“And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” (Luke 22:15 ESV).
This coming Sunday begins what many Christians call Holy Week or Passion Week. It is called “Passion” week because of its connection to the Greek word πάσχω (pas’-kho), which means to feel heavy emotion or passion, especially due to suffering. This is the word that Jesus used to describe His coming crucifixion.
A wonderful way to remember Christ’s passion is to visit the Holy Land. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Israel several times. In the attached photo, I’m visiting The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which traditionally contains the empty tomb. Here, I’m touching the Stone of Anointing, a slab of reddish stone flanked by candlesticks and overhung by a row of eight lamps. It commemorates the place where the body of Jesus was laid, anointed, and prepared for burial.
But you don’t have to go to Israel to remember Christ’s suffering and resurrection. In fact, all the church buildings, slabs and memorials added through the ages by well-meaning church folk can be a distraction. I’ve found that reading the Scriptures that describe the Lord’s final week leading up to the Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrection to be just as moving and beneficial to my spiritual life. With this in mind, I offer this daily reading plan for Passion Week for your edification.
- Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry. Read Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.
- Monday – Clearing the Temple. Read Matthew 21:10-17; Mark 11:15-18, and Luke 19:45-48.
- Tuesday – Teaching in the Temple. Read Matthew 21:23-24:51; Mark 11:27-13:37, and Luke 20:1-21:36.
- Wednesday – Anointed in Bethany. Read Matthew 26:1-16 and Mark 14:1-11.
- Thursday – Last Supper & Gethsemane. Read Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, and John 13:1-30.
- Good Friday – Crucifixion and Death. Matthew 27:1-56; Mark 15:1-41, Luke 22:66-23:50, and John 18:28-19:37.
- Saturday – In the Tomb. Read Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, and John 19:38-42.
- Easter Sunday – The Resurrection. Read Matthew 28:1-13; Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-31.
In addition, I plan to offer a daily devotion on the above readings each morning at 9:00 AM on Facebook Live on our Eastgate and Wilson Community Church Facebook page and on our Eastgate and Wilson Community Church YouTube channel.
There are two weeks in the Bible that the Lord inspired its writers to make daily diary entries. They are the seven days of creation and Passion Week. In the first week, He made the world, and in the second, He brought its redemption. God must have thought these two weeks important enough to keep a journal…
… And one worth our reading and meditation.
Today at 4:00 PM, I joined with 500 pastors across America on a one hour conference call that was set up by Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council with Vice President, Mike Pence. I’m thankful to Pastor Joe Shakour for sharing the information to join the call.
I thought that many of you might appreciate reading my notes from the call:
Tony Perkins welcomed everyone and called on Chris Hodges, senior pastor at Church of the Highlands, to open in prayer. After a few opening comments, Tony introduced Vice President Pence.
VP Pence welcomed all the pastors, thanking all 500 of us for our efforts as a faith community. Then he surprised everyone by introducing President Trump. He said that when the president heard about the call, he volunteered to briefly join it.
President Trump greeted us and said he just wanted to say hello. He said that he knew that we were going through tough economic times, but insisted that, “We’re going to get over this!”
Tony Perkins prayed for the President. Afterwards, the president thanked him for praying for stamina for him, saying, “Thanks for praying for our stamina. We really need it.”
VP Pence talked to us at length. One of the topics he covered was the importance of churches doing what they can to encourage our health care workers. One of the ideas he offered was setting up childcare at the church for health care workers. He said that his main purpose was to say, “Thank you pastors for all you do.” And that we should tell everyone, “Do not be afraid. Be vigilant.”
He encouraged us to understand that the Coronavirus is three times more contagious than the flu. He asked that we share the president’s information on the virus at: Coronavirus.gov
VP Pence further asked pastors to take special care of our seniors and those at risk. He thanked us for keeping our country in our prayers. He repeated the plan: “15 days to stop the spread.” He quoted the pastor from his church saying that he thought it was a good word, “The gospel was made for times like these.”
Before he left the call, he took questions. Of interest was a comment he made that the president is asking Congress to include helping non-profits in the proposed economic recovery package. VP Pence said he knew that churches would be impacted financially by not being able to meet in person. He promised to encourage people to not forget to give to their churches when he speaks.
Carter Conlon, pastor at Times Square Church prayed for Vice President Pence.
Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, also spoke. He gave a very inspiring message on the memory power of the brain and the beauty of the creation. He said, “God is merciful. Imagine what would’ve happened if our economy had not been strong.” He asked for us to pray for God’s intervention and power. He said, “God still has His hand on this nation.”
Paula White prayed for Dr. Carson.
Tony Perkins introduced Pastor Chris Hodges again to talk about ideas for being the church during this time.
Pastor Chris said that his church had been working with their local health clinic to use their parking lot and volunteers to do drive thru Coronavirus testing. He said they played worship music on the radio as the cars waited in line. They helped test 2000 people in 4 days. He said that they had volunteers praying for people as they waited in their cars. He offered to pass along details to those of us who ask. He encouraged us to pray 2 Chronicles 7:14 prayers with our fellow pastors.
Pastor Carter Conlon talked about the Drive In church idea. He mentioned that we could broadcast audio on Facebook, or set up a sound system in the parking lot. He encouraged live-streaming services, Facebook Live, posting daily encouragement videos. He said to ask our young people to give ideas for getting the message out. He said, “Actually we’re growing. We need to cast our inter-nets on the right side of the boat.”
Dr. Ronnie Floyd, with the Southern Baptist Convention and LifeWay offered resources, such as: Webinars on streaming sermons. Online giving and others.
Dr. Floyd closed in the call in prayer.
All in all, I appreciated that our national leaders took the time to talk specifically to the concerns of America’s pastors.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has led our president to declare a National Emergency and he has designated today, Sunday, March 15, 2020, a National Day of Prayer. In view of this, we offer this prayer . . .
Dear Heavenly Father,
Your mercy is wonderful and Your grace is amazing! According to Your mercy, we ask You to stop this pandemic and save lives –– not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus.
We pray for our leaders. Your Word says that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). With this in mind, we pray for our president and other national leaders. We pray for our governor and state leaders. We pray for our local leaders. Father, give them the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care.
We pray for our medical workers. For doctors, nurses, lab workers, and other first responders, we pray for Your strength and protection. Lord, we give thanks for them, for they put themselves at risk to help heal and comfort our sick. Father, be with them and their families.
We pray for our elderly and those who are most susceptible to disease. Father, protect them and heal them. Give us strength as a church to look out for them and offer them help in Your name.
We pray for our children. With school cancelled, many may be at home alone and without adequate food. Lord, care for them. Many families will have trouble caring for their children and going to work. Give us wisdom on ways to help them.
We pray for our churches, pastors, and missionaries. Help us to be faithful in supporting our spiritual leaders, so they are able to lead with joy. Protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, as they seek to advance Your Good News to the whole world.
We pray for ourselves, Lord, that we will walk by faith and not by fear. For as Your Word says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). May we walk in Your love and power and wisdom as we face these difficult days.
In Jesus’ precious name, amen.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2 ESV).
My morning reading from the One Year Bible turned into a day long meditation on God’s heavenly city, The New Jerusalem. We’re only two days from finishing our annual practice of reading through the Bible in a year. The OYB offers a daily reading from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. The New Testament reading today was from Revelation 21, which describes John’s vision of God’s holy city, the home of the Bride of Christ, which is the Church. I’ve read this passage many times before. I’ve even written a devotion on it before. But today was different. I was really drawn to John’s vision of this great heavenly city where all the saints of God will one day dwell.
Of course, as usual, my meditation led to a remembrance of an old hymn. In this case it was “I’m Bound for that City” written and composed in 1954 by Albert E. Brumley and the Brumley brothers: Bill, Tom, Bob and Jack. I heard the song many times sung by the Willow Branch Quartet, of which my mother Wilda Dillon Combs was the lead singer. I don’t have a recording of the quartet doing it, but I’m happy to have a recording of my mother singing it solo on her 1975 album, “Wilda & Mom.” I’ve included the recording on this blog below, along with a montage of photos of my mother, her family, her childhood home and church. I’ve also included the lyrics below. May it bless your soul as it has mine today!
Where cometh no night
And the sun never sets in the sky
In the Bible we’re told
That the streets are pure gold
And a cool gentle river runs by
God’s holy white city
Oh yes I am
I’ll never turn back to this world anymore
No matter how rough may be the way
No matter how oft I stop to pray
I’m bound for that city
On that ever green shore
And our hearts will be gay
As we stroll through the city of gold
No more dying up there
No more sorrows to bear
For nobody will be feeble or old
God’s holy white city
Oh yes I am
I’ll never turn back to this world anymore
No matter how rough may be the way
No matter how oft I stop to pray
I’m bound for that city
On that ever green shore
I’m excited to report that we’re making great progress on Phase 2 of our Rise Up initiative! Both our giving and our preparations for building are right on target as planned. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!
Just yesterday morning we met with our architect and contractor to work out the scope of Phase 2. Agreeing on the scope of a project has to do with making sure that the size of the proposed work and the monies available are in agreement. This is especially true when you are doing “pay as you go” on a big project.
It was our first meeting where we had both our architect, Jim Sherrer, and our contractor, Chad Porterfield at the same table. We’ve learned from previous projects that it’s important to get the whole team together early on, even before building plans are drawn. This creates better team synergy, improves communication, and almost always results in cost savings and better results.
We’ve been meeting with Jim Sherrer for several months now, getting to know one another. It’s our first time working with Jim, but he comes highly recommended by our church facility consultant, Brad Oaster. We have found him to be very attentive to our unique culture and needs. Jim is both an architect and the president of Design Development Architects out of Raleigh, NC.
Once again, we are working with Chad Porterfield as our contractor. Chad’s company built our new children’s wing, completed in 2018. He is the president and founder of CHADCO Builders, out of Burlington, NC. Chad also helped us come up with rough estimates last year for Phase 2, so we could forecast the size of our Rise Up initiative.
Both Jim and Chad come to us with a lot of experience with churches and both were recommended to us by Brad Oaster. Having them with us at the same table yesterday was both affirming and exciting.
Affirming because we saw how having both of them listening to us and advising us gave proof to the wisdom found in Proverbs, which says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22).
Exciting because our vision of making room for more people to come as they are and be forever changed by the love of Jesus is beginning to move from a dream to a reality!
Our church sent myself and my wife, Robin Combs, Pastor Jonathan Combs, and Chantia Stewart along with friends, Steve Woodard and Fernando Paz on a two-week mission trip to Kisoro, Uganda to partner with our sister church, Kisoro Hill Baptist Church and Pastor George Mbonye. This is the fifth mission trip our church has sent to work with Pastor Mbonye. This report is offered with thanks to the Lord and to all those who partnered with the team in prayer and financial support.
“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” — Psalms 145:4 (NLT)
We are always only one generation away from a failure to pass on the faith. I’m thankful that over 2,000 years ago the Lord Jesus passed it on to His disciples, who passed it on to the next generation, who passed it on to the next, and so on until the present day. Every generation has to take on a “pioneering” spirit and be willing to make sacrifices and take risks to give the next generation the gospel. Yet, the sacrifices of former generations of believers have given us such a safe and comfortable environment in America to hear and believe, that we are in danger of living according to a kind of “settler” mindset.
What do I mean by a “pioneering” or “settler mindset?” Remember the history of the pioneers who set off across the plains of America to explore and establish homes and towns to live out West? They risked everything to go into the unknown. They just went out by faith. Sure, they took some arrows, but they also experienced the joy and adventure of seeing their faith become reality. On the other hand, settlers waited for the way to be more established before joining the move Westward. They didn’t pay the cost that the pioneers did to live in a new and wonderful place. As a result, they didn’t always appreciate what they had and didn’t understand that keeping and growing it would require more sacrifice.
Our church is filled with both mindsets. When we first started out in my living room in 1992, our church was a “pioneers only” kind of place. Everything we did was by faith. We started with nothing, but we trusted God. Little by little and year by year, the Lord grew our church family. We were a portable church for 19 years, renting schools and other locations for our meetings. Settlers would sometimes visit, but rarely stay with us.
But in 2011, the Lord provided a more permanent place, so we moved into the old Regal Cinema and converted it into our church home. Our attendance doubled overnight. For the first time in our church history, we started attracting and keeping settlers. We’re glad to have them. Yet, how do we keep our pioneering mindset? How do we stay on mission to reach our city with the Good News? How can we see God stir the hearts of our church family to never stop pioneering?
J.D. Greer, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, recently wrote his church about this very topic. He called the pioneer mindset, “first-generation” and the settler mindset, “second generation.” Here’s his list of differences between the two from his blog article entitled, “It’s Time to Regain First-generation Faith.“
“Here’s the difference in first generation and second generation:
- First generation does “whatever it takes.” Second generation does “only what I’m asked to do.”
- First generation assumes personal responsibility. Second generation assumes someone else will do it.
- First generation expects personal sacrifice. Second generation expects personal comfort.
- First generation sees problems and seeks solutions. Second generation sees problems and complains.
- First generation sees possibilities and dreams about what could be. Second generation sees barriers and reasons to quit.
- First generation hears the voice of God firsthand and owns the vision. Second generation inherits the vision secondhand and questions every decision.
- First generation steps out with bold, reckless trust in God. Second generation sits satisfied in the stability of the institution.
- First generation fears holding anything back from God. Second generation fears commitment.
- First generation feels privileged to be a part of the movement. Second generation feels entitled to the benefits of the institution.”
Based on Pastor Greer’s list, which mindset best describes you? If you answered, “Second generation. I’m more of a settler.” Are you willing to let God change your mindset to a “first generation,” pioneering kind of thinking?
Jesus calls every generation to rise up and answer the call to make disciples. Let’s not be like the generation that followed the one that took the Promised Land:
“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.” — Judges 2:10 (NLT)
Let’s rise up and commit to always being a pioneering church on mission for Jesus!
Watch this video message on how you can not only answer these questions, but how you can rise up to a greater commitment in 2019!
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” — Luke 2:52
For many years I have made it a habit to spend the last week of the year in prayer, meditation and Scripture study. I call it my annual study break. It’s also a time to evaluate how I am living my life. I want to be intentional about how I live. It’s so easy to let the urgent and the maintenance stuff of life fill up my days. I want to know that I have focused on the important.
I have developed a tool for setting annual goals and for self-evaluation that I call my “Luke 2:52 Goals.” Reading a description of how Jesus grew in Luke 2:52 motivatied me to want to grow in those same areas.
Notice that Jesus grew in four areas. He grew in wisdom, stature, in favor with God and in favor with men. Under each of these four categories I list several items where I believe God wants me to focus or where I want to grow for personal reasons. I try not to list too many things. I keep the total list small enough so that it fits on a single page. I usually post it in my office and home study, so that I can see it every day. This year, I’m posting it for you to see, so I guess I’ll really have to try and do it now!
Here are some of my personal goals for 2019:
1. Mentally (wisdom): Read 3 books a month, one for sermon prep, one for leadership and one for pleasure. Get back to blogging regularly, at least twice a month. Play guitar at least 30 minutes every day. Plan for more margin by taking a weekly sabbath, regular vacation time and retreat time to recharge mentally.
2. Physically (stature): Aim at maintaining a regular sleeping/rising habit of 11 PM/7AM. Lose 20 pounds by following a lo-carb diet. Workout for one hour three days a week (M, W, F). Start each morning walking with Robin. Stay proactive about seeing a doc for physical problems. Get a flu shot.
3. Spiritually (favor with God): Read the One Year Bible and make daily comments to fb/twitter. Have a daily quiet time. Set aside every Wednesday for study of God’s Word and sermon preparation. Plan and keep quarterly and annual retreats with God. Pray with Robin every evening.
4. Socially (favor with men): Friday night is date night with Robin. Schedule annual family vacation with all our kids and grandkids. Schedule annual grandparent trip with “potty-trained” kids. Disciple three men in Life On Life this year. Reach out to local pastors to pray for our city together. Meet with like-minded pastors for peer-learning and encouragement.
I know that it is God’s job to cause me to grow more like Jesus. The gospel means that we don’t have to work to earn God’s favor. So, I’m depending on the Lord for these goals. He is the One who will accomplish them in me. But I think it’s important to cooperate. I want to yield to the Spirit’s work.
I want to grow more like Jesus. Don’t you?