Saturday 23 October 2010

Comfort for the Mourning

In recent weeks we have suffered bereavement twice as a family. Firstly with the passing of a precious Dutch Christian from London, called Hetty Archbutt, who in her nineties entered 'Immanuel's Land'. She was a key person in my conversion to Christ and we have remained friends ever since and I am thankful that in God's providence, that I have been richly blessed with my Dutch wife, Maria.

A few days ago, James Wheatcroft, one of my uncles, died sooner than expected, though he was in his early eighties. He also was a Christian and there was a marvellous testimony from my auntie, as to how he knew that heaven was his destination, most clearly, especially in his final days. God is faithful to comfort all of his sheep in their final hours of death. As Psalm 23: 1 and 6 tells us: 'The Lord is my shepherd ... goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever'.

However, the Lord also comforts those who are bereaved and I have been ministered to richly in my mourning through the life, example and letters of Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford was exceptionally gifted theologically and he was one of the Scottish divines who worked to produce the Westminster Standards between 1643-7. He was also a pastor, one who had great compassion. A visiting Englishman said of him, that he 'heard a little fair [blonde-haired] man, and he showed me the loveliness of Christ'.

Rutherford wrote in one of his letters (74): 'I see grace grows best in winter'. It is in these winter seasons, especially in mourning, that we taste the sweet grace of Christ afresh. Rutherford's poems and letters are particularly comforting to those people who are grieving. Faith Cook writes; 'it is perhaps true to say that Rutherford excels most when he writes to the bereaved (Faith Cook, Grace in Winter: Rutherford in Verse, Banner of Truth, 1989, 86.)'.

I would highly recommend this book and the letters of Rutherford (which I have not read yet) in preparation for the time when you may find yourself unexpectedly or surprisingly mourning. At times like these we need a book like this already on our shelf, because grieving is not a time that you may feel like shopping for the book on the internet.

Thank God for faithful pastor's of Christ's flock like dear Samuel Rutherford and may we pray for the Lord to raise up men of his calibre in our spiritually thirsty land of the UK again!

Monday 11 October 2010

Remember Your Leaders ...

Hebrews 13:7 teaches us to 'remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith'.

One such 'leader' that I would like to draw your attention to, is the godly example of Archibald Alexander. You may be thinking, 'who is he?'. Alexander is no longer alive, but he is one of those godly men that I personally look forward to meeting in heaven. Dr SInclair Ferguson writes: 'The name [Archibald] "Alexander" is virtually synonomous with the story of the first one hundred years of Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, and is woven deeply into the tapestry of its origin, development, and justly-deserved international fame'.

Alexander was a highly gifted, self-effacing and godly minister, one who devoted much of his life to training the next generation of godly Christian ministers, in his own day.

This gifted man taught his students: 'Cultivate habitually a sense of your own insufficiency' because he believed that this 'much depends on the blessing of God'. He is often filled with great pastoral insight and wisdom. Alexander taught his students that the committed pastor is someone who will exercise 'courtesy or affability'.

If this all-too brief blog posting has whet your appetite, then I highly recommend the following book.

James M. Garretson, Princeton and Preaching: Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005.

This book is a mine of precious gold for those called to the office of eldership and preacher.

Monday 4 October 2010

Commending the Heidelberg Catechism

This is a brief blog post to simply commend the reading and studying of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is filled with pastoral warmth, sound theology and pointed application. Here is a sample:

Question 5: Can you live up to all this [the law] perfectly?
Answer: No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbour.

As you can read, it is not written in a post-modern and politically correct style; thankfully.

The best way to find out about this 'gem of a document' is to get hold of a copy (they are quite cheap to buy I may add) from Amazon or elsewhere and just read it.