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Archive | Discipleship

In it for the long haul?

Just back from an unexpected house visit at the end of a 3rd hot sunny day in Nantes (I can sense you feel my pain!).

We were just finishing our evening meal with our host missionary couple, when the phone went – a separated, middle-aged, French lady was on the other end of the line: she needed a male hand lifting a washing-machine out of her apartment and putting into her car boot (trunk).

This lady turned out to be a long-term, 25 year, contact – she hadn’t been seen or heard of for quite some time. However, even though we were a little skeptical as to the value of accepting the challenge, off the three of us went, to help her bear the weight.

Once the fuse had been replaced (she hadn’t mentioned that in the call, and none of us are electrically minded), the power turned on, and the washing-machine transferred as required, suddenly, and surprisingly, we began to get into a conversation about the Jeremiah, Israel, Christ and the Bible. For almost thirty minutes we talked in-depth about spiritual matters.

What was the verdict of the missionary? Well he was genuinely, pleasantly, delighted: “The best conversation we’ve had with her in […]

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 […]

Strangers in Saunas – Update 2

Just back from my Monday lunchtime swim at the gym – thought it might be good to pass on some more information.

Up to 60 lengths today – please don’t get visions of a Bluefin Tuna gliding effortlessly from end to end. My aquatics are more akin to that of the Humpback Whale!

The main thing learnt today in the Steam Room was God’s sovereignty over circumstances.

After entering and sitting I tried to start the conversation with a middle-aged guy in the corner by saying: ‘They could do with a light in here!’ I’ve often thought that to myself, so it seemed a reasonable introduction. Well, to my surprise there was no response at all. Just long silence for the next 5 minutes.

My next attempt was more fruitful: ‘The weather’s great, isn’t it?’ Now it just happens to have been the driest April on record in Northern Ireland. Yesterday also just happened to be a real ‘blue-sky belter-of-a-day’ (sorry if these colloquialisms seem strange across the pond!).

Suddenly the stranger perked up – it seems I’d struck the conversation-opener jackpot. ‘Yeh!’ he agreed. ‘Spent the whole day up the Mournes!’ (our local mountain range and of Don McLean fame).

‘Climbing were you?’ I inquired […]

Young People Also Need an Abundance of Counselors

“How should we have other people involved in discipling our children in their adolescent years?” In a recent panel discussion on discipleship in the church I pastor, that question was asked. The Scriptures teach us that “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). This truth holds for groups and individuals. The Apostle John and Timothy both benefited at a very young age from the mentoring of men beyond their own family, and we should not be afraid to emulate examples like these in the Scriptures as we seek godly mentors for our teenagers.

There are risks involved. We must take the necessary precautions as we encourage our young people to seek wisdom and help from others who can disciple them in ways we cannot as their parents. But the far greater risk is in leaving our teenagers isolated and disconnected.

Since every situation is different, there is no fixed way to bring the right influences into the lives of our adolescent children. Proverbs 27:10 instructs us “Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,” and so we understand that it is important for our children to know and be […]

Hezekiah My Hero

I’ve just finished reading through 1 & 2 Kings, in Hebrew, last Friday. For the sins of King Manasseh, the nation of Judah was finally thrust out into the judgment of Exile to Babylon.

Hezekianic Analysis

Some weeks ago I did a blog entitled ‘Humbling Hezekiahs’. I had been reminded at that time about the danger of pride in leaders, particularly after times of successes. Re-reading the life and times of Hezekiah has given me a fresh more positive take on his reign – I’ve recently declared in church ‘Hezekiah is my new hero!’

Hezekianic Text

The bit of the text by which I was struck like a thunderbolt was 2 Kings 18.3:

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David, his father, had done. He removed the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

There is far more to Hezekiah than initially meets the gaze. His reign concluded in a downfall caused by pride, when self-interest finally trumped and eclipsed a career […]

With Him by Ken G. Smith

At the end of last week, I had the privilege of visiting with Ken Smith. Ken was my pastor when I was in seminary years ago. His Spirit-filled preaching, the warm hospitality he and Floy always gave us, and Friday morning prayer times with him and a few other men were just some of the ways he ministered to me during those years. I learned so much from him then, and now that I am back in the Pittsburgh area he has again been a rich source of encouragement to me. So I have not only heard him teach, but experienced him practicing, the truth contained in the title of his new book With Him.

This short volume on this simple yet profound principal of discipleship is chocked full with insights into Jesus’ way of working with men. As the Scriptures tell us, our Lord chose his disciples to be “with him” (Mark 3:14). Ken demonstrates from Christ’s life that the most powerful way of developing another is to take him or her with you as you minister and live. He also develops how other key biblical figures practiced the with him principal, backs it up with the teaching of others, and shares wonderful anecdotes […]

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 […]

What is the Point of Church?

The following is a guest post by J.K. Wall who is a writer in Indianapolis. His modernized abridgment of William Symington’s work, Messiah the Prince Revisited, was published in 2014 by Crown & Covenant Publications. You can e-mail him at jk.wall@gmail.com.

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During a chat at a restaurant last month a dear friend, who hasn’t attended church regularly for years, claimed that church is unnecessary for true Christian faith.

In other words, Who even needs the church? What’s the point?

This is a burning question for many today, especially Millennials. They find Christians a group of people they don’t want to associate with. They are turned off by pervasive hypocrisy and legalism among modern American Christians—at least in the conservative circles in which this friend and I have moved. They especially don’t like the overt politicization of many evangelical churches by the Religious Right movement. And they don’t see why going to a building with a bunch of people once a week has any effect on what they believe.

I didn’t have a great answer for my friend’s question that night. But here is what I should have said:

You can’t be anything individually without having a relationship with others.”

You can’t be a writer […]

What to Pray for Your Church

The following article is a guest post by Pastor Bob Hemphill. Bob is a RPCNA minister and church planter who recently retired after decades of service. He is the author of the Windmill Pete series of books for children.

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How long, O LORD, will I call for help and you will not hear? I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save.” -Habakkuk 1:2

The prophet cries for help in the manner of the Psalm writers. However, it is not a personal problem he brings to the Lord. He is asking God to deal with sin in Judah, to discipline and purify God’s people.

Can you find anywhere in the Bible the typical prayer of so many of us pastors and members of churches, a prayer for God to add people and make the church bigger? I don’t think so.

The prayers of believers in the Bible, when it comes to Christ’s Church, are either of the Habakkuk type – Lord, purify us, cleanse us, turn our hearts back to you, cause us to bring glory to your name; or they are of the Apostle Paul type – Lord, save the lost, cause them to repent and believe, bring them into your kingdom, write them in the […]

Strangers in Saunas – Update

For those who of you who are wondering how things are going in my local health club in Belfast, or praying for the ‘strangers in saunas’ with whom I was conversing, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief update:

I’m not sure how a clerical collar would look in the sauna, but I was tempted to consider, for future ventures, wearing a ‘onesy’ or ‘Lycra body suit’ or a bathrobe, following my next encounter with another stranger in the sauna. Perhaps you may have guessed, by my slightly prudish comments, it was an older lady who entered the sauna a couple of days later. Happily we were seated in opposite corners of the sauna, but it didn’t take too long before she introduced herself, WAIT FOR IT, by her christian name FAITH.

Well, after I had recovered from the surprise (o ye of little faith!), I couldn’t help but ask “Well, tell me FAITH ….do you have faith?” It turns out, actually, that she does – and she also attends a local church, whose former minister I know of (who is, I think, very mildly evangelical). Anyway, she goes to church regularly, and expressed her thanks for the pastoral care […]