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A Movie

Movie recommendations are fickle. Not only do interests vary, but so do consciences. So if you do not want to have your emotions pulled in painful directions, and if you harbor concerns about the content, which isn’t disqualifying in my mind, then save yourself a few dollars and do not stream this movie.

But if you do want to feel the heart-breaking pain of a child lost in Calcutta, as well as the emotional struggles that typically attend adoption, then the powerful film, Lion, is a perfect fit.

It is a story rooted in truth. It is a story that will make you cry. And it is a story that will make you want to help. Thankfully, there are ways to help. But I leave that for you to consider after watching it.

I do not want to say much more, as it is best to go into movies knowing as little as possible.

So again, the movie is Lion. It has an 8.1 on IMDB and an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Ordinary and the Extraordinary: How God works in summer camps and conferences

It’s the season for summer church camps and conferences. Our presbytery will host its conference soon. God’s word will be proclaimed in a setting unique from the rest of life. Christians will retreat from their regular callings to spend a block of time worshiping together, hearing and discussing God’s work, and enjoying fellowship together over meals and between the lines on fields or courts of play. Young people’s hearts will be drawn-out in counseling group discussions. They will be challenged to commit themselves to the Lord in response to his word, especially at the end of the week.

We must not abuse the setting to evoke emotionally derived responses, but we should also recognize that the Lord does work though these extended meetings to settle our hearts and minds for a few days, to immerse us in his word, and to change us.

The Lord stirred my heart afresh at one particular conference when I was in high school. I vividly remember how the Lord met me there through his word and by his Spirit. The change that came in me was evident in the months that followed and still is to this day.

So, recently, I was fascinated to stumble across my […]

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 […]

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, […]

Every Testimony is Different and Every One is the Same

Every testimony of God’s saving grace in the life of a person is the same, and every one is different. That is what we tell young people who are preparing to make their public profession of faith in the church and become communicant members.

This week, I plan to give my students the testimony of my grandfather, Paul Faris, written below as an example. It’s good for them to see that a man who was born over 100 years ago and who is now with the Lord also has a story that is just like theirs. None of them have served as farm hands. They have not had horses and chickens as witnesses to their prayers. But, they will recognize the story as their own. He was convicted of his sin and turned to Jesus through the ministry of God’s word and specific people. He dealt with the same guilt and other internal struggles which with they wrestle. He found life in Jesus just as they have.

They live in a different generation, but they have the same covenant Lord. His promise stands across all generations: “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation […]

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, […]

A Wave of Worship

Each Saturday at about noon here in the Western Hemisphere, a great drama begins to unfold. At that time, the sun begins to rise in the Pacific islands on a new day of worship for the Christian church.

As we labor and play here in America on Saturday, saints rise from their beds in the Pacific islands, in New Zealand, and then Australia, and Japan to bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as they respond to God’s call to worship on the first day of the week.

While the globe spins, this great wave of worship gathers strength as God’s people gather to confess their sins corporately and be assured of God’s forgiveness in Korea, in the Philippines, and Indonesia.

As the sun’s rays stretch into Southeast Asia, China, Mongolia and Siberia, some cry out from prisons, while others sing quietly in apartments so as to be heard by one another and God only.

Across India and all of the “stans” some gather in fear of persecution, others form groups of two or three, and others gather in great assemblies to declare that death has been conquered and that Jesus reigns today and forever.

About this time, we in the Western Hemisphere must […]

A Tale of Two Men with ALS

Two men with bright minds, one known as Stephen and another as Steven, have ALS.

The Stephen with ALS is none other than Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist and Director of the Centre of Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge.

       Photo courtesy of Anna Dinkledine

The Steven with ALS is Steve Miller, a pastor and missionary who served in both the Orthodox Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian Churches.

A brief study of their lives is one of remarkable similarities and contrasts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stephen Hawking has one of the rare cases of ALS. He was diagnosed early in his life with this disease, at the age of 21 in 1963. The doctors at the time only gave him two years to live. Yet he has lived with it for over five decades and, incredibly, is still alive at the age of 75. Though severely crippled for much of that time, spending it in his signature wheelchair, he has been amazingly productive in lecturing and writing books. Today he can only communicate and write by twitching a cheek muscle that controls a computer specially wired to capture his movements.  Hawking had a movie, The Theory of Everything, made about his remarkable life.

Steve Miller enjoyed an […]

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 […]