All around us in creation, we can see God’s hand, and
His awesome handiwork. One ancient psalmist wrote: “Of
old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your
hands” (102:25). In another psalm, the author knew that his existence came from
God’s hand: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me” (119:73). It is also
from God’s hands that all blessings flow: “You open your hand, they are filled
with good” (Psalm
open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15).
And no matter where we are, or where we
go, “Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm
139:10). When we are in trouble, we can cry out to God: “Stretch out your hand
from above; rescue me and deliver me” (Psalm 144:7). When I read all these
passages from the Psalms, I feel so wonderfully safe and secure in God’s hand,
for nothing in heaven above, or on earth below is able to snatch me out of the
loving, wise and powerful hands of my Father and Saviour (cf. John 10:28-29).
Continue reading “The Invisible Hand of God”
It is Sunday morning, and you are tired. You are walking out of church and you see some people you do not recognize. It would be easy to slip by and head for home and coffee. But then you remember: God has so graciously redeemed me and made me His own. He has pursued me and now through Jesus Christ I am a sinner saved! So instead of walking by, you gather your courage and you head towards that visitor….
But how do we greet this visitor well?
Continue reading “Greeting the Newcomer”
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
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.
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.
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!
Continue reading “The Word of God Abides Forever”
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.
Continue reading “Psalms of Lament”
“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
Continue reading “No One Said ‘Hello’”
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?
Continue reading “Humility: The Key to Entry”
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.
Continue reading “Good Parenting”