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The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly

A few weeks ago I was driving in the car with an elderly gentleman, recently widowed, as my traveling companion. He’s a lovely, Christian neighbor who never looks at a computer. So he will not read this article. Yet what follows I would not mind at all if he knew. Unknowingly that day, he was teaching me much more than he realized.

For as we spent time in the car, you can imagine quite easily what transpired. He told stories about his life, his family, his work, and the community. Yes, because we have been friends for a number of years, many of these stories I had already heard. Some of them I have even heard numerous times before. And one or two of them were even repeated during the same car trip.

That day got my pastoral wheels turning. Why might the Lord, in his grace, cause the aged to repeat themselves as they do? What is the Lord showing us through it? Rather than rolling our eyes or thinking “Here goes Grandma again,” what can be gained from these times? Here are five brief thoughts for you to consider.

Listening to the elderly reminds them of their legacy in our lives. Typically […]

A Regrettable Future

Imagine a terrible situation.  Imagine yourself off at some point in the future, and that you have ruined your family or friendships; you’ve brought great pain and misery to those who trusted you.  Imagine yourself in a moment where it hits you:  how much you’ve done, how much you’ve lost, how deeply you’ve hurt people – imagine how hard you’d cry; imagine the heart-ripping regret you’d feel, how you’d do anything and give anything to go back to this time in your life, this very day, this very moment, before any of that horror happens so that you can keep far from the path which led to that destruction.  Such joyful thoughts!  In a way, they are.  Here’s how.

Wanting to Silence those who Show us up?

Introduction

I’m planning to preach tomorrow on the murder by Cain of Abel. Time is pressing on so I’ll try to be fairly brief.

Text

John brings out Cain’s main motive for his murderous act, in 1 John 3.12:

“We should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous!”

The word ‘RIGHTEOUS’ shows us that the deeds of Abel conformed to the standard God set, whereas, in comparison, in the case of Cain, they fell woefully far short.

The problem with Cain’s offering?

The problem with the gift was neither that it was cereal, nor just a token expression (this common popular interpretation is probably a part but not the heart of the matter), nor even because there was no blood (blood, of course, was required for without death of a sacrificial victim there is no pardon or acceptance – Moses is teaching Israel, in Genesis, during their wilderness wanderings, so mention of gifts, lambs and fat parts assumes some kind of knowledge of the Old Testament sacrificial system): have there not been many false religions in history that offered blood of sacrificial victims […]

And the Word became Flesh…

The Word of God
…the Pre-Incarnate Logos
…the Eternal Son
…the outward expression of the inward purpose of God
…the One who always was God and was always with God
…the appointed Mediator
…the One by whom, for whom and through whom all things were created and do presently consist
…the One who in the form of God possessed every attribute and characteristic of deity that makes God divine
…the One who was omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, co-equal, all-wise, sovereign, transcendent, thrice holy and pure love
…became what He was not, the Word of God made Flesh

The Word of God became, irreversibly, forevermore, without mixture or confusion, through mysterious and miraculous conception, fully enfleshed God-Man
…this fully divine person took to Himself a whole, complete, entire, full, human nature not by compression, confusion, transmutation, metamorphosis, or subtraction, but by addition of manhood to divinity; so He became what he was not while remaining what he always was
…this man born Jesus of Nazareth remained One Person but now possessed Two Distinct Natures
…with a human mind, heart and will to love God with all His soul and his neighbor-creatures as Himself
…with a mind full of wisdom
…with a heart full of compassion
…with a will set on obedience
…with the face of a man to fix […]

A Funeral’s Opening Words

As the prelude music to R.C. Sproul’s funeral service faded, Pastor Don Bailey emerged from the darkness and stepped to the podium.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable… My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever,”  he said, reading from Psalm 145.

Then, on behalf of the Sproul family, he welcomed those gathered.

Notice that he opened the funeral with God-breathed words, not his own. They set the tone in a way that no other words could. That reading of Psalm 145 declared the eternal truth of God’s nature, captured the heartbeat of R.C.’s ministry, and ministered to the need of the hour.

When I was a seminary student, I was required to interview a pastor to learn about conducting funeral services. In that interview, Dr. Roy Blackwood emphatically stated that the pastor’s first words at a funeral or memorial service ought to be God’s words.

And so, Dr. Blackwood helpfully instructed me, the opening words of the funeral ought never be something like:

We welcome you today…”
“On behalf of the family…”
“John was a great friend to many of you…”
“We gather to remember…”
“Let us turn […]

Calvin on Christmas

“Yet when we seek our Lord Jesus Christ to find in Him alleviation of all our miseries and a sure and infallible protection we must begin at His birth. Not only is it recited to us that He was made man like us, but that He so emptied Himself that scarcely was He reputed to be of the rank of men. He was, as it were, banished from every house and fellowship. There was nothing except a stable and a manger to receive Him. Since it is so, then, we know here how God displayed the infinite treasures of His goodness when He willed that His Son might be humbled for our sakes.”

Sermon on Luke 2.1-14.

Refuge in the Redeemer

Storm Shelters

It’s stormy in the mountains! A tornado’s headed this way! The town is under siege! Life hangs in the balance! Danger is all around! In such situations, we all need a place to turn to, a safe house to which we can run, a refuge where we can hide, or a location far from threat and beyond the reach of harm.

David’s Dangers

That’s what the son of Jesse learnt during his rise to power. He was pursued like a fox, chased down by many assailants, either ducking under Saul’s javelin or outwitting royal militia manoeuvres. David was subject to slander, surrounded by envious liars, and often took recourse to a hideout for escape.

Reliable Refuge

In the end, he knew however, it was God who spared his life. In Psalm 18.1-3 he recounts how the LORD had kept him safe.

“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

What is striking in this Psalm, and also Psalm 144.2, is the multiplicity of word-pictures used to convey how faithfully Yahweh kept him safe. As Derek Kidner […]

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 […]