On my Gran’s first truly “happy birthday”: The Battle Won: Standing by grace in the holy place

October 2, 2013

Today would have been my Gran’s 92nd birthday.  Today was my Gran’s first truly “happy birthday.”

“[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

My Gran, Lilian Ernestine Collins, born 2 October 1921, died on 19 June 2013 after several months of illness — and she is now more alive than ever.  Below is the sermon i was privileged to preach at her memorial service.  My Dad posted this previously on his blog.  My Gran specifically wanted Psalm 24 to be the text for her memorial service.

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“I am a debtor” — On the two-hundredth birthday of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

May 21, 2013

Today would have been the two-hundredth birthday of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), who was a faithful pastor in a small church in Dundee, Scotland for six years, until his early death at age 29. A life so short, and in many ways very ordinary, yet so powerfully used.

M’Cheyne is perhaps best known today for his widely used Bible reading plan, which goes through the Old Testament once every year, and the Psalms and New Testament twice (see this post for more info and suggestions).  He followed this plan much of his short life, and it was from this deep well that he ministered so powerfully.

M’Cheyne left few writings behind, but he was a memorable poet.  He wrote the following poem, titled “I am a debtor”, around 1837: Read the rest of this entry »


Weekend Web Watch 16 March 2013

March 16, 2013

In this WWW: Five theses on anti-intellectualism; “The Anti-Beatitudes, as taught by Satan”; fundamentals for a new reformation; “single, satisfied, and sent: mission for the not-yet-married”; cautions before engaging in controversy; the gospel and Biblical theology in poetry; and more conference media. Read the rest of this entry »


Weekend Web Watch 10 March 2013

March 10, 2013

In this WWW: What’s the point of marriage? — three books on marriage; ten sure signs we’ve lost our minds; word studies; Dr Tim McGrew on the reliability of the gospels; why the afterlife bores us; reading; Christians in business; preparing for suffering; and conference media from Ligonier and Desiring God. Read the rest of this entry »


“Immanuel” — a poem by Charles Spurgeon

February 16, 2013

Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Public domain image from Wikimedia.Two posts on the blog All Things Expounded, on the subject Poets and Theologians (part 1 | part 2), tipped me off that Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), the great nineteenth-century British “Prince of Preachers”, wrote a few poems and hymns, including a beautiful communion hymn.  i love reading Spurgeon’s books and sermons, which are full of joy in Christ despite the immense hardships he faced.  Spurgeon wrote the following poem, titled Immanuel (meaning, “God with us”; see Matthew 1:23), when he was 18.  It appears in volume one of his Autobiography. Read the rest of this entry »


Reading the Bible in 2013

January 1, 2013

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(Psalm 119, ESV)

The past few years i have stuck to a particular plan in reading the Bible which i have found to be very helpful.  i know that unless i have a plan by which i may measure progress, and in which others can join me, i am likely to neglect my reading of the Bible, and will stagnate to the jeopardy of my life and joy.  i still battle, often, to read each day; but i find that my own progress and joy in the faith are inextricably bound up in prayerful reading of the Bible.  i want, like Job, to “treasure the words of His mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23).  The missionary George Mueller (1805-1898) once said, “I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…”

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Lessons from Baruch and “The Prodigal God”

February 21, 2010

Pretending or performing – two of the things that draw Christians away from a God-centred, gospel-saturated life to a self-centred life of impression management. i know i’m guilty of both. It’s so easy to keep up appearances, especially playing up to others’ expectations (“You’re studying at BI? Oh, you must be such a holy Christian…”). At heart i remain deeply competitive and insecure, feeling the need to prove myself to other Christians, if not to God. And with this comes the temptation to feel that the world, or God, owes me something. i need to keep coming back God’s rebuke to Baruch in Jeremiah 45: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” If i understand Baruch correctly, he was a diligent and faithful secretary to Jeremiah, serving God, pained at the the wickedness and suffering and impending judgement on his people. Yet somehow he seems to have slipped into a dutiful service – a joyless service where his experience of God’s goodness indeed did become very small. Did he think, “I’m not as bad as those people,” or, “I deserve better”?

i see myself reflected in Baruch, in his desire to serve, in his heartache at the evils of the world around him, and at his apparently self-righteous expectation of something better for himself. i consider my motives in serving: usually, i hope, genuinely to help others and to serve the gospel, but often tainted by a desire for recognition and something in return because i “deserve” the favour of others in this world. And, paradoxically, i am aware also of evading service by justifying that my work in some other area is of greater importance, and others should do the more “mundane” work because, again, i “deserve” something better. In all these tendencies i see my sinfulness in the midst of my desire to serve. i inadvertently reduce God and His righteousness; i make service of Him something through which to win the favour of others, even if i’m not trying to win merit with Him. i never actively think of it that way, but when it comes down to the heart of the issue this is really an attempt to add to the righteousness i have in Christ the favour and approval of others. And insofar as i try to add to Christ’s finished work on the Cross, i cheapen the costly grace He has so freely given; i shrink the Cross and minimise my sinfulness and need of the Saviour.

Tim Keller, in his hard-hitting book The Prodigal God (New York: Dutton 2008), talks of the “elder brother” mentality of “[using] his moral record to put God and others in his debt to control them.” He quotes a profound rebuke from a wise teacher, identifying the barrier between Pharisaical righteousness and God as “not their sins, but their damnable good works.”  (See the parable in Luke 15.)

He continues: “To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord.” (pp. 77-78)

Amen.