Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The presence of the Sovereign

We value democracy in the UK. We appreciate it, we defend it, but we're hardly enthusiastic about it. Many don't vote, and those who do tend to be driven by duty rather than delight. I struggle to remember the last time I heard any member of the public say anything positive about any member of parliament. All the more striking then were the scenes from London over the past three days as the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. The streets were lined with tens of thousands people who gladly travelled for miles and waited for hours for just a passing glimpse of the Queen.

In a country which usually revels in the vilification of the powerful and the privileged, and one which is uneasy with overt displays of patriotism, it was quite a sight.

A few were fortunate enough to enjoy a brief gentle handshake, a fleeting moment of eye contact as the queen was ushered on. Fewer still were permitted to dine at the Queen's table.

The Queen has reigned for 60 years, and has offered a remarkable example of consistent loyalty, commitment and devotion throughout that time. I don’t grudge her the acclimation and recognition.

But as I sit typing in my study, my mind is drifting to some of her subjects. She’ll probably never meet them, never be aware of their needs and concerns, and were they to be made known to her, she’d be largely unable to make a lasting difference anyway.

I’m about to head out to my first church prayer meeting in a long time. I’m thinking about some of the people who will probably be there, some of the families and workplaces and neighbourhoods and needs they represent.

I’m thankful that we will meet in the presence of One who knows them, loves them, and is able to affect real, lasting change in their lives. Sometimes you need a sovereign who is really… sovereign.

Prep for tonight has consisted of some reading and reflection on the sovereign rule of God, here are some thoughts:

He has all knowledge

“To be sovereign God must be all-knowing… were there even one datum of knowledge, however small, unknown to God, His rule would break down at that point. To be Lord over all creation, He must possess all knowledge. And were God lacking one infinitesimal modicum of power, that lack would lack would end His reign… that one stray atom of power would belong to someone else and God would be a limited ruler and hence not sovereign.” 
A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy, 108)

You can’t really rule that which you don’t truly know. He knows our yesterday, our today and our tomorrow. Before a word is on your tongue he knows it. (Psalm 139:4) Nothing is hidden before Him.

He has all authority

“He is not constrained by anything external to himself… There is no person or force that can ever dictate to God what he should do.” 
W. Grudem (Systematic Theology, 216)

You can’t really rule in a domain where you are not the highest authority. If someone can say no, if your decrees can be vetoed, then you’re not sovereign. He is the Highest Authority. He cannot contradict his own nature, he hears our prayers and fulfils his promises, but still we can say triumphantly “Our God is in the heavens, he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3) The powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth are under his authority. (Daniel 4:35)

He is all powerful

“This is the crux of the matter: God is able to do what He says He will do. He has the power to raise our bodies from the dust. He has the power to wipe away our tears forever. He has the power to cleanse us from all sin. His promises are not idle wishes. They are commitments.” 
R.C. Sproul (Discovering the God who is, 171)

You can’t really reign if you have the authority to make something happen, but lack the power to implement it. It’s not enough to say God can’t be overruled, we must go on to say that he can’t be overpowered.

A policeman may have the authority to arrest, but if he’s overpowered by a fleeing criminal, what does it matter?

The Bible assures us repeatedly (we need to hear it often) that the Lord is mighty (Psalm 93:4) that nothing is impossible for him (Matthew 19:26) and that he is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

He rules and He reigns, and in Christ he offers us so much more than a fleeting glimpse of his majesty, a moment, a meal, a word or a wave in passing. We can rest, and live, in the presence of our Sovereign.

And now I’m off to the prayer meeting.

    Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pester your pastor

Here are a list of some of the questions I'm going to be asked by the children of our church on Sunday. These are all submitted by the kids themselves.

  • Where is heaven?
  • Are God and Jesus the same person?
  • Who made God?
  • Did the Devil come from heaven?
  • Why was the world made?
  • Why is life so difficult?
  • Why can't we see God?

Some great questions in there. Conclusion? Our kids are thinking more deeply than we often give them credit for, and perhaps -sadly- more deeply than some of our adults.

Looking forward to Sunday!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

So you want to date my daughter?

Jared Wilson's 12 points to any potential suitors for the affections of his daughter:

So you want to date my daughter?

(Just keeping it on file for a few years down the line!).

Saturday, 14 April 2012

John Harper and the Titanic

100 years ago today the Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage which would lead to the ship sinking within 3 hours. There have been lots of documentaries and news items recently marking the centenary, none more interesting than this. It tells the story of John Harper, former pastor of Paisley Road Baptist Church (now called Harper Memorial) in my home city of Glasgow.

Edit: Here's the video for those unable to view it on the BBC's site:

More on John Harper from Harper Memorial's site here:

Thursday, 5 April 2012

And what are my troubles?

.The following is an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” 2 Corinthians 4:17
And what are my troubles? 

furnace to purge my dross,
rod to correct my folly,
burden to roll on my Lord,
whip to drive me from man,
medicine to cure me of sin,
bridle to check my pride,
knife to probe my wounds, and
mirror to give me a faint view of my deserts.
But I want to be sweetly submissive to my lot. I want to acknowledge the love, justice, and compassion of my God in these things. I want . . .
to take honey out of the carcass of this lion,
to suck honey from the end of this rod, and
to find oil flowing out of this apparently flinty rock!
But, alas! I often rebel, murmur, and repine at the rebukes of the Lord. I too often look at man working, instead of looking to the Lord over-ruling. I am apt . . .
to quarrel with the human instrument–and forget the divine agent; 
to bite the stone–instead of looking for the hand which threw it!"
(James Smith’s autobiography, “Marvelous Mercy!” 1862)
HT: Ocean of Grace Blog

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Praying friends- thank you!


A year ago this week I suffered a terrible headache which was to set the ball rolling towards seizure, brain-tumour diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.

It would be fair to say it hasn’t been an easy year for myself or my loved ones, but there are many blessings we’ve been privileged to enjoy. 'His providences proclaim Him to be a God who hears prayer' said John Flavel, we’ll we’ve seen a lot of prayer and been amazed at God’s providential care over the last 12 months. We’ve seen progress and known peace that we wouldn’t have expected on the day of diagnosis and its beyond doubt that this is in no small part a fruit of so many people's labour in prayer on our behalf.

Almost without exception if I meet another Christian for the first time, within a few minutes I’ll hear the phrase ‘Oh you’re that guy we’ve been praying for!’ My photograph has been on staffroom and study walls to remind people to pray. I’ve been on countless email lists, tweets, prayer-chains and Facebook status updates. I’ve been prayed for in conferences I’ve never attended and churches I’ve never known.

Tomorrow many people, both from my own church family and others will be having a day of prayer and fasting to ask for continued healing, guidance and peace.

It’s truly humbling to be so well prayed for, we have seen the power of those prayers, and are deeply thankful for them.

So to those who have been praying -and will be praying- a huge thank you.

Ezra 8:21,23

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions… So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

This is the God for me

'I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as "God on the cross." In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? 

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! 

He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.'

John Stott
The Cross of Christ

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

MRI Update 6 March 2012

I'm a little tired for typing, so here's a wee video update. Thanks so much for your emails, texts, thoughts and prayers.

Should have said in the video that we still believe in miracles- could be protection from effects of radiotherapy or not needing it at all! 

Also, more importantly, we are resting in the fact that our God is completely in control.

I know that the LORD is great,
    that our Lord is greater than all gods.

The LORD does whatever pleases him,
    in the heavens and on the earth,
    in the seas and all their depths.

Psalm 135:6-7

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Path & the Prize

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and prosperity the Prize.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and power the Prize.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and popularity the Prize.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and comfort the Prize.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and Christ the Prize.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Choose ye this day

Christians must choose between their religion and obeying the law, according to Trevor Phillips, the human rights watchdog.
He declared that Christians who want to be exempt from equality legislation are like Muslims trying to impose sharia.
Religious rules should end “at the door of the temple” and give way to the “public law” laid down by Parliament, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said.

Full article in the Telegraph here

Jesus' lordship extends far beyond the church door, and as freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are both steadily eroded by aggressive secular humanism, arrests, court cases and jail terms are inevitable. It won't be easy, but neither will it necessarily be a bad thing for the gospel in this country.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

IREF 2012

Today 3 of our church members set out to serve with IREF in Andhra Pradesh, India. 

One of the things which IREF model well is their eagerness to meet both physical and spiritual need in Jesus’ Name. 

They have already hosted a number of Gospel meetings leading to 51 baptisms so far. Our members are part of the medical team providing free healthcare clinics.

IREF is an indigenous mission, run by Indians- for Indians, and cares for thousands of children from the poorest of backgrounds.

Their mission statement is as follows:

The India Rural Evangelical Fellowship is an indigenous Indian mission dedicated to:
  • Reaching the rural population of Andhra Pradesh, South India, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Mobilising and equipping national workers to carry out evangelism and so fulfill the Great Commission
  • Planting local churches and enabling them to develop
  • Caring for orphans, providing them with a good academic and spiritual Christian education
  • Providing good Christian education at Further and Higher(Degree) levels, especially to young people from deprived backgrounds
  • Providing free medical check-ups and medication for those in its care
  • Establishing Income Generation Projects to enable the poorest Christians to provide for their families
  • Providing emergency relief to cyclone, flood, and disaster victims

Please pray for our members (Jim, Jason and Liz), the rest of the team, the Indians they are working with and serving. If you’d like a prayer newsletter please email me at

If you’d like to sponsor a child you can find out about that here (UK)

Or make a one off donation by texting: IREF12 £2 / £5 / £10  to 70070 eg IREF12 £5

If you’re in the USA you can find out more details here 

Friday, 27 January 2012

Jefferson Bethke's poems

I've been pleased to see these videos going viral,
the spoken word can still captivate:

Religion and Jesus:

Sex, Marriage and Fairytales:

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Driscoll's 6 points on the UK Church

Following up on my previous post, here's Driscoll's more measured exhortation to the Church in the UK: 
'Here are some of my unedited thoughts for British evangelicals, whom I love and desire to see be exceedingly fruitful as they contend for the gospel of Jesus in their country.
1. You are in a cultural context that is more non-Christian, and even anti-Christian, than even the most liberal cities in the United States. I’ve taught across Scotland, Ireland, and England. Each one is more difficult to reach than my hometown of Seattle, which is one of the historically least-churched and most secular-minded cities in America. I’ve said for years that Britain and Canada are more secular and difficult than the United States. So, for those pastors (especially church planters) working in some tough soil, thank you!
2. You have great pressure from the media and even some legal liability that can cause preachers and teachers to whisper their beliefs rather than proclaim them. This is unfortunate, but it's reality, not unlike the early church preaching the gospel in the face of the Roman Empire. More than ever, humble courage is required!
3. Please do not compromise on essential doctrinal issues. Please do not back down from the perfection, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture as the very Word of God. Please do not shy away from talking about sin and allowing your preaching and teaching to devolve into vaguely spiritual self-help principles. Please do not be ashamed of the foolishness of the cross, where Jesus died in our place for our sins enduring the wrath of God we deserve. Please do not be timid to call people to repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, as apart from him there is no forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. And please do not deny the reality of a literal, conscious, eternal torment in hell, because people are going there and lying to them is not loving them!
4. Please ask yourself if your churches are doing all you can to reach younger generations so that the churches do not become museums telling of the days when people used to love Jesus, but rather remain missions where people continue to meet him as Lord, God, Savior, friend, King, and Christ!
5. Please earnestly ask if enough is being done to reach, train, and deploy godly, gifted men, especially young men, into the marketplace and ministry. As you look around your church this Sunday, ask if you see enough substantive Christian men to lead your church for the next few generations, and if not, sound the alarm that there is a crisis!
6. Please ask why there is a lack of courageous young Christian preachers heralding the word of God across Britain and beyond and why, when there are big events for evangelicals, a speaker often has to be brought in from another country to preach. Please pray for the next Spurgeon, and if you are a Christian leader, do all you can to, by the grace of God, provide opportunities to see those kind of preachers and leaders raised up to lead the cause of the gospel in your country!'

Monday, 16 January 2012

Driscoll on UK Preachers

Was just settling down to write a blog post on the (most) recent Mark Driscoll controversy when I read Adrian Warnock's reflection. He's basically said what I wanted to so here's the link. (Full audio of the controversial interview is linked to on this page too.)

Particularly pertinent is Warnock's second point:

'It is vital that we hear the main point that Driscoll is making, that British preachers should be more bold. It is never nice when people make generalizations, but Driscoll is right that we in the UK have too many apologetic preachers.  Driscoll is angry at times largely because he has been gripped by the cause of Christ. I sometimes think we would lose more than we would gain if Driscoll was to become more measured in what he says.'  

When receiving criticism the man giving it, and the manner in which it's given, should not stop us asking, 'is there anything valid in there I should accept and act upon?' I believe there is substance to Driscoll's critique and hope when the dust settles we'll all be happy to focus on that for the cause of the Kingdom.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Call Leadership Conference

Scottish Church leaders\preachers- this conference looks great.

And now I've safely booked my place I feel happy to commend it to you!

More at Liam Garvie's blog here

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Factoring in God's presence

'God is at peace in himself, and in his presence there is peace. The most repeated negative command in Scripture is ‘fear not.’ It appears 365 times — one for each day of the year — and is usually followed by ‘for I am with you.’ 

God would have us understand that factoring in his presence always changes the equation. '

Ramon Presson
(Greensboro, NC.: New Growth Press, 2011), 102

From: Of First Importance blog.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Spurgeon: 'The motto for this year must be...'

“Continue in prayer.”
Colossians 4:2 -

It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. 

We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. 

Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. 

What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. 

The motto for this year must be, “Continue in prayer.”

Charles Spurgeon
From 'Morning and Evening'