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Archive | Mercy

What Remembering the Poor Really Means

When the apostles eventually confirmed the Lord’s commission for Paul to go to the Gentiles, according to him they gave him one final admonition. “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (Gal 2:10). Part and parcel of pastoral and church planting ministry is then this duty to remember the poor. Yet what does it really mean to remember them?

It is easy to associate the word remember simply with the idea of acknowledging or being aware of a circumstance. We can shake our heads sadly and muse, “Yes, it’s too bad there are so many poor people in that part of town.” Like the politician who famously said of the struggling, “I feel your pain” while remaining at a distance from them, we can think it sufficient to know of the existence of the plight of others and feel sorry for them. But in the Bible, to remember means something much more than bringing to mind a matter.

Like many of the commandments found in the New Testament, such as the great commandments to love God and neighbor, this call to remember the poor is an echo of Old Testament law. Israel was […]

J.D. Vance – An Insightful Discussion

On Monday night Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, led a discussion with J.D. Vance, the author of the extremely popular Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The book is a powerful telling of Vance’s own story of growing up in extremely dysfunctional homes, yet moving upwardly in society to become a Marine, college graduate and Yale-trained lawyer. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, especially as a way to begin to understand a group of people not usually in contact with anything approaching a healthy church.

Here are a few of the highlights of the conversation.

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 […]

The Most Hurtful Comments of Job’s Friends?

Each time I read through the drama of the Book of Job, some new theme seems to stick out to me. The limit of Satan’s power. The majesty of God in his creation and rule. The incredible insights into the Lord’s sovereignty. The depths to which human suffering can take us. Or, as James pointed out earlier this year which pertains to the theme I want to share, how the Lord restored Job’s fortunes, including blessing him with children again.

For what has hit me in reading Job in my devotions recently are the hurtful comments his friends make with respect to children. Though Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar made many barbed remarks through the three cycles of their discourse with Job that impugned his character, questioned his faith, and mocked his knowledge, perhaps the ones that must have struck most deeply into the heart of Job were the ones they spoke regarding children?

Before I point these remarks out, remember the context. Job had seven sons and three daughters (1:2). The sons appeared to have been adult males at the time, each having their own homes. Apparently, during a season of the year much like the holiday time we are currently in, they […]

RPIC 2016 Messages

As Nathan explained a few days ago, several of us at Gentle Reformation were at the quadrennial Reformed Presbyterian International Conference last week. A number of people have inquired how they might listen to the messages that were given at the conference, so I thought it would be helpful to have the links collected in one place for easy reference.

Preaching Sessions

Several brothers preached throughout the week. I was grateful to sit under the Word as they brought powerful, relevant, and searching messages to us.

A Child’s Powerful Witness (II Kings 5:1-5) | Gordon Keddie

Power. Prayer. Providence. (Ephesians 3:7-21) | Matt Kingswood

Seasoned for the Flames (Matthew 5:1-16) | Jeff Stivason

Can You See It? (Nehemiah 6) | Peter Smith

Plenary Sessions

I spoke five times on the theme of “The Sacrificing Church: Ministering Faithfully as Priests in the Local Congregation.”

The Sacrificing Church As a Worshiping Temple (I Peter 2:4-10)

The Sacrificing Church As a Praying Priesthood (Revelation 8:1-5)

The Sacrificing Church As a Believing Community (Romans 12:1-21)

The Sacrificing Church As a Merciful People (James 1:26-2:13)

The Sacrificing Church As a Mission Outpost (Hebrews 10:19-39)

Do Justice

In mercy ministry, often Micah 6:8 is used for motivation and guidance for obvious reasons.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

So many churches and relief agencies want to be merciful and give every indication of being those who “love kindness.” But what about that justice part?

The liberal gospel of the last century has fueled several generations of mercy work in ecclesiastical, missions, relief work, and government quarters. Generally speaking, this influence has created a mercy paradigm practiced in the West that has resulted in such things as aid without accountability, food without thought instead of food for thought, and works that make us feel good but do not help people become good.

However, one cannot be one dimensional in mercy work. To truly help others out of the pit of poverty, a triple-corded “justice-doing, mercy-loving, humble-walking” rope must be offered to them.

In this “I-just-want-to-be-loved” age, that justice strand can be the most difficult one to cultivate and intertwine with the others. What are some ways “doing justice” can be encouraged in mercy ministry? Here are five ideas.

Preserve initiative. Often mercy ministries dim the drive […]

Learning More about Caring for the Widow

How does one help the widow practically? Even as I am currently teaching a class on mercy at the seminary, I am being taught this anew by my congregation.

On Saturday afternoon I had the privilege of joining around twenty men and young boys at the home of Nellie, who with her four young children tragically lost their husband and father a few years ago. One of the elders in our congregation, Herb, has organized a remodeling project on her old farmhouse that the congregation has slowly but surely been working on over that time. A new porch and kitchen have already been added, and the next phase will add on some living space and much needed bedrooms. In order to accomplish this goal, the old kitchen had to be torn off the back of the house.

So that is what we did Saturday. By the time I arrived, the men, wielding crowbars and sledgehammers, had already knocked down the walls and removed much of the roof. Nellie’s dad’s truck was piled high with the beams and boards, then taken to a big pile in a nearby field to be unloaded for a future bonfire that will undoubtedly make a huge blaze. Teenage boys shoveled plaster […]

Stop the Conversation Stoppers!

As Bible-believing Christians continue to speak out against sinful, seismic social changes and against atrocities enacted in the name of health care, they are met with predictable charges of hypocrisy.  “You have no right to protest when people of your faith fail so miserably to tangibly care for the people you claim to champion.”  Despite the civilization shaking significance of the evil these Christians decry, some people are far more interested in decrying (sometimes without specific example) the evil of Christian hypocrisy.  The mere existence of Christian hypocrisy apparently invalidates all public Christian protests.   We could expect such thinking and accusations from opponents of Christianity.   What’s unnerving is that these predictable accusations and the imbalanced moral outrage they represent are coming more and more from Bible-believing Christians.      

Poor Laws in an Age of False Beneficence

Whether it is teaching classes on mercy ministry or counseling with others on a case involving someone needy, again and again I find the church struggling to know what to do in helping the poor.  Often I start by telling folks that it is good they are struggling, because every situation will be difficult to discern.  Beware of the one who comes in with the quick, easy answer!

But then I also will ask, “What does the Bible have to say in cases like this one?”  People often fumble around a bit at this question.  Usually a mention of how we have an obligation to care for the needy or a reference to the story of the Good Samaritan is offered by the sensitive, tender-hearted ones on the one hand; and remarks about the poor needing to learn to work or how we cannot be giving handouts to every drunkard comes from the bolder, more stout-hearted folks on the other.  Too infrequently do I hear a reasoned articulation coming from the Scriptures that echoes with the proper Micah 6:8 blend: “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The location of this verse just quoted explains why.  Notice Micah 6:8 is in the Old Testament. […]

Mercy and the Westminster Publick Directory of Worship

In teaching on mercy ministry in Reformed settings, I often use the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) to make a point. The RPW teaches that we are only to worship God as He commands us to do so in Scripture. In considering matters of worship, many Reformed Christians, rightly so, insist on regulating carefully by the Word of God what takes place in the church’s worship of God.

So as I address mercy and worship, I like to say there is another RPW.  Not only must we be careful to regulate our worship according to God’s Word, but we must also be diligent to insure that God’s Word is regulating us, especially in the area of mercy. Repeatedly, God’s Word emphasizes as we come into His presence that He is examining us to see if we are caring for the poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan as we ought.  Just two samples among dozens that could be given:

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.  Rescue the weak and needy; […]