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Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Those who truly serve God are made to feel more and more forcibly that ‘life is real, life is earnest’, if it indeed be life in Christ. In times of great pain, and weakness, and depression, it has come over me to hope that, if I should again recover, I should be more intense than ever; if I could be privileged to climb the pulpit stairs again, I resolved to leave out every bit of flourish from my sermons, to preach nothing but present and pressing truth, and to hurl it at the people with all my might; myself living at high pressure, and putting forth all the energy of which my being is capable. I suppose you, too, have felt like this when you have been laid aside. You have said to yourself, ‘Playtime is over with us, we must get to work. Parade is ended, now comes the tug of war. We must not waste a single moment, but redeem the time, because the days are evil. When we see the wonderful activity of the servants of Satan, and how much they accomplish, we may well be ashamed of ourselves that we do so little for our Redeemer, and that the little is often done so badly that it takes as long to set it right as we spent in the doing of it. Brethren, let us cease from regrets, and come to actual amendment.'” [An All Around Ministry, 162]
Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Evaluation of ministry is good and necessary, but moving forward from the lessons learned by the grace of God is better. God’s mercies are new every morning and even if have wasted time in the past, God is sovereign in using our rags for His glory. But let us not waste a single moment in our service for Christ because “playtime is over”. Let us put our full effort into being faithful to God and to His word in every aspect of our lives, laboring with all our might for His glory and at the end of each day as the chips fall where they may, rest in the glorious truth that “Our God is in the heavens, He does all that He pleases” (Psalm 115.3), including using mere men for the glory of His name however He should choose.
During the summer of 2001, I was working as a summer programmer at Camp Barakel. We always started the summer off with two weeks of counselor workshop and I will never forget one particular workshop session. We all gathered in the East Side chapel and Dan Cummings spoke on the glory of God’s sovereign grace. I had heard of these “Reformed” guys before… but I had never heard one who was so passionate and amazed by God’s grace as he. We talked over lunch before he headed back home about all things God-centered. It was a great and gracious conversation, and one that changed my life. He, of course, did not let me leave empty handed and gave me two books that day, Still Sovereign and The Pleasures of God, and promised to send me more for my summer reading, which he did. I gave him a gift for Reformation Day last November with the note, “Happy Reformation Day to the man who introduced me to it!” I bless God for sending me to Barakel (which is a story in itself) and his providence in sending Dan to preach and giving me ears to hear.
Over the next few years, Dan mentored me as I finished college and started my pastoral ministry. We went to pastor’s conferences and ETS meetings. Starbucks and Wendy’s. And boy did we go to bookstores!! I cannot remember one bad conversation. They were always God-centered and Christ-exalting. He helped me through some tough early years of ministry. He loved to help me think through issues and papers when I was in seminary. He would always make those conversations come back to the text of Scripture… always.
I was called to the pastoral staff at Five Points Community Church in May 2006 and I could now walk into his office any time I wanted. He was always ready to help, assist, think, talk, and laugh. He taught me much about how life and ministry are not two separate things, but one. He was a living example of how to live under the banner of “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. I will miss many things that became so normal around here… afternoon cups of coffee at our second office (Starbucks), theology talks, movie nights, oral book reviews, ministry visions and plans, and whether Michigan State is better at any sport than Michigan.
As I sit in the office that I spent so much of the past 3 years in, I remember the thing I will miss the most. Whenever I told him about some ministry idea, he would look at me and without hesitation say, “Rock on!” Never “Have you thought about…” or “Maybe you should try…” or “Let’s wait and see if…” I am sure there were times when he might have wanted to say some of those things, but he never showed anything but confidence in me. And when I would screw up, he always continued to show confidence. Always. And then we would usually have a cup of coffee! Things will be different around here, but if there is one thing I know he would tell us, it would be “Rock On!”
And we will… for the glory of God!