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The One Foundation of Ministry

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more…
Philippians 1:8-9

My wife and I sat down to dinner at my professor’s home in the last couple months of our seminary training. Glad to receive this invitation, we enjoyed their warm hospitality and genuine care for us. Thinking ahead to being ordained in a few weeks, I decided to seize the opportunity and asked rather abruptly, “What advice would you give to a new pastor?” 

Some Encouragments To Frequent Prayer

Out walking our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog this evening on a lovely summer’s evening.

Here are some thoughts from a conversation that I had with my wife, on the stroll, as to reasons we should delight to pray often.

First God’s Open Access Policy. Round the clock, day and night, the Father’s door is open to hear His children’s prayers.

Second Our Great High Priest. Christ is engaged in continual everlasting intercession for His people in order that their persons and prayers may find acceptance with the Father – Hebrew 4.14-16.

Third Believers Sin Frequently. More than we know, we are in constant need of ongoing confession, cleansing of conscience, and assurance of pardon, so keeping our list short and confession up to date is best – 1 John 1.5-10.

Fourth Saints Need Much Grace. To keep our vows, fulfill our duties, know God’s will, meditate on truth, enjoy Christian fellowship, cherish our relationships, obey the commandments with joy, thanksgiving, devotion, sacrifice and kindness requires more faith than we have and more grace than we seek.

Fifth Prayer Lists Are Long. Luther did not always pray 3 hours a day. Sometimes, he said, that his dog was keener on eating dinner than his master was eager […]

Comfort for Cross-Bearing. Calvin on the Intercession of the Spirit – A Few Notes On Romans 8.26-27

1. Activity – the Spirit Himself does not actually intercede for us: this rather is Paul’s way of expressing that God, by His Spirit, moves us to prayer.
2. Reason – this work takes place in us because our minds are so disturbed by our trials, that we do not know how to frame our thoughts properly; anyway, all prayer, is Spirit-generated prayer, without whose help, we could not pray properly from the heart. “Our thoughts nevertheless continue oppressed with darkness, until the Spirit guides them by His light.”
3. Manner – God, “…by the secret impulse of His Spirit, knocks at our door, and thus opens for himself our hearts,” in order that we might formulate each and every syllable of the proper language of prayer. “He also affects our heart in such a way, that these desires by their fervency penetrate into heaven itself.”
4. Comfort – the fact that we even have this prayer stirred up by God, is a sign of celestial favor already shining forth, if, even though, for a time, our prayers go unanswered.
5. Effect – we are taught by the Spirit how to pray and what to ask for in our prayers.
6. Grace – we thus […]

A Call To Closeness

O Soul Are You Weary And Troubled

Perhaps like me, at this time in the year, you’re getting rather jaded. Rest and relaxation is usually ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even more important you need to recharge your batteries and get spiritually refreshed. So, as I blog tonight, I want to encourage you not just to take a time out, but to spend more time with God, to draw closer in your walk.

A Prompt to Closeness

As providence would have it, I’ve just been asked this week to write a short series of four articles on prayer. This is one occasion when I can honestly ask ‘Why me?’. It is true that a closer walk with God has been on my heart for years. Yes it’s been my deep desire for months to devote myself to prayer. I suspect many of us feel mere novices in prayer. I trust that this series will not go directly from head to pen but, en route, will traverse the deep wells of my soul!

Finally Unpacking Book Boxes

About the middle of the week I finally got around to putting up more shelves and unpacking long-boxed books. We moved in the Fall and I’m down to the final thousand […]

The Blessings of Ministry

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 
Romans 1:11-12

There are real costs to ministry. If you decide to give yourself in ministering to others (which seems more like a Biblical command than an option), it will cost your time, energy, money, sometimes even your reputation. Because it’s often fighting an uphill battle, ministry tends to wear us down, and we end up hearing statistics about pastors leaving the pastorate and how hard it is to get people involved in real, spiritual ministry to each other.

Maybe a little selfishness is in order. Maybe we’ve spoken too much about the costs of ministry but not the blessings.

Prayer that Cheers

Introduction
Do you feel down in the dumps? Do you struggle with yourself? Does life ever overwhelm you? Has your faith become a drudgery? Are the storms of life upsetting? Is your service for Christ costly? If you take advice from James you’ll certainly get help.

Context
The theme that runs through James is ‘You need a faith that works!’ He’s given some spiritual litmus to see how faith is firing: like how you handle treasures, endure trials and control tongues. His closing comments focus on the need for fervent prayer. To have a faith that works you’ll be often on your knees.

Text
Chapter 5.13 is where I want to take your heart. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Don’t think prayer a chore! God gives it for your cheer. Prayer brings some cheer in your tears. Prayer adds more cheer by your songs.

Subjects of Cheering Prayer
James gives no exemptions. Anyone is all-inclusive. All believers are beneficiaries in the bending of their knees. Husbands, wives, elders, deacons, men, women, parents, children, young, old, princes, citizens may receive this cheering help. Did my list exclude you? Cheer up Christ includes you!

Examples of Cheering Prayer
The apostle stops […]

The Gospel Reformation Network

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Presbyterian Church in America‘s General Assembly in Greensboro, NC. Held in the spacious accommodations of the Khoury Convention Center, the week had a feel of a reunion to it. PCA ministers and elders greeted one another warmly and enjoyed extended fellowship with one another. Many of the men brought their families with them, and the wives and children would mill about as they waited on their dad to rejoin them after a meeting. As a guest, I was made to feel welcome throughout the week.

The deliberations and events surrounding the gathering of this nation’s largest conservative Presbyterian denomination were quite remarkable. Observing meetings and debates held in an assembly that is three times the size of the House of Representatives was quite an experience. Walking down hallways and regularly seeing leading Christian teachers and authors such as Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, or Kevin DeYoung made me realize again just how “resource rich” the PCA truly is. Over a hundred exhibitors of Christian ministries filled a ballroom and spilled over into other hallways with booths offering literature, products for sale, or little freebies (the RUF tin can mints was the best give-away item […]

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 […]

Mercies in Mission

This is just a brief ‘diary entry’ after day 2 of my current pastoral visit to two missionary families in Nantes, West France.

After waking up late and bleary-eyed on Friday morning (having tried unsuccessfully to stay awake for the UK General Election results the night before), I grabbed a bite of breakfast, a mug of coffee, and headed off to our Team Meeting.

I began our time by reading Romans 1.1-17. I briefly stressed Paul’s note of thanksgiving and desire for mutual encouragement expressed in v7-12, in their saving Gospel faith v16-17, which is located in the promised, incarnate, risen, glorified Christ v1-6:

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long […]

A Banner Day or Two

From Tuesday afternoon until later today I am at the Banner of Truth’s 2017 US Minister’s Conference. This conference is a refreshing time for pastors, elders, and ministerial students in so many ways. Here are a few highlights to share with you.

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The Banner offered scholarships to seminary students, so I had the joy of traveling out with three men training with us at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Having extended time like that with the guys outside the classroom is a blessing. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a rest area. The other American and I quickly ordered our burgers and sat down, only to find our two Asian friends had brought their own zongzi for lunch. They shared with us the zongzi, a leaf-wrapped meal containing a special, sweetish rice with peanuts, beans, and a date, and told us it was in honor of “Dragon Boat Day” in Asia, an annual holiday with a fascinating story behind it. The learning started before I even arrived at the conference.

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Over 300 are in attendance at the Banner conference this year, held on the beautiful, accommodating campus of Elizabethtown College. The theme is “The […]