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Archive | Musings

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, […]

Appointments in Airports

I was flying home from a conference with two of the army ‘scripture readers.’ The older man opposite was grimacing in some pain. O.K., so we shouldn’t have been sitting in the disabled seats, but there was plenty of room. The thickly set (I’m one to talk) gentleman leaned forward and something dropped out of his pocket.

I watched, then waited, and thought… I took his mishap as a providential opportunity to initiate a conversation; so I smiled, then said: ‘Excuse me, you have dropped something out of your pocket!’

He looked down, blushing, spied his wallet (I think) on the ground (or maybe that was the second time it happened, and was just some medication on the first occasion), picked up the item, and thanked me, in a rather reserved manner.

I was sure, on first sight, this man was probably Austrian: his face looked Germanic (he could have been Martin Luther), and he was wearing what seemed to me a bit like lederhosen (a grey woolen jacket with a dark green lining around his collar and cuffs). I was almost expecting him to break out in refrains of ‘Edelweiss, edelweiss’ in the manner of Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews on ‘The […]

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, […]

Conversations with a snowflake

The world outside my window lay blanketed in dazzling white. I stepped outside and drank deeply from the cold fresh air.

“Good morning, Mistress Snowflake,” I greeted the freshly fallen flakes.

“Tell me, where have you come from this morning?” I asked as I marvelled at her beauty and splendour.

“O from vast heights of velvet clouds. But we were not always as you see us now,” chirped the particular snowflake I had focused my gaze on.

“Go on, tell me more.”

“We lay about the earth, in stagnant pools by busy roadsides, in polluted puddles in industrious cities, in effluent-ridden seawater. Some of us lay in leaf blocked gutters and in wayside ditches.”

Seeing my surprise she explained, “We were not as you see us now. We were mere water drops—filthy and contaminated.”

I gazed at the breathtaking beauty of the intricate structure of this perfect crystal flake and marvelled at its brilliance, “How then did you come to this?”

“The sunlight kissed us and caught us heavenward. How it happened none of us can tell. Before we knew what was happening, we were swept through the skies and set free once more.”

There was a moment’s silence as she remembered that glorious day, then she continued, “We […]

What C.S. Lewis Taught Me

On November 22, 1963 the death of C.S. Lewis was eclipsed by the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, fifty-four years after his death Lewis remains in the mind of many one of the most successful and influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Indeed, few if any have left such a legacy on the evangelical church, the secular academy, and even children’s literature. Today, I remain thankful for C.S. Lewis.

Now, that may sound strange to some. I’m not overly interested in developing the differences only to say that there are a number of extremely important subjects on which Lewis and I would part ways. While I think he was brilliant his brilliance isn’t always biblically satisfying. I won’t make him something he wasn’t, nor would I offer a ready defense for the things I disagree with him on. Nevertheless, his writings have had a profound effect on me and were very formative in shaping the way I think. Here are five things I learned from C.S. Lewis.

C.S. Lewis taught me that Christianity doesn’t have to be mindless. I grew up in the broad streams of evangelicalism in the 1990s which, not to be overly critical, probably won’t be remembered […]

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 […]

No longer talking

Have you noticed that people are no longer talking? Sure, there is plenty of chat in shops and restaurants, but how often do you phone someone? If you’re over 40 you probably haven’t changed your habits, but I suspect that if you are under 40 there has been a change.

I’m reading Alone Together by Sherry Turkle, a book whose subtitle is ‘Why we expect more from technology and less from each other”. In it she explores how technology is changing us and how we interact with each other.

One aspect she writes about is the growing distaste for the talking over the phone, and a preference for texting; of how using the phone is often seen as an intrusion on people.

Turkle quotes a sixteen-year-old who won’t use the phone: “When you text, you have more time to think about what you’re writing… On the telephone, too much might show.” Another says, he might, not now, but sometime soon, “force himself” to talk on the phone. “It might be a way to teach yourself to have a conversation . For later in life, I’ll need to learn how to have a conversation…”

She tells of a daughter being picked up from school by […]