Here are some thoughts on retirement our oldest son, Steve, sent to me on Nov. 5th, 2011,
“Tomorrow, my dad is retiring from fifty-five years of ministry to the Church. He has served selflessly, faithfully and heartily. But while he will no longer draw a salary from it, he will not retire from the Church. Far from it. In one sense, he is perhaps about to enter, if symbolically, into a richer church experience.
For that last sentence to make sense, you must understand the way I use the word, “Church,” since there are many ways people define it. My definition for the purpose of this note is that body of Christians or Christ followers, not yet with Christ physically, but which is uncomfortable with the world system defined apart from God. It finds both its meaning and purpose in a nexus between heaven and earth. It is peopled with sinful creatures, yet it bears in itself the seed of holy perfection, awaiting its germination and full flowering. It is weak and tired, but feels deep down, and occasionally demonstrates, a supernatural strength that causes it to soar on wings like eagles; to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint. The Church, at its best and most authentic manifestations, is heavenly minded, but of tremendous earthly good. It loves God most of all, yet that love translates into a great love of those must unlike God. In this regard, it reflects the very incarnation of it’s head and redeemer, Jesus Christ. It strives for pure devotion to God, yet struggles with countless limitations that hold it back like a sea anchor in its voyage though history. It focuses on the finish line, but stumbles in the race, sometimes in the most embarrassing and disgraceful ways. In a way it is neither this, nor that. It lives in ontological middleness. That place is as uncomfortable as it sounds. But it’s where it does the most good. In this middleness, Dad has served as a servant and a shepherd of Christ’s sheep.
Monday morning, he will awake to different kind of day. There will be no sermons to prepare, no meetings to attend, no official pastoral visits to the sick or distressed. But what kind of day will it be? The popular, advertised image of retirement is about relaxation, traveling to interesting places, spending more time with grandchildren and perhaps a little more fishing, artistic endeavors or golf. Some who can afford to take early retirement at say 50 to 60, might get to enjoy quite a few of these benefits for some time. But in its stark essence, what is retirement? Why do we retire? In general, it is because we are flagging – tired, perhaps dog-tired. We are making way for a younger generation. Perhaps on many days, we may feel we’ve lost our competitive edge. Let’s be honest, we are nearing the end of life, perhaps soon or not very soon at all, but inexorably.
For Christians, retirement is an entrance into a new middleness. We may be quite functional, but clearly, we are declining – in strength, health, and vigor. When our health begins to fail, some might say we have “one foot in the grave.” For mature, spiritually healthy Christians, we still love our present mortal lives, but long for something better, more solid, more perfect. We don’t wish to leave our loved ones, but we miss our loved ones who have gone ahead. And we long to see Jesus – in the flesh. We are in a nexus of sorts; between a mortality that is not what it used to be, and immortality. We are content, or not, with what we have been, but we long to be something more – something better.
Retirement for the self-aware Christian, is a bit like membership in the Church. Not completely this or that; an in-between place. And as Christians who are heavenly-minded enough to be of greater earthly good, so retired Christians are in a place to be the same. With eyes of faith, they gaze toward the brightening of the eastern sky, looking for the first rays of heavenly light. And in that vague, dusky light, they can be of tremendous value to those who follow them. They point the way; remind us of the bigger picture. They are keeping it real. How do I know this? Dad and Mom are already doing this and have been for sometime. I appreciate it. I think everyone does. And perhaps now, they will have more time for it.”
Charge to the Church and the new Pastor
on the occasion of the installation of
Pastor Peter Lee as pastor of Alameda Bible Church,
Albuquerque, NM. Nov. 6th 2011
by retiring Pastor Mal Bicker
Wake Up and Get Dressed!
Isaiah 52, as well as the entire Old Testament, though addressed to Israel, has application to Christ’s Church. Paul states in II Tim. 3:16-17 . “All Scripture (from Genesis through Revelation) is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for direction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, fully furnished or equipped unto all good works.”
The Isaiah 52 prophecy of God’s ultimate victory for Israel over her enemies applies to the final triumph of His Church over Satan and his anti-God world system.
Note in this 52nd chapter of Isaiah a:
CHARGE TO THE CHURCH 52:1-6
CHARGE TO OUR NEW PASTOR 52:`7-12
THE MESSAGE WE PREACH. 52:13-15
Let’s start with the message we preach as we consider Isaiah 52:13-15.
I. THE MESSAGE WE PREACH. Isaiah 52:13-15
“My servant” is no less than Christ, the Son of God. Read a companion passage to this in Isaiah 42:1-8. Here is another of more than a dozen Messianic references in Isaiah referring to Jesus as “My Servant”.
Isaiah 52:14 clearly prophesies and describes the crucifixion of Christ and the unspeakable cruelty of His enemies before and during His crucifixion. His face was so marred, it was shocking to look on Him.
Verse 15 refers to the sprinkled blood sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world.
Peter writing about our salvation through Christ’s blood in I Peter 1:2. writes, “Elect according to foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience of Christ” who endured the cross and whose blood was sprinkled to save us.
Aaron, Moses’ brother and the High Priest in the days of Israel’s wilderness experience, sprinkled the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle with the blood of animal sacrifices for sin. All of this description of bloody animal sacrifices for sin, as it is described in Lev. 16 and throughout that Book is a foreshadow of Christ’s purchase of His Church through His shed Blood.
The Apostle Paul, in his warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts20:28, refers to the importance of preaching Christ’s blood. It is one of the Fundamentals of the Faith, Apart from faith in that shed blood sprinkled for our sins, there is no salvation.
Another Fundamental of the Faith and major theme of our salvation found in the Isaiah 52 passage is Christ’s Resurrection and His exaltation, as prophesied in Isaiah 52:13.
Perhaps the major passage in the Bible concerning the exaltation of Christ is found in Philippians 2:5-11 where it speaks of His resurrection from the dead and His return to Heaven where God has exalted Him as Lord.
One day He is returning to this world to be exalted as King over all earth, we read in Psalm 2 and many other passages of the Bible.
This is the message we preach and has been preached here at Alameda Bible Church for over seventy-two years. Christ’s deity and His blood atonement is a message which must never be surrendered nor compromised.
II. CHARGE TO THE CHURCH Isaiah 52:1-6
This charge to the church is primarily addressed to Israel concerning Zion, a hill upon which Jerusalem and the temple were built and where God dwelt. Zion is also a type of the Church. So Zion has application for us, the church, as do all Old Testament and New Testament Scripture,
In Isaiah 52:1-2 We are charged to awake from our spiritual slumber and be separate from sin. Christ’s Church could be likened to a sleeping giant, unaware of her strength.
To backslide is to sell ourselves into bondage to Satan, Isaiah 52:1-3. There we are urged to get out of the dust and filth of this world and be clean and beautiful for God’s glory. We are urged to reflect our beautiful garments, Christ’s righteousness described in Isaiah 61:10. That’s what attract people to Christ!
Isaiah 52:3-4 continues to describe how as we sold ourselves into sin in the person of Adam, our first father, so without money we can find freedom from the penalty of sin and victory over the power of sin, through trusting in Christ, our mighty Deliverer.
Isaiah 52:5-6 continues with the truth that no longer need we be enslaved by the world and it’s sins and blasphemy of Christ’s name. Through trusting Christ, the Gift of God’s free grace, we can be redeemed from our sins and be given the free Gift of eternal life in Heaven.
Though we have all followed our first father, Adam, into sin. we can’t pass the blame to him. We are each responsible for our own sins. But thank God, we can be redeemed from our sins without price to us, for the Lord Jesus paid the full price for our sins on the cross. Thank God for the free Gift of God’s grace to us.
We can & must be delivered from worldiness. Isaiah 52:4-6 reminds us that God’s name is blasphemed by the wicked lives of those who call themselves Christians. Paul also warns Pastor Titus in Titus 2:1-10 of the importance of Christians living a godly life in their homes as well as in public so that Christ name be not blasphemed. Such sin among Christians breaks my heart far more than the evil of lost, hell-bound sinners.
Isaiah 66:8 reminds us that when Zion travailed in prayer, She bore children. Psalm 126:5-6 teaches the same truth. When the church goes forward bearing the seed of the Word, the Gospel and travailing in prayer, we return rejoicing, bearing precious fruit.
Psalm 137:1-6 reminds us that as the Israelites in captivity were homesick for Zion and too depressed and heart sick to sing their songs of Zion; so when we are backslidden and out of fellowship with Christ, we have no heart to sing our songs of Zion.
May God protect Alameda Bible Church from ever becoming a proud, uppity social club who know all the correct doctrine; but who gives the cold shoulder to visitors who may be spiritually ignorant and may not look and act as we do. Perhaps some might even appear difficult to get to know and love and some may appear plain rude, ignorant and obnoxious. We are commanded to love them to Christ.
III. THE CHARGE TO THE MESSENGER. Isaiah 52:7-12
Isaiah begins by describing the beautiful feet of Gospel preachers in Isaiah 52:7. Paul quotes this same verse in Romans 10:15. Before we can preach the Gospel to sinners, we have to go where they are. Seldom are they going to come to church.
In Ezekiel 34:1-10 Ezekiel gives a scathing rebuke from God to self-serving shepherds who make no effort to reach the lost with the Gospel.
Again, in Ezekiel 3:17-19 God warns Christians, especially Christian leaders of the awesome responsibility we have to warn sinners of the danger or rejecting God’s salvation through Christ.
Alameda Bible Church has had faithful Watchmen throughout her over seventy-two years of existence. Now I pass the baton, the sacred responsibility to you, Pastor Lee, to keep watching and waiting and serving the Lord as the days grow darker before the dawn of Christ’s return.
Paul warns in I Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the Faith, act as men, be strong.” In the next verse,16:14 he reminds us to serve the Lord in love. In fact, he devotes the entire chapter of I Corinthians 13 to reminding us to serve in love to Christ and to those we minister.
Pastor Lee, as a minister of the Gospel, I remind you from I Peter 5:2-4 that we pastors and Christian leaders are not to lord it over The church, but to be godly examples of faithfulness, humility and love,
Don’t hesitate to give us the Truth. They’ve proven to me that they can take it and not be offended, if it is Scriptural, if it’s spoken in love and if it is backed by integrity and consistency.
I thank God for the privilege these past twenty-two years of being Christ’s messenger to Alameda Bible Church. These have been some of the most blessed and certainly the most peaceful years of my life. as a pastor.
I thank you, Alameda Bible Church for your kindness, respect, care, love and generosity to Pat and me ever since we came.
And now I challenge you to show that same loving support to Pastor Peter Lee who has been called here to continue the work of living and preaching the Gospel. May we all show that same love and acceptance to his wife, Sandy and to their children, Andrew, Matthew and Emery
Elders come now and lay hands on our new pastor as Dr. Larry Bacon, Chairman of our Elder Board, asks God’s power and blessing on him and as we offer our prayerful support and encouragement to him.
Afterwards your new pastor, Pastor Peter Lee, will lead us in a closing prayer.
Then Pastor Peter Lee and his family will join me in the foyer to give you all an opportunity to greet them and get to know them.