Whilst traveling in the USA last month I stayed for a few nights in accommodation provided by a church. It was basic, but I genuinely appreciated it as it saved the Scottish church the price of a hotel. (I say that not because the Scots are tightfisted, but because we’re trying to invest our kingdom resources as prudently as we can.) Anyway to get back to my accommodation in the church. After a long day of travel, and it was long, I arrived at my destination and was kindly led through a myriad of corridors to the room where I would be staying. This corridor was one of, I think four in the building, and it alone had seven doors on it leading to a variety of rooms. Three of those rooms had signage on them. One had a sign marked ‘Ladies’, another ‘Gents’, and the third had a bright pick notice with the words ‘Shower Room’ on it. But the room I would be staying in had no sign saying what it was. Well to be fair it had a sign, but not on the door. When I woke up the first morning, having had a decent 6 hours […]
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.
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.
Chief among these is […]
Have you got three minutes to spare? If you have, then check out this promotional clip for the Semester in Scotland study abroad program: Semester in Scotland Video
The program is offered primarily through Geneva College (geneva.edu/semester-in-scotland) with students from other Colleges being able to transfer easily into Geneva through a co-operative agreement process.
You never know, the next three minutes of your life could lead to you sharing this unique opportunity with a young person you know, and who knows, in God’s providence, what benefits might come their way through participation in it.
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 […]
Regardless of whether you love or dread change, it remains inevitable. Save the unchanging character of God, everything and everyone we know undergoes constant change. And beyond the never-ending constant stream of change, there are also times of life marked by even greater change, times we often call transitions. This past weekend I was able to spend time with a group of college students exploring together a faithful way of navigating the big transitions in life. More than anything, I was hoping they would see that being proactive as we head into transitions is more challenging but much more effective and joyful. Toward the end of helping you be proactive in times of change, here are some of the highlights.
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 Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner. Read it again. The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner.
There is something refreshing about the simplicity of a statement such as this. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Should we not give him praise for this reality? The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
I wonder how often we lose focus on this glorious truth? In our discussions with unbelievers and those who would describe themselves as “seekers” (yes, I know Romans 3:11), we ought to help direct their thinking along these lines as they ask us questions about what it means to be a Christian.
Several weeks ago, I was invited to UCLA to speak at class filled with medievalists and early modern English historians. These post-graduate students were studying the religious writings of England during the Reformation and early Puritan era. I was invited to give a pastoral perspective on the theology of the era and […]
“‘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 […]
So the web is filling up with resolutions, lists of what to do, what goals to set for 2017; and doubtless sermons will be preached tomorrow exhorting people with all sorts of challenges for 2017 – maybe I’m just getting old, seen too many resolutions fail, seen people dispirited at the prospect of another year ending with disappointed hopes and unrealised dreams – so I’m not going to go that route!
Life can be wearying. New years with all their talk of fresh starts can be wearying – the same desires for improvement, the same desires to see the church grow, to see lost loved ones come to Christ – and another year comes and goes with no discernable change.
Weariness can set in at individual and congregational level. And we crank back on the enthusiasm level, afraid to keep living with high expectations amidst low outcomes.
So here’s my prescription for the New Year:
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3)
Consider all he has done for you. Consider all he is too you. Take what you already know, turn it over in your mind. Turn it upwards in praise. […]