Pastoral Counsel for our Beloved Church Members
The early church faced suffering of all kinds: murder of their pastors, imprisonment of church members, economic boycotts, social ostracism from their neighbors, and excommunication from synagogues. In 165, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a devastating epidemic swept through the Roman Empire. Medical historians suspect that the epidemic was the first appearance of smallpox in the western world. But wherever the disease was, it was deadly. Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor, also died. During the 15 year duration of the epidemic, it is estimated that a quarter to a third of the Roman Empire died from it.
Have you ever met someone who used to be a passionate follower of Jesus, but who later declared themselves to be an atheist? Or if not an atheist, they’re entirely disconnected from any faith community and are living without regard to Christian morality? Anyone who has ever been in a high school youth group, a college fellowship group or a church has witnessed many people who have walked away from Christian faith. One main reason people say they left the Christian faith is because of doubt.
In the years between 1933 and 1940, as tens of thousands of Jews fled Nazi Germany, nearly 105,000 refugees from Nazism were permitted to enter the United States. But those who were granted refuge were pitifully few in comparison to those who were trying to flee. One historian wrote: “The long pathetic list of refugee ships, unable to find harbors open to them, testifies to the fact that the world of the late 30’s and early 40’s was a world without room for the Jews of… Europe.”
In the spring of 2019, Vineyard Columbus engaged in a capital campaign titled “The Story Continues”. The Lord blessed the campaign and we received $13 million in pledges to fund four new initiatives in the coming years.
Someone once said that you can tell the size of a boat by the size of the wake it leaves behind. An ocean liner will create and enormous tidal wave in its wake. On the other hand, a small sailboat hardly leaves a ripple. The same thing is true of a woman or a man. You can tell the greatness of people by the size of the wake they leave behind. Some people, when they’re gone, leave a tidal wave in their wake. The world is changed forever because of the impact of that one person. And some people barely leave a trace. There is nothing that indicates that they’ve passed this way.
There is almost no Christian in the world who believes prayer is unimportant. From the moment we become aware of God’s love, we feel an internal tug to pray. Now, we may not be able to offer a theology of prayer or discuss many of the ways people have prayed throughout Christian history. But even the most immature Christian will affirm the importance of prayer. Despite this, most Christians will also confess that we don’t pray enough.
Back in the 13th century there was a German emperor named Frederick the Second who wanted to know what language children would speak if no one ever spoke to them. He chose several newborns and he instructed the nurses to feed them but to provide them no cuddling or talking. What language do you think the children grew up speaking?
I’ve been reflecting recently on the way we use social media, particularly Twitter. So many tweets are designed to demonstrate one’s moral superiority as compared to, say, a philandering politician, an unpatriotic sports figure, or a Neanderthal religious spokesperson. Have you noticed in the gospels that Jesus never allows people to feel morally superior by letting them get away with an attack on a third person? Instead, Jesus always gets uncomfortably personal regarding our own sins.
Jesus was as thoroughgoing a Jew as anyone who ever lived. In fact, Jesus wouldn’t have responded to the name Jesus if you yelled “Jesus!” to him across a busy street. Known in his time as Yeshua, which we would translate in English as Joshua, he was named for the Jewish hero who led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua, of course, prefigured Jesus’ own mission to lead people into the Kingdom of God.
When I was a young leader, I used to be incredibly impressed by people’s gifting. What an incredible preacher! I wish I could preach like that. She’s amazing—what a talented singer! What an extraordinary writer! What a gifted prophet!