Archives For Pastoring

This week is referred to as the Passion Week or Holy Week of Christ.

It begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, what has traditionally been referred to as Palm Sunday, his final entry into Jerusalem on his way to the cross.

It consists of Jesus’ celebration of the last Passover meal with his disciples, a meal which will transition and be transformed into the Lord’s Supper after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It consists of the crucifixion of Jesus, what is referred to as Good Friday. It is not good in the sense of what we would normally consider good. But it is good in that it is through the death (and resurrection) of Jesus that our sins can be forgiven and we can experience peace with God. This is reflected in Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

It culminates in the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, which transformed this day to be known as the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). After his resurrection and upon meeting the disciples, Jesus greets them with the words, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:19, 21, 26).

The bookends of Jesus’ last words on the cross and these first words spoken to the disciples go together. The peace promised in his birth (Lk. 2:14) is accomplished through his death on the cross, which is the foundation upon which we, through faith, have peace with God (Rom 5:1).

Here is a series of readings from the Gospel of John for your mediation, reflection and worship this week.

Palm Sunday: Triumphal Entry – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13)

Thursday: Passover (Last Supper/Lord’s Supper) – “He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

Friday: Crucifixion – “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Sunday: Resurrection – “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).

I am grateful and encouraged by what the Lord did at and through our Theology Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice, and the EFCA.

God provided to us the right speakers who were committed to the Scriptures and the gospel and who addressed the important issues and did so with the right spirit. The Spirit is always present as God’s people gather. This time the Spirit’s ministry was also evident. God was also gracious in guiding us to include the right topics to address, and in the order they were addressed. Each message built on the other and the whole was much greater than the parts.

The key now is to continue to pray for God to guide and lead us so that we can “continue to bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt. 3:8). What does this mean individually, what does it mean as pastors and leaders of churches? What does it mean for our churches?

As we remain committed to the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as God guides and leads, may we be sensitive and obedient to the Scriptures and manifest in greater ways the reality of the newness and nowness of the kingdom. God not only commands us to live out the reality of the kingdom, he also compels or empowers us to do so. This is the new community created by God (Eph. 2:14-16). And though we do not create this community, once we are in this community through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3).

Based on comments I received from others, the Lord used our time together significantly in the lives of many. Please pray with me as there is a weightiness to steward this moment and these next days well.

One other important matter to mention is that the recordings from the Theology Conference are now being posted on the EFCA Theology Podcast. Here is the brief explanation of the initial, introductory post, which consists of the Introduction:

Earlier this year, our 2018 EFCA Theology Conference theme explored The Gospel, Compassion and Justice and the EFCA. Recent events in our nation and world have made it clear it is both timely and necessary to address the topics of racial reconciliation and immigration. The gospel is being undermined and tarnished by the lack of reconciliation among believers and the lack of concern for the immigrant. Join with fellow EFCA pastors and leaders in listening and learning from the speakers at our 2018 conference as they address this theme from biblical, theological, historical and pastoral perspectives. 

Once all the messages have been posted on the Theology Podcast, I will link all of the messages on the blog. In addition, I will include the bibliographies provided by the speakers, and I will also include questions we prepared for each of the speakers to address after their lectures. Because of the eager engagement and participation of participants, we did not get these questions.

I encourage you to consider listening to these messages and then engage with another about what you learned, or questions that were raised. Or, listen to them with another, or as a staff, and then discuss them together. God has much to teach us, and there is much to learn and live out.

In the Evangelical Free Church of America, we focus on the essential truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ while allowing differing understandings of some doctrines within certain theological parameters.

For example, we do not require agreement regarding the age of the universe, time and mode of baptism and whether faith precedes regeneration or regeneration precedes faith (the Arminian and Calvinist discussion).

We refer to our openness regarding these theological differences as the “significance of silence.” As we explain in Evangelical Convictions, “This expression does not mean that we will not discuss and debate these issues but simply that we will not divide over them” (p. 24, footnote 18).

To read the rest of the article, please see here.

One of the things I appreciate about regularly reading the Bible and church history is to see how God has faithfully preserved his people through his Word. There is much I learn through this discipline/exercise – about God and his plan and purpose,  his grace and mercy, the ugliness of sin, the grandeur of grace, the transformative power of the gospel manifested in the lives of people, his faithfulness, and that he is, in the midst of trials, tribulations and tragedies of life,  working out his sovereign plan as he moves history toward his promised, glorious end.

On this day, we remember two interconnected events/experiences, in the lives of two sinners saved by grace, in the lives of a white man and a black woman, separated in time but connected by God, which reflects God’s good providence in creating one new humanity. This also reminds us of God’s call and command to be faithful to the Lord where we are in our own generation, both large and/or small, being assured God will, in some way and at some time, use it for our good and his glory.

On this date, March 10, 1747, John Newton (1725-1807), while a sailor on a slave ship, was converted. He eventually left his former life and became an Anglican pastor. Newton penned Amazing Grace, which was truly an autobiography, and reflective of God’s grace working to transform his life. He became a zealous abolitionist, referring to himself as the “old African blasphemer,” and was influential in the life of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who worked to abolish the slave trade in England, which occurred in the Slavery Abolition Act three days before Wilberforce died.

On this date, March 10, 1913, at 93 years of age, Harriet Tubman died. Born Araminta “Minty” Ross, Tubman had been a slave and experienced the full brutality of slavery. With a believing mother, she also came to believe the gospel as a young girl. With the aid of the Underground Railroad, she fled to freedom on September 17, 1849. Not being content with her own freedom, and being aided again by the Underground Railroad, she led 13 missions to guide many slaves to freedom. She was referred to as Moses, since she, like Moses, led her people to freedom.

What is God calling and commanding you to be and to do? How will you be faithful to him as you faithfully live out that God-given role in the here and now, knowing God will use it both now and in the there and then?

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15).

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” (Throughout I refer to Billy by his first name, and I do so out of loving respect for him, as he was a friend to all of us.)

These words were spoken by Billy when he lived. Today we read that Billy, at 99 years of age, is dead. Based on being grounded in the Word of God, which led to his famed expression, “the Bible says,” he could explicitly say not to believe it. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).

Billy lived his life based on the truth stated by Paul, that “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Billy lived by Christ and for Christ, who was his  “hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Now, through his death, he experiences gain. Even though he is now dead physically, he is now more alive than he has ever been. He is now in the presence of the Lord.

Billy was one of those men used of God in so many ways and in so many places. The memories, the tributes, the influences, recollecting the ways God used Billy in one’s life personally will be shared over the next days and weeks. This influence includes many in the EFCA, including the EFCA as a denomination. In all of it, Billy always deflected back to Christ. Remember – as we remember – to do the same.

Christianity Today, a publication begun under Billy’s initiative and leadership in October 1956 has collected much about Billy, his life and ministry. I include a link announcing Billy’s change of address to being “with the Lord,” along with a number of additional articles. There will be many more of these posted today and in days to come. This is a good place to begin.

Billy Graham (1918-2018): “Billy Graham was perhaps the most significant religious figure of the 20th century, and the organizations and the movement he helped spawn continue to shape the 21st.” This link consists of numerous articles addressing the issues related to Billy’s life and his ministry as an evangelist: In Memory Of; Early Years; Evangelism; Family; Behind the Scenes.

A number of years ago I wrote about An Interview with Billy Graham. At the conclusion of that post I wrote, “I thank the Lord for Billy Graham. I am also grateful that the Lord, in His faithfulness, preserved Graham so that he remained faithful to Him in carrying out his call as an evangelist and as evidenced in his commitment to the gospel in proclamation and life.”

Today, at the news of Billy’s earthly death, I give thanks to the Lord for a life faithfully lived to the end. Paul’s words are a fitting tribute: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

And a fitting final exhortation to all Christian brothers and sisters in the EFCA are words spoken by Paul and lived by Billy: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).