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 ~11 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 it:
“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 did not have the access to God that we have today through 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.’

 

Hope, On Even The Darkest Of Days (Psalm 88)

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The sun rises behind the dark cloud, you’ve been waiting all night just to watch the dawn; hoping it will somehow lighten your hopelessness.

You feel like you cannot cry anymore, no-one cares, no-one listens, no-one understands.

Worries, questions, depression, doubts, and anxiety weigh in on you.

And, after a night of pain, searching, and sobbing prayers, you feel as if even heaven has shut it’s doors to you; your feeble words not even passing past the walls.

My friend, can you relate to this, do you know this place?
Perhaps you find yourself here even as you read this. If this is you, keep reading, you are not alone.

First, take a few minutes and read Psalm 88

This Psalm has often been dubbed as being the ‘darkest passage of Scripture’, and you can immediately see why. The writer jumps straight into the reality of their situation:

O Lord, God of my salvation, 
I cry out day and night before you. 
Let my prayer come before you; 
incline your ear to my cry! 
For my soul is full of troubles, 
and my life draws near to Sheol”

There’s no doubt they are in a bad place, so bad in fact that they feel as if they are close to death itself:

“[I am] like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, 
like those whom you remember no more
for they are cut off from your hand”

Not only close to death, but as if God has cut them off from himself, as if they have been left completely on their own.
And rather than turn the corner, rather than the Psalmist being relieved from his pain and misery, it appears to only deepen, I think verses 6-7 really summarise the situation:

You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, 
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah”

As you read to the end of the Psalm, you will see that his situation does not improve, in fact his complaints grow and it only seems to get worse and worse.
So the question has to be asked, where is the hope in this Psalm?!

Let me offer 3 glimmers of hope from the Psalm:

  1. Honesty
    This Psalm plainly reminds us that believers will, and do, face times of great pain, sadness, and trial.
    We live in a sin-broken world, a world that has been marred with evil. And that will be felt in the life of the Christian, just as much as in that of the non-believer.
    The only difference is that the Christian is held secure by the eternal promise keeping creator of the universe – that’s not to say we will always ‘feel’ this, but it is a reality nonetheless.
    I know of a believer that has suffered deep depression for ~10 years, they said that this Psalm and it’s honesty was a great help to them, in the midst of the darkness it helped them put words to what they were going through.
  2. Sovereignty
    On first reading it does sound as if he is blaming God for all that is happening to him, ‘You have caused..’,’You have put..’ etc. (See also Psalm 42)
    Rather than blame, this appears to be recognition of the sovereignty of God.
    He is King, He rules and, He reigns. And He is allowing these things to take place in the life of the man, now this might sound like a strange comfort, but we have to ask ourselves what’s the alternative?
    Well, a God that is not in control, that is not Sovereign, that can do nothing about a situation, not a God worthy of any worship
    Instead we see in this Psalm, as we do throughout all of Scripture our God reigns supreme. And all is done according to His perfect will and plan, which ultimately will lead to His name being glorified and for the eventual good of his beloved people (Romans 8).
  3. Prayer
    As we read this Psalm, we are reading a real prayer of a real person, who really suffered and felt what they then wrote down.
    Even though the Psalmist declares God had ‘hidden his face’ from him. He still carries on the rest of the Psalm, he still offers his prayer up to God.
    Because Jesus is our intercessor, because He alone carries our prayers to the Father, because He himself continually offers up prayers on our behalf, we can have the confidence to carry on praying – even in the midst of darkness.  (Hebrews 7:25)
    Knowing, not only, that our prayers are heard, but also that our Saviour knows exactly and intimately the pain and trial we are facing:“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
    Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
    &
    “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
    For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:7-18

This is not a sermon, not a complete look at the Psalm, but just a few thoughts for any echoing similar thoughts as expressed in the Psalm.
Don’t suffer alone, read the Word,pray, pray, and keep praying.
I’d also encourage you to share your struggles with a brother/sister, ask them to pray with you and for you.

Before Light

Before the first race was run,
Before you spoke into existence galaxies, and a million suns
Before the first battle was ever fought and won
You Knew me.

Before the first darkening of night,
Before the universe blazed into light,
Before mortal man ever realised his plight
You knew me

Before the first babe cried,
Before the first man tried,
Before that man sinned and died,
You knew me

Before I ever knew your name
Before I ever understood your pain
Before my sin appeared like a crimson stain
You knew me.

 

4 Quick Tips for Christians on Social Media

 

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A terribly uninteresting look at some of my Twitter likes: Good Art, Cheesy Jokes, and Quotes that I will use and forget who said them first…

As if a growing bald spot along with greying hair wasn’t a bad enough combo, some recent convos with ‘young folk’ (I cringed writing that), has left no doubt in my increasingly shiny head; at the grand old age of 23, I am now in fact old.
So allow me in my old age to reflect on Social Media.

One thing that is clear is that social media will only continue to grow in its reach, effect, and in its uses. So, what should we (in particular younger Christians) be thinking about when we post and share online?

BeFoRe yOu aLL StArt ShoUTiNG At mE – this whole post, as most of them are, was written to myself, 4 things I have to often remind myself about.


1. This is your Mission Field
Our online presence is part of our sphere of influence, it’s part of our mission-field, just as much as our jobs, school, uni, and our homes should be. This first point will influence all the rest of our thinking. Even in the world of selfies, videos, tweets, and updates – we are still called to set apart and Holy, still called to be careful and vigilant servants of Jesus. How we present our selves on SM, how we interact with people on these sites,
these things matter to the sharing and spread of the Gospel.



2. Relax but be Ready

SM is used as the place to relax, I doubt there are many of us that have not in the past week watched all a few shows of our fave Netflix series, or caught up on the latest videos of cats/dogs/fails/ etc.
There is nothing wrong with taking time to relax and rest, and to do so on SM is fine, but we must be ready. In nearly 11 years of being a Christian the lesson I keep having to re-learn is the fact it is when I’m most relaxed that the enemy will attack.
Even when relaxing, we must remember that we are in the midst of a very real warfare, one in which we are active participants.



3. Be Careful What You Show / Like/ Share
It can be all too easy to dissociate the online world with the real, and in doing so we may perhaps sometimes be less than careful in what we are showing the watching world.
I have a face and body that I don’t want to see, never mind anyone else – but we have to be mindful that what we are showing of ourselves (including in a physical way) does not harm or effect our witness, are we doing this out of pure pride, or for other similar reasons?
Sometimes it’s not even as obvious as sharing that revealing selfie, we also have to be careful what we ‘like’ and share.
I’ve done it myself so often, I’ll like that friend’s photo – one where they are living and showing of a lifestyle that is in direct rebellion to their creator, is my like then showing support to their lifestyle?
One recent example is a Christian going out with  a non Christian, I automatically liked the photos of my friend, but then later thought I don’t ‘like’ this, it goes against what the Scripture so clearly states.
Enjoy SM, but as in real life, be careful that what you share and show does no harm to your Gospel witness.


4. Be Yourself!
For long enough all I liked and shared were sermon links, Bible quotes etc.
Now, do not get me wrong – I would never discourage that in any way, our pages and profiles should clearly reflect where we stand in relation to God.
But for me personally, I was showing myself in a way that I’m not in real life. My Saviour encompasses all of my life, but He has also granted me to have many other interests and opportunities, as He does all of his children; Christians are not one sided, our faith should influence and encourage us in all the areas of out life.
I was helping out at a camp once, one the other leaders let me know that they were glad I was nothing like the “dour and eternally serious” person I appeared to be online, during their pre-camp ‘research’.
Don’t be afraid in showing your interests and your talents – write the blogs, share the art and the poems, but as always – do so in a way that magnifies and glorifies your God and Saviour.


It does require extra work, it requires thinking through constantly what we are seeing, liking , sharing and showing. But if we are to be faithful servants its vital that we do so.

Although this is  possibly the least definitive list ever complied, hopefully it’ll help us to think these things through, as we seek to live out our lives as servants and as Salt and Light, in an increasingly dark world, both here and in the world online.
Some good resources from actual writers:
– one-voice-on-christian-social-media
– a-social-media-heart-check
– six-ways-your-phone-is-changing-you

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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3 very short thoughts on the Church of Scotland and Scripture

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Plenty will be said in the upcoming days about the decision taken by the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the decision which allows an individual in a same-sex civil partnership (and undoubtedly after Thursday, also those in same-sex ‘marriages’) to become an ordained minister.

I would like to start by saying that I know there are many brothers and sisters in the COS who are upset and sad about the decision, please continue to pray for your Church, as we all will.                   For any in the COS, a group called Covenant Fellowship Scotland  has been established to seek the “reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland.”

So what 3 points can be drawn from this decision:

1. The real problem is not ministers in same-sex relationships
The vote is a blatant disregard for scripture’s definition of marriage and also for it’s definition of what it means to be a minister, though these two points alone are terribly sad and very revealing, they are only the symptoms of the real underlying problem.

2. The real problem is a blatant disregard for Scripture
The COS’s (current) deviation from scripture did not start after yesterday’s vote. No, it started the very moment that it was proposed a clear Biblical principle could be argued in the courts of the Church, and the clear words of the creator debated by his created beings. Not for a second would I discourage the discussion of God’s word, we are instructed to  do it:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
To be living as Christians we must study and discuss the scriptures, and in our study we might well disagree on some points.
But in saying that, some points of scripture are so piercingly precise and obvious that when read in context with the rest of the book and with rest of the bible, the message cannot be mistaken.
Yesterday’s vote is one of these points, and  the bible is clear on the topic.
The fact  that the COS believes that the clear points of Scripture can be argued in a General Assembly, and be decided by a vote, show’s it’s opinion on God’s revealed word.
An opinion which seems to be that God’ word is completely infallible and perfect, that is, apart from the parts we don’t like and that make us feel uncomfortable, those bits aren’t so important.

3. Emotion over Scripture?
This is more of a point 2.5 rather than a point 3, but just to piggy-back on the previous point, we can ask the question:
“Is the COS following the Scripture or following the will of man?”
Take a look at any of the social media posts about this decision, about half the posts are from Church members who are “proud of the bravery shown today”, and the other half are from people apparently out-with the Church who are also congratulating the Church on the decision that was made.
In watching the debate today, and after following it for a few years, the same issue has appeared time and time again, that is the emphasis is on emotion and feelings rather than on scripture.
The arguments in favour of the change almost exclusively drew on stories and personal anecdotes, all very genuine and sincere, but also all lacking in any scriptural backing.
The arguments against the change were all clearly and logically argued from our  “only infallible rule of faith and practice”, not on the changing and sinful bases of our own emotions and thoughts.
The two cannot be compared, one side arguing from sinful human reason and emotion, the other arguing from the very word direct from God.

Again these are just my initial thoughts on what went on yesterday, although blatantly against God’s revealed word there is still hope for renewal and reformation for the Church of Scotland, there still remains plenty of faithful members and congregations who also long for such a day.

As always, comments and thoughts are very welcome