Psalm 122: 6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. 7 May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.
The expression “glorious burden” describes the privilege that those in places of authority have to seek the good of those under their care.
Pastors have this as they shepherd and preach to their people.
Parents have this as they raise and teach their children.
Teachers have this. Politicians have this.
Essentially, all who have the privilege to care have this.
In reading David’s prayer in Psalm 122, you see a clear love for His people. He wanted their security. He wanted their peace. He wanted families to be safe. He wanted the prosperity of all of the people of God.
Today, each and every one of us bear this same glorious burden. It is neglected at times as we seek our good above others under our care, but we must always right ourselves to the heart of Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1b And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Our perseverance in loving and caring for others comes from Jesus’ love and care to joyfully endure the cross for our sake. So then…
Pastors, pray for the ongoing needs of your people asking God for mercy at every turn.
Parents, pray for the safety and godliness of your children in a world where both are rare.
Spouses, pray for each other as the road of lifeline companionship is fraught with obstacles.
Business Owners, pray for your employees to serve with dignity in an environment that you have created that enables it.
Teachers, pray for learning and appreciation in what you teach.
Children, pray for you parents and their perseverance in the long road of caring for you.
Pray for all who you love and even your enemies that they may be blessed.
I have been blessed with an amazing father and father figures throughout my years. And while every man sits under the influence of his father (good or bad), I know that I would not be who I am without their influence, and by God’s grace, I am thankful. But in less than a 4 year period of time, my father, my mentor, and my father in law have all passed.
I have written much since Thom Duncan passed in 2012. Truly a great, talented, Godly man, “Sam,” as I affectionately called him, was amazing. An accomplished pianist, interior designer, floral designer, teacher, and pastor, Sam had more gifts than most collections of people could hope for in a span of generations. When he died, I could not remember 5 arguments between us, though the few that came to mind were memorable. I was corrected by him countlessly, but the arguments were either rare or have faded from memory. In an amusing re-telling, one of our more serious conflicts was resolved by theologian RC Sproul when I convince RC to say hello to my dad from the PCA General Assembly floor from a cell phone. Sam was an amazing father in that he wanted so many things for me but allowed me to pursue them at my own pace and with little meddling. When I was ordained as a pastor, it was one of the happiest days of his life. At his passing, I could only look back and reflect on his unwavering love and approval of me despite my many sins and flaws.
In 2013, my mentor, Terry Traylor, passed. He was the closest to Superman as any man that I ever met. Wise beyond his years, respected by nearly everyone he knew, and ridiculously strong (physically and spiritually). While I wouldn’t have been a Christian without my father, I definitively know that I would not have been a pastor had not Terry confidently said, “I think you should be a church planter. Let’s get you into seminary.” Terry gave me ear anytime I needed despite his insane schedule. He gave me wisdom, often without even realizing that he was giving it (and without me even realizing I was receiving it). Like my dad, I had few conflicts with Terry, though the few were epic. Unlike my dad, his death was sudden. 24 hours prior to his passing, I had a lunch and a bull session with Terry that was filled with his usual big laughs and big wisdom. At his funeral, all I could do was confess that I didn’t deserve a father figure like him. Even in death, Terry displayed grace.
And on New Year’s Day of this year, my father in law, Jack, passed. Now, Jack and I knew how to fight, but we also respected and loved each other. While Sam and Terry entrusted me with mission, Jack entrusted me with his daughter, my wife, Amy. Because of that, I have to think Jack had more faith in me than the others. There were times we wanted to strangle each other, and on Christmas Day, I literally had to chest compress him back to life after a heart attack. But just like Sam and Terry, I know that I would not be a pastor without Jack’s influence. Soon after meeting, he encouraged the bible study I was leading to come under his church’s accountability. He asked me to lead worship in singing at his church alongside Amy. He loaned me countless books, and I do not have a number of the John MacArthur tapes he gave me. Even his funeral inspired me. I walked away thinking, “I want to be more Godly.” His passing hurts as it turns the page onto yet another stage of my life, as well as my wife’s. She could easily write, “I am a fatherless daughter,” as she shared similar relationships with all 3 men.
So, at the young age of 45, my formative mentors have passed. Others are beginning to take their place, and I am growing into the role of being father figures for younger men. To my dread, I pray that I can father the young men who marry my daughters.
But my true comfort is this verse from Galatians:
Galatians 4: 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
No believer in Jesus is fatherless. In fact, the fatherhood of the Christian is inseparable and more intimate than any earthly relationship. Our faithful brother, Jesus, has made us children of God, and the Spirit of God moves in our heart (my heart) to cause me to cry out, “Abba Father!” – the most intimate name of God of all. And now, because of that inseparable security, we live not as slaves to sin or this world, but as heirs to God.
Thank you Sam, Terry, and Jack. I know that I am the man that I am and that I am set on a course that is far more joyous and great than any other that I would have chosen.
In the book of Ezra, as God returns His people from a time of exile, we find that God sends thousands of them back home to begin rebuilding the temple. In chapter two, there are 70 verses of names. These are the people who are sent back to start that difficult work.
Why in the world would God include 70 verses of almost unpronounceable names?
Well, determining why or why not God would do something is a dangerous game. However, we can take away a couple of important principles. Including these names shows the value and dignity that God gives each individual as they make up the people of God. In the midst of those thousands, God wanted the individuals and families to be known. God was working among His people, but He was stirring individuals first. And we give those names honor and dignity in their reading.
The inverse is true as well. Yes, we are saved into a personal relationship with Jesus as we cry out in faith for the forgiveness of sin. That personal relationship is also part of the larger work that God is doing within the church.
But what application should this have for our worship? Worship removes our anonymity.
No Christian, no child of God, should ever be nameless or faceless in the church. The church should be the one place that understands that each person is valued. As any person enters our doors or enters into our communities, they should be treated with dignity, and they should be on the progression of being known and known well – not as a number, but as a person.
Does this mean that larger churches are getting it wrong as they have so many thousands to get to know? No, reading the book of Acts and seeing the thousands coming to know Christ would argue against that. However, the church (and especially our worship) should be about each person becoming known as they are known by Christ. We should reach out across socioeconomic (and pretty much any other lines) to know each other well. So, big or small, the church’s emphasis must be about bringing people to deeper intimacy with Christ first and then deeper intimacy within the church.
These things must be grounded in a worship of Jesus creating a thankfulness for His work that draws us out of the loneliness and deserts of our lives. Worship should be an eye to eye experience of the many becoming one in lifting up the name of Jesus. That should mean that the focus of our worship cannot be about us. The focus of our worship must be on the name of Jesus as He alone is what unifies us. No mission, no takeaway, no benefit will ultimately unify us and remove our facelessness. Jesus alone will give us a true name and a true face.
A lonely person among the people of God should be an oxymoron.
We are known well by Christ as we cry out to Him. Our worship should be moments where we engage each other in an act of unity, and all the other elements that go into the functions of the church should move people towards deeper relationships under the name of Jesus.
You may ask, “But aren’t there portions of the service that do create isolation and alienation like the Lord’s Supper?” In our next post in our worship series, we will wrestle with how a worship service can speak to both believers and non-believers without creating an unnecessary alienation for those who don’t believe.
The thought is that as Evident Grace grows in communication, we will grow in loving and serving one another, and we will grow in learning how to love and serve our community.
This is what we want as we see our sermons and bible studies talked about and applied in our lives. This is what we want as we learn how to help each other serve our neighbors. This is what we want as we grow in serving our community as a church. So towards those ends, we have established a few new avenues for us to communicate with each other.
We have a created a physical church directory that you can pick up on any Sunday worship.
We have updated our website http://www.evidentgrace.com with a ton of new information.
Audio of our sermons is now available in two places: at http://evidentgrace.com/worship/sermons/ and at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/evident-grace-fellowship/id873994915?mt=2http://evidentgrace.libsyn.com/rss
Our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/evidentgracefellowship is continually updated.
You can now follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EGFellowship
And we have launched the Table Project which is an online home to enable person to person communication. If you would like to be part of the Table project. Send a request from https://evidentgrace.tableproject.org/
Our goal is that these things will help us get to know each other and learn how to serve.
D.A. Carson lists 8 motivations of the Gospel appeal of Christ. In Tim Keller’s “Center Church”, he combines and simplifies them into 6. I felt they were incredibly helpful for us as a young church as our unified desire is and must be proclaiming the Gospel to each other while continually sharing the Gospel with those who do not yet know Christ.
In our last sermon, we also addressed a broader approach in speaking about the Gospel than just merely “turn or burn”. While this list is by no means all-encompassing, I think it hits the mark pretty well. Tell me what you think.
When sharing the Gospel…
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of fear of judgment and death: Hebrews 2:14-18 speaks about how Christ delivers us from the bondage of fear and death.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of a desire for release from the burdens of guilt and shame: Galatians 3:10-12 speaks of our curse of the law.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God out of appreciation for the “attractiveness of truth”: 1 Corinthians 1 speaks of the wisdom of the cross being the consummate wisdom to be known.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God to satisfy unfulfilled existential longings: In John 4, Jesus speaks of being living water to those who are thirsty.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God for help with a problem: Carson calls this a “despairing sense of need”. The woman with a hemorrhage (Matthew 9) and the two men with blindness (Matthew 9) approached Jesus with practical needs.
Sometimes the appeal is to come to God simply out of a desire to be loved: Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ humility, tenderness, wisdom, His love, and grace draw people like a magnet.
I hope this is helpful and even inspiring to you to speak of Jesus to someone who doesn’t know Him yet. I also hope it is appealing to any who do not yet know Jesus who are reading this.
Icy days move me to reflection (and apparently, random reflection).
This coming Monday, January 13th, will be one year ago that my family moved to Va. We packed up, crashed with some friends, and asked, “Hey, who wants to help plant a church?”
At that point, we had acquaintances here, but no deep friendships. Now, we have deep friendships and a growing congregation.
But even more than what is going on in the Duncan household, God is moving among us in the Spotsylvania area. Honest, gospel conversations are happening each day.
Jesus is being spoken to people who don’t know Him.
Jesus is being spoken to people who want to know Him better.
Jesus is being spoken to those who know Him well but crave for more.
And Jesus is being spoken in places in which we are unaware.
Like my buddy, Andy Stager, says, “Gardens aren’t launched; they are planted.” As it goes, Evident Grace is gradually growing and continually being planted. Right now, we are in the work of planning, pruning, seeding, and reseeding. We pray for growth and flourishment to honor Christ.
All of this makes me dizzier than the seizures I’ve worked through in the last year, but the big difference is that this dizziness is a lot more enjoyable.
I’ve been challenged a lot lately towards this end: Preach Christ and not Evident Grace. Invite people to Christ and not just to a worship service. That is a good reminder and an obvious challenge of faith. I know it is a good and right one though.
So, thanks for the icy rambling. Just like driving in this weather, I write them carefully and hope to arrive at my destination without too much damage. I hope the same for you.
While I’m likely to issue a press release every time Evident Grace twitches, and I’ve worn all of you out on Facebook every time I write a new book, I am not typically issuing updates about my health. However, since a few of you have heard about what’s going on with me, I thought I would send out a prayer update.
To begin with, I’m fine, but the doctors have diagnosed me with an epileptic condition as I am having what they call “silent seizures”. As always, things like this work best in story.
Last year, around the time my father (Sam) passed away, I began have pauses. A pause is when all of a sudden, in the middle of a conversation or even driving down the road, I just stopped talking. I couldn’t talk if I wanted to say anything. As many of you know my pace, pausing is not something I typically do. But if I was in the middle of a conversation, I would all of a sudden just stop. I felt the moments coming on, and I was aware that I was having them. 10-15 seconds later, they would go away.
In October of last year, I had a yearly checkup and told my doctor about them. After hearing that I had lost both of my parents over a five month period, that I was switching jobs, and that I was moving out of the state, he chalked them up to fatigue and stress. So, I did too.
But over the past few months, these pauses began to increase in frequency. I was having them at least twice a week. And, on an occasion or two, I spoke some pretty non-sensical things that I didn’t remember saying. I even had them in two sermons which most of the congregation chalked up to a movement of the Spirit or perhaps a frustration with the crowd.
We have a doctor at Evident Grace, and I asked him to keep an eye out in case I ever had one around him. He was at one of those sermons where I paused, and he recommended that I see a local neurologist that he respected.
So, about a month ago, I had my first appointment, and the doc suggested that I have an EEG and an MRI (one of those strange acronyms that begins with a consonant yet demands an “an” before it). The MRI came back negative, so we know that it’s not a tumor (said in my best “Kindgarten Cop” voice). However, the EEG showed some brain abnormalities on the left hand side. The doc has prescribed some anti-seizure meds, and they are working so far. They do, however, make me incredibly sleepy, and this is to be expected for the first month as my body adjusts.
So, that’s where we stand. I may have more tests to go as the types of seizures I’m having are rare in adults, but the primary plan right now is to get used to the meds and keep track of any more moments that I might have.
I appreciate your willingness to read this diatribe, but I do desire your prayers. These moments have been incredibly stressful to Amy and the girls. I’m slogging my way through my new meds, and we are praying that nothing about this worsens. Evident Grace is aware of what’s going on, and everyone has been incredibly encouraging and prayerful. I just need to be wise about my pace with them, with my family, and with my training schedule. If I need rest, I need to get it.
Thanks for your prayers, and feel free to email me back with any thoughts or questions. I do really appreciate how much Amy and I can depend on you guys for prayer.
I’m thankful that I know a bunch of Godly, Gospel-grounded, and bright pastors. I also have the privilege of bumping into some incredibly wise and astute folks in my congregation and in the day to day. You guys have a lot to say, but beyond Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, very few people get to hear your wisdom.
Since, I have been publishing for the last year or two, I wanted to encourage and enable lots of folks to join me in writing and publishing beyond social media.
Don’t get me wrong; social media is strong, but the larger population often misses out on your practical wisdom because of their lack of access to it.
To bridge the gap, I’ve published a little $.99 book, 5 Steps to Publishing Your Own Books.
The goal is to encourage and promote my wise and gifted friends to begin publishing books easily and more often. This book will walk you through how you can go from manuscript to publication to promotion. And as you do, lots of folks (including me) will benefit from your efforts.
You can find 5 Steps in two formats:
If Samson were alive today, he would have a million Twitter followers, tweet things like “great #honey last night what a blast lol”, and the world would love him. That is, the world would love him until he made every mistake under the sun and TMZ started covering him.
With those things in mind, one must wonder what relevancy does Samson still hold?
Is he a picture of what believers can be when they trust from the Lord and turn from their idols?
Is he a picture of what will happen if men pursue their lusts and thus an antitype of say, Joseph?
Is he a foreshadowing of Christ?
Unfortunately, many practical devotional writings pull Samson out of context and teach purely an exemplary exegesis that treats Samson as a model that can be followed or avoided. For example, Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God devotional uses Samson’s life as a pattern to be followed when we have lost spiritual power. Relating to Samson, he says, “Those around you who have relied upon your strength are discovering that you are not as helpful as you once were.” To remedy this, he encourages, “If you walk with God in this manner, you will grow in spiritual strength (like Samson) and be used mightily by Him.”
Another example is Steven Lawson’s Men Who Win. He talks of the great victories that God has brought, “Samson slew the Philistines. David fought Goliath,” but warns, “Our battles are just as real. The Canaanites outnumber us. The Goliaths are waiting for us to grow weary and falter. The Delilahs are lying.”
Truly, whenever we see a biblical character succumbing to sin, the believer should be on guard lest he fall. Whenever we see a biblical character achieve victory, we should rejoice that God is gracious. But these kinds of examples miss the point of Samson, nearly completely.
The takeaway is that God moves, enlivens, empowers, and delivers despite the sinfulness of His people.
With these thoughts in mind, please check out “A Once and Future Samson” available as both a Kindle Single and PDF download. It is a simple, concise, and hopeful look at God’s work among even the worst of us.
Why Another Book about Men, Elders, and Leadership – AKA The Genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”
The genesis of “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” came about in 2009 as I was preaching a series of sermons about the qualifications of an officer. SK Church was preparing to nominate, and I was preparing to train men from among the congregation to become elders in the church.
By the end of 2010, elders were installed, and throughout 2011 – 2013, I transitioned from being a solo church planter to leading a session of elders. In every way, I moved from the theoretical to the practical.
All along the way, I discovered deficiencies in my own leadership, gaps in my convictions, and perceived desires of doing it differently the next time. God’s grace shown through, the church continued to grow, and my thoughts progressed.
By the end of 2012, I was transitioning from SK to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Fredericksburg, VA. My thoughts covered everything from building up the men in my future church, sharing mission and vision with families, and starting the process of training officers again.
I realized that the hopes within the Biblical qualifications for officers in the Bible were actually the hopes that should be instilled and developed within every man in the church. So, my mind returned to the series in 2010. By December of 2012, I had developed those sermons into a draft, and in the past three months, they have been edited again into “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?”.
My hopes in publishing this book is that God will use it to encourage families, develops men’s programs, and enable pastors to train and install Godly officers. High hopes indeed, but they are no less than what God promises in the scriptures. In all humility, I pray that God brings those hopes to fruition.
You can find “Is a Good Man Hard to Find?” in several different formats.