Paul's Priorities in Pastoral Ministry

What is the pastor's job description according to Paul?

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Confident Patience in the Plan of God

Growing weary in well-doing? Be encouraged! The power is in the seed, not the sower!

Can These Bones Live?

What is the essence of our work as preachers of the Gospel?

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TRC Podcast Episode #4 – Gospel-Centered Racial Reconciliation

rrIn this episode of The Renewed Church podcast, we reflect on Gospel-Centered Racial Reconciliation in the Church of Jesus Christ. The gospel has profound implications for how Christians relate to one another, especially in the church of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul lays out a vision for racial reconciliation that is grounded in our common life as sinners in need of God’s grace and accomplished in the hostility-destroying death of Jesus Christ.

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Theology Thursday – Embracing the Wounded God

This reflection upon the suffering of Christ comes from D.A. Carson’s book, How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil:

For Christians who see in the cross the most sublime expression both of God’s justice and his love, the cross is immensely reassuring. It was a sacrifice offered once for all time (Heb. 10:12); Christ, having died once, dies no more, and in that sense no longer participates in the sufferings of the cross. But that does not negate the fact that he knows what suffering is like. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). Above all, the fact that Jesus is no longer suffering crucifixion cannot mask the love that brought him to the cross on our behalf.

And that is enough. How many men and women have been won to Christ because by God’s grace they came to see that Jesus died on the cross for them? How many countless millions have first truly grasped what the love of God means because they have glimpsed the cross? “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice [literally propitiation] for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Our hymns have made the point again and again, as this well-known example from Isaac Watts (1674–1748):

Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Was it for sins that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face,
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away:
’Tis all that I can do.

Frequently it is when we are crushed and devastated that the cross speaks most powerfully to us. The wounds of Christ then become Christ’s credentials. The world mocks, but we are assured of God’s love by Christ’s wounds. Edward Shillito understood this. Writing in the wake of the First World War, when an entire generation of young men was mown down by machine guns and artillery in the endless trench warfare that marked that conflict, Shillito composed the poem “Jesus of the Scars”:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hang onto that Job never knew. We know Christ crucified. Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God’s love, they cannot escape the cross. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Aching for Heaven

IMG_1485Today marks the three year anniversary of my nephew’s death in a car wreck just a few miles from his home. On the first anniversary of this tragedy, I remarked that hearts were still heavy, the pain of loss was still real, and that the nagging feeling of “something missing” had not subsided. While all three of these sentiments are still a reality, I believe it is the third, the feeling of “something missing,” that I encounter most frequently. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, the Masters golf tournament, or the split second thought I have each summer of calling him to play golf with me, I am confronted with the fact that Hayden is gone. It is not a bad dream. It is reality, and it makes my heart (along with the hearts of my family) ache desperately for something better. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Truly, God has awakened me and my family with “his megaphone,” and the message that resounds so clearly is that “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” IMG_1488

Joni Eareckson Tada once stated, “Can you hear the sighing in the wind? Can you feel the heavy silence in the mountains? Can you sense the restless longing in the sea? Can you see it in the woeful eyes of an animal? Something’s coming… something better.” I can, yet it is not just in the sighing wind, the silent mountains, and restless sea that I sense that something better is coming. It is also in the aching of my heart for the new heavens and the new earth in which God in Christ will wipe away every tear from my eye and my family’s eyes as we sing

He has swallowed up the veil of death forever! Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation… You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because He trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Selected from Isaiah 25 & 26)

Something better is coming! Christ is coming! And when He does, the aching of our hearts will be gone, because the yearning not simply for reunion but redemption will be fulfilled forever! Yet until then, the ache remains in order to teach us that we are not home and that Christ is still at work redeeming the brokenness.


Brothers, Renewal Takes Time…

whitefieldGeorge Whitefield once said, “The renewal of our natures is a work of great importance. It is not to be done in a day. We have not only a new house to build up, but an old one to pull down.” Most likely, yesterday was a day full of ministry and new faces. Hopefully, it was a day of encouragement for you and your people. However, if it was not, and you find yourself downtrodden and discouraged this Monday, then I encourage you to consider Whitefield’s advice. Do not underestimate the value of patience in ministry. Yesterday’s sermon will not sink you in ministry nor will it make you successful in ministry. It is exceedingly rare that one sermon marks the turn around in the life of a church or a in a person’s life. Instead, it is the faithful ministry of God’s word over a great length of time that renews your people’s nature and restores life in a church. Take heart, brothers! Church renewal takes time.

TRC Podcast Episode #3 – Why Do We Call “Good Friday” Good?

In this episode of The Renewed Church podcast, I have provided a brief meditation to prepare your heart for the observation of Good Friday. It is the audio portion associated with the theological reflections from Thursday. I pray it blesses you and strengthens you.