Tuesday, August 02, 2011

BACK TO SCHOOL! ALREADY?!?


BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS, when I was attending elementary school, we never started school until after Labor Day. Of course we also had no “teacher in service days” to take off, but we did get Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays off, but on the actual day. And yes, it was called, “Christmas Vacation” and “Easter Vacation.” My how things have changed!
     My children have already told me that school starts on August 23rd! Summer is quickly drawing to a close. Pretty soon it’s no more late nights and lazing around, it will be back to the serious endeavors of education. Time for backpacks filled with books and homework every night. Yep, school will be here before you know it! Kind of like the return of Jesus Christ…here before you know it!
     When summer began the beginning of school seemed oh so far away.  We needn’t dwell on it or get ready for the new learning experiences that would await us. It was summer time! Time for swimming, camping, sleeping in, BBQ’s and getting a tan. School was light-years away…or so it seemed. Now it is knocking on the door. Kind of like the return of Jesus Christ…here before you know it!
     In our present sermon series on the Book of Revelation, “Hope During the Hard Times” we are discovering that the return of Jesus is much closer than we may think. It’s been so long since He left (Acts 1:1-10) that we have got to the point of wondering if He has forgotten about returning. Yet we see in Scripture that He has not forgotten, but rather He is patiently waiting, giving the opportunity for people to respond to His grace and love, and be brought into His Father’s family. (1 Peter 3:9-10) It is during this “waiting time” that you and I are called to study His Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and seek to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. (1 Peter 3:15) Now is not the time for lazing in a holy hammock waiting for the Lord to appear like someone bringing you a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade, no, now is the time to be ready.  It is time to sharpen ourselves up, like one preparing to enter back into studies, now is not the time for weak minds and sloppy thinking, now is the time to prepare and share.  It’s time to “bone-up” on what we believe, and live lives that prove what we believe matters.
     This must be true for all of us, myself included. In fact, one of the things I appreciate most about being affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America is the importance they place upon their pastors being the “resident pastor-theologian” for each local church. They realize, and firmly communicate to us who are members of the Evangelical Free Church Ministerial that we are not primarily called to our churches to serve as CEO’s or counselors or program directors, but our call is to serve the Lord well by serving His Word well. We are called to be men and women of the Word.
    Recently, this has been driven home to me as I have been asked to chair the local licensing and ordination counsels.  These councils are opportunities for us to “test” the orthodoxy of those who wish to be licensed and/or ordained in the EFCA.  I went through my ordination process 18 years ago, and now having to chair these councils means I also need to hone-up on what I believe. You see, none of us are to simply let things slip by; rather we must heed the warning that the Apostle Paul gave to Pastor Timothy, “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” (2 Timothy 2:14-16)
     So, with that admonition I say to all of us, “It’s back to school time,” for we never know when the Teacher will return, therefore let us always be awake and ready.
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