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A Simple Treatment for Ministry Weariness

What do you do with moments of battle weariness in life and in ministry? The moment may come after great triumph, inglorious defeat, or during an extended sequence of months of working though the daily grind.

After we’ve spent ourselves for the Lord and for others, we find ourselves…well, spent. Shot. Exhausted. Ready to quit. Ready for heaven.

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Ed Robson, pointed us to Elijah for a simple, initial answer on such days. 

The prophet Elijah labored under great duress. He declared to King Ahab that there would be three years of drought in ancient Israel; that’s not exactly a formula to win friends and influence people (1 Kings 17). Elijah lived as a wanted man; Ahab searched everywhere for him. The Lord spared his life in a cave by the brook Cherith, where ravens fed him. Still, imagine the daily pressure of being discovered. He drank of that brook until in dried up. He suffered, along with the rest of the nation.

Following Elijah’s ministry to the widow at Zerephath, God sent him to confront King Ahab as recounted in 1 Kings 18. That was three years after his initial prophecy of drought, and he was not a […]

What Will Amazon Think?, Inc. created one of the most recognizable and meaningful logos ever. The  curved arrow points from the “a” to the “z” under the word “amazon.” The smirk it creates reminds you that Amazon can make you happy by delivering everything from “a” to “z.” The cardboard box smiles at you when the delivery man hands you whatever you ordered, and you usually smile back with excitement.

Amazon deserves credit for a brilliantly simple mark. It works to make good on its promise. Indeed, I benefit regularly from its services.

We should receive the good things of this life with joy. As Christians, we should remember with every Amazon package that lands at our doorstep that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet). He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He alone can make all things new. He alone can make us smile for eternity.

Our trouble begins when we look to any earthly provider for our ultimate happiness. That can become a temptation for us as Amazon consumers. And, the problem can be magnified as such suppliers grow. When we are beholden to someone to supply our happiness, we […]

Your Daily To-Do List

The Christian life is not a formula. You cannot simply maintain a daily to-do list with the assumption that, if you have crossed each item off the list by day’s end, you will experience the desired results and feelings. A regimented devotional life, a perfect parenting strategy executed to perfection, and a list of rules for members of the church will always leave people deeply disappointed when life does not go as expected.

At the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives a long list of instructions for the Christian life that is a to-do list of sorts. Yet, it achieves something far richer than an earthly formula. He tells us to:

Respect those who labor among you
Esteem them very highly in love
Be at peace among yourselves
Admonish the idle
Encourage the fainthearted
Help the weak
Be patient with them all
See to it that no one repays evil for evil
Seek to do good to one another and to everyone
Rejoice always
Pray without ceasing
Give thanks in all circumstances
Do not quench the Spirit
Do not despise prophecies
Test everything
Hold fast to what is good
Abstain from every form of evil

This list teaches us how to relate to those in authority and to those in the body of Christ […]

Speaking Faithful and True Words

What does it mean to speak truth? What does it mean to be a faithful friend? Is there any tension between the two?

Because Jesus himself is called “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11) we know that to be faithful and to be true are not contradictory in the least. Actually, they are virtually synonymous. Yet, too often, we separate them in our lives.

In the West, we historically value truth, especially in terms of accuracy. We tend to be blunt, and when relationships suffer because we have spoken accurately (even if insensitively) we say, “Sometimes the truth hurts!” In these cases, we fail to be true friends.

Those in other cultures historically place a higher value on faithfulness in relationships. Speakers are indirect and may even lie because they do not want to be seen as unfaithful friend by speaking hurtfully.

Nik Ripken helpfully details the mindset of those from such cultures:

In sub-Saharan Africa, relationship is such a highly regarded value that for many tribal Africans that value often takes precedence over truth—which most westerners usually consider the higher of the two values. That difference in perspective can create serious misunderstandings, unnecessary conflict and sometimes even tragic consequences. An African might choose to […]

Will you pray for laborers in 2018?

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV)

Would you resolve  to pray afresh in 2018 that the Lord of the harvest would raise up laborers to go out into the harvest?

I sense that in the denomination in which I serve, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, we have ceased to take Jesus’ call to prayer for laborers as seriously as we ought in recent years. Brothers and sisters in other churches may be flagging as well.

Today, there is a shortage of good men to serve as pastors in Jesus’ church. Regularly, I field phone calls and emails from members of search committees asking for suggested candidates. Some congregations are discouraged because of the apparent lack of men who would fit their particular need and situation.

The crisis is now. But a greater crisis is also looming, at least in the RPCNA.

Our denomination reached a similar crisis point nearly 30 years ago. […]

A Funeral’s Opening Words

As the prelude music to R.C. Sproul’s funeral service faded, Pastor Don Bailey emerged from the darkness and stepped to the podium.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable… My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever,”  he said, reading from Psalm 145.

Then, on behalf of the Sproul family, he welcomed those gathered.

Notice that he opened the funeral with God-breathed words, not his own. They set the tone in a way that no other words could. That reading of Psalm 145 declared the eternal truth of God’s nature, captured the heartbeat of R.C.’s ministry, and ministered to the need of the hour.

When I was a seminary student, I was required to interview a pastor to learn about conducting funeral services. In that interview, Dr. Roy Blackwood emphatically stated that the pastor’s first words at a funeral or memorial service ought to be God’s words.

And so, Dr. Blackwood helpfully instructed me, the opening words of the funeral ought never be something like:

We welcome you today…”
“On behalf of the family…”
“John was a great friend to many of you…”
“We gather to remember…”
“Let us turn […]

Jesus: Everlasting Father

Isaiah prophesied that the incarnate Jesus would be called “Everlasting Father,” among other titles listed in Isaiah 9:6. What does this title mean? Commentators have given a variety of answers to these words contained here:

 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

Jesus, the divine Son, in taking on human flesh, was qualified to fulfill God’s covenant requirements for man in ways that sinful men could not. He became the covenant fulfillment of those who had prefigured him in the Old Testament.

In the title Prince of Peace that comes after Everlasting Father it is easy to see that Jesus is the princely son of David who is qualified to sit on the throne of David forever as promised in 2 Samuel 7:13.

The Blessed Fulgentius (A.D. 467-532)

Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, remains a relatively unknown leader of the early church. Almost certainly born in A. D. 467, Fulgentius (sometimes known as Fulgence) lived a busy life of sixty-five years until his death in 532. He lived in North Africa (present day Tunisia) during a difficult era of church history colored by debates over the deity of Christ, His nature(s), and the Pelagian controversy. He served as bishop from 507 to 532, though he spent many of those years in exile under the rule of an Arian king; the Arians denied the deity of Christ. God raised up Fulgentius to vigorously defend the orthodox faith in the face of great persecution. He is arguably the greatest churchman of North Africa to come after Augustine, in whose tradition he followed. John Calvin made extensive use of his writings, but because the biography of Fulgentius and his writings have only been translated into English within the last two decades, most in the English speaking world have no idea who he was. Virtually everything we know regarding Fulgentius is found in his Selected Works, translated by Robert B. Eno (vol. 95, The Fathers of the Church, ed. Thomas B. Halton, Washington D. […]

Cush Is Stretching Out Her Hands To God

Since I received a radio from Weer Bei, I feel like I can see again. Through the daily broadcasts, my spiritual eyes have been opened. I love listening to the Good News on Radio. If Weer Bei was to shut down, I feel like I would go blind again. For this reason I am supporting Weer Bei with the little money I have. Weer Bei enables me to see even though I am blind – Blindman from Nyamlel – Aweil West

“Weer Bei” means “redemption” in the Dinka language. Weer Bei radio broadcasts the good news of redemption in Jesus Christ to the region of Aweil, South Sudan through the voices of local pastors and Christian leaders. Since Weer Bei’s beginning 2009, through the ministries of Cush4Christ, a mission of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and Every Village, the Lord has done great things.

The radio station has the capacity to reach almost two million people who have been supplied emergency radios by international aid organizations in this war-torn land. Vince and Julie Ward moved their family from Canada to the village of Parot, in Aweil, South Sudan in 2006 to see the gospel proclaimed, elders raised up, and churches planted. […]

“But they weren’t bad parties!”

It was a football Saturday at Purdue University in the late 1990s. I had been called on to serve as a student-host at a post-game alumni party that afternoon in the home of one of the vice-presidents. Alumni often knew my grandparents since my grandfather had been a three-sport athlete at Purdue, had owned a drugstore on the edge of campus for many years, had served in several public offices, and the family had been active in the community.

When I mentioned to an older woman at the post-game party that Bill and Lois Long were my grandparents, she exclaimed,

Bill and Lois Long are your grandparents?! Oh, they used to throw the most wonderful parties!

I had heard about those parties thrown in their Victorian home, more than three decades earlier. My grandparents knew how to work hard and play hard in their thirties. Homecoming weekends were especially full; their friends knew what to expect at the Long house. My mother recalled waking as a child on those Sunday mornings. Descending the stairs, she would peer over the banister to see hungover guests slumbering wherever they had landed in the wee hours.

The woman addressing me thirty years later continued with wide […]