Thursday, January 10, 2013

20 Schemes, Why I am involved !

A few years ago I was browsing through 9Marks website and came across an interview that Mark Dever did whilst in Scotland with a guy called Mez McConnell. What peeked my interest in Mez's testimony was that he was identified as a pastor in Niddrie, Edinburgh.
Whilst at High School I used to travel from my home in Haddington, East Lothian, 15 miles or so into Edinburgh to play football(soccer) for a club called Edina Hibs whose home field was in Niddrie. During my late teens when I was a member of Musselburgh Baptist Church, I used to pray for the Edinburgh City Mission work in Niddrie and our church soccer team would train at the Jack Kane Centre in Niddrie. So Niddrie was a part of Edinburgh that I was familiar with for two reasons still close to my heart, my love for Christ and my love for the beautiful game, soccer.
As I listened to Mez's testimony I was moved to tears as he testified to the saving power of God in Christ towards him and I found my heart strangely knit with his as he shared his vision for the work of the gospel that he was engaged in Niddrie. I decided that I should write to Mez and encourage him in what he was doing and assure him that I would be praying for his ministry. As we interacted over the next few months it became evident that God was knitting our hearts together beyond mere acquaintance and I rejoiced that God was indeed giving me an opportunity to be involved in gospel work in my beloved homeland of Scotland and more than that, in a place that I was somewhat familiar with.
It is very encouraging to see how the Lord has directed in terms of the raising up the 20 Schemes endeavor and the desire and intention to seek to plant 20 churches in Scotland's poorest housing schemes. This is a noble vision and a tall order in light of the abject darkness that marks Scotland as a whole and the weakness that marks the evangelical church too. However in my recent visits to Scotland, Dec/January 2011/12 and May 2012 I have observed encouraging signs of spiritual stirrings amongst God's people.
I am involved in 20 Schemes because I believe it is a worthy effort at fulfilling the command of Christ to make disciples. I am involved in 20 Schemes because I believe God has raised up Mez for this generation to do a hard yet wonderful work in a tough place. I am involved in 20 Schemes because I believe what Mez is seeking to do is what the church in Scotland should be doing, reaching the lowly, broken and perishing of Scotland's poorest areas. I am involved in 20 Schemes because I believe the planting of churches is the greatest need of any nation. I am involved in 20 Schemes because I still love my kinsmen after the flesh and many of them sit in darkness without hope and without Christ.
Please pray for 20Schemes and for Scotland, a land once rich in Christian faith, but now a land lost in sin and misery and perishing ! If you would like to know more about 20 Schemes please feel free to contact me or look up 20Schemes on Facebook.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dr James White on Islam at IBC

Photo: Great time with Dr James White.

It was a real joy for us at IBC to see our church well filled for the visit of Dr James White, Director of Alpha and Omega ministries. I have enjoyed the work of Dr White from afar but never had the opportunity to meet him in person. It was a delight to enjoy time for dinner before the meeting and become acquainted with him. Perhaps it was his Scottishness that connected, but it was a real joy to spend time with him and hear of how the Lord has been using him in the whole realm of Islam and his defense of the Christian faith.
Notwithstanding his reasonable attempt at a Scottish accent, not bad for third generation, the material of Dr White's lecture on Islam was excellent. I felt sorry for him having to try to cram what he could into the 75 minutes we had allotted for this gathering. He did a good job in whetting our appetite and helping us to see the importance of understanding Islamic theology if we are going to engage lovingly and meaningfully with the Muslim about the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
I heartily recommend Dr White's material from last night and I look forward with eagerness to the publication of his upcoming book on Islam. Anything I have read from Dr White has always been helpful and it is with thanksgiving to God that we have such an apologist for the Christian faith in our generation.
It is my hope that we will be able to have Dr White visit with us again for another lecture, or perhaps a longer seminar on Islam or one of the other many subjects he is able to deal with.
For those of you interested in reading the Qu'ran and wonder where to begin please find the link below to Dr White's website.

A New Year and New Opportunities !

The dawn of a new year always presents us with time for reflection and meditation. The old year is gone, with all its ups and downs, with all its victories and defeats, with all its progress and regress. Standing on the threshold of a new year we are presented again with the reality of our mortality and at the same time the opportunities that lie before us.
In my meditations on Scripture this week I have found myself thinking about Simeon in Luke 2. His messianic expectation was graciously fulfilled by God and the old saint rejoiced to hold the hope of the world in his arms as Jesus was presented in the temple by Mary and Joseph.
The comment of Luke regarding the Lord Jesus is significant and encouraging to think about at the dawn of a new year. Luke 2v32 'a light for revelation to the Gentiles...', Simeon is recorded here as quoting the words of Isaiah 49v6. The promised Messiah who was destined not only for the glory of Israel, but as a light for revelation to the Gentiles.
A few decades later the apostle Paul would recall this scripture in the face of Jewish hostility to the gospel in Antioch in Psidia, Acts 13v14ff. With the gospel beginning to have a substantial impact upon the Gentiles, the apostle remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah too in Acts 13v47.
What is remarkable about Paul's use of the prophet's words is that they seem to refer not to Christ directly, but to Paul and the witness of the apostles. This is of course in keeping with the fact that the apostles were indeed Christ's representatives to the nations declaring His gospel and establishing the Christian church.
As I pondered this use of Isaiah 49v6 by the apostle Paul I was stirred to realize that this is now the task of the church, to take the gospel of Christ to the nations, to function as a light for the nations, just as God intended.
With Christ as our King, and the apostle's doctrine as our teaching, we are called by God to move into the new year seeking new opportunities to bring the message of Christ to the nations ! What a privilege ! What a blessing ! What a challenge ! The new year brings us new opportunities ! May God guide us and direct us to maximize our opportunities to take the message of Christ to as many was we can ! May God guide us strategically to spread the message of His light that we may bring salvation to the ends of the earth !

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises.......

I awoke this morning to the news on the radio of murder and mayhem in Aurora, Colorado. A depraved young man had decided to make the premiere of the new Batman movie his moment of infamy. My heart ached as I heard of the shooting at the theater and the fact so many had lost their lives and even more were injured. A night out at the movies had turned into a nightmare. It was made all the more poignant because my daughter had been at a premiere showing in our own city with her work mates from Chik Fil A and it could have so easily been her caught up in the evil.

This morning I took my other three kids to see the movie just as we had planned, the late night stuff is too much for a mid-forties guy who has more important responsibilities that needs sleep. It felt different going this morning against the back-drop of Colorado. The excitement was tinged with apprehension, the hype was dulled with sorrow and empathy, America is in mourning again as evil has raised its ugly head in a quiet place when it was least expected.

Sitting watching the drama and action of The Dark Knight on the big screen I found myself deeply moved in my soul for this generation and for this Western Civilization we are part of. Batman has always been my favorite superhero figure. He has not super-powers like Superman but he is such an interesting and enigmatic figure. As far as the movie goes, it was not a disappointment, it was classic Batman with all the interesting elements of the plot that makes him who he is. For me as a Christian and a servant Christ I could not help but think about what Batman represents with regards to man's deepest need and deepest struggle. Batman is all about man's need of a Savior, someone who can rescue him from death and destruction. It is impossible to watch the movie and not see this theme at its core. As I thought about this during the movie perhaps the most poignant illustration of it all came at the football game in which a little guy is singing the national anthem and then mayhem breaks loose and everyone is helpless as the evil Bane takes control of the city. Gotham will perish if no one steps in to save it. Sadly there is no one able to save it except.....Batman.

What it is about the American psyche that is fascinated and even obsesses about facing doomsday scenarios, and always looking for a deliverer, and finally finding one ? The impact of the Christian gospel is clearly evident to those who have the eyes to see. Of course there is much that contradicts the Christian gospel, there is much that denies the Christian gospel in this movie, but there is an imprint there that exists. Sadly for many Batman will be only what it is meant to be, a movie, action packed, dramatic and exciting. Their lives will rumble on in this world of evil and in this world of darkness without God and without Christ in spite of the fact they know they cannot fix their addictions, their habits, their sins.....they have no answer for evil when it rises......they have a forlorn hope someone might rescue them from temporal tragedy, but eternal tragedy is something they simply close out their minds hoping it will never come.

As I looked around at the people in the theater this morning and at my kids as they got back into the car I thought about those who went to the same movie just a few hours earlier than we did and who are now in eternity, but for the grace of God it could have been me and my kids. The issue that arises for me as I reflect on these things is this......Batman is not our hope......only Jesus Christ is. If we do not believe in Him then we have no hope in this life or the one that may come upon us much quicker than we expect. Thank God for His Son who came to accomplish our redemption through His resurrection from the dead and give us hope in the midst of such an evil and wicked world ! May we hold fast by grace through faith to the only one who can bring us peace with God and rescue us from the clutches of sin, death and the devil !

Monday, July 16, 2012

Making disciples.....

There is a lot of discussion, debate and division today with regards to the central purpose of the Christian church. Recent years has witnessed an upsurge in interest among conservative evangelicals in social justice and cultural renewal. Such is the interest shown that many churches are now putting a lot of energy into so called 'Seasons of Service' where social projects are dominating the activity of many churches. We are being told it is the church's responsibility to feed the poor, it is the church's responsibility to house the homeless, it is the church's responsibility to stop abortions, it is the church's responsibility to provide health care for the needy etc,etc,etc,etc.....

Whilst all this social concern is admirable to an extent, is it really the church's responsibility to do all the things mentioned above and whole lot more? Should the local church be preoccupied with issues of social justice? Should the finances of the church and the time of the church be dominated by 'Seasons of Service'? Or have we lost our way in terms of the central purpose of the Christian church?

When you read the NT it is very clear that at the center of the church's mission is not deliverance from material poverty, or physical homelessness, or physical health issues, nor dare I say it even the eradication of abortion. The central mission of the Christian church is the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The central mission of the Christian church is to make disciples of the nations for the glory of God. When the church moves the proclamation of the gospel and the making of the disciples to the side and replaces it with social justice issues or cultural renewal issues it unwittingly loses its purpose and the power of God in its ranks.

If the Christian church is to enjoy the presence and power of God in its midst it must remain faithful to its calling and keep first things first and central things central. If not then it can be certain that it in a generation if not sooner it will cease to truly be the salt and light Christ calls it to be......

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Love Wins - A Sad Case

Over these past few weeks I have become aware of the various discussions surrounding the anticipated publication of 'Love Wins' by Rob Bell, pastor of a church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Mars Hill.
Justin Taylor's comments on 'The Gospel Coalition' caused a fuss and then the Martin Bashir interview of Bell on MSNBC this past week certainly caught my interest in the light of Rob Bell's responses.
It turns out that Martin Bashir is a committed Christian himself and whilst simply going after the dis-ingenuousness he perceived in Bell's book, it was clear for any with eyes to see and ears to understand that Bashir understood the Christian Gospel better than Bell and exposed the postmodern nonsense that marks so much of this Emergent Church movement.
I have not read Bell's book, I am not sure I want to fork out any money that might go towards Bell's work if the critique's are accurate. Simply going off the Bashir interview is enough for any truly committed Christian to see that Bell is not an orthodox evangelical Christian and he is certainly a postmodernist in his approach to things. Glad that the exposure of this man was so clear.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sectarian ? Or True ?

It was very sad for me to receive a message from an old acquaintance back in N.Ireland who felt my posts about the Papal visit to Scotland were sectarian and inappropriate. Sadly it seems that to write as I did about the Roman Catholic Church is to be unwilling to move on and to be somehow stuck in the past of N.Ireland's past.

How should I respond? What should I say? Should I retract my perspectives about the Roman Catholic Church? Should I dumb down my concern for Scotland? Why would a guy that I have regard for and respect for get so offended at what I wrote?

Well at one level I understand it, he is a Roman Catholic and no doubt views my position as hostile to him personally. In reality nothing could be further from the truth. In reality my pointing out the fallacy of the Roman religious system is not to be hostile to any of my Roman Catholic friends, but rather a desire to have them consider what they believe and why? Just like anyone born into a Protestant family, the religion of your fathers needs to be evaluated against the word of God to see if it is according to the truth.

The tragedy and disappointment for me is that there is not really a willingness to consider the issues. Why? Because prejudice is deep-rooted in all our hearts and to examine the traditions of our fathers might result in forsaking them and such a possibility brings with it a price too high to pay. Whether you read my blogs about the Papal visit to Scotland as a Roman Catholic or a Protestant who has grown up in the deeply divided and bitter society like N.Ireland, realize that the Bible defines truth and Jesus Christ alone is the only Savior from sin and one day you and I shall give an account to Him for what we have believed and what we have done with our lives.

For those who might read my blog and think that I only believe Roman Catholicism is a false system, let me make it clear, Liberal Protestantism is no better. God will not ask you when you face Him in judgment whether you were a Roman Catholic or a Protestant, He will ask you if your are trusting only in His Son for the forgiveness of your sins and peace with Him and He will look for the proof of this in the way you have lived your life.