Jeremiah – Endurance in Ministry

Jeremiah was a mighty man of God, a towering figure in the late history of the Kingdom of Judah. He was also considered a traitor to his beleaguered nation at one of the most awful times in their history. How did he endure in ministry over 40 years when it seemed the whole world was against him?

Prominent anti-Christians argue that religion is dangerous because it creates certainty. Several years ago, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC hosted an exhibit that read “Belief + Doubt = Sanity.” Pressure is overwhelming to “go with the flow.” Confidence in one’s convictions, when they differ from certain politically acceptable convictions of others, is condemned. This censure is so much the stronger when the opinions held seem to contradict “science,” whether or not they do. Someone said, “Few are those who see with their own eyes, think with their own minds, and feel with their own hearts.”

But it is not enough to be certain. Many Christians know the truth and yet do not speak it or practice it. Many think the Truth, speak the Truth, and act in Truth for a season, perhaps several years. But like Demas they start strong and then fade away. Some modern Christian celebrities have renounced their faith. To endure in service is to know, speak, and do, consistently and faithfully, for a lifetime.

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Christians and Civil Disobedience

Should Christians disobey their government? When? Why? What about the consequences?

The United States has no official church as is common in Europe, but individual states had official churches for centuries. People debate whether the United States was established as a Christian nation, but it was founded based on the Judeo-Christian worldview and governance. As a result, Christ-followers in America have faced little overt persecution for four hundred years.

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Unbelief

Our worries and fears are not uncontrollable emotions, they are decisions, they are unbelief, and they are sin. Our God deserves better. The answer is to praise Him.

“Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness.” (Psalm 95:8)

Exodus 17:1-7 records the Israelites, camped at Rephidim in the Sinai desert, complaining to Moses that they had no water to drink. This was no little grumbling, as they were accusing Moses of plotting their deaths and preparing to stone him. Moses appealed to God for a solution to the problem and for protection from the mob. The Lord provided water, and things simmered down for a while.

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Good Friday

God transforms our hardest days, our “Good Fridays,” into the glorious victories of Easter. But He does so in His time and way, and we must trust Him.

“How was your day?” Nancy asked as I trudged in the door from work.

“Good,” I replied, with drawn face, slumped shoulders, and a shuffling gait.

Nancy frowned, “You look like it was awful.”

“No,” I said, “Every day above ground is a good day.”

“Mark, I am your wife. You need to tell me the truth – not just lies that you think that I want to hear.”

“Today was good, in the same way that Good Friday was good. Jesus died a horrific death, but God worked wondrous acts and eternal salvation from it,” I answered.

Nancy gave up the questions and followed me to the bedroom. I changed my clothes and laid on the bed where she gave me a back rub. Finally in a safe place with people who cared, the tension rolled out of my muscles. The gates to my heart, shut tight at work since I had to be, or at least appear to be, the perfect doctor and leader, cracked open. Soon Nancy brought love into my dark castle, and we began to heal.

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In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

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The Purpose of Prayer

When prayers don’t seem to work, and we doubt God, what do we do?

A few days ago, our family dog, Serena, found wrapped chocolates that my sons had left in their bedroom. Within minutes, truffles, peppermint patties, and a host of other delectables were gone. The same day, close friends visited from northern Virginia. The chocolate and excitement were too much for Serena, and she couldn’t go to sleep. Instead of sleeping, she barked and barked and barked.

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The Christian Community in Society

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” opined the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. American society today seems to have taken him at his word. We are told to dream big, take chances, and make our mark on the world. To be remembered in posterity, “write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” wrote Benjamin Franklin. We are even told to misbehave, “Well behaved women seldom make history (Laurel Thatcher Urich).” It is as if 100,000 of us were standing in a stadium screaming to be heard, and spending our lives trying to be distinctive enough to feel important.

Sometimes the Christian community looks little different. In his book You Are Special, Max Lucado writes of a village of little wooden people called wemmicks who spend their days putting stars or dots on each other, stars for doing something that they like and dots for doing something that they don’t. The best had special awards (a sequel, Best of All) and perhaps even monuments to be widely known and remembered. These fictional children’s stories describe an all too common trap into which even followers of Jesus fall.

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