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Remember Their Names

How can you help family members of public figures like pastors, politicians, entertainers, and other community leaders? They live life in a shadow that they did not choose, usually. Among many things that help, remember this: they want you to know their names.

When dad is a pastor, for instance, children are often met by people who are satisfied to merely know “Oh, you’re So-and-So’s son.” They see that you really don’t care about them; you only care to categorize them in your mental box.

Thus, family members of public figures can feel a bit like one Jupiter’s sixty-seven moons. People know they exist. They have names, but few know them. People only remember Jupiter. By contrast, God knows each of the celestial bodies by name; Psalm 147:4 says “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.” If he knows inanimate heavenly bodies by name, we ought to be assured that he loves and cares for us that much more.

You can minister to family members of public figures by following God’s pattern: remember their names. Most are pretty happy to live in the orbit of their more luminous family member; but when you work to know […]

When Christians are Blamed

What should Christians do when they are blamed for problems in culture that they did not cause? Or when they are held responsible for things they did not do?

After the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June, Christians were accused of being complicit. David French and Denny Burk each reflected on this blame-casting. The pattern may repeat itself in future events. It can be easy to become defensive or to go on the offensive, but before we do, it is worth considering the example of Moses.

Moses faced a situation with some similarities as recorded in Numbers 16. After wandering for years in the wilderness, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron in the nation of Israel. Specifically, Aaron’s priestly leadership was challenged.

God called for a public meeting the next day. He told both groups of men to burn incense before the Lord to see which he would accept. In dramatic fashion, the Lord caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abriam along with their 250 followers and their possessions.

The Lord brought calamity of the sort that only he could bring as a warning to those who were tempted to disbelieve. It […]

A Little Gem in Job

One of the beautiful but subtle gems of Scripture is found in the book of Job.

Job was a rich man of antiquity before the Lord allowed great calamity to overtake him.

At the outset of the story Job had seven sons and three daughters (1:2). He also had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys (1:3). Every last one of the animals was stolen or killed, and a wind storm struck the house where all of his children were dining and they all died. What great loss and grief!

After his ensuing suffering, satanic attacks, and intense dialogue with his friends and his Lord, God restored his wealth. And then some.

In his later years, he received 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys (42:12). He also had seven sons and three daughters (42:13).

It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that the number of animals Job received in his restoration is double the former number. Yet, if God is so good, why did Job not father another fourteen sons and six daughters?

Why not? Well, that’s the gem that is hidden in plain sight. Job did receive twice as many children as he had previously. […]

Expectant Prayer for the Nations

Do our prayers really matter in missions and the spread of the gospel around the globe? Is it worth leading our children to pray for specific nations of the world?

Recently, God impressed upon me the amazing era in which we live. The good news of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading around the world.

Today, even I get to see with my own eyes the work of God in people from India, Arabia, China, and Africa – even if it is just a token of what is happening globally. My great-grandparents could only have dreamed of so many people from these lands joining us for worship as a church and sitting around our dining room table. I confess that as a child I did not expect this as I should have.

What has led to such progress? Jesus has also ordained that social, economic, and technological forces would align to propel the advance of the gospel in our day. Faithful gospel preachers have gone out over the years sowing with tears. And people have prayed for generations, and God has graciously answered.

In my growing up experience, our parents taught us to pray for the world. We prayed for specific countries from our little farm in Indiana. […]

An up-front discussion; the best seats in worship

Fans pay big money for courtside seats at an NBA Finals game. But when it comes to God’s courts of worship, the prized seats seem to be on the back row. It’s not just true of Back-Row Baptists. It’s also true of Posterior Presbyterians, Latter-Seat Lutherans, and the Rearward Reformed. The trend seems to contradict the profound eagerness the psalmist articulated as he entered the gates of God’s courts with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4), the joy untold he found when beckoned by fellow saints to go to the Lord’s house (Psalm 122:1), and sorrow of heart he experienced when he could not lead the throng in procession into God’s house as he had previously done (Psalm 42:4).

Certainly, some people have legitimate reasons to sit near the back. These include:

Parents and caretakers with very young children
Elderly saints and physically afflicted individuals
Visitors, especially those who are nervous about being in a church in the first place
On-call servants such as ushers, nursery workers, and security personnel

For the rest, you should consider sitting nearer the front. It is a form of ministry, or service, in the truest sense. You will serve God with more vigor, and you will serve people with deeper love.

What happens as […]

Identifying with Christ

“Identify with Christ as you meet new people.” My parents gave that instruction to their eight children as we grew up. A Christian’s personal connection to Christ can be expressed in many ways, and it’s usually good to articulate it at the first natural opportunity.

As my college years wound to an end, I interviewed for my first “real” job as a supervisor in a small factory. In the interview, the boss offered a soft-toss questions like “Why should we hire you?” I offered up various reasons and included something like, “My work ethic is driven by my Christian faith. I’m ultimately accountable to Christ for my actions.” It was just a couple of sentences that I didn’t think much about. I might have also asked if the factory worked Sundays, but it didn’t.

A few days later, they offered me the job. I started shortly thereafter eager to begin my career.

The first week, my boss assigned me to spend a day in each of the four main departments to become familiar with the operation. I shadowed the hourly team leader, met the employees, and observed the work.

In the first department, the team leader completed her set-up tasks by about 10:00 a.m. and we […]

Whatever God Wants; The life of Samuel E. Boyle

Samuel E. Boyle (1905-2002) served as a leading Reformed Presbyterian pastor and missionary for much of the twentieth century. Robert S. Taylor has written a booklet-sized biography of Sam titled Whatever God Wants: The Life of Samuel E. Boyle. It is helpful but brief and is now out of print. Guests at our table recently inquired about the details of Sam’s life, but it was not possible to point them to an easily accessible biographical sketch. What follows is a revised version of remarks I made at his memorial service in 2002. A similar edition was also published in the Reformed Presbyterian Witness shortly thereafter. May we not forget those richly used by the Lord.

Reformed Presbyterian missions work in China had just begun a little over a century ago, and a dear woman in America with a missionary heart began to pray fervently, like Hannah of old, for a son for the Chinese field. In 1905, God gave her that son, whom she named Samuel following in Hannah’s footsteps. Sam Boyle’s mother gave birth to him in the women’s dormitory of Geneva College where his parents worked. Thus began a full life of 97 years that was richly blessed by God.

Sam […]

Our children need to see the power of God

If our children do not see the power of God, they will not believe him. So we pray daily that they will see the power of our Lord.

Moses prayed in Psalm 90, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.”

How will we and they see his power?

By seeing God’s mighty acts of redemption accomplished in history. The generation following those who had walked through the Red Sea had not seen the Exodus. Yet, Moses told that generation to tell their children in the first person plural, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:21-22). In 2016, we have not seen God’s historical saving acts with our own physical eyes. We did not see the Red Sea part. We did not see the crucifixion. We did not see Jesus come forth from the grave. But we have seen God’s redemption accomplished before our eyes through the testimony of his witnesses. Our children will see the glorious power of God as […]

Deuteronomy: The Great Commission of the Old Testament

Christians often think of Deuteronomy as boring legal code – a second-giving or re-run of the law. Why then did New Testament authors find it their third favorite book of the Old Testament to quote?

Deuteronomy warmed the hearts of God’s people of old because the book is Moses’ powerful life-end sermon that served as the Great Commission of the Old Testament. It was crafted to set hearts aflame with love for God and a vision for his kingdom among those who awaited the Messiah by faith. Jesus spoke the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 to his disciples at the end of his time on earth, and those words enlarged hearts for God and set the course for his disciples through time until he comes again.

Consider the similarities in the life-circumstances of the preachers:

Moses preached Deuteronomy at the end of his life on earth as his people were sent into a new and daunting mission.
Jesus preached the Great Commission at the end of his life on earth as he sent his people into a new and daunting mission.

Consider the similarities in redemptive history:

Moses preached Deuteronomy after the Old Testament picture of salvation, deliverance from Egypt, had been accomplished.
Jesus preached the Great Commission […]

Curiosity: A Leadership Essential

Recently, I talked with a lean manufacturing consultant. He works to find and remove inefficiencies across all of the systems and operations of a Fortune 500 company. What key quality that makes someone in his role successful I wondered. “Curiosity” he stated without hesitation. For leadership in an organization to locate and remove waste in its operations, it must want to know, be diligent to uncover, and be committed enough to remove it.

It should come as no surprise that Scripture also identifies this key characteristic for wise leaders. Proverbs 25:2 says “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” God calls his people, across all professions, to rule over and subdue the earth. God has revealed to us what is needed for salvation, but in creation, he has left much for us to discover.

Kings or leaders in manufacturing, government, academia, science, homes, and beyond will only fulfill their callings if their minds are curious to the glory of God. We must learn to uncover things that have not yet been seen. The consultant also said that one of the hardest things for leaders to identify in manufacturing is atrophy. A […]