RSS feed for this section

Archive | Musings

The Beatitudes of the Heart: A Brief Reflection

Blessed are those who feel the weight of their spiritual need.
Blessed are those whose hearts break over sin and evil.
Blessed are the gentle and humble of heart.
Blessed are those who are thirsty and hungry for righteousness.
Blessed are those who love to shower forth mercy.
Blessed are those whose hearts are unstained.
Blessed are those who mend relationships with the salve of peace.
Blessed are those who suffer while following Christ.

It’s such a simple observation, but when I write out The Beatitudes in my own words, wanting to feel what is being said afresh, I am struck by how heart-centered they truly are.  Rather than revolving around codes of dress or some other external manifestation, Christ plows deep into the soul of man, right into our beating hearts.  It is all about attitudes; and affections; and dispositions; the very deepest; the kind that not only swirl in the center but center on the whole- man in his totality.

It is the very best kind of focus.

I am also struck by another simple observation.  God wants these realities to constitute the sum total of his people.  Everyone is to be truly happy as they reflect and embody a goodness that is inherently sublime.  One might here think of Paul’s words […]

But I Do, Dad

You are often there, in the edges of my dreams. Quiet. Not speaking. 

Not like you were in life. Working, hunting, fishing, fixing – always using your hands. And always, always a story to tell or a tease to offer. You were unable to suppress the grin, the crow’s feet forming around smiling, brown eyes. Yet there, in hazy dreams, you are silent, just watching. A presence. The others do not see you. 

But I do. 

When the sun rises and I’m off into my day, the dreams dissipate like the morning mist. Then, softly and quickly, wispy memories bring you back. As in my dreams, you are there. Quiet. No one sees you. 

But I do.

When my son, who never knew or saw you, moves his hands like you did when he tells a story. When I see the flashing, dark eyes and hear the big laugh of my daughter. When I use a tool, then clean it and put it back in its place like you told me to do a thousand times. When I open that wooden box Uncle Pete made and see your initials on the blade of your knife. When men speak of leading and I remember the kind way that you […]

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 […]

Gerascophobia

My wife and I happened to catch programme on TV about facial cosmetic treatments—it was something of an eye-opener (no pun intended).

A beautiful woman in her 30s walks into a room, talks to a middle-aged, slightly overweight man, with a receding hairline. She exits the room, dejected—she has been told her looks are fading, her skin is poor, and her face is in need of filler (whatever that is). She was attractive before she went in, and attractive when she came out, but not according to the money-makers of the world of beauty therapy and cosmetic surgery.

What was eye-opening wasn’t the treatments, although some were weird, but the shameless playing on, and even creating, insecurities in people to promote the treatments.

A 32 year old(!) has Botox to remove a few lines, or rather to paralyse a few facial muscles so they don’t cause lines. She says, “People noticed something was different”. I’d say they did—and it was the fact that part of her face no longer moved and conveyed expression!

A few years ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. In part of it he tells of Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial […]

Presbyterian Partiality?

I’m hoping to preach on the sin of partiality tomorrow evening from James 2.1-7.

In preparing, yesterday morning, I was really surprised to discover that one of the chief reasons or motivations for the prohibition of prejudice is the doctrine of election!

“Listen my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith & heirs of the Kingdom, which God has promised to those who love him?”

It actually makes me wonder why we, in particular, as died-in-the-wool Calvinists, fall into the trap of ‘Presbyterian Partiality’ (apologies in advance to other readers)? There are strong reasons why ‘The Reformed’ (for want of a better term), of all people, should be less vulnerable or prone to this sin.

We ought to have a strong doctrine of scripture. Yet exegesis of the text forbids partiality in church, James 2.1, which in comparison to Saviour is an inglorious sin:

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory.”

The definition of Thayer helps us get a better handle on the problem of partiality which is:

“…the fault of one who when called on to requite or to give judgment has respect to the outward […]

The Dovetail Nature of Scripture

Recently, I worked with a talented friend in his well-equipped workshop in making some storm windows for my study. His gifts and abilities were fun to watch as he went from coming up with the ideas and drawings to their execution. He transformed pieces of pinewood and glass into snugly fitting windows that will keep my study warm while letting me see clearly the woods outside.

Not being very skilled myself, I mostly just held the wood in place or helped sand a bit when needed. I did learn the new word “kerf” in the process, which is the wood lost in the cutting of the wood. As we carefully measured each piece, we had to account for the amount of wood the saw blade takes away in a cut. We had fun joking that I was the “kerf catcher.”

This experience brought to mind the craftsmanship of the Bible. The Spirit has worked beautifully in bringing the Scriptures to us in written form, dovetailing together the Old and New Testaments like a master craftsman does with furniture. Like a window, God has given to us in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation the way to see his Son, the Lord Jesus […]

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 […]

A 2016 Thank You!

During a busy holiday week with friends and family coming and going, I have been on the internet less and face-to-face more. So I was a bit delayed in receiving some good news brought to my attention by some of my fellow GenRef Gents. Gentle Reformation was named as one of “My Top 10 Blogs of 2016” by Tim Challies. So I had to sneak away from company this morning and write a bit!

For several reasons, this recognition is quite an honor for us. Though some of us have attended conferences or interacted personally with Pastor Challies on occasion, for the most part he has been a “mentor at a distance” to us. The rich content of his blog combined with his caring, pastoral tone – qualities we sought to capture in the naming of our blog – have set a high mark that we have tried to emulate here. So as one who is a father and leader in the Christian blogging movement whom we respect highly, having Tim think of us in this way is surprising and quite humbling. To be honest, as Tim’s linking to us draws far more attention our way than we normally receive, it feels a bit like […]

A Brief Reflection on Eternal Life and Proximity to God

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

It’s an amazing concept. To know God is to have eternal life.

Of course, one can immediately puzzle over the thought. Demons know God but do not have eternal life. So the knowing in view here must be of a specific sort. It has to be knowledge rooted in more than merely the acquisition of propositional facts. Jeopardy contestants may answer rightly many questions about God, but they may not have eternal life. The one does not necessarily follow from the other.

There appears to be, therefore, an intimate relationship between knowing and intimacy. Here one can think of how the Scriptures often play on the idea proximity, or our closeness to God. Let your mind Google through the Scriptures. Adam and Eve walked with the LORD in the coolness of the evening. But when they sinned, they were cast out of His paradise and away from His presence. The LORD filled the Temple. The Jews entered the Promised Land. But when they spurned the Lord, like an adulterous woman, the Land spewed them out, and the Lord’s presence vacated […]

The Wrong Advent

’Tis the season for baby Jesuses and mangers, wise men and shepherds, as people give a passing acknowledgement to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Carol services will be had, children perform their parts, and we will all go home will rosy cheeks and glad hearts, to mince pies and mulled wine, feeling suitably imbued with the Christmas spirit.

This is Advent—marking the coming of the Son of God into the world. The problem is that it is the wrong Advent. I don’t mean simply that we have layered extra detail on top of the Bible’s story, or that we have likely picked the wrong time of the year—although all that is true—I mean that we have picked the wrong advent event.

The word advent means ‘coming’. The Jesus whose arrival we ‘remember’ at Christmas is coming back. That’s the one we are told to be looking for, counting down to. It will be entirely unlike his first arrival. If you’ve missed the point of his first arrival, here’s how you will experience his second—as Jesus describes it.

Imagine the following scenario: You are getting on with a perfectly ordinary day, dropping the children to school, calling in at the shops, sitting at […]