A Word From A 2700 Year Old Pastor

By Lance Witt on Apr 16, 2021

Replenish Ministries

Pastors listen to other pastors.  We listen to other people in ministry who are down in the trenches doing the hard work of leading others.

Jeremiah was one such person.  And he was given a very tough ministry assignment.  God let him know in advance that he would not pastor a megachurch. 

Pastor Jeremiah has a good word that is timely for those of us leading the church in the 21st century.

This is what the Lord says…
Stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask for the ancient paths
Ask where the good way is and walk in it
And you will find rest for your souls
Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

STAND AT THE CROSSROADS

If you’re going to take the road that leads to spiritual health, you have to stand.  Implicit in the word “stand” is that you have to “stop”.  Stopping and standing go hand in hand.

This is a critical word for people with healthy souls.

Jesus regularly took time to stop, to be quiet, to spend time with his father.  You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul.  It is so easy to fill our lives with frantic activity only to lose our bearings in ministry and forget “why” we do what we do.

It’s healthy for us to regularly stand and look at our lives… and consider where we are headed. We are so pre-occupied with everybody else’s sanctification that we forget that our sanctification is still a work in progress.

You have to stop running long enough to make an informed decision about which road you will travel.

Proverbs 14:8  says “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways… but the folly of fools is deception”

Give thought to your ways.  Are you living the life God intended for you?  Or, are you so busy, you have little time to stop and reflect and consider the roads that are in front of you.

An old Chinese proverb says, “If you don’t change the direction your going, your likely to end up where you are headed.”  Look ahead. If you stay on the road you’re traveling today, where are you going to end up?

Let me ask you a question… “if we could plot the trajectory of your soul, where does it end up?”

Maybe right now you’re at a ministry crossroads. Perhaps ministry and life haven’t turned out like you’d hoped. Maybe today you find yourself empty and drained from the demands of ministry.

There is hope. There is a different way . . . a better way. But you are at a crossroads and you have to make a decision about the path from this point forward.

ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS…

The past is a friend. Many people have walked the road before us, and we can learn a lot from them. This isn’t about something new but rather something ancient. It’s about following the footsteps of those who’ve gone before us.

There are some disciplines and practices that people have used for generations to stay connected to Jesus… things like fasting, solitude, reflection, scripture memory, Sabbath keeping, prayer, confession, personal worship.  How are you doing at integrating these into your life?

Your highest calling is to love Jesus… not pastor a church. 

Just a few chapters later in Jeremiah, we read these words…  9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.

What if we really believed that?  How would it change our ministries and our churches?

ASK WHERE THE GOOD WAY IS AND WALK IN IT.

It’s not the fast way. It’s not the busy way. It’s not the successful way.  It’s not even the leadership way that Jeremiah tells us to ask for. It is the good way. God wants you to have a “good” life—a life that is emotionally healthy, relationally satisfying, and spiritually life-giving.

But it’s not enough to identify it, know it, teach it, or preach it.  We must walk in it.  There have been seasons in my life when I was so focused on “leading” that I neglected my own “living”.  We must live well so that we can lead well.  And the order is important.  My leading must flow out of that which I am living.

Then, there is a surprising punch line to the verse.

AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

I thought Jeremiah would complete the verse by saying “and you will find success for your ministry” or “you will prosper in all your ways”.  But the goal of standing and asking for the good way and walking in it is that I would find rest for my soul.

This week I have been reflecting on the word “rest”.  What does it mean to operate from a place of “rest”?

Rest is…

  •   relaxed trust
  •   low control
  •   calm in the midst of chaos
  •   recharging
  •   not striving… not stressed
  •   not frantic

So many of us in ministry are in need of rest for our soul. Could it be that this is what I really need most and even most deeply long for? Could it be God’s first priority in my life is a connected and joyful and refreshed soul? Could it be true in my ministry that his “yoke is easy and [his] burden is light”?  Could it be possible to find the kind of rest for my soul that leads me to say, genuinely, “Jesus is enough”?

Scriptures: Jeremiah 6:16Proverbs 14:8

Lance Witt (website: Replenish Ministries)

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

https://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/lance-witt-a-word-from-a-2700-year-old-pastor-2550

Church Confirms Release of Pastor Threatened With Execution

By Morning Star News -March 19, 2021

terrorists

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News) – Church leaders have confirmed reports that Islamic terrorists who threatened to execute a pastor they abducted in northeast Nigeria freed him on Wednesday (March 3).

The president of the Church of Brethren in Nigeria (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria, or EYN), Joel S. Billi, told church leaders on Thursday (March 4) that he had spoken to Pastor Bulus Yakura (also transliterated as Pastor Bulus Yikura ) after he was freed, according to a notice posted on Friday (March 5) on the website of the Church of the Brethren’s U.S. headquarters by Zakariya Musa, head of EYN Media.

“Speaking to Yakura over the telephone today was heart-touching,” Billi said, adding that Pastor Yakura told him, “I am fine, thank you for your prayers and concern,” according to Musa.

Nigerian newspaper the Premium Times had reported that Pastor Yakura, an EYN pastor abducted from Pemi village near Chibok, Borno state in an Islamic terrorist attack on Christmas Eve, was freed after Christians met ransom demands.

Citing security sources, the newspaper reported that Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram freed Pastor Yakura on Wednesday evening (March 3). A Premium Times correspondent in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, reported sighting Pastor Yakura at about 6:15 p.m. as he was taken to the office of Nigeria’s intelligence agency, the Department of State Services (DSS).

The Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram, which in 2015 formally aligned with the Islamic State and changed its name to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), released a video on Feb. 25 in which the pastor said he would be executed by March 3 unless government and church officials met the kidnappers’ demands.

After watching the video in which the pastor had announced the deadline for his execution, his wife had fallen ill and his children refused to go to school, Musa reported.

An EYN church member, Kwajaffa Balamusa, also confirmed the release of Pastor Yakura in a text message to Morning Star News on Sunday (March 7), accompanied by a photo of him and the pastor after his release.

“Thank God, for our EYN pastor is alive,” Balamusa said.

The Premium Times reported that on Wednesday (March 3), when asked to speak about his freedom, Pastor Yakura kept repeating, “I thank God, I thank God.”

The Islamic State recognizes the ISWAP faction that broke away from Shekau in 2016 as its cell in the region, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and many Nigerians still refer to the Shekau-led faction of ISWAP by its original name, Boko Haram.

Efforts by the EYN and Pastor Yakura’s family resulted in his release, according to the newspaper.

Premium Times gathered from security sources that family members and the EYN church had been negotiating the release of the abducted pastor since last week,” the newspaper reported on Wednesday (March 3).

Prior to his release, Nigerian newspaper Sahara Reporters had reported that the Christian community in Borno state’s Chibok County had contributed money for ransom in order to secure the pastor’s release.

Pattern of Executions

In a video released on July 22, Islamic extremists thought to be members of ISWAP executed five Nigerian men in Borno state, with one executioner saying it was a warning to “all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity.”

On Jan. 20, 2020, Islamic terrorists executed the Rev. Lawan Andimi, district chairman of the EYN in Michika County, Adamawa state, also in northeast Nigeria.

A video released in January 2020 shows ISWAP terrorists executing Christian university student Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a member of the Church of Christ in Nations who was kidnapped on the Damaturu-Maiduguri Highway while returning to studies in Maiduguri, Borno state.

Nigeria was the country with the most Christians killed for their faith last year (November 2019-October 2020), at 3,530, up from 1,350 in 2019, according to Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. In overall violence, Nigeria was second only to Pakistan, and it trailed only China in the number of churches attacked or closed, 270, according to the list.

Nigeria led the world in number of kidnapped Christians last year with 990, according to the WWL report. In the 2021 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria broke into the top 10 for the first time, jumping to No. 9 from No. 12 the previous year.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 added Nigeria to its list of Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” Nigeria joined Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the list.

In a more recent category of non-state actors, the State Department also designated ISWAP, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”

On Dec. 10 the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement calling for investigation into crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

VIDEO Freed From Pain and Fear

Robert Hull – 700 Club Producer

“It was always fear in the house,” says Claudette. “Hiding in the closets, it’s just that we had a man that was very dark for me and my brothers and my mother.” The pain and fear she suffered when she was young at the hand of her stepfather still brings up strong emotions for Claudette. “He was a very strong alcoholic. My mom took the bulk of the beatings. And I would always run and hide in a closet. After all that torment and trauma, and you’re hearing your mother being beat down like a dog, and then she comes to the closet and she’s like ‘come out of here, everything is okay.’ You know, and I grew up thinking that that was okay.” She says.
 
The physical and mental abuse shaped her view of herself and of the world says Claudette, “My life wasn’t worth anything. And I thought the whole world was closed off from love even though I had this love in my heart for people.”

In her teens and 20s she clung to her boyfriend who convinced her they could make good money by selling drugs, Claudette remembers, “I guess because I loved him so much, I was going to accept—I accepted it. And it went from that to using and drinking. And the house turned into a party house. No sleep and it was a nightmare.” The relationship eventually ended but her addiction to drugs and alcohol continued. She now had three daughters that she dearly loved but knew she couldn’t take care of. She says, “I would cry and pray out to God and beg Him to help me, to help us, to stop this and to the point that I took my three daughters to my mother. And I told her that I couldn’t take care of them anymore.”

Years of alcoholism, abusive relationships and drug abuse left Claudette homeless and desperate. As she begged for money at a gas station a stranger offered to help. He asked her to follow him to a nearby house. She had no idea what would happen there. She says, “Something inside of me wanted out so bad. I wanted out and I had no idea what was here waiting for me.” 

He took her to his Pastor’s house where they were having a small group Bible study. Dave and Treva Thompson welcomed her. Dave remembers, “We wanted to do our best to make her feel at home in our home. She was at a really low point and and just grasping for air, so to speak, and in need of what only God could do for her. And so we just did our best to put our arms around her and let her know that she’s in a safe place. She didn’t have to worry. Nobody wants anything from her.”

Treva says, “She didn’t have any money or anything to eat. She began to share with us that she struggled with addiction. And we began to share with her how much that Jesus loved her.”

“I don’t know all these people and they’re packing me up food and all this and she comes out of the room with $20 and she said ‘they said you needed something,’” Claudette remembers.

“It wasn’t long until she understood what we were trying to do for her was just what God had done for her on the cross,” says Dave.

Treva says, “She finally I think saw a love that she had not seen at any other time in her life. Not our love – she saw the love of Christ.”

They began to meet regularly. Claudette soon prayed to become a Christian and asked God to set her free from what she thought was a hopeless alcohol addiction. “I started crying and I was begging the Lord, begging him. I said, ‘Why won’t you deliver me? I’ve seen you deliver other people. Why won’t you deliver me Lord?’ and a voice said, ‘Walk in it!’ like somebody was standing over my shoulder and bent down and said ‘Walk in it!’ It was like something supernatural took over and I said, ‘I’ve been delivered all this time. I just wasn’t walking in it.’ He already delivered me,” she says.

From that moment, Claudette was completely set free from drugs and alcohol. She has been sober for over thirteen years. She says, “I am so grateful. I’m a changed person. God is great. I thought I was going to die that way. I thought that was it for me. That there was no other way out. There was no other option but to live my life like that.” She says.

“When she finally realized that the power of Christ could deliver her from this; oh the joy’s just unbelievable. Unbelievable. To see that realization in someone’s life,” says Treva.

Claudette reconciled with her daughters and says she finally found the love she always longed for in Jesus. “It was the love that I’ve been looking for all my life. It was real love, true love, God’s love. And there’s no greater love than that in this world and that’s the love that I was looking for. That’s the love that I was looking for. And I’m going to walk the life of God for the rest of my life. Yes, Amen.”

https://www1.cbn.com/freed-pain-and-fear

What’s the Purpose of Pastors?

purpose of pastors

By Tim Challies -October 20, 2020

The Bible knows nothing of lone Christians, of believers who are willfully independent from a local church. Rather, Christians gather in communities to worship together and serve one another. And as God commands his people to gather in community, he also commands them to be led—led by men called and qualified as pastors or elders (terms the Bible uses interchangeably). As we progress through a series of questions about things we as Christians often take for granted, we now come to the question of church leadership and ask, “What’s the purpose of pastors?”

Common Views of Pastors

In the church today we find a number of common views of the role and purpose of pastors. Unfortunately, some of these, though perhaps well-intentioned, are unbiblical. Here are two prominent views that both fall short of what the Bible teaches.

The first is the pastor as CEO. According to this view, the pastor’s primary purpose is to keep his organization (i.e., his church) running smoothly and growing steadily. Like the Chief Executive Officer within a corporation, he must apply sound business principles to his operation and will find success when he satisfies the desires of church attendees and experiences numerical growth. Those who hold this view claim that the “pastor as shepherd” view threatens to stunt the growth of a church and is impractical for the challenges of our day. Though shepherding care is good and necessary, it should be carried out by church members or ministry leaders so the pastors can focus on the challenges of leadership. Carey Nieuwhof explains, “Saying the model of pastor-as-CEO is bad for the church is like saying leadership really doesn’t matter. It’s also saying business should get all the best leaders… If all we do is recruit pastors who love to care for people until they die, the church will die.” The task of the pastor, he says, is to lead, “to take people where they wouldn’t otherwise go.”

The second view is the pastor as priest. According to this view, the pastor is a kind of spiritual guru whose purpose is to take sole or primary responsibility for all of the church’s ministry. In that way, he serves as a kind of mediator between God and his people. While few evangelicals would actually vocalize their adherence to this view, many tacitly hold it when they only go to their pastor for prayer and spiritual care. They may feel that the prayer and ministry of church members are somehow less effective than the prayer and ministry of their pastor. This view may also affect evangelism, as believers downplay their own ability to share the gospel and instead only focus on bringing unbelieving friends to church to hear the pastor, as if this is the only means through which God works.

Addressing the Error

While it is true that the wise pastor will learn practical strategies for leadership, and while it is true that all truth is God’s truth, the pastor as CEO view has dangerous implications for pastoral ministry. In Jeramie Rinne’s powerful critique, he insists that this view eventually and inevitably reinterprets the church through a business or organizational lens. It is true, of course, that churches “have business aspects. Churches often use financial officers and budgets, employees and personnel policies, facilities and insurance, workflow diagrams and goals, bylaws and committees.” All of these are within the scope of a healthy church. But “the problem arises when these businesslike elements become part of a comprehensive business model for the congregation that ignores biblical teaching. It might look something like this: pastor = president/CEO; staff = vice presidents; members = shareholders/loyal customers; visitors = potential customers.”

John Piper has also warned of the danger of this view, saying, “The professionalization of the ministry is a constant threat to the offense of the gospel. It is a threat to the profoundly spiritual nature of our work. I have seen it often: The love of professionalism kills a man’s belief that he is sent by God to save people from hell and to make them Christ-exalting, spiritual aliens in the world.” This view teaches Christians to interpret and evaluate churches like businesses. It teaches them to evaluate pastors like they evaluate CEOs, so their performance becomes more important than their character. They fail to consider that of all the biblical qualifications for pastors, there is just one related to skill. All the others are related to his godly character.

Meanwhile, the pastor as priest model neglects a key doctrine recovered by the Protestant Reformers: the priesthood of all believers. While Luther and the other Reformers affirmed the office of the elder or pastor, they also emphasized that, through Christ, we are all ministers of the gospel and all have access to God. God continues to call men to pastoral ministry, but he also calls every Christian to minister to one another. This view minimizes the New Testament’s emphasis on the role of the pastor as the one who equips believers so they can carry out the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 expresses this: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The truth is, we are all ministers. Some are set apart to lead as pastors, but we are all called to minister.

What the Bible Says About Pastors

The Bible assures us that pastors exist to shepherd God’s people in local churches until Christ returns (1 Peter 5:1-5). The calling of the pastor is inextricably tied to the biblical metaphor of a shepherd tending to his flock of sheep. Alexander Strauch says, “If we want to understand Christian elders and their work, we must understand the biblical imagery of shepherding. As keepers of sheep, New Testament elders are to protect, feed, lead and care for the flock’s many practical needs.”

Pastors shepherd God’s people by protecting them. One of a pastor’s foremost responsibilities is to protect his sheep, for just like sheep need the protection of a shepherd, God’s people need the protection of pastors. Paul’s farewell address makes it clear that this includes protection from false teachers: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). It also includes protection from their own sinfulness, which is why a pastor is called to a ministry of exhortation—of calling people away from behavior that is dishonoring to God and toward behavior that is pleasing to him (Titus 2:15). It is why pastors eventually confront ongoing, unrepentant sin and enforce church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20).

Pastors shepherd God’s people by feeding them. A shepherd not only protects his sheep from danger, but he also cares for them by feeding them. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” says David. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:1-2). The shepherd provides for the sustenance of his sheep. Similarly, pastors must feed God’s people with the spiritual food and drink they need—the Word of God. The pastor’s ministry is a Word-based ministry in which he uses the Word for preaching, teaching and counseling. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

Pastors shepherd God’s people by leading them. Sheep are wandering creatures who are prone to meander out of safety and into all kinds of danger. They need a shepherd who will lead and guide them. In much the same way, Christians need pastors who will provide leadership. This is a specific form of leadership, though, that better equips them to fulfill the ministry to which God has called them. They carry out this leadership by setting an example in godly character, knowing that the pastor’s standard for character is really the standard for every Christian. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Pastors shepherd God’s people by caring for them. Sheep that are ill or in distress rely upon their shepherd to tend to them. And when God’s people are distressed or uncertain, they rely on their pastors to bring comfort, instill wisdom and offer prayer. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). The pastor has a special function in caring for the people in his charge.

Conclusion

God’s church needs pastors. It needs pastors who will function not first as priests or CEOs, but as shepherds—shepherds who will protect God’s people; feed them spiritual food; lead them by modeling godly character; and care for them in life’s temptations, trials and triumphs. Ultimately, pastors exist to “care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

This article originally appeared here.

https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/336491-whats-the-purpose-of-pastors.htm

How to Get Back Up When Ministry Knocks You Down

ministry

By Charles Stone -October 19, 2020

If you’re a pastor, a missionary, or serve in a church, you can’t avoid discouragement, disappointment, and hurt from ministry. The Bible even uses the not-so-complimentary metaphor “sheep” to describe those we serve. And sheep get dirty and smelly and often kick and bite. Sometimes those sheep in the church do the same to their shepherds. So when you  get kicked, forgotten, disrespected, ignored, mistreated, gossiped about, or misunderstood, how do you move forward?

The story recorded in 1 Samuel 30 gives great insight. David had just begun his career to fight the bad guys. Early on he faced a huge defeat. While he and his army were in battle far from home, the bad guys, the Amalekites, attacked the city where his family and the families of his army lived. They burned the city and kidnapped their wives and children. When David’s men discovered this, they considered removing him from his position, not by a vote of a board or a congregation, but with big rocks to the head by stoning.

The Scriptures then record one of the most beautiful verses every written. The old King James Version captures it well.

David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  (1 Sam. 30.6)

It worked because his guys didn’t stone him but marshaled their energy and once again pursued the bad guys under his leadership.

As I’ve faced discouragement in ministry, these simple choices have helped me encourage myself in the Lord.

  • Acknowledge your pain and emotion to the Lord but don’t wallow in it. Neuroscientists have discovered that when we name our emotions, it turns down the volume in our brain’s emotional centers.
  • Journal your thoughts. Writing them down helps me stop the tendency to incessantly mull over the hurtful situation. Writing therapy been scientifically proven to help us process pain.
  • Read God’s Word, especially those verses that speak of hope and victory. Every time you read the Bible, you are actually re-configuring the circuits in your brain and reinforcing Biblical values and truth.
  • Do something pro-active. Take action to move forward. In David’s case he took specific action to resolve the problem. He rallied his troops to chase down the Amalekites.
  • Stop condemning yourself and remind yourself that you are a child of God, loved by Him with great intrinsic value regardless of whether your church is growing or whether people treat you with respect.
  • Pray for those who have hurt you. I’m amazed how God defuses looming bitterness in my heart when I pray for the sheep that bite me.

How have you dealt with your ministry pain?

This article originally appeared here.

Dozens of Chinese Authorities Interrupt Bible Study, Detain Pastor, 5 Members

China would like this instituted in the USA

By Jessica Lea -January 4, 2021

taiyuan

The pastor of a house church in Taiyuan city in China and five female church members were arrested after authorities raided a Bible study on Dec. 30. While the women were released the next day, Xuncheng Church pastor An Yankui was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

“Please pray for [Pastor An] and his church as they take up their crosses for Christ,” said a post on the Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) Facebook page. Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), whose members have faced extensive persecution themselves, planted Xuncheng Church in 2008 in the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province.

Pastor of Taiyuan Church Arrested a Second Time 

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Pastor An and several Xuncheng Church members were holding a Bible study Wednesday in the pastor’s home when nearly 40 officials interrupted them. In addition to arresting five women and the pastor, authorities seized the church’s choir robes and books. They did not arrest Pastor An’s wife, Yao Conya, so that she could be free to look after her children. Authorities held the women for about a day and released them around midnight on New Year’s Eve. Pastor An, however, will be detained for 15 days.

This is not the first time that officials have targeted Xuncheng Church or Pastor An Yankui. The pastor and his wife were among seven people arrested on Nov. 15 when Chinese authorities raided a Sunday morning service at Xuncheng Church. You can see footage of that raid below.

Sponsor Pulls California Bill Attacking Clergy

Would have undermined protections for communications with penitents

Pulpit

The sponsor of a California bill that threatened the confidentiality of communications between members of the clergy and penitents abruptly pulled the plan from consideration.

The Pacific Justice Institute explained the danger posed by the bill, S.B. 360 from California Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

It “would have required clergy to report certain confessions to the government,” Pacific Justice explained.

“The bill would have further restricted ministers by excluding clergy penitential communications from long established legal protections including ‘spiritual direction’ and ‘religious counseling.’”

“This proposed law could not be reconciled with the First Amendment,” said PJI attorney Kevin Snider. “SB 360 was an attempt to sweep away centuries of clergy-penitent protections, forcing clergy members to choose between criminal prosecution or spiritual peril.”

Brad Dacus, president of PJI, commented: “We are immensely relieved that this misguided legislation has been shelved this year. We commend our legislators who recognized that this bill is harmful and raises grave constitutional problems for clergy protecting the confessions and confidences entrusted to them.”

The proposal already had been approved by the Senate, 30-4.

But members of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee argued it violated the First Amendment, and in a surprising reversal, Hill pulled the plan from consideration.

The California Catholic Conference said in a statement the withdrawal of the bill “follows the delivery of tens of thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from Catholics and others concerned with the free expression of religion.”

The bill, the National Catholic Register reported, was developed to require priests and others to “alert local law enforcement about any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse received while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague,” the report said.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said in the report, “If any legislature can force believers to reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings shared with God in confession, then truly there is no area of human life that is free or safe from government intrusion.”

Hill, in a statement, said he still supports his plan but recognized he didn’t have enough support in the Assembly.

He described the bill as being “on pause.”

In a commentary in the Washington Examiner, Ryan Everson said Hill’s move was “a bit of a shock.”

He said Hill and the California Democrats may not have withdrawn the bill “for the best reasons, but regardless, it’s a win that California Catholics and all advocates of religious freedom should celebrate.”

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/sponsor-pulls-california-bill-attacking-clergy/

Died: Warren Wiersbe, Preachers’ Favorite Bible Commentator

The prolific author and pastor taught Christians how to “Be” in the Word.

May 3, 2019 by CALEB LINDGREN

Died: Warren Wiersbe, Preachers’ Favorite Bible Commentator

Bible teacher, pastor, and preacher Warren Wiersbe died Thursday at age 89, leaving an impressive legacy of teaching, preaching, and mentoring countless pastors. Through his lessons, broadcasted sermons, and over 150 books, he resourced the church to better read and explain the Bible.

In a tribute, grandson Dan Jacobsen recalled how pastors often tell him, “There’s not a passage in the Bible I haven’t first looked up what Wiersbe has said on the topic.”

Wiersbe described himself as a bridge builder, spanning the gap “from the world of the Bible to the world of today so that we could get to the other side of glory in Jesus,” according to Jacobsen.

Of all his many writings his “Be” commentary series is his most well known and well loved, including books like Be Loyal (Matthew), Be Diligent (Mark), Be Compassionate (Luke 1–13), Be Courageous (Luke 14–24), Be Alive (John 1–12), and Be Transformed (John 13–21). Wiersbe sawhis love of expounding the Scriptures as a gift that God had given him for the sake of others:

Writing to me is a ministry. I’m not an athlete, I’m not a mechanic. I can’t do so many of the things that successful men can do. But I can read and study and think and teach. This is a beautiful, wonderful gift from God. All I’m doing is using what He’s given to me to teach people, and to give glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

His wisdom and teaching has left an indelible mark on countless pastors and Christian leaders.

Jerry Vines, Baptist minister and two-time past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, remarked on Twitter that “so many things I did were birthed by Warren Wiersbe.” Remembering his “great mentor and friend,” Vines said Wiersbe “is the man who taught me how to expound the Word of God.”

Daniel Darling, vice president for communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also spoke of Wiersbe’s influence: “Wiersbe had a formative influence on me as a writer and pastor. A long full life of service to the church.”

“Giving thanks for the life of one of the great preachers of our century, Warren Wiersbe,” tweeted Barry McCarty, professor of preaching and rhetoric at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “So many close friends who have influenced me deeply were mentored by Wiersbe. We owe him much.”

In addition to a prolific writing career, Wiersbe—who came to faith after hearing Billy Graham preach at an early Youth for Christ rally—was also involved in parachurch and pastoral ministry for much of his life.

Wiersbe served as director of Youth for Christ’s literature division and editor of Campus Life magazine, in addition to his work with groups such as the Slavic Gospel Association, Child Evangelism Fellowship, National Religious Broadcasters, Christian Booksellers Association, and Back to the Bible.

He received ordination from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, in 1951 and held pastorships at Central Baptist Church in East Chicago, Indiana (1951–1957), Calvary Baptist Church in Covington, Kentucky (1961–1971), where his Sunday sermons were broadcast over the radio as the “Calvary Hour,” and the historic Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, IL (1971–1980), where his sermons were broadcast on Moody Radio as part of Moody’s “Songs of the Night” national radio program.

While at Moody Memorial, Wiersbe was a regular contributor for Moody Monthly, writing the “Insight for the Pastor” column giving practical ministry advice as well as brief biographies of famous individuals from church history. He also taught classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School during his time in Chicago and developed curriculum for a DMin preaching course titled “Imagination and the Quest for Biblical Preaching.”

Another important aspect of his time in Chicago was mentoring young pastors, among them an up and coming preacher named Erwin Lutzer, who would succeed Wiersbe as the senior pastor at Moody Memorial after Wiersbe left in 1980. In a tribute to his mentor, Lutzer recalls that Wiersbe was always gracious with his time and cared deeply for the ministries of the pastors he was mentoring and the city where God had placed him:

He always had time for us; he always made us feel as if we were the important ones in the room; it was never about him but always about us. How I still remember him closing his books on his desk when we entered, sitting back, welcoming us, eager to discuss how our ministries were doing. We talked about the challenges of the city, the challenges of shepherding people, and the pressures of time for sermon preparation, etc. Then we would find some hidden room in the church and intercede for the needs of the city and the great need for a revival such as was experienced during the ministry of D.L. Moody.

In 1980, Wiersbe and his wife Betty and their family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Wiersbe took a teaching post at Back to the Bible Radio Ministries and from 1984 to 1990, he served as General Director of Back to the Bible. During this time, Wiersbe also wrote regularly for CT and its sister publication Leadership Journal (read an excerpt here).

Wiersbe amassed a prodigious library during his lifetime, so much so that when they were house-hunting in Lincoln in 1980, ahead of their move to Back to the Bible, Betty told the realtor, “We are looking for a library with a house attached.” Wiersbe chose to leave his collection of around 14,000 books to Cedarville University as a part of the Warren and Betty Wiersbe Library and Reading Room.

Wiersbe became writer in residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1995, where he also was appointed Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

Author and pastor Michael Catt said of his friend via Twitter: “My heart breaks but heaven rejoices in the homecoming of this great man of God.”

 

Original here

 

Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life

The Baptist leader, convicted for his role in the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests, takes the stand with a biblical defense for human rights and civil disobedience.

Hong Kong Pastor Facing Prison Preaches the Sermon of His Life

Image: Kin Cheung / AP
Chu Yiu-ming, center, appears with Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man before entering court to hear their verdict.

ABaptist pastor in Hong Kong turned the stands of a Hong Kong courtroom into his pulpit, quoting Scripture and calling for justice in the name of God, after he and eight other activists were convicted Tuesday for crimes related to their involvement with pro-democracy Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement protests.

Chu Yiu-ming, leader of Chai Wan Baptist Church, recounted his testimony of finding hope in Christ after a bleak childhood and defended his calling as a minister to fight for human rights, dignity, and care for all people.

“We have no regrets. We hold no grudges, no anger, no grievances. We do not give up,” he said, speaking on behalf of fellow activists involved in a campaign to bring universal voting rights to Hong Kong. “In the words of Jesus, ‘Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!’ (Matthew 5:10)”

An English translation of Chu’s remarks to the court was printed in full in the Hong Kong Free Press.

In 2013, Chu, along with scholars Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, launched Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a movement that led to the widespread Umbrella Movement protests thefollowing year. Though the trio was committed to nonviolent civil disobedience, the Hong Kong judge found them guilty of “conspiracy to commit public nuisance.”

As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong has been afforded more freedom and autonomy in than the mainland. But it does not elect government leaders directly, and Christian leaders and activists are increasingly worried about encroaching Communist control.

The 75-year-old pastor told the courtroom in Cantonese:

We strive for democracy, because democracy strives for freedom, equality, and universal love. Political freedom is more than loyalty to the state. It professes human dignity. Every single person living in a community possesses unique potentials and powers, capable of making a contribution to society. Human right is a God-given gift, never to be arbitrarily taken away by any political regime.

Meanwhile, 200 Christians had gathered for a worship service at Kowloon Union Church, where the Chu and the others first announced the Occupy Central campaign, to pray for a favorable verdict for the leaders, Evangelical Focus wrote. Outside the courthouse, supporters held umbrellas as a sign of the protests.

Protestant Christians make up about 6 percent of the population in Hong Kong. Wary of Communist oversight, they have played a major role in the push for democracy over the past several years, spurred by their biblical convictions regarding social justice and their willingness to suffer for the cause, one leader told NPR amid the Umbrella Movement protests, which shut down streets in the city back in 2014.

“The seeds of peaceful non-violent civil disobedience action have been planted deep in the heart of Hong Kong people,” Chu said in his testimony, which led some supporters to tears. “This movement is an awakening of the civil spirit. … Wellbeing, decency, and peace constitute our common dream. It is also the will of God. Let us strive to make it real for our city.”

Chu has served as a pastor in Hong Kong since 1974 and told the court about worrying that his ministry over the years—advocating on behalf of the poor and suffering—could get the church in trouble with the government. He said he found strength in Scripture, which he quoted more than a half-dozen times during his remarks before the court.

“The valley of the shadow of death leads to spiritual heights,” he said. “For decades, I have preached numerous sermons. Little could I anticipate that the one message which preparation took me the longest time and the most heartfelt prayer, and which probably would reach the largest audience, is precisely this one delivered from the defendant’s dock.”

Amnesty International called the guilty ruling “a crushing blow for freedom of expression and peaceful protest in Hong Kong.”

Chu faces up to seven years in prison and awaits a sentencing hearing later this month; others with additional convictions could get even lengthier sentences. According to news reports, the fellow Occupy Central cofounders asked that he be spared a prison sentence.

Worldinterviewed the aging pastor last month. “Under the cross, those who participate in the movement need to pay the price,” he told the magazine. “And now we are paying the price.”

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/april/hong-kong-pastor-occupy-umbrella-movement-chu-yiu-ming.html