The Unstoppable Gospel!

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Whilst flying out from Edinburgh earlier today, as the morning sun gently illuminated small towns and villages below, I found myself despairing.

As I looked down on these tilt-shifted, miniature streets and houses, the question entered my mind – just how many of those people were waking up today in the knowledge and fellowship of their God and Saviour?

How many had rejected Him?

How many had never even heard the Gospel?

All of a sudden I felt very small as I was forcibly reminded of the vastness of the task, of our mission to share the live giving Gospel in this our beautiful country.

My worry and thoughts were self-centred and self reliant, the task is incredible, and the opposition and darkness does grow day by day. The first verse of Psalm 97 came to my mind:
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
    let the distant shores rejoice.

Our sovereign, ever reigning, never failing God has called us to follow and to serve, and He alone will give us the means and opportunities to share the Gospel, all for His Glory.

In Church History classes we looked at the early church, a small assortment of believers, no visible attributes, by all human reckoning they should have gotten nowhere with their ‘new religion’, some words from Plinius Caecilius the Roman governor of Bithynia, as he faced a new problem:

Meantime this is the course I have taken with those who are accused before me as Christians. I asked them at their own lips whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment. If they kept to it, I ordered them for execution.

The matter seemed to me worth deliberation especially on account of the number of those in danger; for many of all ages and every rank, and even of both sexes are brought into present or future danger.

The contagion of that superstition has penetrated not the cities only, but the villages and country: yet it seems possible to stop it and set it right.

He, evidently, did not manage to contain and stop the ‘contagion’!

Here we are, 2000 years and many more miles away, and the Gospel has not, and will never be stopped.
The task is indeed massive and our calling to serve is serious, but the power of the Word of God remains the same.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
–  Romans 1:16

 

Uber to the Airport

I’m writing this, coffee in hand, from a dark corner of Glasgow airport. This will be a short one just a few thoughts – mostly because my battery is almost out and the charger is hopefully making it’s way to the correct plane, along with the rest of my luggage…

We have the instruction to be ready in and out of season. Well I’ll be honest, at 6/7am I am the most ‘out of season’ that you’ll find me.
For a wee treat to myself this morning I thought I’d get an Uber, Mohammed picked me up – a pretty cool looking guy in his mid 20’s, he had been up and working a long time before my alarm went off this morning.
We got chatting, covered the usual topics-  however, my answer of “Oh, I’m a student” didn’t satisfy him, he dug a bit deeper, so I explained that I was attempting to study to eventually become a minister.

Learning from previous previous experience, I sat back a bit and awaited the awkward silence, it didn’t come. Mohammed had plenty more questions and by the end of the relatively short journey we had covered large swathes of Christian and Islamic teachings.

So why do you care about my Uber journeys?

It dawned on me that we were able to have much of that conversation because we had both read some of the content on the other side of the fence. He was able to reference Scripture, I could bring to memory some badly mangled passages form the Qur’an.

I wan’t to make clear that this advice is not for new or even for younger Christians, the day will come, but not yet.
But if you’ve been on the walk for a while now, I would advise at least having a basic knowledge of the main differing viewpoints you will face as you go out with the Gospel.
It helps when talking to a Muslim or a J.W or a Mormon, that when they talk about Jesus, salvation, redemption, forgiveness etc. that they mean something totally different to you and I.

Study Scripture first, make sure you have a good working grasp of the theology and doctrines, always make sure that you read far more Scripture than you do any other text.

I’l be honest, once I began to look into the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon, my heart broke – its quickly apparent that these are nothing but man-made documents, written  for the benefit of the original authors, and not as the Word of God.

I know some of my dearly beloved family in Christ disagree with this method, but I fully believe that having even a basic working knowledge of the beliefs of those you talk to can enable you to share the Gospel in a more pointed and beneficial way.

[Of course, this is all humanely speaking, as with all out witnessing it is the Spirit that convicts and converts, God deserves all the praise and glory! But He does choose, in His perfect plan, to make use of us weak jars of clay]

If you want to get an insight in to basic JW/ Mormon/ Muslim teaching, Rev. Dr. James White is my go-to guy:

 

Better a Bible in the post than being post-Bible

Post tenebras lux

The local patriarchy of the Free Church this week played a blinder: they allowed a woman to share a platform with actual men. She was asked for, and allowed to express what can only be described as opinions.

Of course, it was a safe enough move – they probably know that they have brainwashed her so thoroughly that whatever she says is really just furthering their agenda.

But what is their agenda? Well, that depends on who you speak to.

The people of superior intellect, the ones who really know where it’s at, they say it’s about hanging onto power. That’s why these men want Lewis to be a six-day island, why they want folk going to church and reading their Bibles. It’s about maintaining status and holding sway.

My dizzy wee brain has been working on this problem for a while now, but I can’t for the life of…

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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.

The Free Kirk Fights Back!

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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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