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Archive | Discipleship

The Expectation of Fasting

When Jesus was asked a question on the subject of fasting as recorded in Matthew 9, he answered in a way that God’s people should well understand.  He used a wedding metaphor.

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’” (Matt. 9:14-15)

The basic lesson of this metaphor is that fasting is like waiting for a wedding. Better yet, fasting is like the bride longing for the wedding and bringing it more quickly by that longing. It is asking the lover of your soul to come and make a holy visitation.

With this metaphor, Jesus explained that his disciples were not fasting at the time because he was with them. But when he would leave to go to heaven where he is now, note what he says will happen. Look at the last three words of verse 15: “they will fast.” Jesus expects Christians to fast.

Our Lord made that clear earlier in the gospel of Matthew. […]

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, […]

Browse Worthy: Digital Detox with David Murray

Our friend David Murray at HeadHeartHand has written a number of helpful articles as well as collected others on practicing what he calls “Digital Detox.” If you pick up your smartphone like an addict does a needle, you know what he means. We need the helpful ways he offers to navigate our online time more successfully, protect ourselves from its intoxicating and harmful influences, and be more Spirit-filled in the process.

Rather than listing here all of the resources, David has already done this for us on his blog. He has created a page that he will keep updating through the 2017 year. Simply go to the link below, and may the Lord help us live in freedom rather than cyber slavery.

Digital Detox Resources | David Murray

The Evil of Sin

In his extraordinarily useful book A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry includes a large section on repentance, which begins with these words:

Having given glory to God which is his due, we must next take shame to ourselves, which is our due, and humble ourselves before him in the sense of our sinfulness and vileness…

With many examples, he demonstrates effective prayers of repentance. To the modern reader, what may stand out the most is the acknowledgement of sin’s evil. It’s one thing to admit we’re sinners and name our sins before God. It’s equally important to stare at those sins long enough to own and feel our shame as well as our guilt. (Henry says we are to “aggravate” or poke at them until we see them for what they really are.)

Toward that end, here are two aspects of the evil-ness of our sin which God has recently shown me very clearly.

Humbling Hezekiahs

What minister is entirely free from the vestiges of self? Is it not the very best, most effective, most productive pastors who are most frequently assaulted by temptations to pride? Is it not a humbling fact that the hearts of Christian elders are so easily puffed up? If Satan was the originator of pride, and if sinners, at times, seem to thrive and revel in pride, is not every believer also in danger of succumbing to pride?

Such questions and thoughts as these have been whizzing round my neurones since the case of Hezekiah came before my mind. What, we have to ask, was going through his brain when he committed this sin? So I started to attempt to tease out the thought processes of one of Judah’s stellar monarchs. I began to meander my way slowly through the accounts of the sin of Hezekiah in scripture (2 Kings 20.12-19; 2 Chronicles 32.24-31; Isaiah 39.1-8). I was rocked by the force of the many valuable and instructive lessons and warnings to be scavenged from the spiritual carrion of the accounts of the carcass-like sin of the pride of Hezekiah.

1. Godly leaders who do much for the wellbeing of the Kingdom and honour of the House of God are still capable of committing serious, disgraceful sins that […]

An Emoji Testimony

I want to give you a simple way to share your faith. Not trivialize it, as the title of this post could imply, but help solidify it in your heart and mind as a ready way to share the hope of Christ in you. Let me explain.

In Matthew 13, our Lord told a parable likening the kingdom of God to a sower sowing seeds indiscriminately. Regardless of the soil type – hard, rocky, weedy, or fertile – the sower just threw out the seed. Later, when Jesus explained the parable to his disciples, he told them the seed was God’s Word and the soils represented people’s hearts. Though other applications can be made from this parable, one thing we learn is that we are to be liberally and widely sharing God’s Word with others.

Often, we stop short of testifying to Christ with unbelievers around us, be it a neighbor, a co-worker, an acquaintance, or even a longtime friend because we simply do not know what to say. We are unprepared, and I know many Christians can also feel unqualified to speak.

Yet this parable should encourage us in at least two ways. First, it reminds us that we are not accountable for […]

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 […]

In Awe of the Aged

Have you ever met a mature Christian?  That question’s not meant to be snarky, no matter how many smirks it may inspire.  It’s meant to call attention to the truly special experience of interacting with people who sincerely (and sometimes unknowingly) exude from the core of their being what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5).  Their demeanor is calm and calming.  Ordinary conversations with them feel holy, and when you leave, you feel understood, taken seriously, and loved.  These people scare the stuff out of me.     

Fair-Weather Friends And Family

“‘Tis the season to be jolly!” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” That’s what most will have said over the recent festive season of Christmas & New Year. Of course the reality is quite different …many are not wonderfully jolly but lonely, suffering, grieved, anxious, elderly, heartbroken or ill; yet a few others are staring into the dark tunnel of terminal illness. Some of these dear folks are well-known to us as family, friends, believing brothers & sisters, colleagues or neighbours. This is their season to be sorry …the most dreaded, dark & dreary time of the year!

Of course any pangs of conscience that we might have been susceptible to over recent weeks, have largely been suppressed by the drip-feed of on-line entertainment and merriment – as we enjoyed & indulged ourselves to the full (or to excess), we almost entirely forgot about them: we barely gave them a thought & refused to let their needs & suffering interfere or impinge in any way with our festive schedule. Strange we should be able to find so much time for those who could repay us with presents or pleasure. The shocking thing is we did not have to be taught to […]

Reject the Choice

…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:14-16)

 

Should a church be focused on proclaiming God’s Word or organizing and promoting ministries of interpersonal mentoring and discipleship? The goal of this short post is simply to reject the false dilemma this question poses.