Pastor's Message

Here you will find a monthly message from Pastor Bill Wade.

  • June 1, 2017

    Planting and Being Planted


    I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth… For we are God’s fellow workers.

    You are God’s field… (1 Corinthians 3:6–9)

     

    Our 3rd - 5th graders just finished planting the garden next to the church building to raise produce for our local food pantry. The process of growing plants seems to be one of God’s favorite illustrations in the Bible. One of the lessons we learn from gardening is the glory of monotony (which is probably why I’m not a better gardener). We don’t like waiting. Or doing the same things over-and-over again. Or… waiting. (How grumpy do we get when we try to load a web page and it doesn’t appear fully on our screen in 0.2 seconds flat?)

    One way we can learn to glory in monotony is to realize that in some ways we are the planted, and in some ways we are the planters. God loves to plant things and to watch them grow - it’s one of His core character traits. G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

    Because children have abounding vitality… they always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. [quoted in Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, p. 85]

    God says to us every morning, “Do it again: Go to work. Finish that homework assignment. Balance the checkbook. Forgive your neighbor (for the umpteenth time). Pull the weeds. Do the dishes. Forgive your neighbor (for the umpteenth time plus one)…” One of our tasks as a human being is to endure through the monotony of life and keep on producing for God’s glory. Doesn’t it feel good to hear God say to us: I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary (Revelation 2:3)? Keep planting; the work is worth the monotony.

    But the Gospel is not complete if it’s all about planting and trying to keep up with God. Before we ever pick up a garden spade, we remember that we ourselves have been planted. God gave us life, Christ replanted us in His own vineyard with new life, and the Holy Spirit causes us to grow to maturity. But even being a plant takes patience. Samuel Rutherford wrote when he was practically imprisoned for his faith: “The Great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me.” [Eswine, 86] That’s the attitude we long for: contentment over restlessness. We are planted by a loving Gardener who knows what He is doing; surely we can trust in His plan to plant us where we belong and to grow us into what we are meant to become.

    As members of the church we are both God’s field and planters in God’s field. So let’s work and wait, proclaim the Gospel and pray for Gospel fruit - and trust that God has a plan to use us to grow His church for His glory. 

  • May 7, 2017

     A Thousand Sorrows

    It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Psalms 119:71)

     

    My wife sent me a link from The Gospel Coalition to a roundtable discussion between Tim Keller, Don Carson, and John Piper. (Talk about a powerhouse lineup! Those are three of my most admired people in contemporary Christian ministry.) They were discussing a tweet of John Piper’s in which he wrote: “I believe in homiletics. But not much. A thousand sorrows teaches a man to preach.” [Homiletics is fancy word for how to preach sermons.] I guess my wife was thinking that my round-after-round bout with shingles in my face and my need for ear surgery are destined to make me a better preacher!

    Each of the men in this roundtable are considered to be among the foremost scholars and practitioners of understanding and explaining the Bible. They all agreed that the Bible itself is the most important teacher of how-to-preach. And then there’s suffering. What does suffering have to do with learning to preach?

    Think about it this way: Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is my favorite current NBA basketball player. He’s got a growing list of records with his impossibly-accurate three-point shooting. He grew up practicing at his grandfather’s rickety-ol’, back-yard basketball hoop in Grottoes, VA. Who knows how many thousands of shots Steph took on that lonely basketball hoop? He learned good shooting technique from his NBA father, Dell Curry. (Dell was a superstar at Virginia Tech who graduated the year before I was a freshman there, but that doesn’t enter into this story.) He probably got very accurate at making long-range shots from all over the court. But he was not yet a great basketball player. It took playing multitudes of intense games against defenders who jumped in front of him with their hands in his face. It took opposition, set-backs, challenges, and losses to mold Steph into the NBA all-star that he is today.

    What we need to see is that God uses suffering as a testing furnace - not to test us, but to test His own Word. When we go through suffering and sorrow, God’s promises are put to the test. Will they stand? Are they true all the time - even in the difficult times? Can we trust God even through the dark valleys of shadow? Perhaps God lets us go through sorrow and suffering because He loves us. He wants us to know in the depths of our hearts that God’s Word stands in every situation - even the situations in which we can’t stand on our own.

    It’s not just preachers who preach. Every time you suffer the thousand sorrows of this life and don’t give up - every time faith keeps your eyes on Jesus when the wind and waves storm around you - you are preaching to someone. A child. A co-worker. A friend. Yourself. I don’t thank God for the sorrows you and I suffer, but I do thank Him for the grace that comes with them.



    April 2, 2017

    Exposure and Grief

    I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting… For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9–10)

     

    In an interview last fall, international soccer’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Abby Wambach, said she struggled with substance abuse up until her arrest in April for driving under the influence. The morning after the arrest, her mugshot was splashed on news outlets across the country. “That night getting arrested was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Because if I don't get so publicly shamed and publicly humiliated, I don't think I wake up… I think I was asleep for a lot of years. Asleep to the pleas from my family and friends, and even myself, to get help. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.”

    Humiliated enough to wake up. Could you imagine ever getting to the point where you would be happy to make that statement?

    I think we want to ignore how God uses two very uncomfortable things -  exposure and grief - in the course of dealing with our sins. We’ve been seeing in Ephesians how Christ has delivered us from the darkness of our “old selves,” and He desires for us to walk in our “new selves” recreated to imitate His character and love. But in order for that to happen, God first has to shine His light on us and expose our failures. Forgiveness normally doesn’t happen while leaving our sins hidden. Psalm 90:8 puts it this way: “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” Uncomfortable. Until we remember that when God exposes our sins, He also forgives them freely through the sacrifice of His Son!

    And then there’s the emotion that comes with exposure. In our zeal to embrace the grace of the Gospel, sometimes we think that there is no place for grief. Just confess and keep going. But 2 Cor. 7:9-10 tells us that there is an appropriate place for grief even after we’ve understood the Gospel of grace. The word for grief is defined this way: “a state of unhappiness marked by regret as a result of what has been done.” We actually should feel bad for the sins we do. But there is a difference between what Paul calls “worldly grief” that turns into a spiral of shame and isolation and “godly grief” that moves us toward repentance and restoration. I guess you could say: Feel bad, but feel bad in a healthy way.

    Don’t be afraid of exposure and grief. (Read that again - more slowly.) If God is the one exposing your failure, then you can be sure that His mercy is quick to follow. The guilt (or even the addiction) won’t go away until God’s light reveals it. And if you feel bad about your failures, then use those feelings to confess to God… and to a trusted brother or sister in Christ. That’s one of the benefits of being a part of a community of love and grace like the church: so we can have a safe place to be exposed for who we really are - sinners, saved by grace.