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Posts by James Faris

Ducking the Real Issues?

Is it wise for Christians to market their own morality as entertainment? That question seems to be worth asking as the feathers settle after this month’s Duck Dynasty flap.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson entertains. He also markets duck calls for hunters. As a reality television star, his lifestyle and morality serve as his product. His status as a for-profit entertainer ought to inform the debates Christians have regarding his GQ magazine interview earlier this month. Read more

Meditations for Saints Full Of Thanksgiving

So, we’ve all given thanks in a variety of ways. And, we’re all stuffed. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, baked sweet potatoes and onions, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, cranberry bread, cranberry salad, corn cake, apple pie, cherry pie, blueberry pie, French silk pie, mincemeat pie, coconut cream pie, pumpkin pie, and cans of whipped cream were all passed around our table. Some of almost all of it ended up on my plate, somehow. What does it mean? Of course, it means the Lord has blessed us abundantly this last year. But does it mean anything more?

Perhaps too-often overlooked is what a full belly means looking forward. One Psalm of thanks, Psalm 136, guides saints who have feasted on Thanksgiving Day to think about tomorrow. Read more

Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament

The smell of turkey roasting is wafting through the church building even as I write. Preparations are being made in the kitchen so students learning English as a second language can experience a traditional Thanksgiving meal in place of regular classes this evening. Many of us will gather with families next week to give thanks to God for the bounty of another harvest season.

How do we grow in gratitude? Last week, we considered Eight Themes in Thanksgiving in the Psalms. This week, we consider Seven Themes in Thanksgiving in the New Testament: Read more

Eight Themes in Thanksgiving

As our nation reflects more on the nature of gratitude at this November, here are eight themes in thankfulness from the Psalms that guide us to a more God-glorifying gratitude:

  1. We give thanks for who the Lord is. We give thanks “due to his righteousness” (7:17), “to his holy name” (30:4), “for your name is near” (75:1), “for he is good” (118:1), and “to the God of gods” (136:2). Do we know God’s name and his attributes? Grateful hearts do. Read more

Missionomics

Christian young people in North America who sense a long-term call to the mission field in developing countries are often ready and willing to give up most of their material possessions. They are willing to go with the clothes on their back and eat beans and rice to tell about Jesus. The problem is that the citizens of those developing nations might be eating only beans or rice. Thus, the native people often perceive that the most materially advantageous job to have is one connected with Christian ministry. Read more

Apply Your Heart to Instruction

They were normal days in my homeschool world. An elementary student, I sat on the couch or at the table with my math book. I had mastered laziness. My first strategy was always to daydream. Then, after some prodding, I’d bellyache, maybe sob if needed. Phrases like “I need help” or “I can’t figure it out” were close friends. Read more

And Returned to Her Home

Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. Last night, on our ride home from a cookout with friends, we saw Illinois license plates heading west, and Ohio plates heading east. Everyone was going home.

Sometimes we feel a letdown at the end of summer. Vacations refreshed us, mission trips expanded our vision, church conferences spurred us to greater growth. A holiday weekend provided an opportunity to be with family and friends. And now it ends. And we go home. Read more

Open Doors in the Dorm

Cary Quad 331To Christian college students who are settling into your dorm rooms: you can find ideas for dorm room set-up in places like this or learn about the cost here. But, those won’t necessarily help you think about how to make your new abode a place where people find grace. Students all around you are thinking, and their thinking is changing, and they are often open to spiritual truth in ways they never have been before. Often, that transformation begins through relationships where they live. The Apostle Paul was well pleased to impart to the Thessalonians not only the gospel of God, but also his own life – so is your room arranged to impart grace?

Every experience is different; I only have my own, which was with a Christian roommate on the campus dormitory of a large, public university. However, the nature of humanity remains the same across different campuses. The attached picture is a floor plan of my dorm room at Purdue that the university gave incoming students so we could plan (just rediscovered in an old file). In our two years together at Cary Quad East 331, my roommate and I prayed that the Lord would give us great ministry opportunities in that room, and we tried to plan for it. Our gracious Lord gave us some of the greatest opportunities and memories college students could want.

Some of you are engaged in ministry for Jesus Christ more faithfully and effectively than we ever were, and that’s really exciting to see. If the following suggestions can help you excel still more in the life and ministry that runs through your dorm room, I will rejoice: Read more

Persecution: Bring It On?

It is not uncommon to hear Christians say something like “Maybe persecution would be good for the church in our culture.” Certainly, the church of Jesus Christ in the West has too-often strayed from Biblical truth in recent decades and centuries, in spite of enjoying great peace and freedom. Now, we see the judgment of God in our culture in various ways as a result. Some people are bracing for intense persecution of the church as a presumed certainty. Would it be good for the church today? God alone knows, and he will accomplish all his holy purpose.

A better question for us to ask is “What kind of attitude should we have towards persecution and the future of the church in the West?” Some Christians almost seem to have a “bring it on!” attitude because of the purification that has come in past ages through such suffering. The motive is not all wrong; people want to see Jesus glorified, and they are willing to die for it. There is also a desire for purity and holiness.  However, those desires must be shaped by the pure and holy word of God. So, what kind of attitude should we have toward persecution and the future of the church in the West? Here are five truths that will help shape our attitude: Read more

Praying for the Achaeans

This morning, we drove past a business sign that said: “Enjoy the Summer.” The irony is that we were on our way to school for the first day of classes. While it is still technically summer for more than a month, summer break is ending for students across the nation. Schools in our area on the so-called “balanced” schedule began in late July, others are starting now, and some in other states will begin after Labor Day.

Thus, God’s people embrace a new season of prayer for students and teachers. For me, it is helpful to have mental hooks – little devices to organize my prayers for specific situations like this. One such hook is the mascot for our classical school: The Achaeans.   Read more

Why Are You Doing This?

The Lord led one college student to organize and lead a ministry of teaching English as a second language (ESL) as a ministry of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church here in Indianapolis this summer. As pastor, I have encouraged, supported, and prayed for this ministry, and have been blessed to see other saints take up the hands-on work.

Since we began about a month ago, God has brought twenty to thirty different students from Hispanic, Chinese, and West African backgrounds one or two times each week. They range from young children to grandparents and from those who know almost no English to those who are nearly fluent and simply want to meet more Americans. The work is hard and requires commitment and diligence, but wonderful relationships are being formed, and the Lord has opened many doors in a short period of time. The teachers and students sometimes even share meals together as a group and in one another’s homes, and for discussions of the nature of God and of the gospel.

The temporary sign in the picture was drawn together by some of the teenage boys in the congregation at the last hour to help guests find our location. It was only intended to be temporary, but the Lord keeps bringing people in through those three simple letters, ESL, and so the sign stays up (we try to help its posture from time to time!).

One question that we have frequently been asked by the ESL students is: “Why are you doing this?” They recognize that it is a lot of work. And what a great question to have the opportunity to answer! Here are five reasons we are ministering this way: Read more

John Knox, the Revolutionary War, D-Day, and Duck Dynasty – Summer Musings on Freedom

In these United States, we have just celebrated Memorial Day, D-Day is just around the corner, and summer is here. So, it’s time for a few musings on history, freedom, culture, and the need to remember:

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At Your Table Gathered ‘Round

Abby and Trevor, my sister-in-law and now-brother-in-law, were married last Saturday. I had the privilege of praying in the ceremony for the Lord’s blessing on their marriage. After a few words of thanks to God and making requests unique to the new husband and wife, I prayed that the Lord would bless their marriage by blessing the table in their home.

God’s promises in Psalm 128 motivated the prayer, along with the ways I’ve seen him fulfill those promises in Christ at the tables of my in-laws, my parents, my grandparents, and now in our home for the last fifteen years. Some who attended the wedding requested the words of the prayer. I don’t have an exact record, but what follows is the essence of it reconstructed from memory and notes jotted the night before as I prayed in advance for the new couple. Please pray from the heart for this new couple and for all of our homes as you read: Read more

Cultivating a Holy Brotherhood

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert tops Crown and Covenant Publication’s best-seller list this year. This story of Dr. Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christ and journey into the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPCNA) has captivated many. Dr. Michael LeFebvre edited and is the primary author of the church’s second best-seller of the year, The Gospel and Sexual Orientation. God is blessing the RPCNA, and many others beyond it, profoundly through these two saints. Their journeys into the RPCNA have a fascinating common element that might make some people a little uncomfortable. Their exposure to the denomination in the 1990s came through two pastors who were warmly engaged with other Christian groups. These same para-church ministries were being criticized in the church at the time. Though I was in high school and college at the time, I shared some of the criticisms. How should we evaluate this history? Ministry is messy, and this essay may be too, but we need to think about what God has done. Read more

Church History for Breakfast

Church history is the last thing some people want to think about on any given day. But, you might actually be thinking about church history a whole lot more than you realize at the breakfast table first thing in the morning. My students seem to find history more palatable when they see that they are already familiar with it. So, let’s check out your breakfast menu; it might just whet your appetite for more history. Read more