Jesus Calls Us Friends

Al Toledo, pastor of the Chicago Tabernacle, spoke at Thursday night’s service.

On Thursday, the last night of the 2017 US convention, Al Toledo, pastor of the Chicago Tabernacle, shared about the power of the invitations given to us by God. He highlighted three invitations from John 15:15-16:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

Don’t Forget the Invitation!

Toledo reminded us of God’s invitation to us…

  1. An invitation: To Friendship with God, which is our primary calling. Yet it is so easy to allow busyness to take us away from this friendship; busy activities—even good things—can cause the love of many to grow cold.
  2. An invitation: To Confidence in our Calling. We were chosen and appointed by the Lord, which should give us confidence in who we are. We need to get close enough to God so we can know what He’s called and appointed us to do. It’s not self-confidence we need; it’s God-confidence.
  3. An invitation: To Boldness in Asking. Are we praying in the right name? Are we praying for the right things? Sometimes God won’t answer our little prayers because he wants us to ask for something bigger.

“When you’re friends with God,” said Toledo and you know you’ve been called by God, you can ask for gigantic things!” God uses the combination of all three of these invitations to work in and through us.

Convention Overflow

Reported by Roger Armbruster, Canadian Fellowship Elder and FCA Media board member

There was a powerful sense of God’s presence Wednesday at the 2017 U.S. FCA Convention. A few highlights:

John and Ruth Genco receive a plaque of ministry recognition and appreciation from Floyd Nicholson, Heritage Committee member and John Sprecher, U.S. FCA Lead Elder.

  • Following a moving video tribute to John and Ruth Genco for their more than 60 years of faithful ministry in Vermont, the couple sang a duet expressing their single desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord.

    Tony Simon urged pastors to participate in Church Planting Sunday.

  • Tony Simon issued a stirring challenge for U.S. FCA churches to join together to raise funds on “Church Planting Sunday,” June 4—Pentecost Sunday. Last year more than $20,000 was raised for church planting on one Sunday by 23 participating congregations. “I believe 50 churches together this year can easily raise $50,000,” he said.
  • Duane Siemens, pastor of The Wave Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba—host church of the next year’s FCA International Convergence—invited this year’s convention goers to plan for the gathering May 1-4, 2018. The theme will be, “The Heart of the Father in the Heart of the Continent.”

    Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, challenged pastors to keep the gospel message of Jesus central.

  • Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, reminded FCA ministers of Jesus’ commission to “preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). “We need to be biblical,” he said, “not just in terms of the subject matter…but with a sense of what God had in mind when he said, ‘Preach…’
    xxxxxCymbala challenged leaders to read the Bible with an open heart to go beyond the traditions and customs of their upbringing—to avoid limiting God to their past experiences. Cymbala warned of the dangers that come from trusting in our own cleverness or creativity rather than trusting in the Lord. “We’re dying because of cleverness,” he said.
    xxxxxJesus did only the things he saw the Father doing, said Cymbala. And that was how “the early apostles and church fathers were able to start churches for the first 300 years without church buildings, without microphones, and without slick advertising. They preached the simple message of the gospel. They preached Jesus!”


What Is a Pastor to Do?

john-sprecherby John Sprecher, U.S. FCA Lead Elder
November 6, 2016

Here we are, facing the conclusion of what has undoubtedly been the most tempestuous U.S. election cycle in memory.

So how have you, as a pastor or spiritual leader, handle the politically charged rhetoric? How have you shepherded the flock God has put in your care?

The ideological divide between the parties and the extreme personalities of the candidates could not be more different. Without doubt, this election will have lasting implications on our nation and world. It will determine the make-up of the next U.S. Supreme Court. Issues such as gay rights, immigration, terrorism, and energy independence will be hot agenda items for the next president.

While it is vital that we speak to the issues of the day—especially those with moral concerns that violate biblical mandates—as ministers we need to be careful that we don’t forget our first call: to preach the Gospel of the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On Sunday after the election, you will likely preach to several kinds of people: Republicans, Democrats, independents, and even those who simply chose to stay home and not vote at all. You will preach to angry people, to disillusioned people, to fearful people, and to people who are trusting for a political solution.

Even with such a diverse group—perhaps especially with a diverse group—your job is to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you…” (1 Peter 5:2a) and to provide eternal “soul care” to those whom God has placed in your congregation. Never forget that the majority of the New Testament was written by and to believers who were being persecuted, but they never lost the perspective that we believers are “in the world but not of it” (John 17:15, paraphrase).

We have a message of hope to all people—a message that goes beyond the politics and inflamed passions of the day, so let us proclaim it boldly.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).


Generations Coming Together

Tom Flahertyby Tom Flaherty, pastor (City Church, Madison, Wisconsin)

The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.”
And he said, “Go.”
Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?”
“I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them.  They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water.
“Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!”
The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?”  When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.
“Lift it out,” he said.  Then the man reached out his hand and took it. (2 Kings 6:1-7)

Every year, Alice and I go to our National FCA Convention where we hear a number of speakers. The final message of last year’s convention was from this text. The first message of this year’s convention was also from this exact text.

Can you imagine how we felt when the second night’s message this year was also from 2 Kings 6:1-7? Three straight speakers all speaking from the same obscure text!

Only God could arrange this, so the question becomes, Why? I think it has to do with the generations coming together. Here are three encouragements for the older generation:

One: Have something from God to give to the younger generation—something they need. Elisha had burned his plow and pressed in for a double anointing, which he then received from Elijah.

The younger generation doesn’t need information from us—they can just Google to get that. But Google can’t supply the wisdom that comes from an ongoing relationship with God. We must keep pressing in for all God has for us so we can be “relevant” to the generations coming behind us. They asked Elisha to come because they needed what he had.

Two: Release the younger generation to go beyond where we’ve been. The idea to build bigger came from the young prophets. The place they where they lived was probably built by Elisha, but the time came when it wasn’t good enough. Instead of being offended by their request, Elisha released them to do something more than he’d done.

King Saul reacted the opposite way. He had become jealous of the next generation and feared they would be greater than he was, so he tried to kill David. But Elijah believed God could take his anointing and double it in the next generation. let’s believe as he did and release the coming generation into even more grace than we’ve experienced.

Three: Go with the next generation to ensure their success. In their zeal, mistakes were made. The ax head was lost. But Elisha was there to show them that every problem can actually become an opportunity to encounter the faithfulness and power of God.

Here are three encouragements for the younger generation:

One: Desire the right thing. This story follows a heartbreak in Elisha’s life. The man he had been mentoring, Gehazi, chose money instead of God. Gehazi felt Elisha had missed an opportunity for material blessing after Naaman’s healing, so he went after Naaman to get the clothes and silver Elisha had ignored.

Gehazi thought the anointing was something to be used for personal gain. And while God let him keep the clothes and silver he wanted, he also received Naaman’s leprosy, which forced him away from the presence of Elisha from that day on.

Two: Ask the older generation to go with you. Even though they aren’t as “cool” or as fun as your peers, you need them. The wisdom and anointing of Elisha led to the success of the young prophets by the design of God. When you learn to honor, God ordains life and enduring success. (See Ephesians 6:1-3.)

Three: Ask for a double portion. Our ceiling can be your floor because of the grace of God. Forgiveness breaks the evil that comes down to you, while honor draws the good. When you go farther than we do, you honor our sacrifice. Your victory is our victory.

Reprinted by permission from Tom Flaherty’s weekly devotional to City Church, Madison, WI.