Every month, EFCA President Kevin Kompelien highlights stories, vision and leadership from around the EFCA in his monthly e-newsletter, "Partners with the President." This month, Kevin shares about where we should all draw our focus as 2020 comes to a close. You can watch the accompanying video here.
When I was a child, in the Stone Age before Awana came to my home church, I was part of a similar program called Jet Cadets. I can even still recall the theme song:
But more important than remembering the theme, I remember the Scripture verses we memorized in Jet Cadets. The first verse that we learned was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” I’m sure many of you know that verse by heart. John 3:16 has special meaning to me, in part because of a moment when this verse opened my eyes to the weight of God’s love for us.
In a seminary classroom in 1980, D. A. Carson taught my class of future church leaders that the Greek word for “world” used in John is not just a word describing the planet. No, that word directly refers to the people of the world. The lost, broken, rebellious people who needed saving. And God sent His Son, Jesus, as the answer.
The Son of God
This year, as life becomes more and more complicated, I’m reminded of how beautifully simple the answer is. We all need Jesus, the Son of God. He is the only one who will help us get through this tiresome and disappointing season.
All around me, I see weary leaders and brittle people.
I recently spoke with a pastor who has served his current congregation for multiple decades. He told me that he’s received more criticism in the last three months than the last 15 years of ministry. The difficulties of trying to follow government guidelines regarding worship services in the COVID-19 pandemic are taking a toll, with congregants often seeing things differently—from each other, and from their leaders. Many leaders have left the ministry entirely as a response. Those that haven’t feel the burden of serving in such a divisive season.
Let me take a moment and make a quick plug for the upcoming 2021 EFCA Theology Conference (February 3-4). I believe this year’s conference will have significant value for pastors and leaders in the EFCA as we study and learn from the Book of Psalms. I’ve talked to many leaders this year who have found themselves returning to the Psalms over and over again, finding encouragement and comfort while navigating COVID-19. We want to dive deeper into how the Psalms shepherd us in our daily lives, especially when things are hard. You can learn more about the conference here.
I also see that our people feel weary, too. From watching church online, to in-person gatherings with a fraction of the usual congregation, back to online again—it is exhausting. It seems everything changes weekly and people do not know what to expect.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
It is in the words of Jesus that we find the answer to our exhaustion. The answer is rest: but not just any rest, the rest of Jesus.
Jesus, who takes in the lost, broken, rebellious people. Jesus, whose burden is light. Jesus, the Son of God who came to save the world. Just Jesus.
What’s in a name?
Naming a child is an important decision. No parent would argue with that! When Becky and I started our family, we were intentional in choosing their names: Ruth, Brad, Brent and Greg. However, we chose their names based more on the fact that we liked the names rather than on what their names meant. It took time to decide which name fit each child, especially trying to choose names for twins when we didn’t know the gender until they were born!
In the Bible, a child’s name carried greater significance. It reflected their character and who they would become. Mary and Joseph were given a name for their baby boy that carried monumental implications:
“‘[Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Matthew 1:21-23
These words were spoken to Joseph in a dream, by an angel, when he and Mary were only engaged to be married. Although Mary and Joseph did not have to choose Jesus’ name themselves, we can learn two important things about who Jesus would become from His name.
1. Jesus came to save. The name “Jesus” was the Greek form of the name “Joshua,” which meant “the Lord saves.”
2. Jesus brought God’s presence. The angel in the dream quoted Isaiah 7:14, stating that the name Immanuel means “God with us.”
When we look at these two things together, we see a significant image emerge. The name of Jesus promises the saving power and personal presence of God. Not only did Jesus come to offer His presence among us, He came to save us from our brokenness and rebellion. Not only did Jesus come to save the world, He came to be with His people.
That doesn’t change just because Jesus is no longer physically on earth, either. In John 16:7, Jesus says, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus had to leave this earth in order for the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. But now we have the presence of God with us at all times, in all things.
Hope has a name
In our world today, there is a lot of hurt, disappointment, and weariness. Things that we thought were sturdy and certain are disappearing. We cannot rely on our usual routines. So where do we turn?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-2
Jesus is the simple answer, and Jesus is the only answer.
As we turn to Jesus and to His rest as 2020 comes to a close, let’s not keep the answer to ourselves. Let us share it with our friends, family and neighbors that do not know the love of Christ. Immanuel is not just good news for us, Christians—it is good news for the world. After all, that is the hope of Christmas. That is the hope of Jesus. That is our hope.
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