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A GOOD GUY, Pastor Robert J. Neill

August 7, 2012 1 comment

On August 3, 2012, a really good guy went home to be with the Lord. Some people would point out that no one is good but God, but Bob Neill came closer to it than most. For over 30 years Bob and I have been friends, colleagues, ministry partners, and brothers in Christ. He was one those people that you liked right away, and even if you haven’t been in touch with him for years, when you do meet again, you just take up where you left off, as if no time has passed at all.

Bob and I had much in common, we both had three daughters, and we referred to ourselves by the acronym D.O.D.O. (Like the extinct bird, not something else) which means Daddies Of Daughters Only, because we both were blessed with three daughters. We had the privilege of serving together as Co-leaders at a Christian Family Camp for several years, and we both had a great appreciation for the Arts.

One of the things I loved best about him was his laugh. Nobody laugh liked Bob. He committed his whole face into it when he found something funny. I made it my mission whenever I was around him, to try and make him laugh just so I could see the goofy way He did it.

Bob’s love for Sue and his daughters was such a blessing to me. But his love for his God and His word absolutely blew me away.

Bob was a man of grace. The last time I was able to spend a length of time with him was when I was getting ready to become the Pastor of the First Baptist church of Palos Verdes. He was at the time the church’s interim Pastor. I couldn’t have followed a better man. Prior to this Bob and I had lost touch… well… because I got a little lost… and was out of pastoral ministry for many years. First Baptist was to be my first pulpit in 17 years. Bob was one of those in whom I experienced complete restoration, like there was no brokenness at all. On July 10 of last year, we made the transition from his ministry with the church to mine. The theme for the day was Isaiah 43:18-19;

18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The culmination of the service was when Bob presented me with a “Shepherd’s Staff” with the scripture above inscribed upon it, to remind me of my responsibility in caring for my new flock.

At the time I thought of Jesus who restored Peter back into ministry, by charging him three times to feed his sheep. That morning God used Bob to bring me full circle into His restorative purpose. I am so glad it was Pastor Bob.

I am sad Bob Neill is gone. I am sad for his wife Sue. I am sad for his children and grandchildren, because I know they will miss him deeply… I am also totally jealous that He gets to be home with Jesus.

All of those who loved him and the churches he served, including the First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes will truly miss this good guy. We can hope that a bit of that “Good Guyness” has rubbed off on all of us who called him friend.  

Blessings,

Pastor Joel Fairley

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THE DOLDRUMS OF FAITHFULNESS

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

A year ago I shared in this space my love for tall ships. I love those wooden, engineering marvels that are very beautiful in their purpose. But no matter how many sail they carry, or how great they look in the water, if they are becalmed they aren’t going anywhere.

Mariners refer to this becalmed period as the Doldrums. In the Doldrums the wind disappears altogether without a hint of movement or current in the water. A ship can be trapped for days or weeks. It can be frustrating for a Captain and his sailors, because there is nothing they can do really, aside from towing the ship out with ship’s boats, but that can prove to be exhausting, with very little to show for their effort. The best that they can do is wait, and Hope in the promise for wind.

The Doldrums test a sailor’s strength and resolve like no other. In the Doldrums Mariners find out what they are truly made of as they hope and trust for the wind to come and speed them along to the promise of their destination.

When Abraham was 75 years old God promised him that he would be the father of a great nation, and even though he and his 65 year old wife Sarah at the time were childless, Abraham claimed the promise and believed God. But it would be another 25 years before God would fulfill that promise. In the meantime all Abraham could do in his faithfulness and trust in God was to wait… and wait… and wait.

I imagine as Abraham waited on the promises of God, it may have felt for him like being in the Doldrums of Faithfulness. It is in that between time when promises are made and promises are fulfilled, when the movement of God’s Spirit is not easily discernible. These Doldrums of Faithfulness can test are complete trust in God like no other time.

The Doldrums are a dangerous time in the sense that we can begin to question how God’s promises are going to be fulfilled. In other words we feel like we need to take it upon ourselves to fulfill God’s promises for Him. A prime example is when Sarah, who saw herself getting older and way beyond child bearing years, offered her servant Hagar to Abraham thinking that she, Sarah, would have offspring through her. She told Abraham this is how God will fulfill His promise to make him a great nation. But that’s not what God promised. God promised that Sarah herself, even at the ripe old age of 90, would give birth to the child of promise, who was Isaac. She gave in to the Doldrums and did not trust in God. In the Doldrums of Faithfulness we feel the need to do it ourselves instead of taking the time to wait for God to act upon what He has promised.

We all will face the Doldrums of Faithfulness. It is a method God uses to test us in our Faith, so that He may build in us a Steadfast Spirit. In these times we learn to wait on God and trust Him even in His silence. When His promises do come, God gets all the Glory and we get to enjoy the blessings of His grace.

God is going to bless us in an amazing way. Trust me; it will be worth waiting for even in the Doldrums

Blessings, Pastor Joel

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