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So far Christina Fox has created 763 blog entries.

A Worthy Inheritance

NIKKI BONHAM | GUEST “If the Lord takes me before I’m old, I hope that our boys will still carry with them a love for old hymns, good books, adoption, missions, the beauty of marriage, and a delight in God’s Word. At least those things,” I said to my husband as we sat under the twinkly lights on our patio. He sat silent for a moment, thoughtful. “I think that’s a worthy inheritance,” he replied. A Significant Heritage We were fresh off a trip back to the US for my father’s funeral after his unexpected and sudden passing, and these types of conversations were frequent. My dad had died young at the age of 63, and only 10 days before I was due to see him again. When you live a continent away, those 10 days are a hard pill to swallow, and I was still deep in processing all the fresh grief. Heavier pieces of it would come in waves, and one of the bigger ones that kept rolling in and out of my mind was the idea of heritage. What are the pieces of him that I have inherited, that I carry on and pass along to my children? How did my father’s influence mark me as his daughter?  What are the values and preferences that he unknowingly formed in me as he loved me for all those years? What do I love, just because he also loved it? Just because he loved me? The significance of that heritage grows even deeper as I consider that he wasn’t my biological father; I don’t carry his blood in my veins, but I have carried his name and the privilege of being called his daughter for all but the first few years of my life. Through the way the Lord shaped the very structure of my family, He built a gospel image around me for me to live in. After he died, I sat in his closet, surrounded by all his things, and carefully chose small mementos that I could pack inside my suitcase to take back to Colombia with me. I looked at each little knick-knack on his dresser, the same ones that were there from when I was a little girl, and I remembered the stories tied to them. Most of them came from his own father and grandfather. They were stories that I was grafted into, a heritage and shared history that somehow became fully mine....

A Worthy Inheritance2023-10-12T15:20:34+00:00

Because He Knows: Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives

ALICE KIM | CONTRIBUTOR We lived on the seminary campus for the first couple of years of marriage. Shortly after settling in, we hosted our first guests and I was asked, “Do you feel called to be a pastor’s wife?” When I met my husband, he was a missionary. I didn’t know then what dating a missionary entailed, let alone marrying a pastor. Though there was a period before we walked down the aisle and exchanged our wedding vows where I wrestled with God about my future and confessed how hard it was to have open hands, I don’t recall a defining moment where I was called. Over the years, I’ve heard from many women who share their experience of being called to be a pastor’s wife. This is wonderful! However one comes to the role, the varied journeys speak to the beauty, richness, and complexity of how each woman bears the privileged position to serve alongside her husband. And given the challenging reality that nearly two in five pastors have considered leaving full-time ministry from burnout and discouragement,[1] a wife’s strong, wise, courageous, and steadfast presence is irreplaceable. GOD KNOWS AND THAT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE In Psalm 1, the comparison between the blessed and the wicked man and the similes of a tree and chaff captures our attention and imagination. But just as a good conclusion ties everything together, the three letter word “for” in verse 6 (“for the Lord knows the way of the righteous”) invites us to slow down and consider its important implication. The word “for” not only serves as a bridge to the preceding five verses, but it also signals to us that there is more. It tells us the reason why a blessed man thrives: because the Lord knows. His identity is rooted in God’s knowledge of him. And that makes all the difference...

Because He Knows: Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives2023-10-12T15:58:35+00:00

On Joy and Glimpses of Heaven

REBEKAH COCHELL|GUEST Architecture communicates through its structure. A government building with Greek columns speaks of democracy, justice, and order. The type of house we choose to live in can communicate our values and personalities. A church’s structure can tell us about the theology of the community that worships there. Typically, I prefer ancient Gothic cathedrals to any “newer” church buildings. Within an hour from my German home are at least three such churches that date back to the 1100s. Gothic cathedrals are symbolic “books.” They visually preach the gospel through the exterior of the structure’s flying buttresses and jambs (sculptures) and inside through stained glass windows, paintings, and more sculptures. Every aspect of a Gothic cathedral is symbolic, pointing to a reality greater than this present world. For a medieval worshipper, entering a cathedral was a symbolic entrance into heaven. An aspect of medieval semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) that is often overlooked is that symbols were more “real” than the present world to medieval worshippers. Since the reality of God and heaven was eternal and earthly existence was fleeting, symbols of the greater reality were more meaningful than the actual reality of Earth. Recently, my husband and I took a trip to Barcelona, Spain where there is a cathedral which has become the second most visited tourist site in the world. The Sagrada Familia looks unlike any other building on Earth, with its myriad of neo-gothic spires that could easily have been created for a science fiction or fantasy film set. Sagrada Familia broke ground in the late 1800s and is still not finished due to a myriad of political and financial reasons. I desired to see it but had no expectation that it could compare to a church built 800 years ago. I thought it would be gaudy based on some of the photos I saw. I was mistaken...

On Joy and Glimpses of Heaven2023-11-15T21:59:29+00:00

Ordinary Life of Obedience is Never Ordinary

KATY BRINK | GUEST Three official languages in a country the size of Maryland. Two official languages in the capital city which boasts well over half its residents being of foreign origin. Where in the world are we? Brussels, Belgium. Being one of the most international cities in the world, the “culture” of Brussels could be described as a wacky, delightful hodge-podge of countries with definite Belgian flavors mixed in. Multiple languages swirl through the air as I walk the streets, running my errands, feeling in good company as a foreigner here. You don’t have to spend much time here to realize that the nations have come to Brussels. The Bible often speaks of the gospel going forth to the nations and emphasizes the reality that God’s Church includes people from every tribe, tongue, and people group. Living in an international city and participating in the life of the local church here has given me a small window into what that mixture could look like, offering a vivid foretaste of the glorious heavenly hodge-podge to come. God Builds His Church We moved here several years ago with the long-term goal of church-planting, though without knowing exactly when and how that desire would come to fruition. We spent years engaged in valuable learning, waiting, and networking, knowing that if the Lord wanted us involved in planting a church, he would orchestrate the details. Fast forward to 2022. We had made a connection with a likeminded Belgian pastor who was interested in the idea of church-planting, and the details started to fall into place for him to join our planting team. We began to make plans and had a particular timeline in mind, but God in his mysterious yet always perfect timing, seemed to take our timeline and speed it up. I’ve laughed and told people that the launch of this church plant felt like God said, “wait, wait, keep waiting” for several years and then suddenly said, “go NOW.”...

Ordinary Life of Obedience is Never Ordinary2023-10-03T15:03:56+00:00

Three Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR When I was a kid, I told friends that I was a “PK.” An inquisitive friend asked one day, “What does ‘PK’ actually mean?” Another friend answered for me: “It means she’s a potential kid.” No, I was not a budding human. I was a pastor’s kid. And I loved it. I treasure my experience as a pastor’s daughter, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. But while much of my experience with my father leading the church was positive, I do remember days when dad was very worn. I recognize that same worn look on my husband, who also serves as a senior pastor, but what I understand now that I didn’t as a child is that the worn look is not mere physical exhaustion. The familiar weariness comes from a weight filled with other’s burdens and expectations. It’s a weight that almost every pastor carries, and the longer he is in pastoral ministry, the heavier it can become. But I also see the joy that exudes from my husband as he does the work the Lord has called him to. He has the same passion as my father for preaching and shepherding his flock. I asked my husband recently what gives him joy in this calling as pastor. “The people!” he said with a smile. And I think my father, who passed away years ago, would have said the same. With lingering stories passed on through the generations from a grandfather and father in the pastorate, and now experiencing ministry alongside my husband who is the founding pastor of our church, there are some common threads I notice as to what fills the hearts of these dear servants and what lightens the burden they carry. If you are looking for ways to encourage your pastor during pastor appreciation month, here are three practical ideas to consider. Shepherd the People in the Church There is little else that encourages pastors more than knowing that the congregation cares for one another. And Scripture is clear in exhorting us to do just that! We’re called to love one another (a command that occurs more than 16 times in the Bible), to be devoted to one another, to live in harmony, and to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12). When we take these exhortations seriously, a pastor is encouraged because he sees the congregants functioning in the way that God intended. He and the other leaders are called to shepherd the flock, so they must be responsible for knowing their sheep and caring for them in seasons of need. But it lightens the load of the leaders when others in the congregation come alongside and join in on that care. When the church is acting out its calling as the family of Christ, providing for each other, praying for one another other, and being physically present in one another’s lives, you will encourage your pastor...

Three Ways to Encourage Your Pastor2023-10-03T15:04:50+00:00

Churches Need a Biblical Theology of Suffering

PAMELA MCGINTY | GUEST “When it is the heart that has been wounded, it doesn’t heal.” These words broke my heart when I first heard them, from a woman who had experienced great trauma throughout her young life. Women across Africa often express similar beliefs.  The word, ‘trauma’ comes from the Greek, τραύμα, meaning ‘wound.’ Emotional trauma is a wound of the mind and heart that affects our brains, bodies, beliefs, and behaviours. Yet, the effects of trauma CAN change, hearts CAN heal, and our faith and trust in God can be renewed and grow. Africans Know Trauma Africa includes many of the most traumatized countries in the world. Physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse, violent crime and political unrest are often the norm. Yet, emotional health is often ignored or poorly addressed, and holistic soul care within the church is rarely found. Many Africans know trauma all too well, yet often have little understanding of its effects on them or where to turn for help. Where should our emotional support come from? Africans are spiritual. Most all believe that a Creator designed us as embodied souls, but many pray to a god whose favour they believe they can earn. Africans are relational, but across South Africa much traditional community and extended family support has been lost due to displacement and economic pressures. More than two-thirds of homes are fatherless and healthy; intact nuclear families are rare. In some African cities there is a growing desire for professional counselling, yet this can be confusing or harmful when it contradicts traditional or Christian beliefs and ethics. All Western thought may be held suspect, even the common grace wisdom that God has revealed through sciences. Few Christian mental health professionals are equipped to understand their secular education through the foundation of their faith, or to discern where conflicts exist between them. A Missional Opportunity All this leaves many Christians feeling desperately alone when seeking relief from emotional pain. Yet, this provides an amazing opportunity for the Church. Diane Langberg believes “…trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the twenty-first century.”[1] All souls who do not know the Lord are our mission field, but by addressing the trauma that hearts have experienced and providing biblically sound counsel with an understanding of the physiology involved, we can point people to Christ and the healing of souls which only He can provide...

Churches Need a Biblical Theology of Suffering2023-10-09T21:54:50+00:00

Learning Dependence on the Lord

BARBARANNE KELLY | CONTRIBUTOR I consider myself to be a relatively capable person. I know that I have limits, but I thought my capabilities outweighed them. I used to believe that God wouldn’t give me more than I could handle, until he started giving me more than I could handle. I’m now decades into learning how very weak and dependent—how incapable—I am, and how very strong, faithful, and capable my Lord is. This summer has been a crash course for me in a whole new area of dependence and incapacity. Early in July my husband fell from a tree, and until his broken bones heal, his injuries render him unable to bear weight on either leg. He also needs a brace to support his upper body due to two broken vertebrae. When Jim came home in a wheelchair, we ran smack up against our limits. Life as we knew it turned upside down. Then, just as we thought we had the new routine figured out; a new unbearable pain sent us scrambling for answers. We called 911 and my husband was taken back to the hospital by ambulance—three times in one week—ultimately to discover that his lungs were lined with a constellation of pulmonary emboli. New medications and heightened cautions were added to our new routine. New depths of weakness and dependence were discovered. Peter considered himself to be a relatively capable person too, bless his heart. On the night of the last supper, when Jesus told his disciples that they’d all abandon him, Peter rashly denied that he was capable of such a betrayal. But Jesus, knowing full well not only that he would deny him, but also the devastation it would wreak in his dear friend’s heart and mind, assured Peter that even though “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, . . . I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32)....

Learning Dependence on the Lord2023-09-21T19:37:24+00:00

Pastor Appreciation Month: Show and Tell

TARA GIBBS | CONTRIBUTOR Sometimes church members seek to show their care for their pastor with “helpful” tips and advice like, “Let me tell you how to fix your sermon. You preached too long/too short/too much grace/too much law/ with boring illustrations, etc. etc.” Or, “Let me help you know why I am upset because you didn’t call me enough… fix my marriage… heal my broken family…” And that “helpful” feedback isn’t restricted to the pastor himself. It extends into pastoral families as well with comments like, “Your children are too fidgety in worship. Here’s how to fix that.” Or even insights we share with one another and not to our pastoral family’s faces like, “Did you see his wife’s sweater has a stain on it?” Or “Did you see the length of his daughter’s skirt?” Or “Is that too nice of a car for a pastor’s family?” As a longtime pastor’s wife, I have a bookshelf filled with titles ranging from Windows in a Glass House to Help! I’m Married to My Pastor! to She Can’t Even Play the Piano, and perhaps most eye-catching of them all: I Quit! All four of our children offered concerned queries when they saw me reading that last title! What does it mean to care for those who live in glass houses, don’t always preach perfect sermons, and perhaps have fidgety kids, but who are nonetheless called to shepherd the flock? We know our pastoral families are frail humans in need of grace and support just like we are. But in daily practice, it can be easy to start applying a different scale to ministry families. Perhaps Pastor Appreciation Month is a good time to prayerfully consider how to apply Paul’s words in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning...”...

Pastor Appreciation Month: Show and Tell2023-09-21T19:32:08+00:00

Dear Church: There’s Hope for the Next Generation

KRISTEN THOMPSON | GUEST Do you ever get the sense that all hope is lost for the coming generations? After all, the percentage of people who claim to be a Christian is decreasing, especially for those between the ages of 15 and 29. Increasingly, people in this age group are walking away from the faith in which they were raised. (Read this article for some sobering statistics.) For those of us sitting in the church pews week after week, we wonder why more of the youth we’ve watched grow up aren’t coming back to the church in their adult years. For parents, sending their kids off to college seems scarier than ever before, and maybe that fear is justified if all we look at is the statistics. But regardless of what the studies say or what we see taking place in our culture, the Church must not forget who holds the future. God has not ceased to be sovereign. He is just as omnipotent today as He was 2,000 years ago when He raised Jesus from the dead. That same resurrection power is at work renewing this earth and sanctifying the heart of His children. I’ve been working in college campus ministry for the past 9 years. I work with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) which is the campus ministry of the PCA. And while the church often looks at college-aged students with angst and anxiety, I want to encourage you that God is at work building His Kingdom among the next generation. I’m not saying the statistics are wrong rather, I want to show you the other side of the coin—the stories that don’t get published as widely. Be Encouraged, God is at Work Be encouraged by the student from the west coast who came to faith in Jesus in college, learned to love Scripture, and now as a post-grad student, seeks a church where she can use her gifts to serve the kingdom. Be encouraged by the churched student who experienced true Christian community for the first time in college and now seeks to be a connecting point for others in her local church. Be encouraged by the young man who spent his first semester partying and drinking, was on the brink of suicide, but then his eyes were opened to the love of his Father and now tells the whole campus of this love. Be encouraged by the student raised Catholic who came to understand deeper truths of the gospel through reading Scripture with her campus ministry staff and who now invites her non-Christian friend to join them as they read. Be encouraged by the student who was non-religious and same-sex attracted but whose heart God pulled to Himself, drew to saving faith, and who now clearly articulates a Biblical worldview regarding sexuality. I could keep going and others in campus ministry could tell even more stories. There is hope for the next generation and that hope is a person—our faithful, loving, sustaining Savior Jesus Christ. He will not let His people see destruction, and He will not stop building His Kingdom until He returns to be with His bride forever. As Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” ...

Dear Church: There’s Hope for the Next Generation2023-09-14T16:27:49+00:00

Working Together Across Gender in the Church

HOLLY MACKLE|CONTRIBUTOR When my pastor, Bob Flayhart, asked me to help adapt his life sermon into a book, my immediate wash of excitement quickly turned to a flood of fear. In my experience, it’s hard not to dignify any relational conflicts that arise in inter-gender work with a weight they should never carry. This feels especially constraining in the body of Christ, where an often unspoken sense of higher stakes in working together betrays an underlying level of disunity in the church. As such, I imagined all the ways working alongside Bob could go terribly wrong—all the scenarios in which I could disappoint, frustrate, or annoy him. I spoke my hesitation to a friend who wisely didn’t quash it, but rather turned the tables to the what if. “What if one or all of those things do happen?” she pressed. “I don’t knoooow,” I whined. “What would I do?” Instead of looking at me like I had three eyeballs, in a level, somehow non-judgmental tone she replied with the answer whose obviousness still stuns me to this day: “You waltz.” Oh right. Got it. It seemed my wash of fear would be a good place to employ the very framework Bob asked me to help adapt from sermon into book form, which he termed the Gospel Waltz. It also happens to be the precise skill to which I am witness number one as to its transformative power. Yet how quickly I forget. I am a writer who works largely in collaborative contexts, sometimes alongside the men of our church, which means this is hardly the first time this fear has flared. And I know I’m not alone, as so many women in the church labor alongside men in ministry and service contexts. The questions of what to do if I disappoint him or annoy him aren’t unique to me, and the truth is they barely scratch the surface of the deep-seated fear. It strikes me that the real question as we seek to work together across gender is: how do we do this well? How do we honor the Lord in our projects, planning, and partnership both within the church and out into the larger world?...

Working Together Across Gender in the Church2023-11-15T22:00:50+00:00
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