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Christ’s Love For God’s Folk

Don’t you just love church?

Aren’t Christian brothers and sisters the most delightful, excellent folk? It is hard to describe the joy harmonious fellowship with godly people brings! Those providential meetings with unknown believers on vacation; long conversations into the evening at a conference or convention; the smiling face, each Sabbath, of some of the best people who you know; a time of sweet psalm-singing when your heartbeat seems as one; knit together in love through God’s grace in the heart; there’s nothing on earth like gathering with God’s well-functioning family!

Do brothers ever get on your nerves?

Perhaps that is why it’s so painful when church fellowship misfires – when instead of bringing joy believers just add to stress and sorrow. An ill-judged statement, a selfish thoughtless action, an unfounded suspicion, an unwarranted accusation, or trivial difference in opinion – these are the raw materials that supply Satan with ammunition, and give the Devil occasion to sow mischievous seeds of division between good and godly folk. You’ve been spared great heartbreak if you’ve never witnessed schism, or seen a church divided or at loggerheads with those who love the Lord!

A psalm delights in saints!

When suspicions are arising and patience has worn thin, we are wise to […]

A Caution to Heresy Hunters

Recently I came across the following surprising quotation from Charles Hodge, professor of Princeton Seminary from 1820-78:

‘It is not enough that a doctrine be erroneous, or that it be dangerous in its tendency; if it be not subversive of one or more of the constituent elements of the Reformed faith, it is not incompatible with the honest adopting of our Confession. It cannot be denied that ever since the Reformation, more or less diversity in the statement and explanation of the doctrines of Calvinism has prevailed in the Reformed Churches.’ (David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, Faith and Learning, 1812-1868, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994, p.217)

Charles Hodge was one of the leading exponents and defenders of the Reformed faith in the 19th century, yet he showed a remarkable tolerance towards those who did not see things in theology in exactly the same way as he did. In its historical context, Hodge was referring those who held to ‘the New Divinity’ (also called Edwardseanism, Consistent Calvinism or Hopkinsianism). Amongst other things its adherents presented the atonement as the outworking of God’s love or a demonstration of his moral government rather than as a substitutionary satisfaction for sin.

Now, I am certainly not defending […]

Ultimate blame shifting

A businessman from the south of France is suing Uber for a staggering €45 million in damages. (For those who aren’t familiar with Uber—it’s effectively a taxi company without cars. You use your smartphone to submit a request for a cab, and someone nearby who is signed up with Uber as a driver is sent your request.) So what happened?

The man was being unfaithful to his wife, and on several occasions had used her smartphone to request a driver to take him to his lover. Despite signing out of the app, the software kept sending notifications to her phone revealing his travel history and ultimately arousing her suspicions. She divorced him, presumably on the fairly solid grounds of adultery.

And now with all the arrogance of one who had wanted to have his cake and eat it, he is seeking to blame Uber for the mess.

His lawyer said after lodging the case, “My client was the victim of a bug in an application. The bug has caused him problems in his private life.”

Check the language: “My client was a victim”—surely the aggrieved wife was the victim?? The ‘bug’ has caused the problems—seriously?!? The bug?? How about his unfaithfulness?

The glitch in the […]

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 […]

Doubting God’s Goodness

[This is another question received during the “Stump the Pastors” portion of our college retreat.]

When you’re doubting God’s goodness, what would you recommend doing to help you stop?

On Sunday night a man stopped by our church to get some information about us. After some time in conversation, it became clear he was in extreme despair and was angry at most people in his life. We asked about his relationship to God and, to my surprise, he claimed to be a Christian. But when we tried to explore the nature of his faith, he said nothing about love for God or trust in God but simply resigned himself to the fact that “God can do whatever he wants.” If he had ever had a sense of God’s goodness, he had obviously lost it. What would you have said to him? 

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 […]

My Self-seeking, Pointless Praying

Recently I was given cause to think about prayer, or more honestly my prayerlessness.  So I read through a few of the prayers in the Bible.  Three things struck me as a result.

First – Those praying were highly sensitised to the fact that God speaks.  Of course I know God speaks.  I spend my life telling other people that.  But the idea that God speaks, and therefore I need to listen when praying, well that gained my attention and held me in thought for a while.  It forced me to ask questions about my approach when speaking with God.

Second – Prayer arises out of a deep sense of need.  Hannah prayed because she was in desperate need.  The prayers of David, Daniel, Nehemiah ….. the Lord Jesus, they’re all fuelled by a real sense of need. A deep awareness of being in a situation that is beyond them. As I mulled that over, I was struck by the absence of that in my life.  Yes I’m conscious of my need/s and genuinely pray, but as to an overwhelming sense of utter helplessness…..? That sense of being totally incapable of being a loving husband and a godly, caring, and genuinely interested […]

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 […]

Spring Storms: Are You Ready?

Spring sprang on Monday in Indianapolis with powerful thunderstorms. Booming thunder rattled both windows and the souls of young and old, not to mention all of the dogs that ran for cover under their masters’ beds. More storms will surely come this spring;  are you ready? Emergency preparedness experts ready us physically, but is your soul ready for them too? The Lord gave Psalm 29 to meet us at times like these; it’s a good one to memorize for the next storm that rumbles.

“The voice of the Lord” is repeated seven times in a Psalm that describes the thunder of a violent storm that moves across the land of Israel from northwest to southeast. The Psalm opens as a call to worship in light of the storm that is bearing through the region. In the Psalm, we hear the voice of God in natural revelation as it rumbles over waters, as it shakes mountains, splinters great cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, echoes across the desert, and terrifies wild beasts. Storms today do all of the same things; and they still freak people out with their raw power.

But the Psalm says that inside God’s temple, all cry “Glory!” Why? Because the […]

Seeking the Approval of Men

By guest contributor Venkatesh Gopalakrishnan. Venkatesh is a church planting pastor in Bangalore, India with the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

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“Do not wait for any man to approve your ministry!” thundered a young preacher from the pulpit of a church in Bangalore. He went on to declare, alluding to Galatians 1:10, “If you seek the approval of any man, you cannot please God!” The young preacher wanted his hearers to stop giving excuses and enter the ministries to which God was calling them. Sitting in the pew, I could not but help thinking that what I just heard was so contrary to what I had been taught. Concluding that the preacher’s view was rather idiosyncratic, I ignored the his advice and tried to meditate on the more edifying aspects of the sermon.

However, just a few days after this incident I heard another friend make a very similar remark, albeit in a slightly different context. This friend was arguing with me that a pastor ought not to receive salary from any church since this practice leads him to seek the approval of men. Once again, the principle was that in ministry, a pastor must preserve his independence at all […]