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Longing for Home

I have been away from home a lot this summer. It’s not been vacationing on a beach with a little-umbrella’d drink–I can do that without leaving. My travels have been for ministry purposes with a quick trip to Vancouver for some family time. Despite the good reasons for travel, like most of you, I began to long for home.

For many people, home is a place of love and a place for which we long when we are away. You know the longing for home? Remember when you were first sick while away at university, how you longed for home?  Or during a time of family trial where you longed to be with those that needed you? Maybe a birthday missed?  Do you know those familiar smells, sounds, or sights which bring to memory your love for home?

Most of us love home and when we are away we long to be there.

As Christians, that love and longing for home ought to be a desire for our eternal home as well. We ought to long for heaven and the Christ who dwells there. For heaven is our eternal home.

Do you long for eternity? I don’t think that we consider heaven enough. At […]

Biographies Towards Community

We live in a time when many in the church struggle to connect with other members of the body. Many consider connectedness something that happens online rather than through living in community. If you don’t believe me, ask the closest millennial–his or her deepest relationships may be with people they know via pixels and screens. We are “alone together” as sociologist Sherry Turkle has put it. The struggle for community is a problem in the world and increasingly it is also a problem in the church.

Besides this lack of connection—or communion—the 21st century North American church is also largely ahistorical. Being ahistorical, having a disregard for the history of the church, has led to old errors being revived, to a disconnection with ancient Christianity (hence the number of evangelicals that go to Rome or the Eastern Church in search of historical connection), and to an inability of individual Christians to gauge their experience against the experience of others.

Lack of connection and community, as well as an ahistorical approach to Christianity, has caused a deficiency in the lives of believers. What can be done to help encourage connection, community, and history? There are several vital remedies for regaining vibrant and experiential […]

Violent Peace

The following article was written by Rebekah McIlhenny. Rebekah is a member of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church; a graduate of Covenant College; wife of Ryan (Dr. Mac), and mother of four. In the article, Becky mentions her pastor recently saying something to her about peace. The aforementioned comment occurred at the aforementioned pastor’s dining room table along with additional counsel from the aforementioned pastor’s wife. Freshly brewed coffee and homemade crepes were also present.

Violent Peace originally appeared on Becky’s blog, Mercy for the Macs.

Yesterday one of my sons was involved in a conflict with a fellow student in our homeschool co-op.  The other student claimed he did something hurtful for which my son denies.   I am not sure who is telling the truth. While I am not so biased to believe that my little blond cherub is always telling the truth, I do know he has no talent for lying.  So when I discussed the issue later with the two boys and the student’s mother, I was surprised to learn that my son apologized for what he had done and that everything was resolved.

I am sure the other mom thought I was crazy when I started to ask questions.  I […]

Sweetness of Prayer in the Bitterness of Life

The Christian life is filled with many sorrows–many trials and disappointments. In the midst of those problems, persecutions, disappointments, and discouragements–do not lose hope. Persevere in prayer. Seek sweetness in prayer. When prayers seem to go unanswered, continue to pray by faith that Christ would see you through the trial at hand, because he will! The bitterness is for a season for the believer; and the sweetness is for an eternity.

Calvin, speaking of “unanswered” prayers said:

God, even when he does not comply with our wishes, is still attentive and kindly to our prayers, so that hope relying upon his word will never disappoint us. But believers need to be sustained by this patience, since they would not long stand unless they relied upon it. For the Lord proves his people by no light trials…but often drives them to extremity, and allows them, so driven, to lie a long time in the mire before he gives them any taste of his sweetness… What could they do here but be discouraged and rush into despair if they were not, when afflicted, desolate, and already half-dead, revived by the thought that God has regard for them and will bring an end to their […]

Men’s Breakfast and the Affair of the Sausages

This morning the men of my congregation will join for breakfast as we often do. There will be bacon and sausage consumed. The choice of bacon and sausage is not a protest, but part of the regular menu.

Most won’t think about it at all but will joyfully consume the sausages.

In 1522, in Zurich, Switzerland, a young preacher named Ulrich preached a sermon called “Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen.” My wife would have to help me with the German, but its something to the effect of “On the choice and freedom of foods.”

The argument that young Ulrich Zwingli made was that Christians are free to eat meat or free to not eat meat and the church does not have the right to force God’s people to fast or to abstain from that which God does not command. It was a sermon against Lent.

This sermon went 16th-century-viral and a strangely titled piece of church history was born:

The Affair of the Sausages.

The affair of the sausages was an incident wherein a printer fed his workers, along with some local dignitaries, choice sausages during a March 1522 Lenten fast. This led to the arrest of the merchant-printer for violating the Zurich laws. His […]

To the Nines! Nine Reflections on Pastoral Ministry

This past month I entered my ninth year as an ordained minister of the gospel. The time has gone by quickly and I am thankful for all that the Lord has done through his appointed means of grace. One of the joys of pastoral ministry has been to frequently speak to young men who are considering or preparing for pastoral ministry. “What should I read?” “Where should I go?” “How should I prepare?” Often I will give three pieces of advice for men as they seek preparation for ministry: 1. Don’t be a free agent, be under care of elders at a presbytery level. 2. Be a humanist, read literature widely, don’t get “just” a Bible degree in college; study the original languages. 3. Be a churchman and attend a seminary that is accountable to the church. There are many fine seminary institutions which are accountable to boards, but we need a generation of churchmen—men who love the church and support her institutions.

I am sure that some of the students that God has brought through my congregation can hear me say it now! But for those who are currently in seminary or in their first couple of years of ministry, […]

Pastor, Are You Okay?

As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings… labors, sleepless nights, hunger…with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through…dishonor, through slander… We are treated as impostors…as unknown…as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful…as poor…as having nothing. (Selections from 2 Corinthians 6: 4-10)

The Apostle Paul understood what it meant to fill up the sufferings of Christ. As a servant or minister of the gospel, Paul carried the sufferings of the people of God and described them in terms such as hardship and sorrow.

All ministers of the gospel know something of this suffering. I will be the first to confess that I have had a very joyful and fruitful ministry, harvesting that which others before me planted and watered. Even in the midst of great joy and happiness, however, there is a burden I carry for the church of God that came with my ordination. I carry on my heart and mind the sufferings and trials and hardships and disappointments of the men and women to whom I minister. No amount of seminary preparation could adequately prepare a man for bearing the weight of a […]

What’s Your Moniker?

How we describe ourselves helps others to understand what we value–what and who we are. This is true in multiple spheres of life. In American culture, our “last name” is our family name. In Asian culture, the “first name” is the family name. That says something about what we value. The same can be said for our spiritual life. What is your name? How are you known?

Surprisingly, the New Testament answer may not be the same as the 21st century church’s answer. Sinclair Ferguson, in The Whole Christ, writes:

What is my default way of describing a believer? Perhaps it is exactly that: “believer.” Or perhaps “disciple,” “born-again person,” or “saint” (more biblical but less common in Protestantism!). Most likely it is the term “Christian.”

Yet these descriptors, while true enough, occur relatively rarely in the pages of the New Testament, and the contexts in which it occurs might suggest that it was a pejorative term used of (rather than by) the early church.

New Testament Christians did not think of themselves as “Christians”! But if not, how did they think of themselves?

Contrast these descriptors with the overwhelmingly dominant way the New Testament describes believers. It is that we are “in Christ.” The […]

Gospel Beauty Beyond Syllogisms

The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner. Read it again. The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner.

There is something refreshing about the simplicity of a statement such as this. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Should we not give him praise for this reality? The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

I wonder how often we lose focus on this glorious truth? In our discussions with unbelievers and those who would describe themselves as “seekers” (yes, I know Romans 3:11), we ought to help direct their thinking along these lines as they ask us questions about what it means to be a Christian.

Several weeks ago, I was invited to UCLA to speak at class filled with medievalists and early modern English historians. These post-graduate students were studying the religious writings of England during the Reformation and early Puritan era. I was invited to give a pastoral perspective on the theology of the era and […]

The Trumpet Blasts that Were Never Heard

We live in times where the church is needing to think through her relationship with the state and the rulers over us. This is not the first time in the history of Christianity where we have had to meditate on our doctrine of the magistrate or our relationship to those in authority. This is not the first time that we have had to choose between losing our right hand and losing our left. Where would you turn to read about the relationship between the church and an oppressive government?

Looking for a book on the relationship between the church and a tyrannical government may be useful for the church in the next few decades. Consider the following statements:

* It is not by birth that one can rule over a people; those under him must approve of that rule.
* Those who practice idolatry or are living publicly scandalous lives are not to be placed in public office.
* If a ruler proves to be a tyrant or is willfully disobedient to God’s Word, then not even an oath can keep him in office.
* If people too quickly or without due consideration put someone in office and it is later found that he is […]