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What is Whiter than Snow?

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!

Just arrived back from a walk with our dog. It has been unseasonably cold in Belfast this week. We woke this morning to a blanket of snow. So I headed out with my son, who has just returned from Uni, to enjoy the falling, fluffy, flakes.

As the clouds cleared away, sunlight began to sparkle and twinkle its refracted light on fields and woods: everything was irradiated, and lit up almost-magically, as my heart was full of gladness in this winter wonderland. All green grass concealed. All brown branches covered. Glistening, glinting snow had hidden everything from view.

We continued down the field, at times entering into forest – till I bumped into a lad from Hong Kong who I’d talked to at length, on one previous occasion.

A Vital Question

The question that I posed to him was this: ‘What is whiter than the snow?’

Since he didn’t appear to know how to respond, I gently mentioned Psalm 51, and the covering it speaks of, when God forgives our sins.

Psalm 51

In this prayer, conniving, murdering, adulterous David had now come clean with God, as the superscription informs us. He begs the LORD for mercy! His only hope is God’s compassionate, […]

Jesus knows! Yes He really does know!

As I reflected in my daily devotions on how much Jesus knew about the woman with the ‘issue of blood’, I was truly blown away by the details of His omniscience.

Even during His earthly ministry, when His divine will and nature, by the Holy Spirit, communicated this lady’s fact-file to His human consciousness, Mark makes it evident, that he knew her case history completely, in 5:25-3 (E.S.V.):

“And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you […]

How Much Do You Love Your Local Church?

A Painful Question

Are you cold, indifferent, angry, frustrated, intolerant, castigating or hostile towards your local church? Or are you warm, concerned, involved, sympathetic, committed, patient, and full of love, grace, hope and peace, in your relationships and dealings with your brothers and sisters in the blood-bought congregation of God?

A Pauline Concern

Paul’s own personal response to God’s people seems to have fluctuated with the ups and down of the churches, over which he was given charge, and to which he was bound with cords of compassion and love.

A Pertinent Text

The giveaway text comes at the end of the letter of 2 Corinthians. The Achaian congregations, contained many of his harshest critics. In this epistle, like no other, for the sake of the progress of the Gospel, and Corinthian spiritual growth, he has to defend His ministry repeatedly, from false accusations and disparaging charges. Yet, like a parent deeply involved with happenings of their children, when the Church is progressing nicely it causes Paul to sing, but when the congregation goes bad it forces Paul to lament.

“For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish – that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, […]

Proverbial Sayings in the Law: Sow One Seed in Your Vineyard

When one considers the law section of the Bible known as the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible – it is easy to think of them simply as codes and regulations like we have in modern law. Yet we need to remember there are various literary genres contained in what we know as the Law of Moses – Genesis through Deuteronomy. There are certainly legal stipulations such as those associated with the sacrificial section or the civil law of ancient Israel, but there also historical narratives such as Moses leading Israel out of Egypt in Exodus, prophetic portions such as Balaam’s pronouncements in Numbers, genealogies like the one found in Genesis 5, and even Hebraic poetry like that found in Genesis 4:23-24.

Another interesting thing to note in the book of Deuteronomy is the presence of what we might call proverbial sayings. When Moses is speaking, perhaps rather than viewing what he is saying as simply a legal stipulation for Israel, we might want to remember what this book truly is.¬†Deuteronomy is not simply a collection of laws, but it is Moses preaching a sermon based on Israel’s history and the law the Lord had given them to […]

The Double Groan of the Gospel

Introduction

It would be ridiculous to deny that Christian are drenched with countless blessing both material and spiritual. Yet it would not be overstating the case to recognize that every Christian personally, and Gospel workers in particular, have the greatest share or portion not in this life but the next. Glory, for the main part, belongs to worldly men. In this valley of tears believers are often heaped with shame.

It is in the context of despised, inglorious, faith that the apostle Paul mentions a ‘double groan’ of the Gospel to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5.10. His double aim is confidence in their travail for the Lord and consolation for the afflictions and reverses they endure.

The Gravitational Groan

Our home is not down here, but with God in heaven above. Paul contrasts the temporary, flimsy, earthly body with the permanent, indestructible, heavenly frame – one day soon we will be like the risen, exalted, Lord Jesus, death swallowed up in glory, in the Temple prepared by God. Contemplation of this new resurrection body, in the likeness of the glorified humanity of our exalted Lord Jesus, should be light a magnet which draws our hearts, by soul-transforming, heart-rejoicing, triumphant-overcoming, walking by faith and […]

Why do you read about heaven to people dying with cancer?

Not presumably because you were taught to do that in your pastoral theology class! Nor because that’s what you saw an elder doing when one of your relatives was sick! Nor because you just like saying comforting things to other Christian people!

The far better reason to do it is because it is the means of grace that God has appointed for Christian people to be strengthened in their trials, particularly in deeply distressing times of suffering and sickness. When we minister in this way, with careful thought and prayer, from a heart full of gentleness, kindness and love, great blessing often flows to both reader and receiver.

Of course there are many other things people do to make things a little easier for a loved one or friend in their dark hours of need. You can show them kindness by purchasing a thoughtful card or writing a letter or buying them a present. You can try to cheer them up by saying perhaps you will be cured (which experience and medicine indicate may be a little falsely optimistic at best). You can share some humorous comments which may engender a wry smile or elevate their mood temporarily – but inappropriate humor […]

Frustrated with a Friend

Introduction

Having an interest in Hebrew and Old Testament studies in particular there are few people to whom I am more indebted than the scholar Mark Futato. His language courses are brilliant and his contribution to Hebrew studies massive. Whether thinking of ‘BibleWorks’ or ‘Daily Dose of Hebrew’, though I have never met him personally, I regard him as a friend.

I Just Happened To Be Reading

I was, however, a little troubled recently, when I picked up a new book entitled ‘A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Promised’, edited by Ligon Duncan III: this text contains many brilliant contributions from numerous outstanding authors. It was with a sense of excitement, therefore, that I eventually turned to the chapter on the Psalms.

Why I was frustrated

I really was not anticipating what I encountered next, as I lit upon a surprising comment he makes, on page 353 of this tome. It comes at the end of a lucid, succinct, informative, in many ways excellent entry: the section is headed ‘Approaching the New Testament’; he is dealing with the question of how many or which of the Psalms should be considered Messianic? Let me quote what our brother says:

“The answer can either be […]

An Old Christian Model For New Church Growth

Chat in Corinth

‘Have you heard about the latest Church Growth Model in Corinth? The latest preachers in Acro Creek think they’ve nailed success! O.K., it’s a little alternative, and it’s the opposite to what Paul said (but then again, for some strange reason, he seems to have cancelled his announced visit – some lame excuse about an unforeseen turn of events)! Yet, we cannot help but notice, it does seem very popular: it appears to be working! They’ve definitely had results! The crowds of pagans are flocking! They’re going to extend their buildings! Even better, there’s no suffering, so perhaps we should give it a go.’

Model for Ministry

If that was the chat in Corinth, it would explain Paul’s loving determination to put the record straight, and turn Corinthians back to the Cross. Having explained the nature and glory and hope of the Ministry of the New Covenant, he commends his urgent appeal, by the model minister he is. Effectively, he says, ‘this is how to do the work, this is the Christ’s model for church growth’, as we make our appeal, 2 Corinthians 5.20, ‘Be reconciled to God.’

“We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed, […]

The Importance of Practical Religion

‘The Gospel is at stake! You must not budge an inch! Peter, brothers, Barnabas, you’ve got to change your practice!’

Is that how it happened in Antioch, with Paul’s face-to-face rebuke of Peter, where he refused the spare the blushes? The truth of the Gospel was endangered by behavior that was disconnected from principle (Galatians 2.11 & 14):

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned …But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of Gospel, I said to Cephas: ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews.”

In my initial naivety, I thought that there was only one simple single principle being taught: that we should lovingly, prayerfully, firmly, yet bravely, highlight hypocrisy publicly, if the Gospel is in jeopardy – of course we should do that, no matter who it embarrasses, for the love of Christ, with the hope of restoring brothers – but to bow to peer pressure, and create confusion about the Gospel, puts souls at eternal risk, so we cannot pass the buck!

However, on reflection, principial disconnection from practice […]

Is The Lid About To Come Off?

The last week has seen a progressively deepening crisis in Hollywood on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrities, stars and Oscar Nominations Committees have disowned Harvey Weinstein with an air of disbelief and disgust. Prosecutions may follow for this most successful producer.

Now, today, on the BBC’s ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ program, new allegations, concerning the UK music industry have emerged. Sarah Bowden, a music manager, has spoken about a scale of endemic sexual harassment, abuse and rape which is “as bad if not worse” as anything Hollywood has to offer.

Perhaps, we might wonder, if guilty complicity of promotion-seeking stars, has led to a backlash – those who are ashamed are now seeking their revenge [though not in the case of Sarah Bowden, who repelled all approaches to her cost]. That still does not excuse the advances of these males. All godly, right-thinking, Christians, if not entirely surprised, should nevertheless be sickened by these criminal events.

These revelation, of course, may only be the first – we may well be about to witness the lifting the lid on a proverbial ‘can of worms!’ Can we really have expected anything else from the industry that was born and lauded by Al Freed and Ian Dury […]