Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ministers' Conferences - lessons from an early morning run

Each year my congregation kindly cover the cost of me going to our annual ministers' conference.  Often in the run up to it a thought goes through my head, "You are very busy and two and a half days out of your preparation time will really put you under pressure - just duck out this year."  Thankfully I have a godly wife who knows how much I need these few days and encourages me to go.  This year was the twentieth conference since my ordination (though I think I missed one with a funeral.)
The teaching is always good, the food in abundance and the fellowship brilliant.  Three or four of us have developed a bit of a tradition for a run each morning at 7.30pm.  Just three miles these days as our combined age is now two centuries.  The pace is much slower than it was twenty years ago and the chat not as vigorous.  For me the challenge is completing the course.  To tell the truth I really didn't want to go out this morning.  But the rendezvous had been set for 7.30am in the lobby and my brothers were expecting me.  The first mile was grand, a reasonable pace and the odd sentence darted out between gasps.  But then the rain started and the wind increased.  Turning at the half way marker the growing awareness of aching limbs meant that the temptation for me to stop was growing by the stride.  The thought of battling all the way home into the wind was draining me of the last ounces of will and strength.  Then one of my brothers, one as broad as a barn door, strong and fit having sensed my struggles slipped in in front of me.  I was sheltered from the blustering wind and the spray of passing lorries.  He took it all.  One way home for me - stay as close in his slip stream as I could without tripping him up.  I didn't even see the gradients that lay ahead, just his back.  With half a mile to go my fellow minister by my side saw the tell tale signs of me just easing back on the pace.  Keep it going was all he had to say and a fresh wave of determination pulsed through my aging legs.  And so I made it to the end, I didn't stop.  I had one bigger and stronger than me in front and the voice of a brother by my side saying - keep going.  And that is the reason why I need to go each September to the conference.  We get weary as ministers.  The temptation to stop or ease back in the ministry seems to increase with the years.  And it is at the conference that I remember each year I have one right in front of me, Jesus Christ who sees every weary step I take and promises to shelter and strengthen me all the way home and I have brothers around to pray and say - keep it going.
It took twenty six minutes to do the three miles this year.  But every step was worth it just to have such a vital lesson why I need to go to the conference each year. Looking forward to the Conference in 2014.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Luke Volume 2 J.C.Ryle

Just finished this volume of Ryle's expository thoughts on the gospels.  I have been using Ryle as part of my daily devotions for quite some time and never fail to benefit from his wisdom and counsel.  I have been using the new editions published by BOT.  Simply can't recommend these highly enough.  Ideal for personal or family devotions.  Don't skip his notes in the small print - filled with golden nuggets of wisdom from writers of the past.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Men and women wanted for the hazardous journey of church planting

When Ernest Shackleton, the famous explorer, was seeking manpower for his epic Antarctic expedition he allegedly placed the following notice in the London press.

The great Pioneer,  the Lord Jesus, has his own call for manpower that is infinitely more demanding. To all who follow him he commands - in your going make disciples of all nations. Planting new churches is one main way to fulfil this commission.
The call to be involved in the planting of new churches has a host of hazards.  There will be no hiding from hard work, if the loos need scrubbed its your job.  You will be the first to arrive and the last to leave every time  the church gathers. If you have children they will not have the luxury of loads of other children their age.  You will have to leave behind tourism church attendance, flitting around on a Sabbath evening in search of a juicy sermon.  Forget about being a ten percent tither this is the deep end, it is two mite service territory.
You will have the danger of vulnerability as you open our home and heart to the stranger.
You will face the darkness of people leaving as quickly as they have arrived.  There will be the darkness of isolation when the prayer support of the many sifts away to the faithful few.
We can't promise you success with loads of new faces being added week by week.
In fact we can't promise you that there will even  be a congregation in ten years.  No one will ever read about your sacrifice in the papers or even this blog.
But in another world there will be honour and recognition, of that you can be absolutely sure.
If the King of the nations is stirring your heart to reach the tens of thousands in East Belfast, the hundreds of thousands in Dublin or the thousands in Enniskillen then go and speak to your elders. 
And talking about elders which of you is going to lead by example.  Let your people see that the Great Commission is indeed truly great.
Apparently Shackleton was inundated with men willing to go.  Of these he took twenty eight.  That would be enough to have each of our present church planting scenarios move on to a new level.
Will you be one saying, Here am I send me.

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd