Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"I Am A Follower of Christ" by Scott Ferrell

I remember a commercial a few years ago that showed a string of people staring seriously into the camera saying, “I am a cancer survivor."

My mom was a cancer survivor who beat all the odds. She did so because she was well-grounded in her faith, she had a husband who deeply loved and cared for her, and because God had gifted her with a determination and grit that would make any Marine look namby-pamby.

But even with my front row seat to the fearful savagery cancer brought to my mom’s life, and her corresponding withering counterassault upon itI never really understood the full impact of what it meant to be a cancer survivor.

Now, I’m hoping to be one, too.

Tomorrow morning (March 26), I’ll go to Fauquier Hospital to have radioactive seeds implanted in my prostate to kill the cancer that’s there. My cancer is nothing compared to what my mom faced. Because of God’s providence and the remarkable knowledge that God has gifted us with in our country, mine was discovered extremely early, and it also happens to be one of the most treatable kinds of cancer, unlike my mom's. That makes me very confident that I’ll be able to say someday soon, “I’m a cancer survivor too."

Even as I say that, though,I hope that beating cancer, or living longer, doesn’t become my banner, my motto, my reason for being, a badge that I wear. That’s because as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is my reason for being, whether it’s to live or to die – "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). My goal in life isn’t to beat cancer, or even to live longer – it’s to live well for the glory of God.

What God has already done with this trial is to sharpen my resolve to do so, to spend the rest of the time the Lord gives me studying his word, preaching his truth, demonstrating the same love and grace to a lost and broken world that God has manifested to me – showing anyone who’ll pay attention how true is my hope in one who is far greater than beating cancer or living longer: My hope is in the one who is life – "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

My hope is the hope of every believer, an assurance that is faith (Heb. 11:1), a faith that convinces us through the testimony of scriptures that God is, and that he is sovereign, and that he keeps his promises through his only son, who gives us power to live well for his glory by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

In light of this I have nothing at all to fear, nothing, whether I live another day or another half century.

As we walk this walk that God is laying before us, Leslie and I have taken great comfort in your fellowship and prayers. We have never felt more loved and cared for in all our lives, and we are eternally grateful. Thank you for sharing our burden! May we all continue to extend that Godly love to each other.

I truly hope I can say that I’m a cancer survivor soon, and the prospect of that is excellent, thankfully. But who I am now is far more important, because it’s who I’ll be for eternity. I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Open Letter to My Grandson

Alistair, I watch you gaze in wide-eyed wonder at the world and the people around you and realize that there is so much that lies before you, waiting for you, as you struggle to crawl, then tentatively step, then walk confidently, and finally run toward it. Take your time, savor the love and warmth of your home and family. All too soon, the running will come, decisions will have to be made, roads chosen and new homes occupied. Don't disdain these years. Don't hurry to get through them. They are important and will teach you the things you will need to get you through those that are coming. 

I've been praying for you, praying you will come to know and love the Lord the same way your Mom and Dad do and like your sister is learning to do. Follow their example. There will be times when it won't be easy, even hard. If you start reading your Bible early on, you'll see that God promises to usher us through those hard times, showing us grace when we stumble and strengthening us when we need Him. He's always there, always listening, always loving us, always planning the very best for us, even if we don't always feel like it's true. The only path to Him is in His only Son Jesus Christ. I praise God you are surrounded by people who have fully embraced this awesome truth. 

All these things are important. I don't think your world is going to be much like mine. My world is a place where I can share my faith freely, without reservation or fear of persecution. I've had the blessing of living in a society that has respect for God and His church, even if they didn't always like either. My walk of faith, like so many others, has been relatively easy with little need for sacrifice, discipline and dependence on the promises we read in the Bible. 

I'm not sure that has served us very well. 

Even as I watch the gospel become increasingly self-centered with self-serving promises and benefits, I realize there is much my generation may have gotten wrong. There are certainly those who have been sounding the warning. There always are. God promises there will be. Your Dad is one of them. He knows God's word will never die or fade away. 

Few have listened to them. Many have embraced half-a gospel. I see a lot of self-congratulatory, self-exalting,  high-fiving going on in the church of the early 21st Century and not a lot of humility, nor love for the lost nor desire for holiness. I fear all this may be backfiring on the church.

It's just that...well...I also see the world we live in reacting to the church and believers in a different manner than what I'm used to. We're no longer tolerated as nice-but-ill-informed folks. This has been growing for a number of years. I fear that the intolerance of the move toward tolerance is intolerating us out of the mainstream. I always have to smile at the thought that it seems to be OK to be anything, anymore, just as long as it's not Christian. This is a new thought for me and a lot of other Christians. The reality of this sad new state of affairs may be dawning on us a little late. 

Your walk of faith may be quite a bit more difficult than mine.

If it is, I'd like to think you'll be able to recall the days when it was such a struggle to crawl your way across the dining room floor in that beautiful, comfortable home in Rutland, VT. You literally dragged yourself, with tremendous tenacity, but with such incredible joy and eager anticipation at where you were headed, it was infectious and exhilarating, making me warm inside just to watch, giving me hope for you and your generation.

Drag yourself into the word of God, daily, Alistair. Do it with that same tenacity, that same eye on where you're headed and that same joy at being able to move down the path to get there. Whatever deep or dark waters you navigate, it will get you through them. Whatever giants you may face, it will equip you to battle them. Whatever joys you may be blessed with, it will show you who to be thankful to for them. It is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem and the key to every door you encounter. If your world is dark, it is the light. If your world is light and glorious, it is a brighter light and a greater glory than you can possibly imagine. 

I love you, Alistair. I hope to see the day you can love me. But, more than that, I pray with all my heart and soul that you love the Lord more than anything or anyone else. He is the light of my world, He will be the light of yours, as well. 

Much love, 
Grandpa K 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ordination by the EFCA!

I was called into the ministry in 2002. Without any experience or formal training, a series of unexpected events placed me in the pulpit and in a higher position than I had ever anticipated or dreamed of. The excitement and adrenaline rush of emotions soon gave way to the stark realization that I knew very little about preaching, the Bible or being a pastor. 

After attending a conference at John MacArthur's church with Elder Peter Ristau, in early 2003, I saw a path forward. The Elders of WBF graciously agreed to allow me to attend a series of carefully chosen conferences each year in lieu of going away to seminary. These conferences have been, for the last thirteen years, my inspiration, my guidance and my ongoing education and equipping. I've had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of and, occasionally, sitting with some of the great theological minds of our time. 

The conferences led to the purchase of many books which morphed into the acquisition of a fairly large digital library through the help of Logos Bible Study Software and some pretty intensive training on how to use it.

Meanwhile, WBF was becoming part of the Evangelical Free
Church of America (EFCA), an association of autonomous churches bound together by a common statement of faith and an agreement to maintain unity on the essentials  while expressing charity on the non-essentials. 

In time, WBF became an active part of the EFCA and I became familiar with the organization and the benefits it offered. 

In 2010, I attended the EFCA's Gateway class, a class Pastor Scott Ferrell is currently attending. During my year in that class, I got to know the teachers, becoming friends with them, being led deeper into my studies as well.

The class work resulted in a doctrinal statement. I was encouraged to pursue ordination (credentialing) with the EFCA after class was complete. It is three year process of study, writing and refining my theology and doctrine. I had the privilege of working with some amazing men who were expert theologians in their own right.

The program was accelerated. Two years ago, I sat before an Ordination Council, ten men who examined me, my paper and my theology. 

That was quite and experience. 

I went into the council, fairly confident that I had done my study and was ready to be examined. I came out wondering what could possibly have led me to sit in front of a group of learned men and answer their deeply profound questions about the character and nature of God and the depth of the Scriptures. 

I waited in a small room while they deliberated, certain they would summon me at any moment to be placed in a stockade in the town square for wasting their time and penalizing me with personal, public humiliation. They were gracious, though, and awarded me a conditional approval based on further study in five areas. 

I thought the previous work was tough!

I commenced a year of detailed, in depth study and writing resulting in a revised personal doctrinal statement and submission of my application to the Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) with the EFCA. They took a few weeks going over my paper.   

This week, I received notice that I have been approved for ordination and will receive my credentialing once the District Office processes it!

I am humbled and awed at what God has done in the last fifteen years. I never dreamed I would have the time or aptitude to receive such an honor. I had so much help! My wife, the staff at WBF, the Elders, my teachers and more than a few members of our church family all provided input, feedback and critique. This was, in every way, a whole-body effort. 

As I've been able to share the news with a few people this week, I've come to realize that there is a lot of misunderstanding as to what ordination is. It is, in essence, the recognition, by the EFCA, that I am in alignment with their doctrine and theology. It is not a degree and does not allow me the honor of placing any letters before or after my name. However, it does say that I've been thoroughly examined in my theology and endorsed as a minster of the gospel and shepherd of the flock by a rigorous council of peers and highly educated men. 

I never thought it would happen. I am totally awestruck, honored and inspired to go deeper yet. My deepest appreciation and heartfelt thanks goes to our Elders, staff and the wonderful congregation God has blessed us with for all the support and encouragement that was so freely given. I also am truly thankful to my wife for being my greatest source of encouragement and most ardent supporter. The love and trust of all of you keep me faithful to my studies and excited about the future. 

I give all praise and honor to God! In Him, all things are truly possible!

Monday, March 2, 2015

No one wants to be left behind!....Or do they?

Two of my favorite themes in teaching is to consider, at all

times, context. Virtually all errant teaching that has entered the church has come from snippets of verses or an entire verse or two taken out of context and allowing it to shape our theology. But, as important as context is (some call it "king"), it goes hand-in-hand with knowing the full counsel, the entirety, of Scripture. Ignoring either can be devastating to our understanding of who God is and/or to our understanding who we are. 

Combine a lack of context, the absence of the full counsel and another pitfall, reading with preconceived notions about what it says, and we get potential disaster. 

Think not? Try this little experiment. Look at Mt 24, a great passage in which Jesus talks about the end times. All the familiar key words and images are there; tribulation, abomination of desolation, false prophets, Jerusalem surrounded by armies, flee to the hills. Then we see this set of verses:

Matthew 24:40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Now, answer this question, honestly, "Do you want to be left
behind?" Take a minute to think about it....

Most people today will say, "No! We all know being left behind is a bad thing!" (with strains of DC Talk playing in the background and the whole series of novels on our bookshelves)..."You've been left behind!" We scream, "No! Wait! I want to go with everyone else!!" 

Not so fast there, Rayford.

Take a look at the preceding verses to see the context of the "left behind" verses:

Matthew 24:37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,
39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 
The first thing we notice is that the passage is about the flood...yes, that flood. These verses tell us the wicked people were the ones swept away in the deluge. Noah and his family were the ones left behind!  Reading on in the passage we see images of a thief coming to steal, take away, and a master returning to preserve and reward the faithful servants who will stay with him. So...for this passage, do you want to be left behind with the master...or taken away by the thief? Would you rather have been left behind with Noah, or swept away?  

Pop theology fits nicely onto a bumper sticker
We have to be careful not to let pop-theology have an undue influence on our understanding of Scripture. Then, we need to read far enough ahead of a passage, or continue reading beyond it, until we can determine context. Finally, we need to be, at least, familair with the full counsel of Scripture, not just our passage. The Bible is God's self-revelation to His children. If we're not familair with all of it, we're not familair with all He wants us to know about Him. 

If we don't make objective reading of the whole Bible, in context, a discipline, we are in danger of worrying that we don't get left behind when that just might be God's greatest blessing for us. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What An Amazing Church Family

Last Saturday, I went to sleep wondering if I would be able to make it to church on Sunday morning. We had about 6 inches of snow and sleet was on the way. For our area, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 6 inches of snow is enough to brings things to a grinding halt. To further complicate things, we get ice falling from the sky fairly frequently, a road condition I seldom had to deal with growing up in Northern Ohio, as brutal as those winters were. 

I knew I would get up and go in at my usual time, if the roads were even remotely passable. Our church draws from a large area and a broad demographic. It is very difficult to cancel services and get the word out to everyone. Even under the most severe conditions, people show up. So, on particularly bad mornings, I go in, make some coffee and preach or conduct a Bible study, depending on who shows up. But, I'm the Pastor. I should be there. If I can't make it in, it should be because no one else can make it in either. If anyone else makes the effort to come in on a bad day, I want to be there to say, "Thanks!" So I make it in and wait. Every time I've done this, one particular Elder joins me about an a hour and a half before the service is to start. Then, a little later, our Head Elder shows up as well, three leaders, waiting to see if there will be anyone to lead.

This Sunday morning, the roads were pretty bad, bad enough that, by the time I arrived at the church, I was convinced no
one was going to show up. But, I was already there, so I began my usual routine of preparation and prayer. I love the quiet early Sunday morning, alone in the sanctuary. I spend some time going over the sermon, praying and sometimes, just sitting in the pews, thanking God for His grace. It's always a beautiful prelude, on normal Sunday mornings, to a crowded church and an incredible flow of life and activity, for two services and a Sunday School hour. 

I was enjoying that interlude when I heard doors opening, then a shovel scraping. A couple had arrived, the woman to play on the worship team, the man, a Deacon, to shovel the walks before he went on to work that morning.  The walks were going to be a big job, the snow was heavy. The Elders appeared, the Lead Deacon for the morning, a few more Deacons than a few more people, all just showing up to see if they could help get the church ready for services. 

By the time the 8:30 service rolled around, the sidewalks were clear, the steps were sanded, we had a sound and AV crew, a worship team, deacons...and a congregation! Not a very large one, but, standing near the front door, I was overwhelmed that anyone,at all, had shown up.

By the Sunday School hour, our numbers had quadrupled. By the 11:00 service, we were crowded, blessed and buoyed, just by being together to worship our Lord. 

One of our Elders began asking some of those early arrivals why they came out. Their responses were incredible:
"I wanted to help others to be able worship."
"I went out in the middle of the snow storm yesterday to go to work. I had to shovel and scrape my way out of my driveway to do that. When I got up this morning, it occurred to me that going to church should be just as important."
 "I'm in leadership. What does it say when those I am leading are here and I'm at home."
"I want my kids to see that church is just as important, if not more so, than all the other activities in our lives."

You can't teach this sort of thing. As a matter of fact, we advise that it's best to stay home if you feel conditions are unsafe to go out. I still believe that has to be our primary consideration. 

Still, it is a huge blessing to see our church function as a family, to see God knitting our hearts together in service to each other and worship of Him, to see the assembly as being the high point of the week, high enough to make it worth the effort to get in on a tough morning. 

God is good. Keep your eyes open. He's doing something amazing in our church family. This will come spilling out of those open doors and clear sidewalks into the community around us. When it does, we'll be here, waiting to welcome them.