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Archive | Mercy

Violence in Vegas – When false gods let us down

Stunned, saddened, sickened & silenced – that captures something of my reaction to the news of the terrifying, tragic, carnage in Las Vegas last night.

Perhaps some who read this post will have relatives caught up – brothers, sisters, friends, may you know, in abundance, the grace, peace & comfort of the Good Shepherd of the Sheep, in dark days that lie ahead.

How horrifying for survivors to watch loved ones mowed down in cold blood or expiring in their arms! How terrifying for those who, at a moment’s notice, were snatched away from earth by this barbarous act!

I’ve been reflecting a little today on how to make some sense of what frankly beggars belief: we are wise to admit, there are elements in all this that our finite minds cannot fathom – in the end we know God will overrule gratuitous violence for good; yet there are other elements here, which should give us cause to pause and help lawmakers learn lessons.

By instinct, you must know, I’m politically naturally strongly conservative. I believe in the right to self-defense, though I’ve never owned a gun (nor even fired a loaded rifle – except an air gun once or twice in childhood). Indeed, […]

Comfort for Christians

Introduction

A number of years ago, I came across a beautifully written, pastorally helpful, spiritually enriching and heart-consoling, little volume by Arthur. W. Pink, published by Baker Books, entitled ‘Comfort for Christians’. What caught my eye, and lured me like a bee to honey, was the sweetest four-page entry on ‘Our Light and Momentary Troubles’: at that particular time this was health to my bones and balm of Gilead to my soul.

That chapter, of course, was a moving exposition, from Paul’s letter to Second Corinthians, which I began to study afresh, yesterday morning, with much profit. In this sacred epistle the apostle handles many subjects, one of the chief of which is the suffering of the believer and corresponding divine consolation. In the very first section, he leads us with cords of kindness to the “Father of all mercies” and “the God of all comfort”. It is to this God of Grace, and the comfort found in Christ, that I want to lead your soul for refreshment of the heart.

Explanation

Before I begin to pin down some principles, with private and pastoral applications, I just want to make a few comments on the text itself.

First please note, that while ‘comfort’ in the […]

In it for the long haul?

Just back from an unexpected house visit at the end of a 3rd hot sunny day in Nantes (I can sense you feel my pain!).

We were just finishing our evening meal with our host missionary couple, when the phone went – a separated, middle-aged, French lady was on the other end of the line: she needed a male hand lifting a washing-machine out of her apartment and putting into her car boot (trunk).

This lady turned out to be a long-term, 25 year, contact – she hadn’t been seen or heard of for quite some time. However, even though we were a little skeptical as to the value of accepting the challenge, off the three of us went, to help her bear the weight.

Once the fuse had been replaced (she hadn’t mentioned that in the call, and none of us are electrically minded), the power turned on, and the washing-machine transferred as required, suddenly, and surprisingly, we began to get into a conversation about the Jeremiah, Israel, Christ and the Bible. For almost thirty minutes we talked in-depth about spiritual matters.

What was the verdict of the missionary? Well he was genuinely, pleasantly, delighted: “The best conversation we’ve had with her in […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 Distinction between Deacons and Elders

One difficulty the church often runs into is making proper distinctions. We confuse laws with principles of wisdom. We don’t know what Jesus meant when he said communion bread is his body. We hear about grace and think it is licentiousness. And when it comes to the church offices of deacon and elder, we can experience a similar difficulty in seeing the differences.

Some churches do not have deacons. Others call their leaders deacons and do not have elders. Many congregations that have both elders and deacons run into problems because the lines of authority and responsibility are not clear.

As with any confusion, the best place to return for clarity is to the Scriptures. For they make clear that the diaconate is a distinct office from that of the eldership. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and greeted “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi,” then addressed both “the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1). In giving the qualifications for office to Timothy, he offered separate lists for both of these positions (I Timothy 3:1-13). From the testimony of the rest of the New Testament, we can see how deacons are differentiated from the overseers or elders. Clearly deacons, whose […]

What Remembering the Poor Really Means

When the apostles eventually confirmed the Lord’s commission for Paul to go to the Gentiles, according to him they gave him one final admonition. “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (Gal 2:10). Part and parcel of pastoral and church planting ministry is then this duty to remember the poor. Yet what does it really mean to remember them?

It is easy to associate the word remember simply with the idea of acknowledging or being aware of a circumstance. We can shake our heads sadly and muse, “Yes, it’s too bad there are so many poor people in that part of town.” Like the politician who famously said of the struggling, “I feel your pain” while remaining at a distance from them, we can think it sufficient to know of the existence of the plight of others and feel sorry for them. But in the Bible, to remember means something much more than bringing to mind a matter.

Like many of the commandments found in the New Testament, such as the great commandments to love God and neighbor, this call to remember the poor is an echo of Old Testament law. Israel was […]

J.D. Vance – An Insightful Discussion

On Monday night Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, led a discussion with J.D. Vance, the author of the extremely popular Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. The book is a powerful telling of Vance’s own story of growing up in extremely dysfunctional homes, yet moving upwardly in society to become a Marine, college graduate and Yale-trained lawyer. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, especially as a way to begin to understand a group of people not usually in contact with anything approaching a healthy church.

Here are a few of the highlights of the conversation.

Fair-Weather Friends And Family

“‘Tis the season to be jolly!” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” That’s what most will have said over the recent festive season of Christmas & New Year. Of course the reality is quite different …many are not wonderfully jolly but lonely, suffering, grieved, anxious, elderly, heartbroken or ill; yet a few others are staring into the dark tunnel of terminal illness. Some of these dear folks are well-known to us as family, friends, believing brothers & sisters, colleagues or neighbours. This is their season to be sorry …the most dreaded, dark & dreary time of the year!

Of course any pangs of conscience that we might have been susceptible to over recent weeks, have largely been suppressed by the drip-feed of on-line entertainment and merriment – as we enjoyed & indulged ourselves to the full (or to excess), we almost entirely forgot about them: we barely gave them a thought & refused to let their needs & suffering interfere or impinge in any way with our festive schedule. Strange we should be able to find so much time for those who could repay us with presents or pleasure. The shocking thing is we did not have to be taught to […]