Pastor’s Corner 5-25-10

One of the things I most appreciate about the Bible is its brutal honesty about how hard life is. Because of sin, there is misery, there is pain, there is affliction. Some of it we bring upon ourselves, some of it is brought upon us by other people, some of it just comes because we live in a fallen world in as fallen people amongst fallen people. Even after conversion, we still struggle. The Christian life is not easy. Serving the Lord and His people and the lost is not easy. The ministry to which every single believer has been called is not easy. We aren’t what we want to be, other people aren’t what we want them to be, circumstances aren’t what we want them to be. Indeed, it’s normal for the Christian life and Christian ministry to feel like dying: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:8-11). We are “afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within” (II Cor. 7:5). There are “weaknesses… insults… distresses… persecutions… difficulties” (II Cor. 12:10). It’s no wonder, then, that Paul was tempted to lose heart (II Cor. 4:1, 16), and that he had to encourage the saints not to be discouraged – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, [because of our hope of resurrection on the last day,] be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

I know that many of you are discouraged right now, especially in relation to our church. Several families have left recently, we’re still meeting in Algood School and don’t have a building of our own, there are tensions and grumblings within the body, ministry isn’t happening to one another or to the lost as much as we’d like. It’s like we’re in a truck trying to reach the top of a mountain, but we’ve hit mud and we’re spinning out and even sliding backward. I feel the weight of these things daily. “There is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (II Cor. 11:28-29). But look back at the passage above: afflicted – but not crushed; perplexed – but not despairing; persecuted – but not forsaken; struck down – but not destroyed. As you read through II Corinthians, you see that in spite of the great hardships that God’s people endure, the comfort and grace of God are ever present: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ… [Christ’s] grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (II Cor. 1:5, 12:9). Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and ongoing work of sanctification and future return in glory, because of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, because of our Father’s faithfulness and mercy, we are upheld in the midst of the darkest hour.

I have been called by God to be a pastor of this congregation, and as such I am a worker with you for your joy, and my heart’s desire is that you would stand firm in your faith (II Cor. 1:24). God is still sovereign, His word is still true, and the gospel of Jesus has not changed. Don’t be discouraged or disheartened; don’t see the glass as half empty, but as half full! Consider these temporal things: several families in the Inquirers’ Class desire to join our church; our architect AEI is beginning to draw up a Master Plan for our property; we have over $104,000 in our building fund; we’re probably in as sound a financial position as we’ve ever been in our general fund and emergency fund and benevolence fund. Even more encouraging to me is the way God’s word is bearing fruit and increasing among us. Your response to the preaching and teaching of the word is a gift of God; people are coming to a deeper understanding of the truth of the gospel and the faith of the Reformation; the elders are more fervently praying for the flock and seeking to resolve conflicts within the church; sin is being confronted and struggled against and put to death by individuals; Satan and his forces of darkness are actively at work to fight against us (a sign of our spiritual life!); children and youth are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

To be sure, not everything in the church is as we would want it, and our flesh, Satan, and the world can gain the upper hand at times. People will not always see eye to eye, we will say things and do things for which we will need to apologize later, we will do a poor job of guarding ourselves from idols and from selfishness and from temptation, we will give Satan an opportunity (cf. Eph. 4:27), we will forget the gospel and the “not yet” of eschatology. But in all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us! Nothing can separate from the love of God in Christ! He is for us! “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Jesus is building His church, so let us pray that what was true in the early church will be true of Grace Presbyterian Church: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase” (Acts 9:31).

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This newsletter is the last newsletter that will be edited and produced by Helen Morse. She has faithfully and quietly served you for the past two years, and she needs to focus more of her energy and time at home. I want to take this opportunity to thank her publicly. It has been a privilege and joy to work with her to bring you each edition of the Grace Press (on average two per month), and we will miss her diligence, her eye for detail and aesthetics, and her skill with the computer. If you get a chance, make sure you thank her for her labors on behalf of God’s kingdom!

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In case you missed the announcement on Sunday morning, the Session has called a congregational meeting for this Sunday immediately following the morning worship service. I know it is Memorial Day weekend, but if you are in town please plan on being at this meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to vote on a change in the terms of Robert Row’s call. We failed to take note of the tax ramifications of Robert’s ordination, and so if his terms of call are not changed he will take a large hit in his take home pay. The Session does not desire to penalize Robert financially for getting ordained, and so recommends that we increase the terms of his call to keep his take home pay the same. Since money has already been budgeted for his payroll taxes for 2010, this change does not need to result in a change to the overall budget. More information will be given at the congregational meeting. Following the meeting, we will have a church wide fellowship meal, since it is a fifth Sunday. And don’t forget to come back this Sunday evening for the joint worship service with First Presbyterian in Crossville and Faith Presbyterian in Cookeville (OPC)!

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Now that Robert has been ordained as a teaching elder, we only have three ruling elders on our Session. Thus the Session has voted to begin the process of electing additional ruling elders. This process is not quick, and includes nomination, training, examination, and election. During the month of June, we will take nominations for the office of elder. You need to speak to the man you desire to nominate, and they must be willing to be nominated. There will be cards available at the greeter’s table throughout the month of June, as well as an elder election guide. Be praying that the Lord would show you who you might nominate, if anyone; and if the Lord is working in your life to call you to be an elder, please do not resist that call. The Session needs more help as we seek to shepherd the flock of God which He has entrusted to us; we need more wise counselors as we seek to oversee and manage and rule the church of God; we need more men willing to commit to teaching the word of God and praying for God’s people and dealing with the hearts of God’s people. We’ll be studying I Peter 5 this coming Lord’s Day to help us prepare for the election process.

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On a personal note, I want to ask you to pray for me as I take my study week June 7-11 down at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. We’ll be staying at Elizabeth’s parent’s house, so not only will we and the kids get to spend good time with them, but I will eat a lot better than I have at my past study weeks! I hope to spend time in prayer, being refreshed in God’s word, and reading and preparing for an upcoming sermon series in the book of Joshua. Please be praying for me that I would have grace to commune with the Lord, to rest in His grace, to be recharged for ministry among you, and to work for His glory and your good. I am so thankful that God has called me to minister among you, and I pray that He would continue to use me to grow you and gather the lost to His glory.

Your Pastor,
Caleb

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