Back in 1996 I was a mess. I was in a toxic relationship, had very little direction, a ridiculous amount of debt and though I was beginning to enjoy the study of theology through books, my desire to be a part of a church was disappearing. All I knew were the Baptist Churches I had grown up in. I wanted out and had no idea where to go.
One day, while sitting on my parents front porch, I was talking with my friend Ross and told him some of my frustration about church. He invited me to one he had been attending. So that Sunday, for the first time I went to a Presbyterian church. And even though the Lead Pastor did not preach that Sunday, I was hooked.
And then for years I sat under the preaching of Bob Flayhart hanging on every word. And every word was a word of grace. Grace that comforts and grace that convicts. I needed both and every Sunday it was delivered with power.
No preacher has influenced me more. And I’ve longed to give tribute to his ministry and it’s peculiar effect on me. Today is his birthday. So I want to list 10 things I’ve learned from Bob over the years. And even though much of this has helped me as a pastor, far more often I’ve needed to hear these things on a personal level – as a man, a husband and a father. Some of these come from sermons, some from the pre-marital counseling he did for us. All of it is now part of me and I wouldn’t be able to shake it loose if I wanted.
1. The Christian life is a daily waltz. 1, 2, 3…Repent, Believe, Fight…1, 2, 3…Repent, Believe, Fight. This is in the DNA of OMPC and chances are you will here it at some point during a Sunday service.
2. Cheer up! You are a lot worse off than you think you are. And the gospel is greater than you could ever imagine. I know this a Jack Millerism but whenever I hear it, I hear it in Bob’s voice. And I hear it all. the. time.
3. Even in the midst of your sin, you are still loved. This is a variation on a theme. But I remember Bob saying this once and it caused a huge paradigm shift in my thinking. The love of God for his children is that great.
4. The “doctrines of grace” are given as encouragement. They had always been an argument since I’d bought in and became a Calvinist. Bob helped me see they are there to encourage Christians that God is at work always and will save his people.
5. Our spouse is given to us for our sanctification. If it true that all things are working together for our good, then our spouse and our marriage are both working for our good. This is an enormous help when you have two people who still have to fight against sin living under the same roof.
6. Our own sin should be far more obvious than the sins of our spouse. We should see ourselves as the greater sinner because we know the ins and outs of our own hearts better than anyone. This makes us slow to accuse and quick to show grace and mercy.
7. Marriage is not 50-50…”you do your part and then I’ll do my part” is a terrible way to live and love. It’s 100-100. The husband should give his life as Christ did. The wife should give her all as the church is called to give all. Both loving the other radically.
8. Husbands are not dictator and wives are not doormats. How many times did we hear this in weddings he performed? There was a time where it was weekend after weekend. I’ve now done two weddings and I’ve said the same thing. Because it’s true.
9. Transparency. It’s difficult to be transparent about your own struggles and need for the gospel of grace and not turn the sermon or lesson into a confessional. But I’d rather have the struggle for balance than not see any need for transparency at all. Bob’s transparency turns “you need to” moments into “we need to” moments.
10. Looking for grace everywhere. No matter where I am in the Scriptures. No matter what I am listening to. No matter what I am reading. No matter what I’m watching, I’ve been trained to look for stories and ideas upon which the shadow of the cross falls. Sure, it’s been invaluable as a pastor. But more so as a person on the path so often needing just a sign – even a faded, warped one – that I’m loved because of the Son.