RSS feed for this section

Archive | Ministry

Presbyterian Partiality?

I’m hoping to preach on the sin of partiality tomorrow evening from James 2.1-7.

In preparing, yesterday morning, I was really surprised to discover that one of the chief reasons or motivations for the prohibition of prejudice is the doctrine of election!

“Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith & heirs of the Kingdom, which God has promised to those who love him?”

It actually makes me wonder why we, in particular, as died-in-the-wool Calvinists, fall into the trap of ‘Presbyterian Partiality’ (apologies in advance to other readers)? There are strong reasons why ‘The Reformed’ (for want of a better term), of all people, should be less vulnerable or prone to this sin.

We ought to have a strong doctrine of scripture. Yet exegesis of the text forbids partiality in church, James 2.1, which in comparison to Saviour is an inglorious sin:

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.”

The definition of Thayer helps us get a better handle on the problem of partiality which is:

“…the fault of one who when called on to requite or to give judgment has respect to the outward […]

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 […]

Coming February 2017–The Jerusalem Chamber

The Jerusalem Chamber is a unique collaborative podcast between pastors Shawn Anderson, Kyle Borg, Nathan Eshelman, and Joel Wood to provide a round table discussion on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

The Jerusalem Chamber gets its name from the meeting room at Westminster Abbey where, from 1643-1653, the Westminster Divines met to produce, among other things, the Westminster Confession of Faith. This confession remains one of the most enduring summaries of evangelical truth and remains the teaching of Presbyterian churches. Far from being an irrelevant relic of the past, it is our belief that the health of the church depends on continuing to pattern our doctrine, worship, and piety after it.

There are many good commentaries and works that explore the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The uniqueness of The Jerusalem Chamber podcast is that it provides an audio discussion with pastoral application of every paragraph of the confession. In February 2017 join Shawn, Kyle, Nathan, and Joel–four good friends and fellow pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America–as they discuss “the humble advice of the Assembly of Divines.”

Find them at: www.JerusalemChamber.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Dodecahedron of Deception

In about 12 hours times I’ll be back in the pulpit! Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll preach two Lord’s Day sermons, to the hearers in the congregation over which I have charge as a pastor.

How healthy, once again, to reflect on the timely warning James gives to would-be hearers lest they become ‘sermon-tasters’. It is also a forceful reminder to pray for the sort of Word-doing that is part & parcel of proper Word-hearing.

James puts this matter of sermon application so unforgettably in 1.22 of his epistle:

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Having taken a few moments to identify some traps that ensnare sermon hearers each week, I have begun to realise how multifaceted this sermon-tasting deception can be. This explains in part the slightly weird title ‘Dodecahedron of Deception.’ Here, then, are twelve traps & pitfalls, that hearers may fall into & must prayerfully seek help to avoid or escape, when they attend their meeting-house tomorrow!

We deceive ourselves when….

1. We apply the message to others for whom we feel the sermon is most fitting, whilst failing to apply it to our own case & heart, for which God intended it.

2. We take great delight in the subject, style, sound or structure […]

The Blessing of Being Uncomfortable

Last week I had the privilege of preaching at the installation service of a dear friend who has been in the ministry for over a decade and has just taken a call to one of the largest and healthiest congregations in his denomination.  He is a very gifted man, and I am confident that the Lord will bless his ministry there.  I have the feeling that his congregation could sit back and relax and that things will run pretty well for the foreseeable future.  Of course, there will be the challenging shepherding situation here and there, the wayward child of the congregation who needs attention, disagreements about what Sunday school classes to offer next quarter, discussions about how much to give to this or that missionary endeavor, debates over how much to spend on the update to the nursery, and a hundred other similar types of issues to address.  But, by-and-large, the congregation will hum along and everyone involved will enjoy a comfortable situation.  They will receive a high degree of pastoral care from the pastors and elders.  They will hear good preaching on a consistent basis.  They will have interesting Bible studies and classes to attend.  The church will […]

My Top Ten Suggestions for New Pastors

As still a rather newish seminary professor, I am growing accustomed to seeing yet another batch of graduates go off into their first pastorate. I regularly get asked for a tip or two about what to do upon arrival (or sometimes I just offer them without being asked!). So I thought I would give ten of them that I regularly pass along one way or the other. Though surely there are others who have given such a list (Ah! A quick Google search after I compiled my list netted this one from the Banner and another one from Thom Rainer for some other ideas), here is mine for what it’s worth.

1) Form an external prayer team before you arrive. As Paul asked others to pray for his ministry (Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3-4), so it is wise to ask for prayer support to sustain you through those early days. Giving friends and family who know you best some specific prayer items to ask the Lord to go before your arrival will best insure your paths will be straight.

2) Systematically visit with the congregation through your first year. Getting to know your new flock is essential to properly caring for them (Prov 27:23). Whether going […]

Refreshment on Revival

At last…..  almost a month without proper internet access & the stress of moving to a new house. Which reminds me of a few thoughts I had some time ago on Revival from Zechariah 1.1-6….

Exile was now over. The people had returned. State-sponsored rebuilding of the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem had been decreed by Cyrus . The harsh reality of life in the Empire back in their homeland which had not, as yet, lived up to their dreams of restoration. The Jews as a consequence had grown spiritually gloomy and cold. So the Prophet of God is sent to stir up his returned Church. There are at least ten lessons or principles the Spirit gives us which help us think properly about revival…

1. The Church always tends to decline so is constantly in need of revival v4.

2. Church revival comes through the efficacious preaching of the Word of God v1, 3 & 6.

3. Church revival comes with messages which place a stress on sinful behaviour or practice & the need for the grace of repentance v2, 4 & 6.

4. Church revival comes after a period of chastening & acknowledgment of waywardness on the part of the people of God v6b.

5. Church revival is forgotten by previous generations […]

‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’

I’m sitting in Terminal C in Newark airport waiting for the (increasingly delayed) departure of my flight to Belfast. I have earplugs in my ears and an iPad on my lap as I try to redeem the time. I’m on my way home from the annual Pastors’ Conference organised and hosted by Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, New Jersey, and thought I would write a few words by way of reflection on this year’s conference, which took as its theme faithfulness in ministry.

It’s a vital biblical emphasis isn’t it? Going the distance, come what may; and not just staying in the ministry until the end, but to do so without compromising the biblical convictions we began with; and not just staying the course without compromise but growing in zeal and knowledge and love for God and his people. How many Pastors long for a success in ministry that has less to do with faithfulness and more to do with the kind of status symbols pursued by the people of the world: big numbers, a high profile and far-reaching influence. Not that it’s impossible to desire these things for good and holy reasons, but more often the temptation is to want them […]

Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am […]

To Condemn Surfing? Define Your Christianity.

“Protestant missionaries… had forced surfing deep into the shadows… To Calvinists, surfing was a sinful exercise, leading only to unbridled licentiousness and godless impiety. Go surfing they pronounced from their pulpits, and eternal flames awaited.” Pacific, 131.

Simon Winchester (one of my favorite authors) makes this passing statement  about surfing and 1820’s Hawaiian Calvinism. Calvinism is condemned in less than forty words in the midst of a 492 page book which concerns the ecological, international, and economic importance of the Pacific Ocean. Why did Calvinism get discredited in the midst of a discussion on the ocean? With no footnote or historical anecdote, the assertion was made that Calvinists believe that surfing leads to hell’s flame.

I am not arguing that such condemnations have never been made. Somewhere someone at some time has most-likely condemned wave riding, yet Winchester’s statement demonstrates that outside of the church people have presuppositions about what defines the Christian. People assume they know what is Christianity. That assumption is based on how we reflect Christianity; how we define it. To an unbelieving world, we define Christianity, not in our words only — but also in our actions.

What defines you?

What defines your Christianity?

Is it defined by a condemnation of surfing or some other lawful activity? Is […]