Spring Is Coming

A few years ago, I traveled to Nashville for Audrey Assad and Andrew Peterson’s “The Burning Edge Of Dawn Tour.” Beloved voices joined with mine to sing of God’s beauty and sovereignty. With the green of blooming earth glowing in our eyes and lungs full of fresh spring air, the promises we sang were easy to believe.

After having COVID-19 twice (once during Christmas) and nearing the first anniversary of a pandemic, my lungs no longer fill the way they used to. Songs that once flowed smoothly from my lips now often freeze in my throat. The lives of so many I’ve loved float like ice down the Missouri River—briefly gliding by, then disappearing. This very week, I received word a dear mentor of mine went to be with Jesus.

Like so many others, I feel death pervading this world as plainly as I see the tulips buried in the snow of this brutal winter.[1] In what seems like such a long winter, I can’t help but wonder, “Is spring coming?”

I think this question speaks to a deeper truth about how God designed humanity. Our minds, bodies, and souls are helped by tangible reminders of the intangible.

In his kindness, God designed the natural world to help us learn about himself in light of his Word. Though we only truly know God through Scripture, the Bible gives us language about the likeness between certain physical and spiritual things for the benefit of our comprehension.

When speaking with the Samarian woman at the well, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again,” promising: “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:11).

Feeling sunlight kiss my skin after stepping out from a shadow reminds me how sweet it is to no longer be a child of darkness, but one of light (Eph. 5:8). The farmer who tosses out seed knows the value of patience and the feeling of complete dependence for growth (Jm. 5:7). Every time we take communion, the bread and the wine on our tongues cause remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ offered up for our salvation (1 Cor. 11:23-26).

I ardently long for spring because my heart needs to remember. The dying leaves of fall spoke to me impermanence. The summer harvest gently hummed the rewards of steadfastness. For now, the winter whispers longsuffering. But one day, spring will sing of promise once again.

Every green sprout and unfolding flower will remind my soul that death does not have the final word. I will listen to the rustle of the trees that will one day clap with joy; I will look to the mountains and hills knowing one day unhindered praise will pour forth from them (Is. 55:12). I will thank God for the grace it is to have a glimpse of hopes fulfilled.

Until then, I will remain steadfast.

Spring is coming.


[1] This is a reference to John Piper’s poem “Swimming in Winter,” inspired by 2 Cor. 6:10. Read it here: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/swimming-in-winter



Links For The Church (2/22)

Keep Your Soul Diligently

Kristin Couch reflects on keeping ourselves from sin. She shares personal reflections and encourages a diligent pursuit of prayer and trusting God.

Dear Pandemic-Weary Pastor

“If you’re experiencing feelings of helplessness or even hopelessness, if you’re frustrated or fearful, know this: you aren’t alone.”

The Pain of Pretended Omniscience

Andrew Roycroft writes that we have access to much knowledge, but lack in wisdom. We must, though, know our place in the world and that the point of our existence was never omniscience.

When Your Husband Is Your Pastor: Counsel to Wives in Ministry

In this encouraging post, Jani Ortlund gives practical and Biblical advice for women who are married to pastors.



JT English on Living ‘Sent’

We asked JT English, “How can the average Christian remember that he or she is to live ‘sent’?”



Links For The Church (2/15)

This Is How He Carries You

How does God carry us through trials that seem too much to bear? Lauren Washer writes about the different ways God helps us and carries us through trials in this life.

Worshiping the Infinite and Intimate God

“And the more we understand how different he is, the more we will marvel that he has chosen to draw near to us, that he knows us, calls us by name, and delights in us.” – Bob Kauflin

The Gift Giver’s Joy

Ed Welch reflects on Jesus’ great gift-giving ability and the ways He delights in loving his children.

The Onliest Way

“The exclusivity of the gospel is an offense to people who think they don’t need anything to be saved from, who think they are fine without Jesus and His cross.” – Glenna Marshall

How to Lead with Humility and Accountability

Paul Tripp writes about the necessity for Christian leaders to lead in humble ways. He encourages commitment to a church body and to those who call out sin.

We Must Reclaim Friendship From the Bonds of Social Media

What is real, deep, true friendship? We may have thousands of followers and hundreds of “friends” on social media, but is this what friendship really means? Chris Martin answers these questions and many others in this helpful post.



Links For The Church (2/8)

The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Megan Taylor writes about the need for kindness while defining what true kindness really looks like.

The Grace of Good Rebuke: How to Love with Hard Words

“In the life of any local church, rebuke should be an occasional ripple in a mighty river of encouragement.”

The Happy Place of Humble Dependence

Motherhood is full of exercises in humility. Liz Wann writes about Christ’s example and the need for all mothers to depend on Him.

Jesus Headed Toward Those at the Bottom of the Pile. Will Our Children Follow Him?

Radical compassion for those most lowly in status or public opinion is an outworking of Jesus’ character. Ed Drew writes about this compassion and encourages us to raise up children in this type of compassion.



Won Kwak on Sermon Prep

We asked Won Kwak, “How do you write sermons? Describe your sermon preparation process.”



Links For The Church (2/1)

Window Views

Working from home can provide new glimpses of God’s grace. Heidi Tai shares a brief reflection on what she has learned through this season.

The Privilege of Pastoring

“The best pastors I know let their people know how privileged they feel to be their pastor.” – Darryl Dash

What Are We Willing To Pray?

Our prayers reveal what we believe about God. Though words may fail us from time to time, we can still seek to offer God everything we have and ask for His help in our feeble lives.

How You Can Study The Bible With Your Kids

In this helpful article, John Murchison shares four practical ways to read the Bible with your kids. These are simple encouragements to help teach them and shape their little minds.

An Old Cure for an Old Illness

“But the single, overarching problem of man is sin, and it won’t do to solve symptoms at the expense of facing the problem.” – Eleazar Maduka



Adam McClendon on Advice for a New Pastor

We asked Adam McClendon, “What is the one thing you would say to the new pastor?”



How the Pew Can Help the Pulpit

It was the last day of the revival. I had just finished my ninth sermon of the meeting. I stood to give my lasting remarks. And I said what I was thinking. Usually, I am able to mind my business when I preach away from home. But since I had no intention of ever returning to that church, I took a shot at them.

Thanks for putting up with my preaching this week. And for all of your kindness and encouragement. But all the glory goes to God. Any human credit goes to the church I serve. They give me time to think, read, and pray. They provide the resources I need to study. And they only demand that I be ready to teach and preach. If I am not a good preacher, shame on me! Any church can have good preaching if they take care of their pastor and encourage him.

I had been there for a week. And the pastor didn’t have time to host me. He worked part time to make ends meet. He did funerals and hospital visits every day I was there. He had one meeting after another. I was exhausted just watching him. In the process, he was discouraged, his marriage was in trouble, and his children resentful of the ministry.

Then it happened.

One of the deacons slyly criticized his preaching in front of me, suggesting this seasoned pastor should take preaching lessons from me, who was in my early 20s. I had preached for men that I wasn’t sure could read. But their members would tell me, “I enjoyed your preaching! But you can’t touch my pastor.” That’s love. This deacon’s remark, and his fellow deacons’ agreement, was just cruel.

The pastor was a good preacher. He was just in a bad situation, at a historic church that thought too highly of itself. I had to say something. And I did.

Sometimes pastors struggle in preaching because they don’t take their pulpit work seriously. Others struggle in preaching because they struggle alone. But good preaching is a partnership between pastor and congregation, pulpit and pew, the one who preaches and the one who listens. The pastor preaches to help those in the pew. But the congregation can and should help the one in the pulpit, as well.

There was a vocal old lady in my first church. When I was preaching good, she would say, “Help us, Lord.” But when I was flunking, she would say, “Help him, Lord.” But there are better ways the pew can help the pulpit and motivate the pastor to be a better preacher. Here are seven…

Pray for your pastor. I mean, pray specifically for his preaching. Pray that he will have the time to study and will use it well. Pray the Lord will open his eyes and give him understanding (Ps. 119:18, 24). Pray that he will guard his life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16)  Pray that he will rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Pray that the Lord will keep his heart and mind free from sinful distractions. Pray that God will give his power in the pulpit.

Give your pastor time to study. Members love pastors who are always available. But it is not good if he is always available. He will be more help to you if he shuts himself up to pray and study. You want a pastor who has something to say, rather than someone who has to say something. This requires times to prepare. Give it to him.

Provide for your pastor. Bi-vocational pastors are the unsung heroes of the church, who work a job to care for their families as they do the work of ministry for little or no pay. Many churches are not able to adequately compensate their pastors. But others are just stingy. Being determined to deprive the preacher, they rob themselves. Do you best to care for the needs of your pastor and his family.

Be marked present. A blind and deaf Christian was asked why he attended church, since he could not see or hear the service. He answered, “I just want people to know which side I’m on. Your regular church attendance is a statement to the world. It is an act of obedience that builds up other believers (Heb. 10:24-25). And it is a great encouragement to your pastor. You challenge him to prepare a better meal if you consistently show up with a good attitude and a big appetite.

Listen to the sermon. Just because you are in the service does not mean you hear the sermon. And the pastor knows it. He stands on a raised platform in a room with people sitting in front of him. And he sees what’s happening in front of him. When you spend the sermon talking, walking, texting, or sleeping, it’s distracting and discouraging. But nothing makes a man want to preach harder than to have people actually listening, sitting up, following along, and taking notes. An occasional “Amen” doesn’t hurt either.

Encourage your pastor. Preaching can be discouraging work. If I stopped writing this article and didn’t get back to it for a week, I could pick up right where I left off. Preaching doesn’t work that way. We try to reach out people on Sunday mornings. The world tries to reach them all the rest of the week. The gravitational pull is against the things of God. And the pastor often feels he is not making a difference. Encourage him. Don’t stroke his ego. But give him specific ways you are learning and growing.

Be a doer of the word. A church is not committed to the word, just because the pulpit preaches the truth. A church is committed to the world when biblical preaching together shapes its life. To hear the word without doing what it says is self-deception (James 1:22-25). Members often leave the service and rate the pastor’s sermon. But the real issue is what you do with what you hear. Be eager hear the word. But don’t stop there. Live it out by Christ’s power and for God’s glory!

Editor’s Note: This originally published at HBCharlesJr.com



Returning To Your First Love

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. Rev 2:4-5 NKJV

Are you and those who are with you dangerously close to experiencing this judgment? Is the Light of God’s presence dim, almost imperceptible? Do you have form without power and activity without fruit? If so, Christ says you must…

Remember

Using a few key words and phrases, indicate what it was like in the time of your purest and most sincere affection for Christ. Think about habits, feelings, attitudes, liberties and effectiveness.

Repent

Write out the sins of your life. Carefully consider the listing of sins given below and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to all areas of disobedience. Pray for the grace to sincerely and deeply change both heart and actions. Do not stop short in your evaluation. And do not be deceived. Anyone can name his sins, but those God uses most determine to stop their sinful activity, right every wrong, and walk in obedience. This God-given determination and true hatred of each sin is biblical repentance.

Read over this list carefully. Mark items which need further reflection as you are writing out your sins. (If in a group, a leader may read this section out loud slowly while the group contemplates and makes a list.)

Are there sins of pride, preoccupation with appearance or status, always having your own way, drawing of attention to yourself in conversation, self-pity, forgetfulness and inconsideration of others due to self-absorption? Do you act as if you know everything? Is there rebellion, willfulness, stubbornness, haughtiness, pouting, and over-sensitivity, or a despising of the authorities God has placed in your life? Has bitterness, anger, rudeness, or a sharpness of speech toward others entered in? Is there lack of love? Have you left relationships unmended? Have you been unforgiving?

Are there sins of speech, such as coarse jesting, filthy language, crudeness, slang unbecoming a child of God, undue pessimism in light of God’s goodness, judging of others? Are you materialistic, always concerned with your money and possessions, lusting for more and more, insistent upon having the latest and the best, discontent with what God has given, ungrateful? Are you dishonest, telling half-truths in order to appear better than you are? Have you stolen goods, time or information? Have you stolen from God?

Are you immoral in mind or body; do you let impure and worthless things come before your eyes; are you flirtatious; do you dress, speak, or behave sensuously? Do you have a secret love for the impure? Are you jealous or envious of others? Do you worship and serve God halfheartedly? Are you prayerless? Do you neglect his Word? Are you failing to trust God, making Him out to be an unconcerned and unloving Father? Do you worry? Are you involved in any way in the occult, consulting mediums, astrology or witchcraft?

Are there sins of over-indulgence, pleasing the body first and foremost? Are you unconcerned over the plight of others who are impoverished or cannot defend themselves? Are you unloving and uncaring toward others of a different social class or economic level? Are you inconsiderate of the real needs of your family or the needs of other believers?

Are there other sins the Holy Spirit brings to your mind? Write carefully and thoroughly what God shows you. Your sins may have been committed years ago but remain unresolved, or they may be current in your experience. Do not fail to deal with every sin repented of. Are you repenting of these sins?

Do The First Works

The fruit of repentance is obedience. What has God shown you to do? What habits are to be renewed? What wrong relationships are to be restored? What private or public confession is to be made? What actions are to be taken? Write down what you are going to do and begin to obey this moment. For accountability, tell a friend what you intend to do.

To continue to love as you should…

Depend on God. The life of faith is the only life that God honors. Without it you cannot please God. Love for God is a fruit of God’s Spirit; therefore, in your zeal to love Him through obedience, you must also trust Him for the will and actual ability. It is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure, yet you are never allowed to blame God for your lack of desire or disobedience. (Phil. 2:12-13; 3:15-16; Heb. 11:6)

Renew your mind. By meditating on Scripture you are transformed into the person God intends you to be. Meditation is a blend of your words to God and His Word to you; it is loving conversation between you and God through the pages of His Word. It is absorption of His words into your mind by prayerful contemplation and concentration. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.” As a man thinks, so is he. (Rom. 12:1-2; Jn. 17:17; Prov. 23:7)

Keep short accounts. Do not let sin reign in your body. You do not have to continue this sin, though all Christians fail out of inbred weakness. When you sin, repent immediately of your disobedience and continue in your affection for God. Don’t let sin have one hour of your time. Destroy it by the weapons of repentance and faith. God also intends that all walls of separation between you and others be taken down in so far as you are responsible. To put a wall between you and others is to build a wall between you and God. (Rom. 6:12; Rev. 3:19; Mt. 5:23-24; Mt. 18:15)

Rejoice in God. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.” (Phil. 3:2) You can be happy that the love of God has brought you to repentance. In your sorrow there is joy. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)

Editor’s Note: This originally published at Christian Communicators Worldwide