A Psalm to Calm Our Souls (Sermon Video)

Your current season of life may entail suffering. Your future may be uncertain. You may be watching a family member or friend struggling with cancer or another illness. We are all watching and weeping with what is happening in Ukraine right now. In the midst of all this chaos and crises, where can you and I look to for peace and comfort? It will not be found in our circumstances, whether they change or not, or in our own wisdom to understand what is going on. What, then, will calm our souls during our time in the darkness of the valley? Pastor Theron St. John answers this question in his sermon on Psalm 23. Find comfort in this Psalm that calms the soul.

Who and Why of Thanksgiving

This week family and friends will gather and feast. They will celebrate the holiday known as Thanksgiving. Yet, how many families truly spend the time of reflecting on thankfulness? Consider your own life: Do you approach this season by thinking who you are thankful for? Do you stop to think why you are even thankful in the first place? My concern is that we do not, but I think we should. Reflecting on Psalm 136, I believe we can begin to let our hearts be softened to the who and why of thanksgiving. From the first three verses it is clear the One who deserves the most thanks is God. In that short span of three verses, the phrase “Give thanks to the Lord” is repeated three times. Surely, God is worthy of our praise. Moving from the ‘who’ to the ‘why’, the rest of Psalm 136 explain why God is to be thanked. A few instances reveal the multifaceted thankfulness of our hearts to God. God is to be thanked because…

  • He does great wonders and works (v. 4)
  • He is the Creator of the world (v. 5-9)
  • He brought Israel out of the land of Egypt (v. 10-22)
  • He remembers us and rescues us (v. 23-26)

The one true God has done great things in the world, creating it and coming into it. Most profoundly, though, we come to God, especially in this season of thankfulness, with joy because of His rescuing us and redeeming us through the gospel of Christ. Because Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, came to live the life we couldn’t and died the death we deserved, we can have the forgiveness of sins. Because He rose again and is now ascended, we can have the hope of eternal life. This is because “His steadfast love endures forever”. Will you thank God for who He is and what He has done as you reflect on His Person, words, and acts?

Reflection Time:

  • As you spend time together, what can you share with family and friends on how God has worked in your life this year? Be sure to share what that has revealed to you about God’s character.

Bear Witness to the Truth, Not Fake News

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

These words not only signify one of the most crucial moments in a courtroom scene but also find a primary place in the Christian life. Just as in a court case when witnesses take an oath to assure they will tell the truth, so we as Christians must realize the utmost importance of knowing the truth and telling the truth. This is especially the case when it comes to social media. In an era declaring fake news, we must follow the lead of our Lord and live out and share the truth on our Facebook timelines and our Twitter feeds.

Prior to the 2016 presidential race, I admit I was unaware of how severe the crisis of truth was within our churches. To be sure, the need to speak truth is nothing new, and I understood this need to teach truth in the face of false teaching. Yet, what I witnessed in 2016 was the markdown of truth’s value for those who profess to know the Truth. On social media, I began to see Christians defend positions, not because it was a matter of right and wrong, but because it was held by the right or left. I saw feeds filled with shared posts that were not concerned with the facts but with what fit their preconceived notions. Instead of prioritizing the Good News, I witnessed too many Christians’ profiles proclaiming fake news with skeptical statistics and questionable quotes. They gave no regard to the sources of what they shared. This trend has only continued in the years following.

As Christians, you and I must do better. We must check our sources and follow the example of the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). These believers examined the Scriptures to see even if the faithful teaching of the Apostle Paul lined up with the rest of Scripture. They were a people concerned with biblical truth, because they knew the Word of God spoke absolute truth (Ps 19:9Prov 30:5). As followers of the Way, they knew to follow Jesus was to follow the very embodiment of truth (Jn 8:31-3214:6). For they and us, the ultimate source of truth is the Word of God and the truth we hold is in Jesus Christ.

This has specific application for us as Christians when it comes to our social media use. As believers, we have not been out called of this world in order to serve as a representative for our political party, tirelessly promoting its policies and defending its leaders at all costs. Instead, we are called to be representatives for Jesus Christ before a watching world, proclaiming his gospel and discerning truth from his Word. This call is laid out for us in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In order to fulfill this call, we need to take note what it means to be an ambassador. The term ambassador describes someone sent by a country to act as its official representative in a foreign country, often with a specific task in mind. While it is ironically most often used in the political sphere, the Apostle Paul makes clear this is a higher call. Elsewhere he reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). Our role as ambassadors for Christ is not merely about our earthly citizenship but our heavenly one. The purpose for posting on Facebook and tweeting out on Twitter should not be to pass along our political party’s agenda. Our task is to pass along and point others to the truth of Jesus Christ. As his representatives, this is our high calling.

Heeding this call ought to reorient our approach to social media. We are witnesses for Christ before a watching world, and many on social media are watching. As we log into our social media accounts, we should be asking ourselves the question, “How can I be a representative for Jesus Christ on social media today?” Before we share that quote or comment on that news headline, we should be questioning, “How does this impact my witness for Jesus Christ?” “Is this Scriptural?” And even when we engage in disagreements on Facebook, we ought to be pondering, “Am I more concerned with winning the argument or being charitable?”

Brothers and sisters, the credibility of our witness is at stake with what we share on social media. May we pay careful attention to the sources of what we share, consider what is worthy of sharing, and point people to the source of truth in Jesus Christ.

A Love Story Worth Reading (Book Review)

Shepard, Valerie Elliot. Devotedly, The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. B&H Books, Nashville, TN. 2019. 304 pages.

As someone who has a heart for missions, I have always respected Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. From Jim’s commitment and sacrifice to reach the unreached for Christ to Elisabeth’s resolve to go to the unreached people group who killed her husband, this couple is a witness to the mission of God in the gospel of Christ. If you are familiar at all with more recent church history, you will know who the Elliots are. The respect is warranted. Yet, what I did not realize is not only are the Elliots two people I greatly respect but people who I can resonate with. This is all because of what their daughter, Valerie Elliot Shepard, shares in her new book, Devotedly, The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

Love Letters and Journal Entries

Organized into six sections covering years 1948-1953, the book contains various journal entries of both Jim and Elisabeth as well as letters written by each other to each other. Readers will travel along as they see both Jim and Elisabeth wrestle with the call of whether he call of God to missions involved a lifetime of and commitment to singleness or if God brought them together to be one on mission for Him. Over the course of these six years, themes of waiting and a commitment to God’s will are prevalent. Readers will witness through these letters and journal entries the struggle of love, the reality of fallenness, but a hope for what God has called together. In a culture that lives for instant gratification, a love story like this on patience and purity is a much-needed one. As a single myself, I am not one for love stories but this one is exceptional, with a patient call on the Lord’s timing and a commitment to purity while waiting. This untold part of the Elliot’s story is a story that not only shares what their love looked like but also shows how to steward love in a way that honors God.

Letters of Elliots and Lessons for Us

While the subtitle of the book speaks of personal letters and love story, the book is much more than that. Thanks to Valerie Elliot Shepard, not only are these letters of her parents accessible to us, but the lessons she shares from them challenge us to this same type of story. As Mrs. Shepard shares, “If I could express my one hope for compiling this book, my prayer is that these entries of theirs would call us to search faithfully for God in His Word” (Shepard 45). What makes the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot one of the greatest love stories is because they knew the love of God and were committed to Him first.

Read and Learn

While I could go on and recount many stories from the book, I was refreshed to not only read about these people I respect in church history but also people I can now resonate with as they considered their seasons of singleness and sought out the Lord for His will and in their relationship. This book portrays Jim and Elisabeth Elliot as real people, sinners who were in need of God’s grace just as we all are and people who had their faults. In the end, though, their resolve to love God and live for Him is the greatest display of love one could know and a lesson we can all learn to apply. If you want to know what it looks like to commit yourself to the will of God and steward a relationship well, then consider reading and learning from Devotedly, The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot by Valerie Elliot Shepard.

I received this book from B&H/Lifeway Bloggers Program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Why I Am Not Going To Seminary (Right Away)

These last few months have been filled with prayer and consideration. Consideration for seminary once I graduate from Bible college next spring and prayer, asking God to show me whether that is His will for me or not in this season of my life. It is only after this time of taking it before God that I believe I have come to a decision: I will not be going to seminary (right away). I honestly believe this is the direction the Lord is taking me in at this time. This is not to say I will never go to seminary but that I will not be going in the near future. Along with (or because) of God’s direction, there are a number of factors I believe it is best to not to go to seminary right away. They include:

Spiritual Life. Throughout the last three years in Bible college, I must admit I have struggled in consistent Bible reading and prayer. Often, the excuse becomes that I must to do school work so I do not get behind. And, so, the former is neglected. Now, one might say, “Yeah, but its a Bible college. Reading the Bible is part of that school work.” Well, yes, but there is a difference when you are reading for an academic exercise  and when you are reading it to spend some time personally with God. And it is this personal time I have struggled with. It is a maturity issue. Thus, I believe it to be best to take a break from an official school setting so that my spiritual life will not suffer so much.

Ministry Experience. Another reason I have chosen to not go to seminary right now is that I think it would be best to enter into vocational ministry and get practical, hands-on experience. I have learned much in Bible college but have not really been able to put much of it into practice yet. It would be a good opportunity, then, to gain ministry experience and understand the pastorate better before furthering my schooling.

Vast Resources. I have told a few people that if I had lived 200 years ago, I would have probably went to seminary right after Bible college. Why I say this is because as I see it now, in today’s world there are such a vast number of resources out there, such as Gospel Coalition, 9Marks, and Covenant Theological Seminary (they have free lectures from a number of their courses you can download for free). Now, you have to be careful with what resources you choose and be able to discern between the sound and the heretical but I believe I have a level of discernment now that I will be aware of that.

Nevertheless, while a few more options could be given, my point is this: I believe it to be in the best interest of my spiritual health to not go to seminary right after Bible college. I believe this is the Lord’s direction for my life in this season. God bless!

Faithful to the Word

This semester at Crossroads has been the most fruitful for me yet. With this fruitfulness, of course, comes growth pains. I have been stretched more in the last couple of months than what I probably had been in the last five years. Clearly, it has been a while since I have been stretched this much. Albeit, school has not been the only thing stretching me. Church has as well. As I have been entrusted with more responsibilities at the church I am a member at, Crossroad Community, I find myself moving out of my comfort zone and building relationships because of it. It has been amazing! Even with all this, though, the biggest growth and most challenging issue I have faced this semester is a result of a course of I have been taking titled “Hermeneutics”. For those of you who may not know what that word means, it is the science and art of interpreting and applying the Bible. Not only has this been the biggest growth point, but it has also affected my other courses and my studies at church as well. It has cause me to stop and think about how I am handling the Word of God.

Right up front I want to say this: I want to be faithful to the Word of God. I realize now more than ever that to 2 Timothy 2:2 & 4:2 are critical to the ministry that God blesses and entrusts me with. I realize that to preach the Word of God is to preach the gospel. Although I feel it should have been obvious to me before, I am now aware that when I go into studying a text, my first question should be, “What does this teach me about God?” and not “How should I apply this to my life?” (There is a time for application for the individual but it is not of first importance.) Furthermore, when going into a text I must see how it points to Jesus Christ. That being the case, it is important to see at what point in redemptive history the text takes place. You can, then, be able to show how the passage points to fullness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why the Christian message is unique!

In conclusion, I have been so affected by this course and the teaching that my hope is to possibly, if time and opportunity permit, share these concepts and teachings with the young adult group I have been blessed to be a part of. I know that as I want to be faithful to the Word, my fellow young adult brothers and sisters in the faith want to be as well. I believe this could greatly help and encourage them in studying the Bible. This course has also made me grow in appreciation for men of God who preach the gospel week in and week out even though it may not always be popular. For that, I would like to thanks the pastors God has allowed me to learn under and from, Andy Lee and McKeel Bowden. I, likewise, would like to thank Professor Nicholas Piotrowski for his heart on wanting Christian leaders to teach and preach with the right hermeneutics. May we stay faithful to the Word!