Some (Really Good) News From the Local Church

By Jessica Lea -April 23, 2021

good works

Wolves in the church. Sexual misconduct. Divisions over racepolitics, and COVID-19. There is plenty of bad news about the church to go around. But as one pastor recently pointed out, faithful Christians are quietly carrying out good works all around him—and God is on the move.

“I realise there are very serious threats to sheep within our flocks, we should be on guard,” said Pastor Chris Thomas in a Twitter thread Tuesday. “I know that there are theological distinctions that need to be defined and defended, we need rigorous debate. But can I tell you what I saw today?”

Thomas is the teaching pastor at Raymond Terrace Community Church, located in Raymond Terrace, a town in New South Wales, Australia. What he observed this week led him to conclude: “I know there is much to be fearful of, much to mourn about the state of faith in this world, but take heart my friend—Jesus is building his Church, and the gates of hell have not, nor will they, frustrate his plans for her.”

Good Works of the Faithful Church

Plenty of controversies are running through evangelicalism right now. There is the debate over critical race theory, the debate over complementarian theology, and the debate over the COVID-19 vaccine. There is the question of which is more concerning: cultural Marxism or Christian nationalism? There is story after story of ministry leaders perpetuating or concealing abuse. And that is just to name a few of the hot topics.

But the Holy Spirit is moving in his church, and faithful believers are still doing good works, even if those are unseen or unacknowledged. In his Twitter thread, Thomas listed several ways he has lately observed Christians love, encourage, and serve one another. “I saw a 70 year old woman drop by our church to sharpen colouring pencils so that the little children could do their Bible story lessons next Sunday,” he said. “I saw a single Mum photocopying her lesson plan as she prepared to visit our local school where she runs religious education classes. I saw a group of 14 teenagers gather after school to brainstorm the program for this Term’s children’s outreach program they run.” He continued:

I saw a brand new Christian share her testimony for the first time. Then I heard her husband, who is completing a “Exploring Christianity” course with one of our Elders, ask, “When can I share my story?” I saw someone weeping as they bowed their head with another. I saw a single woman carrying a young baby so that the tired mother could chat with others over a cup of tea.

“I saw pews of people with Bibles strewn across their laps, eager for the Word,” said the pastor. “I saw hands raised in worship, knees bent in worship, seats filled in worship. I saw exhausted mothers who open their hearts to children who’ve been abandoned and abused, wipe the tears from their eyes and embrace again the very ones who push them away.”

Sometimes God’s activity in the local church is not so quiet. Earlier this week, ChurchLeaders reported on the work the Holy Spirit is doing in Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Over 1,000 baptisms have happened in the past four months, a blessing senior pastor Robby Gallaty attributes in part to God challenging the sin in his own heart. Yet regardless of whether the good works of faithful Christians are seen by many or by few, we all need help remembering that God is on the move, despite the brokenness all around us. 

Several people commented on Thomas’s Twitter thread, saying they are witnessing similar good works in their communities and thanking him for the reminder of God’s faithfulness. “Thank you for helping me see what you saw,” said one. Said another, “I can feel these words in my soul…the work of the Lord is not thwarted by humanity…He is moving…thank you brother for sharing.”

“It struck me how often I fail to stop and name the every-day occurrences of God’s kingdom breaking through,” Thomas reflected. “My eye is drawn to the macro, while God is moving in countless ways through the micro, right in front of me. What grace! What glory!”

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Nov 26, 2013

A few days ago I went to make a visit of condolence the wife of my manager who suddenly passed away. According of his story, it all happened so fast, his wife only complained of headaches and breathless, and a few hours later she passed away. I know this is a very hard for him and his children. Losing someone they love is a very sad thing, especially when occur abruptly.

There is one thing that makes me so touched and amazed. He did not show a deeply sadness. He remained strong, calm and smile to each person who attended the mourning service. Even when he gave a speech, he cites a Bible verse of Psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.”(Psalm 23:1)

This verse spoke directly to my heart and makes me ponder. How far we apply this verse in our daily lives? How far we are able to believing it when we experience pain or suffering? David expresses it short but concise, and very clear. He said that whatever happens, he will never lack. Is it because of his strength, his prowess, ability and endurance? Not at all!  David knew that his strength as a human being is very limited. At certain situations, as good as the human ability will no longer be able to do anything. David could say that he will not be lack because realizing the existence of God as a good shepherd of his life. No more and no less.

Let’s dive deeper to the next verses in Psalm 23. We can see and will feel the greatness of God in His role as the Good Shepherd in our lives, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right pathsfor his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3) This verse feels so comfort and comforting us. These verses came from David who has so many problems in his life. Many times he faced threats, being chased and eliminated from his own people, many times he faced a life-threatening situation, but he could put his entire life and entrusted to the God’s care. David said it all when he is not in having fun, but his faith is enough to give a sense of calm for believing in God as a good shepherd for him. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Verse 4)  Beside believe that God always with him, David has strongly faith that God also prepare everything that he need. Not only has enough but overflowed.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Verse 5)

Both in quiet and difficult times, David realized that God will always be with him, so that he could say: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Verse 6) Very marvelous! It might be easy for us to say these things when we’re in good condition, but how far we can still believing it when the problems are being repeatedly hit us? Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)  Such was the figure of the Shepherd who always protects us as His sheep.  Trouble could come over our lives, but God promises us to still have a life. Not only life but living in all its fullness. Not lack yet in fullness? Yes, right! Although the problems are present in our lives, God promises that His providence could give strength, give relief, protection, give hope, and that’s all He provides not only sufficient but abundantly.

My manager was able to experience how God gave him strength in his difficult times, and he realized that there is no reason for him to be disappointed to God and blame Him. He certainly sad and loses but he also realized though he lost his beloved wife, he believes God still preserve his life and did not show a conclusion that God is not fair. He realized and believes that his wife had gone into the peaceful kingdom which full of joy, where there is no crying and no more suffering again as often we experience in this world. His wife has been in the eternal God’s providence in heaven.

My lovely friends, when we have a situation full of suffering, could we continue to believe that we will never lack the strength? Can we believe that God’s presence will always give reassurance and relief in a heavy burden? When there are events that occur beyond our control, could we rely on unlimited God’s power or we are still busy hanging on our own strength or another human being who have limitation? In any difficult situation, remember that God never leaves us. He will never lose by anything. He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)  These verses show us what a close and beautiful relationship between God as the shepherd and us as His sheep. If we truly comprehend the meaning of these verses and put in the bottom of our heart and minds, why do we have to worry with all the trials and suffering that might happen in our lives?

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37) There are no problems that He could not overcome. Believe that God will not remain silent when we really need his touch. Therefore, do not be discouraged, but always be thankful. Make our relationship with God still close and closer day by day, experience God’s presence and providence personally, until at the some point we can say with full confidence as David said, “THE LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.”Amen.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Karina

Related Article

Psalm 23 by http://secretangelps911.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: justonemore.info

https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/the-lord-is-my-shepherd/


A Man Crying

Hello my beloved readers! I’m grateful to God finally I could spend my time to write my own post again. This post inspired by a conversation between my husband and his friend some time ago. I hope and pray this post could be a blessing to all of us. Thank you very much to the all loyal readers who always visit and read my blog posts.

“As the only man and the eldest brother in family, I shouldn’t show my grief and shouldn’t cry. A mam must be strong!! This word came out from a best friend of my husband who some time ago just lost his beloved mother. Then my husband said, “But actually you are very sad and want to cry, right?”  My husband’s friend replied, “I cannot lie to myself. Yes, actually I am very sad and want to cry to express my sorrow. But you know, since childhood my parents have taught that men should be strong and should not be whiny.”

My dear friends, I kept quiet during the conversation. Those conversations made me thinking and ponder. There was something I didn’t agree of my husband’s friend’s statement. I didn’t agree that a man shouldn’t show his sorrow and shouldn’t cry. I just feel that a man as if made from iron and wire like a robot that didn’t have feeling at all. In fact, the same as women, men could face a similar situation. Death, pain, loss, and various other things that can make a man feel sad. And all of them need a way to express their feeling.

Talk about crying, I remembered one of David saying when he got deep distress. Let’s see what David said at the time. “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) At the time, the Israelites were using a bottle as a container for water or milk. Other than that, there was a unique culture that comes from Egyptians where they contain their tears into the bottle and then put it on the grave of their family or brethren as an expression of their grief. Well, I will not talk about the culture but I want to talk about David’s word.

We all know very well who David was. Though David was a man who was brave facing the lion, a man who was very brave against Goliath and successfully defeated him, and finally become a king, it turns out, he didn’t ashamed to cry. Why David crying? At that time David was under great pressure because besides being on the run to be chased by King Saul who was jealous with him, he faced another danger of entering the enemy territory of the Philistines in Gath and he was arrested. In the stressful situation, David didn’t look that crying is something shameful to do. He cried just because his mind was depressed but not because he weak. David cried not because he was afraid. Let’s take a look to the following verse,

When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid….” (Psalm 56: 9-11)

These verses are proof that even though David cried it doesn’t mean he became weak and afraid and his faith remained strong. Although he was crying, David remained steadfastly surrendering his life to God, and still fully believed that God remained with him.

So, whether a man shouldn’t cry? Is crying a symbol of Men’s weakness? My dear readers, allow me to take all of you to reflect on these three things.

First, in my whole life I have never found a rule of life or laws that forbids a man to cry or crying for a man is a disgrace! There’s no single verse in the Bible stated that a man shouldn’t cry. Even Jesus was crying (Luke 19:41) My husband said that, “Crying is how your heart speaks the pain you feel when your lips can’t” So I say firmly, there’s nothing wrong if a man cries and a man doesn’t need be ashamed and feel weak when he cries. The important thing is, when a man cries, his faith doesn’t weaken. David was crying because he was totally under pressure but didn’t mean his faith weakening. At that time David still believed God was by his side. The wrong one is, when a man crying then it makes his faith weaken, weaken his mental, and made he didn’t dare to face all the problems of life.

The second, Actually God doesn’t require us to pretend to be strong even though inside of us are broken. He knows suffering is painful, and for that He is ready to be with us through those painful time. God doesn’t forbid us to have sad feeling. God doesn’t scold us when we crying. My husband’s friend just lost his beloved father. God Himself also definitely understands very well what it feels like to lose. God knows it feels hurt because He also experienced hurt when He let His only begotten Son died to redeem our sins in the cruel ways.

The third, crying because our suffering and sadness isn’t a waste thing. Why? Because actually God know every single teardrop that flows from our eyes. God really understands the tears language which expresses unbearable suffering and bitterness of life. Not only understand, God also collect and record every single of our tears as David said. “… Put my tears into Your bottleAre they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) This verse shows us one important thing that God actually never leaves us alone. Even when we feel like “abandoned by God”, indeed, God doesn’t leave us. God is on collecting and taking note every tears of our crying and as if He said, “My child, I will never leave you alone…Please be patient… Just a little more time will be fulfilled and I will declare my glory”

My beloved readers, through this post allow me once again to express my opinion that there’s nothing wrong at all if a man crying. Crying isn’t a taboo thing for a man. Crying isn’t a symbol of weakness of a man. Beside mind, character, intelligence, and feeling, God also give man tears. As long as a man has feeling, same as a woman, when the lips isn’t able to speaks, crying is a good way to express our sorrow. Crying is the way our heart speaks. But… We must remember that behind our weeping there’s still strength in us. Behind every single teardrop there’s still a firm faith, there’s still strong trust that God will never leave us alone. We have to always remember God’s promises,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh(Luke 6:21)

At the end of this post, I long to encourage all of men that there’s nothing wrong at all if one day you have to crying and there are compelling reasons why you cry. Not just for women, crying is something normal and humane. Don’t ever feel ashamed to express your feeling through crying. Crying doesn’t mean weak. Cry if it can make you relieved and the burden on you is lighter. But let me remind you one thing, don’t be a whiny man. Like David, keep strong, still have firm faith, and keep trusting God that He will wipe every of our tears as He promises, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Amen.

 

Karina Lam – Living by Faith

Image source: themanmodern.com

 

https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/a-man-crying/

How Can Shepherds Survive Biting Sheep?

Love of people, purpose, and mission won’t sustain you through ministry’s low points.

How Can Shepherds Survive Biting Sheep?
GLENN PACKIAM

 

Phantom strikes. That’s what some people call them, and appropriately so. They are the words from anonymous congregants, the furtive glances and side-eyes fueled by unchecked assumptions. There was a stretch of months a few years ago where these phantom strikes seemed to rain down. People were reacting to changes at our church—some related to worship practices, a few related to leadership. Phone calls and emails poured in. We met with as many people as we could, listened and explained, talked and prayed. But the phantom strikes kept coming. Those were the most difficult because we didn’t know who was saying what. Or why.

Pastoral ministry can hurt. We don’t always get it right. But instead of asking us our reasoning, many people make assumptions about our motives and attack what they presume to be our underlying theology. Pastors are expected to be astute theologians, insightful therapists, and intuitively brilliant leaders. But few of us match the idealized vision of any of those three vocations, much less all three. Our pain from the people we’re trying to help is compounded by our awareness of our own inadequacies.

This raises several questions: Why do we keep going? Why do we give of ourselves day in, day out, week after week? Why keep answering the call every day?

We all know the “right” answer: because of love. But what or who is the object of our love? Once again, the answer seems obvious: the person you are serving, the one to whom you are given. If your life is to be given for your children, then it is the love for your children that leads you to that place. If your life is to be given in service of the poor, then it is the love for the poor that leads to that givenness. And if you’re a pastor, love of the sheep keeps you serving as a shepherd.

That is the obvious answer. But I think it’s wrong.

At least, it’s incomplete and insufficient. It’s not enough to carry us through the dark nights and the lonely hours. It won’t push us through the pain and the hurt we’ve experienced from the ones we were trying to help.

If you don’t believe me, ask the apostle Peter.

After the Resurrection, Peter returned to fishing. Think about it: He ran to the tomb. He saw that it was empty. He was, most likely, with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them. He may have been there when Thomas placed his hands on Jesus’s scars. And still he went back to his old livelihood.

Maybe Peter felt he had lost it all that night when he denied knowing Jesus. Maybe Peter was too confused about what the Resurrection really meant. Maybe, whatever it meant, Peter was too covered in shame for it to matter. He might as well try to live a quiet life, a smaller story.

But John 21 describes how Jesus found Peter and reenacted the scene of their first encounter, the first time Jesus called Peter to follow him.

“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat,” the voice called out from the shore. Peter knew he had heard that voice before. But it was John who recognized whose voice it was.

“It is the Lord,” John said to Peter.

It might have been John who recognized Jesus first, but it was Peter who responded—and responded radically. Peter threw on his robes and swam to shore, leaving the other disciples to drag a big haul of fish behind the boat to shore.

After their breakfast on the beach, Jesus asked Peter a heart-piercingly simple question: “Do you love me more than these?”

Who were “these”? The other disciples? Did Jesus mean, “Is your love for me greater than their love for me?” Or did he mean, “Is your love for me greater than your love for the disciples?” We can’t be sure. Yet Peter’s answer acknowledged that whichever way the question was intended, Jesus already knew the answer.

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Peter replied.

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus responded.

This exchange continued two more times, with minor variances. There has been much exploration of the nuances and shifts in word choices between the Savior and his disciple. But the main point is that Jesus was reinstating Peter. He was reaffirming Peter’s purpose, calling, and destiny. The three repetitions of the question correspond to Peter’s threefold denial.

The most significant bit, however, is hidden in plain sight.

In this restorative conversation, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

Not “Do you love my teachings?”

Not “Do you love yourself?”

Not “Do you love purpose and mission?”

And not “Do you love the sheep?”

In the other gospel accounts of Peter’s first call, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.” You might say that first call was about a purpose. In essence, Jesus said, “Peter, I’ll lift you from a life that is going nowhere. I’ll sweep you up in the greatest story of all. I’ll give you a role in the kingdom of God arriving on earth as it is in heaven. I’ll make you a participant and not just a recipient.” That is, after all, what it means to be given.

But it isn’t the love of being given that leads to our givenness. It isn’t the love of a purpose that can sustain us. It was not enough to keep Peter faithful. The love of a calling will never keep you from falling.

If Peter’s first call was about a purpose, his second call—this renewal of destiny and identity—was about a person. “Peter, do you love me?”

What is your primary motivation in ministry? Is it love of Jesus above all else? Lesser loves may lead you to enter into vocational ministry, but they cannot sustain you through phantom strikes from the people you’re trying to serve and other ministry troubles and disappointments. The love of meaning or mission or purpose or the church will not keep you surrendering and serving. Only a deep and abiding love for Jesus can do that.

Glenn Packiam is associate senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the author of Blessed Broken Given(Multnomah, 2019), from which the article was adapted.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/september-web-exclusives/how-can-shepherds-survive-biting-sheep.html