What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?

On June 6, one of the elders of our church died at the age of 58. This was an unexpected and painful loss and came only 18 months after the death of another elder from our church who was 62. Both men were beloved by their families, their church, and the Covenant College community where they worked. It was one of those situations that makes you ask, why? If God healed Epaphroditus and spared Paul grief upon grief (Phil 2:27), why couldn’t he have restored these men who were helping care for his flock? Our church prayed fervently for that kind of healing, yet God chose not to heal them.In a fallen world, we are well acquainted with grief, loss, and suffering. But that prompts the question, what difference does Jesus make in the daily trials and hardships of life? If the way I live my life is no different from those who don’t follow Jesus, then I have a problem. Am I basically a secular person who goes to church to socialize—or do my theological beliefs have a direct impact on my daily life? Beyond Sunday School Answers When I ask what difference Jesus makes, the Sunday School answer is “Jesus makes ALL the difference.” And I heartily agree. But what does that mean in the mess of our daily lives? Although I believe Jesus is important, I don’t always live in a way that reflects this confession. Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus can handle my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries. As I think about the difference Jesus makes in my life, several Scriptures stand out...

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?2022-05-07T23:07:33+00:00

I’m a Mess-terpiece

That was my conclusion the other day when I mentally reviewed footage of my most moronic moments. Once I was hosting a meal after a funeral, and in trying to light candles, I set the tablecloth on fire. Another time I was having a wonderful conversation in our living room with an honored guest, until the pet chinchilla got out, and the dog got in. One of us did not survive the chaos. I was going to bring punch to your anniversary party, but I took the wrong highway exit and got there 45 minutes late. Here’s that book I borrowed—it was as thrilling as you had said! But I did have a tiny incident with the grape jelly while I was reading it. Youth group is arriving to meet at our house, and so are the plumber and the electrician…. Time does not permit to tell of my doomed drive to the next county to deliver an important document (it never got there), or of why I nearly threw up on a nun in an airplane. No, nor of how I closed a conversation with someone I wanted to impress by saying, “Thank you please!”  And there was the time—I’m sorry, times— when I fell down in front of a hundred people.The only suave thing about me is that I don’t blush, though my self-esteem is curdling like the carton of milk I left in the trunk of the car. Why don’t I just hide under the covers to avoid doing some real damage? Sometimes that has seemed a good option. I’ve always found it hard to feel forgiveness for doing something stupid that is not a sin. Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of sin and death and fender benders and lost house keys? How can I repent of stupidity? I can take my sins to the foot of the cross, but I can only shudder when I remember how things ended after letting my nephew try to walk in his new leg cast. Is there grace for innocent blunders? If so, why do they cause me to sit up in bed at 2 AM and clap my hand to my forehead, whereas my memories of being angry or feeling lust allow me to sleep like a baby?

I’m a Mess-terpiece2022-05-07T23:08:18+00:00

Are You an Image Builder or an Image Bearer?

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29 I confess to you that I am an Image Builder. I want you to notice me…so I build my image. I want you to accept me…so I build my image. I want you to love me…so I build my image. Build. Build. Build. I think there’s a little part of all of us (and sometimes a big part) that longs to be noticed, appreciated, or even admired. So, we work hard to show only our best side, to reveal what we think looks impressive, and to create an image that appears to be perfect. We sometimes put pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder, stay up later, get up earlier, read more, learn more, exercise more, post more on social media. The list goes on and on. All the while, the image making continues. It’s a drive that is never satisfied. It continually whispers, “You need to do better; you need to be better.” Image building is exhausting and burdensome. Build. Build. Build...

Are You an Image Builder or an Image Bearer?2022-05-07T23:09:08+00:00

To Have Child-Like Faith

One of the covenant children in my church is a sweet little girl who has Down Syndrome. Recently, Vera burst into the fellowship hall where I was talking to her grandmother. She tugged at grandma to get her attention so that she could share what she had just learned in Sunday school. Vera had a coloring sheet showing two groups of men in long robes. One group had sad faces and she explained that these men did not know Jesus. The other group was smiling. Vera enthusiastically announced that these men knew Jesus and she did too. She just had to share the good news she had learned from her Sunday school teacher. A Simple, Child-Like Faith My church is also blessed to have gifted teaching elders who lead our adult Sunday school. Each week we have well prepared, insightful, and challenging lessons. On this particular week, we were studying the Heidelberg Catechism, working through the answer to Question 60: “How are you right with God?” We spent our time learning the differences between Augustine’s and Pelagius’ views on our sinful nature vs. free will, understanding the reformer’s perspective on the Roman Catholic’s view of synergism, and wresting with how it is we can be expected to live according to the law when we don’t have the ability to do so. It was a heavy session that stretched us, maturing our thinking on the subject. After listening to little Vera share what she had learned in Sunday school, I could not help but think how right she was with God...

To Have Child-Like Faith2022-05-07T23:09:49+00:00

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of Reformed University Fellowship

Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them. I recently interviewed Rod Mays, coordinator of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), about their work with college students on university campuses. Christina: What is your role at RUF and can you tell us a bit about how RUF started? Rod: Currently I am the Interim National Coordinator. I served as the National Coordinator from 1999 until 2014 and returned to RUF in 2017. As I retire again, at the end of the year as the National Coordinator, I plan to stay on in some other capacity. RUF was started in Mississippi in 1973 along with the PCA. RUF grew in the state of Mississippi and became a part of MNA in 1982 where numerous campuses were started in other southern states. In 2001 RUF became its own Permanent Committee in the PCA. At this time, we started to build our senior staff as our expansion started to grow quickly outside of the south. Our growth continues out west, the mid-west and north-east. Christina: What is its mission? Rod: “To reach students for Christ and to equip them to serve the church and the world” (“the gathering and perfecting of the saints”)...

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of Reformed University Fellowship2022-05-07T23:10:37+00:00

We Will Not Be Mocked {By God}

The cancer is spreading rapidly. I have to find a way to fly back for a visit, to say goodbye. We just lost Grandpa at the end of last year. His decline was slow, methodical and I was able to say goodbye the last time I was in the States, a full year before his death. Grandma had been so busy caring for him, then grieving for her husband, that she failed to notice the signs of disease spreading in her.Mom coaxed her to get it checked. The doctors found a small tumor, easily removable. The surgery revealed an aggressive cancer, spanning itself around my grandma’s organs. Treatment plans were plotted out, family was called, and I pleaded with God for a way to get there. Waiting for a Visa The government of the Asian country where I live has been withholding our visa extension for 7 months. Our application is valid. We have followed every law, yet it seems our paperwork is lost in endless bureaucracy. So, I literally cannot leave. We need a visa not only to stay here with certainty, but also to leave the country (and enter my own).A week after Grandma started radiation, I got a text from Mom, “Please pray, I think Grandma is dying.” I spoke on the phone later that night for the last time with her, this straight-forward confident woman now reduced to slurred stutters. She wants to stop treatment and to be put in hospice. The doctors are predicting a few weeks. I sobbed into my pillow continents away...

We Will Not Be Mocked {By God}2022-05-07T23:11:30+00:00

On Choosing a Church in College: PK Version

I distinctly remember my first Sunday morning in college. I was 15 hours away from home, far from my family and from the church that my dad planted and pastored for most of my life. I was a PK (pastor’s kid), and for the first time in my life, I had to choose where I was going to go to church. Suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t ever actually stopped to think about why I went to church or what kind of church I should attend. I simply went where my dad was pastoring. I found myself paralyzed by the choices and a little over my head with the decision. Ministering on a college campus has revealed that I wasn’t the only pastor’s kid to feel this way. While seeing the church from the perspective of a PK is a beautiful and complicated thing, sometimes we assume that transitioning to a new church is second nature just because that’s the world we grew up in. But often, it’s harder than we think. You’re not alone, and it’s okay. Here are some thoughts about going to church in college as a PK. Seven Things to Consider as You Look for a Church Home First, go. It’s not uncommon to start reviewing values you grew up with when you leave home. It’s also normal for PKs to feel a sense of freedom from the proverbial fishbowl when they go away for college. It’s tempting to want to sleep in or skip church for a while. After all, you probably never had those options growing up. But, let me encourage you to make going to church a priority. Don’t skip just because you can and feel like it. It will be harder to get back into the rhythm later. If you must bask in a newfound freedom, sit in the back row. Second, don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel “known” right away...

On Choosing a Church in College: PK Version2022-05-07T23:12:22+00:00
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