Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
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.
Posted by John Kuvakas at 1:30 PM
Sunday, March 15, 2015
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!
Posted by John Kuvakas at 12:05 AM
Monday, March 2, 2015
Two of my favorite themes in teaching is to consider, at all
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:
Now, answer this question, honestly, "Do you want to be left
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.
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:
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?
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.
|Pop theology fits nicely onto a bumper sticker|
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.
Posted by John Kuvakas at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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.
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 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.
Posted by John Kuvakas at 8:20 AM