“I thought I had seen it all…”
I used to hear my Aunt Eva say that all of the time. And then she would fill in the remaining part: “I thought I had seen it all..a man on the moon” as I watched that surreal picture on our Zenith black and white on that unforgettable day; “ I thought I had seen it all…a dozen eggs for 75 cents! (that was some years ago and we also raised our own chickens).
Well sometimes you don’t see it all; sometimes you can’t. And that is what happened to a blind man at Bethsaida. The poor creature begged Jesus to touch him. And Jesus did not heal him where he was. He lead away, outside of the place where he had been, out from the familiar, out from the place where he thought he might find healing to be alone with Jesus. Jesus spit on his eyes and touched this man and then he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And the man did see. Sort of.
In my year and a half here as president of RTS Charlotte I had seen a lot.
I had asked God to touch me. I was a happy pastor, but a pastor who felt a deep need to ask Jesus for His touch. And to get it, he led me out of town, to here at RTS Charlotte. And over this past year, I have seen some things. They are the things I would want you to know about:
I have seen godly professors. One student told me recently about going to Dr. Douglas Kelly for counseling. The student told that Dr. Kelly talked a little, but prayed even more. And when he prayed, the young man say (with awe), I felt like I was being carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire. He then “When I was with him, I felt like I was in the presence of a man who had been with God.” Our professors are pastors and scholars. They plumb the depths of the Scriptures, and they plumb the depths of souls to apply those Scriptures. And those people just happen to be the men who will pastor your children and grandchildren.
I have seen sound doctrine. Our faculty includes men who each year must vow to a Confession that is radically Biblical. Recently at a senior banquet, a student reflected on why he had come to RTS. He said that he heard Ric Cannada say that “at RTS we don’t believe every word of the Bible is true…We believe EVERY SYLLABLE of the Bible is true!” Coming out of a seminary where that was not held, this Baptist minister said, “When I heard Dr. Cannada say that, I knew I was home.”
I saw these things as God led me to this place. And I saw more.
I saw a great vision of the Gospel going to the ends of the earth. One time, I came across a student who was walking down the hall and looked rather dumbfounded. I thought he had seen a snake. He told me that he had just come out of Dr. John Oliver’s class on world missions. And He had seen Jesus lifted up in a way he never had before.
I have seen visions of great ministry. The Institute for Reformed Campus Ministry here at RTS Charlotte is opening this fall (2009) to prepare campus ministers to send all over the world and to help your children give an answer for the hope that is within them, and to bring the mind of Christ in the Scriptures to bear on our culture through that most influential of places, the university. We will do that this year. In this very graduating class (2009) we will send out a campus minister to UNC Charlotte, Appalachian State University, and the University of South Florida (and more). And that vision for that ministry came from the heart of Dr. Michael Kruger. What a vision. And there is the Institute for Chaplain Ministry that is coming next year (Fall 2010). That vision is for reaching men like the ones who this very year are studying here at RTS Charlotte and who have been commissioned as chaplain candidates. I am proud to announce that Vice Admiral Scott Redd, Sr., has accepted our invitation to serve on the Council for that Institute. We will also have Chaplain (Brigadier General) Douglas Lee, the head of our Presbyterian and Reformed chaplains in all branches of the service, as well as institutional chaplains in hospitals and prisons. This will not be a place where a young man can study in a Master of Divinity program, with an emphasis in chaplain ministries, but a place of theological reflection and research on the work of chaplaincy. What a vision. And the Lord has put a burning zeal in my heart to see our Doctor of Ministry to become more than just a degree that credentials ministers in their careers (though that is not bad), but a ministry that equips pastors in America to bring renewed blessing to the Body of Christ through revitalization and renewal. Our Doctor of Ministry with an Emphasis in Church Revitalization will be led by The Reverend Dr. Harry Reeder, a graduate of this seminary and now an adjunct professor at this seminary. Through his national ministry of extraordinary influence, Embers to a Flame, and through study in cohort groups here at this seminary, we want this ministry to be for pastors what the “Army War College” or “Naval War College,” is for officers in our military! They are in their battles and we are in ours. We are in a spiritual warfare. And we want this ministry to bring victory in Jesus.
Jesus has led me out here to see. And I have seen much.
But I thought I had seen it all…
…Until, I began to see clearly what God has doing at this place called RTS Charlotte and seeing my own life related to it.
You see, I was just seeing men, like trees walking…” For in my transition from my last ministry to this one, I was missing so much of my pastorate, so much of the people I loved and care for. And though I was seeing much, my emotions had left my vision blurry.
I know about “blurry.” My wife often says that “your glasses are filthy, how can you see?” So she cleans my glasses as I drive (Now that is a scary thought if you are coming towards me in your car!) But she has a way of really getting them clean.
And so does our Lord. Christ Jesus is so compassionate, so patient, so loving. He laid his hands on the eyes of he Bethsaida man a second time, and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. He really gets our eyes clean.
For me it happened in Germany this past year. I was teaching chaplains and their families in a spiritual retreat. At the end of it, they came around me and laid hands on me. They began praying, “Lord, this man has a privilege of being part of that great ministry of RTS, where millions are going to be reached for Jesus Christ, entire cultures transformed, and a world impacted with the Gospel. Lord help him to see this ministry as a gift from you! Father, use him to equip pastors in order to equip your people.” I went to ministry to them and they ministered to me. They laid their hands on my “eyes.”
In my tears, I thought I had seen everything. But that day I saw more. And when I came home, I told my wife: I was seeing what Dr. Simon Kistemaker had told me that I must see (when he wrote me after I accepted the call to come here): “hundreds, thousands of people, in the eyes of the students before me.”
The blind man of Bethsaida thought he had seen everything. But there was more. Total healing. Total vision.
What do you see at 2101 Camel Road (at RTS Charlotte)? A seminary? Or the place where God is preparing your grandchildren’s’ pastors? A graduate school of theology? Or a sacred ground for spiritual and vocation formation of pastors who will lead men and women and boys and girls to Jesus Christ, and bring them “safe in the arms of Jesus?” Do you see a classroom? Or can you see a “sanctuary;” a dwelling place of God where Jesus Christ is ministering and raising up shepherds to bring about new vision and healing for a world of lost sinners in shame?
Come on out. Receive your touch. Or receive it again. Can you see it clearly?
So you thought you had seen it all.