MONTHLY MAGAZINE OF THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND FEBRUARY 2018 • £1.50
Editor • Rev. David A Robertson The Editor, The Record, St Peter’s Free Church, 4 St Peter Street, Dundee, DD1 4JJ 07825748752 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Record • ISSN 2042-2970 Published • The Record is produced by The Free Church of Scotland, Free Church Offices, 15 North Bank Street, The Mound, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS 0131 226 5286 email@example.com
Missions News • Mrs Sarah Johnson Free Church Offices, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of the church's activities, latest news and people to contact are all available on the church's website: www.freechurch.org
WFM Editor • Sarah Cumming 31 Doune Park, Dalgety Bay, KY11 9LX email@example.com
Follow us on: Twitter @The_FC_Record and on Tumblr freechurchrecord.tumbler.com Advertising • Anyone wishing to advertise in The Record should contact the editor.
Gaelic Editor • Janet MacPhail 24 North Bragar, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9DA 01851 710354
For Subscriptions • The annual subscription price for The Record is £30. Cheques should be made payable to: Free Church of Scotland. Please contact the offices for overseas subscription costs.
Seminary News • Rev. Thomas Davis Free Church Manse, Carloway, Isle of Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
For the visually impaired: Please contact Norman Kennedy on 01463 240192 for details of how to obtain The Record in an audio version.
Prayer Diary • Mrs Mairi Macdonald email@example.com Copy Editor • Dayspring MacLeod
The Free Church of Scotland is a registered charity, SC012925
Women for Mission is a registered charity, SC03898
Cover: ©littleny/Adobe Stock
Design & Layout • Fin Macrae@ DUFI Art www.dufi-art.com
WELCOME TO THE FEBRUARY RECORD
his month we reflect on what it is to be the church
– not just the Free Church but also re-planting a Baptist church in Hawick, church planting in Nepal, worship in Korea. There is also testimony from a famous footballer and an unknown alcoholic. We look at how the Gospel impacts culture whether through a Canadian clinical psychologist or the Secularists seeking to impose their values on Lewis! We continue our studies in Ecclesiastes and have a beautiful translation of Psalm 84 from the best poet in the English language. The health of the church is dependent on the quality of our discipleship and the quality of our elders. David Meredith and Robin Sydserff guide us in our thinking about these. It is also dependent on the health and training of our ministers – Gordon Matheson reports on the in-service training. One item of concern to some of us is the decline of the evening service to the status of an optional extra. Crawford Mackenzie shares his testimony of why the evening service matters. Take your time — read, think, pray and enjoy. We are currently working on making The Record available online for subscribers. More details will follow next month. Finally next month we hope to look at the important issue of the NHS in Scotland…if you have any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions — get them in soon. And if you want to comment on this months — feel free! • Yours in Christ
DOES THE FREE CHURCH HAVE A FUTURE
DISCIPLES, NOT DECISIONS David Meredith
SECULARISTS AND THE SABBATH
OBITUARIES: CYRILLE REGIS Christians In Sport
FREE CHURCH NEWS: Hawick Baptist Church, In-Service Training, Fortrose New Building
THE BOSS Murdo Murchison
MY NAME IS KEN AND I AM AN ALCOHOLIC
ECCLESIASTES: PLEASURE, LAUGHTER, WORK AND WEALTH WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
RECLAIMING DIVERSITY Dayspring MacLeod
PRAYING FOR ETS 2018 Thomas Davis
NEPAL TRIP FOR 2018 Derek Lamont
TRAINING ELDERS Robin Sydserff
LETTER FROM SOUTH KOREA Callum Bowsie
BOOKENDS Crawford Mackenzie
POETRY PAGE John Milton
GAELIC Janet MacPhail
BOOK REVIEW 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos
POST TENEBRAS VOX Catriona Murray
DOES THE FR HAVE A FUTU W
As I reflected on this the news came through of the death of our dear brother and Free Church legend, Rev. Kenny MacDonald. Thinking about his friendship, ministry and guidance made me realise that his life is a great example of what we need if we are to have a future. We will have a full obituary in a later edition of The Record but perhaps these personal remembrances will be helpful.
e know that the church of jesus christ
will ultimately be victorious. The gates of Hell shall not prevail. The Bridegroom will have his bride. But that does not guarantee that any particular church will not have its lampstand removed. So whilst we rejoice at the growth of the church throughout the world today and its ultimate triumph at the consummation of all things, we are right to be concerned about the state of the church in Scotland. Last month we lamented the lamentable decline in the Church of Scotland, but this month we need to reflect on the Free Church. As we entered the 21st century it was my belief that after a decade of stupidity and infighting we were in a state of terminal decline, unable to relate to the culture around us, and unable to recognise, never mind deal with, the sin and problems within. We were standing on the edge of a cliff and about to go over. It was difficult to see how things could be turned around. But the Lord had mercy and answered our prayers. As we near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the Free Church is growing, new churches are being started, our youth conferences are packed out, Edinburgh Theological Seminary is thriving and there is a renewed and healthy optimism. We have turned round and moved away from the cliff edge, but we have yet to see to see the kind of development that would make a real impact on Scotland. And it would be all too easy for us to turn back. I see some disturbing signs — there are those who are frustrated and angry and who hanker after a past or future nirvana. To them we are not ‘Reformed’ enough and they long for greater doctrinal purity. There are others who go almost the opposite direction — they want a broader evangelical church without Reformed theology at its very heart. There are others who think that moving from an early 20th-century Highland Free Church to a 1950s style ‘salvationist’ one is contemporary! Get them in, get them converted at all costs and then things will be okay. My fear is that, whilst holding to the fundamentals of the Gospel, we are in danger of undermining it by not being radical enough in terms of discipleship. The gospel invitation is still ‘come, die’. Most of all I am concerned about the triple diseases of complacency, insularity and pride.
Be Determined — As I was heading into the then Free Church College for my first year as a student, Kenny put his arm round me and, with a robust turn of phrase that would have gladdened Luther’s heart, told me not to let myself be ground down by people. The Christian life in general, and Christian ministry in particular, is a battle. And you need determination to see it through. As a denomination we must stay the course, whatever the cultural climate, and be determined never to give up on what Christ has called us to. Man Up — If I were to describe anyone as the ‘antisnowflake’ it would be Kenny. He once told us that if you can’t preach seven times on a Sunday you shouldn’t be in the ministry! Another time we were on a mission in Livingston and playing football against some local boys. A couple of skinheads decided that they would get ‘the old man’ (Kenny was in his 50’s then). As they attempted to ‘sandwich’ him, he stuck out his elbows and floored them both! ‘You can’t do that,’ they protested, ‘you’re a minister.’ ‘What are you,’ he replied, ‘men or mice?!’ There is a directness that comes from anger, frustration and weakness. That was not Kenny’s way and it should not be ours. Rather we need the directness that comes from the strength and meekness of Christ. I suspect that we are fonder of church politics than we are of real Christlike confrontation. Gossip is so much easier than speaking the wounds of a friend. Be Compassionate — A commitment to biblical truth and fighting the good fight should make us more compassionate, not less. I remember being taught this by Kenny one Sunday at football camp. We didn’t play football on the Lord’s Day and, whilst it was a great time of worship and relaxation, by the time it got to the evening, all that testosterone meant that the boys were pretty hyper and unlikely to go to sleep. We were trying to settle them down at midnight when in came Kenny
REE CHURCH URE? BY THE EDITOR
wearing his tracksuit and blowing his whistle. It was midnight, the Sabbath was over, and so Kenny took them to the gym for a quick game! Some may regard that as legalistic; I regarded it as principled and compassionate. Would that we all held our principles with such concern for others! Seek the Lost — Kenny had a real love for the lost. He didn’t just believe that people were lost without Christ because it was in a statement of doctrine. He felt it. A former member of St Peter’s wrote me on hearing of Kenny’s death, ‘I remember this chap preaching once at St Peter’s in Dundee years ago, his eyes streaming with tears as he preached with such passion.’ When new to the Free Church I was in a car with a Free Church minister who, as we passed the impressive Rosskeen building, gestured and said somewhat contemptuously, ‘That’s the church where anyone can get in.’ In his jealously and pettiness he was wrong. It was a church where anyone was welcome, but not just welcome, sought. Kenny’s passion was not that they just come to church and add to the numbers, but that they came to Christ and are changed. It’s that kind of passion that we need. Love your Family — Speaking of the lost, how can I forget the day that we were playing football on the Meadows in Edinburgh (as we often did with Kenny before heading up to his and Reta’s for some lunch) when word came through that their daughter Alison was missing in India. My own children were greatly impacted by praying for Alison for years. We saw something of the heartache and pain as the father searched for the lost child. The love we have for our families should be enhanced, not diminished, by our love for Christ and his Church. Sometimes there are those who are so caught up in ‘ministry’ that they forget their home is a mini-church and their responsibility begins there. One thing that Kenny taught me about bringing up children is that we should focus on the main things and not the trivial. I observed the love between Kenny and Reta and their children — it was a far better lesson than I learned from any how-to manual on family life! The Free Church needs more godly, loving families. Be Hospitable — If anyone had an excuse not to have an open home and provide hospitality, Kenny and Reta did. But despite all their difficulties, their home was as open
and hospitable as any I have ever experienced. Again, as a Church we need to follow their example. Most people need human face-to-face interaction. That is how most people will hear and see the gospel in action. Be Humble — Kenny was asked by a BBC journalist about his conviction that Alison was alive, a conviction he believed was from the Lord. What if he was wrong and Alison was found dead – would that shake his faith in God? ‘No,’ came the reply, ‘it would just mean I had got it wrong.’ It was that humble trust in the goodness and absolute trustworthiness of God which marked Kenny out, and should mark us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 •
©aleksandar nakovski/Adobe Stock
We are a church at a crossroads. In a rapidly changing society there is a temptation to either hunker down or be satisfied that we are surviving and maintaining things. We can be too scared to face up to the realities of our weaknesses and instead resort to a fearful traditionalism or a pathetic acceptance of the status quo. I remember Kenny after retirement being almost physically blind but having great spiritual insight, being passionate about the state of his local church – not because he had a complaining spirit, but because he cared about lost souls and he cared about the glory of Christ. We need that realism, strength, passion, compassion and determination. The question is whether we recognise that we ‘are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’ (Revelation 3:17) and will seek the ‘gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.’ ‘Kenny Sammy’ has finished the race and is now victoriously seated with Christ on the throne. Let those of us who remain in the race remember his example and hear the Word of the Lord:
Disciples, Not Decisions BY REV. DAVID MEREDITH
logans stick in your mind .
People of a certain age will remember the injunction to ‘go to work on an egg’. The year was 1981, the venue Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall. The charismatic Argentinian evangelist Luis Palau had come to town for a campaign. Counsellors were recruited under the banner of ‘Disciples, not decisions’. This winsome summary of ministry philosophy won the hearts and prayers of many to Palau.
the denomination we see women and men filled with the Spirit, displaying the fruit of that Spirit and growing in grace and godliness. We observe some local congregations flourishing as models of consistent health and vitality. As we look for one factor that brings health, we find it in the concept of discipleship. Our Lord calls us as a matter of first importance to make disciples. DEFINITION Let me offer a definition of discipleship: Disciplemaking is an intentional process of evangelising non-Christians, establishing believers in the faith and equipping Christians to spread the gospel so that the number of disciples will increase. The picture is of people flourishing in their faith as they follow Jesus. Discipleship results in believers who are strongly rooted in their faith, living holy and confident lives, with a natural capacity to share the gospel with others. There are several enemies which act as tourniquets to the development of discipleship in our local churches.
TOO MUCH GOSPEL? Mission is about much more than conversion. The Lord’s last command was not to make converts; his definition of evangelism was to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). One of our retired ministers said to a younger colleague, ‘I sometimes wonder if we have had too much gospel in our preaching.’ That statement should be followed by the suggestion: Discuss. If the gospel is about the announcement of God’s plan of redemption, and if it includes both description and commendation of the beauty of the Lord Jesus, then we can never have enough. Preaching the gospel is regularly characterised by a stark minimalism geared at getting people across the line. We cannot see the Kingdom of God unless we are born again, but it would be a poor mother who was satisfied by birth alone. The baby is not left at the maternity unit, but is brought home and loved, fed, educated and cherished until and beyond adulthood. Honesty demands that we ask searching questions about our church culture and recent history. God seems to move in a powerful way, and a significant cohort profess experience of the new birth. Fifteen years on we see that many have gone back and some have turned into major-league cynics. Churches seem to be bursting at the seams during one particular ministry but now appear to be a shadow of their former selves. Young people devour the Word at camps but find their home churches inadequate to nurture their new-found faith. This is not the whole story. Throughout
THE POISON OF PASSIVITY Passivity is a poison which is tolerated too easily. Instead of a culture of engagement we have bought into a passive model of church where we go to a building and receive. The discipleship boxes are ticked if we attend twice on a Sunday and clock in to a highly passive prayer meeting. Of course, there is everything right about attending Sunday worship, and we love the concept of the family of God in a local context gathered to pray together. It is not for nothing that these meetings are known as ‘the means of grace’. Non-engagement is always easier in the shortterm. In our privatised culture it is challenging to act upon the ‘one anothers’ of the New Testament. There 59 ‘one another’ statements in the Bible, which mean 59 injunctions to do something towards another person. We can safely say that a
number of the ‘one another’ statements need to be adapted to our local cultures, unless mutual feet-washing becomes a ‘thing’. Patience, forgiveness, the avoidance of biting and devouring and many more cannot be done by people who merely sit in rows three times a week and listen to a man speaking from behind a very large wooden structure. Discipleship cannot be done by proxy. Paul speaks of the culture of discipleship in one of the churches he was connected with in these terms: ‘…so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well (1 Thessalonians 2:8).’ Shared lives at an entry level may look like getting out of the rows at the prayer meeting and sitting round a table with six other sisters and brothers to pray, share and perhaps even laugh and cry together. Does this sound quite threatening and even scary? It does, because it is. It may look like joining other people from the church on a regular basis for a meal and sharing our lives together. The old gatherings had some value, but many found them like watching a table tennis match as two sages pinged theological balls between each other. The women, the shy, the doubters, the guilty and the perplexed simply had to watch. Discipleship is a community project if it is to work in local churches. Sin is pervasive and more powerful than we can ever imagine. The tantalising allure of power is always seductive, and those in church leadership have the opportunity to use or abuse that power. Church leaders in the shape of pastor-teachers are called to empower God’s people for ‘works of service, so that the whole body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12,13).’ SO WHAT? What now? We are aware of the limited power of an article, but we also see potential in our modest denominational magazine, The Record. It is a record, something is written down, and if we have a note of an idea or of suggestions we can use that as a basis for a discussion. At a recent gathering of active ministers we discussed the need to create cultures of discipleship in our local congregations. During that discussion various suggestions surfaced. Could some of them be explored in your context? Would your church culture allow a discussion of this article at a Session? Do we have such a safe place that a mid-week group could spend a profitable hour taking it apart? MENTORS Mentorship is not simply a short-term fashion. The ultimate mentor was the Lord Jesus, who taught in word and in action. He taught the disciples how to pray after they had asked him, and after he washed his disciples’ feet he said, ‘I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:15).’ Mentorship leads to a high level of discipleship because it leads to teaching, friendship and accountability, all elements of a robust discipleship mindset. People say that this happens naturally; trust us, it doesn’t. Intentionality is necessary, if it’s not organised it just will not happen. CULTURE Culture is a work which comes up time and time again. It simply means ‘the way we do things’. Discipleship emerges from a culture of permission where it is recognised that the leadership are not micromanagers whose hand is upon every church sparrow. God knows about every hair on our head; we don’t have to. PRAYER Prayer is inextricably connected to discipleship. As we examine the prayer culture in our congregations we look to having more interactive prayer times. Prayer is no longer a set piece but a genuine bearing of one another’s burdens as we speak to our heavenly Father and leave our cares and concerns in his wise hands. A lively prayer culture is the crossroads for any church with a high level of discipleship. It is at our prayer times that we receive instructions and share strategies for our mission of making even more disciples. We certainly speak to our Maker and Saviour in the place of prayer, but we also speak to each other and in some ways bear one another’s burdens. FOLLOW ME I think of that enigmatic and flawed disciple, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who connected grace with discipleship. ‘Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.’ The last word goes to our perfect mentor. ‘Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him (Matthew 4: 19,20).’ •
SECULARISTS AND THE SABBATH
n september of last year, An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway announced its intention to trial Sunday opening. There was a mixed reaction to this news, and some disquiet when it gradually emerged that the consultation exercise carried out by the centre’s management had been less than transparent or comprehensive. Following some confusion, to say nothing of opposition, from the wider community, An Lanntair issued a press release stating its intention to temporarily shelve the plan, whilst retaining a ‘commitment’ to such a trial at some future date. Quietly, and without further consultation, An Lanntair subsequently decided to open on one Sunday afternoon each month in January, February and March as a ‘trial’. Only the cinema would be available, in addition to limited refreshments and unspecified art-related activities. The story erupted two weeks ago, however, when it was covered first by local and then, inevitably, national media. Rev. James Maciver, minister of Stornoway Free Church, expressed regret that such a scheme was going ahead with no opportunity for the church or wider community to be involved in any consultation exercise. He added, ‘We want An Lanntair to be the centre of excellence it has the potential to be. That entails reflecting and promoting the local culture, not introducing alien concepts which contradict it under the mantra of trying to establish what the local culture is.’ Western Isles Secular Society — a mainly online pressure group — is wholeheartedly in support of the move by An Lanntair, as it is entirely consistent with WISS’s own agenda. The organisation is staunchly opposed to what it calls ‘church privilege’ and has shown itself eager to support any organisation or business prepared to strike a blow against the Lord’s Day as it is still observed in Lewis. Typical of the argument used by the local secularists is that churchgoers do not have to visit An Lanntair on Sundays if they do not wish to. This is reminiscent of the case put forward by campaigners for a Sunday ferry service, then later for flights and — unsuccessfully — the local swimming pool. Those who oppose any further moves towards Sunday opening in Stornoway feel that their views are being discounted and that there is a creeping secularist agenda being driven through, regardless of strong opposition.
There has been a fevered debate around these issues on social media. The stance of WISS is characterised by a blatant ignorance of what Christianity is, and a persistent failure to grasp that its demands can never be sanctioned by local churches. In their antipathy towards Christians, the members of WISS see this as intransigence and bullying. Meanwhile, WISS continues to make unsubstantiated claims against local churches, varying from accusations that they are in a conspiracy with the local authority and Masonic Lodge, to inferences that they are intimidating and bullying secularists who live on the island. Local bloggers — including some not usually supportive of the Christian viewpoint regarding the Lord’s Day — have unanimously criticised the arts centre’s decision as being insensitive to local tradition and sensibilities. One feature of the anti-Christian campaign being waged — ostensibly — by the Western Isles Secular Society is that it takes much of its direction from representatives of national secular organisations. They have written quite extensively about Lewis in recent times, mainly about An Lanntair, but also the campaign to open the council-run swimming pool on Sundays and the decision by the head of the Stornoway Primary School to drop both the Lord’s Prayer and grace before meals from the school day. When challenged, WISS persistently denies pursuing an anti-Christian agenda. They are, nonetheless, waging a relentless online campaign designed to polarise the debate between ‘progressive’ secularism and ‘regressive’ evangelicalism. There is quite a lot of anecdotal evidence, however, to suggest that the landscape is rather more nuanced, with many who do not profess any faith saying that they would prefer to retain the traditional Lewis Sabbath. Rev. James Maciver said, ‘It is undeniably the case that the Church, the gospel, and the sanctification of the Lord’s Day have had a long-standing place and respect in that culture. Recent comments show that many who are not members of any church appreciate the legacy of rest laid down by these values. To have these increasingly dismantled and replaced by a “freedom” to be more like communities which were once like our own, would be no less than cultural vandalism. I hope An Lanntair realise that such legacies, once lost, can never be recovered.’ •
© windy_ at Flikr
BY CATRIONA MURRAY
THE LATE CYRILLE REGIS (1958-2017) When Celtic Football club held a minute’s applause for the footballer Cyrille Regis before their Scottish Cup game with Brechin City, some may have wondered why. After all, this English footballer had no connection with the club. It was however a tribute to his standing in the game and his fight against racism. What many of the obituaries failed to note was that Cyrille was a committed Christian who did a great deal for Christians in Sport. They wrote this obituary for him.
e thank god for the life of former England footballer and Christians in Sport Trustee Cyrille Regis, who died yesterday at the age of 59. Cyrille was a legend of West Midlands football and best known as a centre forward for West Bromwich Albion and Coventry City.
sportspeople to consider their relationship with the God who gave them their talents. The man was a giant in his generation.’ Just the third black player to be capped by England, Cyrille was a pioneer in the fight against racism in football. He played 614 matches and scored 158 goals in a 19-year professional career, which also saw him make
Christians in Sport General Director Graham Daniels said: ‘Cyrille was an outstanding footballer, but much more importantly, an outstanding man. His courage as one of the first famous high-profile black footballers meant that he became a role model which has changed the canvas of professional football. His faith in Jesus Christ, which he arrived at after the death of his close friend Laurie Cunningham, became a fantastic encouragement to many elite
five appearances for England. Cyrille’s career highlights included winning the FA Cup with Coventry City in 1987, and scoring the goal of the season while playing for West Brom in 1981-2. He also had spells with Aston Villa and Wolves, which cemented his popularity in the region. It was the death in a car crash of his best friend and former teammate Laurie Cunningham in 1989 that prompted Cyrille to ask questions about faith. His search
for answers ultimately led to him becoming a Christian after what he described as ‘a real encounter with Jesus’. After Laurie’s death, Cyrille started attending church, and soon a local Baptist minister sent him a book called A New Dimension by Michael Green. Cyrille said: ‘As I’m reading this book, the penny drops. It really sinks in that Christ loves me. He died for me and he rose again from the dead and this awesome sense of peace comes over me.’ Cyrille soon became involved with and supported by Christians in Sport as he looked to live out his faith as a professional footballer. Following his retirement in 1996, he became a sports agent and remained passionate about sharing his story of faith. He said: ‘I meet people all the time, some famous, some not, who are all looking for hope and peace. I have learned that money cannot buy peace of mind, so I simply tell people how I found hope and peace in God. The great thing about it is that anyone can have the peace that I have, you just need to know God.’ A member of Renewal Christian Centre in Solihull, Cyrille was a keen advocate of Christians in Sport and joined our Board of Trustees in 2011. Cyrille was also the first interviewee when we launched the Christians in Sport podcast in 2016. On it he shared his story of faith and football with General Director Graham Daniels. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cyrille’s wife Julia and his family at this time. •
FREE CHURCH NEWS HAWICK BAPTIST CHURCH REV. MARTIN SMITH
inishing seminary is a wonderful feeling: you’ve made it through three years of study and examination, and alongside the sense of accomplishment, there’s a huge dollop of relief! But with the end of one chapter of life comes the start of a new one, which for me and my wife meant that, after four years training for ministry at Charlotte Chapel and ETS in Edinburgh, four months ago we moved to Hawick in the Scottish Borders. I’ve had a passion for the Borders for almost my entire Christian life, as I worked down here in my summer holidays during my first degree. During that time, I couldn’t get over the natural beauty of the area, a true hidden gem which I, like many, had grown up knowing nothing about. It struck me as a new Christian how clearly the countryside of the Borders declared the glory of God, but on finding out about the state of the gospel in the Borders I was equally struck by how few of its people joined in that praise as believers in the Lord Jesus.
destinations for 2018, but it should be on your list of top towns in Scotland to pray for. It’s the furthest south of the major border towns along the A7 from Edinburgh to Carlisle and has around 15,000 people living in the town itself with another couple of thousand living in surrounding villages and farms. Hawick is truly its own place, with a distinct accent and outlook, even compared to other border towns. Hawick, like most of Scotland, is a real mix of people socio-economically, but unlike the city, where groups
are separated into distinct districts, in a town nobody is hidden away. In Hawick everybody shares amenities; there is one high street and one set of shops for everybody, whether you own a country estate or live on a council estate. And whilst parts of Hawick have obvious social needs, the whole of Hawick and its surroundings shares in the same spiritual need. Whilst there are a few churches in Hawick, the reality is that the vast majority of people
The glaring need for church-strengthening, revitalisation and planting in the Borders was in my mind throughout seminary, so I spent lots of time pushing to see if there could be a root into ministry in this sadly overlooked district. In the providence of God an amazing opportunity opened up for me to join the team at Hawick Baptist Church, which gathers in the centre of the town. So after graduation from ETS and ordination at Charlotte Chapel, last September I was inducted to be the assistant pastor, alongside senior pastor George and youth worker Jacqui, who is currently doing Cornhill Bible training in Glasgow. Hawick might not be on your list of holiday
in the town don’t attend a Bible-believing, gospelcentred church.
That’s what drove us to come, and that’s what now occupies our lives, striving to make and mature disciples of the risen Jesus in Hawick (and, we pray, further afield). Our church has been so welcoming to us. We arrived knowing the last five years had seen some real growth, but that there was plenty of work ahead of us. On a Sunday we have around 60 in church, including a few babies, which we hope is just the start of more intergenerational growth.
been getting involved with our youth work, where we have a good number of unchurched teenagers who are engaging with God’s Word each week on a Thursday. Amazingly, over the last term a group of them have started coming to church nearly every Sunday, and one came to trust in Christ near the end of the term.
As a church we’d really value your prayers as we look to grow through God’s Word. We’ve been walking through Colossians on Sundays, which has been helpful for us so far. We’d also really value prayer as we seek to share Christ with others. Today we started running Christianity Explored in a café on the high street and were thrilled to have five ‘explorers’ who are all keen to find out more about Christ; please pray for each of them. For us as a family we’d value prayer as we continue to settle in a part of the world neither of us is from and where we don’t have many pre-existing friendships. Pray we’d make meaningful connections in the town through new-parent groups and through the high street, where we’re getting to know lots of faces and some names. •
There have been lots of reasons to give thanks to God since we arrived, not least the safe arrival of our first child, Carys, who arrived before the heaps of snow we’ve been stuck in with over the past week. As a church we have been really encouraged by a good number of new faces each Sunday, and by having over 100 different people in church over Christmas and Christmas Eve. One of the real highlights has
IN-SERVICE TRAINING REV. GORDON MATHESON
very year the Free Church runs an In-Service Training (IST) program for 25-30 pastors and other church workers. While it isn’t a fully fleshedout programme of continuous professional development (CPD), it is part of the toolkit we hope our ministers will use to grow. The programne runs on a three-year cycle, so a number of seminars on important contemporary themes can be accessed by most, if not all, of our ministers. The course is co-ordinated by David Court, minister of Christ Church Edinburgh, and Donald Macleod from Stornoway, who brings a wealth of experience from his time running CPD in education.
FRESH THINKING Probably the most obvious benefit of IST is allowing fresh ideas to be shared. A lot of that fresh thinking is built on our heritage. This year we had Prof. Donald Macleod talk about some benefits of having a Confession of Faith, and how the Westminster Confession superbly expresses pastoral theology. Dr James Eglington, an academic at the University of Edinburgh, spoke about the influence of 19th-century Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck on shaping preaching in the modern age. This year’s programme benefitted from a unifying theme: being and making good disciples. We need fresh thinking about how we can help Christians grow as disciples – e.g. as the supports of a more ‘Christian’ age are gone, we should question assumptions we’ve made about how people grow. David Meredith, the church’s Mission Director, led a provocative seminar on how we can lead our congregations to a culture of discipleship. Paul Clarke, minister at St Andrews Free Church, spoke about reflecting on what we do as congregations, as elders and as individuals, hopefully so that we will learn to adapt.
This year’s most challenging piece of fresh thinking was around the theme of abuse in church leadership. Mark Stirling, pastor of Cornerstone Church, St Andrews, who also lectures at ETS, led two seminars looking at the perils and pitfalls of church leadership. The biggest pitfall he highlighted is the tendency to develop ways of being Christian, without being Christ-like. One example is the way leaders can domineer people in order to achieve results. This can give a rewarding feeling of accomplishment – for leaders and followers – but does it really model Christ’s example of servanthood? These subtle allures pose a higher risk when we aren’t reflective, or accountable, which brought much of the discussion back to how we do discipleship in our churches today. FELLOWSHIP The second benefit of having a largely in-house IST programme is in strengthening fellowship. Free Church ministry is often a lonely struggle, even when we are supported by capable elders and co-workers. It is really beneficial to have time to talk to people in the same church context! I shared the programme with some friends before attending. Their surprise at hour-long coffee breaks was understandable. But you really do get past just catching up with people. Sometimes just listening to the reflections of others in the same work can inspire and encourage us in our own labour. It was helpful to hear Athol Rennie sharing the church-planting story of Grace Church in Leith. The challenges of a new church in a prosperous urban area working out how to equip Christians to be disciples and evangelists actually does offer helpful insights into my rural ministry. Alex Macdonald, reflecting on more than four decades of ministry experience,
shared so many God-glorifying anecdotes, and testimony to the faithfulness of God sustaining him, and the church, throughout. That theme of encouraging one another in the work of ministry was underlined by Derek Lamont. As Moderator, Derek was reflecting on the difficult 12 months the Free Church has come through. But he reminded us of the characteristics of encouragers, using the example of Barnabas. If there’s one gift I feel the Church needs in abundance in hard times, it is Spirit-filled, gospel-speaking encouragers: men and women who will use words to build up their fellow disciples. In the same vein, don’t be surprised if you hear a series on soldiering on, based on 2nd Timothy, soon! We always try to include a session on how to approach a book in the Bible, and Paul Clarke (with copious handouts) did not disappoint! FRIENDSHIP The last benefit I want to highlight is friendship. I think very often friendship is assumed in fellowship – sharing in a joint work. But I’ve been to plenty of conferences where fellowship has been enriched, but laughter, rest and refreshing maybe not so much. It is a real blessing to be part of a church where our ministers are actually good friends. There’s an openness, but also vulnerability with that, in which the Lord has blessed us. It’s a healthy sign that our friendship isn’t insular, and it was a real joy to welcome Gary Cobb from the Billy Graham Evangelical Associate, as a speaker, and to have colleagues from SASRA join us on the course. In-service training is good. Hopefully the benefits are felt in ministries and congregations. If your minister went, ask him about it. And please pray that it continues to bless the church in years to come. •
FORTROSE NEW BUILDING REV. SANDY SUTHERLAND
in our new build project at Fortrose Free Church. we hope the building will be finished by the autumn. We are still fundraising to reach our target. In December we held an Open Day with fellowship and food raising £325; a Carol Service raised another £230; and the Sunday School held a Coffee Afternoon, raising a further £306.50. Unfortunately, due to the amount of soil and subsoil that had to be removed from under the old church building and the amount of aggregate that had to be taken in to replace it, we incurred extra costs. In fact, seeing the quantity removed, it was more readily understandable why there were problems with the old building’s structure. We are all aware that good foundations are essential. The structural problems of our old church building came about because of a poor foundation. We give thanks to God that at the level of our spiritual and eternal hope, he has given to us a sure and certain foundation in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This foundation came at a great cost, but it was essential for our salvation and for the building of the Church that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. The living Church is built on this foundation and it is the basis of our preaching the good news. We, obviously, need a solid foundation for our new
church building if it is to last for the generations to come. Unfortunately, this has come at a greater cost than we had hoped. All involved were surprised by the ‘sub-structure over-run’, but conclude that it was essential to provide a solid base for the new building. Disappointed at the extra cost? Yes! But we count our blessings and move forward in faith, knowing that our goal of making the gospel known is not subject to the structures of this world, but upon him who is the Chief Cornerstone, and is not subject to anything ‘sub-structure’. •
he first bricks have gone down
The Senior Elders Brick Laying (From left to right) : Donnie Cumming, Rev. Sandy Sutherland and Duncan Gordon Picture courtesy Steven Callender of C & M Builders)
ISLANDS STUDY CONFERENCE HARRIS HOTEL, TARBERT, ISLE OF HARRIS 20th-22nd April 2018 SPEAKERS
Rev. Dr. Malcolm Maclean Greyfriars Free Church, Inverness “The Trinity in the Christian Life”
Rev. Calum Iain Macleod Back Free Church, Isle of Lewis “Living the Christian life in a 21st Century world”
Residential cost-£165 (Application in writing with £10.00 non-refundable Booking Fee per person) Booking Secretary (Hotel Residents only) Chrissie Macleod Mobile: 07584 497567 Tel: 01851 820 632 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Booking Secretary (Day Visitors for Meals/Buffets only) Kathryn Graham Mobile: 07833 552101 Tel: 01851 820 696 Email: email@example.com Conference website: www.isc.scot
We continue our series of extracts from Murdo Murchison’s autobiography. “One Good Owner”.
n completion of my degree in being a ‘Garage Man’ and then a much acclaimed PhD in ‘How to Modify Rusty 1950s Car Parts to fit 1970s Cars’ as well as ‘The Negative Effects of Wester Ross Vehicle Corrosion’, it was now time for a new career challenge which was to last for seven years ... the perfect number. On moving to Inverness in March 1982 I found that my new boss, Donald Mackenzie, had an impressive Fiat garage and showroom in the busy Tomnahurich Street which led to the Ness Bridge and into the High Street. I remember well the happiness, comfort and ease of working with him. My previous place of learning had been very casual. The dress code was a scruffy boiler suit – the more threadbare and dirty the better! I thought that my nice worn brown leather jacket would be good for the new job, but was quickly told to wear my suit. My only suit was a green, striped, flared three-piece effort from the late 70s. Stylish! A fortunate travelling salesman had sold me the top quality material which no other idiot wanted and I’d proudly had the alarming outfit made to measure! The good people of Inverness must have had a laugh. Just to top it off, for some reason I wore it with a brown mottled tie. The boss, who very quickly baptised me Murd, would, even from across the town, sense when a car sale had been made. Other times he would enquire 150 feet along the showroom ... ‘Murd!’ A slow response and it would be ‘MURD!’ then ‘MURDO’. ‘Did you sell that car? When will it go out?’ Some of my friends became very good at mimicking and even embellishing some of the conversation. At that time, my role within the church was to go around the Highlands taking services. Rev. M.A. Macleod was then the minister of the local Greyfriars Free Church, and ‘The Boss’ regularly skipped his own church to hear a really good communicator. Cassette tapes of the sermons which he passed to me were thought-provoking and much discussion and analysis followed. He would often ask my opinion on a finer point of doctrine, and if I had not listened properly (or at all) he would know perfectly well as he watched me flounder. Looking back, I can now see how he quietly and very cleverly tutored me. ‘Come here, Murd,’ Donald called one day. ‘It’s bad news. Fiat are making us send you on a course. Don’t worry about the pedantic speaker up the front, talk to the wee man next to you and you will learn a lot.’ Thirty-five years on, having had my fill of courses, seminars, conventions, assemblies, presbyteries etc., my advice to any of you willing to listen is the same as that of the Boss ... listen to that wee man next to you and gain real insight!
What about his own unique selling techniques which had contributed so much to his success in life? HE WAS THE MASTER. Consider this scene: the young man, me, was not quite closing the sale so he would invite both the customer and myself to his office. With a big grin and tongue firmly in cheek he would open his jacket, show our victim the torn inside lining and talk of the need for a new suit. The worn brogues came in handy as well. The deal was right now sealed amid much hilarity. Lillah was a very efficient accountant and is also owed a debt for some of the lessons learned. I would drone on about all my great youth work in the church. One day she cracked up and said, ‘You idiot! One would think that the church consists of only young people listening to nonsense from fools like yourself.’ As Proverbs says, ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend.’ Salesmen by nature are a complex, temperamental breed and there can be a need from time to time to expertly deflate stratospheric egos. She had the buttons at her fingertips and knew exactly when to press them! ‘The Boss’, on the other hand, had the same little keyboard in his pocket but used the buttons a bit more subtly. Lillah retired to her native Orkney a few years later, and my shockingly easy-going work environment which, over the years, had allowed me to come and go to work as I pleased, gave me the freedom to fly up one nice day to visit her in her new home. I remember laughing for hours with her and her husband about all the past pantomimes of Tomnahurich Street. On my return I didn’t touch down in Dalcross Airport till after dusk. I received a real dressing down from the Chief Instructor for my lack of contact, lack of professionalism and pathetic timekeeping! Today, in a society obsessed with structures and regulations, even flying to the little air fields of coastal and island Scotland you usually need permission, authority in triplicate and extra insurance. The eighties were in so many ways great days of freedom, and twenty-first century folk, including myself, sadly are so uptight and driven by materialism and status. I wish we could return to the easy-going nature of the business in Tomnahurich Street created by ‘The Boss’, where a young and middle-aged man both considered talking about eternal issues to be more life-enhancing than reaching sales targets. We even sometimes simply took the time to just watch the world go by. For your information, most of the sales targets were still exceeded. But I don’t think it would have mattered that much supposing we had fallen slightly short! •
“ONE GOOD OWNER” IS PUBLISHED BY CHRISTIAN FOCUS PUBLICATIONS
“My Name is Ken and I Am an Alcoholic”
y name is ken and i am an alcoholic . I am 43 years sober. I am 16 years a Christian. I like the Serenity prayer and I often pray it:
I can still remember the smell and the screaming. At home, I remember that my father was a violent and cruel man. My father was a Protestant and my mother a Catholic. My older brother went to stay with my grandmother, so I got all the beatings. My younger brother was the pet. There were times when my father was at peace with himself, but other times my mother received terrible beatings. I had to learn how to con him so that he would not give me a beating. I didn’t realise that my dad had had several accidents and had a steel plate in his head. I was angry at him — at nine years of age I was making him a cup of tea, and I remember thinking, in a few years, you are a dead man. Everyone was poor. At age 10 I started taking a drink. My father died when I was 13. It was a blessing that he was away. I remember saying to God, ‘Why did you take him away?’ I’d wanted to do him in myself. My mother also had a drink problem. My whole family was affected by alcoholism. About age 20, I heard about Alcoholics Anonymous. They talked about a threefold addiction: Physical, Mental, Spiritual. That pretty well summed up where I was. I also remember soup kitchens 50 years ago at George Square in Glasgow. I was mixing with alcoholics and Christians. This showed me there was another way to live.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. I need to live day by day, hour by hour and minute by minute. I need to take responsibility for my life and for my actions and for my alcoholism. I’m jumping ahead. I’d better start at the beginning. I was born in Glasgow weighing only four pounds and four ounces. At age two I had surgery to remove a tubercular abscess. I had to have plastic surgery.
What follows is a brief account of Ken’s story — a story of alcoholism, a story of pain, a story of recovery and a story of hope. These are Ken’s own words about his own life, his connection with Alcoholics Anonymous and his own personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
I began to work — I trained as a chef. I was 5.5 stone when got sober but I ran away from that — ran away from responsibility. I was married at 18 and my child was born. That marriage went by the wayside. Married again. Married again. And there were children. One of the boys was murdered in Glasgow. I got sober and stayed sober. I went to Moray House, arrogant and opinionated. I wouldn’t say what they wanted me to say. I went to Rankeillor Hostel, where I worked with the Church of Scotland as an assistant social worker. I was left alone looking after 17 men. I became ill and had to leave. I still wasn’t right. I was a dry drunk, but I prayed every night. Alcohol goes through your life like a tornado. I’ve been in jail. I’ve stabbed someone. I’ve been stabbed. I’ve had blackouts — I hated the blackouts. I was frightened to wake up with the DTs. I am lucky to be alive. I’ve had a breakdown — I lost my mind. I was sober but I always went back to the booze — that was my lover and my lover was always there for me. Father Anthony Ross was a priest who lived in George Square, Edinburgh. In the early 1970s I was going to AA meetings, but I was demented. I prayed ‘Lord, get the devil away from me — I don’t want to drink.’ In 1971 — a miracle happened. I went to see Fr. Ross, and I was steaming. He knelt me down and started praying for me. I don’t remember, but I came to and found there was a peace. He told me, ‘I want you to go home and have a sleep.’ I slept for 18 hours. Came back after a week. Fr. Ross told me that on the day he prayed with me, he’d been delayed from going out three times. He said, ‘I know why — I was meant to see you.’ I was still not finished with the drink. You might think you are finished with the drink, but the drink isn’t finished with you. There was still a drink left in me. I could never settle in a job. I could never accept a compliment. That was my dirty black pride — it could not cope with the opinions of other people. I thought, ‘Kenny, you are still lying to yourself,’ but I was becoming honest with myself. I got married again and that too went by the wayside. Material things became important to me. I went and got a suit — and didn’t pay for it. I wasn’t a nice person. My sponsor in AA warned me, ‘You’ll go back on the drink if you don’t stop fiddling the money.’ He was right. AA was important to me — the twelve steps were my commandments at one time. I always had an enquiring mind. I get excited about learning new things. I remember reading Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God. I always liked Christians, spiritual people. I met Christians often over the years. I remember going to a barbeque at the church across the yard where I met more Christians. I went to back to the church, Bellevue Chapel, the next day as it was a Sunday. Every day I was praying to God and Jesus. I was hungry to learn. I went to a house group — this was icing on the cake. I remember
reading The Purpose Driven Life – p58 was where I read that I should ask Jesus to come into my life. I asked Jesus to come into my life, and the feeling came over me that I heard the voice of God, saying the Kingdom of God is in you. I told my friend Sasha, ‘I gave my life to Christ at 3pm this afternoon.’ I moved to Restalrig, near Leith in Edinburgh, and I was looking for a new church. There was a new church in Britwell Crescent, Christ Church — only opened for two months. I met the pastor, David. He is one of only two people in my life who was close to understanding alcoholics yet is not an alcoholic. I remember an early conversation with David. ‘I like you,’ he said. ‘Not many people like me.’ ‘Well, I like you.’ I am now often on the door welcoming people to Christ Church. Can I give some advice: Christians, don’t be afraid to get involved with sinners and people who are not Christians. Don’t talk about things that you know nothing about. It would be great if Christians took the effort to meet people, pray for people (and pray with people). Get involved and try to meet people in your community — people who have alcohol problems and people who don’t. It’s alright to pray and take leaflets round, but you need to meet people. I am 43 years sober but only 16 years a Christian. I always knew that there was a Saviour, but only later did I ask him into my life. For many years I tried to drown my sorrows. Then I understood the meaning of the Chinese proverb: Sorrow can swim. AA is a good thing. It helps bring people to Christ — but it takes some people longer than others. As a Christian I’ve started taking an inventory. I have regrets and I have remorse. I remember how I used to switch road signs. Glasgow, London, Bristol, all mixed up. How many people did I put onto the wrong road? How many people have I hurt through my drinking? How much have I been hurt? I understand that my defects of character are in fact sin — I need to take responsibility for my sobriety and for my sins – but thank God, I am not the man I once was. I saw this on a website for AA: ‘They said a miracle would happen on my 90th day of sobriety, and it did happen... I was sober.’ Ken is 46 years sober. Ken is a follower of Jesus. It’s a miracle. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. •
For more information about AA Call the National Helpline FREE on 0800 9177 650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/
very now and then within the church, the cry goes up, ‘We need to make the Bible more relevant!’ But such a cry is only an indication of misunderstanding the Bible. We don’t need to make it relevant – it already is! Indeed, whenever the Church seeks to make the Bible relevant it always ends up playing catch-up with the culture, following it rather than challenging and changing it. This month’s Ecclesiastes passage (2:1-11) looks, for example, at laughter, pleasure, architecture, gardening, money, rest, stress, wine, women and song. In other words, sex, drugs and rock & roll.
Solomon built cities, great buildings and storehouses. This included luxurious gardens typical of royalty and nobility in the ancient near east at that time. Solomon saw what he had made, and despite its grandeur and beauty, it still didn’t satisfy. Wealth: Verses 7-8 tells us Solomon was at Bill Gates’ level of wealth. ‘All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days’ (1 Kings 10:21). He found that the Swedish philosophers Bjorn and Benny were wrong in declaring that ‘money, money, money...it’s a rich man’s world’. The writer Doug Coupland reflects the angst of many when he observed: ‘All you are doing with your life is collecting objects and nothing else.’ Women: Verse 8 says he acquired a harem. This is a disputed term. It could mean cupbearer but is more likely to mean mistress, lover or concubine. It could also be quite a crude term which refers to women solely as sexual objects. How very 21st-century! There is, after all, ‘nothing new under the sun.’ With hundreds of wives and concubines, if sex could satisfy then you would expect that Solomon would have been very satisfied! Song: Also in verse 8, it says he had a mixed choir. It was pretty good and it was very entertaining. Music is such a vital part of human culture. Laughter, drugs, wealth, work, sex and entertainment. Solomon tried them all. And the conclusion is...he remained objective. He was like the German poet Goethe who ‘analysed
WHY DOESN’T PLEASURE SATISFY? Solomon is trying to work out what is the point of life. Millennia before Freud he tries a bit of Freudian psychoanalysis, working on the assumption that man is just a pleasure-seeking animal. So he conducts an experiment. He has the money, the power and the ability to enter the pleasure dome and to see if any of it satisfies him. And in so doing he provides us with a list of what we in the 21st century also seek to satisfy our thirst. Laughter: Here it means superficial fun. ‘He’s a good laugh.’ We all love someone with a good sense of humour and we all love a good laugh. But ‘even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief’ (Proverbs 14:13). Laughter will often hide sorrow, pain and grief. Just look at the lives of some of the most famous comedians. Wine: There are artificial stimulants that we can use to drown our sorrows or give us pleasure. The simple answer as to why someone takes drugs is because it ‘feels good’. Great projects: Verse 4 of 2 Chronicles 8 tells us that
GOSPEL FOR TODAY’S SOCIETY
ECCLESIASTES: THE RECORD
his vuluptousness, and studied his own faculties of enjoyment’. And to some degree it worked. There was a certain sense of satisfaction and pleasure. Verse 10 reads: ‘My heart took delight.’ There was a sense of achievement but nothing more. When he woke up in the morning and surveyed all that he had done, he recognised that although he’d enjoyed his work and pleasure, in the cold light of day it was all pretty useless. There was great disappointment. Meaningless. No good. Pointless. Why? Because it was so self-absorbed. In these few verses the words ‘for myself’ are used six times. The bottom line is that pleasure-seeking does not satisfy the spiritual thirst of the secular person and therefore is all meaningless. At this point the unwise Christian evangelist might conclude by saying that you just need Christ and things don’t matter – as though they were being set up as opposites. But this is not what the Bible says. Wine, sex, song, architecture and gardening without Christ are pointless. But with Christ they have a greater meaning. In other words, it’s not as though the devil has all the good tunes and Christ all the good morals. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 16: ‘At God’s right hand are pleasures forever.’
someone who has Christ in their life. Laughter: The Bible is not saying there is no place for laughter. It is the timing and object of the laughter that matters. God’s people are to be a laughing and joyous people. Wine: The Bible is not against wine. Jesus turned the water into wine. We remember his death through drinking wine. But Christians are to be filled with the Spirit and not drunk with wine. Great Projects: Christians are to reflect their Creator by being creative and artistic. The difference is that, unlike Solomon, we are not just doing it for ourselves but are reflecting the creativity of our God. Wealth: The Bible is not opposed to wealth – except when it is seen as an end and not a means. Jesus tells us we are to use worldly wealth to gain eternal reward. Paul tells us we are to work hard to provide for those in need. Sex: The Bible is very open and explicit about the joys of sex. Rejoice with the wife of your youth. Women (and men) are not to be seen as objects, but men and women together as partners, rejoicing in one another and in God. Song: We are a singing people. We speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We use the gift of music to celebrate the goodness of God and the glory and beauty of his world. Without Christ everything you do this month, although it may bring temporary pleasure and satisfaction, will ultimately leave you dissatisfied – like drinking salt water to quench your thirst. With Christ – even the most mundane, boring and seemingly meaningless task can be transformed into something beautiful. •
SO HOW CAN WE BE SATISFIED? You cannot. Not under the sun. Not if there is no God. Not if this life is all there is. But if you come alive, you get new life through Jesus, who said ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ What difference does Jesus make? Well, let us go briefly over these issues again – but this time from a different perspective – the perspective of
PLEASURE, LAUGHTER, WORK,
WINE AND WEALTH -
BIBLE SAY? 2018
WHAT DOES THE
RECLAIMING DIVERSITY BY DAYSPRING MACLEOD
between celebrating ‘diversities of gifts’ and committing heresy, so I’m writing this very carefully. After all, even a typo can undermine the whole of Scripture — you may have heard of the Wicked Bible, printed in 1631, in which the word ‘not’ was omitted from ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ As a seasoned proofreader, I trust I won’t make that obvious a mistake, but systematic heresy can be harder to spot! I’ve been thinking about those writers, teachers and churches with whom we have clear differences, but also enjoy fellowship. For example, I know Christians who very clearly believe in Jesus, but also speak in tongues and practice prophecy. The Free Church is not cessationist, so we would not consider these things heretical, but we might quietly consider it instructional that the Spirit never seems to overtake us in the same way. There are Messianic churches where the name of God’s Son is Y’shua rather than Jesus, and they blow the shofar to indicate watching for God’s coming and celebrate certain aspects of Jewish culture. Some Christians consider it inappropriate to celebrate a feast such as Passover, where for others it means celebrating the foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice. And if we imagine ourselves on the outside looking in, there are Christians who see the Free Church as too old-fashioned, legalistic, joyless, or (believe it or not) even too wedded to extrabiblical documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith. On a surface level I’ve sometimes found these different genres of Christianity depressing; aren’t we meant to be one, and obvious to the world because of our oneness? On the other hand, while I’ve no problem considering Charismatics true Christians, I’m uncomfortable around someone speaking in tongues. I am happy to take communion at my parents’ Cowboy Church, but I deeply disagree with some of their very Dispensationalist eschatology. But lately, as a result of broader reading on Christians from different traditions and denominations, I’ve come to think of these secondary differences in a celebratory way. Remember the ‘one body with many members’ metaphor in 1 Corinthians. Traditionally we think of the ‘many members’ as being individuals within the body, but perhaps they could also refer to individual churches within the great, worldwide, even historic Body of Christ? Because it seems to me that the different practices of various denominations show off the many facets of our common faith. For instance, the Charismatics’ exuberant gifts demonstrate the supernatural power and presence of the Holy Spirit, the characteristic that dominates their worship. The Free Presbyterians’ solemnity, on the other hand, speaks of the great and awesome fear of the Lord that Christians are called to. The Messianic Church witnesses to the world of here is a fine line
the promises of God to the Jewish people for millennia past, the promises that are ‘to the Jew first, and also to the [Gentile]’. Even Cowboy Church has its particular aroma of Christ: that of pure, childlike faith, and an attentive watching for Christ to come again. We see these same principles in Christian writers. C.S. Lewis shows the beauty of logic in faith: two things which seem to be opposed but are actually in perfect unity through the Creator of both. Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer went exploring through the rich depths of God’s complexities, and if their ‘discoveries’ contained too much of man’s philosophy, they erred in awe of what they had learned about God’s compassion and abundance. Some churches and preachers proclaim the otherness of God, others his nearness; some his justice, others his mercy; some focus on creative praise, others on serving people in his name. Like the fruits of the Spirit, none of these attributes should be absent from any church’s theology, but they may excel in one area or another. The Free Church does not make much use of the liturgical calendar, but I have always found it helpful to celebrate Christmas and Easter because they provide a yearly resting-place from which to contemplate specific acts of Christ. In my day-to-day schedule I praise God for what he has done, but I wouldn’t meditate on any particular event for weeks on end were it not for these reminders. Just as these holidays can help us focus on Jesus’ accomplishments, visiting different churches can help us home in on aspects of God’s character. A word on heresy. I have spoken here on more or less stylistic differences. There are also grey areas — how serious is the practice of ordaining women ministers, or the various views of the Creation narrative? I have known Christians of different positions on these issues whom I firmly believe to have been true believers, and yet some consider these ‘dealbreakers’. In my view, true heresy is easily spotted because it detracts from the glory of Christ or the authority of Scripture. We cannot tolerate the veneration of saints, for example, because it detracts from Christ’s position as the sole mediator between God and man. We cannot tolerate Arianism because it teaches that Christ is a created being, subordinate to and separate from the Father. We cannot even tolerate Church-sanctioned gay marriage, because the Bible teaches that this is an abomination. These are all things that demonstrate human ideas, not facets of God’s glory. The buzzword of the 21st century is diversity, and its connotation in popular culture is often one of a moral free-for-all. ‘Not wrong, just different’ is used to justify people’s hedonistic choices. But if we can ‘redefine’ (another buzzword!) those terms to apply to the church, we have the magnificent paradox of diversity in unity. A diversity of gifts. A gorgeous tapestry of faithful, scriptural believers, all encompassed in the great, dazzling Bride of Christ! •
RECLAIMING DIVERSITY 2018
PRAYING FOR ETS IN 2018 BY REV. THOMAS DAVIS
is a very long but very wonderful Greek word that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 1:11. That word is synypourgountown. It is hard to pronounce, but thankfully it is not hard to understand. It means ‘joining in to help’, and in 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul tells his readers that they can join in and help his work by praying. That is a vital statement from Paul because it’s a reminder that even though we might be a long way away from a particular aspect of the Church’s mission, we can all still join in that work through prayer. That applies to every aspect of the mission of the church, including the work of ETS. So even though the Seminary might seem far away, and even though the whole realm of theological education might seem like another world, the truth is that we can all make a wonderful contribution to the work of ETS by joining in to help through prayer. So how can you pray for ETS in 2018? Here some prayer points to remember in the year ahead.
refurbished top floor of ETS, it is hoped that this Mission Centre will become a hub for supporting the work of the church across the nation and overseas. Courses are being developed to support local churches as well as to provide training opportunities for particular aspects of mission, such as church planting and cross-cultural ministry. It is also hoped that the Mission Centre will provide a source of refreshment and encouragement for missionaries in active service both in Scotland and overseas. This is a very exciting project that is aiming to help the whole church as we seek to bring the gospel to an increasingly challenging mission field around us. So in the year ahead, please pray for the development of the Mission Centre.
PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE AT ETS We can easily think of ETS simply as a Seminary; an educational establishment which provides study opportunities and which is home to lots of resources. That of course is true, but it must never be forgotten that the key part of any Seminary like ETS is not resources or programmes or structures. It is people. So this year, please pray for the people at ETS. Please pray for the staff. There are several full-time members of staff who are dedicating their lives to the work of the church through the Seminary: Principal Iver Martin, Vice Principal John Angus MacLeod, Bob Akroyd (Systematic Theology), Daniel Sladek (Old Testament), Alistair Wilson (Mission and New Testament) and Heather Watson (Seminary Secretary). There are also many others who help on a part-time basis, both in terms of teaching and administration. There is an enormous amount of work involved in running a Seminary, so please pray for the staff of ETS throughout 2018. Please also pray for the students. Studying theology is an immense privilege for anyone, but it is also hard work. Some students have to balance their studies with various other responsibilities, some have to spend time away from their loved ones in order to study, and some have had to deal with sorrows and struggles in their own lives while continuing on with their work. Our great goal is that the people who study at ETS will go on to great work for the gospel, so it is important to pray that God will help them with their work and prepare them for future service
PRAY FOR THE MISSION OF ETS There is a lot to pray for in regard to ETS: administration, organising, planning, teaching, working. But above all else, we want to pray that the work of ETS would contribute to the mission that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us: to go and make disciples of all nations. Theological study is a wonderful task to engage in, either as a student or a teacher. But it is never an end in itself. It is always to prepare people for mission work. Like every other ministry in the church, the goal is always to equip the saints for works of service. People in Scotland desperately need to hear the gospel. And if they are going to hear it, then we need people who are ready to share it. And that’s what ETS wants to produce: men and women who can go and spread the gospel across our nation and who can equip others to join with them in that work. So not only are we to pray for the people who are currently studying at ETS; we also want to pray for the many others who have come to learn here and who are now out serving in the Lord in many different places in many different cultures. We want to pray that through all these ministries God would bring forth fruit to his glory. It is also important to pray for resources. ETS is a very valuable asset for our church, but like anything valuable, it comes at a cost. ETS survives because of the wonderful generosity of those who give, both to the Free Church centrally and directly to the Seminary, and we are so thankful to God for this provision. However, there is a need to pray for the ongoing supply of resources to meet the financial needs of the Seminary. Indeed, it would be good to pray for even more resources, because that will allow for new opportunities to be developed and for further gospel work to be done.
PRAY FOR THE NEW PROJECTS AT ETS 2018 is an exciting year for ETS as various new aspects of work are being developed. At the heart of this is the new Mission Centre which is being established by Alistair Wilson and John Angus MacLeod. Located in the newly
So you may not be a student at ETS, you may not be a lecturer, you may never even set foot in the ETS building this year, but you can still be a synypourgountown! And more than anything else in 2018, we need people to join in the work of ETS through prayer. •
NEPAL TRIP FEB 2018 BY REV. DEREK LAMONT
ou come to nepal and baptise ma wean!’
‘Bring some haggis and keep the heid while you are here!’ That is the kind of thing the Rev. Suraj Kasula says when we Skype. He laughs, throws his baby daughter Hadassah up in the air, his wife Roshani waves in the background, and then the conversation continues. He loves saying Scottish phrases in a Scottish accent, and he even adds a greeting in Gaelic – learned on his trips to Lewis! Suraj is small in stature but is a spiritual giant. He is a church planter. An ex-gang leader who came to Christ, who has a passion to spread the gospel in Nepal. He came to Scotland to study and ended up at ETS, where he embraced the teaching with great enthusiasm, and became a member at St Columba’s. He and Roshani opened their hearts and their home to many in the congregation, and our lives were hugely enriched by his enthusiasm, laughter, passion for Christ and vision for the gospel in Nepal. He is now back home and facing the great task of leading his church, planting new churches, training leaders by setting up a theological seminary and providing them with a library of good Christian books…and that is just for starters!
So, when I was contemplating something useful to do as Moderator (one’s role is very ambiguous, and one is never very sure of what is expected of one), I thought that a trip to visit Nepal would hopefully be encouraging for the Milan Church in Bhaktapur and its ‘heid the ba’ pastor. Suraj is a licensed minister of the Free Church and receives some funding support from a number of Free Church congregations. It is a good example of how we can partner with other agencies and churches to support indigenous ministries internationally with whom we share core gospel values, and with whom we can have meaningful links. From February 8th to 17th, a small team of family and friends will travel to Nepal. I will preach, baptise, take communion and lecture to students. We will also travel with Suraj and do some sightseeing, share fellowship and ride on elephants! We also plan to visit their daughter church, where we will share Bible stories with the children. Please pray for us as we seek to encourage Suraj in his ministry in very difficult days politically and socially. We know that what we will learn is greater than any wisdom we might impart. Pray for the gospel in Nepal, for Suraj and his family and church, and for safe travels for us all. •
‘Nepal: the Sequel’ will be penned on our return.
TRAINING ELDERS BY ROBIN SYDSERFF
ELDERS LEAD THE CHURCH The Church, universal and local, is led by Jesus Christ through his Word; specifically, the written Word of his Apostles. Under Christ, who is the head, those entrusted with earthly leadership in a local church are elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The term ‘elder’ in the New Testament is used interchangeably with ‘overseer’ and ‘pastor-teacher’, all referring to the same office of leadership. The terms ‘overseer’ and ‘elder’ are used numerous times, ‘pastor-teacher’ only once (Ephesians 4.11). The qualifications for eldership are exacting: you want to be an elder, you exemplify godly character, you can teach the Bible, you lead your family well and you are an established believer. Elders are to be men, reflecting the Creation principle of male headship affirmed in the New Testament.
NOT THE ONLY THING ELDERS DO If the primary role of the elder is teaching the Bible, that’s not the only thing the elders do. Making something the priority, or keeping the main thing the main thing, does not mean it’s the only thing. In his brilliant book on elders1 (I can’t recommend it highly enough), Jeramie Rinne describes the biblical responsibilities of elders as follows: (1) smell like sheep (thinking like elders, not trustees), (2) serve up the Word (teaching the Bible), (3) track down the strays (caring for God’s people, especially those who stray from Jesus), (4) lead without lording (loving, servant-hearted, sacrificial leadership), (5) shepherd together (better than ‘one-man’ ministry), (6) model maturity (setting a godly example), (7) pleas for the flock (praying), (8) conscious of the eternal weight of shepherding (as those who will be called to account). The Bible teaches that elders are supported and enabled in the work they are to do by deacons. The biblical role of deacons is to take care of the physical, practical and logistical needs of the church so the elders can concentrate on their primary calling. Elders shouldn’t do what deacons do. And deacons shouldn’t do what elders do.
ELDERS LEAD BY TEACHING THE BIBLE What distinguished the biblical office of elder from deacon is the ability to teach (in 1 Timothy 3:8-15 the ability to teach is not a requirement for deacons). This is logical. If the Church is led by Christ through his Word, the primary role of those in earthly leadership (the elders) must be teaching the Bible. That is how elders lead. Being ‘able to teach’ is more than willingness, which is important; it means giftedness, God-given ability. It doesn’t mean that every elder preaches. Some will, but others will teach the Bible in a variety of different contexts; for example, leading small groups, reading the Bible with unbelievers and discipling Christians. What about 1 Timothy 5:17-18 which many understand to be referring to two types of elder — ruling and teaching elders? Here are the verses in full from the ESV: ‘Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says,“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”, and, “The labourer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).’ Paul cannot be suggesting there are two kinds of elders — ruling elders (who don’t teach) and teaching elders. That would be to contradict 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9 and the basic principle that authority is exercised through teaching. What Paul must be saying is that while all elders are ‘able to teach’ and do teach, there are some elders ‘who labour in preaching and teaching’, that is, give more of their time to it and are supported financially in doing so. This may be what Paul means by ‘pastor-teacher’ and what we mean by ‘minister’.
DEVELOPING A MORE BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP Here are a number of steps we are taking at Chalmers to develop a more biblical eldership. This is not out of a book. It has been agreed by a normal group of elders in a normal church, the result of a six-month study on biblical church leadership. Every local church is different, so bear that in mind when you read this. 1. MEET REGULARLY Over the last three years we have developed a pattern of meeting fortnightly as elders, due in part to exceptional circumstances. As we return to more ‘normal’ times, we want to continue this pattern so that our meetings are not dominated by business. 2. CHANGE THE CULTURE OF OUR MEETINGS Rather than think about elders’ meetings, we will think about elders meeting together. There will always be important business to work through, but we need to commit more time to: • praying together • studying the Bible/equipping one another to teach the Bible • talking about what’s going on in church life • talking about people
Practically we will try and do this for the first hour of our time together, with the second hour given to business.
the elders and comprising some non-elders, including women serving in pastoral diaconal roles. Organisation structures are important, but we must not delegate responsibility. We have a collective responsibility as elders to consider together matters like membership, discipline and complex pastoral situations. Knowing what is happening in people’s lives allows us to pray for them.
3. KEEP REMINDING ONE ANOTHER HOW BIG A DEAL IT IS TO BE AN ELDER. ‘Serving as an elder in a local congregation is an immense privilege and responsibility because it carries an eternal significance.’ (Rinne, p.121) Begin each elders’ meeting with a Bible passage that reminds us of the eternal weight — privilege and responsibility — of shepherding.
7. TAKE OUR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE OVERSIGHT OF DIFFERENT MINISTRIES MORE SERIOUSLY It is easy for an eldership to lose touch with what is going on in church life. The leaders of different ministries will be invited to an elders’ meeting once a year to speak about their work and share their vision. We should try to do this for each ministry area once a year. This will help us lead knowledgably, think strategically about the bigger picture, exercise oversight, and support and encourage those serving in different ministries in the church. Individual elders will be given responsibility for a particular ministry area, ensuring an ongoing relationship of oversight and support.
4. CHANGE WHAT WE DO AS ELDERS TO WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS WE SHOULD DO Over the next year, working through Rinne’s Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus chapter by chapter, with a commitment to look honestly at what we do compared to what the Bible says we should do, and where necessary make changes. 5. DEVELOP OUR ABILITY TO TEACH THE BIBLE Some elders are preaching, others leading Bible studies in small groups, others reading the Bible one to one with people. Elders not currently teaching the Bible will be encouraged to do so in appropriate ways. Create opportunities for training and encourage elders to take advantage of them. For example, all elders will be encouraged to attend Bible teaching training for small group leaders. When we meet together as elders, different elders are to lead in teaching a short passage from the Bible. Elders will lead more regularly in services. Over the next year we will work through Rinne’s book Church Elders. In the future, each year we will study a Bible book together. This will help us lead under the authority of God’s Word and equip us with the skills to teach the Bible in the different aspects of our leadership as elders.
8. LEAD STRATEGICALLY AND WITH VISION Vision and strategy is both an exceptional and normal part of our work at Chalmers. It should not dominate, but equally should not be absent. The development of a coherent five-year rolling strategy will keep us focused on the key biblical priorities for the local church. 9. BE ACCOUNTABLE AND RESPONSIBLE TO ONE ANOTHER As elders we are accountable to one another for our life and doctrine. Sharing honestly with one another and praying for one another is important. Responsibility is also important. Everyone who wants to be an elder (the first qualification for eldership in 1 Timothy 3:16) has a responsibility to commit to the role. It means committing to what the Bible says we are to do as elders and, over the next year, getting behind the shift in mentality that will be required. Practically it means preparing for meetings, contributing to discussions, and being prepared to disagree with and listen to others so that we might come to the right decision. •
6. CARE BETTER FOR THE CHURCH FAMILY Their primary carer is the Lord Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, but as elders, we are under-shepherds, given the privileged responsibility of their care in Chalmers. With 350 adults and 80 children and young people it is very difficult (if not impossible) for the elders to know who everyone is, and so, in the first instance, we need to ensure there are adequate structures in place to care for them. Alongside the network of small groups we will have a Pastoral Ministry Team, under the oversight of
Jeramie Rinne, Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus (9Marks / Crossway, 2014).
South Korea BY CALLUM BOWSIE
orea reminds me of many families. A peninsula of one people and yet of two outlooks that couldn’t be any more different. But like many divided families, there are rare occasions where it can be possible to come together if we’re prepared to stretch ourselves. This month (February) South Korea will host the Winter Olympics and, as I write this, it has just been announced that as well as a North Korean orchestra performing at the event, there will be a united ice hockey team. They will also march under the same flag. It’s news that both delights and challenges me. It’s a rare occasion where we see the South putting their reunification policies into action. After 60 years of sour relations, they’re beginning to realise that if they truly want reunification, they must first listen less to the views of those outside and more to the aspirations of those inside their Korean family. But secondly, they must seek to find commonality on those aspirations. Sport and music can do just that! After graduating in Criminology and before coming to Korea, I was a Youth Justice Worker for a year. It often required mediating on disputes between young offenders. To my surprise, I often found that disagreements between strangers were easiest to settle. It usually only required a couple meetings to clarify misunderstandings or create a fairly straightforward action plan to stop a reoccurrence. But conflicts between close acquaintances and particularly within families were extremely complex. It’s why Korea’s conflict is so complex; because it’s a kindred one. A kindred conflict involves dealing with people’s lingering and deeply held convictions, principles, and pride. They’re usually between people that know each other so well that the idea of an action plan is laughed off. In these types of conflicts, there needs to be more than a clarification of the disagreement; there need to be compromise and new approaches. But I believe the need for reconciliation is greater: the need to restore what was once already there. This is where the Church has a role. As in Northern Ireland (my home nation), it is the Church that can bring real meaning to a word that has historically failed in the hands of politically-orientated do-gooders. It is the Church that has the disposition to encourage truth, justice, forgiveness and ultimately repentance within the most intimate of differences to be reconciled (put right). Yet, despite having the second-largest evangelistic missions around the world, many Korean churches have largely ignored this mission to their own family in the north. No doubt because of logistical constraints, but perhaps also because it is easier to reconcile the spiritual
differences with those we do not know so well than it is with our own family. It is why Korea challenges me greatly in the outreach to my own family, half of whom are not saved. I’m challenged by the fact that as I venture abroad to make Christ known to strangers, some within my own family do not know Christ as Lord. Like Korea, while I share so much in common with my family, spiritually speaking we are partitioned from each other and will be so long as we have a deep, sensitive and theological disagreement on the essence of life. You too probably have non-Christian family members, and like Korea you wonder if change will ever come. Do not lose hope! I see God at work in the Korean family in so many subtle, yet significant ways, and I believe that through prayer and obedience he can do the same in the most seemingly hopeless of individual families.
But just like Korea’s attitude to the Winter Olympics, sometimes for barriers to come down, it requires a different mentality from us towards outreach. Korea can teach us that maybe, instead of seeing your brother as a project to be worked on, you need to see him as a family member to be welcomed. Maybe, before you can settle awkward disagreements on faith with your daughter, you need to build a rapport through grass-roots exchanges at places where you both want to be. But my last observation on South Korea’s new thinking this week is what challenges my own mentality towards kindred outreach most. For too long SK has tried to make ‘them’ like ‘us’, riding into dialogue on their moral high horse and not recognising that ‘others’ still have unique value outside our fellowship with them. It’s a terribly cold way to reach out to anyone, let alone our own nation’s family. Instead of seeking cultural superiority, Koreans must seek to be united by their common origin. Similarly, as Christians witnessing to our most difficult and most important ministry – our family – our own outreach is also not about making the ‘inferior them’ like the ‘superior us’, but rather bringing them into a united fellowship (the Church) under the One whom neither of us can be like (the Christ), and by whom both of us can be saved, despite and because of our differences. •
BOOKENDS BY CRAWFORD MACKENZIE
from the curse of a chronic questioning and argumentative mind. Most of the arguments are with myself. It is as if I have never quite outgrown the annoying childlike habit of repeating the question ‘…but why?’ It as if I never learned to grow up, to accept that it is probably just the way it is and to move on. Some questions have niggled for years. One of these is ‘Why do I go to church twice on a Sunday?’ The thing is, so many of my Christians friends don’t, and many churches will only have one service on a Sunday. So why do we have two and why do I go twice? Is it a sign of being more holy and being a bit better than the rest? Is it just an anachronistic tradition? Is it because I fear something bad will happen if I don’t? It is, of course, none of these, but a puzzle all the same. It is certainly a puzzle to non-believing friends who understand that we have this thing about going to church, but are bewildered when we speak of going twice. ‘Why do you need to?’ ‘Surely, whatever you do at church, once is enough?’ The very framing of the question, however, misses the point. It is not about ‘needing to’ and not about ‘doing enough’, but I could never give a satisfactory answer to my non-believing friends or to myself. The question lay there unresolved for quite some time. Until, that was, a friend explained it to me in a way that finally did made sense. As is so often the case, the light came via an illustration, in a picture. It was a bookend. First of all you have to understand suffer
that the church has always been part of my life. Not just a part, but the most significant part of it. It is family. Blood is thicker than water, but this bond is thicker still. So going to church has always been my habit. Not that the church is a place, it is people; but people come together in a place, and unless you are a king or celebrity, people don’t generally congregate around you. You have to go to them. So the term ‘Going to church’ is a valid one and a vital part of life for anyone who is a follower of Jesus. Like family, however, it is not always sweetness and light, its history has not always been something to be proud of, its people sometimes drive you crazy, and often you stretch their patience to the limit. We blow up, fall out, walk out and separate, but one thing remains a constant: we are part of God’s family and he won’t change that. It is not a right but a gift. Going to church is not a duty but a privilege. At St. Peter’s we have two services on a Sunday: a morning and an evening service. This is not for convenience, but deliberately, as part of tradition going back many years. It is not a rule thing. It is not a commandment. You would be hard pressed to find something in the Bible that lays down that law. But it comes, I believe, from how we view the day itself. For followers of Jesus, Sunday is the ‘Lord’s Day’. It belongs to him. It is not our day. In one sense every day is his day, but Sunday is especially for him, and that is where the evening service comes into its own. It is a bookend to that day and helps us
see this special day as his. And so the morning and evening services provide us with helpful bookends to the Lord’s Day. Not long after we came to St. Peter’s, we were on a weekend away with Friends International, up in the Highlands, cooking for 70-plus students and engaging in activities. It was full on, and when we returned in the early evening, we were exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally with the stress of logistics, the heat of the kitchen, the many conversations with so many people from so many parts of the world. We arrived back about the time of the evening service. Now the voice of common sense was saying, ‘Relax, unwind, sit down, read a book, watch a film, have a bath, go to bed; the last thing you need is another service.’ But instead we went to church and joined our church family in worship, praying, reading, sharing and listening to God’s voice. Entering the building late, we were met with the sound of singing, of many voices old and young, high and deep, strong and lyrical, together and in harmony, led sensitively by the band, coming from the heart, rising to the roof and way beyond. It would be very hard to begin to describe the all-embracing sense of wholeness, healing, invigoration, revitalisation and excitement that overwhelmed us as we joined the people in this special time, this bookend to the Lord’s Day. The tiredness evaporated and I remember thinking then that there was nowhere else in the whole earth I would rather be. •
POETRY PAGE PSALM 84 BY JOHN MILTON
John Milton is possibly the English languageâ€™s most learned poet. He is famous for Paradise Lost, but what many do not know is that he also translated and versified many of the psalms. This is the first part of his beautiful version of Psalm 84. 1. How lovely are thy dwellings fair! O Lord of Hosts, how dear The pleasant tabernacles are Where thou dost dwell so near! 2. My soul doth long and almost die Thy courts O Lord to see; My heart and flesh aloud do cry, O living God, for thee. 3. There even the sparrow, freed from wrong, Hath found a house of rest; The swallow there, to lay her young, Hath built her brooding nest; Even by thy altars, Lord of Hosts, They find their safe abode; And home they fly from round the coasts Toward thee, my King, my God.
Photo by Przemyslaw Reinfus on Unsplash
4. Happy who in thy house reside, Where thee they ever praise, 5. Happy whose strength in thee doth bide, And in their hearts thy ways.
Gairm Lèbhi (Levi’s Call)
na Sàbaid aig Òrdaighean Chàrlabhaigh an-uiridh chuala sinn searmon mu ghairm Lèbhi. Bha Lèbhi dìreach na shuidhe aig obair làitheil nuair a choinnich Fear ris a ghlac aire gu cinnteach. Nach ann mar seo a choinnicheas Criosd ri daoine eadar-dhealaicht’ anns a’ Bhìoball? Bha Iàcob a’ teicheadh, a cheann air cluasaig, air oidhche glè shoilleir ann an eachdraidh a bheatha, oir bha coinneachadh iongantach aige ri Aon a ghlac aire ann an àite cho eu-coltach. Tha Criosd a’ gairm, agus tha Lèbhi a tha a’ cluinntinn gairm Iosa, a’ freagairt. Is e Iosa gràdhach a tha a’ gairm, agus Iosa a tha a’ sireadh, agus Iosa a tha a’ dèanamh agartasan. Cha robh suim aig mòran do Lèbhi; bha e tàireil nan sùilean, ach tha Iosa ga ghràdhachadh, agus cluinnidh sinn an Slànaighear mar gum biodh ag ràdh ris, ‘Tha Mi ag iarraidh ort a thighinn còmhla ri mo shluagh-sa’. Chan eil Iosa aig àm sam bith a’ dèanamh leth-bhreith; chan eil am fear -sa ach na pheacach caillte, agus is e sin cliù gach aon a tha Esan a’ sireadh. B’e gràdh a thug Iosa a-steach dhan t-saoghal-sa ,agus chun a’ Chrann-cheusaidh. Tha gràdh ann an gairm Iosa, oir is e Iosa gràdhach a tha a’ gairm. Is e seo cuideachd Iosa a nì sireadh. Tha E a’ tighinn far a bheil sinn, agus nach eil leasan an seo dhuinne mar Chrìosdaidhean? Nach fheum sinn a bhith a’ dèanamh spàirn a bhith a’ ruighinn dhaoine far a bheil iad? Tha oidhirp an cois seo, ach is e seo as còir dhuinn a bhith a’ dèanamh. Tha nithean air iarraidh air an t-sluagh a tha Iosa a’ gairm. Is e seo Iosa rìoghail a’ gairm, agus feumaidh am fear no an tè freagairt ann an dòigh air chor-eigin. Tha tionndadh iongantach ann am beatha Lèbhi. Chan eil dàil anns a’ chùis. Tha Criosd a’ sireadh agus a’ gairm sluagh a ghabhas Esan mar Rìgh air am beatha gu h-iomlan, agus is e seo an roghainn as motha a nì duine air talamh tròcair. Tha staid shìorraidh dhaoine an crochadh air mar a fhreagras iad. Nach bu chòir dhuinn a-rèist rannsachadh a dhèanamh air mar a tha sinn fhìn a’ freagairt.
Is e seo Iosa a theàrnas. Feumar gairm Iosa a fhreagairt, agus nuair a thig an Soisgeul le cumhachd, cluinnidh na bodhair am fuaim aoibhneach. Bhruidhinn an teachdaire air freagairt Lèbhi don ghairm. Thrèig e a dhòigh-beatha, agus lean e Iosa gu toileach. Rinn e subhachas, agus brìgh a-nis air a thighinn na bheatha, agus rinn e seirbheis do dh’ Iosa. B’e seo a-nis Ceannard a shlàinte, agus an Ceannard a stiùireadh a bheatha a-chaoidh tuilleadh. Leugh sinn gu bheil Iosa ag ràdh, ‘Thàinig Mi a ghairm peacaich a-chum aithreachas’. Chì sinn beatha dhaoine a bha a’ leantainn slighe glè cheàrr, air an stiùireadh gu ‘bealach ceart fon cois’. A-rèist, is e a bhith a’ dèanamh aithreachas agus a bhith a’ leantainn Iosa san t-slighe a tha air iarraidh oirnne. Chì sinn ann an cosamhlachd na caora chaillte mar a tha e deatamach gun till sinn dhachaigh gu far am buin sinn. Tha Lèbhi a-nis a’ leantainn Iosa, agus cha tèid a threòrachadh air slighe sam bith nach eil ceart. Rinn e cuirm na dhachaigh, oir bha an tionndadhsa agus an coinneachadh-sa cho iongantach ’s gu feumadh e a chomharrachadh. Rinn e seirbheis do dh’ Iosa mar a Thighearna, agus dhuinn fhìn anns an èisteachd, bha cuireadh an t-Soisgeil cho fialaidh, agus na chois, agartasan an t-Slànaigheir, a bhith a’ toirt ar làithean Dha-san. Bha E ag iarraidh gum biodh ar comasan, no tàlant sam bith a chaidh a thoirt dhuinn, air a chur gu feum na adhbhar air an talamh. B’e facal misneachail a bha an seo do neach sam bith a bha a’ sireadh an t-Slànaigheir, ach b’e facal a bh’ann nach do dh’ fhàg aon againne a’ dol dhachaigh gun a bhith a’ beachdachadh às ùr air dè a bha sinne a’ dèanamh ann an rìoghachd Dhè. An robh sinn gu gràdhach a’ sireadh ar co-chreutair; an robh ar beatha gu h-iomlan air a thoirt do dh’ Iosa, gus am biodh glòir nì sam bith a dheidheadh a dhèanamh leinn Aige-san? Ceistean mòra. (B’e an t-Urramach Alasdair I. Macleòid a bha a’ searmonachadh, agus tha sinn a’ toirt taing dha airson an dà shearmoin, Gairm Lèbhi agus Banais Chàna.) •
© bhukta79/Adobe Stock
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
r. jordan peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist from the University of Toronto, has gathered quite a following through his psychological analysis of narratives and myths – especially of the Bible. His lectures, which have received over 35 million views on YouTube, demonstrate a superb mind able to communicate the most difficult ideas in a captivating and inspirational way. But he really hit the headlines when in 2016 he refused to use gender-neutral pronouns at his university and opposed the infamous C-16 bill of the Canadian government that makes it a criminal offence to ‘misgender’ people. Instead of giving in, he made a stand and as such has become a love/hate figure. Last month he was in the UK being interviewed on numerous media and giving sold-out lectures to enraptured audiences. His interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News has become a YouTube sensation. His book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is already a bestseller and deservedly so. I found it challenging, stimulating and frustrating. It is a wonderful mix of psychology, theology, history, narrative and social philosophy from someone who is clearly influenced by Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Freud, Jung and, above all, the Bible. The chapters are uneven in length and value, but all of them are worth reading. Those on parenting, telling the truth, being precise in speech and why we shouldn’t bother children when they are skateboarding are superb! Unlike most self-help books it deals with sin, suffering, morality, humanity and good and evil with a depth that I did not expect. He deals with the gender confusion debate with great clarity and insight. The chapter on this is real. Authentic. And biblical. Peterson is a superb communicator who speaks into our increasingly anti-Christian culture about sin, hope, and the Bible, and espouses what many would regard as common-sense Christian values. The left-behinds and the frustrated seem particularly drawn to his message of hope and healing. Some secularists think he is a Christian preacher who is seeking to smuggle in Christianity through the back door. But when asked in an interview in The National Post, ‘Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God?’ he responded, ‘I think the proper response to that is “No, but I’m afraid He might exist’.” He is not a Christian, but that does not mean that the Lord cannot use him to speak his truth into our culture. One of the most frustrating things about 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is that Peterson sometimes gets so close. His analysis of the problem is often superb, but his understanding of the answer is somewhat limited.
Whilst the 12 Rules are actually helpful — especially when you read the reasoning behind them — as Christians we already have the Ten Commandments, which are a far better basis. But we also have a far better solution. The way to get order out of chaos is to have the One who brings order out of chaos. Christ. Jordan Peterson is a sincere, intelligent, compassionate human being who, in his search for the truth, sometimes gets closer than many professing Christians. Anyone who can write ‘I knew that the cross was simultaneously the point of greatest suffering, the point of death and transformation, and the symbolic centre of the world’ is not far from the Kingdom! But he is not the Messiah. He is not even a follower of the Messiah. He just needs the Messiah. • PETERSON’S 12 RULES Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you Rule 4 Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient) Rule 8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t Rule 10 Be precise in your speech Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skateboarding Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
12 RULES FOR LIFE: AN ANTIDOTE TO CHAOS JORDAN B. PETERSON ALLEN LANE WWW.AMAZON.CO.UK
PRAYER DIARY FEB/MAR 2018
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 Thurs 15th Dr Jack Whytock’s wife Nancy has taken very seriously ill while in Canada. Her illness is caused by tick-bite fever. Please pray for a complete recovery and for the work of Dumisani to continue under the guidance of the other staff members while Jack has to be away.
Sat 24th The Injil is the Arabic name for the Gospel of Jesus (Isa). This Injil is described by the Qur’an as one of the four Islamic holy books which was revealed by God. There is a new translation of Luke’s gospel in English. Pray that our Islamic friends will read it and discover Isa as their Saviour.
Fri 16th The Indian government has publicly stated it wishes to eradicate Christianity from India by 2025. Please pray for the Church, the leaders and the many children being looked after by church orphanages.
Sun 25th Pray for all those who gather to worship in Garrabost, Lewis today and for Rev. Andrew Coghill as he serves as interim moderator during the vacancy in this congregation.
Sat 17th Pray that all those attending the Saturday course run by the Seminary in Edinburgh will have their Christian mind stretched through their study of God’s Word.
Mon 26th Richard and Barbara Davies work in Marseille, and part of the WfM funds raised this year will go to European Mission Fellowship. Pray for the Davies as they share the gospel with a people group from another religion.
Mon 5th As the Word is spoken to young soldiers by SASRA workers, please pray they would consider what is being said and ask the Lord to help them understand. Tues 6th This week the students in the Seminary are on a midsemester break. Pray that they and their lecturers will be refreshed in their time away from classes. Wed 7th Pray for all those who gather for the Commission of Assembly in Edinburgh this evening. Pray that God would guide and bless their business. Thurs 8th Pray for the Board of Trustees as they meet today to discuss issues covering finance, policy, strategy, compliance, communications and risk management.
Sun 18th Pray with the vacant congregation of Pairc, Gravir and their interim moderator Rev. Malcolm MacDonald as they look to the Lord for their future ministry.
Tues 27th Pray for Suraj Kasula in his work at Shekinah Evangelical Church in Nepal. A Women for Mission project aims to raise money to help purchase land and build a church.
Mon 19th Pray for the small Mission International team of volunteers travelling to Haiti to support the work of the church there by helping with the training of some church leaders.
Wed 28th Women for Mission also aim to raise funds to help ‘God is Good: Africa’ provide secure and adequate accommodation and toilets for the teachers in Kitale, Uganda. Pray for the children served by the ‘God is Good’ school.
Sat 10th The Scottish Bible Society is helping provide Bible resources to nurture the significantly growing numbers of youths attending church in Laos. Praise God and pray for those seeking God despite limited religious freedom.
Thurs 1st Dr. Manuel Reano works with ‘Christ for the City’ in Medellin, Colombia. As part of his ministry he pastors and mentors ministers throughout Latin America. He is involved in organising breakfasts for ministers and prayer meetings on the first Thursday of every month. Pray for the pastors in Latin America.
Sun 11th Pray with the congregation in Dunblane and their interim moderator, Rev. Iain McDonald, as they look to the Lord for a settled ministry.
Tues 20th Remember Rev. Chris Davidson as he develops the new church plant at Merkinch Free Church, Inverness. Chris is gathering a team around him as we partner with 20schemes in this new work. Pray for this pre-plant phase: no public services are held until the team work out a strategy and philosophy of ministry as well as add to the members of the core team. Wed 21st Praise God with the Free North congregation, as they ordained ten new office bearers in December. Pray for blessing on the witness of this Inverness church. Thurs 22nd The Annual Church History Lecture is scheduled to take place in the Seminary today. Pray that this will be uplifting for all those who attend. Fri 23rd SASRA wants to grow as a mission, and is praying especially for Royal Air Force recruits to come forward for SASRA selection.
Fri 2nd Pray for those who get financial assistance through the Support a Volunteer Fund. Give thanks for those who have been blessed through this fund in the past. Sat 3rd Pray for the ministers of the Free Church in South Africa, that they would enjoy God’s blessing on their work and his help in carrying out their duties faithfully. Sun 4th This morning remember the small congregation in Dumbarton and their interim moderator, Rev. Kenny Boyd. Pray with them as they look to the Lord for guidance.
Fri 9th Pray that all those attending the final lecture of the winter in Falkirk tonight will be blessed as Rev. Andy Longwe speaks on Soli Deo Gloria.
Mon 12th Continue to remember the preparations going on for this summer’s camps programme. Pray that both leaders and campers will be prepared for a time of fun and fellowship. Tues 13th As the Board of Ministry meet to discuss students for the ministry, probationers, ministers and elders and deacons today, pray that they will know God’s guidance. Wed 14th Pray for your local school today. Our young people face some difficult issues and our teachers have to be careful and sensitive as they deal with them.
Prayer requests to: email@example.com. Please take time to send requests for your congregation or ministry to be included in forthcoming Records. These prayer notes are prepared 5 weeks in advance of publication.
BY CATRIONA MURRAY
POST TENEBRAS LUX
Photo by Samuele Errico Piccarinii on Unsplash
hese dark winter months
are a grand time for ghost stories. While every other good Free Churcher was attending lectures on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I marked the start of the winter with a talk on Hallowe’en and all its macabre associations. There was a good attendance and lots of contributions from the floor. Lewis, you see, has always been aware of its proximity to the Otherworld... My supernatural education as a child would have been similar to that of my peers, especially those who grew up in Gaelic-speaking families. We were raised on a diet of strange lights and ghostly noises, spectral vehicles on lonely roads and stories of unchancy people who could foretell death. And then there was the other half of our supernatural education. Threats of ‘loch an teine’, the lake of fire, for minor misdemeanours; casual allusions to the Devil, which had the effect of making him more real to us than all the theological books in the world ever could; and Sunday School teachers who cheeringly told us that our homes would go up in flames if we watched television on the Lord’s Day. For a few months in the late eighties, extensive work was carried out on the main road through our village, resulting in the street lights being turned off for the duration. It altered my whole landscape and suddenly, the evening walk home from my friend’s house — no more than two minutes away — to my own safe and friendly back door was
fraught with terror. Luckily, though, this sudden descent into danger coincided with my reading a novel set in Shetland where the young protagonist would protect himself from ‘trows’ when out alone in the dark by running fast and repeating out loud, ‘The Lord be about me and all that I see’. Emulating him, I would close my neighbour’s gate behind me, take a deep breath and run headlong towards home, muttering the little prayer over and over. Shetlandic in origin it may have been, but it had in it the wisdom of islands. It spoke to me, a child who knew stories about men of the second sight who carried Bibles in their pockets to guard against the possibility of meeting spectral funerals at night. I often remember that little prayer. It has an interesting double layer to it, I think, asking the Lord’s protection twice over. The petitioner asks that God should protect him from the darkness, but also that God should protect him from seeing the things of that darkness. Now that I am more or less grown-up, I think that I can understand the words much better. It is, at first glance, a terrified child’s plea for reassurance, but also he is saying, ‘don’t let me see anything scary’. None of us wants to see that which might frighten us. Like children, we believe that if we can’t see the monsters, somehow they’re not really there. If we walk by sight, ironically, we will not see the real dangers which lurk around us. We have
largely lost touch with the Otherworld. Television and the internet and science fill that dark void once occupied by ghosts and witches. Now, we are so full of our own wisdom that we know there is nothing unseen which can harm us. We are quite wrong. Hollywood has provided a ludicrously comforting version of the supernatural that reinforces our conviction that it’s all makebelieve. But, while we are busy watching the vampire on the screen, something much more threatening creeps in and takes a seat beside us. We let the ghosts of our own people go too easily. It was part of our education to accept that these were just primitive folk beliefs. And that has left us open to attack. The Bible is very clear about the fact that we have an unseen enemy. To the unbeliever this probably sounds like fantasy. Infantilising the supernatural does not remove its claws, however; actually, it makes it ever more dangerous to us. It was safer out there, I think, when we knew there was something lurking in the darkness. At least we feared enough to ask God to cover our eyes. Now, the danger is not simply that we think there is nothing to see, but that there is no one there to protect us from it. Oh, for that childlike walk of faith, petitioning trustingly, ‘The Lord be about me and all that I see’. •