The Word of God Abides Forever

“The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Memory Work

She had been a member of the Free Presbyterian Church all her life. Faithfully and diligently she had read the Scriptures and memorized multiple sections of the Word throughout her life. Now, during the autumn of her life, she started to lose control of her faculties little by little. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, that degenerative disease which leaves a human being ultimately as a mere shell, at a vegetative level. 

The minister of her congregation visited her faithfully in the care facility where she now resided for a number of years, recounts Rev. Alan Cairns to his audience. The time came that the minister could not have a conversation with her anymore. He would greet her, mention his name, and ask after her well-being, but would not even receive a signal that she was aware of his presence. She was essentially cut off from all human communication and relationship. Effectively, she had already left this world behind.

“But,” recalls Rev. Cairns, “then the moment came, after he had chatted in monologue for a while, that the minister took out his Bible and started to read from the Scriptures. To his amazement he heard a soft, quavering voice speaking the same Scriptures which he was reading. Whereas no communication at all was possible anymore, whereas she needed full-fledged help from bed to toilet and to mealtimes, when it came to God’s Word, she actually came alive and spoke!” All the memory work she had imbibed all through her life was still there, even with everything else gone!

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Psalms of Lament

We are familiar with the Psalms. We sing them every Sunday and many of us have grown up learning them by heart. Within them we find written expression for the range of emotions relating to the human experience. There are a number of different types of psalms, the most common type being the Psalms of lament. These Psalms are cries of anger, protest, deep distress and doubt, all brought before the Lord. The psalmist is in a desperate place and is crying out to the Lord for help, for deliverance.

Let’s learn to use the Psalms of lament as a means of expressing our own emotions and needs to God.

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No One Said ‘Hello’

“No one said ‘Hello’ to me at church today.” This can be a common refrain from visitors to a church, but also from members within a congregation. Research has shown that how visitors are welcomed when they enter a church for the first (or second or third) time can make a huge impact on whether or not they return to that church.

It is true that being a friendly and welcoming church cannot turn people into believers. The gospel message must be proclaimed, heard, and by the life-giving work of the Spirit, believed. It is the message of salvation that makes believers, not a friendly greeting. But it is also true that the message must first be heard.[i]  And how can it be heard if people are not in a church where the Truth is proclaimed? A warm welcome and a kind greeting can make the difference between someone returning to hear that Truth proclaimed and someone who says they will never go back to ‘that church’ again.

So, the question is, how well are we doing with our greetings?

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Humility: The Key to Entry

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus taught us to pursue things that our society mocks. In the first place, He blesses the humble: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3).  To be poor means to be destitute before God. Just as this word describes the poor widow whose worldly possessions were two coins, so being poor in spirit means that you are utterly destitute before God in your spirit. You have nothing to claim before God, but you stand before him with utter humility, completely dependent upon him for all things. Christ says that this is a defining feature of those who would share in the kingdom of heaven. 

Today, humility is out of vogue. In a world where everyone is trying to collect as many friends and likes as possible, the norm is self-absorption and self-promotion. Even in the church, humility seems to have lost its place. Some churches pride themselves on their progressive stance; others on their doctrinal purity. The topics that generate books and conferences are mission, evangelism, church planting, pastoral burnout, or doctrines like creation or justification. When is the last time you attended a conference or read a book on humility? Or let me make it personal: How do you evaluate personal spiritual growth? You might include things like church attendance, prayer and Bible reading. But is that really the best measure of spiritual health? The Pharisees had these in abundance, but Jesus rejected them. What about humility?

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Good Parenting

Sometimes parents ask this question, “Do you have any suggestions on good parenting?” It’s a question that usually comes from a parent who is struggling to control a child. And the assumption is made that, due to my line of work, I might know a thing or two about good parenting. Sadly enough, I find it very difficult to offer good parenting advice. Being a good parent isn’t easy. It’s a very demanding and complex challenge! Just last week I heard about a mum in Perth who was fined for spanking her child. I say, “What’s a parent to do?” And further, I am also not sure that what might work at school will necessarily help parents at home. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll permit me to share a few personal observations on good parenting.

Years ago, my first response to this “good parenting question” was: “What does God’s Word say?” In particular, I would often refer parents to Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Similarly, I would have mentioned Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” These verses are excellent reminders that good parenting involves an early intervention (start when the child is still young) and training/teaching, not expecting that a child will know his right from wrong. God’s Word is indeed the go-to-place for good parenting suggestions. 

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