Preparing for Marriage: A Questionnaire

Note: The following questionnaire is by Dr. David Lipsy, a pastor of Heritage Reformed Church of Burgessville, Ontario, Canada.


Please fill this out independently from your partner.  You may email me your answers or place them in my church mailbox.  Once I receive them and look them over, I’ll email you to say you can go to your next mentor couple in the program.

I.  Preliminary Questions

     1.  a.  What is your first, middle, and last name?    

         b.  Please give your age and date of birth.

         c.  What is your current address?

         d. What will be your address after you are married?

     2.  What is the date, time, and place of your wedding and reception?

     3.  Do you both have the full consent and blessing of both sets of parents for marriage?  If not, please explain the situation.

     4.  Are you in any way related to your partner?  If so, how?

     5.  Were you ever married before?

         a.  If yes, did your spouse die or are you divorced?

         b.  If divorced, what were the reasons for the divorce?

     6.  Has a child already been conceived?

     7.  a.  Are you a confessing member of a church?  If yes, which church?

         b.  After marriage, where do you plan to be members?

         c.  Are there any circumstances where a husband and wife might attend different churches?  

     8.  What level of education will you have completed by the time you’re married?

    9.  Which of the following would describe the family in which you grew up: poor, average, wealthy?

   10. Do you have any special requests regarding the wedding ceremony or the reception? 

   11. Do you want to be married “by the banns” or with a marriage license? If you’re not sure what the difference is, we can discuss this.

II. Spiritual Preparedness

   12. a.  Do you believe your partner is a born-again believer? Please explain.

         b.  Are you a born-again believer? Please explain.

         c.  Do you believe your parents are born again? Your partner’s parents? Explain if needed.

   13. a.  How often do you attend church?

         b.  How often do you pray?

         c.  How often do you read the Bible?

         d. How often you read Christian books or magazines? Give examples of what you read.

         e.  Are you involved in other Christian activities? (Bible study groups, choirs, evangelism, etc.)

   14. Mention ways that a husband should try to help his wife, spiritually.

   15. Mention ways a father should try to help his children, spiritually.   

   16. Mention ways a wife should try to help her husband, spiritually?

   17. Mention ways a mother should try to help her children, spiritually? 

   18. How you will do family devotions as a couple and also if the Lord gives you children?

   19. a.  Do you pray together and/or have devotions as a couple? Explain what you do.

         b.  Why is it important for a married couple to have devotions together?     

         c.  How do you feel about the wife praying out loud with her husband and children?

   20. With respect to how you use your time when you’re not working…

         a.  What kinds of things do you do in your spare time?

         b.  Do you expect this to change at all once you’re married?  Please explain.

         c.  How are (1) entertainment, (2) recreation, and (3) edification different?

         d. How much time do you typically spend on each?

   21. Do you keep up with the news?  If so, by what means?  If not, why not?

   22. Do you keep up with matters of government? Please explain why or why not.

   23. What are some of the differences between the following kinds of media?  

         a)  TV

         b)  DVD’s

         c)  Internet

         d)  Movies in theatres

         e)  Smartphones

   24. Aside from Christian material, do you read or watch anything else? Give examples.

   25. What kind(s) of music do you listen to? How does it affect you? How about your partner?

III. Questions about relationships

   26. a.  How long have you known each other?

         b.  How long have you been engaged?

   27. List as many positive qualities as you can think of about your partner. Take time for this!

   28. What would you change about your partner if you could?  

   29. What would you change about yourself if you could?

   30. What would you change about the way your relationship is working if you could?

   31. In what ways do you feel you are especially suitable to be your partner’s spouse?

   32. Aside from spiritual leadership, what kinds of things should a husband be doing?

   33. Aside from caring for her husband/children, what kinds of things should a wife be doing?

   34. Name several ways men and women are different from each other.  Take time on this.     

   35. How would you react if your spouse said this to you, “I should be allowed to spend one or two nights out each week to do things I like to do.”

   36. How is your relationship with…

         a.  Your parents

         b.  Your brothers and sisters (if you have any)

         c.  Your future mother-in-law and father-in-law

         d. Your spouses’ brothers and sisters (if he or she has any)

   37. How often do you spend time with other’s family each week on average?

   38. Do you see any potential challenges with your own parents or future parents-in-law? If so, explain.

IV.    Communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy

   39. With respect to communication…

         b.  How would you rate your fiancé’s ability to communicate with you?

         b.  What do you appreciate about his/her communication with you?

         c.  In what ways could your communication with each be improved? 

   40. a.  What goals do you have for your life? Feel free to talk about more than just your work.

         b.  What are your partner’s goals for his or her life?

   41. Should a husband or wife ever keep secrets from each other?  Explain.

   42. Describe how you think a husband and wife should confront sin issues in each another’s life? 

   43. Are there any differences between how you and your partner deal with disagreements? Explain.

   44. Have you discussed with each other things from your past that might be potential sources of difficulty if such things became known later on?  Some examples might be past relationships, if you know you are unable to have children, etc.  If there are no such issues, simply answer “no.”  If there are, please be sure to discuss these with your partner as soon as possible.  If you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

   45. What have you discussed regarding ways to avoid physical temptations before marriage?

   46. Regarding physical intimacy once you’re married…                                    

a. Name some purposes why God gave this blessing in marriage.

         b.  What are some ways one spouse can ruin this for the other spouse?

         c.  Explain what kinds of things the husband should be sensitive to with regard to his wife?

         d. Explain what kinds of things a wife should be sensitive to with regard to her husband?

   47. Do you believe there are any Biblical grounds for divorce?  If so, what would they be?

V.  Questions about finances

   48. Have the two of you ever discussed budgeting?

         a.  If so, what are some items you want to include?

         b.  If not, talk about this after we go over the questionnaire together.  Need help? Let me know.  

   48. Have you agreed on how much you would give (tithe) for the Lord’s service?

   50. What kind of home will you live in once you’re married?

         a.  Will you be buying or renting?

         b.  Would the income of one spouse be enough to support the two of you?  Children too?

   51. Which one of you will be taking care of the finances?

   52. What are advantages and disadvantages of using credit cards, borrowing money, etc.?

   53. What are your thoughts about the wife working outside the home?

   54. Do either of you have any debts that won’t be paid off by the time you plan to marry?  If yes, what is your plan as to when and how these would be paid?

VI.  Questions about child rearing

   55. Why should married couples have children?  Give this some thought.

   56. a.  What are your thoughts about the number of children you should have? 

         b.  Can you think of any Bible passages that give guidance in this?

   57. When it comes to children…

         a.  Are children born in the church and those who are unchurched different in any way? Explain.

         b.  Should believing parents assume their children have a saving relationship with God unless the child’s life clearly shows that’s not the case? Explain.

         c.  Describe how Godliness might show itself in the life of a young child? Give examples.

   58. Describe your thoughts regarding disciplining.  Address each of the following:

         a.  Whether you consider spanking to be appropriate. If not, why not? If so, when?                                      b.   A parent’s anger in disciplining children. Is anger always sinful? Explain.

         c.  If God would give you more than one child, should each be disciplined in the same way?

  59.  a. What are your plans regarding your children’s education?

         b.  What considerations should go into a decision about the kind of education they should receive?

         c.  What are your thoughts about parents paying for a child’s college or university education?

VII. Your feedback

  60. Your turn – is there any way you would suggest improving this questionnaire? Any questions that are not clear or that seem unnecessary? Questions you think should be asked but were left out?

With Christian love,

Pastors David Lipsy


What Are Your Plans for the New Year 2022? 

Do you have plans for the year 2022? What are they? Perhaps you plan to get married, or continue your studies, or look for a different job, or buy a house, or travel abroad. Well, whatever your plans may be, as you plan, consider what God teaches in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (ESV). One version puts it this way: “People may plan all kinds of things, but the LORD’s will is going to be done.” There is one important lesson on planning that we can glean from this verse: Unless our plans are part of God’s eternal plan, they will not succeed.

Before I elaborate this point, let me first clarify that Proverbs 19:21 does not discourage or forbid us to plan. In fact, elsewhere in the Bible God calls us to plan for our future, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance” (Prov. 21:5). Another version translates this verse as follows, “Plan carefully and you will have plenty.” According to this verse we are to plan carefully, and yet as we make plans, let us realize that our plans are subordinate to God’s sovereign will. God’s eternal plan is supreme over all our plans. Therefore, not all that we plan will come to pass. 

The word “plans” in Proverbs 19:21 comes from the Hebrew verb khawshab, which means to think of something that you want to do: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man.” Plans are your thoughts—things that are going on in your mind—things that you intend to accomplish or acquire. In fact, in the original the word “mind” in Proverbs 19:21 can also be translated as “heart.” That’s why in the King James Version we read, “There are many devices [or plans] in a man’s heart.”

Heart is regarded as the center of your life. Your plans are what occupy the center of your life. These are the things that you care about, or motivate you to live. For instance, in the Parable of the Rich Fool, a parable which illustrates the sin of covetousness, we see the rich fool making plans—plans that occupy his entire life: “And he [the rich fool] said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”’ (Luke 12:18–19).

The rich fool made selfish and greedy plans. Oh, but listen to what God says in Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” The word “purpose” here comes from the Hebrew verb that means “to determine.” Before the foundation of the world God has already determined that which must happen. We call it his eternal decree or counsel.  Here’s the analogy: before the creation of the universe, the three persons of the Trinity met to have a council meeting, as it were. In that meeting they made a plan—a perfect plan that must take place. Therefore; and here’s my point, unless our plans are part of God’s eternal plan, they will not succeed.

Let me ask you again, Do you have plans for this year—plans that occupy your mind and heart? What are they? Well, remember this: Before you were even born, God had already made a plan for you and unless your plans are compatible with his eternal plan, your plans will not prosper. 

Maybe you plan to get married this year, have children, graduate from high school and go to college, and work, and buy a house. But at the beginning of this year, God may say to you, “This night your soul is required of you.” You might get sick and die before the year 2022 ends.

Please, don’t think I’m trying to scare you. I’m simply telling you the truth, so that when you plan, you will commit your plans to the Lord. Because unless the Lord blesses your plans, they will fail. The rich fool did not commit his plans to God. He did not even involve God in his thoughts. He thought he was a wise planner. He indeed became wise in his own eyes. Well, the Bible says, “do not lean on your own understanding. . . . In all your ways acknowledge [God] . . . . Be not wise in your own eyes” (Prov. 3:5–7). Are you a wise planner, or a foolish planner like the rich fool?  

Learn to qualify your plans by saying, “If the Lord wills, I will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Learn to pray like Jesus, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22:42). This ought to be our prayer as we plan, “Father, I desire your will to be done, not mine, because I know your will is always for my good and for the glory of your name.” 

Whatever plans we have this year, let’s commit them to the Lord. Let’s humbly acknowledge that he is in control of all things. Someone notes, “Livingstone planned to go to China, but God led him to Africa, to be its missionary-statesman, general and explorer. Alexander Mackay prepared for work in Madagascar, but was directed to Uganda, to aid in founding one of the most remarkable missions in the world. Carey proposed to go to the South Sea, but was guided divinely to India, to give the Bible in their native tongue to its teeming millions.”

You see, God knows what is best for us. Thus, let’s learn to submit to his eternal, wise, perfect sovereign will. Remember, the best place to be is in the will of God. If you are doing the Lord’s will, wherever you are, you are in the best place. And remember, too, as someone has said, “the will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

Happy New Year!


Michigan is now under a State of Emergency because of Coronavirus

I live in Michigan and yesterday our Governor Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the first cases of coronavirus (we have two cases as of now: one in Oakland county and one in Wayne county).

And “to harness our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus,” Governor Whitmer has put Michigan under a state of emergency. She said, “We’re taking every step that we can to mitigate the virus spread and keep Michiganders safe. I’ve signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in order to maximize our efforts and assist local governments and officials to slow the spread. It’s crucial that Michiganders continue to take preventative measures.”

Although I’m a Christian, I confess my fear, especially as I have four small children (seven years old and under). But as David confesses, too, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God]” (Psalm 56:3).

I know I should not worry, yet I admit my tendency to worry. Oh, but why worry, when I can pray! Paul says, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5–7).

Because this coronavirus is new, we have many uncertainties such as when the vaccine for this virus will be available and if this virus will be seasonal like the flu. Yet, in the midst of all these uncertainties, we can trust our sovereign God. We know for sure that nothing happens without a purpose and that this virus is ultimately for our spiritual good and for the glory of God. As Romans 8:28–29 declares, “And we know that for those who love God all things [without exception, including this virus] work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

With this passage in mind, we can be certain that God will only use this coronavirus as an instrument in His hand to conform His people more to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is in this sense that this virus is for our spiritual good and for God’s own glory. Let’s trust God even if sometimes we don’t always understand how all things (including this virus) could be for our good. As one song says,

“All things work for our good/ Though sometimes we don’t see/ How they could/ Struggles that break our hearts in two/ Sometimes blind us to the truth./ God is too wise to be mistaken/ God is too good to be unkind/ So when you don’t understand/ When don’t see His plan/ When you can’t trace His hand/ Trust His Heart.”

So let’s not panic but pray. It is during a crisis such as this that God causes mankind to pause, to stop and remember that He is in control and that we are but dust. And as Kevin DeYoung reminds us, “Our biggest concern in life is not sickness, it is sin. By all means, let’s do all we can to limit the spread of physical disease. But our precautions against vice should be even more than our precautions against a virus.”


image source: (Detroit)

Affliction Uncategorized

22 Reflections from My Experience as a Pastor

By God’s grace, since 2001 I have been a minister of the gospel and throughout my life as a pastor, I have collected reflections that I would like to share with my fellow pastors and with those who desire to be pastors someday. Here they are:


Cogeo Fundamental Baptist Church, Antipolo, Philippines 


1.  Pastoring is a calling from God. Having a degree from a seminary is not a guarantee that you have this ministerial calling. Some graduate from the seminary but are not in the ministry, or do not stay long in the ministry, because they do not have this pastoral calling.

2. The God who has called you to the ministry will also provide for you. He will prepare you for the ministry. He will give you a congregation to serve. And he will sustain you throughout your life in the ministry.

3. Don’t accept a call to pastor a congregation unless you are really convinced that the Lord is calling you to serve that church. Why? Because when problems arise from that congregation, your strong conviction of God’s calling will encourage you to continue serving that church amidst difficulties. You can say, “Lord, You have called me to serve You in this church and I know You will sustain me.”

4. God resists the proud in the ministry. Thus, expect God to humble you. Sometimes He humbles His servants through infirmity. All accomplished pastors that I know have a form of affliction that keeps them humble before God. At the end of the day, God will use the ministry to sanctify you. God’s main goal in your life is to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

5. Your wife can be a great help to you in the ministry. If you are a pastor and not yet married and desire to get married, look prayerfully for a godly woman who will serve with you, not hinder you. If you were already married when you became a minister, help your wife understand the nature of the ministry and thank God for giving you a help mate.

6. Your family is your priority over your ministry. As Paul indicates in 1 Timothy 3:4–5, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” If you neglect your family, your congregation will suffer eventually.

7. Despite your busy schedule in the ministry, don’t forget to spend quality time with your wife. Yes, you can see each other every day but still have a sense of missing each other. That’s because you do not really spend quality time with her. Take her out. Do things together that you both enjoy. Encourage and compliment her. Pray with her. Love her, as Christ loves the church.

8. Equally important is to spend quality time with your children. Pray and play with them. Sadly, sometimes pastor’s children grow to resent the church and the ministry because their father simply wasn’t there for them. I remember one pastor’s kid telling me that he would never want to become a pastor. I asked him why. He said, “When a member of our congregation needed my dad, he was there right away. But, when I needed my dad, he barely had time to even listen to me.”

9. God has called you primarily to preach His Word and pray. Therefore, learn to delegate your other responsibilities to others, so that you can devote yourself to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2–4). Don’t think that you have to do everything. The truth is you can’t!

10. Because we now live in a distracted world, it becomes difficult for us to remain focused on our primary work. To find an extended period of uninterrupted time for sermon preparation and prayer is now challenging because of the social media. And a time frequently interrupted results in shallowness. Consequently, the kind of sermon prepared in a distracted environment can be shallow. Therefore, we need to learn to guard our time from these electronic distractions. Our best energy should be used to pray and prepare sermons.

11. Don’t stop learning about your vocation. In the midst of your busy schedule, set aside time regularly to read books or articles that will help you become a better servant of the Lord. Attend pastors’ conferences where you can fellowship with and learn from like-minded ministers about the ministry.

12. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of experienced ministers. Seek their advice and listen to them. They can save you from committing mistakes or making wrong decisions. Find an older pastor who can mentor and encourage you in the ministry. A young pastor has the tendency to think that he knows a lot, but the longer you stay in the ministry, the more you will realize how little your knowledge is.

13. While not every pastor is called to writing ministry, some are. And if you sense that God has given you the gift of writing, use and cultivate it for the church’s edification and God’s exaltation.

14. No matter how hard you try to serve your congregation, you will always have a member who will complain about your service. Remember that you cannot please everyone in the church, and you are not to please people but God. Don’t let your critics stop you from doing the Lord’s work. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

15. When necessary, don’t be afraid to confront a member of your congregation who has offended you (Matt. 18:15). When the offense is not dealt with, it can become worse. Keeping your resentment to yourself is not good for your heart both physically and spiritually. So, don’t avoid confrontation, but deal with it in a Christlike manner, trusting that God will bring reconciliation.

16. In the ministry you will encounter someone who will simply dislike you for no good reason. And unfortunately, that person can be one of your church leaders. I remember talking to a fellow pastor of another congregation. He told me that one of his elders just doesn’t like him and he did not know why. This elder treats him unfairly and negatively. Now, when dealing with people like this elder, seek by God’s grace to always take the high road. Don’t pay them back with evil for the evil they do to you (1 Pet. 3:9). Instead, pray for them and show more the love of Christ to them. Talk to him for reconciliation.

17. Don’t think that God needs you in the ministry. The truth is you need Him more than He needs you. His work can continue without your help. So be thankful to God if He is using you in the building up of His church. To be a minister is a great privilege from the Lord. Think about this: you are serving the Maker of heaven and earth.

18. While God has called you primarily to serve your local church, don’t lose sight of the universal church. Don’t be too focused on your congregation that you don’t care for other congregations. Pray for other churches. Occasionally, guest preach for other churches. It’s actually good both for you and your congregation that once in a while you preach for other churches and that other pastors preach for your congregation.

19. The condition of your body can affect the life of your congregation. If you are not healthy, you cannot function well in the ministry. Hence, don’t neglect your body. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. At times ministry can be stressful. Learn to rest and relax, or else you will burnout and cannot continue in the ministry.

20. Use your vacation wisely, not to work but to recharge. Remember that your energy is limited and will eventually become depleted. Thus, use your vacation to revitalize. Don’t feel guilty to be away from your congregation for two weeks. In fact, your congregation will also benefit from your vacation, because when you return to them rejuvenated, you’ll be able to serve them better.

21. Pay careful attention to yourself. Realize your tendency to commit sins that can disqualify you from the ministry. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). As you shepherd your congregation, shepherd your own soul. Don’t be too busy about the ministry that you neglect the One who has called you to the ministry. Spend regular time with God in prayer and in His Word.

22. When you feel discouraged and about to quit, remember that what you do for the Lord is not in vain in Him. When you don’t see the fruit of your hard work in preaching, keep in mind that God’s Word will not return to Him void. His Word will always accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it (Isa. 55:11).

Therefore, my fellow laborers in the Lord, let me encourage you with the words of the Apostle Paul, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Congregation picture

Dutton United Reformed Church, Caledonia, Michigan 



The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry

Guest post by Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker


Have you known any martyrs? Church history overflows with examples of sterling Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ. One of Western Protestantism’s most enduring and effective works of literature is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a compilation of histories of Christians suffering in the service of Jesus. Modern times have supplied us with more names, including some that have— in the eyes of sodownloadme Christians—already become almost glamorous at a slight distance, such as those of Jim Elliot or John and Betty Stam. However, while many in the modern West know the stories, few of us have known any martyrs. Few of us have holes in our lives, gaps in the ranks of friends or families, created by our loved one’s death in the service of King Jesus. In some parts of the world, death at the hands of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom is all too common.

It was our privilege to know two of Christ’s martyrs. Since 1999 Pastor Arif Khan and his wife Kathleen (Kathy to her friends) had faithfully labored in Islamabad, Pakistan, where Pastor Arif had planted a church. In August 2007, three people—a disaffected ex-member of the church, his wife, and a gunman from an aggressively Islamic region—made their way by deceit into the Khans’ home and shot our friends dead.[1]

Our friends. The believers. The martyrs.

Why were they there? What had carried them from the comfortable confines of the United States, away from friends and family, children and grandchildren? Why leave their home church? Why stay in Pakistan when reaction to American foreign policy and activity made their existence there increasingly dangerous? Why remain in the face of threats to their lives? Why teach and live so as to seal their testimonies with their life’s blood?

How do you reach this point? Not necessarily the point of martyrdom, but the point of willing and entire consecration, of being sold out for the one living and true God, ready to give all that you are and have for His sake and for His cause?

What would the Khans have said? At least part of their answer—a great part of their answer—would have been for the sake of Jesus Christ’s body, the church. They had a consuming desire to see the church built up so that through those who have been redeemed the manifold wisdom of God would be known to others (Eph. 3:10). They saw the importance of spreading the gospel to a lost world. This man and woman “loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). One of their own pastors said of Arif Khan, “He was a marked man. He talked of dying for Christ as though it was having a mole removed.”[2]

It is not often that we meet people who are willing to spend their energy and even give their lives for the sake of seeing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ established and strengthened. This was the mind of the Khans; it was also the mind of the apostle Paul.

Paul gave his all for the people of God. He loved them at great personal cost. As he writes his letter, Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices even in his prison sufferings because of his love for them. Now he specifically points to the nature and purpose of those sufferings, saying, “I…fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). What does he mean, and what must we understand?

So what does Paul mean? First, we must consider the words of the sentence itself. The word that has to do with “filling up” appears only here in Scripture. It carries the idea of completing something for someone else. The present tense of the verb and the immediate context in which it is used tell us that this was something that Paul was continually doing. When Paul speaks of something “behind of the afflictions of Christ,” the language suggests something lacking, that which still exists or is left over.

Then there is the word afflictions. This word speaks of oppression, tribulation, trouble, or persecution. It is, however, crucial that this word is never used in the Bible to refer to the sufferings that Jesus underwent on the cross for our sins.

Second, we must put this declaration in the context of the whole Colossian letter. The whole point of the letter so far has been to establish Christ’s supremacy as the saving and sovereign head of His people (contrast Paul’s self-owned label in verse 25 of “minister,” not mediator or redeemer).

So, in Colossians 1:14, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The present possession of redemption and forgiveness is based upon the precious blood of our Savior, and not the sacrificial work of any sinner, even one who was an eminent apostle.

Paul says again with reference to Jesus, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:19–22).

There is nothing lacking in the Lord Jesus Christ, either in His person or in His work. All saving fullness dwells in Him, and He is the means by which the Father reconciles men to Himself. Specifically, the terms of that peace He secured are written in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for His people. It is the bloody death of Jesus alone that saves.

In these words there is neither room nor need for any other but Christ. If all fullness dwells in Him, what shall fallen mankind add to Him or His work? If it has pleased the Father to reconcile people to Himself solely by means of the crucified Christ, how can any suggest that Christ is in any way insufficient, especially after His glorious resurrection vindicated all that was said about Him (Rom. 1:4; 4:25)? If peace was already secured through the blood of Christ upon the cross, once for all (Eph. 2:13–14), what place is there for any other grounds of peace?

Indeed, Paul will not let this theme lie: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:13–14).

To take the perfection of Christ and His work and to say that people somehow must add further to it completely misunderstands and undermines the profound nature of what God has accomplished through His incarnate Son. It fails to take account of the complete inability of anyone to please God, let alone save himself, apart from the glorious Jesus.

Would it not be both foolish and blasphemous to seek to insert human effort, positively or negatively, into the divine plan of a gracious salvation? Did Christ not say, “It is finished” (John 19:30)? Paul would surely be the world’s most incompetent debater if he were now to state something that runs directly or even tangentially counter to all that he has just established. He is a wiser man than that.

Third, we must also take into account the comprehensive and consistent testimony of Scripture. The plain teaching of the Word of God is that Christ alone accomplished all that was required for the salvation of His people when He suffered once and for all in their place at Golgotha (see, for example, Isaiah 53:4–6 or Hebrews 1:3; 10:14). There is no deficiency of any sort in Christ’s sacrificial death, and to suggest otherwise opens the door to a host of other empty possibilities, including the notion of works of supererogation (the idea that unusually holy people have a surplus of merit that others can benefit from), the veneration of Mary the mother of Christ, and the concept of penance for sins.

It is already clear that the atoning interpretation is entirely incorrect. Christ’s sacrifice for sin was in no way deficient. The sufferings that Paul underwent had no saving merit: the apostle did not contribute in any way whatsoever in redeeming the people of God. Jesus Christ alone has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Our Bibles make plain that it is Christ alone, through His saving sufferings, who brings us into a right relationship with God the Father.

However, there are other lines of thought in Scripture that we must take into account when working out what Paul does mean. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul states that the saints are many members of one body, the head of which is Christ. The same unity of identity is plain in Matthew 25:34–40, where the works done for Christ’s people are considered as done to Christ Himself (or not, vv. 41–46). This involves unity of mission. In Acts 13:47 Paul appropriates language that Isaiah uses of the Lord Jesus to assume the same gospel role in setting forth the Christ: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” This further implies unity of suffering, and Paul had this ground into his consciousness from the beginning of his ministry: “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks…. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:4–5, 16).

In summary, the sufferings of the body of Christ—the church—are the sufferings of Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13), not in a redemptive, but nevertheless in a real, sense.


Note: This article is an excerpt from chapter three of A Portrait of Paul, by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker, with permission from Reformation Heritage Books. The general topic of suffering will be preached on by Derek Thomas at Pastor Ventura’s church in North Providence, Rhode Island, May 27-28, 2016. For more information about this event, click here.


[1] See Daniel Bergner, “The Believers,” The New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2007, for more information about the Khans (accessed June 28, 2010).

[2] Ibid.


Steps for Personal and Family Revival

  1. Pray the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
  1. Be totally honest as you answer each question.
  1. Agree with God about each need He reveals in your life. Confess each sin, with the willingness to make it right and forsake it.
  1. Praise God for His cleansing and forgiveness.
  1. Renew your mind and rebuild your life through meditation and practical application of the Word of God.
  1. Review these questions periodically to remain sensitive to your need for ongoing revival.


A. Genuine Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17)

  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I genuinely repented of my sin? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I completely surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of my life? Yes or No
  1. Is Christ lived out in my home and have I physically confessed Him Lord at home. Yes or No


B. God’s Word (Ps. 119:97 &140)

  1. Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God? Yes or No
  1. Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful? Yes or No
  1. Do I practically apply God’s Word to my everyday life? Yes or No
  1. Do we as a family discuss God’s Word often? Yes or No


C. Humility (Isa. 57:15)

  1. Am I quick to recognize and agree with God in confession when I have sinned? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to admit to others when I am wrong? Yes or No
  1. Do I rejoice when others are praised and recognized and my accomplishments go unnoticed by men? Yes or No
  1. Do I esteem all others as better than myself? Yes or No
  2. Do I rejoice when others in my family succeed? Yes or No


D. Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 13:17)

  1. Do I consistently obey what I know God wants me to do? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey the human authorities God has placed over my life? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey and honor my parents? Yes or No


E. Pure Heart (1 John 1:9)

  1. Do I confess my sin by name? Yes or No
  1. Do I keep “short sin accounts” with God (confess and forsake as He convicts)? Yes or No
  1. Am I willing to give up all sin for God? Yes or No
  1. Do I repent and confess my sins to others in my family? Yes or No


F. Clear Conscience (Acts 24:16)

  1. Do I consistently seek forgiveness from those I wrong or offend? Yes or No
  1. Is my conscience clear with every man? (Can I honestly say, “There is no one I have ever wronged or offended in any way and not gone back to them and sought their forgiveness and made it right”?) Yes or No
  1. Is my relationship right with each family member? Yes or No
  1. Do I go to bed at night with unresolved conflict with others in the family? Yes or No


G. Priorities (Matt. 6:33)

  1. Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Next to my relationship with God, is my relationship with my family my highest priority? Yes or No


H. Values (Col. 3:12)

  1. Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Yes or No
  1. Do I value highly the things that please God (e.g., giving, witnessing to lost souls, studying His Word, prayer)? Yes or No
  1. Are my affections and goals fixed on eternal values? Yes or No
  1. Are Biblical values reflected in my selection of music and T.V./movies? Yes or No


I. Sacrifice (Phil. 3:7-8)

  1. Am I willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to see God move in my life and church (time, convenience, comfort, reputation, pleasure, etc.)? Yes or No
  1. Is my life characterized by genuine sacrifice for the cause of Christ? Yes or No
  1. Do I have a servant’s heart at home? Yes or No


J. Spirit-Control (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:18-21)

  1. Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life? Yes or No
  1. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to “fill” (control) my life each day? Yes or No
  1. Is there consistent evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit” being produced in my life? Yes or No


K. “First Love” (Phi. 1:21-23)

  1. Am I as much in love with Jesus as I have ever been? Yes or No
  1. Am I thrilled with Jesus; filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my love? Yes or No
  1. How would others in my family view my love toward God on a scale of 1-10?


L. Motives (Matt. 10:28; Acts 5:29)

  1. Am I more concerned about what God thinks about my life than about what others think? Yes or No
  1. Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but God ever noticed? Yes or No
  1. Am I more concerned about pleasing God than I am about being accepted and appreciated by men? Yes or No


 M. Moral Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)

  1. Do I keep my mind free from books, magazines, or entertainment that could stimulate fantasizing thoughts that are not morally pure? Yes or No
  1. Are my conversation and behavior pure and above reproach? Yes or No
  1. Do mom and dad approve of my friendships? Yes or No


N. Forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13)

  1. Do I seek to resolve conflicts in relationships as soon as possible? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to forgive those who hurt or wrong me? Yes or No


O. Sensitivity (Matt. 5:23-24)

  1. Am I sensitive to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to respond in humility and obedience to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I sensitive to my parent’s desires? Yes or No


P. Evangelism (Luke 24:46-48; Rom. 9:3)

  1. Do I have a burden for lost souls? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently witness for Christ? Yes or No


Q. Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)

  1. Am I faithful in praying for the needs of others? Yes or No
  1. Do I pray specifically, fervently and faithfully for revival in my life, my church and our nation? Yes or No
  1. How much time do we spend as a family in prayer?



From George W. Noble’s Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909)

Family Revival Uncategorized

What Are You Like as a Father?

In his book Making Peace With Your Father, David Stoop lists eight types of fathers that negatively affect their children.

  1. The workaholic father. This father works at the expense of his relationship with his children. His work is his priority over his family. He loves his job more than his children. He will show love to them through giving money but he thinks all they need is money not time.
  1. The silent father. He is home with his family but he acts as if he was alone. He does not dialogue with his children unless he disciplines them. He does not get involved in his family activities. He is “present physically but absent in virtually every other aspect” of his family life.
  1. The emotionless father. He simply does not care about the feelings of his children. He fails to demonstrate his love to them both in words and in deeds. Consequently, his children wonder if he really loves them, since they don’t see and feel his love.
  1. The alcoholic father. As soon as he is under the influence of alcohol, he changes from being nice to nasty. “Many fathers, while not addicted to alcohol, nevertheless use alcohol as a way of eluding the family. If they’ve had a bad day…having a drink or two becomes not just a convenient way to relax and unwind, but also a convenient way to retreat from others. Any possibility of meaningful connection with spouses or children ends when the drinking starts.”
  1. The tyrannical father. This father demands too much from his children. He often expects his children “to carry on some family tradition, such as excelling in a sport or pursuing a particular career. The rage comes when the child does not seem to be measuring up or is not achieving quickly enough to suit Dad.” For him, nothing his children do is ever good enough.
  1. The abusive father. David Stoop once asked a certain child if he had any happy childhood memories of his father. “No,” he said. “Only the beatings. That’s all I can remember. That, and the terror I felt in my stomach every time Dad came home.” This father has no idea that he has damaged his child’s life psychologically and emotionally.
  1. The seductive father. “It is important to distinguish seductive fathers from sexually abusive fathers. ‘Seductive’ refers to a set of behaviors that do not include molestation. The key feature of a seductive father is that he is fuzzy regarding personal boundaries… He exhibits a higher degree of intimacy toward [his children] than they are comfortable with, or than is appropriate, and often expects the same in return.”
  1. The competitive father. “This type of father was frequently abandoned by his own father, prompting him to overcompensate in his attempts to be manly [or macho]. His male identity is quite fragile and must be protected at all costs, even from his own children. This often shows up in the way he plays with them: There must always be a winner and a loser, and the winner must always be Dad.”

Fathers, do you find yourself in any of the above descriptions? Although perhaps many of us strive to avoid these qualities, the truth is we all fail and are prone to falling under any of these categories. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace as we raise our children in the fear of the Lord. It should be our daily prayer that we may model God’s character to our children, always pointing them to our perfect heavenly Father. And when we fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).


“Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times”

By Annemarieke Ryskamp (guest blogger)


From left to right: Richard Ryskamp, Annemarieke Ryskamp, Jordan Lorence, Brian Najapfour


On October 16, 2013 my husband (Richard) and I along with our pastor (Brian Najapfour) attended a meeting hosted by Michigan Family Forum. Given the ongoing discussions on marriage and religious freedom, the theme of the meeting was very relevant— “Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times.” The guest speaker was Mr. Jordan Lorence, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. Mr. Lorence is known for his passion to defend religious liberty, sanctity of life, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

An expert in First Amendment right and marriage litigation, Mr. Lorence explained the troubling effects of the legal redefinition of the family. For instance, he told the story about the photographer Elaine Huguenin who was sued by a lesbian couple for refusing to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony. Elaine declined to take pictures because she believed that the ceremony would only promote the practice of same-sex marriage—a practice that she thinks is wrong.

The lesbian couple wanted Elaine to tolerate them in their practice, but they were unwilling to tolerate the exercise of her religious belief. Also, why did they single out Elaine and demand her to take pictures of their ceremony? She was not the only photographer in their area. There were other photographers who would gladly take pictures of same-sex commitment ceremonies. Where was the respect here on the part of this couple for Elaine’s religious conviction? Mr. Lorence rightly observed that madness was a strong factor behind this couple’s decision to sue Elaine. Those who reject the Bible are simply mad at those who uphold it. This attitude should not surprise Christians at all. Haters of Jesus Christ will also hate and even persecute those who follow Christ. But Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Nevertheless, while the legal redefinition of the family has caused difficulties among Christ’s followers, it has also produced positive outcomes. First, it has challenged Christians to study and defend their views that are under attack. Those who were once lax are now forced to know what they really believe and why they really hold to their belief. Second, it has brought Christians closer together. In fact, the people who attended the meeting came from various Christian backgrounds. Yet, these Christians of different persuasions work together for the advancement of the biblical principles of marriage.

At the end of the meeting the speaker entertained some questions. When asked what Christians could do in response to persecutions, he admonished everybody to be courageous in the Lord. We need to be willing to step forward and fight for the biblical principles of marriage.

Dear reader, will you join us in defending marriage as defined by God? Satan is actively seeking to destroy our marriages. He knows that once a marriage is destroyed, it will also affect our church, community, and ultimately our country.


Note: A member of Dutton United Reformed Church, Annemarieke Ryskamp is wife to Richard and mother to their two sons (Sam & Tom). She would like to acknowledge Pastor Najapfour’s editorial help for this post.

Alliance Defending Freedom Marriage Michigan Family Forum Uncategorized

Eight Truths about the Lord’s Supper Based on 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

The Lord’s Supper is a:

1. Celebration with thanksgiving: “and when he had given thanks” (v. 24a).  If Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with gratitude to His Father, should we not also celebrate the Lord’s Supper with gratitude to Jesus for what He has done for us? Through the finished work of Christ we have received eternal life.

2. Commemoration of Christ’s death: “Do this in remembrance of me” (v. 24b & 25b). In the Lord’s Supper we remember Christ, specifically His atoning death. Christ died that we might live forever.

3. Command: “Do this” (vv. 25-26). It is an ordinance; and thus, believers in Christ must participate in this sacrament. A person who claims to be a Christian and constantly refuses to partake of the Lord’s Supper is living in disobedience to God.

4. Consecration: “Let a person examine himself” (vv. 27-30). The Lord’s Supper is sacred. Hence we also call it Holy Sacrament or Holy Communion. For this reason God asks us to examine ourselves to make sure that we come to the Lord’s Table with a clean heart, a heart cleansed by the blood of Christ.

5. Communion: “When you come together” (vv. 17-22). In Holy Communion we are given a special opportunity to fellowship with our triune God and with our fellow-believers.

6. Covenant: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (vv. 23-25). It is new in contrast to the old covenant. In the new covenant we have the blood of Jesus Christ—the blood that has the power to cleanse us from our sins.

7. Communication of the gospel: “you proclaim the Lord’s death” (v. 26). It is an acted proclamation of the gospel. Here the gospel is proclaimed not through the written word but through the sacred sacrament. In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the gospel of Christ is communicated to us.

8. Contemplation of the coming of Christ: “until he comes” (v. 26b). While in the Lord’s Supper we specifically contemplate on Christ’s death, we also meditate upon His Second Coming. Therefore, as we come to the Lord’s Table, let us not stop at Calvary. Let us also look forward to Christ’s glorious return. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of our heavenly banquet with Christ.


Click here, to listen to this message, “Truths about the Lord’s Supper,” delivered at Dutton URC on December 9, 2012.



Folklore Rules In Writing

In his book Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams talks about correctness in writing. Our work should not only be clear, but grammatically correct as well. And, of course, for us to have a correct writing, we need to keep certain grammatical rules. But unfortunately, according to Williams, “some grammarians have invented a handful of rules that they think we should observe—call them ‘Folklore’” (10). These are some of the folklore rules in writing:

  1.  Don’t begin sentences with and or but.
  2.  Use the relative pronoun that—not which—for restrictive clauses.
  3.  Use fewer with nouns you count, less with nouns you cannot.
  4.  Use since and while to refer only to time, not to mean because or although.

For the author these rules are not absolute: “When [we] violate these ‘rules,’ few careful readers notice, much less care. So they are not rules at all, but folklore [we] can ignore (unless [we] are writing for someone with the power to impose these rules on [us])” (11). There is another set of invented rules called Elegant Options:

  1. Don’t split infinitives.
  2. Use whom as the object of a verb or preposition.
  3. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  4. Use the singular with none and any.

Like folklore, these rules are not fixed. However, for the sake of style and since these rules “create a slightly formal tone” to our writing, it is commendable that we observe them. But we should not be slaves to them.