Monthly Archives: May 2008

call to prayer for West Valley PCA church plant

As is obvious, I have not made it to blog-posting for more than a week.  Times they are a changin’. 

Busy.  New.  Different.  Spiritual attacks.  Planning.  Preaching.  Parenting…

So this short post will suffice – please pray for us this weekend as Kori and I are going away with four couples for a vision-catalyst retreat.  Pray that we will find guidance in God’s Word, through his Spirit, and through each other.  Pray for joy and rejuvenation.  Pray for clarity and the willingness to let vague-ness be vague-ness where God has not clearly guided.  Pray that we will NOT do ministry in the flesh, but by the Spirit!  Pray for safety.  Pray for our children as we’re away.  Pray for the other families of West Valley PCA who are trusting the Lord to jump-start a church with HIS vision that we all embrace and live out for his glory!  Pray that the Lord will be the Vision-caster:

“Our greatest danger is not liberalism, modernism, postmodernism, bible criticism… 

the greatest danger is the church doing the work of ministry in the power of the flesh.”       

    – Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

 

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A letter to a young pastor

I have decided that in this pre-season to the West Valley PCA church plant, that I will spend my summer morning study time in the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy.  I have read them numerous times, but if yesterday and this morning are indicative of the timely application by the Spirit – than this time around in this season of life will be both grounding and groundshaking. 

I have always felt like Timothy – for no other reason than age and stage.  Young pastor.  No apologies.  Preach the Word.  But as I have re-entered Timothy’s world, the way Paul exposes himself through his letter engages my need and my church plant context well.

In ch.1, Paul charges Timothy (who he has left in the important city of Ephesus to revitalize the church – in safeguarding doctrine and in encouraging the saints) to “wage the good warfare” of the ministry (1:18-19).  I wonder at the kind of warfare in which Timothy was engaged.  Obviously it was doctrinal and within the church (1:3-11), among other things.  At the moment, while I am called to doctrinal integrity in leading WVPC and as a PCA pastor, I am thankfully not waging doctrinal wars within our core.  At the same time, I know that the minute we formulate a gospel-kingdom vision that is Word grounded (over the next month), we open ourselves up to “identity warfare” from within and without.  God knows I need these Words to Jimothy.

But what hits me is not as much Paul’s instruction to Timothy about doctrine and loving God’s flock (1:5), rather, it is his own confidence in his calling to disseminate the gospel and shepherd God’s church.  Without even calling Timothy to “confidence in his calling” (which I need), Paul begins his letter by modeling such confidence.  How can it be that the apostle Paul is so confident in his weakness to defend truth, to engage culture, to shepherd Ephesus through shepherding Timothy, and to lead a missionary movement of gospel-church planting – all with the Word of God central and powerful with no apologies?!?   In reading yesterday and this morning, in the 1st chapter alone, I am encouraged to find 4-fold reason for his confidence… the same reasons I MUST confidently tread forward as a churchplanting leader (of lay-churchplanters) at West Valley PCA.

The ministry confidence of Paul, modeled for Timothy and Jimothy:

  1. God his Savior had COMMANDED him (1:1).  I am either commanded of God to serve in his ministry as an agent of reconciliation to a broken world/church, or I am not.  I am.
  2. God had ENTRUSTED him with the gospel of the glory of God (1:11).  The same gospel is for WVPC, for Emmaus, for Lower Macungie, for the Lehigh Valley, for the nations, for my family, for me.  Same entrusting.
  3. God his strength-Giver had APPOINTED him for his particular service inspite of all he had been (1:12).  I have been appointed in this moment of time, in spite of all I am, to lead gospel-centered, God-centered church planters to plant WVPC (inspite of all they have been as well).
  4. God had DELIVERED him from his sin (1:12-17).  All of it.  The Gospel changes the message-bearer before it engages the message receiver (Psalm 51:13).  I am equally delivered in Christ from the worst of all I am.

So I ask myself: Jimothy – has God COMMANDED your life into existence, ENTRUSTED you with the gospel of salvation, APPOINTED you to the particular call in the Lehigh Valley, and DELIVERED you daily from your worstness of sins?  

Yes he has.  (say it with confidence please) 

YES HE HAS!!!! 

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A kingdom of humility, contrition and trembling

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Smack in the middle of a vision of the New Heavens and Earth – the beautiful restoration of God that includes his judgment and justice and KINGDOM – is a beautiful description of the people to whom God’s grace and righteousness will rest.  THOSE WHO HUMBLY AND CONTRITELY TREMBLE AT HIS WORD.

Here we are, on the verge of planting a church in the Lehigh Valley of PA.  The thoughts (and methodological books) pour into my head.  Be relevant.  Be faithful.  Be risky.  Be patient.  Be holy.  Be original.  Be missional.  Be Spirit-led.  Be this or that or this or that.  Many of those things I DO want!  But O God, I want  most for us to be your kingdom on earth! 

What will that be like, I wonder.  One thing is clear according to Isaiah’s kingdom vision.  The kingdom on earth WILL be a place where the Word of God revealed to man is CENTRAL to life and ethics and obedience and worship.  We are to be “West Valley Presbyterian Church that trembles contritely at the word of God.”  Nice.

Whether I am seeing this because I am on the heals of a workshop on biblical exposition, or I am resting in it because it is God’s purpose for me to discover the centrality of his Word while outside of a bunch of crazy Word-centered preachers… I am not sure – except I love the Word.  Yes, it is hard to read.  Yes, it is often uninteresting to our visual and emotive culture.  BUT, it is the living Word and revelation of the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my soul.  Is it not a powerful gift of grace around which ALL of our church plant should center?!

One thing I humbly had to confess at the workshop was this: I generally try to discern how the text of Scripture applies to me, or the congregation to which I preach.  But the problem with such a philosophy is that I am making myself, or others the center point of relating to God.  “How does this apply to ME?”  It is egocentric (though normal in our Western culture)!  The question is rather, “How do I apply my life to the Word?”  “How do I relate to the TRUTH of the text?” rather than “How does this text relate to my perceived reality?”

All I can say is that I can’t possibly imagine being in the New Heavens/Earth of Isaiah 66 and thinking, “How does this Kingdom fit into my reality?”  No, my reality will be defined by such a kingdom!  This is the reason that the kingdom is for those who humbly and contritely tremble at the Word – because IT IS the bar.  IT IS the barometer of reality.  IT IS the density of the gravity by which things float or fall.  How does my reality square with TRUE, GOD REVEALED REALITY?  That is humbling… it induces trembling.  What a grace – that those who are humbled and contrite and trembling at God’s Word are the ones to whom he will look in his kingdom (66:2)! 

SO, it must be Word-now, because it will be Word-then!!!  The kingdom is thus here and then through the Word revealed!

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working on biblical exposition

Workshop on Biblical Exposition – Wheaton, IL

I have spent the entirety of this week being exposed to the Minor Prophets and thus exposed to myself.  All I can say is that there is no workshop or conference or seminar that I could attend that would cause me to long to be a faithful man of God like this expositional preaching workshop.  In considering the faithful handling of God’s Word – O God, I long to be faithful, fully. 

“The text cannot now mean what it never meant.”  O God, may I do the work necessary to grasp your Word, in its original context with its original intent.   May I do the work to know my community.  May I do the work to bridge the gap.

That’s all for now.  Plane flight home tomorrow.  I miss my family sick.

 

Working on biblical exposition

In two days, I leave for a week-long journey to Chicago.  I get to see my grandma.  I get to watch the White Sox.  I get to hear gospel-centered preaching from my mentor, Paul Winters (Spring Valley PCA, Roselle IL).  I will be speaking to both the congregation and adult Sunday School of SVPC about our West Valley Church plant.  I will be meeting with former seminary proffs from TEDS.  I will be fundraising.  O, and I will be working on preaching.

One of the highlights of every year is attending the Workshop on Biblical Exposition, put on by the Simeon Trust.  It was Charles Simeon who said of preaching,

My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there.  I have a great jealousy on this head – never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.

That is a high calling.  The workshop this year will be focusing on the minor prophets – which is exhilirating, because I have thought about beginning our church plant sermon series with a minor prophet.  God knows what is in store for me to learn this week.  I certainly need the exposure to excellent biblical exposition.  I certainly need some peer review of my own stuff.  I certainly need to begin preparing to be back in the saddle (pulpit) on a weekly basis. I can honestly say about this ‘business trip’ – that it will be a pleasure next week to “go to work.”  It is through weeks like this that I discover that God does POWERFUL things when his servants submit our weak and pithy efforts to his disposal!

Thanks be to God for his LIVING Word that interprets us and keeps giving us the GOOD stuff for life and kingdom, here and forever.

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