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Common Slaves

Common Men; Uncommon Master

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Pastoral Thoughts

What is Job Thankful for on Thanksgiving?

First published Nov. 24, 2016

Thanksgiving, because it’s a yearly holiday, sort of lends itself to reviewing the previous year and giving thanks for the good things the Lord has done in our lives. Often it’s a remembrance of physical ailments overcome, occupational transitions accompanied by increased income, or other assorted and sundry triumphs.

But life is hard, and sometimes one arrives at Thanksgiving worse off than the year before. The diagnosis wasn’t good, the job didn’t come through, the marriage fell apart, the loved one died. And what I’ve noticed in years like that is the uncanny ability for the afflicted, the disappointed, and the frustrated to still be able to give thanks. Continue reading “What is Job Thankful for on Thanksgiving?”

Christian, If You Must Fight Your Brother, Do So, but Fight Fair.

there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another” Acts 15:39

The most famous intramural Christian quarrel in the Bible is probably the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas over whether or not to take John Mark along on their next missionary journey. It became so heated and severe that they parted ways over it. Fighting happens between the greatest of men, the most gifted of men, the sweetest of men (the Son of Encouragement) and the most humble of men (“by the grace of God I am what I am…”).

This isn’t an article to deal with how to avoid quarreling, because I’ve no doubt there’s plenty of material available for that. This is some thoughts about how one might actually quarrel, and quarrel well, even if it ends up with picking a new partner in ministry, or heading to a Mediterranean island with a rejected one. Continue reading “Christian, If You Must Fight Your Brother, Do So, but Fight Fair.”

Listen Fast; Speak Slow

…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20

Make haste to listen. Be reluctant to speak. That means, I think, not that we should never speak, but rather when we do, our speech is enriched by much listening, making it meaningful. The opposite is reluctant to hear, hastening to speak, which is the style of the angry man.

Anger achieves nothing, at least in the way of the righteousness of God. Anger produces much speech, but it’s worthless speech, because, among other things, it hasn’t heard anything, and is, I suppose, shallow, misdirected, irrelevant, and by common appraisal, not worth listening to.

We live in a slow-hearing, quick speaking age. It’s the age of social media – the speech must pour forth like a river, lest the speaker run the risk of disappearing into the long-forgotten archives of 24 hours ago. Continue reading “Listen Fast; Speak Slow”

The Messy Must

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. -1 Corinthians 11:18-19

The church takes a lot of heat and often gains a rather poor reputation for her internal strife. After all, shouldn’t followers of Jesus be the most loving, kind, loyal, friendly, or, most of all, nice people in the world? It sure seems like it. Even the unbelieving world holds us to a higher standard of morality and loving our neighbor than they do themselves, and why shouldn’t they? Continue reading “The Messy Must”

Flavel on the Death of a Believer

As temporal death is a penal evil, and part of the curse, so God inflicts it not upon believers; but they must die for other ends, namely, to be made perfectly happy in a more full and immediate enjoyment of God, than they can have in the body: and so, death is theirs by way of privilege.

John Flavel, Fountain of Life

ed. note: this particular quote is a favorite of mine for use in the funeral of a believer. It is also especially meaningful to me, as it was my use of this quotation which caught the ear of Pastor Eric Anderson, and opened our first conversation and subsequent friendship together, which has been of great value to me. -jr

Choosing Better, pt.5

Ignorantly entering hell is better than apostasy, 2 Peter 2:21

…if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

Here is one of those warnings that doesn’t seem like it should need to be there for the person who has raised the hand, walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, and signed the card. Continue reading “Choosing Better, pt.5”

Choosing Better, pt.4

Drowning is better than ruining Jesus’ children. Mark 9:42

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”

This is a powerful statement, and I’d have loved to see Jesus’ eyes when He made it. Jesus is a big brother of the first order here. Mess with one of His, and you’ll wish you hadn’t. This is a warning shot to false apostles, false teachers, lawmakers, and anyone who would feel so inclined, for whatever reason, to destroy the young faith of a believer. Continue reading “Choosing Better, pt.4”

Choosing Better, pt.3

Mutilation is better than hell, Matt. 5:29-30

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Without spending a lot of time working through the fact that Jesus isn’t speaking of a twisted form of works-based salvation through mutilation, the larger point is that self-mutilation, as awful as it is, is better than hell. Continue reading “Choosing Better, pt.3”

Choosing Better, pt2

Dying and living with Jesus in heaven is better than Life on Earth

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Phil. 1:21-24

The word that stands out to me in this text is the last word of v.22, “choose.” What’s intriguing is that it seems that as Paul was sitting in prison, he was presented with two options, presumably by God Himself – suffer martyrdom in the near future, or be released for further ministry, and suffer martyrdom later. Continue reading “Choosing Better, pt2”

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