J. C. Ryle’s Word to Ministry Workaholics

I came across this quote from J. C. Ryle while working on a sermon from Mark 6:30-34. His application is needed for those who work obsessively in Christ’s church.

Let us note the words of our Lord to the apostles when they returned from their first public ministry. “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

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Take Refuge in God, and Exalt Him Among the Nations

Before you read this blog go read Psalm 46 then come back. Psalm 46 is a beautiful Psalm describing the gracious protection of God as our refuge and strength. This Psalm teaches us that God is a rod of stability in an unstable world. In the time of ancient Israel, there was great political instabilitiy. At any moment a nation could rise and conquor the known world. Their was great unrest and the people lived in great fear of unsuspected attack from a pagan empire.

In the midst of this, the Psalmist writes that God is a refuge for those who are suffering. He is a refuge in times of hardship. As a result, we do not fear (v. 2). Why? Because God reigns supreme over all the nations. Even in the midst of political turmoil and constant war. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter. God utters his voice, the earth melts (v. 6). God is our protection. He rules over the nations. He is not threatned by them.

However the really amazing thing is what happens starting in v. 8. The Psalmist gives an invitation to the quarreling nations to come and behold the works of the Lord. Through a first read of the Psalm you might wonder, why in the world would this Psalm turn into an invitation to the nations? What does this have to do with God as a refuge? Never the less, God invites the nations to, "Be still, and know that I am God".

You see, this section reveals to us one of God's purpose for hardship and tumoil. Our trusting in God in the midst of suffering serves as a visible invitation to a lost and dying world. As we trust God as our refuge, we invite the quarreling world to come take refuge in God as well. We invite them to exalt in God. Trusting God in suffering serves as a visible evangelistic call to the world. We invite them to behold the works of the Lord. We tell them that God will make the wars cease. We tell them that God can be their refuge as well.

You see, God "will be exalted among the nations" (v. 10). God wants to fill this whole world with his worshipers. He proclaims that His glory will be spread across the earth to every tribe, tongue, and nation! You see God isn't our refuge so we can escape from the world, but so that we can invite the world to take refuge in Him too.

As we trust God as our gracious protection and fortification, we invite others to find protection in the arms of God. The Lord of Hosts is with us. His name is Immanuel. His name is Jesus. In his arms we rest, and under his gracious protection we invite the nations to join us in his loving embrace.

Taking time to Delight in God

If you are in ministry, active in your church, or just a believer in Jesus Christ, so often we get super busy. With so many responsibilities, we get so distracted that we forget to just enjoy God.  Even when we sit down to spend our scheduled 15 minutes with God, it becomes a ritualistic and we seem to spend the time simply asking God for things we need as we rummage through our to do list.  We keep ourselves so busy, that we have a hard time simply sitting down and delighting our God and King.

The truth is so often times we get distracted by good things!  However the very ministry we do for God sometimes hinders our delight in God.  We get so distracted with busyness that we become like Martha.  We have Jesus sitting down waiting for us to spend time with him, but we are so busy and distracted we forget to enjoy Him.  I know that all of us are guilty of this, especially me.

I challenge you to take some time today, get away alone with God with no other agenda but to enjoy him.  Forget the to do list for just a little while.  Read his Word and converse with Him in prayer for no other reason, but simply because you love Him.

Comfort, Comfort My People

July has been an exceptionally busy month for me.  Over the past few weeks I've spent over 36 hours on the road driving and I have finished Greek 3 at SEBTS by reading four different books, memorizing 800+ vocabulary words, translating the book of Philippians, and writing a 15 page paper.  I've preached ten different sermons and planned ten different worship services.  At Forest Hills we have had Vacation Bible School and Youth Week one after the other. Needless to say, I have been wonderfully tired and exhausted.   Although I have found great joy in my labor, it has been nice to rest the past few days.  Since last Friday I have been able to spend some much needed time resting in the Lord and enjoying time with my wife Kaitlyn. Each of us have busy seasons in our lives in which it takes every ounce of energy and strength we have to persevere till the end.  During times of intense activity it is easy to begin to depend on our own strength and take comfort in our own ability rather than the strength of God.  This weekend as I was resting in the Lord, I read Isaiah 40 which is a wonderful passage of comfort and puts life into perspective.  Despite our busyness and thinking we can do everything on our own, Isaiah 40 serves as a gracious reminder of how great our God is compared to our feebleness.  Here are a few excerpts from Isaiah 40, I hope they provide you with comfort and rest:

The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:7-8, ESV)

Who has measure the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12, ESV)

Behold the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales (Isaiah 40:15, ESV)

   “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ” (Isaiah 40:28–31, ESV)


Cookies, Milk, and an Empty glass

When you are thirsty, there is nothing like the feeling of a cold drink swishing its way down your throat.  The best way I have found to artificially create this is through cookies and milk.  I love cookies, I just had several myself, but I can only eat so many at a time before I am dying for something to drink, but not just any drink, one drink, and that is milk.  The satisfaction that comes from drinking milk after a cookie massacre is truly one of God's greatest gifts.  Your thirst is quenched, you are satisfied, and you are full.  Today I was able to find time.  It had been a while since I've had some to spare, but today was the first day in a long time in which I had no obligations or responsibility.  As a result I was able to read, think, be creative, and most importantly, relax.   It was good to clear my head. I thrive in isolation.  I grow.  I'm equipped.  I am strong. I am rested.  I am filled.  I've come to find that this time to myself is necessary for not only my own personal development as a leader, but for my own sanity and my walk with Christ.  I'm so busy pouring out, I forget that I must be pouring in.  There is also a relationship between my 'level of fulness' and the effectiveness of my ministry.  When I am full, then ministry blossoms and I am used powerfully.  When I am empty, ministry diminishes and I am complacent.  I think emptiness in spirit is a result of self-dependence.  Dependence on self results in ineffective ministry and a fruitless life. 

Constantly pouring yourself into ministry is much like inhalening cookies without ever stopping to take a sip of milk.  The first few cookies are great, but pretty soon your mouth gets dry, the sweetness starts hurting your teeth, and you need a second to clear everything out and be refreshed.  I've had one to many cookies without taking a swig of refreshment.  Today I had my milk.  Today I am refreshed.  And all though there is an empty glass of milk before me, I havn't been this full in a while.