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Mercies in Mission

This is just a brief ‘diary entry’ after day 2 of my current pastoral visit to two missionary families in Nantes, West France.

After waking up late and bleary-eyed on Friday morning (having tried unsuccessfully to stay awake for the UK General Election results the night before), I grabbed a bite of breakfast, a mug of coffee, and headed off to our Team Meeting.

I began our time by reading Romans 1.1-17. I briefly stressed Paul’s note of thanksgiving and desire for mutual encouragement expressed in v7-12, in their saving Gospel faith v16-17, which is located in the promised, incarnate, risen, glorified Christ v1-6:

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long […]

Boasting Bad – James 4.13-17

Missing A Trick?

In my lifetime I have definitely noticed a difference in the way Christians talk. I was shocked as a late teenager to hear Christian friends rubbing their hands with hollow excitement at the prospect of going to see Bruce Springsteen – look, I like ‘the Boss’ too (at least the throaty relaxed easy-listening parts): but if they believed this was the ultimate goal in life, I honestly felt it was they who were missing out. What was lacking in their conversation in those days was any mention at all of God in all their talk. I’m pleased to report that some of them, at least, have remedied their ways!

It used to be reasonably common to hear Christians say “D.V.”. If it balked at the possibility of actually naming the Lord, and if it was a little highbrow assuming a working knowledge of Latin, at least there as passing nod to God and His providential rule. Sadly, even then, most only mentioned God when dressed up in Sunday best. For the most part the Name was left out of the talk.

The God with No Name?

James 4.13-17, however, warns us that if God should always be uppermost in our thoughts, […]

Christ’s Help for Sabbath-Keeping

I’m getting geared up to preach on Genesis 2.1-3 tomorrow morning, so I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on how Christ helps us keep the Sabbath.

First by His Example

Along with Father and Spirit, the Pre-Incarnate Word, the Logos or Eternal Son, rested on the seventh day, as the climax of Creation. The Agent of Creation did not press the pause button. The term that is used indicates total completion and fulfillment of His task. The ‘work’ mentioned twice is also a slightly unusual choice: it has been suggested this term, which is usually otherwise reserved for human employment, was chosen by the Spirit to remind human beings of the need to down tools on the Sabbath; this expression ‘work’ is a close relative of the Hebrew word for ‘angel’ or ‘messenger.’ The key thing to note, in connection with an angel, is neither a shining body nor flapping wings, but the duty to complete the messenger’s God-given commission or task. Is it hard to prove that this is the reason the term ‘work’ was used in this instance? It still remains true that, as in the work of Redemption, so also in the work of Creation, […]

The Gospel According to David

I’ve just finished preaching on Psalm 19.12. I was attempting to preach the text taking careful note of context. Having now descended the pulpit my thoughts crystallised as I drove home. I have come to think of this Psalm as ‘The Gospel According to David’. I have a sneaking suspicion Paul had its structure in mind when he wrote the Gospel to the Romans.

The Glory of God in Creation – Supressed v1-6

It is this universal knowledge of God the Gentiles have spurned. Like the gushing of a fountain silent speech pours forth on earth. The sun’s relentless rays leave a magnificent message. It’s heat melts Arctic ice because no land escapes God’s light. This rejected knowledge of God leaves all men without excuse. Indeed they heard, say Paul, for:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10.18) “…For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are […]

Hezekiah My Hero

I’ve just finished reading through 1 & 2 Kings, in Hebrew, last Friday. For the sins of King Manasseh, the nation of Judah was finally thrust out into the judgment of Exile to Babylon.

Hezekianic Analysis

Some weeks ago I did a blog entitled ‘Humbling Hezekiahs’. I had been reminded at that time about the danger of pride in leaders, particularly after times of successes. Re-reading the life and times of Hezekiah has given me a fresh more positive take on his reign – I’ve recently declared in church ‘Hezekiah is my new hero!’

Hezekianic Text

The bit of the text by which I was struck like a thunderbolt was 2 Kings 18.3:

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David, his father, had done. He removed the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).”

There is far more to Hezekiah than initially meets the gaze. His reign concluded in a downfall caused by pride, when self-interest finally trumped and eclipsed a career […]

A Minister of Mercy

An Offer Too Good To Refuse

What a wonderful surprise! That’s was my reaction to the very kind and generous offer made by one of the older members of my congregation. He is a retired missionary who possesses a deep theological knowledge. I couldn’t believe my ears: ‘Take any books you like – you can have first pick from my library!” So on the appointed day, and at a pre-arranged time, I went round to my friend, with some sturdy cardboard boxes, and filled my car boot [trunk] with dozens of weighty tomes.

The Secret Workings of Providence

This all happened around the time when we recently moved house, so half of my library is still in boxes. This explains why I haven’t had much time to survey the contents properly or the leisure to digest their accumulated wisdom. Yet, as providence would have it, I recently read a quotation from Thomas Goodwin in a Banner of Truth magazine (it was either imbedded in a magazine article or just the bare quote and nothing else). The quotation was something along the lines of (my heavy paraphrase) “Salvation will not be withheld from any penitent sinner who comes to God truly believing that the Lord is full of mercy.”

Isn’t is […]

The Beauty of Botany

I’ve just returned this morning from a flying visit to my daughter in Cambridge, England. Yesterday morning was spent drinking in the impressive architecture of the magnificent Ely Cathedral. After lunch we spent an hour walking around Cambridge Botanical Gardens.

Sadly, after the £5 ($6) dollar entrance ticket, as we probably should have realised, the gardens were a little disappointing: apart from a few cherry blossoms, and a ‘host of golden daffodils dancing in the breeze’, very little else had begun to bud or bloom, in these earliest days of Spring.

Yet, in spite of the lack of colour, in the extensive lawns and lakes, and beyond the occasional splash or flap of the local Mallard ducks, the trip was not in vain: our meander through the ‘glasshouse’, for the Indian Sub-Continent display of tropical plants, was worth the ticket price alone.

There were a few intimidating triffids that put out blossoms in your face; the cactus section was amazing (not quite sure how Arizona sneaked into to the sub-continental botanical area); but the piece de resistance was the exhibition of dozens of orchid subspecies that lit up the display with their delicate colours and resplendent, ornamental, forms.

Almost every shade […]

The Evil of Sin

In his extraordinarily useful book A Method for Prayer, Matthew Henry includes a large section on repentance, which begins with these words:

Having given glory to God which is his due, we must next take shame to ourselves, which is our due, and humble ourselves before him in the sense of our sinfulness and vileness…

With many examples, he demonstrates effective prayers of repentance. To the modern reader, what may stand out the most is the acknowledgement of sin’s evil. It’s one thing to admit we’re sinners and name our sins before God. It’s equally important to stare at those sins long enough to own and feel our shame as well as our guilt. (Henry says we are to “aggravate” or poke at them until we see them for what they really are.)

Toward that end, here are two aspects of the evil-ness of our sin which God has recently shown me very clearly.

The Call of Widowhood

Because of sad, hard, tragic providence, over the last few years a number of friends and a family member have become widows. In praying for and interacting with these dear women, Miriam and I have seen how lonely and difficult their new status can be. In reflecting on this both personally and biblically, one thought that might be helpful is to see widowhood as a calling.

When a Christian woman becomes a wife, she takes her vows before the Lord and receives her new role with her husband as a calling. She becomes his helper (Gen. 2:18), his closest companion by covenant (Mal. 2:14), and the delight of his life (Gen 2:23; Song of Sol. 4). By submitting herself to his leadership, usually symbolized in our culture by the woman taking her husband’s last name, the wife has linked her identity with him (Eph. 5:22-33). They have become one. If the Lord blesses them with children, the woman sees her calling as a wife expanded into motherhood (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 113:9). We typically do not balk at the idea of becoming and being a wife as a calling.

But what about widowhood? Can that not also be considered a calling of a unique […]

Humbling Hezekiahs

What minister is entirely free from the vestiges of self? Is it not the very best, most effective, most productive pastors who are most frequently assaulted by temptations to pride? Is it not a humbling fact that the hearts of Christian elders are so easily puffed up? If Satan was the originator of pride, and if sinners, at times, seem to thrive and revel in pride, is not every believer also in danger of succumbing to pride?

Such questions and thoughts as these have been whizzing round my neurones since the case of Hezekiah came before my mind. What, we have to ask, was going through his brain when he committed this sin? So I started to attempt to tease out the thought processes of one of Judah’s stellar monarchs. I began to meander my way slowly through the accounts of the sin of Hezekiah in scripture (2 Kings 20.12-19; 2 Chronicles 32.24-31; Isaiah 39.1-8). I was rocked by the force of the many valuable and instructive lessons and warnings to be scavenged from the spiritual carrion of the accounts of the carcass-like sin of the pride of Hezekiah.

1. Godly leaders who do much for the wellbeing of the Kingdom and honour of the House of God are still capable of committing serious, disgraceful sins that […]