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Ministry is hard.

easyYou’re probably thinking, “No duh, Jordan.” But there was a time that I actually thought that it was going to be easy. I’m prone to make the same mistake over and over again. When I sat in my pre-marital counseling, I thought that marriage was going to be relatively easy. Then, before we had our first child and we took our parenting class, I thought, “Man, this is going to be a piece of cake.” And then there were times sitting in seminary classes that I thought, “Sounds pretty simple to me!”

But then I got married, and even though my wife is the most gorgeous and godly woman I know, I still can’t stop from being selfish towards her at times, and despite the fact that I’ve listened to hours of Tedd Tripp’s thoughts on parenting, I still struggle when my children sin against me, and even though I went to the best seminary in the world (yes, I know I’m biased), ministry is still incredibly difficult. Sitting in a classroom is one thing, but actually experiencing the ministry is another.

Recently, as I had the opportunity to teach on Luke 9:1-9, I was overwhelmed with the concept of giving glory to God in our ministries. How does God get glory from us doing ministry? For over a year Jesus had done everything, and it was going pretty well. Yes, He was almost killed a couple times, even in His own town, but thousands were being healed, thousands were having demons cast out, and, as you read the verses right after this section, you see that thousands upon thousands were following Christ so far that they didn’t have food to eat and He had to feed the hungry crowd. Jesus was doing ministry perfectly.

And in these verses, He decides to step back for a time and sends out the twelve disciples to go do ministry for the first time.

Jesus didn’t have to do this. He could have done it all. The Trinity could have decided before the foundation of time to never create humans or to not allow human beings to share in ministry, and yet God decided to not only create humans but for human beings to be the instruments He would use to bring glory to Himself.

And so, Jesus sends out the twelve, but it is quite obvious here that the disciples are completely dependent on Christ. We throw around the words “give glory to God” very often in the church, but I believe this passage actually gives us the opportunity to define this term a little better.  In fact, Jesus gives us three gifts that drive us to admit or dependence on Him and that ultimately allows Him to receive all the glory and praise.

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ant farmAs a kid I didn’t have an X-Box or Apple Wii. I had an ant-farm. It was perched on the desk in my bedroom. I derived a simple, if voyeuristic, fascination from hours of observing these industrious creatures in their diminutive universe, bustling about their business, oblivious to my all-seeing gaze. I would ensure they always had ample nutritious sustenance to stockpile, and even the occasional sugary delight. And I vigilantly protected them from the clumsy curiosity of our dogs.

But one day they discovered a tiny crack in the plastic, and they staged an adventurous emigration into my room. I began to find ants on my desk, in my closets, under my bed.

At first I was compassionate and patient. Scooping up each escapee and whisking it back to the comfort of the well-stocked farm. Until one day I got tired of having a nation of ungrateful tenants that were constantly rebelling. So I picked up the whole contraption and tossed it into the garbage on the street, cast from my presence.

I suppose it’s this type of petulance in my character that makes me appreciate God’s patience with me. But the scene of that ant-farm rebellion is also a picture of another species of recalcitrant rebels who are puny in comparison to the one who provides their sustenance and safety.

Let’s see, in four scenes of Psalm 2, what God thinks of humans who rage against being subject to his rule…

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R.C. Chapman was a well-heeled young gentleman living in 19th Century England, and he had a lot going for him. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon dangling from his mouth, he excelled at his elite school, and he established a law practice at a prodigious age. The cherry on top of that generous dollop of smiling providence was a small fortune he inherited at age twenty-three. Naturally, it could be assumed that the young man was set for life and would settle into a comfortable life of ease and merriment. But that prognosis would overlook the dramatic effect sanctification has on true Christians.

At age twenty Chapman was born again. Before his thirtieth birthday he calmly and deliberately veered off the promising professional path onto the sparse road less travelled, to become the pastor of a small church in Barnstaple, Devon. He also invested his considerable wealth directly into the work of that ministry, leaving himself with nothing beyond a modest home and bare necessities.RC_Chapman

Chapman had a remarkable trust in God’s provision and a gushing generosity. A story is told how that once he travelled to preach at a conference and gave away all his travel money at the conference, leaving him no ticket to get back. He was paid an honorarium but by the time he got to the train station he had given that away to a needy soul he encountered. His companion asked how he intended to pay for the train. Chapman replied confidently, “To whom does the money belong, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

At the station a man disembarking the arriving train recognized Chapman and hurried over to him and handed him a five-pound note, saying, “I have had this in my pocket for some time, and am glad I met you.” The man left and after a moment Chapman playfully asked his companion, “To whom does the money belong?

Some would call R.C. Chapman presumptuous.

But let me ask you this: Do think it is more Christlike to presume that God will provide… or to fret and worry that he won’t?

It’s easier to preach on some texts than to live them! One such passage is Philippians 4:6-7.

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Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep– with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:21).

Image result for true worship

Worship is a heart-felt attitude of thankfulness, love, holy fear, and submission to Scripture that magnifies the glory of God by rejoicing in who God is and what he has done for us through Jesus Christ. Worship takes God’s attributes (which can seem distant and are marked by the otherness of God—his holiness) and not only makes them personal, but magnifies them by the attitude of the worshiper towards them.

For an example, consider God’s sovereignty—which can certainly seem his most otherly attribute: when one who loves God understands how God’s sovereignty affects his own personal life, and he responds with thankfulness, fear, and submission (as well as joy, gratitude, etc.) then God is worshiped in the heart. Worship then is the result of a heart that has right information about who God is and what God has done, and then has the right response to that information. True worshipers respond in a way in keeping with God’s character and actions, as a response to his character and actions, and this has the effect of glorifying his character and actions.

True worship intersects with local church for a few reasons:    Continue Reading…

 

keep-calmIn 1988 Bobby McFerrin dropped his enormously popular hit that would become the first a capella song to summit the Billboard Top 100 chart to reach the #1 spot.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” resonated with a generation of those who identify as overstressed, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.

The lyrics, sung in an affected accent amid the bobbing and weaving of McFerrin’s own vocal gymnastics, became an anthem for the economically oppressed urbanites and a mantra for the angst-ridden collegiate coeds. Many know more stanzas of this song than of the national anthem.

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, (ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha) be happy (look at me, I’m happy)

Ooo-oo-hoo-hoo-oo hoo-hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooo Don’t worry
Woo-oo-woo-oo-woo-oo-ooo Be happy […etc. …]

The problem with this cheerful chant is that it is misleading; it posits that the opposite of worry is happiness. Let’s delve into a verse of Scripture that brings rich theological protein to this otherwise unsubstantial cotton-candy advice.

Philippians 4:5-6 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,

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Here are some practical tips I found on the net on how to be happy:

  1. Get regular exercise, be healthy. Go for a brisk walk, get health issues you are in control of sorted out and stay hydrated by drinking copious amounts of filtered water.
  2. Socialize with happy people. Studies have shown that spending time with good friends who have a positive outlook on life dramatically increases subjective reports of wellbeing and happiness.
  3. Learn a new skill. When people focus on learning a new language, craft, or sport they exhibit higher levels of happiness.
  4. Engage frequently in simple activities that bring you pleasure. The concept of “flow” is that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and happiness one experiences when doing something enjoyable and doing it well. One simple example is eating a favorite food as a treat— in moderation of course.

And here are some tips I found for caring for my dog’s wellbeing:dog-out-a-window

  1. Regularly take your dog for a brisk walk for exercise, give him lots of fresh water, and get health issues sorted out quickly.
  2. Socialize your dog by making an effort to get him out to parks where there are other dogs.
  3. Train your dog and teach him skills.
  4. Let your dog engage in activities that bring him pleasure like hanging his head out the window, and give your dog an enjoyable treat to eat—in moderation.

Of mutts and men

I’m not sure what insight is to be found in how similar and environmentally sensitive canine and human happiness is. But there is another aspect in which dogs and humans correlate. One site on K-9 police dogs said that the animal’s wellbeing is inextricable from his relationship with his handler.

If he has a kind master who provides for physical needs, expresses love and affection through touch and tone of voice, and spends time with the dog, he will be almost oblivious to any other circumstance besides what the master requires of the dog. And this total obedience is born out of the canine’s trust in his handler.

I wish the psychology websites included this in their advice on how humans can be happy.

Thankfully, Christians already know that joy stems from being in a right relationship with a loving, generous, and trustworthy Master through obedience.

One compact and clear verse that teaches this is Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

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December 26, 2016

The Day After Christmas

by Clint Archer

giftsThe Christmas truce of  Christmas Eve, 1914 was a wonderful parenthesis of respite in the animosity of what would become the bloodiest war in human history.

As reports have been collated of that mysterious peace that washed over the Western Front on that silent night, it seems it all started with well-wishing and spontaneous singing of Christmas hymns. The Germans offered their hearty a cappella rendition of Stillenacht from their muddy trenches. In good cheer, from the British side—and by some accounts even in some French trenches—hymns of praise to God resounded throughout the empty battlefields.

Captain Robert Patrick Miles of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry division wrote in a letter that was published in the Daily Mail in January 1915:

Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”

But what happened the day after Christmas? The opponents on either side of no man’s land cocked their guns and fired at each other with an aim to kill. Captain Miles, who wrote the letter above, was killed in action before New Year’s Eve.

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Glory of the IncarnationIt’s a joy to reserve this part of the year to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This, of course, is what Christmas is about in the truest sense. Amid all the tinsel, the gingerbread cookies, and the trees and stockings and gift shopping, true Christians pause to reorient our thoughts and our affections to what Christmas is really about: the incarnation of the Son of God.

And that kind of theological shorthand has become so familiar to us that we cease to be amazed at the truth we speak of when we speak of the incarnation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

God. Becoming man. The infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty God, without shedding His divine nature, taking upon Himself—in addition to His divine nature—a human nature—truly becoming one of us. In the incarnation of the Son of God, it can properly be said that the immutable, unchangeable God became what He wasn’t, while never ceasing to be what He was.

The incomprehensibility of that thought alone is sufficient to bow our hearts and intellects before divine wisdom in worship. This kind of mind-bending wisdom is so lofty—so far beyond our natural understanding—that we wouldn’t believe it if Scripture didn’t teach it so plainly. We already referenced John 1: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh. We also see it in Philippians 2:6–7, where Paul tells us that while Christ was existing in His very nature as God nevertheless assumed to Himself the very nature of a servant, and was born as a man.

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priorityIn 2010 Argentine soccer legend, Diego Maradona, graced South Africa with his presence as the coach of their formidable World Cup squad. The advance team prepared every hotel room to Maradona’s specifications. The flurry of activity in anticipation of his arrival included making sure all the rooms that the team would occupy were painted pristine white and were equipped with six Play Station video game consuls, and—I’m not making this up—an imported, electronic toilet known as the E-bidet, complete with a heated seat, front and rear water sprayers, and an air dryer.

Not only was Maradona particular about the accommodation, but his meal requests were a tad on the extravagant side: ten hot dishes per day, twenty-four different salads at each meal, three different pasta sauces with every meal, three different desserts, a barbecue every third day, and my personal favorite: a 24/7 unlimited supply of…ice cream. And I doubt this was for the professional athletes in coach Maradona’s team.

In Luke’s Gospel we meet a lady who volunteered to host God, in human flesh, and his team of ravenous disciples. And apparently she was expecting a persnickety prima-donna, not the simple tastes of a humble servant.

Three scenes from which we can glean lessons from Martha’s misplaced priorities so that we put Jesus in his rightful place this Christmas season.

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thanksgiving-day-dinner-table

holidays.thefuntimesguide.com

Here we are again, launching into another holiday season. Most likely, many of us will be spending time with relatives of various spiritual persuasions both this weekend, and over the Christmas holiday. Times with lost relatives can be tricky.

I remember one such situation with my French, atheist grandfather who passed away a few years ago. His name was Georges Lycan, and he spent most of his life as a carefree, pleasure-loving actor in France. That I know of, he appeared in over a dozen Broadway-like plays in France, several TV shows, and about 50 movies, probably the most well-known being his role as Sheriff Stone in the Charles Bronson Western, The Red Sun.

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