Posts filed under Various

My First Year As Your Pastoral Intern

I thought it would be good, coming up to the end of my first year of my internship at Proclamation Presbyterian Church, to take a few moments to give some reflections on my first year.

It goes without saying, although I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to serve Christ's church here at Proclamation. When I finished my under-grad degree at Lancaster Bible College in the May of 2014, I was in a complete daze. My brother Peter passed away less than a month before, I had a degree but a Bachelor of Science in Bible is a pretty useless degree, practically speaking. I had no plan, no idea where to go or what to do next, I was physically and emotionally emptied, wondering what the Lord had next for me. I had no idea that by the end of that summer, through the love, support, and guidance of men like Dr. Michael Rogers at Westminster PCA and our own Troy De Bruin that I would be enrolled in Covenant Theological Seminary in St Louis, would be taken “under care” of the Susquehanna Valley Presbytery, and would be serving, at the time, as a part-time unpaid pastoral intern at Proclamation. I was grateful and energized, excited to be able to further my education, serve my local church body, and to have the guidance and accountability of the presbytery over me. Then, most unlooked for and unexpectedly to me, talks began circulating about making my internship a full-time paid internship beginning in January of this year. I would have never thought that I would be working in full time ministry less than a year after finishing my under-grad degree, but the Lord God seems to be full of surprises!

As Troy and I sat down at the beginning of the year, we laid out a pretty aggressive outline for what my internship should look like. We modeled this largely upon Kevin DeYoung's internship program at University Reformed Church. The outline included a lot of reading and a lot of book reports. Of course, Troy and I did not account for the fact that URC was a well established church with long established ministries already in place. Needless to say, while our outline was not completely laid to waste, the tasks of working full time for a young church and beginning a seminary program sort of “got in the way” of our internship outline. 

Personally, I do not consider this veering from the internship outline a loss. In the past year, I have had an experience in ministry that most seminary students will never have. It seems I've been able to have my hands in many different pots as the ministry of Proclamation has grown. Everything from planning our weekly worship services to helping launch a children and youth ministry, helping to teach and train men for leadership roles in our church, sitting in on session meetings, helping to plan and facilitate our first congregational meeting, memorizing and blogging my way through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, preaching for the first time, sitting in on new-membership interviews, being involved in the organization of Proclamation into a particular congregation of the Presbyterian Church of America, I count it all a great and wonderful blessing to have the Lord allow me to be involved in so many different aspects of Christian ministry. The Lord has and is doing amazing things through the body of believers at Proclamation and I thank God often for this amazing opportunity.

I also praise and thank God that he brought me to this particular body of believers. The community at Proclamation is a beautiful, loving, and supportive community who, I believe, is truly united around the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I read in the book of Acts about how the early Christians shared in every aspect of their lives, I'm encouraged at how our little church reflects this spirit. We have shared in times of great joy, great growth, and especially great sorrow and grief. It seems that in the life of our young church, we've had to endure the entire range of trials, tribulations, and joys that any large church would face. And I count it a blessing to serve this congregation in all of these circumstances. 

The support, both financially and spiritually, that I've received this first year is overwhelming. I could never repay all of you for the love and support I've received. I could never express the deep-seated gratitude that I truly feel. I praise God often for you all. The Lord God truly is building his church, both here in Mount Joy and globally, and I pray that you all agree, it is a tremendous privilege and honor to be part of such a great and eternal work. 

Posted on December 21, 2015 and filed under Various.

Love and Mawwiage

Lord willing, this Sunday we will consider what Jesus has to say about marriage in Mark 10:1-12 as we continue our series through the gospel of Mark. There is a lot of talk about marriage these days, and we will address some of that on Sunday as we seek to listen to what Jesus has to say about it.

It's natural for people to associate love and marriage. One of the many memorable scenes from the cult classic film, The Princess Bride, is the marriage ceremony of Prince Humperdink and a very reluctant Buttercup. The priest begins the service by saying:

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove

But what is true love? And what role does love play in marriage?

Paul Tripp has an excellent definition and explanation in his book on marriage, What Did You Expect? 

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

He then goes on to unpack the definition (pp. 188-189):

Love is willing.

Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). The decisions, words, and actions of love always grow in the soil of a willing heart. You cannot force a person to love. If you are forcing someone to love, by the very nature of the act you are demonstrating that this person doesn’t in fact love.

Love is willing self-sacrifice.

There is no such thing as love without sacrifice.

Love calls you beyond the borders of your own wants, needs, and feelings.

Love calls you to be willing to invest time, energy, money, resources, personal ability, and gifts for the good of another.

Love calls you to lay down your life in ways that are concrete and specific.

Love calls you to serve, to wait, to give, to suffer, to forgive, and to do all these things again and again.

Love calls you to be silent when you want to speak, and to speak when you would like to be silent.

Love calls you to act when you would really like to wait, and to wait when you would really like to act.

Love calls you to stop when you really want to continue, and it calls you to continue when you feel like stopping.

Love again and again calls you away from your instincts and your comfort.

Love always requires personal sacrifice.

Love calls you to give up your life.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another.

Love always has the good of another in view.

Love is motivated by the interests and needs of others.

Love is excited at the prospect of alleviating burdens and meeting needs.

Love feels poor when the loved one is poor.

Love suffers when the loved one suffers.

Love wants the best for the loved one and works to deliver it.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation.

The Bible says that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. If he had waited until we were able to reciprocate, there would be no hope for us.

Love isn’t a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” bargain.

Love isn’t about placing people in our debt and waiting for them to pay off their debts.

Love isn’t a negotiation for mutual good.

Real love does not demand reciprocation, because real love isn’t motivated by the return on the investment. No, real love is motivated by the good that will result in the life of the person being loved.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

Christ was willing to go to the cross and carry our sin precisely because there was nothing that we could ever do to earn, achieve, or deserve the love of God. If you are interested only in loving people who are deserving, the reality is that you are not motivated by love for them but by love for yourself. Love does its best work when the other person is undeserving. It is in these moments that love is most needed. It is in these moments that love is protective and preventative. It stays the course while refusing to quit or to get down and get dirty and give way to things that are anything but love.

There is never a day in your marriage when you aren’t called to be willing.

There is never a day in your marriage when some personal sacrifice is not needed.

There is never a day when you are free from the need to consider the good of your husband or wife.

There is never a day when you aren’t called to do what is not reciprocated and to offer what has not been deserved.

There is never a day when your marriage can coast along without being infused by this kind of love.

May you rest in the love Jesus has for you and may our marriages reflect his love.

Posted on October 15, 2015 and filed under Various.

How Should We Respond to the SCOTUS ruling?

While I do not claim this is the only or best way to respond to the SCOTUS ruling regarding same-sex marriage last week, I do believe our biblical response as a church, as the people of God, would at least include these attitudes/actions:

IT SHOULD SPUR US ON TO REPENT OF OUR OWN SIN

We each should examine our own lives and honestly assess whether our marriages and relationships are reflecting the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be more concerned about our own sin than the sin of others. And as we are aware of sin in our own lives we ought to repent immediately and once again plead the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. When people were telling Jesus about others who they thought were “worse” sinners his response was, “Do you think (they) were worse sinners than all the (others). . . No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3).

IT SHOULD SADDEN US

Those who celebrate this ruling may claim that “love wins”, but what about love for God and passion for his glory? When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he began his prayer with these words, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9) In this ruling God’s name is not being lifted up as holy, instead, this is an assault on God and his image in man. This should grieve us as God’s people, as a church that aims to worship God in all of life.

IT SHOULD NOT SURPRISE US

We live in a fallen world, a world that ignores God, and so it should not surprise us when this world rejects God and his ways. We should not expect the world in which we live to honor God and uphold his Word (1 John 2:15-17). It should also not surprise us if this world hates us. Jesus told us to expect as much (John 15:18-26, 1 John 3:13).

IT SHOULD NOT SCARE US

This is still God’s world and he is still reigning on his throne doing as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 115:3, Daniel 4:34-35). The justices of the Supreme Court are there, ultimately, by God’s appointment. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1). Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” And, as the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us: “not a hair can fall from our heads apart from the will of our Father in heaven.” Our Father in heaven is almighty and glorious, we have no need to fear others. “Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!” (Psalm 24:10)

IT WILL NOT SWAY US

God’s Word tells us that the church is a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). And so we will not be peddlers of the Word of God. We will not redefine marriage but continue to uphold it as a gift from God for the good of humanity, the first institution that he established for the good of mankind, consisting of one man and one woman and intended to be a reflection of the gospel, of the union between Jesus Christ the Son of God and his bride, the Church, the people of God.

Jesus himself affirmed this definition of marriage in Mark 10:6-8: But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

We must remember that we are the household of God, the church of the living God. We are not an American Church. Yes, we are grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country we live in, and we are thankful for all the men and women who have given their lives and who currently serve to protect these freedoms. But we must remember that Jesus is the head of the church and that his church includes people from every tribe and tongue and nation and language. America is not God’s chosen nation. Our allegiance is not to America but to King Jesus, and his kingdom includes people from every nation on earth.

We are also not a political church: Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. Our response as a church is not political. Individual Christians may get involved in politics, but we as a church are not committed to any one political party. And the people of God do not place their hope in a nation, a political party, or a particular person running for office.

And so we will not sway from our mission. We will continue to PRAISE GOD, striving to worship Him in all of life. We will continue to LOVE PEOPLE, all people, pursuing them in love as Jesus has pursued and loved us. We will PROCLAIM CHRIST, his life, death, resurrection and coming again. And we will PRAY IN THE SPIRIT at all times. Soli Deo Gloria.

If you want to consider other appropriate responses, here are a few others I believe are worth reading:

Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the PCA, has given our denomination’s view in a brief Statement on Same-sex Marriage

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has a well-written Evangelical Declaration on Marriage

Kevin DeYoung has asked, But What Does the Bible Say?

John Piper has shared a lamentation

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released an official response.

And here’s a response from Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan, two people who not long ago would have celebrated this decision.

 

Posted on July 2, 2015 and filed under Various.

Will we be ready for Sunday?

Pastor Joe Thorn has a great post worth reading as we prepare for our gathered worship each week. You can read it below or at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals website:

MAKING THE MOST OF SUNDAY

Corporate worship on the Lord’s day is precious to the people of God. We are invited to gather together for fellowship with God and one another through both word and sacrament, prayer and song. This gathering is perhaps the most beautiful, earthly picture we have of the church as we, of differing backgrounds and interests, unite together in Jesus Christ. Edmund Clowney put it so well when he wrote:

“Above all, we must prize the blessing of corporate worship. The church of the Lord, gathered for worship, marks the pinnacle of our fellowship with the Lord and with one another. The church is the people of God, the new humanity, the beginning of the new creation, a colony of heaven… In corporate worship we experience the meaning of union with Christ.”1

Yet, Sundays can be trying. We are busy and tired from a week of labor and activities. For those families with children just getting out the door on time can be a challenge--if not a battle! And when we finally sit down in church we are assaulted with distractions emerging from our own hearts and minds.

I want to encourage you to make the most of corporate worship, not just this weekend, but every weekend. As we look forward to what God will do among us as we gather let’s remember that there are three ways to get the most out of your Sundays with the church: prepare, participate, and reflect.

Prepare

The significance of corporate worship must not be missed. We are not gathered to observe a show, or attending a lecture. We gather to worship the living God, drawing near to him through Jesus Christ, feasting on his word, repenting of sin, and rejoicing in his salvation. Getting the most out of worship is greatly helped by preparing our hearts to meet with God the night before.

Prayer is the primary means by which we prepare our hearts for worship. We should be in prayer for those who will lead as well as all who attend, asking God to draw men to the Son, to revive the lukewarm by his Spirit, and to penetrate hearts with the word.

And of course you must pray for your own soul; confessing your sin, trusting in the pardon only the Father gives in Jesus. We ought to be asking God to show us any hurtful ways in our hearts, and to speak to our fears and needs when we gather in the assembly. In his outstanding little book, The Christian's Daily Walk, Henry Scudder explained the place of prayer in preparation for worship when he wrote:

“Then pray for yourself, and for the minister, that God would give him a mouth to speak, and you a heart to hear, as you both ought to do. All this, before you shall assemble for public worship.”2

It is also helpful to read and meditate on the passage that your pastor will preaching from on Sunday. Early on in my first church plant a man named Mark called my cell phone, which at the time was also the church’s official phone line. He told me he was in town with his son and would be joining us for worship the next day. He wanted to know what passage I was preaching from so he and his son could read it and pray through it together that night. The next day Mark and his son showed up to our little church plant prepared to worship our risen Savior. I had no idea the night before I was speaking on the phone with Pastor Mark Dever of Capital Hill Baptist Church! His example is one we would all do well to follow.

Another means of preparation is rest. The hectic (and often times unnecessary) pace of our lives can make transitioning to worship on the Lord’s Day difficult. Be sure to get enough sleep the night before. Fatigue can be a great hindrance to worship, so let’s not give it any room to distract us. On Sunday morning be sure to get up early enough to not be rushed. And when you arrive be ready to respond to what the Lord will do.

Participate

Getting the most out of corporate worship requires you to do more than show up. You must participate in the act of worship in all of its forms. You are not an observer, but a worshipper. The only Observer is the Lord himself who receives our offering with delight through his Son Jesus Christ.

Get there early. Sometimes, in God’s providence, we arrive late, but our habit should be to arrive early. Getting there before worship begins allows us to not only be part of the whole gathering, but also gives opportunity to see and serve others. The Call to Worship that formally begins the assembly is not a bell that merely announces the beginning of an event, and is an invitation to draw our hearts upward toward our triune God. The first verses of Scripture that are read are put in place through careful planning and God’s providence. Arriving late means you are missing something good God has for you to hear.

Hear the word with eagerness. The reading of Scripture in worship is the voice of God, and we must be ready to hear him. Here the Lord speaks to his people collectively, and to you individually. Distractions will abound, so we must consciously lay them aside to give God our full attention. Whenever the word of God is read it is an “audible conference of the Almighty with your soul. A distraction lets him talk unto the walls.”3

Sing with your heart to the Lord and to those present. Scripture commands us to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” (Eph 5:19) It is painfully obvious that in many churches today much of the congregation lip-syncs along with the band on stage. Even if the entire body was to sing aloud it is often impossible to hear them over the vocalists and musicians. But the Lord calls us to sing to him and to one another. This is a form of worship God has specifically prescribed for us. Yes, we sing with our hearts, but such songs are to be amplified by faith and run through our mouths. Here is where the real volume should come in. We should be turned up as far as we can go.

There may be songs you are not fond of. If the melody isn’t to your liking focus on the words, assuming they are reflect the truth of God and the gospel. Do not allow your preferences to short-circuit worship. This gathering is not set to meet your tastes but the taste of almighty God.

Pray with those who lead in prayer. It is easy to tune out when someone else is leading in prayer. So keep in mind this is not the time for one person to pray, but for all God’s people to pray. Push distractions out of your mind to give attention to what is being offered up by the one, and echo those prayers in your own heart, adding to them as you and the rest of the church entreat the Lord together. “Prayer is a pouring out the heart unto the Lord; by a distraction you pour it aside."4

Follow the preacher. When the preacher stands to deliver the sermon work hard to follow him closely, bible in hand, ready to receive the message not as man’s word, but God’s word (1 Thess 1:6; 2:13) If you have a hard time following the preacher, keep your Bible open and prayerfully search it. When you read the word of God it is read it is a “perusing of God's heart in black and white, where you may believe every letter to be written in blood.”5

Let the various parts of corporate worship draw you to our triune God. In our weakness, or sometimes in the weakness of a particular element in worship, we may not experience much grace in the moment. But If the songs do not enflame your heart, perhaps the sermon will. Or if the sermon is difficult for you to digest, perhaps the prayers will lift your head in adoration. God is at work in each element of worship, so each component has the ability to challenge and change you, including the call to worship, the songs, the prayers, the preaching, the Lord’s Supper, the offering, and the benediction.

Go as one who is sent. As worship concludes and you return home, remember that you are not simply leaving, but are sent by God to believe his word, walk in the Spirit, and testify to the reality of Jesus Christ in all of life.

Reflect

Finally, when the assembly has been sent out, and you are alone or with family or friends, reflect on what was heralded and heard. Return to the word that was preached, discuss it with others, and ask God to continue working in you what he said that day.

There is much to be gained in corporate worship, but I find that  we easily miss out when we are not prepared for it, participating in it, or reflecting on it. Again Scudder noted:

Do all this the rather, because there is not a clearer sign to distinguish you from one that is pro fane, than this, of conscientiously keeping holy the Lord's day. Neither is there any ordinary means of gaining strength and growth of grace in the in ward man like this, of due observing the sabbath. For this is God's great mart or fair-day for the soul, on which you may buy of Christ wine, milk, bread, marrow and fatness, gold, white raiment, eye salve, — even all things which are necessary, and which will satisfy, and cause the soul to live. It is the special day of proclaiming and sealing of pardons to penitent sinners. It is God's special day of publishing and sealing your patent of eternal life. It is a blessed day, sanctified for all these blessed purposes.6

1. Edmund Clowney, The Church

2. Henry Scudder, The Christian’s Daily Walk

3. Richard Steele, A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in Worship

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Henry Scudder, The Christian’s Daily Walk

Posted on April 24, 2015 and filed under Various.

Holding Fast to the Word of Life

We looked at Philippians 2:14-18 this past Sunday at Proclamation.

We are commanded in verse 14 to do all things without grumbling or disputing. At the heart of grumbling is a lack of trust in God, a failure to submit to his right to reign in our lives. One of the lessons of the Israelites’ grumbling in their wilderness journey is that the root that feeds the sin of grumbling and disputing is despising God and not believing in him (Numbers 14:11). Grumbling comes from a heart of unbelief and ingratitude.

“Holding fast to the word of life” is the means by which we can fight against this temptation to grumble. The word of God, the word of life, reveals God’s character and contains God’s promises to his people. As we hold fast to the word of life by God’s grace we are enabled to trust God and interpret our circumstances in light of God’s character and promises. As the psalmist says in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Pastor Erik Raymond, at his blog, Ordinary Pastor, wrote an article that I found very encouraging as I thought about “holding fast to the word of life”.

Here’s his conclusion:

“Therefore, whenever you are dealing with the day-to-day grind, the data points of life, remember the bookends of God’s character and his promise. See everything in light of the cross of Christ! Let his character interpret your circumstances and not the other way around.”

I encourage you to read the entire article here: God's character and your circumstances.

Posted on June 27, 2014 and filed under Various.

How the Pew Can Help the Pulpit

Photo credit:    Paul J. S.    (modified for style)

Photo credit: Paul J. S. (modified for style)

It is a privilege and joy to pastor the people of Proclamation. They pray for, encourage, and provide for me and my family and I thank God for them. They are doing what H. B. Charles encourages congregations to do in this article:

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.

Read the rest of the article here: How the Pew Can Help the Pulpit

Posted on June 6, 2014 and filed under Various.

A Prayer for the People of Proclamation

This past Sunday we looked at Paul’s gospel-saturated prayer for the believers at Philippi from Philippians 1:9-11. We made copies available of our first ever pictorial directory and our regular church directory (Every Christian’s 2nd Most Important Book) and we were encouraged to pray for one another using Paul’s prayer (you can pray the exact words or use it as a guide).

Posted on May 8, 2014 and filed under Various.

Memorize the book of Philippians

Philippians is this first book of the Bible we are preaching through at Proclamation. As we work our way through this short book there are two things you can do that I believe will be of great long-lasting benefit to you: 1) Read the book for yourself, and 2) Memorize the book.

Posted on May 2, 2014 and filed under Various.