Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Being a Pastor is who you are, not what you do!

After nearly a year of unsuccessfully trying to post new comments, I finally gave up this entire blogging thing. Then, this morning, I decided to give it one more try! To my surprise, whatever technical difficulty I was facing earlier is now gone! I'm not sure what happened, but I can finally once again make entries and I eager to do so. So, I hope to be saying a lot over the next several weeks as I post old entries that have been "clogged up" for nearly a year! Here is the first!
This is the first summer that I've not been engaged in pastoral ministry in a very long time! I stepped down from the pastorate last August in order to dedicate my efforts to the work of Reformed Theological Seminary in DC. It is something that I knew I had to do, and I also wanted to do it....although it was very difficult to leave a church that I planted and the community of people whom I love.
This is the first summer in which I didn't have to think about pastoral sermon planning, no vision casting, no thoughts on growing the churhc, no pastoral visitations, no counseling, etc. So how was my summer? In this regard it felt empty. I had more time to dedicate to preparing classes for the seminary, which was very productive. I've also had some time to research writing projects and develop my thoughts on various theological doctrines and issues of Biblical interpretation. In that sense I had a great summer.
Yet, through all these months, I've come to realize that being a pastor is a description of who you are, moreso than what you do. I was a pastor for over 16 years and I miss it. Perhaps it is time to go back into the pastorate at some part-time capacity.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thoughts on the OPC GA

The OPC GA was held at Sandy Cove Conference Center, approximately one hour from my home in Maryland. This is also the 75th anniversary of the OPC, so I thought I would attend the Sunday worship service of the GA. I had very little opportunities to interact with the members in attendance, but I was encouraged by one clear observation of those in attendance - the number of young pastors. Not having attended previous GA's, I have had little interaction with OPC members outside of the Mid-Atlanic presbytery. My impression of our church was that the majority are men nearing retirement. There were indeed many entering that stage of their service to the church, and I learned much in my brief time with them (they are like walking history textbooks of American Presbyterianism). But, again, I was encouraged to see the many young men - of whom I consider myself a part. It gave me a sense of hope and excitement for the OPC in the coming decades, but also a moment of pause to wonder if my generation will "fight the good fight" as our predecessors.
There were many of these young men whom I wanted to sit down over a cup of coffee and chat with, build relationships, share visions and dreams, discuss their views on the state of the church and thoughts on current theological and ecclessiological issues. There were so many older men, who had so much to share of the past applied to the present church. I hope to not lose their heritage. Although my time was limited, I realized that as I was leaving on that day that there were many new friendships to be made with a young and committed group of leaders to the cause of the Gospel of Christ. Exciting days await for the OPC in the century to come!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Farewell to my dear friend and mentor Allen Harris

Today, June 14, will be the last time that I see Pastor Allen Harris of Columbia Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Maryland. After 30+ years of fruitful pastoral ministry, he has retired and will be moving to Cape Cod to seek the Lord's will in the next stage of his life. God often brings people into our lives who make a significant impact on our growth. I can point to a few - most of whom were theologians of the past (e.g. J. Gresham Machen, Geerhardus Vos, Frances Turretin). Pastor Allen Harris was one who taught me to be a pastor. He was a mentor during the most formible times of my pastoral ministry and one that demonstrated the centrality of the Gospel in his life as well as in his preaching/teaching. He showed me how to handle adversity and come to a deeper understanding of both myself as well as the grace of God. His mannerism and values remain within me and directly impacted my ministry...yes, even to this day. He was a faithful preacher of the Word and regularly showed a confidence in Christ during the most difficult of situations. In that sense I came to appreciate how to trust (not just know) the sovereign power of our faithful God.
Moreso, I can call him a friend and his friendship has been a source of trememdous encouragement to me over the years. Knowing that he was around in the area always gave me a sense of stability. I always knew that I could come into his office for a work of advice and definitely prayer.
I thank the Lord for Allen and pray that the time he is away from this area will be short. I will miss our times of dreaming together, vision casting, hopes for the ministry in the church. I will miss his openness and intuitive insight, his ever stable faith in God in all circumstances. I will miss his instruction and his wisdom.
Farewell, my dear friend and mentor. I hope that I was as much of an encouragement to you as you have been to me. Let more times come where we can fellowship together!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts on "Substitution"

Here is a quote from John Stott in his book The Cross of Christ. It is one of my favorites that I've come across and I hope that it will encourage all of you as you remember Christ during this "Passion Week."

“The just, loving, compassionate Father humbled Himself to become in and through His only Son’s flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising His own character. The Biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying Himself by substituting Himself for us…The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man, Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Name for my Blog

After nearly two years, I made a few new entries on some thoughts on Scripture that have been floating around in my head. I also decided to add the adjective "Biblical Theological" to my blog heading. I'm not very happy with this title "Biblical Theological Pastor-Professor," but it communicates who I am and what I love doing. I added this new description since it really does capture my passion in Scriptural studies. I don't rule out the significance, nor the joy that I have in studying Systematic reflections. In fact, one can say that I've grown more appreciative of the beauty of reformed theology in the past 14 years of pastoral ministry.

I love being both a pastor and a professor. I've pastored for nearly 14 years and have only begun my new calling as professor of Old Testament at RTS/DC. To choose between the two of them is an impossibility for me. I love doing both! I do have an agenda in life and that is to promote the centrality of Christ as the foundation of life, exegesis, and theology. If I'm striving to accomplish anything, that is what it is! That is my ministrial goal, academic goal, and professional goal!

I'm open to suggestions on a more catchy title.

Baptism of Priscilla and Thoughts on my kids

Well, here I am....watching my sixth child sleeping very comfortably in my arms (it's hard to type like this). If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be the father of six children I would have fallen over laughing. Connecting with old high school friends on facebook has made me more conscious of where I used to be 25 years ago and where I am now! It's pretty amazing to see how God directs people in their lives.

Priscilla, my sixth, was baptized into the church a few Sundays past. She is such a joy! I had almost forgotten how great it is to have a baby in the house. And the Lord has blessed me with six GREAT KIDS! I mean it truly, GREAT KIDS! I could not have asked for a better set of children. Baptizing Priscilla was such a joy. It has given me a moment to think about how the others are doing as well. Caleb and Jeremiah are growing into thoughtful gentlemen and diligent workers for the kingdom. They help me every Sunday morning to setup for our Sunday services. I hope that Jeremiah will be ready for membership this year, but I don't want to press it. He is still working through some deep Gospel issues. Kara is also doing well with a strong sense of God in her life - I pray that she make Christ personal to her. Micah is also a joy. He is the most sensitive about the presence of God in life of all the kids. WOW! He is also the one who has inherited most of my oversensitivities. Alas! God save my children. Tabitha is stubborn but brings so much joy!

Parenting is a constant reminder that I need Jesus or I die, my children die! They are growing faithful and well. I give all credit to Christ! Thank you dear Lord for such blessed kids!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Living Hope 5th Year Anniversary

I received one comment that suggested I make more personal entries. Good point. Thank you for the comment. So, here goes!

Living Hope, the church where I pastor, just celebrated 5 years of ministry! I can't believe that it has been 5 years already! The past several months has given me a few moments (when I'm not working on messages, discipleship materials, lectures, or dissertation) to ponder and pray about what God has done and continues to do. This church is a testimony to His work and I'm thankful to be a part of it. It is a reminder to me that any church that continues and grows in ministry is a supernatural work of God. I think about the many obstacles we have overcome, the loss of members, gaining new ones, the struggles that seemed endless and hopeless...God is great!

5 years! I don't know how much longer I can continue at this pace. This church is a special one and I have come to understand the power of God, the grace of the Gospel, and the significance a pastor makes in the lives of others. I will never forget these years, nor the congregation of Living Hope Church.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jubilee in the Ministry of the NT Church

OK Cyberworld. Consider this thought.

The year of Jubilee in Lev. 25 is the subject of this entry. The prophet Isaiah, in Isa. 61, focuses on the Jewish return to Canaan as a fulfillment of the year of Jubilee, thus seeing it in the guse of political renewal and restoration. Isa. 61 is quoted by Christ in Luke 4 as being fulfilled in His first advent. Yet, the New Testament makes clear that the coming of Christ was for the atonement of sins, not merely the earthly restoration of the sick and the fulfillment of debts. Jesus' earthly ministry was focused on both the provision of the material (healing of the sick, feeding of the hungry, etc.). He was not only focused on the material provision of the people, but more so on their spiritual salvation. The dual aspect of His ministry then, according to Luke, is Christ's fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee. Christ is the One who brings healing and the cancellation of debts. Yet, He is the One who is brings the ultimate and final healing from sin and the cancellation of the sin-debt. This is significant in understanding the Biblical Theological foundation for the ministry of the church in its function in the works of compassion, embodied in the office of the DEACONS, and the preaching of the Gospel, embodied in the office of the ELDERS. That dual role of the church (DIACONAL and DISCIPLESHIP) reflects the role of the Head of the Church, namely Christ, who is portrayed as the great fulfillment of Jubilee of Lev. 25.

OK, I know that this is connecting dots without much exegetical evidence, but any thoughts on this possible connection?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Living Hope's Particularization

On Friday, October 3, 2008, the mission work that I began in 2004 was recognized as a distinct congregation within the Mid-Atlantic presbytery of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It was a blessed evening of celebration and worship. We ordained 2 men to the officer of ruling elder, 4 to the office of deacon, and 1 to the office of minister/pastor. I myself was installed as the pastor of the church, having been already ordained in 2005 as an evangelist. I wanted to thank all those who have been faithful prayer supporters to the work over the years. To start a church was, in retrospect, one of the boldest and even audacious things I've ever done! What arrogance to think that mere man can in deed build up a church. I write this now with true conviction and humility and say that the good of Living Hope and the transformation of lives seen within her is a result of the work of the Holy Spirit alone. The areas of weakness are mine and pray for forgiveness for my arrogance, independence, and selfishness. I rejoice in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give all the glory to our God. Praise God for His church and I long to see the name of Jesus exalted through the long ministry-life of Living Hope.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New Testament as Apocalyptic Canon

Here are some thoughts that I'm currently working on. I'd appreciate any insights, helps, resources, or even corrections:

We know that the New Testament canon ends with the Apocalypse of John. In certain ways, the New Testament canon does not only end with an apocalypse. It is in itself an apocalyptic canon. Through the work of John Collins at Yale, we have grown in our understanding of Jewish apocalypticism. It was a genre, a sociological movement, as well as a cultural mindset. One can see an apocalyptic conscientiousness in the writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, especially from the influence of the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of Enoch (Aramaic originals have been discovered in the Qumran library). I suggest that there is such a mindset in the New Testament, which reaches a climax with its finale in the Book of Revelation.

In light of the apocalypse as genre, Collins traces various elements that make up such literature ~ the theme of Messianism, eschatology, judgment of the wicked, the persecution, the resurrection and vindication of the elect, amongst some. These are all themes that are found in the New Testament, themes that many scholars have written on in great detail. A question to consider: is it possible that all these strands of theological and social themes so well attested and described by the New Testament authors are elements of one greater whole ~ they make up an apocalyptic mindset in the New Testament community, hence the Church. The church of Christ, then, is to be seen as an apocalyptic community and our Holy Scriptures as an apocalyptic Scriptures.

My thoughts above is not well written, nor well thought through...yet. I put it here for comments and would value any additional thoughts.