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A Simple Treatment for Ministry Weariness

What do you do with moments of battle weariness in life and in ministry? The moment may come after great triumph, inglorious defeat, or during an extended sequence of months of working though the daily grind.

After we’ve spent ourselves for the Lord and for others, we find ourselves…well, spent. Shot. Exhausted. Ready to quit. Ready for heaven.

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Ed Robson, pointed us to Elijah for a simple, initial answer on such days. 

The prophet Elijah labored under great duress. He declared to King Ahab that there would be three years of drought in ancient Israel; that’s not exactly a formula to win friends and influence people (1 Kings 17). Elijah lived as a wanted man; Ahab searched everywhere for him. The Lord spared his life in a cave by the brook Cherith, where ravens fed him. Still, imagine the daily pressure of being discovered. He drank of that brook until in dried up. He suffered, along with the rest of the nation.

Following Elijah’s ministry to the widow at Zerephath, God sent him to confront King Ahab as recounted in 1 Kings 18. That was three years after his initial prophecy of drought, and he was not a […]

Surely God is in this place

Parked automobiles lined the road in all directions! Around five hundred people packed into the Meeting House and adjoining buildings! They had assembled with love and kindness to express their sympathy and care. A grieving godly family was there to welcome and receive comfort and prayers from sorrowing friends – the pervading sense was one of calm hope, trusting peace and confident joy – at what was for all, I think, an unexpected funeral service.

After a number of tributes from close family and their young minister, a call to worship was given and the precentor stood to lead. As his arms undulated gently, and his sweet voice rebounded from rafters, a grave and glad sweet melody united loving hearts. Ministers and members stood in earnest to seek, and call on, God. A close friend, and minister, then read the Holy Scriptures, his cadences marked by affection, reverence, gravity and warmth. Again a Psalm was sung that summed up God’s servant’s life! Fruitful, full, well-planted, full of sap: all the self-evident outcome in God’s oaks rooted in His House by grace.

The ministers stood in the midst! Surrounding the man of God was a sea of solemn worshipers – here hearts were […]

The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly

A few weeks ago I was driving in the car with an elderly gentleman, recently widowed, as my traveling companion. He’s a lovely, Christian neighbor who never looks at a computer. So he will not read this article. Yet what follows I would not mind at all if he knew. Unknowingly that day, he was teaching me much more than he realized.

For as we spent time in the car, you can imagine quite easily what transpired. He told stories about his life, his family, his work, and the community. Yes, because we have been friends for a number of years, many of these stories I had already heard. Some of them I have even heard numerous times before. And one or two of them were even repeated during the same car trip.

That day got my pastoral wheels turning. Why might the Lord, in his grace, cause the aged to repeat themselves as they do? What is the Lord showing us through it? Rather than rolling our eyes or thinking “Here goes Grandma again,” what can be gained from these times? Here are five brief thoughts for you to consider.

Listening to the elderly reminds them of their legacy in our lives. Typically […]

Wanting to Silence those who Show us up?

Introduction

I’m planning to preach tomorrow on the murder by Cain of Abel. Time is pressing on so I’ll try to be fairly brief.

Text

John brings out Cain’s main motive for his murderous act, in 1 John 3.12:

“We should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous!”

The word ‘RIGHTEOUS’ shows us that the deeds of Abel conformed to the standard God set, whereas, in comparison, in the case of Cain, they fell woefully far short.

The problem with Cain’s offering?

The problem with the gift was neither that it was cereal, nor just a token expression (this common popular interpretation is probably a part but not the heart of the matter), nor even because there was no blood (blood, of course, was required for without death of a sacrificial victim there is no pardon or acceptance – Moses is teaching Israel, in Genesis, during their wilderness wanderings, so mention of gifts, lambs and fat parts assumes some kind of knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system): have there not been many false religions in history that offered blood of sacrificial victims […]

Very Able Servants in the Church?

There are hundreds of names in the Books of Chronicles, hundreds of those who served the Lord and were a part of the godly heritage making up what we call the church. In the midst of those hundreds of names, there is a short comment from the chronicler making note of one family’s abilities in the service of God.

First Chronicles 9:13 records that this family included “…very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.” That’s an interesting phrase: “very able men.” Hopefully all of us would desire to be found “very able” under the blessing of God. But clearly this was not very common in the service of God. Not all are very able.

This is the only list in both books of the Chronicles that are designated with this description. Out of hundreds of church-working families—only this one was seen as very able. What does that tell us about the work that each of us have to do in the life of the church? The fact that the Word of God reminds us that this one was able leads us to conclude that there are those who are NOT very able in the service […]

Will you pray for laborers in 2018?

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV)

Would you resolve  to pray afresh in 2018 that the Lord of the harvest would raise up laborers to go out into the harvest?

I sense that in the denomination in which I serve, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, we have ceased to take Jesus’ call to prayer for laborers as seriously as we ought in recent years. Brothers and sisters in other churches may be flagging as well.

Today, there is a shortage of good men to serve as pastors in Jesus’ church. Regularly, I field phone calls and emails from members of search committees asking for suggested candidates. Some congregations are discouraged because of the apparent lack of men who would fit their particular need and situation.

The crisis is now. But a greater crisis is also looming, at least in the RPCNA.

Our denomination reached a similar crisis point nearly 30 years ago. […]

Confessing Non-Conformity

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ.’” (Mark 8.29 E.S.V.)

“Before leaving this subject, special attention should be called to the fact that the words of Jesus ‘But you, who do you say that I am?’ convey a very important lesson, namely, that a true believer is one who is willing, whenever necessary, to express a conviction that is contrary to that of the masses. In the best sense of the term, the believer is willing to come forth boldly in the interest of the truth.

The Kingdom is for vigorous people …for strong and sturdy men like Joseph …Moses …Joshua and Caleb …Samuel …David …Nathan …Elijah …Jehoshaphat …Daniel and his three friends …Mordecai …Stephen …Paul …Epaphroditus …Onesiphorus …and the apostle John …It is for such valiant women as Ruth …Deborah …Abigail …Esther …and Lydia.

Conformity with the world, compromise on basic issues, the unwillingness to be distinctive, is strongly condemned in Scripture …not being ‘of the world’, believers are shining lights in the midst of the world …They are spiritually different from the world, in order to be a blessing to the world.

So here in Mark 8.28, 29, […]

Calvin on Christmas

“Yet when we seek our Lord Jesus Christ to find in Him alleviation of all our miseries and a sure and infallible protection we must begin at His birth. Not only is it recited to us that He was made man like us, but that He so emptied Himself that scarcely was He reputed to be of the rank of men. He was, as it were, banished from every house and fellowship. There was nothing except a stable and a manger to receive Him. Since it is so, then, we know here how God displayed the infinite treasures of His goodness when He willed that His Son might be humbled for our sakes.”

Sermon on Luke 2.1-14.

Refuge in the Redeemer

Storm Shelters

It’s stormy in the mountains! A tornado’s headed this way! The town is under siege! Life hangs in the balance! Danger is all around! In such situations, we all need a place to turn to, a safe house to which we can run, a refuge where we can hide, or a location far from threat and beyond the reach of harm.

David’s Dangers

That’s what the son of Jesse learnt during his rise to power. He was pursued like a fox, chased down by many assailants, either ducking under Saul’s javelin or outwitting royal militia manoeuvres. David was subject to slander, surrounded by envious liars, and often took recourse to a hideout for escape.

Reliable Refuge

In the end, he knew however, it was God who spared his life. In Psalm 18.1-3 he recounts how the LORD had kept him safe.

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

What is striking in this Psalm, and also Psalm 144.2, is the multiplicity of word-pictures used to convey how faithfully Yahweh kept him safe. As Derek Kidner […]

Dealing with Sexual Abuse as the Church

[The following, which may be disturbing to some readers, is mostly from a sermon preached recently at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette. You can listen to the whole thing here.]

For reasons beyond my understanding, there is a sea change happening in our nation regarding sexual abuse. It has become difficult to go a day or two without hearing new accusations and recriminations. In areas where sexual harassment and abuse has long been winked at – Hollywood and the media – it’s now being taken much more seriously. For this we ought to thank God. In other areas – politics and the church – we could still use some more work. Thankfully, God’s Word is not silent on the subject of abuse. So while we hear accusations and see the results of wickedness, we can turn to the Bible to help us understand how God intends for the church to understand and deal with abuse.