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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 […]

Peer Review and Whiny Pastors

Currently I’m preparing to take part in a preaching workshop hosted by the Charles Simeon Trust. This is the third year I’ve participated and anticipate being just as blessed this year as in past years. Unlike other theological or pastors’ conferences, this is a real workshop, with lots of prep work and peer review throughout the week. If there’s a workshop meeting near you, I would encourage any pastor to attend. Toward that end, here are a few quick thoughts and encouragements regarding the work of preachers. 

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, […]

Browse Worthy: Bully Pulpits

Since we have posted articles on pastoral failure and bullied pastors, let’s add to the collection by pointing to some good articles on pastors who give the term “bully pulpit” altogether the wrong meaning. Having tended through the years to some dear souls who have been roughed up by rogue clergy, it is a real danger and we need alerted to the damage it causes. Faithful shepherds also must be reminded that the biblical term for bullying pastor is a wolf in sheep’s clothing(Matt. 7:15). We have a responsibility to warn about them, speak against them, and silence them (Acts 20:28-30; Tit. 1:10-11).

Pastoral Bullies | Erik Reymond

Using the story of Eli’s sons who misused their priestly office, Pastor Reymond gives us “six problematic patterns with pastoral bullies.” This is a good line for examining their ministry: “Consider what they do with the Word of God. Is it preached, or is it used as a prop to support the pastor’s selfie stick?”

Healing Congregations Wounded by Clergy Sexual Misconduct | David Murray

Reviewing a book on this subject with the above subtitle, Pastor Murray offers a helpful list from the book on how to best aid the victims who are often forgotten. “It’s heart-rending […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

More on Our Maker

Surprises Galore!

This week was full of surprises, as I continued my exploration and exposition of Genesis chapter one. These are kind of things we might expect as we teach more on our Maker.

Minor Infirmities

After almost a year free from ‘man-flu’ the dreaded virus struck again. By the time I got to the pulpit to deliver the sermon, my voice was two octaves lower, and I had to cut the morning service short. My sinuses were blocked, my head was aching, and for two or three days it was very hard to think.

Tough Weeks

Nor, I must admit, was it the easiest week I’ve had. A number of things cropped up which meant some sleep was lost. Difficulties which were hard to handle, conversations which could have gone better, humanly speaking, and a number of vexing problems to which resolution at present is lacking. Heart-searching questions which demand a long, reflective, prayerful, weighed-against-scripture, look at self. It is only by the grace of God most weeks are not so draining and demanding.

Time Constraints

It was also a little bit hectic (I know that some brethren have far-more-pressing weekly schedules to ‘cry for’). There was an additional meeting to take with the youth of […]

The Antidote To Evolution

Over recent weeks I’ve been preaching, for the second time, through the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. Last Lord’s Day I delivered my first sermon on the first day. In my second point, I was defending the Mosaic account from the error of the ‘Framework Hypothesis.’ In doing so, for the very first time, I felt with intense force, both the folly and falsehood of adopting such an erroneous position (attractive though it may seem for those who want to dodge the bullet of the creation-science debate).

There surely is little doubt, like most dangerous half-truths, that Moses presents the material of the original Creation in a highly structured, schematized way. Yet, on his part, that neither implies the unhistorical nature of the account, or that the details of each day, or the times the bible allots to them, do not correspond precisely to the truth or order of the facts. In reality, quite the opposite is the case: the Holy Spirit, through Moses, has important lessons to teach us, in the material contained in Genesis 1, about the nature and character of God, and the methods by which He has worked and still works.

Planned Order

Chief among these is […]