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Some Encouragments To Frequent Prayer

Out walking our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog this evening on a lovely summer’s evening.

Here are some thoughts from a conversation that I had with my wife, on the stroll, as to reasons we should delight to pray often.

First God’s Open Access Policy. Round the clock, day and night, the Father’s door is open to hear His children’s prayers.

Second Our Great High Priest. Christ is engaged in continual everlasting intercession for His people in order that their persons and prayers may find acceptance with the Father – Hebrew 4.14-16.

Third Believers Sin Frequently. More than we know, we are in constant need of ongoing confession, cleansing of conscience, and assurance of pardon, so keeping our list short and confession up to date is best – 1 John 1.5-10.

Fourth Saints Need Much Grace. To keep our vows, fulfill our duties, know God’s will, meditate on truth, enjoy Christian fellowship, cherish our relationships, obey the commandments with joy, thanksgiving, devotion, sacrifice and kindness requires more faith than we have and more grace than we seek.

Fifth Prayer Lists Are Long. Luther did not always pray 3 hours a day. Sometimes, he said, that his dog was keener on eating dinner than his master was eager […]

Australia’s Most Beautiful Site

Recently I returned from Australia. What a tremendous time I had seeing the land down under!  

A visit to the Healesville Sanctuary, a natural zoo set in the bushland of Victoria, allowed me to get up close to such creatures as wombats, dingoes, platypuses, Tasmanian Devils and other native animals. A bird show in an amphitheater there was incredible. Birds such as a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and a Wedge-tailed Eagle came flying in and performed as directed by the trainers. I watched in awe as a Barking Owl glided on command right past my head, its large yellow eyes gazing ahead as its wingtip slipped silently by my right ear.

On another day, I visited Kennett River and had King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas perched on my arm and eating out of my hand. We watched koalas munching away on eucalyptus trees. Mait’s Rest, a rainforest area near Apollo Bay with a wooden boardwalk, transferred us to another world as we walked in the silence provided by towering gum trees and dew-covered large ferns. A delightful drive along the Great Ocean Road was made even more beautiful by the numerous iridescent rainbows that kept appearing and reflecting on […]

Comfort for Cross-Bearing. Calvin on the Intercession of the Spirit – A Few Notes On Romans 8.26-27

1. Activity – the Spirit Himself does not actually intercede for us: this rather is Paul’s way of expressing that God, by His Spirit, moves us to prayer.
2. Reason – this work takes place in us because our minds are so disturbed by our trials, that we do not know how to frame our thoughts properly; anyway, all prayer, is Spirit-generated prayer, without whose help, we could not pray properly from the heart. “Our thoughts nevertheless continue oppressed with darkness, until the Spirit guides them by His light.”
3. Manner – God, “…by the secret impulse of His Spirit, knocks at our door, and thus opens for himself our hearts,” in order that we might formulate each and every syllable of the proper language of prayer. “He also affects our heart in such a way, that these desires by their fervency penetrate into heaven itself.”
4. Comfort – the fact that we even have this prayer stirred up by God, is a sign of celestial favor already shining forth, if, even though, for a time, our prayers go unanswered.
5. Effect – we are taught by the Spirit how to pray and what to ask for in our prayers.
6. Grace – we thus […]

A Call To Closeness

O Soul Are You Weary And Troubled

Perhaps like me, at this time in the year, you’re getting rather jaded. Rest and relaxation is usually ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even more important you need to recharge your batteries and get spiritually refreshed. So, as I blog tonight, I want to encourage you not just to take a time out, but to spend more time with God, to draw closer in your walk.

A Prompt to Closeness

As providence would have it, I’ve just been asked this week to write a short series of four articles on prayer. This is one occasion when I can honestly ask ‘Why me?’. It is true that a closer walk with God has been on my heart for years. Yes it’s been my deep desire for months to devote myself to prayer. I suspect many of us feel mere novices in prayer. I trust that this series will not go directly from head to pen but, en route, will traverse the deep wells of my soul!

Finally Unpacking Book Boxes

About the middle of the week I finally got around to putting up more shelves and unpacking long-boxed books. We moved in the Fall and I’m down to the final thousand […]

The Gospel Reformation Network

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Presbyterian Church in America‘s General Assembly in Greensboro, NC. Held in the spacious accommodations of the Khoury Convention Center, the week had a feel of a reunion to it. PCA ministers and elders greeted one another warmly and enjoyed extended fellowship with one another. Many of the men brought their families with them, and the wives and children would mill about as they waited on their dad to rejoin them after a meeting. As a guest, I was made to feel welcome throughout the week.

The deliberations and events surrounding the gathering of this nation’s largest conservative Presbyterian denomination were quite remarkable. Observing meetings and debates held in an assembly that is three times the size of the House of Representatives was quite an experience. Walking down hallways and regularly seeing leading Christian teachers and authors such as Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, or Kevin DeYoung made me realize again just how “resource rich” the PCA truly is. Over a hundred exhibitors of Christian ministries filled a ballroom and spilled over into other hallways with booths offering literature, products for sale, or little freebies (the RUF tin can mints was the best give-away item […]

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 […]

Love and Hell

Hell is not mentioned much these days, except when used as a curse word. It is a topic that many consider outdated and a place that few believe actually exists. And in these days of hyper-tolerance, which quickly becomes intolerance when anyone sounds the least bit doctrinaire, speaking of hell is seen as a strange, brutish thing to do.

So why do it?

In a word, it’s all about love.

For you see, hell does exist. Mocking it, ignoring it, forgetting it – none of that changes its reality. Jesus Christ preached about it repeatedly, warning his listeners of its danger. He taught that it is a real location where those who do not live as the Bible commands will be punished consciously forever. Not to believe in hell is to distrust the very words of Christ. The Westminster Confession of Faith, speaking about the final judgment, uses Biblical language as it describes hell in this manner: “The wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”

So what does speaking of hell have to do with love?

If someone is about to […]

Strangers in Saunas – Update 2

Just back from my Monday lunchtime swim at the gym – thought it might be good to pass on some more information.

Up to 60 lengths today – please don’t get visions of a Bluefin Tuna gliding effortlessly from end to end. My aquatics are more akin to that of the Humpback Whale!

The main thing learnt today in the Steam Room was God’s sovereignty over circumstances.

After entering and sitting I tried to start the conversation with a middle-aged guy in the corner by saying: ‘They could do with a light in here!’ I’ve often thought that to myself, so it seemed a reasonable introduction. Well, to my surprise there was no response at all. Just long silence for the next 5 minutes.

My next attempt was more fruitful: ‘The weather’s great, isn’t it?’ Now it just happens to have been the driest April on record in Northern Ireland. Yesterday also just happened to be a real ‘blue-sky belter-of-a-day’ (sorry if these colloquialisms seem strange across the pond!).

Suddenly the stranger perked up – it seems I’d struck the conversation-opener jackpot. ‘Yeh!’ he agreed. ‘Spent the whole day up the Mournes!’ (our local mountain range and of Don McLean fame).

‘Climbing were you?’ I inquired […]

Strangers in Saunas – Update

For those who of you who are wondering how things are going in my local health club in Belfast, or praying for the ‘strangers in saunas’ with whom I was conversing, I thought it might be helpful to give you a brief update:

I’m not sure how a clerical collar would look in the sauna, but I was tempted to consider, for future ventures, wearing a ‘onesy’ or ‘Lycra body suit’ or a bathrobe, following my next encounter with another stranger in the sauna. Perhaps you may have guessed, by my slightly prudish comments, it was an older lady who entered the sauna a couple of days later. Happily we were seated in opposite corners of the sauna, but it didn’t take too long before she introduced herself, WAIT FOR IT, by her christian name FAITH.

Well, after I had recovered from the surprise (o ye of little faith!), I couldn’t help but ask “Well, tell me FAITH ….do you have faith?” It turns out, actually, that she does – and she also attends a local church, whose former minister I know of (who is, I think, very mildly evangelical). Anyway, she goes to church regularly, and expressed her thanks for the pastoral care […]