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Surely God is in this place

Parked automobiles lined the road in all directions! Around five hundred people packed into the Meeting House and adjoining buildings! They had assembled with love and kindness to express their sympathy and care. A grieving godly family was there to welcome and receive comfort and prayers from sorrowing friends – the pervading sense was one of calm hope, trusting peace and confident joy – at what was for all, I think, an unexpected funeral service.

After a number of tributes from close family and their young minister, a call to worship was given and the precentor stood to lead. As his arms undulated gently, and his sweet voice rebounded from rafters, a grave and glad sweet melody united loving hearts. Ministers and members stood in earnest to seek, and call on, God. A close friend, and minister, then read the Holy Scriptures, his cadences marked by affection, reverence, gravity and warmth. Again a Psalm was sung that summed up God’s servant’s life! Fruitful, full, well-planted, full of sap: all the self-evident outcome in God’s oaks rooted in His House by grace.

The ministers stood in the midst! Surrounding the man of God was a sea of solemn worshipers – here hearts were […]

From Geneva to Amsterdam in Five Minutes!

Alpine Climes!

I’ve just arrived back from 3 days on the slopes with Andy Jr skiing. We stayed in a beautiful little village in the Chablais region of the Northern French Alps called Les Gets – really ‘chocolate box’ scenery. It was kind of some friends to let us have the use of his chalet for a few days.

Fabled Fun

Dad & Junior

Anyway, now, aged 51, the ‘thigh-burn’ is starting to get ridiculous – I was chasing a trail of ‘snow-dust’ for almost all of the time. I’m glad to say, however, that there is still a little life in the old legs of the old dog yet. I was happy to quote Aesop’s Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare to Andy Jr as I left him for dead on the big bumps on the final run of the final day. His only reply was that his shin was beginning to hurt – a classical case of Invisible-alpine-shin-microblister-dad-just-beat-you Syndrome, no doubt!

A dear French brother flanked by two Irishmen!

En Route!

After a few hours shut-eye, we rose at 5.30 am, did a quick final clean of the chalet, and headed down the road to Geneva Airport, only to have to pull […]

Wanting to Silence those who Show us up?

Introduction

I’m planning to preach tomorrow on the murder by Cain of Abel. Time is pressing on so I’ll try to be fairly brief.

Text

John brings out Cain’s main motive for his murderous act, in 1 John 3.12:

“We should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous!”

The word ‘RIGHTEOUS’ shows us that the deeds of Abel conformed to the standard God set, whereas, in comparison, in the case of Cain, they fell woefully far short.

The problem with Cain’s offering?

The problem with the gift was neither that it was cereal, nor just a token expression (this common popular interpretation is probably a part but not the heart of the matter), nor even because there was no blood (blood, of course, was required for without death of a sacrificial victim there is no pardon or acceptance – Moses is teaching Israel, in Genesis, during their wilderness wanderings, so mention of gifts, lambs and fat parts assumes some kind of knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system): have there not been many false religions in history that offered blood of sacrificial victims […]

And the Word became Flesh…

The Word of God
…the Pre-Incarnate Logos
…the Eternal Son
…the outward expression of the inward purpose of God
…the One who always was God and was always with God
…the appointed Mediator
…the One by whom, for whom and through whom all things were created and do presently consist
…the One who in the form of God possessed every attribute and characteristic of deity that makes God divine
…the One who was omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, co-equal, all-wise, sovereign, transcendent, thrice holy and pure love
…became what He was not, the Word of God made Flesh

The Word of God became, irreversibly, forevermore, without mixture or confusion, through mysterious and miraculous conception, fully enfleshed God-Man
…this fully divine person took to Himself a whole, complete, entire, full, human nature not by compression, confusion, transmutation, metamorphosis, or subtraction, but by addition of manhood to divinity; so He became what he was not while remaining what he always was
…this man born Jesus of Nazareth remained One Person but now possessed Two Distinct Natures
…with a human mind, heart and will to love God with all His soul and his neighbor-creatures as Himself
…with a mind full of wisdom
…with a heart full of compassion
…with a will set on obedience
…with the face of a man to fix […]

Confessing Non-Conformity

“He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ.’” (Mark 8.29 E.S.V.)

“Before leaving this subject, special attention should be called to the fact that the words of Jesus ‘But you, who do you say that I am?’ convey a very important lesson, namely, that a true believer is one who is willing, whenever necessary, to express a conviction that is contrary to that of the masses. In the best sense of the term, the believer is willing to come forth boldly in the interest of the truth.

The Kingdom is for vigorous people …for strong and sturdy men like Joseph …Moses …Joshua and Caleb …Samuel …David …Nathan …Elijah …Jehoshaphat …Daniel and his three friends …Mordecai …Stephen …Paul …Epaphroditus …Onesiphorus …and the apostle John …It is for such valiant women as Ruth …Deborah …Abigail …Esther …and Lydia.

Conformity with the world, compromise on basic issues, the unwillingness to be distinctive, is strongly condemned in Scripture …not being ‘of the world’, believers are shining lights in the midst of the world …They are spiritually different from the world, in order to be a blessing to the world.

So here in Mark 8.28, 29, […]

Calvin on Christmas

“Yet when we seek our Lord Jesus Christ to find in Him alleviation of all our miseries and a sure and infallible protection we must begin at His birth. Not only is it recited to us that He was made man like us, but that He so emptied Himself that scarcely was He reputed to be of the rank of men. He was, as it were, banished from every house and fellowship. There was nothing except a stable and a manger to receive Him. Since it is so, then, we know here how God displayed the infinite treasures of His goodness when He willed that His Son might be humbled for our sakes.”

Sermon on Luke 2.1-14.

Refuge in the Redeemer

Storm Shelters

It’s stormy in the mountains! A tornado’s headed this way! The town is under siege! Life hangs in the balance! Danger is all around! In such situations, we all need a place to turn to, a safe house to which we can run, a refuge where we can hide, or a location far from threat and beyond the reach of harm.

David’s Dangers

That’s what the son of Jesse learnt during his rise to power. He was pursued like a fox, chased down by many assailants, either ducking under Saul’s javelin or outwitting royal militia manoeuvres. David was subject to slander, surrounded by envious liars, and often took recourse to a hideout for escape.

Reliable Refuge

In the end, he knew however, it was God who spared his life. In Psalm 18.1-3 he recounts how the LORD had kept him safe.

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

What is striking in this Psalm, and also Psalm 144.2, is the multiplicity of word-pictures used to convey how faithfully Yahweh kept him safe. As Derek Kidner […]

What is Whiter than Snow?

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

Just arrived back from a walk with our dog. It has been unseasonably cold in Belfast this week. We woke this morning to a blanket of snow. So I headed out with my son, who has just returned from Uni, to enjoy the falling, fluffy, flakes.

As the clouds cleared away, sunlight began to sparkle and twinkle its refracted light on fields and woods: everything was irradiated, and lit up almost-magically, as my heart was full of gladness in this winter wonderland. All green grass concealed. All brown branches covered. Glistening, glinting snow had hidden everything from view.

We continued down the field, at times entering into forest – till I bumped into a lad from Hong Kong who I’d talked to at length, on one previous occasion.

A Vital Question

The question that I posed to him was this: ‘What is whiter than the snow?’

Since he didn’t appear to know how to respond, I gently mentioned Psalm 51, and the covering it speaks of, when God forgives our sins.

Psalm 51

In this prayer, conniving, murdering, adulterous David had now come clean with God, as the superscription informs us. He begs the LORD for mercy! His only hope is God’s compassionate, […]

Appointments in Airports

I was flying home from a conference with two of the army ‘scripture readers.’ The older man opposite was grimacing in some pain. O.K., so we shouldn’t have been sitting in the disabled seats, but there was plenty of room. The thickly set (I’m one to talk) gentleman leaned forward and something dropped out of his pocket.

I watched, then waited, and thought… I took his mishap as a providential opportunity to initiate a conversation; so I smiled, then said: ‘Excuse me, you have dropped something out of your pocket!’

He looked down, blushing, spied his wallet (I think) on the ground (or maybe that was the second time it happened, and was just some medication on the first occasion), picked up the item, and thanked me, in a rather reserved manner.

I was sure, on first sight, this man was probably Austrian: his face looked Germanic (he could have been Martin Luther), and he was wearing what seemed to me a bit like lederhosen (a grey woolen jacket with a dark green lining around his collar and cuffs). I was almost expecting him to break out in refrains of ‘Edelweiss, edelweiss’ in the manner of Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews on ‘The […]

Jesus knows! Yes He really does know!

As I reflected in my daily devotions on how much Jesus knew about the woman with the ‘issue of blood’, I was truly blown away by the details of His omniscience.

Even during His earthly ministry, when His divine will and nature, by the Holy Spirit, communicated this lady’s fact-file to His human consciousness, Mark makes it evident, that he knew her case history completely, in 5:25-3 (E.S.V.):

“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you […]