Being a pastor means a significant portion of my work revolves around the odious task of dealing with someone’s sin. Whether I’m preaching about it, counseling through it, praying over it, it seems much of my energies are directed toward this tireless enemy. Through the years, I’ve found the following truths from God’s Word to be repeatedly proven in times of difficult ministry. Consider this my cheat sheet – gathered through study of God’s Word and more-or-less successful conversations with others.
My lovely wife and I recently celebrated our seventeenth anniversary. As a way to honor the occasion and make some spiritual use of it, I tweeted out #17thoughtsonmarriage over the course of a couple weeks. In the hope that they may be helpful or spark some conversation, I’ve pasted them here.
1 – Genesis 3:15 isn’t the first gospel message. Genesis 2:24 is. Ask Paul (Eph. 5:32). #17thoughtsonmarriage
— Jared Olivetti (@irpcpastor) August 7, 2016
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,“return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13
Our session (at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette) has called for a day of fasting and prayer on Thursday, September 8th. I would like to use this opportunity to invite you and your congregations to join us.
So apparently #blessed a thing. If you have time, head over to twitter and search for #blessed to get a sense of how your friends and neighbors define what it means to be blessed. Some will be sarcastic, others will just be sad and a little pathetic.
Thankfully, God’s Word defines blessed too:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-1)
As you might guess, King David says that to be forgiven is to be blessed. No Christian I know would disagree with this.
So why don’t we live like it’s true?
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
What do we mean we say, “I forgive you”? More importantly, do we mean what the Bible means?
When we really dig into Scripture’s teaching on forgiveness, we find that it stretches and challenges us, forcing us into the uncomfortable territory of being more like Jesus. Without further ado, taking our cues from God’s Word and God’s forgiveness, here’s what we should mean when we say “I forgive you”:
A brief encouragement for the culturally discouraged or even culturally fearful:
This morning at our local pastors’ meeting, our leader encouraged us to share how God was using His Word in our lives or in the lives of the churches we serve. As we went around the room, pastor after pastor said almost the same thing: “We are preaching in Judges / Numbers / Ephesians / Genesis right now and God is using His Word to equip us for faithfulness in a difficult world.”
Most of the readers of this blog know that the writers are (mostly) pastors in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which is currently wrapping up their annual meeting of synod at Indiana Wesleyan in Marion, Indiana. Without giving a full update, I thought I might mention a few encouraging blessings God has given this week.
Many of our readers are familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which B.B. Warfield notes is definitely worth learning, but definitely not very easy. Many families use the shorter catechism as a regular part of their devotions, family worship and theological training of children. Others are also familiar with the First Catechism – a form of the shorter catechism designed for younger children.
When our children were very young (able to speak a few words, but certainly not sentences), I found even the First Catechism to be a little unwieldy for them. And so we began to put together a short catechism for very young children.
“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So sayeth the apostle Paul. Land for your offspring. A great name. A great nation. A great blessing. The protection of God. Abram believed those promises and acted like he believed them. He left Ur; even when he got to the promised land, he kept moving and camping out, trusting God the whole time.
But then things were complicated by a famine. Leaving the promised land in the rear view mirror, they headed to Egypt, still believing that they would return (see Gen. 12:10’s note about the “sojourn”). Struck by the beauty of his wife, he began to fear for his life – what would they do to Abram in order to get to Sarai? And so he hatched a plan of half-truths and self-protection: “Tell them you’re my sister.”
It worked – almost too well. Not only wasn’t Abram killed, his pockets and stalls were filled with the riches of none less than Pharaoh himself. And only by the hand of God himself was Sarai saved from a life in Pharaoh’s harem.
What just happened??! I’m glad you asked, because if we pay attention, we’ll see a mirror for the American church to peer […]
I watched a caterpillar for an unreasonable amount of time last week.
In comparison to the nearby family of salamanders, her pace was ponderous.
But also in comparison to the family of salamanders, her pace was smooth.
She was always moving, caterpillaring toward an invisible goal.