We must never think that godliness will insulate us against pain. Love does not make us numb; it makes us feel losses all the more. We are wrong to think that submission means no tears, no breaking of the heart, no inward struggles, and no troubling questions. Job did not tear his clothes and shave his head merely out of custom. He tore his robe because his heart was torn to pieces. He cut his hair because all his hopes for his children were cut off. Can you imagine what it would be like to bury all your children in one day?
—Terry Slachter, Joel Beeke: Encouragement for Today’s Pastors
In the book “Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans,“ Terry Slachter and Joel Beeke’s words are like balm for the pastor’s soul. It is amazing how we sometimes feel like we are the only ones facing ministry problems. The Puritans have been there and they offer wise words for us who do ministry in the 21st century.
Continue reading “Like Balm for the Soul”
Before the Apostle John wrote about the miraculous healing of the nobleman’s son in John 4:46-54, he made a quick reference to the first miracle of Jesus when he turned the water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Why did he do that? The Bible is known for its economy of words —only what is absolutely necessary must be included. Why the reference? James Montgomery Boice gave us a very good answer: because these two miracles are meant to be read together.
Continue reading “The Gospel for Weddings and Funerals”
For some reason God always chooses to display his power against the backdrop of human weakness. His remarkable works in the Bible and in history are performed using weak human vessels. I believe he does this on purpose so that we would know that the work of the Lord, the ministries and jobs he gave us, are meant to be accomplished using his power, not ours. J.I. Packer is right. Weakness is the way.
Continue reading “Weakness is the Way”
Faithful ministers may expect from the Lord Jesus Christ all those supplies of both skill and strength that they need in order to fulfill their ministry…. He will teach their fingers to fight, and the arms of their hands shall be made strong by the mighty God of Jacob. He will anoint them with fresh oil, and renew their bow in their hand. He will give them a new heart and a new spirit, give power to them when they are faint, and when they have no might he will give an increase of strength. They who wait upon the Lord, who wait on their ministry, shall renew their strength as the eagles and mount up with wings [Isa. 40:31]…. Ministers are his ambassadors, and as long as they act by His authority and keep to their credentials, He will bear them up and bear them out.
— Thomas Foxcroft
Few sentences in the Bible generated as much controversy in our day as Ephesians 5:22’s text on marriage. In it, Paul commanded Christian wives to submit to their husbands. Some writers say this verse was so controversial that it helped launch the women’s liberation movement of the 60’s. Never mind that the verse has more words attached to it. And never mind that there is a wider context to Paul’s words. Or that Paul actually had more to say to husbands. The word “submit” was just too much for many people. In their minds, the word is synonymous to oppression, subjugation, or dominance.
Continue reading “Wives, Submit. Husbands, Die!”
Paul tied the love-relationship between husbands and wives to the greater theology of Christ’s relationship with the church. You can’t attack the institution of marriage without attacking the theology of the universal church of Christ. And you can’t claim to be a growing disciple of Christ in the church if your marriage do not bear the resemblance of the relationship between Christ and the church.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity:
No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.
I preached on Psalm 8 last Sunday and the one question that automatically came to mind when I prepared the sermon was, “What’s the practical use of seeing the glory of God in nature?”
Continue reading “Why Looking at the Night Sky is the Cure to Our Pride”
Few weeks ago I sat down with a couple who asked me to officiate their upcoming wedding. After talking about the ups and down of their love story, our discussion quickly turned to the rigors of wedding preparations. Since my fiancée and I are also getting married very soon, we felt like we are on the same boat facing the same sets of difficulties. We talked about the usual suspects: the challenge of coming up with a guest list, the drama of choosing the motif, the obvious gap between the dream wedding and the budget constraints, and the little things in between like fonts and chairs and table runners. Two hours into our conversation we just sat there stunned at the fact that weddings are far too complicated than we anticipated. We had to ask the obvious: what are the bare essentials of a wedding ceremony?
Continue reading “Stop Chasing After Instagrammable Weddings”
Wise words from Thabiti Anyabwile:
Perhaps the most perilous moments in a preacher’s life are those 20 minutes spent after the service greeting the people as they leave. Smiles are exchanged, hands are shaken, prayer requests are given, jokes are told, and feedback is delivered. How the preacher handles the feedback determines a great deal. Critical feedback can crush. Positive feedback can puff up. Everything from despondency to pride grows right there at the church door. Our people mean well. Their encouragements are meant to help. Even discouraging comments, when viewed properly, are often meant to strengthen. We must learn from it all and keep serving in love.
But the one thing we must not do is trust after-sermon comments as a final measure of how faithful or effective our preaching is. We don’t (or shouldn’t!) preach for an “Amen.” We don’t (or shouldn’t!) preach in the fear of man. We don’t (or shouldn’t!) begin to think those few comments (and they are few) represent the entirety of the church or the entirety of God’s work. The Master works his plan well beyond the sight of men. So we shouldn’t finally trust the comments of our people, or even our own assessments.
You’ve heard it many times.
“It is not enough to know God; you have to experience him.”
Continue reading “Discipleship and False Dichotomies”
“It is not enough to know the Bible; you have to obey it.”
“Knowledge is useless; you have to have a passionate relationship with God.”