learning to serve and sacrifice and love. Developing a relationship with Christ’s ministry, recognizing direction, seeking counsel, accepting correction. These are the courses of a character-building curriculum. These are true blessings.
It is sweet, and bitter, and awe-inspiring, to think of the faces that have come and gone over 20 years—as well as those that have remained, dedicated immovable fixtures within the Family through that time. God’s supreme feat of creative accomplishment is to forge His holy character within a Spirit-begotten individual. To have witnessed two decades of that miraculous, intense process in countless hundreds, even thousands of lives has been profoundly impressive.
To have known and rubbed shoulders with many dozens—illustrious heroes—who have completed that course and now await their resurrection to Godhead is breathtaking to contemplate.
Being involved in that supreme spiritually creative process, acquiescing to the hand of the Creator at work, is exhilarating. Looking at it with a day-to-day perspective, one sees stumbles, modest gains, needless setbacks, quiet victories, disheartening frustrations. Stepping back and looking at two decades, though, one can better recognize God’s creative handiwork.
Fruits appear. Greater focus in work. Good habits edging out bad ones. Deeper love for God’s law and word. Sharper discernment of Satan’s devices and broadcasts. Keener appreciation for what is truly important in life. Clearer perspective on, even gratitude for, challenges and trials. Genuine joy in teaching, rearing children, sharing God’s truth. Greater intimacy in worship. Too slowly, but bit by incremental bit, the supplanting of hypocrisy with singlemindedness, sincerity, truth.
All credit to the Husbandman. He truly is relentless in His effort to produce fruit within His children. Within the heart of every last begotten son who will yield to Him, He never ceases to work away—pressing, prodding, softening, molding, toiling, hammering, healing. And because of His pity, persistence, perseverance and unending patience, over time—over decades—His efforts repay. He keeps incrementally gaining ground in His supreme feat of creative accomplishment.
In the grander scheme, the last two decades have witnessed an overwhelming amount of failure among the people of God. But the Father does not give up.
And within His faithful remnant, the luster of God’s truth, and the brightness of God’s presence, have steadily grown. Because the wonders of His Work have grown. For two decades, God has continually revealed more, expanded our understanding, and enlarged our vision. And it’s only been the beginning. Within a few weeks, a new college campus will open on another continent. God always fixes our eyes on the horizon.
Where will we be in just another short decade? It promises to be brighter than any before. A world transformed.
For that, I am thankful.