EDITORIAL AND CONTENTS Strengthening reformed young people to reach the nations for God’s glory
LOOKING FOR WORK
HELPING EACH OTHER GROW
POSTER - JOHN 15:5
SONGS OF JESUS - PSALM 5
THE GOD PARTICLE
EDITORIAL I'd like to start by saying congratulations to Stephen Steele. Since our last issue he has both married his beautiful new bride Carla and convinced our editorial team that this is an acceptable reason to step down as editor. He will continue to be a key part of our team and plans to regularly provide book reviews. Stephen has put many of hours hard work into producing this magazine and oversaw its recent revitalisation. Our full-colour magazine now reaches over 500 subscribers through paper copies and online editions. Perhaps the key moral debate facing Christians today is gay marriage. British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to alter the traditional definition of marriage to include homosexuals before the end of his coalition government in 2015. Meanwhile this issue has already caused much controversy amongst Christians, leading one American writer to predict that gay marriage may split all mainstream denominations. In our cover article John Watterson approaches the redefinition of marriage by bringing us back to its biblical definition and revealing the flaws of gay marriage. It is vital that we acquire a bible-based understanding of marriage in order to avoid the twin pitfalls of sinfully opposing the proposed redefinition on mere homophobic prejudice or blindly accepting our society’s continual rejection of God’s Word. In this attack on the covenant of marriage we can see the continued rejection of the public promises that still bind these islands to honour King Jesus. That the redefinition of marriage is even being considered is surely part of Christ’s judgment on a covenant-breaking nation and must drive us all to prayerful repentance. I hope you too will find John’s article helpful in understanding this emotive issue. Thank you to all who contributed to our September issue. In addition to ‘Redefining Marriage’ we’ve articles addressing other current topics and the latest instalments in our many excellent series. I hope you enjoy all our fantastic content and please share the magazine with your friends. The whole editorial team would appreciate your prayers as we continue to produce the magazine.
Over 320 people like the Messenger on Facebook. Join them to see links, pictures and sneak previews.
Editorial Team Abigail Nelson Andrew Currie Robert McCollum James McCullough Andrew Morrison Emma Dunwoody Stephen Steele
the messenger | September- October 2012
The Messenger is the bi-monthly magazine of the Covenanter Youth, the young people’s association of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland. The subscription cost is £9/€10 per year (6 issues). Cheques made payable to the Messenger Magazine and sent to: Andrew Currie, 22 Spring Meadows, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, BT51 3BJ. Please visit our website for other payment and subscription options. You can contact the Messenger by email via email@example.com. All news items and articles must be with the committee by the first of the month prior to publication and be in accordance to the requested word count. Any reports of events, camps or go teams should be no longer than 350 words. The Editorial team reserve the right to alter the content and adjust the layout of all work submitted. S.D.G.
Pray Without Ceasing Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) My gut reaction when I read this Scripture is, “What?! Pray without ceasing? How am I supposed to do that?” Because let’s face it, life is busy. We’ve got meetings to attend, messages to run, people to see, families to look after and a million other things going on. How in the world are we supposed to do all these things and also pray without ceasing? Recently I read some helpful words regarding this Scripture. The great theologian Charles Hodge said: “I think that in my childhood I came nearer to conforming to the apostle’s injunction, Pray without ceasing, than in any other period of my life. As far back as I can remember, I had the habit of thanking God for everything I received, and asking him for everything I wanted. If I lost a book, or any of my toys, I prayed that I might find it. I prayed walking along the streets, in school and out of school,
whether playing or studying. I did not do this in obedience to any prescribed rule. It seemed natural. I thought of God as an everywherepresent Being, full of kindness and love, who would not be offended if children talked to Him. I knew he cared for sparrows. I was as cheerful and happy as the birds and acted as they did.” Don’t you love the simple childlike dependence on God expressed in this quote? When he lost one of his playthings, he prayed. When he received something, he thanked God. He simply knew that God would not be offended if his children talked to him. I want to be more like that. When I sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee, I want to give thanks. When I lose something, I want to ask for help to find it. When I’m walking along the streets I want to be walking with God along those streets. When I am in my study I want to be asking God constantly for his help and guidance. I want prayer to be woven in and out of my life and sprinkled throughout my day. And I want it to be natural. God is my Father. He won’t be offended when I ask him for things and he will be delighted when I thank him for things. What about you? How will you pray without ceasing? Robert McCollum Newtownards RPC
THE UK GOVERNMENT wants to redefine marriage to include homosexual unions. They aim to achieve this by 2015. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is for it; Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, is personally committed to it; and the Labour Party is pushing for it. This is a good time for us to look again at marriage: what is redefine marriage violate central Biblical teaching?
Marriage in Law A useful place to start is with the legal definition of marriage. In English law the classic definition of marriage is “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” This stipulates four conditions: the parties enter into the union voluntarily; the parties enter into the union with the intention of lifelong commitment; the parties are a man and a woman (the marriage is heterosexual); the parties are one man and one woman (the marriage is monogamous). In addition, the parties must both be of marriageable age. Changing the third condition to allow homosexual marriage has massive implications the messenger | September- October 2012
for religious and civil freedoms, employment rights, the education of children, and the health of society. I am not going to discuss these implications, but the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) has provided a good summary of them in its submission to the Home Office’s consultation on the proposed changes to marriage. C4M’s submission can be obtained at http://c4m.org.uk/downloads/ consultationresponse.pdf.
Marriage in Eden English marriage law is very ancient: the oldest reference in English law to marriage is in an Act passed in 1285. But marriage is not an institution of the State. Marriage was ordained by God “from the beginning” (Mark 10:5-8). So let’s look at marriage in Eden.
Genesis 1 and 2 present three primary reasons for marriage.
1. Imaging God God has given marriage as a means by which humanity bears his image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). John Goldingay comments that “the declaration that humanity intrinsically comprises male and female directly follows on that affirmation that humanity reflects the image of God…Only when men and women are together do we have God imaged.”
2. Bearing children The basic way in which men and women are together is made clear in
the next verse: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28). Marriage is for having children. And having children is also for “image bearing,” because it is as the human family grows that it fulfils its commission to act in a God-like fashion by filling, subduing and ruling over the earth. This includes the creation of society and the development of every cultural, sporting and scientific endeavour.
3. Companionship Marriage is also for companionship: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Gen. 2:18). When the first woman was presented to the first man, the man’s excitement and wonder were unmistakeable: “This time! Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh! This one! She shall be called Woman, for from Man she was taken – this one!” (Gen. 2:23). Marriage is a reconnection of bone and flesh, a reunification of persons. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). So from the beginning God’s purpose for marriage was: the mutual support of men and women in monogamous, lifelong unions, which would provide stability for the homes in which children were raised, for the creation of healthy and fruitful society, which would display in everything it achieved the wisdom, care and authority of the Creator, through his blessing.
Marriage in a Fallen World Only, of course, the first man and woman forfeited the Creator’s blessing by turning away from him. So we do not live in Eden – we live in a fallen world. And in the fallen
world marriage, like all God’s good gifts, has been distorted. And it’s important to acknowledge that homosexual marriage is one of several ways in which humanity falls short of God’s original intention for the union of men and women. There is also, for example, bigamy (one man taking two wives at the same time), cohabitation (a man and woman living together without the commitment of marriage) and divorce (the dissolution of the marriage bond by something other than the death of one of the partners). But why, specifically, is homosexual marriage wrong? Let’s take the three original reasons for marriage in reverse order. First, homosexual marriage is wrong because it transgresses God’s stated purpose for companionship between husband and wife. When God said, “I will make [the man] a helper fit for him,” he declared in word and by action what his will is for marriage. “A helper fit for him” is literally “like the opposite of him”. This highlights the complementary natures of the man and the woman: they fit together like a lock and key. God’s purpose was heterosexual marriage. This is underlined by the application made of the account of the first marriage in Gen. 2:24 (and endorsed by Jesus, Mark 10:6-8) in which the language is exclusively heterosexual: “a man…his wife”, “his father and his mother.”
Marriage is a microcosm of redemption
Secondly, homosexual marriage is wrong because it negates God’s purpose for the bearing of children – homosexual couples cannot have children without the services of surrogates. Homosexual marriage crosses out the blessing God bestowed in Gen. 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Remember also that the command to
be fruitful and multiply is linked to the command to develop arts and crafts, science and technology, literature and music, education and every other expression of culture. This suggests that the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual unions will undermine what it means to be a member of the human family and will be detrimental to society. (In 2010 Elton John had a son by a surrogate mother, whom he and his civil partner have adopted. It is significant that Elton John has admitted that it will be heartbreaking for his son to grow up without a mother.)
for marriage remains unaltered
Thirdly, and most seriously, homosexual marriage is wrong because it attempts to obliterate the image of God. The union of husband and wife is not merely physical – it is a profound mystery which points beyond itself to something transcendently wonderful. In Eden marriage portrayed the love, creativity and dominion of the Creator. Outside Eden it “refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). In other words, every healthy marriage is a microcosm of redemption, which is just a way of saying that marriage, like all of God’s works, bears the CreatorRedeemer’s hallmark. But this is an impossibility for homosexual marriage, just as it is for bigamy, cohabitation and divorce. The UK government’s intention to redefine marriage is wrong. It is another expression of the rebellion depicted in Ps. 2:1-3. God’s purpose for marriage, h o w e v e r , r e m a i n s unaltered, and our hope looks forward to the marriage supper John Watterson of the Lamb and Bailiesmills RPC his Bride. messenger.rpc.org
lookingforwork Ken Nelson uses four fictional characters to examine different employment issues faced by Christian young people.
Ewan graduated over a year ago, but can't find a job related to his qualifications. He had prayed about what to study after leaving school and decided on a course which he believed suited his abilities and interests. He worked hard at his studies and received good results - but all the doors to the type of jobs he wants seem firmly closed. He is committed to his local congregation and doesn't want to leave it, but is aware of some job opportunities in southern England. He has noticed some local vacancies for cleaning jobs which pay the minimum wage. Family and friends think Ewan is coping well but in reality he's increasingly discouraged.
Terry is doing GCSEs but finds schoolwork a struggle. He feels under pressure to live up to what he thinks are his parentsâ€™ expectations as well as what he regards as "peer group pressure" from other young people at church who seem much more academically inclined than he. It seems to Terry that they are often talking about exams and university courses. At times he feels isolated and inadequate, compared to others who seem to be doing well at school. Terry is very good at working with his hands and likes the idea of learning a trade and working for himself.
Molly is in year 13 at school and is wondering what to do after A levels. Everyone she talks to suggests there are very limited employment prospects for the course she has been thinking about. Recent news reports suggest that the ongoing recession probably means even fewer job opportunities in the career she is interested in for years to come. Having attended a number of careers fairs, she is still uncertain about what to do. She is wondering if she may be suited to other courses which she hasn't previously considered.
Jim has recently become a Christian. While he had lots of potential to do well at school he messed around a lot and ended up with poor exams results. He is now unemployed and the only work seemingly available are short-term part-time jobs. Now that he has become a Christian, he is reflecting on the opportunities he wasted at school and feeling very discouraged about this. As he listens to regular reports about the recession he gets even more downhearted.
Ewan, Molly, Terry and Jim, and their situations, are fictional but the challenges they face are probably very real for many readers. What could the four of them do? When they thought about it, Ewan, Molly ,Terry and Jim were able to get practical help from others by : - Asking for prayer support from family , church and Christian friends. - Looking for dependable and honest advice and guidance from those who could be trusted such as parents, family, friends, minister, elders, CY and Camp leaders, teachers and employment/careers advisors. - Seeking answers to questions such as : What are my abilities and skills? What do I enjoy doing? What needs do I see that I could do something about? What are the job and career options that best match my interests and abilities? Which opportunities could allow me to use my gifts to best effect and bring most glory to God as well as benefit to others? - Checking out helpful books, articles the messenger | September- October 2012
and websites, attending CY meetings, camps and conferences where there are relevant talks and discussions. - Using the careers and employment advice and programmes provided by schools, universities/colleges, government agencies and other support organisations. - Looking for opportunities to test and develop interests and skills eg. through volunteering within the family, church and community. - Regular attendance at the "means of grace " such as Sabbath worship, prayer meetings and communion. - Using " sanctified common sense" : Usually what increasingly seems the most obvious thing to do is the thing to do! As Ewan, Molly, Terry and Jim took all these opportunities for help and advice on board, as they studied the Bible and read various books, they were able to identify a number of Biblical principles and themes to guide them : - God has given His people specific
gifts to use : Romans 12: 6-8 - There is always important work whether paid or not - given by God which we can do and which can bring blessing to others : 1 Cor.3:6-9 - How we use our abilities and opportunities is our calling, our vocation. Every calling is important and part of how God works out His purposes in this world. For example, He gives us our daily bread by using other people and their work in farms, factories, transport and shops: Psalm 136:25. No work is unimportant. - Itâ€™s not what we do but how we do it that is important : 1 Cor.10: 31. - In our frustration with difficult situations such as unemployment and career decisions we may have attitudes that need to be changed before God changes the situation : Psalm 139:23,24 - While rewarding employment is a great blessing ( Deut.2 :7) , work isn't always enjoyable because of the
fall and our sinful natures Gen.3: 1719 - Jesus expects us to work and to make good use of the talents He has given His people: Matt.25: 15. We are accountable to Him for the talents and abilities He has given us: Matt. 25:20-23. We are to strive to do our best in the work we are given to do: Col.3: 23-24 Whatever e m p l o y m e nt circumstances we face, God has a plan and purpose for every Christian which is personal , Psalm 32: 8 and detailed , Psalm 37:23 - Every struggle we face can be brought honestly to God in prayer: Phil. 4 : 6 - In God's " economy" everything we have to cope with will be for our ultimate good : Rom.8:28. We can view unfolding events in the light of God's purposes for us and others. The trials of unemployment and seeking to find a suitable job and career can be used by God to shape us for future usefulness and to help others who will go through similar struggles : James 1:2-4, 2 Cor.1: 3,4 - God can be trusted with our fears and our decisions about studies, career, e m p l o y m e nt a nd unemployment : Psalm 37:3-7,and we must be willing to patiently submit to His will and timing : James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:6,7
So, where did this leave our four perplexed friends?
Ewan Ewan, with recommendations from his minister and elders , was able to identify a suitable church in England near where there might be job opportunities relevant to his
qualifications. He arranged to go to this church and find out more about it. Following this visit he started applying for relevant positions near to the congregation. He was encouraged that this church and his home congregation were praying for him. Ewan decided to take a cleaning job on minimum wage in the meantime as he looked for the Lord to direct what would happen. Through his cleaning job he was able to develop a number of friendships which led to opportunities to invite people to church outreach events.
Molly Molly sought advice from her parents, camp and CY leaders who suggested that she had abilities that she hadn't considered but which could be tested and developed through opportunities for service in her church and local community. As Molly took the advice and got involved in a range of activities , her thinking and interests were directed towards a different course of study. The more she thought about it, prayed and talked to friends, the more it made sense as the direction to go. While the employment prospects seemed poor, Molly concluded that this was an opportunity to develop her abilities and trust God to direct after the course was completed.
Terry Terry had spoken to a member of his congregation who was selfemployed in a trade he was interested in. As they talked about Terry' s interest in this type of work, Terry offered to come and help him for free during a school holiday. They got on very well together and the experience deepened Terry' s desire to work at this trade. W i t h the help of his parents and advice from a government agency careers service, Terry was able to identify a training organisation which offered an apprenticeship in the trade he was keen on. He had to decide whether to apply for this or stay on at school to do A levels. He told his CY group about his interest in the trade and why he wanted to do it. He
was greatly encouraged at the positive reaction he got and their commitment to pray for him. After further discussions with his parents, teachers and the training organisation, he decided to apply for the apprenticeship. He knew the work prospects seemed poor but, based on the advice he got, he believed that if he really worked hard at the trade and developed his skills as much as possible, he could eventually make a go of being selfemployed.
Jim As Jim soaked in the preaching in his congregation and as he attended CY conferences , as well as reading several Christian books recommended to him, he realised he had certain attitudes that needed to change. He realised that up until now he had wasted his educational opportunities and was tending to blame others for his lack of employment. He knew he hadn't worked as he should have done. Even though it would be a long haul, he was increasingly convinced that he needed to start part-time study while seeking a job. He prayed about this and spoke to a number of people at church whose opinions he valued. They supported him in what he was thinking of doing. He was able to get a security job which would fit around his part-time studies. As his studies commenced, Jim thoroughly enjoyed them and was increasingly content that he had made the right move. Perhaps you can identify with aspects of Ewan, Molly, Terry and Jim's circumstances. From experience , I know I can! We may be finding it really tough going but we need to keep coming back to God's perspective on what we're dealing with. As we respond in faith and obedience, we will experience that God is sovereign over employment, unemp lo yment and the recession. Ken Nelson Trinity RPC
HELPING EACH OTHER GROW THE MICHAELANGELO PHENOMENON. That’s what Google offered as advice on helping your partner grow. It entails “John’s supportive behaviour sculpting Susan to enable Susan to realise Susan’s ideal self”. While much of what PsychologyToday.com had to offer was mumbo jumbo, it’s a helpful image to begin with when we think of relationships. For God is the great sculptor, chipping and chiselling to shape the perfect image of his Son out of us, the ugly deformed lump of rock. And God has called each Christian to be cosculptors, like apprentices under the great master. So, one aim of our relationships is to help each other grow more like Jesus. This is true not just of romantic relationships but of all relationships. Therefore most of what we say here is applicable to you and all your friends. How does God sculpt the image of his Son in us? His main tools are his Word and prayer. Here are some thoughts on how we can use this spiritual hammer of God's Word and chisel of prayer to make each other grow like Christ. 1) Pray together. Pray with each other, individually, in your families, and in church. Pray for each other, for family, for friends and for the church. the messenger | September- October 2012
2) Pray not-together. If you want to help the other person grow, then ask God to cause them to grow. Perhaps on Sabbaths you could pray that they would be blessed in church. On Mondays for their spiritual growth. On Tuesdays for your relationship. On Wednesdays for their work or study. On Thursdays for their roles in church. On Fridays for your role in the relationship. On Saturdays for their witness. Praying for him or her is perhaps the most loving thing you can do, short of laying down your life. 3) Read a book together. Set a chapter to read each week and talk, text or tweet about bits that struck you. It doesn’t need to be a relationship book. If you get your Christian walk right the relationship will largely take care of itself. There's a time and a place for doing 'relationships' books, and it's probably the marriage class. Otherwise, you become too inward looking. Don Whitney’s ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ is a good book to do this with. You can talk about what you thought of the chapter and how you do or will practise that discipline. It helps you get to know each other; and you can help each other in practising the disciplines. Another good book is 'God's Big Picture' by
Vaughan Roberts. It will help you mine more from God’s Word. If you are at a stage of wanting something more formal than just reading the same books, it has Bible studies at the end of each chapter. 4) Listen to sermons and discuss their application in your own individual lives. For example, six months after Senior Camp or Castlewellan, set one sermon to listen to each week and discuss it. Write each other a letter (nicer than email) about what you learned and how you will apply it. Try and get into the habit of discussing what you have learned and how you plan to put it into practice, especially when you have just attended church together. 5) Read the Bible together. Pick a book and a certain amount of chapters to read a week (7 if you’re feeling very ambitious, 1 if you’re not, 2 or 3 would be reasonable), read them, and sit down and talk about what you learned. The key thing is to get used to discussing God's Word and letting it come naturally to your conversation, and letting it overflow from your heart, (easier said than done, but something to work on). Memorising passages together is an excellent idea.
6) Go on Go Teams together. Don’t be couple-ly, but serve together. As you serve together you will grow together, without focusing too much on each other, which is unhealthy. Another way to serve together, and so to grow together, is to do things for your friends and family – have them for dinner, take little brothers and sisters out for trips, visit grandparents. Notice that all these suggestions – praying, spiritual disciplines, serving others, applying God's preached word, reading the Bible and talking about Christ – are the most important things for both your lives ahead, whether you are together or not. The best thing you can do for each other is to help each other in these Christian basics. And these things are also the bedrock of marriage, if things head that way. It doesn’t have to be something enormous. You don’t have to justify each date by spending an hour in
Bible study beforehand. What you do should be proportionate to the stage of your relationship. In the early days it is appropriate just to end the date with prayer. (Also helps cool any rising flames of passion as you linger in the car or in the living room after everyone else has gone!) But as things get serious, it’s important to devote time to getting to know each other on a serious level. Also, you can do it with different levels of formality. For example, just take half an hour to discuss it at the start of your time together, or take a night to sit down and read through something, or sit down and 'study' it, or let it informally flow into your conversation. Don't get bogged down in something so that it's a chore; keep it light. But also, don’t stop because it is hard, or because it feels a bit awkward. Pray and work towards getting to know each other
better and, most of all - drawing you both closer to your King. Men, it is your responsibility to lead in this. This means you should take the first step in suggesting it, starting it and continuing it. If you are not willing to do this you are not yet ready to be a head of a home, and have no business playing around with a girl’s heart. There’s much more could be said about this, but perhaps it will appear in another article! There will be times when you fail and you will neglect the other person’s spiritual growth. But we serve a God of forgiveness and grace. So bow at the cross, repent and then get going again. And enjoy the great privilege of sculpting with God. Joel & Abigail Loughridge Carrickfergus RPC
Lana Del Ray: Born to Die Born to Die. Thank you Robert for an excellent series of articles. LANA DEL RAY is one of the most successful breakthrough artists of 2012. Probably more likely to appear on the cover of Vogue than that of a music magazine, Del Rey (born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant) has intentionally projected herself as an elegant, glamorous pop star, a cut above the likes of Katy Perry and Rihanna in terms of class. Her second album, Born to Die (her first release on a major label), was released in January this year.
Lana Del Rey is right; our death is inevitable.
Lana Del Rey’s voice is perhaps the biggest selling point, and divisive factor, of her music. Her rich, deep contralto has been compared to Nancy Sinatra and Nina Simone, and
most of her vocals are comfortably within the male vocal range. However, she is a notably inconsistent live performer, with numerous videos available online showing her struggling to hit the right notes. Born to Die, a single taken from the album of the same name, showcases that distinctive voice, accompanied by swelling, cinematic strings, piano, and hip-hop-style beats. As the title suggests, the song speaks about life, death and making the most of our time on earth. Del Rey sings at the end of the chorus “Choose your last words, this is the last time/‘cause you and I, we were born to die.” So far, so good; rarely does pop music nowadays tackle human mortality. Later on in the song, she sings, “Lost but now I am found/I can see, but once I was blind”, lyrics which one might
interpret as referring to salvation. However, if we rewind to the first verse, it soon becomes clear that she is not talking about redemption through Christ, but rather how she hopes her significant other’s affections will change her life: “Can you make it feel like home, if I tell you you’re mine.” In addition, despite singing about death, “the finish line”, and “the gates”, there is no mention of what comes afterwards. Lana Del Rey is right; our death is inevitable. But it’s as if she read the first part of Hebrews 9:27 (“Just as man is destined to die once”), and missed the second (“and after that to face judgment”). Robert Cromie Stranorlar RPC
themessenger | September 2012
the messenger | September- October 2012
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)
Former President of Stranmillis C.U., Luke McCollum introduces the work of Christian Unions and the key role they can have in your student experience. FOR SOME READERS, this September is different. For the first time in fourteen years you will not be donning your familiar school uniform. Rather, you find yourself packing your bags, buying some random kitchen equipment and setting off to University. Whether this new beginning is something that you are looking forward to or find daunting the Christian Union (CU) can play a key role in your student experience.
What is a CU? Christian Unions exist on university campuses primarily for students to come together as mission teams on campus. What a CU looks like varies between each University but the underlying purpose of each Christian Union is for students to reach students with the Gospel. From week to week, CUs usually have a main meeting where they come together to worship God and learn from His Word. For some readers the prospect of this may not be a positive one as they feel uncomfortable singing worship songs. However, in my opinion it is still right for us to be at CU main meetings – whether you take part in the worship is a matter of conscience, but it is important to meet with other Christians on the University Campus and to study, learn and pray with them. University years are known as a time when many people, being away from home for the first time, question their beliefs and seek to discover why they believe what they believe. For Christians, the CU can provide a positive base in which to do this. It is a society which brings together Christians from many different Churches, grounded on the belief in Christ as King. CU can be a place where Christians challenge the messenger | September- October 2012
Your C.U. themselves about why they believe what they believe, and really discover the Biblical grounding for their beliefs. Small groups, run by the CU, often provide an opportunity for this as members meet together to study God’s Word and discuss how it can apply to their lives. Small groups are often a place where strong Christian friendships are begun and nurtured - friendships which often remain through the rest of life.
CUs are mission teams in a strategic place
However, CU is not just to be a place where Christians come together to meet other Christians. While this is a key part, CUs are put in place to reach non-Christians with the Gospel. They seek to organise outreach events in new and creative ways – seeking to reach students where they are at with the Gospel. There is no denying that, in my own experience, I sometimes found myself looking at these events during my time at university wondering what the thinking was behind them, and how they could ever serve any useful purpose. I concluded though that this was no reason to disregard CUs. To my mind if you find yourself unhappy with the way the CU is being run, rejecting it is not the answer – rather, get involved and in doing so, graciously make your opinion known; CUs are always seeking new ideas on how
best to reach out with the Gospel, remaining focused on their great commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” CUs are focused on students working together to bring the message of Christ to their Universities and Colleges. Christian students are very aware they have a duty to share their faith, and through the strategic mission of CUs, countless people have come to know Christ. Each year, thousands of new people flood into Universities creating new mission fields for the CU. For some readers, you may think that it sounds like the CU is trying to do the job of the Church, but the Christian Union bodies never have and never will claim to be the church. I would encourage you as you set off to University not to fall into the trap of thinking it can replace your church life. Those who attend CUs are a small part of the body of Christ, consisting of people generally within a five-year age bracket of each other. CUs are therefore only mission teams in a strategic place, working alongside Churches in a place where Churches cannot easily reach.
How can I find my CU? Christian Unions are not isolated units and completely detached from each other; they are connected by the ‘International Fellowship of Evangelical Students’ (IFES). IFES bring students together from all
REPORT across the world as it seeks to support and equip CUs in the work they are doing. IFES does this by providing staff workers who give invaluable support and wisdom to CU committees as they seek God’s will on how best they are going to lead their CU in the coming year. IFES provides training and fellowship for CU bodies, which better enables them to make Christ’s name known on their campus. Where CUs are very generational, completely changing their members about every four years, IFES is the constant source of wisdom and knowledge behind them. In both Northern Ireland and the Republic,
CUs are supported by ‘IFES Ireland’. If you are about to start University here, why not check out their website: www.ifesireland.co.uk? In England, Scotland and Wales the CUs are supported by UCCF (www.uccf.org.uk). Both of these organisations are the regional sections of the IFES World movement. Their websites will provide you with information on what CUs are all about and with links to particular University CU websites.
How can I get involved in CU? If you are about to become or are already a student, the answer is
quite simple – go along and get involved in at least some aspect of your CU. Obviously you will have other commitments at University as well and you may not be able to go to everything, but that does not mean you cannot go to anything. If you are not a student then I urge you to pray! Pray for students in Christian Unions as they seek to grow more like Christ together and as they seek to reach out to their campuses. Pray for their committees as they seek to lead and inspire their CU bodies and pray for the work of IFES as it supports and equips Christian Unions.
Senior Camp 2012
Thank you to everyone who prayed for Senior Camp over the past months. We definitely felt the benefits of those prayers as God worked and challenged us through the week. This year for our speaker we were blessed with Rev. Andrew Lytle whose topic for the week was ‘God’s people with God’s mission’. These talks were fantastic and I would encourage everyone, young or not so young, to download the talks from the RPCI website and listen to them. They were very challenging, encouraging us to take a whole new attitude to the lost, to mission and to how we can get involved. On the Sabbath evening Rev. Nigel Agnew preached on Apologetics; then on the Wednesday evening Mr David Kennedy delivered an instructive
seminar on pubbing and clubbing which again I’d encourage any young person of about 16 or over to listen to. As for the rest of the week, it was truly action-packed. With activities ranging from Chip’s Challenge to an Olympic Sports Day, we always seemed to be running around. On our day out this year we returned to Todd’s Leap, which included various outdoor pursuits and the ‘gentle’ persuasion of several campers into conquering their fear of heights. New this year was the exciting technology of Segways which were hired out for Thursday afternoon. The evening activities were just as enjoyable, commencing with Icebreakers on Saturday, whilst there was a game show on Tuesday
which involved several varied renditions of the Queen’s Jubilee song. Then on Thursday came the much anticipated Camp Concert, which, with its abundance of talent, was quite magnificent. The party on Friday evening brought the week to a fitting conclusion, with dancing and games enjoyed by all. This year once again, Stanley and Ruth rallied their squad of cooks who worked up a tremendous amount of food, ensuring that noone was left unsatisfied. So, yet again, camp exceeded all expectations and was greatly appreciated by all. Camp reunion can’t come quickly Peter Neilly enough! Gateway CF
SO FAR IN OUR STUDY on the theme of Guidance we have seen that God clearly promises that He will make His way known. He promises to lead and to guide us. This promise of guidance does not, however, free us from responsibility as we look to God to lead and guide. We do not simply ‘Let go and let God’ as some would suggest. We have already seen that, as we seek guidance for the major decisions in life, we are to be earnest in our praying, asking God to show us His ways and to lead us. We are also to rid ourselves of any wrong motives which may shape how we ‘feel’ guided. We can come to God for guidance but deep down our minds are already made up. How then does God guide us? What means does He use to direct our thinking and to help us make decisions? In this article I want to mention two more steps to guidance which will help us to discern God’s will for our lives. Searching the Scriptures Is it true to say that the Bible has something to say about every big decision which we have to make in life? If we are seeking guidance on a potential relationship or on a job or a course of study, can we expect to find answers in the pages of the Bible? Well yes, we can. The Bible has much to say about the sort of person whom it would be suitable to date, just as it contains many principles about how we are to use our time, money and gifts to God’s
the messenger | September- October 2012
glory. We can’t expect to find the exact name of a person to marry or a university to attend, but we will find a lot of help in knowing what sort of person to marry and what priorities we should have in looking for a place of study or work. As we study God’s Word we will see many examples of men and women of God who made God-honouring decisions in their lives as well as many who made foolish and disobedient decisions. We can imitate characters such as Daniel, Joseph, Esther and Nehemiah and learn to avoid the mistakes made by such people as Jonah, Peter and Lot. Books such as Proverbs are
God promises to point us in the right way and his principal way of doing this is as we commit ourselves to regular study of His Word.
full of practical advice for everyday situations and decisions and should be read regularly and often by those who are serious about seeking God’s will. (I heartily recommend ‘A Proverbs Driven Life’ by Anthony Selvaggio of the RPCNA.) The psalmist prays in Psalm 25: ‘Lead me in your truth and teach me.’ This is a prayer for God to guide and to instruct through His Word, and so we can be confident that He
will do this as we come humbly and expectantly. Psalm 25 goes on to promise that ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.’ In verses 8 and 12 of the same Psalm David says that God will ‘instruct’; literally shoot like an arrow or point in a particular direction. God promises to point us in the right way and His principal way of doing this is as we commit ourselves to regular study of His Word. Seeking advice from others God does not call us to live the Christian life in isolation, cut off from other believers. He places us within a community of believers, the Church, and often blesses us with older, wiser and more mature believers who help us to grow in our Christian life. There are times when, even after much prayer and searching of the Scriptures, we are still not sure of God’s will in a certain decision and so God has given us such people to help us in our discerning of God’s will. We should seek out people who know us well, who will give impartial advice and who will not be afraid to tell us things which we may not want to hear. It would be easy to seek advice from people whom we know will endorse a decision which we have already made. It is much wiser, however, to seek the counsel of one who will not simply say what we want to hear. I once remember the shock of hearing my pastor
saying the complete opposite of what I wanted to hear when I spoke to him for advice on a matter of guidance. It turned out that he was right and that I had been making decisions based on what I wanted to do rather than genuinely seeking God’s will. It took the kind but blunt words of my pastor plus God’s direct intervention to make me see my error. So seek out those who will give you wise counsel knowing that ‘in the multitude of counselors there is safety.’ (Prov. 24:6). Having said all of this about the advice of others, there are a few warnings which should be added. 1) Sometimes those whom we ask for advice get it wrong. Even our parents can give bad advice. (I add here that we should always be ready
to listen to our parents’ views on big decisions.) And anyone who gives advice which clearly contradicts Scripture should be avoided like the plague. 2) Sometimes we want our friends and counsellors to make decisions for us. We prefer to dodge responsibility and let them make decisions for us and then blame them if things work out badly. If you have a decision to make then you must make it. God will guide you and others will advise you but you must decide. 3) Even with earnest prayer, a sincere heart, careful study of the Word and careful consideration of the counsel of others, we still can make poor decisions. We are less
likely to do so but it still can happen. J.I. Packer has words to encourage us when this happens: ‘If God restored David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, and Peter after his threefold denial of Christ, we should have no doubt that He can and will restore Christians who err through making honest mistakes about His guidance.’ In the next and final article on this theme, we will consider the importance of trusting God as we make decisions, God’s sovereign overruling in our decisions and the peace which we can know as we seek to do His will.
Andrew Lytle Nantes
Psalm 5 Help, Lord A TWENTY-FOUR YEAR old student walks into a crowded Colorado cinema and sprays the unsuspecting audience with automatic gunfire, killing twelve and wounding fifty-eight. In Jos, a crazed suicide bomber saunters up to a packed church of expectant worshippers and detonates his deadly stash killing twelve. Our own ‘civilised’ government permits the murder of over 200,000 infants in their mothers’ womb every year. I don’t know how you classify these activities but it seems the term wicked fits the bill. David’s words in verse 9 appear appropriate, ‘their inmost self is destruction’. Psalm 5 is the Christian response to living in the midst of wickedness. It’s a simple response, HELP, LORD, ‘Give attention to the
sound of my cry, my King and my God.’ Our knees are the only safe place when the wicked rage. Calling to the God who hates wickedness and one day will sort it all (v4-6) is the only sensible option. David doesn’t waste his time ruminating over likely reasons or spouting philosophically about why bad things happen to good people. Neither does he lose faith, ‘Why are all these mad men allowed such free rein?’ but fills his mind with what he knows about God; ‘You hate all evildoers’ (v5), ‘You bless the righteous O LORD’ (v12). David realised that the atrocities he sees committed are against God, ‘they have rebelled against you’ (v10), and pleads, ‘Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their own transgressions cast
them out.' Yes, you heard him rightly. LORD, sort it! There is no need to be shy or embarrassed about these ‘cursings’ or to resort to a C.S.Lewis-styled editing job. We should be ticked off, in a sanctified way, by the ways of the wicked. We should be stirred for the glory of God to pray with holy fire in our bellies, Lord, help; do something about this carnage. Yes, we are to pray for our enemies, but don’t forget that Jesus told us also to pray that His kingdom would come. Oh and while we ask that, if God won’t convert His enemies, He will crush them, don’t be smug. It is only because of His ‘steadfast love’ (v7) that we are no longer His enemies. It is only because our Saviour willingly bore our guilt that we can go free. David McCullough, Dromore RPC messenger.rpc.org
The Gift Of Healing MANY PENTESCOSTAL AND Charismatic Christians claim to possess the miraculous gift of healing. One can understand how appealing this is in a world full of sickness. John MacArthur, who does not believe that such gifts are for today, nevertheless admits, “If I could choose one spiritual gift beyond the ones given to me, I would ask for the gift of healing. On innumerable occasions I have wished I could heal. I have stood with weeping parents in a hospital room watching a precious child die of leukaemia. I have prayed with a dear friend as inoperable cancer ate at his insides… I have seen babies born with heartrending deformities. I have helped people learn to cope with amputations and other tragic losses. And through it all, I have wished I could heal people with a word, with a touch, with a command, but I cannot.” Anyone with a caring heart can relate to such feelings but that does not mean that we should rush onto the healing bandwagon. Let us consider three important questions:-
1. WHAT ABOUT THE “IMPRESSIVE” CLAIMS MADE BY THOSE WHO SAY THAT HEALING GIFTS ARE FOR TODAY? the messenger | September- October 2012
Loud boasts are often heard from those who claim to possess the gift of miraculous healing. This might lead one to think that there is a lot of evidence to support the claims that these “healers” make. However, after a careful scrutiny of such “evidence”, MacArthur concludes that it only amounts to “conjecture or subjective opinion”, at best. And there have, of course, been not a few notorious cases where the healing claims have been exposed as fraudulent. It might be objected in response to this, “Surely thousands upon thousands of intelligent, well-meaning people continue to go to healing services expecting to be healed.” How can one account for this? It needs to be recognised that desperation often accompanies disease. Sickness can lead people to do frantic, irrational things that they normally wouldn’t do.
2. WHAT ABOUT THE BIBLICAL EVIDENCE THAT SEEMINGLY SUPPORTS THE EXISTENCE OF HEALING GIFTS? Charismatic believers will say to us, “Didn’t Jesus and the apostles heal in the same way that we can today?” It is wonderfully true that Jesus and the apostles exercised
miraculous gifts of healing but the characteristics of their healing ministry need to be contrasted with the kind of healing being promoted nowadays. MacArthur notices six striking contrasts between the healing performed by Jesus and his apostles and the “healings” being carried out today. These are:1. Jesus and the apostles healed with a word or touch. There were no theatricals such as healers often engage in today (Matthew 8 and Acts 9 v 32-35). 2. Jesus and the apostles healed instantly. Today people often say, “I’ve been healed and I’m getting better.” Jesus and His apostles never did such gradual healing – it was immediate and unmistakeably miraculous. (Mark 5 v 29 and Acts 3 v 1-8). 3. They healed totally. It was not a case just of a major or some improvement which is often all that many claim to have received nowadays. (Luke 4 v 39 and Acts 9 v 34). 4. They healed everyone they attempted to heal. Unlike healers today, they did not leave long lines of disappointed people. (Luke 4 v 40 and Acts 5 v 12-16).
5. They healed difficult cases, not just superficial or difficult-todiagnose complaints. Blind eyes were opened and withered hands restored. 6. They raised the dead (Luke 7 v 11-16 and Acts 9 v 36-42). People who promote healing gifts today do not spend much time in funeral parlours or cemeteries and the reason is obvious!! In addition to the above contrasts, one needs to consider the vital question of the special divine purpose that lay behind the prevalence of miraculous healing gifts in the New Testament times. MacArthur demonstrates decisively that such gifts were not intended as a permanent way of keeping the Christian community healthy. They were signs to unbelievers to convince them that the Gospel was true. Once the Word of God was complete, such signs were no longer needed.
3. SHOULD WE NOT THEN EXPECT GOD TO HEAL AT ALL TODAY? It would be very wrong to conclude from the fact that because no-one possesses the miraculous gift of healing any more that therefore no hope of divine healing exists for the sick. The gift of healing is gone but God does continue to heal today. There are three reasons why we should expect this to be the case. Firstly, we can expect such healing because of who God is. Look at how the Lord describes Himself in Exodus 15 v 26 – “I am the Lord your healer.” Secondly, we can expect such healing because God has promised to answer the prayers of His people in accordance with His sovereign will. Look at John 16 v 24 and I John 5 v 14. If we ask for healing, and it is according to His will, He will heal us.
In this series Peter Loughridge will help us decipher Christian jargon.
A series by peter loughridge Edinburgh rpcs
Where does it come from? Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive
Thirdly, think of God’s compassion toward the sick as seen most clearly in the attitude of Jesus. If you want to know what God thinks about human disease and infirmity, look at how Jesus showed compassion to the sick. He was not unmoved by their suffering and He often chose to heal them. And, of course, we are assured that our merciful God will ultimately deliver His people from all disease and from death itself – there will be no sickness or pain in Heaven! In conclusion, it may be said that, although the healing gifts are not possessed by anyone today, no matter how loud the claims made by some may be, God still heals in His own time, by His own means, for His own glory, and in accordance with His wise and sovereign will.
Raymond Blair Limavady RPC
Jargon When is this phrase used? “Throne of grace” is probably most often used in connection with prayer. Someone might use it as they speak to God in prayer (e.g. ‘As we approach your throne of grace, Lord, we ask ...’) or it might be used when we pray together in church (e.g. ‘Let us now come before the throne of grace in prayer’).
mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. What does it mean? Quite simply ‘throne’ reminds us that we’re coming before a king. ‘Grace’ is God’s undeserved goodness to us. When we pray, we’re speaking to a King ... and our King is kind!
it? It’s in the Bible so it’s good to use! In one simple phrase we’re helpfully
to help clarify both useful biblical terms and other more thoughtless phrases.
reminded of two important facts about prayer: we’re coming before the throne of a glorious Lord; but it’s a throne of undeserved goodness too because He is a gracious Saviour. But we should also be careful. Like many of the phrases we’ll see in this series, we need to guard against using them thoughtlessly. We also need to be careful in overusing (without explanation) ‘church speak’ that will confuse and exclude unbelievers and newcomers.
The God Particle A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, you may have seen the announcement that scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research(CERN) have confirmed the existence of Higgs boson, also referred to as "the God particle". You might have wondered what on earth it is, why it has that name, and what does its discovery mean to us as Christians. The ancient Greeks were the first people to suggest that the world is made up of tiny pieces called atoms (from the Greek meaning "cannot be cut"). Around a hundred years ago, scientists started constructing experiments that proved that the Greeks were wrong, and that there are particles even smaller than atoms. Most of an atom is actually empty space. It's easy enough to separate the outermost, charged particles called electrons from the rest of the atom (that's where electrical charge comes from - rub a balloon on your clothes and you're removing electrons from their parent atoms). That leaves the central nucleus of the atom, made up of protons and neutrons. The protons and neutrons themselves turned out to be made up from yet more tiny particles, called quarks. As far as anyone knows, these quarks are not made up from still smaller particles, so they are known as "elementary particles". You can only observe elementary particles when they have high energy, that is, when they are moving very fast. In order to be able to produce and observe the the messenger | September- October 2012
elementary particles, physicists have built particle accelerators or "colliders" where they can make the particles travel very fast, collide with each other and break down and react to form other types of particle. The Large Hadron Collider, in a giant tunnel near Geneva, is currently the largest accelerator in the world. (When they make a bigger one, they'll call it the Very Large Hadron Collider. Physicists sometimes aren't great at naming things.) Over the years, many types of composite particles and around 60 elementary particles have been discovered, in a bewildering variety of sizes, charges, and other properties. Some of the elementary particles are what we normally think of as matter: they have mass, and they can't move faster than the speed of light. Others are what are known as "field mediators": they are the smallest possible unit of a particular type of energy field. (This is called a "quantum"; so now you know what "quantum physics" refers to.) For example, a quantum, or the smallest possible amount of light, is called a photon. To try to fit all of these together, scientists proposed what is known as the Standard Model, a mathematical description of the elementary particles and the forces that interact with them. This is where the Higgs boson comes in. Bosons are another name for the field mediators, and Higgs comes from a physicist called Peter Higgs who originally predicted its discovery. He calculated that, if the
Standard Model is correct, there should exist a massive (relatively speaking - it's still tiny!) boson with certain properties. If such a particle were found not to exist, then the Standard Model would be contradicted and would have to be thrown out. The Higgs is known as "the God particle" because it is so fundamental to today's theories of physics, although many scientists dislike the nickname as they feel it is over the top, and may be offensive to religious people. The teams of scientists at CERN have managed to observe a particle that is similar to what Higgs predicted. Therefore, their experiments support the Standard Model. The Higgs' nickname is rather foolish. It's a subatomic particle, it did not create the universe, and it's certainly not something we should worship. If it turned out that it does not exist after all, the only consequence would be that we would need to form a new mathematical model to describe the universe. Instead, the subatomic world, in all its elegance and complexity, is a part of God’s creation, even though we can’t experience it directly. Just as on the astronomical scale, ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’, t he bos o ns , photons, quarks and their interactions reflect God’s power in creation. Ruth Steen Dromore RPC
Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert BOOK REVIEW (Crown and Covenant, 2012)
Stephen Steele Faughan RPC
BOOK REVIEW £5 (Covenanter Bookshop)
fostering, adoption, RP worship, parenting, homeschooling and much more. It is an absolutely fascinating page-turner of a book, not least as it features many people you may well have met. Nor did Butterfield lose her critical faculties when she became a Christian - some of her critiques of attitudes she has encountered from Christians may be close to the bone, yet they are hard to argue with. You may writhe uncomfortably at times like the Geneva College chapel audience did when she told them that the reason why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce is that Christians act as if marriage redeems sin - when that's something that only Jesus can do. Her take on homeschooling is also fascinating. While she ultimately embraced it as her preferred educational option, her critique of much of American Christian homeschooling culture is also intriguing. The stories of some of her and her husband's fostering and adoption experiences range from heart-warming to heartbreaking. I bought this book on my
last day in America, started reading it on the way to the airport and had it finished by the time we got home. I would be fairly confident that many others would find it similarly unputdownable. It's absolutely absorbing - buy a box and give one to all your friends!
As Christians, we’re called to be different—but sometimes we can be tempted to think that life would be easier, or more fun, if we just fitted in with everyone else. Vaughan Roberts reminds us that we are supposed to stand out from the rest of the world in how we think and act and speak; and in short, selfcontained chapters he describes some of the aspects of our lives where this can be shown.
content? When your friends say it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it makes you happy—are you holy? When the media insists that everyone’s beliefs are equally valid, or your teachers are telling you that believing anything at all is stupid— do you have certainty?
When everyone else is obsessed with getting more new clothes, a better phone, an iPad—are you
GET THE BOOK
What type of person do you think is least likely to walk into an RP Church? Whatever criteria you draw up, Dr Rosaria Champagne would have been likely to tick most of the boxes. When she walked through the door of Syracuse RP Church in New York state in 1999 (after two years of weekly visits with Pastor Ken Smith and his wife Floy) she was a feminist, an associate professor at Syracuse University, teaching in one of the top Women's Studies departments in America, and being recruited by other universities to advance radical leftist ideologies. Her speciality was Queer Theory (a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies), and she was in a relationship with another woman. Yet a few months after that first visit to church her life was, as she puts it, 'train wrecked' - she was converted. Today she is an RP minister's wife and they have four adopted children. This book is the story of her journey - not just telling the story of her conversion and its huge impact on every part of her life, but also touching on homosexuality, racism,
Available for £8.50 from the Covenanter Bookshop
Roberts calls us to live out these distinctives, but more importantly, he encourages us to keep looking to Christ, the reason that we are different. Naomi Steen, Dromore RPC messenger.rpc.org
the messenger | September- October 2012