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 »


Risen from the grave monstrosity

February 8, 2013

What is this now I see,

this grave monstrosity?

The sinful heart’s fecundity

gave birth to dead depravity,

set me always at enmity

against the holy Majesty.

 

And how would I be free

from my profanity?

Self-righteousness is vanity

and leaves me yet His enemy,

for I cannot live perfectly

and He alone will judge justly.

 

But finally I see

my sin nailed to the tree:

The death that was reserved for me

instead has fallen upon Thee;

I can but trust and bow the knee:

Thy blood alone bought liberty,

and I am Thine eternally.


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.


Runaway brain

January 10, 2009

This song i wrote in 2007 is a parody of Soul Asylum‘s Grammy Award-winning hit Runaway Train from the 1992 album Grave Dancer’s Union (Columbia).  It’s a personal prayer for God to sanctify the runaway thought-life of a repentant sinner trying to trust in Him and be pure.

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For God so loved

March 27, 2006

The angel who vied, once cast aside,
now turned snide snake, the tempter tried
to appeal to pride and to divide
the man and the woman from his side
from God in Whom they’d been satisfied

The fruit plied, they decide
Innocence died; their hopes subside
Open-eyed and mortified,
no more to abide by God’s side,
naked and afraid, they hide

Banished from Eden to the eastern side,
wishing they could undo their suicide,
turn the tide on their prolicide —
always with evil now allied,
as they realise what the fruit signified

Years went by while the Law applied;
still God’s people would backslide
Though priests preside and prophets chide,
they never could stay justified;
their sacrifices never satisfied

As God had promised, He did provide:
the Messiah, born in the countryside,
born in a stable — no room inside —
in Bethlehem, Judea — which was occupied —
while shepherds and Magi were notified

John the Baptist testified,
and baptised Jesus at the riverside
as the Father and Spirit ratified
that with Him they were satisfied,
and in Him God was glorified

The Jews’ expectations were belied
by this carpenter teaching on the mountainside
how God had now come to reside
with His people, with His Bride —
how man and God would again abide

Some Jews were jealous and decried
Jesus’ palm-paved donkey ride
to Jerusalem’s walls, where He cried
They began to plan the deicide,
and for thirty silver pieces, Judas complied

They brought Him bound and tied, inside,
where they had Him unjustly tried
They pronounced the curse, had Him crucified,
and as He hung there, bled and died,
He cried out, “It is done,” and sighed

Christ, with our sins identified, died:
God’s righteous wrath was satisfied
And as He died, the curtains divide,
and because He rose and was glorified,
He says that we are justified:
the bonds of sin and death untied,
God and man once more abide;
and man has no more need to hide
He sends a comforter, a guide —
the Holy Spirit, to dwell inside —
to help us to be sanctified,
and to fit us for His Bride.