My personal testimony must focus on the gracious election of our loving God. He planted me in a Christian family and drew me to Himself at a very young age. I was born in Syracuse, NY but moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia in second grade. My family lived right down the street from the headquarters of the Unevangelized Fields Mission, which has consequently always held a special place in my heart when it comes to missions. I grew up under the faithful preaching of Dr. Howard Oursler at the evangelical Bala-Cynwyd Presbyterian Church (which sadly chose to remain in the United Presbyterian denomination as it started to slide doctrinally). My high school (Lower Merion) is famous as the launching pad for the career of Kobe Bryant. I only rose to the level of Sports Editor… not quite as much talent… but still fairly quick for a chess team star.
My relationship with the Lord really developed at Princeton University under the discipling ministry of the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship. I majored in English as preparation for attending seminary. More importantly, I met Karen, my wife, and we graduated together in 1975 and married in the summer of 1976. I completed the M.Div. degree at Grace Theological Seminary in picturesque Winona Lake, IN. I was heavily impacted by the eldership model of Bethany Bible Church while attending seminary. The elders there served sacrificially and proved to me that with sufficient humility and love a team of elders could function without exalting one man to a unique role of Senior Pastor above the others. Abraham Thomas, one of the elders and a former law student from India, has since returned to southern India and been used greatly by the Lord in a church planting capacity. Another elder, John Mike Thomas (not related), eventually moved to New York City to assume a pastoral role.
Upon graduation from seminary, Karen and I moved back to the Baltimore area to be near both sets of parents. I had rejected the traditional model of candidating for a pastorate and felt I was too young and unproven to meet the character oriented qualifications of NT eldership. I decided to enter into the business community and seek to move towards some type of team leadership in a local church.
For the past couple of years we have been involved with a new church plant on our side of Baltimore = Freedom Church Windsor Mill at the former Temple Baptist location on Dogwood Road just east of Rolling Road. [I invite you to check out our church on Sunday mornings.]
My wife Karen grew up in an Air Force family that afforded her opportunities to live in both Germany and France before graduating from John Jay High School in San Antonio. Her father had a very successful career culminating in serving for two years as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Karen came to know the Lord during her sophomore year in high school. Her only sister and her husband met in the same Princeton fellowship group as we did, and they now lead a PCA church in Mt. Airy, MD. In addition to homeschooling our own children, Karen has devoted much of her life to helping other moms homeschool their children. She has taught math as an adjunct professor at Catonsville Community College of Baltimore County and been very successful as a math tutor when she is not occupied helping to take care of our young grandchildren.
LIFE LESSON – FLAMINGO – LIVE IN PEACE
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18
This simple image of a peaceful Flamingo has served as a very practical reminder to me of how to conduct myself in personal relationships when I feel I have been wronged or offended.
If you remove the vowels and just concentrate on the consonants in the word FLaMiNGo – you have:
5 Ways we can be more like Jesus Christ in responding to difficult people in our lives:
F: Be Forgiving — not bitter or holding a grudge
Ephesians 4:32 “forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Colossians 3:13 “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
Mark 11:25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”
L: Be Loving — not selfish
Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
M: Be Merciful — not judgmental
Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
James 2:13 “mercy triumphs over judgment”
N: Be Nice — not mean
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted”
G: Be Gracious — not vindictive
Psalm 145:8 “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.”
Meditate on the image of the Flamingo and remind yourself of this simple acrostic when you encounter difficult people and difficult situations. This is how we can truly be at peace with all men. This is how we can apply Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:8-9 to dwell on those things which are spiritually profitable.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” James 3:17
Another commentator, Scott Harris, has expressed a similar sentiment:
As a matter of practicality, let me give you a word that can help with this because it will remind you of what your response should be. I have mentioned this before and some of you may remember it. The word is “P.I.N.O.G.A.M.” It stands for “Person In Need Of Grace And Mercy.” A person that offends or irritates you is in need of grace and mercy. Every person is a “P.I.N.O.G.A.M.” before God which is why Jesus died on the cross. He has extended God’s grace and mercy to you, you are to follow His example and extend grace and mercy to others.