A Lewis Boy at the Orchestra: Some thoughts for young Christians

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It’s okay to just enjoy the music (for a wee while anyway!)

When I left my wee Island for the big town, I knew I would certainly be in for some new experiences – I was left speechless by the fact there’s more than two supermarkets, my brain near melted at the prospect of a bus that runs every 10 minutes rather than 4/6 hours.
 What I was not prepared for, however, was to find myself in a jam packed concert hall, surrounded by the type of people who use more than one type of fork to eat their meals, out to listen to two hours of orchestral music – it’s just my usual scene.
 At the very kind invite of a beloved friend (who I won’t name to avoid him being associated with such an uncultured commoner) I found myself about to embark on a whole new experience.

 Well, within the first few minutes of “The Chairman Dances” by John Adams.

I was captivated!

The mix of rhythm with percussion and powerful violin paying had me pretty captivated, and it only got better from there on in. 
But for all that I enjoyed it my friend enjoyed it that much more, he is a musician. And a vey talented one at that. Spending years playing brass and the piano.
 In fact, he had previously worked alongside the conductor.
We both enjoyed the music, but on VERY different levels!
I could appreciate the melodies and the talent of the musicians, the obvious passion of the conductor.
He appreciated these things, but he also appreciated: the acoustics of the hall, the placement of our seating for optimal listening enjoyment, the personality of the conductor, the technical difficulty of some of the pieces etc.

Sometimes when I talk to new Christians they are worried that they just don’t have a deep enough grasp with various points of theology, they are concerned that they can’t follow the conversation of older Christians. This can be a pretty real and worrying concern for them.
My advice would be just enjoy the music whilst it is still new to you.
You are hearing the orchestra for the first time, relax, close your eyes, soak it all in.
No, you can’t stay this way forever – you will have to grow soon.

Paul often used the terms milk and meat to describe the maturity of believers, at the beginning you are newly born again, start of with milk – if you start with the harder and deeper things it will be a lot harder to digest it.
“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.” – 1 Corinthians 3:2

But, just like any child, we cannot keep drinking milk forever – if we do we will never grow properly. Paul offers a warning in Ephesians 5:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. 
You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

In these verses we do see an encouragement from Paul, milk is good and necessary for while but if then you are not attempting to study the Word in a deeper way, if you are not seeking to grow in your love, knowledge, and service towards God then you are not living or serving properly. 

If we don’t study the ‘tougher’ things about Scripture then how do we defend our hope and our faith when these things are questioned.
One of the biggest issues among young Christians is a real lack of depth in their understanding of the Bible. The more we love our Lord the more we should want to know Him – and how do we do that?
We read and study and engage in the very words He has given us!

If you are new to the Orchestra just enjoy the music, enjoy the experience, but if you have heard a few concerts now it’s time to start learning and appreciating the deeper beauty and wonder of the precious music of salvation.

Edinburgh Theological Seminary – What Really Goes on Inside?

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Walk past the imposing Scott Monument, along the side of the National Gallery, then up the several stone flights of the Playfair steps – you are met with a building that is viewed by many as some sort of a mysterious (and ever-so-slightly sacred) place. Where young men go in, and out come ministers, suited and booted – ready to go.
Edinburgh Theological Seminary, no doubt, is imposing – it just seems to grow greyly out of the ground.

So what is this mysterious place really like?

I’ll happily admit the first time I walked up to this door I little real idea what I was going to face – possibly a line of men in dark suits, staring unblinkingly as they assess my theological weak points? Or maybe even a 50 page questionnaire as to my defence on infant baptism?

What I actually found as I walked in was a room full of smiling faces, a mix of current students welcoming us and new students just as nervous as myself.

The @freechurchscot offices have been located in the heart of #edinburgh since the 1850's. The building also houses the Edinburgh Theological Seminary, a bookshop and cafe which is open to the public . Built in 1727 by James Brownhill, he named it 'James Court' after himself . On 15th August 1857, the western half of the building was gutted by fire and almost a hundred people were made homeless. There was no loss of life, and it is recorded that there were many heroic acts of rescue . In early 1858, a prominent Free Churchman, Mr John Maitland, realising the importance of the site, bought the building and decided to rebuild the western portion. It was ready for occupation in 1862 . #fcos #themoundedinburgh #ets #bookshop #offices #denomination #instafollow #followme #follow

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In no particular order, here’s what I’ve seen in my first few weeks of ETS, bearing in mind that it’s still very much early days:

Diversity
One thing you immediately realise is that the college is made up of a diverse group of students (and indeed lecturers). There are several nations, colours, languages and cultures to be found in the building.
When you look to the history of the Free Church, you will quickly see that diversity (as long as it has no impact on the message or spread of the  Gospel) is accepted and in some cases promoted. This diversity has allowed the college to help train and send out different people back to their own nations – ready to share a solid and firm biblical faith.
This diversity can be seen wonderfully in the fact that in my small class there are at least 2 guys planning (Gw.) to become Reformed Baptist ministers.
We have our differences, but the reality is – time is short, Scotland grows ever darker, and we need to work together for the Gospel.
That’s not to say there’s not a good amount of banter between us. I’d show you the group chats – but perhaps it’s safer not to…


Banter & Fellowship
That brings me on the next point, and I say this with utmost respect – there is fun in the college *cue collective gasp & hushed whispers*.
It’s true, I have not yet seen a day where there has not been some a joke shared or comment made that has not resulted in one of the lectures breaking into, at least, a smile.  In the dining room (more on that later) at break and lunch there is often plenty of banter and laughter. This is not the result of a laid-back attitude to the work or even to the massive reality of our calling, instead this flows from the fact that we are all family together. Just as we work together, and wrestle with all the many difficulties, we also join together to have a laugh – almost always at our own expense. We grow together.

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Prayer & Worship
Every class is bookended in prayer, all that is taught – all that we attempt to learn and put into practice, has been wrapped in prayer. It’s a simple thing, but it is also a wonderful thing. It brings to mind that we are not training to be dry academics, we are training to work for the glory of God and to be useful servants in his service. The class prayers also help to ease the pressure and stress of the work. In a class where you’re tackling ‘Masculine, 3rd declension, Greek Nouns’ you are really thankful for the reminder that we are to work hard, but to ultimately place our worries onto our Saviour.
We sing a few verses together from a Psalm after our morning break, and then after lunch we gather together for a time of student-led worship. Again, just cementing the fact that we are here to serve the God that saved us, all glory must ultimately go to Him.


Scones
Nothing else quite soothes the mind like butter melting on a warm scone (or bacon roll on Fridays). Our 10.50 scone & coffee break along with sharing lunch together after classes offers even more time to fellowship and to get to know each other as fellow servants.


 

 The work is hard, it’s rigorous, it covers ground at a seemingly breakneck pace. But not one day has passed without the reminder that we are all one family, both lecturers and students, we are all there to seek to do the will of God. Seeking to serve him, seeking to see Him glorified in all that is done.

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Are you good enough for God?

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Almost there (but nowhere near)

I recently sat my driving test, it was all going well – did the best parallel park of my life, kept to the speed limits exactly, didn’t burst into tears, managed to have a laugh with the instructor – then, I made one silly mistake, just 5 minutes from the end of the test.
But that was it.
One mark in that box and my test had been failed, It now didn’t matter that I had done well with everything else, my cracking parking and wonderful banter (don’t argue) now meant nothing at all. I had failed, for everything else I had done well – I had failed at the one thing that actually mattered.

We all like to think that in general we are pretty good people, we try our best to be kind to those around us, we attempt to live our lives in the best way possible. Many of us also think that if we do try and live the best life we can, then at the end – when we come face to face with our God, He will just ‘let us in’, that He’ll say something along the lines of : “I saw how hard you tried to be good, so because of that welcome to Heaven”.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that the reality is the complete opposite.
God is perfect – completely and totally pure, righteous, there is nothing but shining wonder and glory to be found in Him.
And here we have the issue, we are not perfect. As hard as we may try to be good and kind, the reality is we will fail and do wrong, we will sin [anything that goes agains the command of God]. And because God is perfect, nothing sinful can come before Him, there can be nothing sinful in the presence of God, in Heaven. As hard as we try to ‘impress’ God, all that the god that we try to do ultimately mean nothing.
That means, as long as we stay the way we are, then we have absolutely no hope of ever knowing God.
In fact the news get’s even worse, because our sin is an offence against the God that made us and gave us life, it comes with a severe punishment. That punishment is an eternity spent under the wrath and anger of God. The Bible clearly says “For the wages of sin is death…”

If that was all there is to say, then this would be a pretty depressing read. But the wonderful thing is that there is an even greater Good news to counteract the bad news we have just read.
Jesus, the Son of God came into the world, that He himself had made, to live the perfect life we couldn’t, and die on the cross taking onto himself the punishment of our sin.
So that, if we believe in Him, and worship Him as our only Lord and Saviour, we can be free from this punishment, and from the weight of sin that hangs over us.
The rest of the verse in the previous paragraph ends with this wonderful news “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s the wonderful simple Gospel that I and many others believe. We have nothing good in us, nothing that deserves any love from God, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

So come to God, pray to Him. Ask that He would save you and transform your life.

I will get another chance to re-sit the driving test, this is our one and only life, what we do matters. Don’t waste any more time searching for purpose or meaning anywhere else, come to the God who made you, knows you, and who will save you – if you just cry out to him .

Any questions or comments get in touch either in the comments below, or anonymously here.

After Coll Beach // What about when I really mess things up?

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“Why did I do that?”
You ask yourself, as you hold your head in your hands. You go through what you did/said/thought and find yourself in even more disbelief at what has happened.
Now you have face the question:
‘’What do I do now?’

The reality is that as Christians we will go wrong, we will find ourselves saying, doing and acting in ways that are so far removed, so different, from what we know to be right.
One of the most common thoughts of new Christians is that they will never sin again, that now they have seen the wonderful saving power of our God, they will never again fall into sin.
Let me assure you, as someone that has been a Christian for ~10 years; this is something that you soon realise is not possible.

As Christians we are saved by the life, death and resurrection of our perfect Lord and Saviour.
We are covered by his righteousness, so why then do we still so often find ourselves getting things so wrong?
The simple answer is we are still human, not that this is any sort of excuse, but it is our reality. We are saved, our salvation is secure, but we still live our lives in this sinful world, our flesh, sin is still in our lives (although we are no longer controlled by it).
Paul often talks about the Old Man and the New Man, these two warring forces, our sinful human nature and our new nature in Christ [Romans 7:24-25]


So what do we do when we mess things up, when we have sinned?

For some help let’s look at some of Psalm 51, written by David after he had been confronted with his awful sin with Bathsheba. [2 Samuel 11]

v.3 ‘For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.’

We know that the Holy Spirit living in us and our own conscience convicts us of our sin, we can’t seem to stop thinking about it, no-matter how often we try and distract ourselves it just keeps appearing in front of us. David, in Psalm 32 mentions what happens if we try and put our sin to one side, if we try and just ignore:
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
Pretty vivid and clear images used by David to describe the reality of trying t hide our sins from God, it never works out well for us.

 

V.4 ‘Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge’

See, the reality is that no matter who else our sin may affect, we only ever sin against God. We do wrong to others, hurt them, offend them etc. But we only ever sin against God. And that’s why sin is so very serious, we are doing wrong against God and his law. We are going against the commands of the ruler of creation, against the one who controls and sustains all things. Sin is serious. The Shorter Catechism describes sin like this:
“Q:What is sin? 
A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
Even though David wronged Bathseba and her husband, even though he had ruined their lives, he still acknowledged  that his sin was against God.

Before we seek forgiveness from anyone we may have hurt in our actions, we have to turn first to God and recognise, like David, that it is against God we have sinned. Only then can we go on to seek to repair the damage we have done to others.

 

v.7-9 ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow … And blot out all my iniquities’

David cries out that God would cleanse him, Hyssop was a herb used in the ceremonial cleansing ceremonies as well as in medinces to clean wounds etc.
David lived in the time before Christ, although he was close to God he still dod not have th accses to God that we have today thugh Jesus.
We don’t need to use any sort of ceremonies to be forgiven from our sin, we must just come before God and repent, cry out that he would forgive us our sin against him.
It’s when we know we should come to God in prayer that it’s often the hardest to do, we find ourselves doing any & everything to avoid coming to God in prayer and in reading scripture. My friend, I know it’s hard – but if you do nothing the pain will only grow worse, and you will only become more cold and distant.

v.11 ‘Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.’

Once we are saved the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, and He will never leave us [Ephesians 1:13-14,  Acts 2]. But our sin, if we do not repent of it, will badly affect our relationship with God. The work of the Spirit in our lives will be stopped for a while, we will ‘grieve the Holy Spirit’ [Eph4:30], in that happening we will begin to feel from God.
To feel far from God is not a good palce to be it is cold and it is lonely, our salvation will never be taken away from us. But, for a time, God will remove from us the sense of His presence.
Sin is horrible, it is disgusting, and if we leave it unconfessed it will take a real toll on our walk with our God and Saviour. Our salvation is secure in the finished work of Jesus, but as long as we try and hide our sin, and ‘carry on as normal’ we will feel cold, distant, and miserable in our walk.

My friend don’t let sin sit in your heart, turn first to God, confess and repent. He will hear you, he will respond, he will forgive you.

In his hymn “From the Depths of Woe”, Martin Luther wrote these wonderful words:

‘Though great our sins and sore our woes,
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free.
From all their sin and sorrow.’

 

The Free Kirk Fights Back!

THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON

It seems as though whenever the few, brave sane Christians who put their head above the parapet and write into newspapers trying to make a biblical case on issues for the day and defend Christianity are wasting their time.  Often the letters are published, but they are usually followed, if they are any good, within a couple of days  by the mocking letter from the secularists and the superior letter from the establishment liberal ‘Christian” pointing out of course that no-body nowadays really believes such ‘fundamentalist’ nonsense.  If one tries to respond normally the responses are either not published, or side-lined.  In other words it is rare to get a fair shot at overcoming the stacked odds and many of us feel that sometimes in the perception of the general public we are going more harm than good.

I love the Scots word ‘thrawn’ – so I determined that when…

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The Gospel and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Intro)

 

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As Christians we are burdened and tasked with the great privilege & duty of sharing the life-giving Gospel. We have to share it wherever God places us, and with whoever God puts in our path.
It perhaps used to be the case that the Christians on the Island wouldn’t normally come into contact with people of other beliefs until they left the Island for education or for work.
The reality now is that walking around Stornoway you can now come into contact with at least five other major religious beliefs.

If we are to engage with those from other faiths, and share the Gospel with them, it makes sense for us to understand how they understand God/ salvation/ sin/ mankind etc.
Otherwise we will find ourselves talking past each other and not really getting anywhere!
We might begin talking to someone about salvation through Jesus alone, we might agree with each others main points, only then to find out that they think Jesus is not the eternal Son of God, rather he is a mere created being – produced by God the father and one of his many celestial wives (as is generally believed by the LDS Church (the Mormons).
We have to do the hard work, we have to prepare and study hard – most JW missionaries (the ones knocking on your door) pour hours of study each week into how to share their gospel with you.

There are a few warnings to take note of before we continue:

– I would not advise or suggest that new Christians or Christians who are going through a hard time in their walk should engage in this type of study. It is essential to have a good grasp of what you believe, before you begin to engage. You are dealing with something that is truly dangerous and that requires the full armour of God. It is never purely academic, this is real spiritual warfare.

– Before you begin any form of study into other religions, start by reading Scripture,  worship, and prayer. Pray that God would keep you safe from what you are about to study. You might accuse me of being far too cautious or dramatic, but we have to be mindful that when we are dealing with false beliefs and sects we are dealing with evil, we are studying ideas and thoughts that have come from the enemy of God.
We should prepare ourselves accordingly.

– Our study of other beliefs should never overtake our own personal devotional life and study. There is always a real danger that we dedicate too much time and thought to the study of these things, and let our own spiritual walk suffer.

– When we engage with those caught up and blinded in other beliefs we have to remember that once we were just and blinded as they still are, that the same God who opened our eyes to the glorious truth is more than able to do the same for them also.

Originally this was going to be more wide ranging, but with the recent increase in activity on the Island from the Jehovahs Witnesses (JW’s) I thought it might be best to take the time to look at what they believe and how we might engage them with the Gospel.
They are currently building a new Church in Stornoway, when it is completed this will more than likely mean that more JW families will move to the Island. What an incredible Gospel opportunity this gives us!
They come to ur doors, let’s be ready to listen to them, to talk with them, and to share with then the true life giving and life saving Gospel.

Upcoming posts:

1- JW Beliefs Basics 1
2- JW Beliefs Basics 2
3- The Most Common Passages
4- Sharing the Gospel 1
5-  Sharing the Gospel 2
6- What we need to Know

 

As always, comments & thoughts always appreciated.

 

 

Five Tips For Voting

Hymns,Hats, &Tattoos

[This is a guest post, as is apparent by the coherent wording and perfect grammar. I would like to thank the writer for this engaging and practical post]


The Unique selling point for this political blog post is that I can guarantee it does not mention either the word beginning with ‘T’ and rhyming with ‘Dump’, or the word beginning with ‘B’ and rhyming with ‘Exit’.

Firstly, I’m delighted to be able to post as a guest on this blog. I work in Politics, and I am passionate about it. This will hopefully be very practical, easy to understand, and useful for considering how to cast your vote in the fast-approaching Scottish Local Elections. Despite the general apathy and lack of enthusiasm for anything connected with the word ‘politics’, it is worth voting. Politics can solve issues. Democracy is good. As Christians, our faith should lead us to seek justice and mercy in your local area Some will see that being fulfilled by Labour, SNP, Conservatives, or an Independent candidate.

I will outline some things that we should consider as we approach the Local Elections, followed by a few pointers for what a candidate/councillor should strive after.

The following points are not in order of priority:

  1. Consider the issues

Think through what issues are most important to your local community. Housing? Crofting? Local Enterprise and jobs? Better run services? At the end of the day you are voting for people to be local champions for the issues that matter to your community.

  1. Engage with the candidates

If you want to know what each of your candidates stand for, get in touch with them whether by email, facebook, or a chat on the street. Don’t be scared to ask them questions, after all they are the ones who will be representing you. You are looking for someone of good character who can carry out their duties as a councillor in a respectful and caring manner, who is gracious enough to debate passionately, but to share a laugh afterwards. You want someone who is humble enough, but also wants to work quietly, honestly and consistently for the local community. If the candidate wants to rant, rave, and stage a protest in order to oust those he disagrees with, this is not a display of tolerance. Tim Keller summed it up well: Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.

  1. Pray for Wisdom

Your ability to vote is something to be thankful for – make the most of it. Voting is also a serious thing, and praying for wisdom essential. If we believe Jesus is the Lord over all aspects of our life, that should include voting. It is not in a separate compartment. You would pray for wisdom to know what job offer to accept, or what course to enrol in, or where to move to, so why would voting be any different? We are told in the Bible to be subject to governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17, Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1). This does not mean we have to just agree with everything they do, but it means we should make use of our vote as responsible Christians.

  1. Remember your chief end

Your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Your chief end in each political decision you make, should be made in light of this fact. He knows our motives, and if they are driven by a desire for personal gain, or someone else’s expense, or malice for a particular candidate/party then we should think twice before casting out vote that way.

If you have a rough idea who you are going to vote for, can you vote this way with a clear conscience?

  1. Don’t be blinded by party allegiances

Parties do serve a function, and can help summarise generally what a candidate stands for, but the candidate also has an independent mind and will sometimes disagree with their party, don’t assume they agree with everything their party does on a national level.

  • Independent candidates are free from party constraints and are generally politically unique to rural parts of Scotland such as the Highlands and Islands. This can be beneficial.
  • Independent councillors can focus more directly on the issues of local governance free from party constraints. Generally, in an age where there is a lot of political division, we are very liable to falling into the trap of adhering to the tribal politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It avoids the problem of angry constituents judging them prematurely, simply because of the party badge they wear.
  • Give the independents serious consideration, but finding out where they stand would be helpful.
  1. Don’t be blinded by the media
  • Be discerning with what you read, and don’t be blinded by local gossip. If you hear that ‘Candidate A’ is awful/great, ask why he/she is so awful/great. Don’t rely on others to form your own opinion of a candidate.
  • Read broadly, don’t just stick to the same news source. Reading the letters pages of the local papers can help to find out what others are saying about local and national issues.

Final Points:

We should long to overcome differences for the good of our community, and the furtherance of the gospel.

We should never allow political differences come between us as Christians. We have more important work, which is sharing the hope of the gospel in the public square.

How can councillors show a real commitment to their communities:

  1. Get involved locally and be a witness, we cannot withdraw from the public square into isolation and irrelevance – our message is too good for that. Now is not the time to withdraw.
  2. Do justly – do what is right, bear in mind this may not always be what is right in the eyes of the world.
  3. Love mercy – remember what the Lord has brought you from, remember his goodness to you which is new every morning, and be selfless. We don’t love our neighbour for affirmation, but because we have been loved first. Be spent for the Lord and for your community.
  4. Walk humbly – overcome the worldly obsessions and seek to be of real use to others, rather than simply being in charge of others. Remember whose you are and who you serve.

Happy voting.