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MAR-APR 2015 1.

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The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

IN THIS ISSUE....
Pray for Vanuatu......................................Page 3
Genesis & the age of the earth...............Page 4
Eldership.................................................. Page 5
Joshua Chapter 7.................................... Page 6
Nomad YFC.............................................. Page 8
Mary Slessor of Calabar......................... Page 10
Heaven in two words.............................. Page 12
Book reviews.......................................... Page 14
Who is God?............................................ Page 16
The Evangelical Presbyterian is published bimonthly by the Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
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The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

F1RST WORD
PRAY FOR VANUATU
Cyclone Pam sounds deceptively friendly. However, for the residents of the islands that form the
Republic of Vanuatu Pam brought only death, devastation and destruction. It is good to see the
international community responding quickly to the whole situation, and we must give, as we are able,
to Tear Fund or one of the other evangelical aid agencies who are currently running special appeals
for Vanuatu. More than that we must pray for the people of Vanuatu.
To be honest, most of us, I think, will probably have had to get out the laptop and Google Vanuatu just
to be sure exactly where it is. Its not a name or a place with which we are familiar. I was intrigued to
discover that the island group was constituted as the state of Vanuatu in 1980 and that previously the
region had been known as the New Hebrides. Now, that triggered off a whole lot of memories.
In my mind the New Hebrides is intrinsically associated with the name of John G Paton.
John was born, the oldest of eleven children, on 24th May 1824. The family lived in a small three
roomed thatched cottage in Torthorwald, Dumfriesshire. Material things were in short supply but there
were other things which made the home a happy and stimulating place in which to be reared. Johns
parents, James and Janet Paton, had clear faith in Jesus Christ. They evidently lived out this faith in
a way which made a lasting impression on their family. As a young man John G Paton left the family
home to go and study in Glasgow. His father accompanied him for the first six miles of the journey
and then parted from him. Johns account of the parting is both moving and challenging:
My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsel and tears and heavenly
conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday;
He grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly said, God bless you my son.
Your fathers God prosper you and keep you from all evil
How many of us engage with our children in heavenly conversation?
But Glasgow was not John G Patons ultimate destination. On 16th April 1858 he left with his wife
Mary to engage in missionary work in the New Hebrides. On arrival at the island of Tanna the Patons
set up home and three months later their first son, Peter, was born. However Johns faith was soon
to be severely tested for three weeks after Peters birth Mary died and three weeks later baby Peter
also died. And what did John Paton do next? Return home? Bring his missionary work to an end?
No. He kept going. With Gods help, empowered by the Holy Spirit, he did not give up despite many
setbacks and dangers. He persevered and ultimately saw God blessing his work and building up the
church in the New Hebrides. Its our prayer at this time that the God who sustained John G Paton in
many trials will support and help the people of Vanuatu in their hour of crisis.

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

GENESIS AND THE


AGE OF THE EARTH
Much of the debate over origins is due to differing opinions on
the age of the earth. These range from an earth that is less than
six thousand years old, as believed by young earth creationists,
to an earth that is believed to be 4.54 billion years old, based
on evolutionary pre-suppositions. The difference is vast and the
implications immense for how one understands the Christian faith.
There is also considerable misinformation regarding how the age of
the earth and the length of the days of creation have been viewed by
the church down the centuries of history. Sadly this has sometimes
come from people who would be regarded as evangelicals.

THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS ONE


The first chapter of Genesis does not display the characteristics of
Hebrew poetry and has the style of narrative history. It is always
interpreted as history by the rest of the Bible writers and by Jesus
Christ. Genesis 1 begins by defining a day (v.5) as a combination
of one period of darkness/night (evening) followed by one period of
light/day (morning). Subsequently it numbers the succeeding days
of Gods creative work in chronological order and defines each of
them as the combination of an evening and a morning. The fourth
commandment Exod.20:11 makes no distinctions between any of
the days of creation and the Sabbath Day when God rested from his
work of creation and sanctified it. Gen.1:5 also uses the term day
to describe the period of daylight as well as the longer combined
period of evening and morning. Based on our Christian heritage and
beliefs of our forefathers we employ the same understanding and
terminology today. In every other case in scripture when day is used
in conjunction with a numeral it refers to a normal 24 hour period of
time. This has been the majority position of conservative Christians
down the centuries.

THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHURCH FATHERS


Sometimes the understanding of the days of Genesis by the Church
Fathers has been misunderstood or misrepresented by Christian
writers. Often there has been a highly selective and misleading
leaning on the Church Fathers for support for old earth views. Hugh
Ross and John Lennox are both blameworthy in this respect. They
cite the Church Fathers Philo, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen and
Augustine as supporting their old earth views. Lennox, arguing
for his old earth position, states that they were not influenced by
contemporary science, such as geology and evolutionary biology,
but yet did not believe that the days of creation were 24 hours. He
fails to mention that they were however influenced by the dominant
Greek philosophy of their time and its scientific views, some of which
were antecedent to the theory of evolution. Wikipedia states Philo
used philosophical allegory to attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek
philosophy with Jewish philosophy. Neither Ross nor Lennox refer
to a contemporary of Philo (25 BC-50 AD), the Jewish historian
Josephus, who understood the Genesis account as literal history.
Both Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) and Irenaeus (AD 130-202) based
their ideas of days being understood as periods of time on Psalm
90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 (one day is as a thousand years). They did
not however relate this understanding back to Genesis creation
but forwards to future history, believing that the totality of human
history would last 6000 years. To imply that they understood the
days of creation as representing long periods of time is to seriously
misrepresent their position. Similarly Origen (AD 185-254) and
Augustine (AD 354-430) were influenced by neo-platonic philosophy.
While they did not believe that the days were literally 24 hours,
they also did not believe the earth to be ancient; but rather less
than 10,000 years old. Augustine believed the earth was created
instantaneously in one day, based on his reading of Gen.2:4 and his
views are diametrically opposed to old earth creation views.

None of the Church Fathers noted above believed that the days of
creation represented long periods of time nor did they believe in an
old earth. To claim that they did, in support of an old earth position,
is to seriously misrepresent their beliefs and to lead people astray
from truth. It is exceptionally difficult to find one Church Father who
believed in an earth that was more than a few thousand years old.

THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE REFORMERS


Martin Luther (1485-1555) quite clearly believed in literal days,
no death or natural evil before the Fall, and a global flood. Robert
Letham confirms that Luther without ambiguity adopts the
interpretation that the days of creation are of twenty-four hours
duration, at the same time arguing that the earth is only six thousand
years old. Hugh Latimer and John Calvin shared his perspective.
Calvin stated For it is not without significance that he divided the
making of the universe into six days, even though it would not have
been more difficult for him to have completed in one moment the
whole work together in all its details than to arrive at its completion
gradually by a progression of this sort. The Westminster Assembly
met from 1643 1648 to produce the Confession of Faith and in its
chapter on Creation states It pleased God in the beginning to
create, or make of nothing, the world and all things therein, whether
visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.
The 1619 Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible ordered by the
Synod of Dordt was a commentary admired by the Westminster
Divines and other Puritans. On Gen. 1:5 it comments The meaning
of these words (day/night) is that night and day had made up one
natural day together which with the Hebrews began with the evening
and ended with the approach of the next evening, comprehending
24 hours. The language of the Westminster Confession had a
specific meaning when the confession was written which cannot be
stretched to mean any period up to 4.54 million years. Shortly after
the Westminster Assembly, John Owen, Thomas Vincent, Thomas
Watson, Thomas Manton, and Francis Turretin expressed their
disagreement with Augustines view of instantaneous creation and
sided with the chronology of Archbishop James Ussher. We can
also list Ezekiel Hopkins, John Trapp, John Wesley, Thomas Horne,
Thomas Scott, Adam Clarke, John Gill and Matthew Henry, all of
whom held to a literal six day creation about 4000 BC.
The current epidemic of claiming that the historic understanding
of the age of the earth and the length of the days were a matter
of serious debate by the Church Fathers and Reformers does not
stand close scrutiny. The idea appears to have been borrowed from
evolutionary sources without a proper examination of the original
documents. Belief in Young Earth Creation is not a modern day
mutation as Lennox has claimed but the predominant view of the
church throughout its history. The alternative view that the earth is
millions of years old has only gained support from Christians in the
last 150 years since the promotion of Darwinism.
(To be continued)

Rev. Robert Beckett is minister of the


Crosscollyer Street congregation. For many
years he has been studying the whole
area of Biblical Creation and has lectured
extensively on this vital subject.

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

that we make, each form of service in the local church can


prepare us for what God has for us next. A long term desire to do
what God wants and to learn what He teaches is what aspires
means. Verse ten says And let them also be tested first; then let
them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.

1 Timothy 3 verse 1 The saying is trustworthy:


If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires
a noble task.
The apostle Paul gives Timothy and Titus, his designated
successors, solemn commands in the letters that he wrote to
them: he tells them to guard the truths that he has taught them
and pass these on to the faithful people that they were training
to teach others (2 Tim.2v2). He does not leave us in the dark
as to what these truths are. In the three letters to Timothy and
Titus there are five faithful and reliable sayings which contain the
centre of his message. Four of these cause no surprises to us as
they affirm Christ coming into the world to save sinners, salvation
by grace through faith alone, living with eternity in view, and the
pursuit of holiness.
However when we come to this text, we can get a bit of a jolt
at this apostolic priority. Some of us have lived with churches
with elders all our life and tend to ignore their office, the way
we scarcely notice a piece of well-worn furniture that has
always been in our home. Others have been in circles that are
influenced by the mood of the age and see little value in their
fellowship being ruled by a number of spiritual, mature and
qualified men. Some, I fear, will have met control freaks who
wish to dominate their fellow believers in a lust for power.
It is not just here that Paul gives this priority. On his first
missionary journey he appointed elders on his way back through
Lystra, Iconium and Antioch (Acts 14:23) remarkably soon after
their conversion. We also find at the end of this chapter that he
says that the letter is written so that Timothy may know how to
behave in the household of God. The message is so vital that he
could not risk delay. Do we give it the same priority?
If, our first word, gives us a sad reminder that many today are
so wrapped up in their careers, families and pleasures, that the
demands of Christian service are a step too far. Their friends
say Dont throw your life away! In the countries where most
Christians live today, in China, Korea, India and the Muslim
majority areas, elders are likely targets for persecution. Here
elders have to be ready for hurtful comments and often have to
suffer them without the chance to reply. We need to pray that
men will be prepared to aim for costly servant leadership. Their
wives will share the cost too.
Anyone is defined by its context firstly as male as the
previous verses in chapter two exclude a woman from teaching
or having authority in the mixed congregation, and these tasks
are highlighted in the qualifications for eldership that follow our
text, which also assume that the elders are men. Secondly they
also show that elders have to pass tests of maturity, spirituality,
gifting and consistent living. We say Who is sufficient for these
things? and ask for Gods help without which we can do nothing.
Aspires The development of character and gift, Scripture
knowledge and interpersonal skills, and supremely a walk with
God, is a lifetime process. Each trial we suffer and each decision

The office of overseer This phrase demands order and


structure in the church. The elder joins with colleagues to
supervise. This involves the selection, training, empowering
and encouraging of other members in their various roles. It is all
too easy not to notice how a persons gifting and maturity have
increased, and so time must be spent with fellow members to
know each one as they currently are.
A noble task Humble ministers and elders may find a real
difficulty in putting the message of this text across: to promote
the task in which they themselves are involved can sound like
self-promotion. It is much easier to promote foreign missions,
but the glory of Christs church does not start when we leave the
familiar surroundings of home. So service in, and care of, the
church for whom the Saviour died is beautiful and good. As we
serve in a setting that is not unusual or spectacular and invest
our lives with a few folk young or old, the Holy Spirit through Paul
tells us that it is a noble thing to do.
A noble task It is hard work as well as being noble. The
apostle mentions hospitality, teaching, management and care
in the verses that follow. It is often sacrificial in terms of time,
emotional energy and career prospects. Paul elsewhere gives
the care of the churches in his list of sufferings. A minister
apologised to me that he called unshaven in the bookshop one
morning. He had sat up all the previous night with a critically ill
church member who had no relatives!
The Apostle encourages:(a) Young men to aim high by growing in grace and aspiring to
all that God has for them.
(b) Existing elders to model the office, to notice and appreciate
members progress and to nurture godly ambition.
(c) Us all to have eldership in the centre of our view of the
church and pray for teachable and willing men with the
requisite gifts to be raised up in our midst.
The existence or installation of a plurality of godly, spiritual and
qualified elders does not solve all our problems but it is the
Biblical framework in which we should serve God and seek His
help to solve them.
I heartily recommend two books which give a much fuller picture
of eldership: Ernest C Brown Qualified, Commissioned and
Accountable (EPC 1993)
Lawrence R Eyres Elders of the Church (PRPC 1979 and
newer editions)
John Grier has recently retired as manager
of the Evangelical Bookshop, Belfast.
His knowledge of reformed literature is
encyclopaedic and his contribution to
the world of Christian literature has been
immense. He serves as an elder in the
congregation of Crosscollyer St/
Somerton Road.

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

Joshua 7
As we read through the opening 6 chapters of the book of
Joshua, there is much to rejoice over as we consider the
LORDs gracious works on behalf of his people. He has
miraculously brought the Israelites across the Jordan and
into the Promised Land (Ch. 3-4). The people have pledged
themselves to the LORD in faith and obedience, signified and
sealed by the circumcision at Gilgal (Ch. 5). The LORD has
mightily worked in order to secure victory for his people over
the city of Jericho (Ch. 6).
It is for this reason that the story of chapter 7 gives us
something of a jolt. Faced with the weak town of Ai, the
Israelites suffer a devastating defeat. About thirty-six Israelite
men are killed in battle; the army flees in terror, and the
hearts of all the people of Israel melted (v5).
What is the reason for this sudden reversal of fortunes? Had
Israel simply become complacent after the easy victory at
Jericho? Had they perhaps slipped into prayerlessness?
Regardless of complacency or prayerlessness, the underlying
reason for the defeat at Ai is given to us in the very first verse
of chapter 7. At the battle of Jericho, Achan took some
of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned
against the people of Israel.
Through Joshua, the LORD had specifically told the Israelites
that the whole city of Jericho, with all its spoil, was to be
devoted to destruction (6v18). But one man, Achan, ignored
that command. As the dust settled on the ruins of Jericho,
Achan helped himself to some of the spoils. He broke faith
with God. He walked in disobedience to God. And the anger
of the Lord burned against the people of Israel. That is the
fundamental reason why Israel was defeated at Ai. They were
experiencing the anger of God against sin within the body of
Gods people.
Joshua chapter 7 is about the consequences of sin amongst
the people of God, and why it is therefore absolutely vital that
we are a people who are serious about turning away from the
sin in our own lives.
As we study this chapter, let us note four reasons for us to
turn away from our sin:

1) Turn from your sin for the sake of the church


The main difficulty we are likely to have with this chapter is
the way in which the whole people of Israel experience the
sharp end of Gods anger all because of one mans sin. Why
didnt God just strike down Achan, rather than putting the
entire nation of Israel through this ordeal?
Perhaps one reason why we struggle with this concept is
because we live in a culture which tends to view people
individually rather than corporately. We live in a society
which, in the name of so called tolerance, enshrines my
preferences as an individual, whilst disregarding any kind
of absolute truth and morality by which all of society must
be measured. We live in a society which talks endlessly
about my rights as an individual, but seldom mentions our

responsibilities to those around us in society. We live in a


society which constantly puts the emphasis on the individual,
and tends to ignore the corporate dimension.
When you read the bible you see that the Christian life is
not individualistic it is first and foremost a corporate life.
Of course, the bible does not ignore our individuality, but it
places much greater emphasis on our connectedness as
believers. We are the body of Christ. We are those living
stones being built up together into a spiritual house. That is
why the sin of one individual in the church has ramifications
for the whole of the body of the church. We need to
remember that our conduct as a believer is either going to
enhance or detract from the health of the whole church.
Joshua chapter 7 is the story of one mans sin, and yet the
whole people of Israel feel the heat of Gods anger burning
against them (v1). Together, they stand on the brink of God
withdrawing his presence from them, and leaving them
exposed to the attacks of their enemies (v12).
That is what sin does amongst the people of God. I dont
know what sin you may be battling against at the moment,
but if you are looking for a good reason to turn away from it,
here is your first one: Recognise that your individual sin will
have corporate ramifications for the rest of the church.
Turn from your sin for the good of the church.

2) Turn from your sin for the sake of Gods glory


As Joshua brings his prayer before God in verses 6 to 9, he
reminds himself of that special relationship which existed
between God and Israel. God was the one who led his people
out of Egypt, through the wilderness, across the Jordan, and
into the land.
But now, during this crisis in the aftermath of the defeat at Ai,
Joshua grapples with the frightening thought that God may
now be turning aside from his people and giving them over to
their enemies.

Joshua is concerned about the


wellbeing of Gods people, but even
more importantly than that, Joshua is
concerned about Gods glory.
Look at how he ends his prayer, in verse 9:
For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will
hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the
earth. And what will you do for your great name?
Joshua understands that the glory of Gods name in the eyes
of the nations is bound up with the salvation of his people.
He is the God who had bound himself in covenant
relationship with the people Israel at Mount Sinai. This God
had made all those gospel promises to Abraham in advance,
promising to bring his descendants into the land.
If the people of Israel were destroyed by their enemies, and
failed to claim the land for themselves, then Joshua knows
that this would detract from the glory of Gods name in the

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

sight of the surrounding nations. They would think that


the God of Israel was a failure, because he was unable to
deliver on his promises. He got his people so far, but then he
stumbled at the last hurdle, and the people were wiped out.
The nations would think that this God must be very inglorious,
because he couldnt come good on his promises.
We need to realise what Joshua realised in his prayer.
The glory of God in the sight of the world is at stake when the
church falls into sin. Turn from your sin for the sake of
Gods glory.

3) Turn from your sin because God is holy


In answer to Joshuas prayer, in verses 10-12 the LORD
outlines what the problem is, and why Israel is undergoing
the anger of God. It is because they have sinned by taking
some of the things devoted to destruction for themselves.
Yet at this point, God does not go into any more detail than
that. Instead, he does two things.
Firstly, he calls the people to be holy. He says to Joshua,
Consecrate the people (v13). God is calling his people to be
holy, to be set apart from anything which would defile them,
and to be devoted to God and his service wholeheartedly.
Gods people are to be holy because God himself is holy
(Leviticus 11:44).
Secondly, God promises that he will root out the sin from
among the people. The next morning, the whole people of
Israel are to gather together. First of all, God will indicate
which tribe the guilty party is from. Then, he will indicate
which clan the guilty man is from. Then, all the households of
that clan are to come before God, and God will indicate which
household it is. Finally, the man himself will be pointed out
by God.
This selection process takes place the following morning.
The tribe of Judah is selected. Then, the clan of the Zerahites
is selected. Then, the household of Zabdi is chosen. And
finally, out of the household of Zabdi, Achan, the son of
Carmi, is identified as the guilty man.
Achan admits what he did. He had stolen an expensive cloak,
along with 200 shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing 50
shekels, all of which are now hidden in his tent. Joshua sends
some men to go and search Achans tent, and of course they
find all the stolen items there, and they lay it all down before
the Lord.
God, by calling his people to be holy and then rooting out
the sin from among them, is refining his people, like gold is
refined in a fire to remove the impurities.
God calls his people to be holy because he himself is holy,
and he will root out sinful influences from amongst the
church. Turn from your sin because God is a holy God.

4) Turn from your sin because God will judge


Having learned that Achan is the guilty culprit, Joshua and all
of Israel then take Achan, along with all the gold and silver
and the cloak that he had stolen, and as well as that all his
sons and daughters, and all his livestock, and his tent and all

his possessions, to the Valley of Achor. Achan, and all of his


family and possessions are then stoned to death and burned
with fire. Gods terrifying judgment, his burning anger against
sin, is poured out on this man Achan.
Joshua and the people of Israel want to make sure that they,
and all the subsequent generations, remember this lesson
from the demise of Achan. In order to do so, they put in place
two perpetual reminders of these events. Firstly, they raise
up a great heap of stones over Achan as a visible reminder
of what had taken place. Secondly, they rename that valley
the Valley of Achor, which literally means trouble. Both the
pile of stones in the valley, and the name of the valley itself,
are to be a constant reminder to the people of Israel of the
consequences of sin amongst the people of God.
The consequence, in the end, if that sin it is not repented of,
is that God will pour out his judgment, even against those
within the visible body of the church. His anger burns
against sin.
What hope is there for the church in the face of all this?
The only hope is that the burning anger of God against our
sin has been poured out already at Calvary for all those who
trust in Christ.

God made him who knew no sin to be


sin for us. Christ redeemed us from
the curse of the law by becoming a
curse for us. As it were, every stone of
judgment that we deserve was hurled
at Jesus on the cross to set us free.
Christian person, dont play with sin any more. Turn from your
sin because of Gods judgment, and because God is holy,
and for the sake of the church, and for the glory of God.
May God stir up in our hearts a hatred of sin, a love for
Christs church, a passion for Gods glory, a desire for Gods
holiness, a right fear of Gods wrath, and the assurance of the
grace that is ours in Christ.

Andy Hambleton is minister of the


Crumlin congregation. He is married to
Mary and has one daughter, Sadie. His
last contribution to this magazine was
a thought provoking article on Baptism
which generated worthwhile discussion
among our readers. In this, his latest
article, he helpfully opens up for us
Joshua chapter 7.

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

The testimony of Jonathan McCullough


plans of a future and a hope
I told a couple of very close friends about my decision
My first day of Newtownbreda High school was scary; it
was entering a class where I knew nobody. But it wasnt
long until I made friends and a couple of years later I
started hanging about where they lived in Breda.
I remember being in Breda and seeing the older crowd
that always hung around that area. I remember seeing
them all drinking and laughing amongst each other and
thinking to myself how popular they were and how I
wanted to be like that. The new group of friends I had met
in high school were just your typical high school kids that
played football about the estate anytime they could get!
But it wasnt long until we started to become products of
our environment. We started to drink at the weekends
on the streets and get ourselves into trouble. It even got
to the stage of most of us taking drugs. This life that my
friends and I had started to live just became normal to us.
It was what most people our age did around the area of
Belvoir and Breda. This way of life carried on for the next
few years.
I grew up in a Christian family and went to church until the
age of 16, then left. I always believed in God but worldly
things always got in the way. I always thought being a
Christian was a boring life and that if I was to become a
Christian all my friends would laugh at me. At the age of
18 my brother Peter invited me to a Christian event called
New Horizon. I remember listening to the talk and worship
and realizing that I needed to have Jesus in my life.
I made a commitment that night to follow Jesus. I told my
Dad and brothers. My Dad especially was over the moon.

to which they said fair play but I knew they didnt really
take me seriously. The problem was that I had begun
to live two very different lives. I went out with my mates
during the week and then went to church on Sunday, and
it wasnt long until I fell away and returned to my old life
which I had never really left to begin with.
When I was 20 I woke up after a night out with some
friends and knew this had to stop. I was on the road to
nowhere and didnt have much hope for the future.
I realized that morning that I needed to know and trust in
God. I gave my life to Jesus and it has been the biggest
and best decision I have and will ever make. I now have
hope for the future knowing that God is with me and the
last year has been massive.

The summer of last year I got chatting to David Burke and


he told me about YFC Nomad and I was able to see what
they did first hand when they came to Hope Fellowship.
I felt God calling me to take a year out with Nomad. I got
accepted on to the team and flew over to begin my year
out on the 30th August 2014. The first week I really didnt
know what to expect: I was stepping into the unknown.
I had to trust in God that it was His plan for me to be here.
The last few months have been some of the best of my
life. I get to tour Britain playing football and telling young

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

people about Jesus. What could be better? Its been a few


months of constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone
but its made me stronger and grown my relationship with
God. One of my biggest fears was public speaking. Im not
the most confident person in talking in crowds, let alone
about my faith. I prayed a lot about this and also put it on
my prayer letter and God answered my prayers. I have
talked in front of lots of different groups of young people
being able to tell them about Jesus and what Hes done
for them. We are based in a town called Lichfield and from
there we go out to different locations of Britain sharing the
good news of Jesus. I cant believe I used to think being a
Christian was a boring life! It certainly isnt. This year has
been about serving God of course but I also took this year
out so I could grow closer to God and learn more about
Him. I used to not have hope in a future but through Christ
I now do. For I know the plans I have for you declares the
Lord, plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future
and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11.)
I have just returned from midyear retreat were every YFC
volunteer got together for a break in Keswick. I have
around five months remaining in my year out with Nomad.
I still dont have a concrete plan for what Im going to
do when Im back in Belfast but I have an idea. I would
maybe like to go into youth work were I would be able to
help young people who might be in the same situation I
used to be. If there are young people out there that I can
relate to and who I can share my story with of how Christ
has worked in my life then I believe I should be doing that.
Whether that is going to be in youth work or just helping
out at my churchs youth clubs while having a normal job
I dont know. But one thing I do know is that God is in
control.

Presbytery Day Conference


Incorporating the Annual Presentation of
Presbytery Reports

Saturday 25th April, 2015


Belfast Bible College
Speaker: Paul Levy
International Presbyterian Church
Ealing, West London
Paul Levy is from Wales and has been pastor of the
International Presbyterian Church, Ealing for 12 years.
Under God he has seen the church grow significantly
through the preaching of the Word.
Paul is assistant Editor of Evangelicals Now and
contributes to Reformation 21 blog.
He is married to Claire, originally from Ballyclare EPC.
They have three young children: Noah, Ellie and
newborn Phoebe. Paul enjoys watching Welsh rugby
and reading good books.
Bookstall, Childrens Programme & Crche
For further details contact David Watson: 02893340634
Cost: Adults: 13.50
Children under 11: 7
Pre-school children: Free
Max. cost per family is 40 (children up to 18yrs)

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the
Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with
a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but of
incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides for ever
1 Peter 2v22-23

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

Shes game, boys!


Remembering Mary Slessor
of Calabar
On 13th January, 1915, after almost forty
years of faithful service, sixty-six year old Mary
Slessor died of malaria fever near Calabar,
Nigeria. On the centenary of her death we do
well to remember this dynamic and inspiring
redhead from the slums of Dundee.

Growing up in Scotland

Mary was born in 1848 in Aberdeen. Her shoemaker father


Robert was an alcoholic unable to manage his own business.
The need to find work led the family to Dundee where Robert
and his wife Mary took jobs in Baxter Brothers linen mill.
The cramped and insanitary conditions aggravated the effects
of Roberts alcoholism and led to his death from pneumonia.
Mary developed a strong sense of responsibility to help her
mother and her family. Like many girls from the surrounding
homes, she worked in the mill from six in the morning to six at
night, with only an hours break. The family attended Wishart
United Presbyterian Church. At home Marys mother taught
her children to pray and read to them from the Bible, Christian
classics and the Missionary Record of their church. The Bibles
vision of the divine majesty of Jesus, the beauty and grace of
His life and his atoning death on the Cross won Marys heart
and her lifes devotion. With her good looks, unconventional
cropped hair and contrasting gentle voice, Mary worked at
Quarry Pend UP mission in the Cowgate, an area notorious for
its drunken and violent youth. One night a gang surrounded
her in the street. The leader swung a heavy lead weight on a
cord threateningly close to her head. As it shaved her brow she
stood her ground. The lad smiled and exclaimed. Shes game,
boys! On the wall of her home in Nigeria hung the photograph
of a Christian man with his wife and family. The man was the
youth who had swung the lead.

believed that one was the child of an evil spirit,


but as no one knew which, both were often
put inside clay pots and abandoned in the
forest. The mother was shunned because it
was believed she was guilty of some great evil.
Mary challenged such practices, encouraging
twins to be brought to her for protection. Her
household always included babies and young
children, and she raised six girls and two boys
as her own. One of her earliest twin adoptees,
Jane, lived with her until she died. Ignorance
and superstition led many to fear western
medicine. Mary had to battle for small-pox vaccinations and
other medical benefits to be accepted. Though sometimes
discouraged, she believed Gods grace would prevail. She
once prayed: Lord, the task is impossible for me but not for
Thee. Lead the way and I will follow. Rising from her knees
she reasoned with herself: Why should I fear? I am on a Royal
Mission. I am in the service of the King of kings.
After years of struggle, a change came over Efik society.
Known as Mother of All The Peoples or, more simply,
Ma, Mary gained the respect of traditional leaders and the
terrorising of women and the killing of twins became less
common.

Letting her Light Shine

Other missionaries considered Mary foolhardy for flouting


European convention, going bareheaded in the tropics,
barefooted through the forests, declining to boil drinking water,
and abandoning her Victorian petticoats to cope better with
the climate. Her motive was simply to remove any barrier that
got in the way of communicating the gospel which she shared
with anyone willing to listen. She played an important role in
settling disputes, at first on an informal basis, but after 1892,
as the British vice-consul in Okoyong, presiding over the native
court. As one biographer said, not unfairly, she was natural
meddler with an iron will and the role of magistrate suited her
well. In this way she brought the stability of British law and
order, softened by Christian values, to troubled and divided
communities.

Confronting the Darkness

The death of David Livingstone in 1873 led twentysix year old Mary to apply to the UP mission. After
missionary training in Edinburgh, she set sail on 5
August 1876, and arrived in Nigeria a month later.
It was among the tribes of the Calabar region that
Mary found her lifes work. She quickly learned the
Efik language, adapted to a simple lifestyle in a
small house made of traditional materials, ate local
food, shared the gospel and worked hard for the
good of the people in every way possible.
Mary soon discovered that dark practices born of
fear ruled peoples lives and demeaned women.
One was polygamy. Extra wives raised a mans status and
provided cheap labour for his farm. If the Ekpo masquerade
appeared and was seen by any woman, she was immediately
in danger of harm, even death. When twins were born it was

10

Reaching the Unreached

The United Presbyterian mission in Calabar began with radical


ideas which suited Marys outlook. In 1841, Irish-born Hope
Waddell, a minister of the United Secession Church serving

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

with the Scottish Missionary Society in Jamaica, read Sir


T. Fowell Buxtons book The Slave Trade and Its Remedy
advocating that ex-slaves could return to Africa with the gospel
of Christ. From the 1830s onward, the idea was discussed
within the Jamaican presbytery. In 1846 the first contingent of
African and European missionaries reached Calabar and was
successful in starting a work which has grown to be a large
denomination known as the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.
However, they were joined by missionaries who held that
Africans, by virtue of their race, could not exercise authority
responsibly. Mary had no patience with such prejudice or
passivity. Burdened to reach areas where the gospel had
not yet penetrated, she determined to do two things: she
would step out in faith herself, with or without missionary
colleagues, and she encouraged the sending of Nigerian
Christians eager to serve. Her zeal led to some progress,
but the Scottish Presbyterian emphasis on an educated
ministry meant that few national pastors were ordained. To
Marys frustration, the national workers who were sent out
by the Presbyterian mission were restricted to being school
teachers while other missions encouraged them also to plant
churches and conduct worship at weekends.

Faithful unto Death

West Africa was not known as the white-mans grave for


nothing. Mary often suffered attacks of malaria and knew that
one might prove fatal, but she fearlessly persisted with her
work. She once wrote to a colonial official: Dont talk about
the cold hand of death. It is the hand of Christ. A final severe
bout of fever in January 1915 led to her death at her remote
home near Use Ikot Oku. Her body was transported down river
to Duke Town for the equivalent of a state funeral. Nigerias
Governor-General, Sir Frederick Lugard, telegraphed his
deepest regret from Lagos and published a warm tribute in the
Government Gazette.
Mary Slessor never sought accolades. Responding to
suggestions that she ought to be handsomely rewarded for her
work, she replied with a question, What would I do with starry
crowns except to cast them at His feet?
Today she is remembered in Nigeria, Scotland and around the
world for her commitment to the rights of women and children,
for the improvement she brought to the lives of black Africans
and, above all, for leading many to faith in Jesus. In Scotland
she is commemorated in Aberdeens Union Terrace Gardens,
in a magnificent memorial window now housed in the McManus
Galleries, Dundee, and also in being the first non-royal woman
to appear on a British bank note, the 1997 Clydesdale Bank
10 note. In Nigeria, she is still remembered by her Efik
nickname of Obongawan Okoyong (Queen of Okoyong). I have
been privileged to visit the Calabar area where to this day you
can find a Mary Slessor Road, a Mary Slessor roundabout and
a Mary Slessor church; statues of her, usually carrying twins,
are found at various locations. Mary Slessors true memorial,
however, is in the lives and churches of those who were led by
her words and example to love and serve Christ.

Inspiring New Generations

Many have been amazed at what Mary achieved, but she


was astonished too. How could God use a girl like her from
the slums of Dundee? She believed that the secret lay in the
prayers of others:
I have always said that I have no idea how or why God has
carried me over so many funny and hard places, and made

these hordes of people submit to me, or why the Government


should have given me the privilege of a Magistrate among
them, except in answer to prayer made at home for me. It is all
beyond my comprehension. The only way I can explain it is on
the ground that I have been prayed for more than most. Pray
on, dear onethe power lies that way.
Informed and persistent prayer remains the vital backbone of
mission. But prayer has to be accompanied by action. Action
in the steps of Mary Slessor is still needed today, to reach the
unreached, to train nationals for the work and to take risks for
God. In her notes for sharing with Wishart UP Church in 1874,
the year she felt called to serve God in Africa, Mary gives us an
insight into what made this firebrand tick and what continues to
inspire many (including the author) to follow her into sacrificial
service at home and overseas:
Thank God for such men and women here and everywhere,
who in the face of scorn, and persecution . . . dare to stand
firmly and fearlessly for their Master. Their commission is
today what it was yesterday. Go ye into all the world, and
preach the Gospel to every creature. . . . not the nice easy
places only, but the dark places, the distant places . . . to
the low as well as the high, the poor as well as the rich, the
ignorant as well as the learned, the degraded as well as the
refined, to those who will mock as well as to those who will
receive us, to those who will hate as well as to those who
will love us.

Rev Dr Sid Garland has served with Mission


Africa (formerly Qua Iboe Mission)since
1987. He and his wife Jean and their three
children went to Samuel Bill Theological
College, not so far from Calabar, before later
transferring to Jos, and returning to Belfast
in 2010. Sid continues to serve as Executive
Director of Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS)
regularly visiting both Nigeria and Kenya to
encourage the distribution and publishing of
Christian literature.

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

11

HEAVEN IN TWO WORDS


We dont have to be vague and weird about heaven. The bible
teaches us all we need to know about it, and yet it is the one
source that people refuse to turn to. We could ask the question:
Why dont people investigate heaven in the bible for themselves?
I think we could come up with a number of reasons:
Were too taken up with the now. That is, this present world
is all that matters to people. Were too comfortable. Even in
economic hard times, were still spending money on presents, on
entertainment, on luxury food or other non-essentials. We see
heaven as inevitable: were all going there, so theres no need to
worry about it. Itll all work out in the end. Well soon see that this
view is dangerously wrong
We see heaven as boring, clouds and harps and Philadelphia
cheese. Or else heaven is just too brilliant for us to take in,
indeed the bible does say in 1 Corinthians 2:9. Eye has not
seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the
things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
So why should we even consider heaven? Does it really matter?
Yes, for at least three reasons:
1. It is not inevitable. Many believe they are going there but
theyre not. If you have not turned from sin and trusted in Jesus
Christ for salvation from hell, then that is where you will go when
you die, not heaven. But heaven matters because heaven is
offered to sinners, like the thief on the cross who turned to Jesus
in the dying moments of his life Jesus said to him, Today you
will be with me in paradise! (Luke 23:43). The other thief did not
enter paradise, but went to hell.
2. It is not boring! Im not promising that this short article will
be the most exciting thing youve ever read! But I guarantee
that heaven itself will be far more thrilling than anything youve
experienced on earth.
3. It is not incomprehensible 1 Corinthians 2:9 is followed by
verse 10 Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered
into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for
those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through
His Spirit
We can know about heaven. What God has revealed to us, we
must make it our business to know! Consider it please for a brief
moment under just two words.

1. HOME
Think about the word for a moment. What sort of things come to
mind when you hear that little word. Home is the place where we
let our guard down, and we simply be ourselves. You can even
spend the day in your jammies if youre sick thats ok when
youre at home! Better than that, you can wear that old jumper,
that you love, but which is past its sell by date! Or maybe like
me, you like old trainers. I just cant throw them out! But I only
wear them at home.
It might be listening to your own music played loud. It might be
your own particular brand of DIY. It might be an obsession with
candles or collecting model aircraft. But home is the place where
you can really be yourself. Youre still you when you leave the
house and go to the shops, or go to church, or go to the park, or
go out for tea. But you are most yourself at home.
Heaven is Gods home. Its not an anonymous 5 star hotel. Its
not just a place of many mansions. Its Gods home. Isaiah 63:15

12

tells us it is the dwelling place of God. Psalm 23:5 speaks of the


House of the Lord. Yes, God is omnipresent, but still Heaven is
Gods HOME. Heaven is where we see God most clearly as He
really is; it is full of His perfection and glory. It is where God is
most fully known.
So heaven is not primarily made for us. It is not there just to
make us happyBut it will! I wonder what you think about going
to Gods home? The place where His glory is really seen! Are
you interested in it? Perhaps youd like to visit the home of David
Cameron, or Barak Obama? Or the home of Jessie J, or Justin
Bieber, or Olly Murs? But are you interested in the home of their
Creator, and your Creator? Let it sink in for a moment - heaven is
Gods home!
Whats more, the Bible tells us that God the Son is the central
focus of heaven.
All who go to heaven will see Him face to face. Jesus Christ the
Son of God!
This is the Bibles favourite way of describing heaven: being
with Jesus. When His disciples were troubled about the future
in John 14 Jesus spoke of heaven to comfort them; He goes to
prepare a place for them But what is it like? There is no vivid
description given here. Instead Jesus just said: Where I am,
there you may be also. Jesus knew that that would be enough
for His disciples.
In fact the New Testament doesnt speak of believers going to
heaven when they die. Instead in Philippians 1:23 they go to be
with Christ which is far better. Or in 2 Corinthians 5:8 well
pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present
with the Lord. In Revelation 21:23 John, speaking in picture
language, says this about heaven The city had no need of the
sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God
illuminated it.

The Lamb is its light. And thats what weve


got to grasp. Heaven is Gods Home and
Jesus is the central focus. It is about HIM.
And no wonder for three reasons:
1. Jesus brings us to heaven.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him I am the way, the truth and the life,
no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jesus alone can
deal with our sin; only He can take away our defilement because
only Jesus died in our place on the cross of Calvary. He is the
only Saviour. He alone opens the door of heaven for us. But
Jesus is also the focus of heaven because:
2. Jesus is clearly seen in heaven
Job 19:26. I know that in my flesh I shall see God.
1 Corinthians 13:12. for now we see in a mirror dimly, but
then face to face. In fact, Jesus wants us to see Him, in all His
glory. He prayed for it in John 17:24: Father, I desire that they
also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they
may behold My glory which You have given Me...
3. Jesus will be loved in Heaven.
Christians love Jesus now! But we dont love Him the way we
ought to. But in heaven we will really love Him. Heaven is all
about Jesus! Maybe youre not a Christian, and you still hope to
get in. You know that the only other alternative is the everlasting
punishment of hell. But you dont care much for Jesus. His death
means nothing to you. Oh youve heard the Gospel preached
many times, but youve not taken it seriously. You reckon youre
a decent bloke, or a good girl, and God will let you in. But heaven
is not about you. Its about Jesus. As you consider heaven you
must consider Him, and as you do so remember that God loves

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

His Son, He always has, He always will. And if you dont love His
Son, youll not be entering into His home. Its Gods home, Jesus
is the focus, and it is also the final home of every Christian.
What will heaven be like for the Christian?
1 John 3:2 we shall be like Him Hebrews 12:23. Says
our souls will be made perfect. What a change! Think of it! NO
MORE SIN! For now we are sinful, selfish, impure, impatient,
dishonest, hurtfulbut not then, believer, then you will be
changed and transformed forever. And not only will our souls be
made new, the Christian will receive a new body. What will it be
like? It will be this body, though raised and glorified. The eyes
with which you read this, will be the eyes which you see Jesus
with but youll have no need for glasses!
So thats our first word, HOME. Gods home. Christs home.
The Christians home.

2. HAPPY
First of all it is a happy place: The Bible reveals to us that heaven
is a place where there is no sin, no sorrow, no pain, no night, no
death, incorruptible, undefiled, does not fade away. Revelation
speaks about pearly gates, golden streets, crowns, jewels all
quite cold, hard and unnatural. Most folk would rather walk down
a leafy country lane than down a cold golden street. We have
to remember that the language used is symbolic, and is meant
to teach us about things such as purity, wholeness, value and
beauty.
But heaven most certainly is a physical place. Our present
creation is waiting to be a part of it according to Romans 8:19.
And this is prefigured in Isaiah 11:6 the wolf also shall dwell with
the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf
and the young lion and the fatling together and a little child shall
lead them. It seems natural enough to assume that there will
be all kinds of plant and animal life in heaven. Psalm 96:11-13
speaks of seas, fields, trees, woods all will be glad when Christ
returns. All these will be in the new heavens and the new earth.
2 Peter 3:10-13 says the heavens will pass away with a great
noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth
and the works that are on it will be burned up nevertheless we,
according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Heaven is a happy place. And secondly a happy family lives
there. Gods family.
But you might ask What about my unconverted friends?
Perhaps a mother, brother, sister, or son who never responded
to the Gospel, and they are absent... Will their absence not
spoil heaven for me? Ted Donnelly answers this dilemma in
his book Heaven and Hell. He says: The answer is clear but
inexpressibly solemn, they will not be our loved-ones any more.
Friendship and ties with them will be finished. We will not miss
them nor sorrow over them.
In Revelation 19:1,2 the saints in glory praise God for His justice,
and in heaven our own heart will be completely in tune with
and conformed to Gods will. We will only love what God loves.
However we loved people here, we will have no love for them
hereafter. THEREFORE he emphasises: Do all within your
power to bring your loved-ones to heaven with you. Only a
friendship which is in Christ will exist beyond this life
Heaven will be a perfect family! We find it hard to believe that
millions of Christians can get on and never fall out for all eternity!
A large family - no longer a minority, but a great multitude:
Millions and all eternity to meet up. A varied family. Revelation
7:9. all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues A united

family. no rows, no denominations, Jesus prayer of John 17:21


fully answered; that they may be one An attractive family
a delight to love them and live with them forever! A satisfying
family all loneliness gone, no more hurt, just true friendship.
ONE GREAT BIG HAPPY FAMILY
You need to be born into this family. Or more precisely... You
need to be born again into this family. John 1:12 says But as
many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, to those who believe in His name: Do you
believe the Gospel? Have you repented of your sin and asked
Jesus to forgive you? There is no other way to enter into heaven.
A happy place, a happy family and thirdly a happy activity! Have
you ever wondered what people do in heaven? Hebrews 4:9 and
Revelation 14:13 speak of REST! No more exhaustion! Come
to Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. This is fulfilled in heaven. Rest but not idleness! We
are not sitting around for all eternity getting borednever. We
are designed to work. Revelation 22:3. and His servants shall
serve Him We will be forever learning more of God and His
eternal purposes and glory. And we will be forever exploring and
managing Gods world for Gods glory.
I wish we had more time! will never be said in heaven, for that
is one thing we will never be short of. Isnt it true in this life that
we spend so much of our time rushing? The best experiences
in life are over all too quickly. Theres so much to see and do in
the world! Think of the places youd like to see. The music youd
like to hear performed. The people youd like to get to know. The
skills youd like to perfect. The movies youd like to see. The
garden youd like to finish. Theres just not enough time...

Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that we are


not born for death. We are made for eternity.
It is in our moments of bliss that we wish
that this would last forever. In heaven it will:
Unimaginable happiness and fulfilment serving
God in a new and unending world!
A happy place, with a happy family, doing happy things. Forever.
Christian: Remember this when the going gets tough. Youre
going home. Keep your eye on the finishing line. Youre going
to Gods home, to spend eternity with His Son, and youre not
alone. Happiness has already begun: youre in the family, youve
begun the happy work, and youre headed for that happy place.
If youre not a Christian yet, then listen to the invitation of Jesus
Christ, Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest. He invites you to His place, His home
and His happiness. This life is short, but the life hereafter is
forever. Home and happiness forever that is heaven, but only
Jesus can take you there.

Robert Johnston is minister of Knock


congregation in East Belfast. He is married
to Julie and together they are blessed (and
kept busy!) with three young children; Ben
(8), Luke (6) and Sophie (4).

The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

13

The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen RRP: 12-99 Our Price: 8-99
Author: Sinclair B. Ferguson
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Published: November, 2014
128 pages

Some of us who fell in love with John Owens writings did so, to some significant measure, because of the
enthusiastic endorsement given by Sinclair Ferguson. For me, after more than thirty-five years of gospel ministry,
it would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of Owens theological and pastoral insights. But we have long been in need of an
updated biography not one that simply narrates the significant events of his life, but one that analyses the contours of his theological
insights and how they shaped and defined him. And no one is better placed to do that than Sinclair Ferguson. I suspect that many
of us, when engaging with word-association, provide the name Ferguson when John Owen is mentioned. I cannot overstate the
importance of this volume. I fully expect it to become a best-seller among those who appreciate Owen and deservedly so.
Derek Thomas

Chinas Reforming Churches RRP: 12-99 Our Price: 9-99


Author: Bruce P. Baugus

Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books


Published: 2014
336 pages, paperback
China is home to more evangelical Christians than any other nation. In fact, there are more evangelical Christians in
China than all of the European countries combined. The scale of these numbers alone should be sufficient to pique
our interest in such a volume, but given that the church there is experiencing rapid growth (with all the challenges and opportunities this
presents) and that Presbyterianism seems to have an important contribution to make, this book assumes greater significance for us. In
the four sections of this book, Baugus sets out the history of Presbyterianism in China, what it looks like today, its current challenges
and opportunities and how it might grow and develop in the future. The book sets out the challenges facing the Chinese Church
such as growing secularisation, an unhealthy obsession with money and success, the growth of other religions, as well as the steady
progress being made by groups associated with the prosperity gospel, the charismatic movement and some whose radical millennial
teachings (which have political aspirations) are viewed with suspicion by the Chinese authorities. Of great concern to the writers of
this book is the fact that there is still much shallow teaching and doctrinal confusion in the Chinese Church, but encouragingly, there
is evidence suggesting that this is beginning to be addressed. It also sets out the opportunities for the Chinese Church such as the
relative religious freedom enjoyed by most Christians (despite what the Western media suggests) and the legalisation and regular
printing of Bibles, Christian journals and books. It also shows how Christianity is flourishing in academic institutions and how, as
increasing numbers of Chinese citizens are becoming disillusioned with the Chinese Communist Party and the cultural malaise it has
created, Christians have become a sharp contrast, giving greater opportunities the more attractive they become to their non-Christian
friends and neighbours. This book is an interesting read, particularly since its publication comes at such a critical juncture in the history
of the Chinese Church. It contains so much valuable information that it is a must-read for those concerned about the global health
and progress of the Reformed Faith. It will prove indispensable to those with an interest in China, for those in missionary agencies
considering how best to approach the next phase of foreign mission to China, and will help the rest of us to pray more intelligently for
the work of Chinas Reforming Churches.
Colin Campbell

Basic Christianity RRP: 8-99 Our Price: 6-75


Author: John Stott

Publisher: IVP
Re-printed: 2013
192 pages, paperback.
Do the things you did at first, echoes in our ears when we read this book. This book is from way back when some
of us first explored the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. First published in 1958 it is right up to date with
our modern world thinking and is like an old master which has been lost and now found. Stott begins by giving us some key pointers
in our approach to understanding the Bible. He says the gospel is not primarily an invitation to do something, but it is supremely a
declaration of what God has done in Christ for human beings. He then goes on to explore some examples of how God has spoken
and then encourages us to ask questions in order to find the truth of scripture. We are reminded that those who earnestly seek God

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The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015

are rewarded, but he also tells us that many enquirers actually come with their minds already made up. I find Stotts approach on the
claims of Christ to be very useful. In this chapter he proposes that as a seeker, we dont need, as a prior condition, to accept that the
Gospels are inspired, (which of course they are) and that all we need to do is to take them seriously as historical documents, written
by eyewitnesses. He then unfolds the I Ams and Christs unique claims of divinity, in direct and indirect statements. The result is a
rich catalogue of reasons as to why we believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In the chapter on the character of
Christ, John Stott talks about the moral perfections of Jesus and points out that this is quietly claimed by Jesus himself, confidently
asserted by his friends and reluctantly acknowledged by his enemies. It is only to be expected that a supernatural person would come
to and leave earth in a supernatural way. In this section on the resurrection, the evidence is presented as a lawyers case file in order
that we may see why the disciples and we ourselves believe He is risen. When it comes to sin Stott is very upfront about this. He
says it is a fact of human experience. He takes the ten commandments and shows us that much takes place in our hearts that is not
seen by others. But God sees these things, and His eye penetrates into every corner of our hearts. From here he takes us through the
consequences of sin, to the death of Christ and then on to the challenges of being a Christian. Basic Christianity makes you think.
Stott confronts us with the facts of the gospel and encourages us to make a logical and sensible choice to trust Christ. But John Stott
does not neglect to tell us all that there is a cost which is to be counted, because in being disciples of Jesus, we are not called to a
sloppy, half-hearted approach to life, but to a vigorous absolute commitment of taking up the cross. Read it, enjoy it and be challenged
or refreshed.
Allan Baird

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
The Public Morals Committee of the EPC is increasingly concerned with the marginalisation of Christians in the UK.
The recent Ashers Bakery case highlights great inequality in how some groups within our society have their beliefs
protected while others are now being persecuted for their beliefs. As such we believe that a Freedom of Conscience
Bill as was proposed Paul Given MLA is needed for our Province. In particular, the NI Sexual Orientation Regulations
should be amended to protect Christians so they are no longer asked to go against their conscience by equality law.
We believe the Christian conscience has been and continues to be a morally good and stabilising effect on society
as a whole. In accordance with Matthew 5:13,14 we seek to be salt and light in a fallen world. Sadly the state has
moved away from this Biblical perspective and the secularising agenda is now working against the church, and is
beginning to persecute those whose core belief is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.
We therefore appreciate every effort to amend our legislation to ensure that there is even-handedness for all whose
conscience is bound by what they believe. It is our prayer that Christians will be protected by the state when asked to
go against conscience by promoting, endorsing or facilitating homosexuality. We want to see protection for the likes
of Ashers and other family run Christian businesses, without the victimisation of any other group in society.
Let us pray for every effort being made to secure freedom of conscience so that all who value their right to live out
their beliefs in the workplace can be enabled to do so without persecution.
PMC

OBITUARY FOR MISS EVA INGRAM


Miss Eva Ingram passed away peacefully on 31st January 2015, aged 81 years.
She had been a member of Crosscollyer Street church since 1986 and was a
regular attender at Sunday morning and midweek services. Due to contracting
tuberculosis in her youth she had lived with only one lung for 65 years.
Despite this handicap she had enjoyed a long and active life. Eva always
had a positive attitude and maintained a consistent witness to her Lord and
Saviour. She will be missed for her seat will be empty (1 Samuel 20:18).
Our sympathy and prayers are with her two sisters, Betty and Mary, and her
family circle. (Psalm.23:6)

Robert C Beckett

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Much discussion about God has taken place in recent weeks not
only in the national press but also in the workplace and on social
media. The now infamous television interview between Stephen
Fry and Gay Byrne on RTE 1 some weeks ago has generated
considerable debate and provoked reaction from many different
quarters because of the comments he made, describing God as
utterly monstrous, totally selfish and a maniac.
Such outrageous comments are nothing new in the history of
mankind. Right at the beginning of time the character and nature
of God came under attack from the serpent who questioned the
truthfulness of God. Down through the ages there have been
attacks on God both from within and without Christendom.
Atheists like Stephen Fry always seem to want to discuss and
debate about the God who they say doesnt exist! Right at the
beginning of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin
notes that to be human means we are immediately confronted by
knowledge of God, along with knowledge of self, and that these
two are so closely intertwined that we can never untangle them.
It looks as though Mr Fry may be somewhat entangled! Mankind
cannot escape God because he has put eternity into mans
heart. (Eccls. 3:11) From Genesis to Revelation the Bible never
tries to prove the existence of God. It simply assumes that God
exists: and that men know that He exists.

THE ONLY TRUE GOD

As Confessional Reformed evangelical Christians we hold to


the authority of Scripture for therein God has revealed himself
to mankind. As the Catechism states The Scriptures principally
teach what man is to believe concerning God. It goes on in the
next question to tell us God is: He is a Spirit, infinite, eternal,
and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness,
justice, goodness and truth.
Such then is the God of the Bible, the unchanging God and the
one whom all mankind will one day bow before and acknowledge
confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father.

THE LIVING GOD

The other religions of the world have their gods but Christianity
makes the unique claim that the only true God is a living God. He
is the God who personally intervenes in the lives of people. He
is the all wise and powerful God who has guided his people from
age to age. He is the God who became incarnate: as the apostle
John put it, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we
have seen his glory. (John 1:14)

everlasting to everlasting we are confronted with one who is holy,


just and good.
There has never been a time when God was not. His eternal
nature sets him apart from humanity: he is holy, different from us
and transcends all created things.
Every person on earth lives between two dates, birth and death.
Our demise marks the end of our earthly life but it does not mark
finality: there is life after death. The Bible teaches us that a day
is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Christ
Jesus. To those who by patience and well doing seek for the
glory and honour and immortality he will give eternal life; but to
those who are self seeking, and do not obey the truth, but obey
unrighteousness there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8.)
It is generally at this point that people like Stephen Fry
misunderstand God and human nature. Paul writes in Romans
3 that it is because of hard and impenitent hearts that mankind
stores up wrath for himself on the day of judgment. The problem
is not with God, rather it is because all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God (v.23) There is none righteous, no not
one.(v.10)

THE FORGIVING GOD

For those who can only see God as cruel and unloving we must
always tell them that with God there is forgiveness; there is
redemption; there is hope!
This is underlined for us in what is perhaps the best known
verse in the Bible, God so loved the world that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosever believes in him, should not perish
but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) God is love.
He is also a gracious God. He does not treat us as our sins
deserve but in mercy and love extends forgiving grace to all who
come unto him in repentance and faith. The story of the prodigal
son depicts so well for us the love of the Father, his forgiveness
to a repentant son and the welcome into the family.
Phil Ryken has written Outside of Christ there is only death and
doom, but in Christ there is life, both now and forevermore.
May our hearts desire be to know Christ more,
to be found in you and known as yours;
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all-surpassing gift of righteousness.

Harold Gibson is Clerk of Session in the


Stranmillis congregation and currently
serves also as Clerk of Presbytery.
Readers will be familiar with articles from
his pen as he served as editor of this
magazine from 2004 - 2012.

THE ETERNAL GOD

The thought of the eternity of God brings comfort to the godly


and fear to the wicked. As we contemplate the God who is from

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The Evangelical Presbyterian MAR-APR 2015