Archives For Shepherding

depressionDepression and discouragement are not respecters of the holidays. For many reasons, the normal sorrow of life can reach a highpoint this time of year for some.

It may be a reminder that we are without a loved one. It may be financial stress, or loss, in a time where the pressure is to purchase. It might be emotional pressure of getting together with broken family. We just may not have a clue why we are discouraged, which can be discouraging itself. We can, even unintentionally, place big demands on this time of year to deliver and fulfill us in impossible ways, apart from God.

And Christmas time or not, many of us experience the normal, heavy weight of discouragement and depression as a regular thing; dejection, confusion, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, anxiousness, anger, darkness, despair.

But God has answers and real hope from his word for the battle.

Here are 11 truths for strength in sorrow:

Continue Reading…

starbucks xmas 1It isn’t wrong to have a fern on my porch or a cactus in my office (chosen for its resilience to neglect, a prerequisite for any plant life under my supervision). But apparently having a fir tree, imitation or genuine, is considered by some to be morally repugnant; though only in December.

I’m not going to launch a crusade to promote the observance of Christmas with all its tiresome trappings and requisite redundancies; what I am going to do is call for some reasonableness by those believers who vociferously object to their brothers and sisters in Christ enjoying seasonal festivities.

First, let us just concede that Christians do not have to celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas…or Easter, or Pentecost, or St Ledger’s Day, or MLK’s birthday, or Sabbath (Col 2:16), or Thursdays (named for the Nordic god of thunder).

Continue Reading…

marriageEvery husband would agree with the Reformer, Martin Luther, that marriage is the school of character. There are not many daily crucibles like it in which God purifies and sanctifies in such needed, blessed ways.

One of those areas in particular for husbands is learning how to lead a wife biblically. Besides his own imperfections, husbands can struggle with how to lead a wife who struggles to embrace God’s good design of submission. Few things in marriage present a greater challenge than biblical submission. As such, it is one of the more common marital struggles.

sanctificationBut most wives in these situations do not embark on a journey with the goal of, “I do not want God’s kind of leadership.” I’ve found that just about every wife wants to be led. In fact, it’s not uncommon for unconverted wives to respond favorably to a converted husband’s biblical leadership. That makes sense because leading is about humility, serving, self-denial, and love.

Now, compassion and patience is needed from husbands in this area for a few reasons. First, God in Christ is so radically compassionate and patient with us husbands. Second, wives are born in Adam. A resistance to biblical submission is natural. Third, our leadership, as husbands, is not as good as Christ’s. Flaws exist. If we were our wives, it would be a battle for us to submit to us.

But some of us husbands find ourselves in the often humbling, deflating situation where our wives persist in struggling to follow our lead. It’s probably not a stretch to say that the majority of the time, the husband is not the innocent party here. There are exceptions. But for the most part, if his wife struggles to follow him, it behooves the husband to consider a few questions.

Here are seven questions a husband could ask himself if his wife struggles to follow him:

Continue Reading…

I have mentioned previously how my wife helped me to man-up and start to lead our family worship times. It was embarrassing that I needed the help, but like with the lady in our GPS unit, I’ve learned not to argue with the voice of reason.

Let me issue this vital disclaimer: I am no expert. I seriously have little to no idea what I’m doing. We haven’t been at this for years, but for the past few months it’s been pretty consistent. And our kids love family worship. They ask for it. That can’t be bad, right?

Also, we’ve only test-run this on tiny tots. My kids are 4.5, 2.5, and newborn (he’s just there as eye-candy, and so the other two remember to pray for the baby).

We’ve been at it for about 6 months.

So here is what we do, which may be of some help…

Continue Reading…

John Owen Portrait 2In recent years, many Christians have become increasingly familiar with Jonathan Edwards. As a result, many know that in addition to Edwards’ many theological masterpieces (like The End for Which God Created the World, The Freedom of the Will, and Original Sin), he also wrote what he called Miscellanies. These were reflections of various lengths on miscellaneous theological and practical topics. In other words, they were 18th-century Puritan blog posts.

Well, Edwards wasn’t the only one to do that. John Owen, perhaps the greatest theological mind of Puritanism, also penned these short, blog-post-like, reflections—though he called them “Discourses” instead of “Miscellanies.” A number of Owen’s Discourses are contained in Volume 9 of his Works, under the heading, “Several Practical Cases of Conscience Resolved.” There, he answers numerous practical questions within the span of 3 to 5 pages or so. Some examples include: “How does a Christian recover from neglect of the spiritual disciplines?” and “What does it mean for a sin to be ‘habitual’?” and “How are we to prepare for the coming of Christ?”

The tenth discourse in this collection answers the question: “What shall a person do who finds himself under the power of a prevailing corruption, sin, or temptation?” I don’t know about you, but I’d sure jump at the chance to read John Owen’s blog, and especially his answer on how to mortify a particular besetting sin. You’ll need to read it a bit more slowly and carefully than perhaps you would a contemporary blog post, but my experience with Owen’s writing has been that it’s worth the effort. Here’s John Owen, the blogger.

*     *     *     *     *

Question. What shall a person do who finds himself under the power of a prevailing corruption, sin, or temptation?

[…]

I answer,—

Continue Reading…

November 11, 2014

ICYMI: #askJMac

by C-Gate Links

Last week, John MacArthur dusted his twitter account off, and opened it up for business. Part of that was hosting a Q&A session in real time. Here are the highlights:

Continue Reading…

November 10, 2014

When to smile and nod

by Clint Archer

A ministry mentor of mine once told me that when you dress to run a marathon, you tie your laces as tight as you can, knowing that they will loosen over time.

lacesHe likened graduating seminary to launching out of the blocks in a footrace. It is understandable that my theological views and ministry strategies would be in particularly crisp focus and decisions would seem starkly black and white with no cumbersome gradation of grey to complicate matters. But as my ministry marathon progressed and the hills and troughs of pastoral work undulated beneath my stride, I would eventually get used to enduring short term discomfort in my theological positions for the long term prize of a mature flock.

This is a difficult lesson for rearing young bucks to learn. We know the truth, we love the truth, and we went into ministry because we want to share that truth with those who don’t know it yet. The question is whether there is God-honoring wisdom in waiting to prove the truth.

When is the time to smile and nod in a theological or ministerial discussion, and when is it time to stand your ground and fight for truth?

Continue Reading…

cutActor William Shatner once did a parody performance of himself reacting to his obsessed fans at a Star Trek convention. He exploded with a sharp rebuke: “Get a life! It’s only a TV show!” To a Trekkie that’s like being told Santa isn’t real…by Santa. Shatner then apologized to his rattled fan base explaining he was merely in character as Captain Kirk from episode 27 where he becomes Evil Captain Kirk. So, no harm done as long as it was “in character.”

Not so fast.

A negligible slice of the world’s population is comprised of genuine believers who are professional actors. But I have a handful of dear friends who are believers in Jesus Christ, seek to honor him in their chosen profession, desire to be shining lights in a shadowy entertainment industry, and are thus sometimes confronted with conundrums the watching world isn’t.

We all face temptation to sin in our jobs, and it may happen that a boss instructs you to do something against your conscience. But in those situations at least you know what the sin is and you know how to please the Lord. But what if you were required by your boss to pretend to sin? Granted, that’s not a scenario we face every day; but it is one actors face whenever they are working (which also isn’t every day).

Imagine you are assigned the role of Lady Macbeth or Darth Vader or Judas. Someone has to play the villain. And no director would allow you to massage Shakespeare’s script; “Out, out darn spot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. And, except for the role Jim Caviezel snagged in The Passion, even good guys sin—The Good the Bad and the Ugly demonstrates this as adequately as the Die Hard franchise.

Here are two very basic guidelines my actor friends employ when selecting scripts:

Continue Reading…

October 15, 2014

Portrait of a Hypocrite

by Eric Davis

Drama MasksIf you spend any amount of time with little kids, a particular phrase will be heard more than once: “Watch this!” Perhaps they’ll perform a new trick they learned on the playground or show you how fast they can run on their budding legs. And it’s cute to watch. They are learning life and enjoying the thrill of using their newly-discovered, God-given skills.

But it’s quite another thing when the, “Watch this!” isn’t shed by the adult years. And it’s not so cute any more when “Watch this!” becomes the underlying operating principle for which we do life and religion. In fact, far from being cute, Scripture gives it a name: hypocrisy. The New Testament idea comes from a word used to describe an actor who would put on a certain mask during a theatrical performance. You get the idea. Hypocrisy is that thing which is all-too easy to see and diagnose in others, but might be more present in us than we’d like to see and admit. It’s a deep sickness, showing itself in several ways.

Here are 7 things we might see in a portrait of a hypocrite:

Continue Reading…

(Editor’s note: In light of recent news events, it seemed fitting to repost this article written in February 2012 by George Lawson.)

In the beginning of May, 1665 London had a divine appointment with what the Puritan Thomas Vincent described as “one of the most terrible plagues that was ever visited on this or perhaps any other kingdom.” We now know it as the bubonic plague.

plague_victims

The disease at first claimed the lives of only nine people, but after a pause it rapidly spread across the city and was soon taking no less than 470 people a week. The number of deaths collected from the bills of mortality amounted to 68,596 in that first year, though some have estimated that the number was much higher.

Continue Reading…