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Phi lippians 1 v 9-11

The Evangelical Presbyterian is published bimonthly by the


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Theme verses
Philippians 1:9-11
Editor
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First word

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Biblical obedience

06
The Glory of the Church

08
Trouble and Comfort

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Presbytery Day Conference

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CONTENTS

14
Book reviews

16
Best of the blogs

FIRST WORD
And it is my prayer that your love may
abound more and more, with knowledge and
all discernment, so that you may approve
what is excellent, and so be pure and
blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the
fruit of righteousness that comes through
Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:9-11)

The first goal Paul prays towards is abounding love. Paul


prays that their love, for God and for one another, would
abound more and more. However, this love is not simply
sentimental feelings. Rather, the type of love Paul prays
for is a love which is accompanied by knowledge and all
discernment, so that the Philippians may approve what
is excellent. Real Christian love fills our heads as well as
our hearts.
Secondly, Paul prays for righteous lives. In light of the

hange is afoot at The Evangelical Presbyterian

return of Christ, Paul prays that the Philippians would

magazine! Let me begin by expressing my sincere

be living pure and blameless lives, filled with the fruit of

thanks to Gareth Burke for all his work for the magazine

righteousness which is only possible through our union

during his time as Editor, and as well as this for his

with Jesus Christ.

advice and encouragement during the handover process.


Thank you also to the team of willing volunteers,

The third and final goal towards which Paul prays is

without whom it would be impossible to produce

the glory of God. As Gods people on earth grow in love

the magazine: Heather Watson, Marcus Hobson, Jeff

and knowledge, and as they exhibit their union with

Ballantine (Sub Editors), Julia Grier (Proof Reader), Derek

Christ through lives lived in obedience to Christ, whilst

Johnston (Design), Colin Campbell (Book Reviews),

looking forward to His return, these things redound to

Stephen Roger and Roger McMullan (Finance &

the glory and praise of God.

Publication).

It is my prayer that as you read and consider the content

The eagle-eyed amongst you will also have noticed that

of this magazine that these three goals would be

there is a new strapline for the magazine.

realised in our lives as well.

Our theme verses for the magazine will be Philippians


1:9-11. In this short sentence, Paul mentions three
goals that he prays towards for the Philippian church.
3

BIBLICAL OBEDIENCE
I thought about my ways, And turned
my feet to your testimonies. I made
haste, and did not delay to keep your
commandments (Psalm 119:59-60).

1) He reflected
I thought on my ways. When dealing with us through the
word, God does not attack our emotions or will directly;
rather, He calls upon us to think. For instance, in Isaiah 1:18

he Christian faith is so multi-faceted that it is always risky

He says, come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.

to summarize Gods demands in one word. However, you

Psalm 32:9 has a similar emphasis. God urges us there to not

could make a case for suggesting that the word obedience

be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding,

comes pretty close to covering everything. After all, is it not

so if we are to have meaningful dealings with our Maker, we

true that the first thing God requires of us is obedience to His

have to think closely about our present condition. In fact the

gospel, otherwise we are totally undone? (2 Thessalonians

use of our minds is so important that Proverbs 23:7 states

1:7-10). Ritual is not enough; only obedience will suffice

as a man thinks in his heart so is he. That is why David

(1 Samuel 15:22). Furthermore, if we profess to believe on

began by searching his heart for any indication that God

Christ, the only way we can be sure that we are not deceived

might have a controversy with him. He looked into the mirror

is to obey Gods word (Hebrews 5:9). The path of principled

of Gods word, so to speak, (James 1:23) and compared his

obedience is also the most comfortable one to follow,

situation to what God required.

because if we do not go down that route God has recourse

to a more painful method (Hebrews 12). Lastly, but not least,

I am reminded of a story Al Martin once told. Apparently

since obedience is the criterion by which God will judge us

a certain minister had lost his way somewhere in South

on Judgment Day (Matthew 7:21), it is obviously vital that

Carolina and he stopped to ask a young boy for directions.

we understand what He requires of us. Psalm 119:59-60

He said to him, Sonny, Im lost! But if I knew where I was, I

describes to us the pathway of obedience, and four verbs

think I could get to where I have to go. Can you please tell me

summarise Davids approach.

where I am? The young boy looked at him in amazement and

said, Mister, you is right here! Thats where you is, right here.

all we still intend to obey. However, if we do that we are

You is nowhere else. That response wasnt exactly helpful,

really saying, Lord, You may be Lord of my life, but not at

but it reminds us that we are right here, we are nowhere

this moment, because I prefer to put this matter off until it

else and thats what God calls us to reflect on. He doesnt

suits me. That is really disobedience! Obedience is not really

ask us to think about where we were in some better day, or

obedience unless it is immediate.

where we would like to be. Rather, He calls upon us to think

4) He obeyed

about where we are, spiritually speaking, at this precise


moment. God addresses each one of us with the words,
Adam (or Jeff, or whoever) where are you? (Genesis 3:9).

Davids great objective was to keep your commandments

This is where obedience begins: God requires us to reflect on

and God didnt give him the liberty to pick and choose. That

our ways.

is because partial obedience is really disobedience, as Gods


dealings with Saul prove. That wicked king did everything

2) He turned

that God commanded of him, apart from sparing Agag and


the best of the animals, yet Samuel met him with the words

And turned my feet to your testimonies. Notice that David

you have rejected the word of the Lord (1 Samuel 15). This

says nothing whatsoever here about feelings. We frequently

is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Anything

allow ourselves to be guided by them, but that is not what

less than full obedience is disobedience, and falls below the

God demands. If we were to only obey Him when we felt like

standard required.

it, our obedience would be very limited indeed. The fact is this:
Gods word is to be obeyed, regardless of the way we feel.

As I write this article I am conscious how easy it is compose

Chapter 16:3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith not only

these words (and to read them as well), while failing to put

reminds us that Christians can only perform good works by

Gods word into practice. I also remember, with sadness, that

the grace of God, it also makes this interesting assertion: yet

one of the best articles I have ever read on the subject of

are they not on this account to grow careless, as if they were

sanctification was written by someone who afterwards failed

not bound to perform any duty without a special leading of

to obey what he wrote. May God grant grace to both writer

the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace

and hearer alike to implement this text: Be you doers of the

of God in them.

word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James


1:22). For further encouragement in this area see also 1

Occasionally Ive heard Christians make this excuse: They

Corinthians 7:19, 1 Peter 1:1-2 and Revelation 14:12.

argue that it is hypocritical to obey God when you dont feel


like it. Thats nonsense and let me explain why. Many of us
know what it is like to bring up children and we expect them
to obey us whether they feel like it or not. We would never
accept the excuse I dont feel like it. Such a response is likely
to be met with, I didnt ask you if you felt like it, I told you
to go and do it, now go and do it! Does God really expect
anything less from His children than we expect from our
children? Surely not. Our Lord Himself has shown us what
true obedience involves when He was obedient unto death...
(Philippians 2:8). He certainly didnt feel good at that point,
yet that was the pinnacle of His obedience! Obedience has
more to do with the will than the emotions.

3) He hastened
I made haste and did not delay. To delay is really to disobey.
Sadly, because of sin we are all inclined to rationalise and we
may even convince ourselves that if we put off obedience
until some future date it is still acceptable, because after

Jeff Ballantine, a native of Co. Tyrone, has been a


minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church
for 25 years. He is currently ministering in
Groomsport, Co. Down having previously served in
the Lisburn Road congregation.
5

Psalm 87

The glory of the church


W

hat do you think of the church? Is it


small? Is it boring? Is it sleeping? Is
it retreating? Sometimes we are tempted
to think thoughts like these. We tend to
judge the church by our eyes. You step
into church on a Sunday morning or you
read the statistics from the Presbytery
Day Conference and your eyes tell you
this is small. You are tempted to think its
unimpressive; its lacking in glory!
We need to see her, the way God sees her.
In this one short Psalm, we see the church
from Gods perspective. We want to see the
glory of the church (verse 1-3), the growth
of the church (verses 4-6) and the gladness
of the church (verse 7).

He loved me! Therefore He gave Himself for


me.. And the Holy Spirit too, He loves the
church. He regenerates its members. Indeed
wherever we see any spiritual good in the
church, we know it is He who is at work!
And what does the Spirit of God say about
the church? V3 Glorious things are spoken
of you, O city of God!
And not just in this one Psalm; listen to
some more glorious things
Psalm 48:2 says of her Beautiful in
elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is
Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the
city of the great King.
2 Chronicles 7:16 For now I have chosen
and sanctified this house, that My name
may be there forever; and My eyes and My
1. The glory of the church. V1-3.
heart will be there perpetually.
God said in Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore,
His foundation is in the holy mountains.
if you will indeed obey My voice and keep
The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than
My covenant, then you shall be a special
all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are
treasure to Me above all people; for all the
spoken of you, O city of God!
earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a
kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
If you remember nothing else from this
God says glorious things about her!
sermon remember this God loves His
And these are carried over into the New
church.
Testament as well:
The Father loves the church O the love
1 Peter 2:9-10 says But you are a chosen
that drew salvations plan! He planned it
generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
from eternity past, and in the fullness
His own special people, that you may
of time God sent forth His Son, born of a
proclaim the praises of Him who called you
woman, born under the law, to redeem
out of darkness into His marvellous light;
those under the law, that we might receive
who once were not a people but are now the
the adoption as sons. His desire was for us
people of God, who had not obtained mercy
to be His sons and daughters! He sent His
but now have obtained mercy.
only begotten Son to die for us, because He
And more glorious still.
loves us.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body
The Son loves her. Paul said in Ephesians
of Christ
5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just
Revelation 21:2 Then I, John, saw the holy
as Christ also loved the church and gave
city, New Jerusalem, coming down out
Himself for her,
of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
Thats how much Christ loves the church,
adorned for her husband.
He went to the cross for her, He shed His
And more glory awaits at the end!
own blood so that she would be redeemed.
Revelation 21:9-11 Then one of the seven
It was His divine love for His people that
angels ... came to me and talked with me,
caused Christ to come and to
saying, Come, I will show you
Paul says He loved me, the bride, the Lambs wife.
perfectly follow the Fathers
plan of salvation. Paul says He and gave Himself for
And he carried me away in
loved me, and gave Himself
me thats the glorious the Spirit to a great and high
for me thats the glorious
order in our salvation mountain, and showed me the
order in our salvation First,
great city, the holy Jerusalem,

First, He loved me!

descending out of heaven from God, having


the glory of God. Her light was like a most
precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as
crystal. God speaks glorious things about
the church because He loves her.
He loves saving His people.
He loves meeting His people.
He loves speaking to His people.
He loves receiving the worship of His people.
He loves blessing His people.
He loves to prune His people to make them
more fruitful.
He loves to bring them through sufferings to
transform them into the likeness of Christ.
He loves to see them united in His service.
He also loves to bring them home.
This is all her glory! The glory of the church.
she is loved.

2. The growth of the church. V4-6.


I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon
to those who know Me; behold, O Philistia
and Tyre, with Ethiopia: This one was born
there. And of Zion it will be said, This one
and that one were born in her; and the Most
High Himself shall establish her.
The LORD will record, when He registers the
peoples: This one was born there.
God has plans for her!
And they are glorious plans, plans for
growth!
In Mark 4:31-32 Jesus taught that the
church is like a mustard seed which, when
it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all

One by one they are born again. Its the way


babies are born isnt it one at a time!
And when God does His work of
regeneration in the hearts of sinners, He
works one by one. This one was born there,
this one and that one were born in her!
What one person are you witnessing to at
the moment and praying for every day?
How then shall they call on Jesus in whom
they have not believed? And how shall they
believe in Jesus if they have not heard? And
how shall they hear without a preacher? Be
that one to one preacher, and one by one,
this one and that one will be born again and
added to the church.
And so in this way God Himself will establish
her, she will grow and become large. The
LORD says so in v. 6 its going to happen.
God has plans for the church and they are
going to come to pass!
And God will write down their names in His
membership book!
V6 The LORD will record, when He registers
the peoples: This one was born there.
This book is again opened up in Revelation
21:27, only those who are written in the
Lambs Book of Life enter heaven. God has
plans for the church!
He has a list! Are you on it? Are you saved?
He looks down from heaven and sees His
church members this one and that one
theyre mine.
I count them my jewels He says in Malachi
3:17.
God loves his church, and God has plans for
his church.

the seeds on earth; but when it is sown,


it grows up and becomes greater than all
herbs, and shoots out large branches, so
that the birds of the air may nest under its
shade.
How is it going to happen we might ask?
And God tells us here in v4-6, in fact God
boasts about her growth in this Psalm!
3. The gladness of the church. V7.
Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon and Philistia
were Israels enemies.
Singers and dancers alike say, All my
But God is going to convict them of their
fountains are in you.
sins, and send messengers with the good
God gives us two words to describe the
news, so that they will hear it and believe it
gladness of the church singers and
and be saved.
dancers!
Saved and changed, no longer Gods
I didnt pick these words, maybe you
enemies, but Gods friends!
wouldnt have picked them either!
Tyre was a wealthy port, but God will reveal
But God did.
to them their need, their need of Jesus! And
And they illustrate very graphically the joy of
they will call on Him for salvation.
the church. The joy of His people.
And Ethiopia, which represents far away
But note carefully that such gladness is
lands, even from there God will make His
not merely an emotional high. Rather it is
gospel be heard and sinners from far and
something much deeper it
wide will come and find rest in
Therefore though the
is a gladness that only comes
Gods church.
storm roar around me, when the church finds all
God has plans for His church!
my heart may low be
her delight in her Saviour.
She is going to grow! This
All my fountains are in YOU
laid, my fathers arms
picture is almost too glorious
for us to comprehend! How
surround me, How can I Lord Jesus! You alone are the
fountain that I draw living
is God actually going to
be afraid?
water from! You alone are
accomplish it?
the fountain of life; and in Your light we see
This one was born there. This one and that
light.
one were born in her. And the Most High
Why is the church glad? Because of Jesus!
Himself shall establish her. The LORD will
Immanuel is with His people just as He
record, when He registers the peoples. This
promised. He speaks to His church and He
one was born there.

says Fear not, for I have redeemed you;


I have called you by your name; you are
Mine. When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; and through the rivers,
they shall not overflow you. When you walk
through the fire, you shall not be burned,
nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the
LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your
Saviour...
Were glad because One like the Son of Man
is in the midst of the seven lampstands,
Jesus is with us. Therefore though the storm
roar around me, my heart may low be laid,
my fathers arms surround me, How can I
be afraid? There is a river whose streams
shall make glad the city of God, the holy
place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be
moved; God shall help her, just at the break
of dawn.
God calls us to go through the waters, and
through the fires. Indeed nations will rage
against His Church, and the evil one will
seek to devour her. But still we can be glad,
because God is in the midst of her, Christ is
in the midst of her and all my gladness is
in you Lord Jesus!
Can you say that? all my gladness is in
you Lord.
Youve seen something of the glory of the
church - God loves her! And with Jesus as
our fountainhead, well see real church
growth God has plans for her!
And though we are called to suffer, well still
feel the gladness God is in the midst
of her! Amen.

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 (3).

Trouble
& Comfort

is strength and courage to go through with


them.
How does God do that for us?
In these verses, notice 3 reasons why God
allows us to suffer, and how God comforts
us in those troubles:

2 Corinthians 1:1-8

I am the subject of depressions so fearful


that I hope none of you ever gets to such
extremes of wretchedness as I get to.

1) So that we may know Him (v3-4)

sk yourself as you hear those words,


Would I want that man to be my
Pastor? Can I trust him? Hes struggling.
His name is Charles Haddon Spurgeon,
who is one of the greatest preachers of all
time.
How do you define success in Christian
ministry, in the Christian life?
We want our leaders to be strong successful
and dynamic. We want our programmes to
be exciting and our churches to be full. We
define success in terms of numbers and
size of the budget.
But according to 2 Corinthians success is
strength in weakness. Look at verse 8.
It is striking Paul begins by drawing
attention to his struggles.
Now, most ministers would keep quiet
about that, and yet Paul is open about
that he deliberately goes out of his way to
draw attention to it. The reason is that his
troubles have become a bone of contention
in the church of Corinth. Theyve become
an issue for the Corinthians.
His apostolic leadership is under attack.
His leadership is being undermined by
false apostles.
He calls them super apostles and nothing
is too much of a challenge for them. And
of course these super apostles know
the oldest trick in the book. They pump
themselves up in the estimation of the
Corinthians by putting Paul down:
Why would you want to follow a man like
Paul?
He is a loser, hes got problems.
Why dont you ditch him and follow us?
That is why Paul begins in verse 1, by the
will of God. He has been sent; that is what
an apostle is. He has been sent by Jesus
by the will of God, and all these struggles
and troubles hes had in Asia are in the will
of God.
Ernest Shackleton, one of the great polar
explorers at the turn of the 20th century, put
an ad in a London newspaper for one of his
polar expeditions. The ad read like this:
Men wanted for hazardous journey: Small
wages, bitter cold, complete darkness,
constant danger, safe return doubtful.
Now in a sense that is what Paul is
saying here. Not flowery beds of ease,
not charisma and success in terms of the
world, but suffering temptation.
Struggles and hardship, persecutions,
pressure.

There are two words that just pop up


throughout the book of 2 Corinthians:
trouble and comfort.
All kinds of troubles are here in 2
Corinthians: physical illness, emotional
stress, spiritual distress. But at the same
time there is this word comfort that
keeps cropping up. It occurs 17 times in 2
Corinthians.
When we think of comfort we think about
our nice armchair at home. But the word
comfort is a very powerful word. It comes
from the Latin com-fort. A fort is like a big
castle. And com-fort is to have a fortress
put in you. That is what this book is about.
Paul wants to put courage into these
people. Not take away the troubles, not
avoid them or insulate yourself from them.
But in this life we will have tribulation; this is
Gods will for us.
There is no way of getting away from that,
but what God promises us in our troubles

Spurgeon says that there are some verses


in the bible written in invisible ink, as it
were, which must be held before the fire of
adversity before they become visible. Isnt
that true?
You know your Bible pretty well but its only
when you go through the mill that the Bible
comes to speak to you. There are verses
that you know off by heart but, in affliction it
is as if the writing appears on the page and
you begin to experience God in a way that
youve never known before.
Thats one of the reasons God allows us
to go through a time of trouble so that we
might know his comfort.
Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ! Look at the way he is
described here:
The Father of mercies and the God of all
comfort. He is the source of all comforts.
He encapsulates everything that comfort
can be.
Do you remember how the Psalmist talks of
him? As a Father who has compassion on
his children, so the Lord has compassion
on all those who fear him. And you know
how Psalm 103 goes on. He knows how
we are formed and he remembers that we
are dust.
He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ; that is why he remembers.
He remembers because Jesus has been
here. Hes been where we are. He has
entered fully into our human condition. He
became one of us. God was in the flesh
incarnate in Jesus Christ. He entered into
this vale of tears. He remembers what its
like to face the pressure. He remembers
what it is like to be betrayed by friends. He
remembers what it is like to face illness and
physical pain and suffering.
Versace, the fashion designer, was once
asked about his religious convictions.
He said, I believe in God but I am not the
kind of religious person who goes to church
who believes in the fairy of Jesus born in
the stable with the donkey. I cant believe
that God with all the power he had had to
be born in a stable. So says the fashion
designer, but that is precisely what God
did. He came into this world. He didnt
come to Herods palace.He was born in a
stable with a donkey. And he knows what
it is like to be born into poverty. He knows
what it is like to be persecuted. No sooner
was he born than that little family had to go
to Egypt as refugees because his life was
threatened.

The Christian experiences in the cross of


Christ a God who knows what pain and
suffering is.
Why does God allow trouble in our lives?
Its through that we come to know God.
We come to experience Gods comfort
in our lives not just at a theoretical level
but deep down in our hearts and in our
experience.
2) So that we might share Gods comfort
with others (v4)
God allows us to go through troubles so
that we can comfort others. Trouble brings
us together doesnt it?
People who lived through the war say that
about the war years.
You see it in some of the mining
communities where I grew up. There was
a strike in 1984 and they shared their
suffering and troubles and it brought them
together. And what Paul is saying is this
is one of the reasons that God allows his
people to suffer.
God wants to bring us together, to bring us
into a community. He doesnt want us to be
people just coming to a meeting.
And so Paul shares with us in v5 and 6 his
own story. Just as the sufferings of Christ
flow over into our lives, so also through
Christ our comfort overflows.
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort
and salvation.
That is what Paul is saying; if we are
comforted, it is for your comfort, which you
experience when you patiently endure the
same sufferings that we suffer.
Let me give you an example of this, its
quite a shocking example.
Helen Roseveare was a missionary for
many years in the Congo.
And she stayed when many left during the
rebel uprising during the 60s and for a while
she and her colleagues were kept safe,
and yet one day they were captured and
brutally treated and she went through the
most horrific ordeal. She herself was raped
by the leader of the gang and for years she
couldnt talk about it. She wondered if God
could use such an event for her good.
Years later she was giving a talk in America
and she had spoken briefly about her
terrible experiences in the Congo and after
she had spoken to a girl came up to her in
tears. She too had been raped just a few
weeks before this, and Helen says she was
able to comfort her in a unique way.
We get so selfish and self centred about
our sufferings. God allows us to suffer
because he wants us to bring his comfort to
others who suffer and he is going to use us
to do that. We think, Why is God allowing
this to happen to me?
We may never know all the reasons why
God is allowing this to happen to us but
one of the reasons Paul is saying is that
we may be able to comfort others. Maybe
years down the track, but something that

God allows into our lives will equip us to


minister to others.
3) So that we might rely on him (v8-9)
Paul is very honest here. Sometimes it is
so hard that we dont think we are ever
going to come out of it. I dont know if
youve ever been there, but it feels like a
death sentence. There are pressures and
problems that are intractable. I dont know
if Ill ever recover from this!
And God allowed this to happen so that we
might not rely on ourselves
The great killer of Christian faith is not
doubt; it is self reliance. That is the
difference between Paul and the super
apostles. Paul relied on Christ. He had
been taught through severe suffering and
pressure to cast himself on Christ and to
lean on Christ.

John Paton, the pioneer missionary, was


trying to translate the Bible and he couldnt
find a word for faith. As he was struggling
to find the right word for faith, someone
came in and said, Do you mind if I lean
heavily upon you? That is exactly what he
wanted to say.
Its what Paul is doing in his troubles; he
was leaning heavily on Christ.
One of the reasons God allows trouble into
our lives is so that we might learn to lean
and to trust. What is God bringing into your
life so that you will learn to trust him?
The people who came to Jesus in the
gospels came to him out of great trouble.
The man born blind, the woman with a
demon possessed daughter, all those
people who came to Jesus didnt come out
of prosperity, they came out of adversity.
All these troubles and struggles - but we
have a cure for death!
God knows how to deliver us from death,
what are our troubles compared to that?!
He has raised the dead in Jesus, and he
will raise the dead on the last day. If he can
raise the dead, we can trust him with our
troubles.
And how do we know if we are trusting in
God?
Prayer is the sign that we are relying on
God, and not on ourselves (v10-11).
Theres a very famous sermon which was
preached by an American black preacher.
Someone once asked one of these black
American preachers how do you preach,
and he said First I tell them what Im going

to say, then I say it and then I tell them what


Ive said.
This is a sermon he preached for an hour
and a half on one line.
The line was, Its Friday but Sundays
coming. And for an hour and half he
hammered it home.
Look, its Friday, and my Jesus is dead on
a tree, but Sundays coming.
Its Friday; Marys crying her eyes out and
the disciples are running in every direction
like sheep without a shepherd, but its
Friday, and Sundays coming.
Its Friday, and youre looking at the world
saying you cant change anything.
But its Friday, and Sundays coming.
Its Friday, and people are saying darkness
is going to cover the world, sadness is
going to be everywhere but they dont know
that its Friday, and Sunday is coming.
Now that is what youve got to remember,
Paul is saying here.
Thats the message of the gospel that is the
bedrock of our lives.
That Jesus died and was raised and is
coming back at the end of time.
The God who raised the dead will raise the
dead on the last day .
The God who raised Jesus from the dead
will deliver us in our troubles.
Its Friday, but Sunday is coming.

Paul Levy is from Wales and has


been pastor of the International
Presbyterian Church, Ealing
for 12 years. 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.

presbytery day conference


S

aturday morning, 25 April, saw EPC


members and friends, young and old,
gathering at Belfast Bible College for a day
of teaching, friendship and fellowship. All
our congregations were represented in the
160+ attending, including children and tots.
The guest speaker was Rev Paul Levy
of the International Presbyterian Church,
Ealing. Speaking from Isaiah 55, Paul
reminded us of the simple glory and
blessing of forgiveness as our greatest
need. Later in the day, he challenged
us from 2 Corinthians 1 on the reality of
suffering and trials in the Christian life,
but with the purpose that we are drawn to
Christ and rely on Him. Many will rejoice in
remembering the statement, Its Friday, but
Sundays coming! A crche and childrens
meeting meant that parents could enjoy
these times of corporate worship more
easily.
The middle session of the day was a
business meeting, with the business kept
to a minimum! Printed reports (approved at
the April Presbytery) were distributed and
John Grier gave a concise account of his
year as Moderator, before handing over to
Rev Robert Johnston.

10

In his moderatorial address, Robert


preached warmly and movingly from Psalm
87 on the Glory, Growth and Gladness
of the Church. Visiting delegates from
EPCEW (Rev Mark Johnston) and GKN (V)
Netherlands (Rev Roland Schipper) spoke
informatively, bringing greetings from their
respective churches.
It was a joy to have Musa & Pamela Gaiya
taking part and their interview gave us an
insight into the reality of life for them in
Nigeria as well as fuel for prayer. Coffee
breaks, lunch and free time in the afternoon
sunshine provided opportunity to catch
up with old friends and make new ones.
Many people spoke of the blessing and
happiness of the day.

Pamela Gaiya (nee Johnston) grew up in


EPC, but has lived in Nigeria since 2003
where she works at the Africa Christian
Textbooks (ACTS) headquarters in Jos.
She is married to Musa, a professor in
Church History. They are currently on
Home Assignment and attended the
recent Presbytery Day Conference with
their daughter Gracie.
The following is an edited extract from
the heart warming, inspiring and at
times entertaining interview they gave
on that day.
Musa, what has God taught you during
your last term of service?
Musa: I have come to see the
tremendous way God answers prayer:
Last year, Ebola came from Liberia
into a densely populated city. There
was great fear that the disease would
spread throughout Nigeria, a country
where people move from place to place.
Churches and Christians PRAYED and
we saw Gods hand in helping to contain
this danger. Yes, there were losses - a
medical doctor, who treated the first
patient who came in, became ill and
died; she sacrificed her live to save
Nigeria from total calamity.
Boko Haram, the terrorist group
with links to ISIS, has killed so many
Christians in NE and parts of central
Nigeria. The 200 girls taken away a year
ago still have not been seen, though
we hear horror stories of them being
tortured. We PRAYED that the Lord

would intervene and in recent months


the military has had cooperation from
neighbouring countries including Chad
and Cameroon. This military coalition
has been able to suppress Boko Haram
to some extent. But they are still
powerful, with support from a network
of terrorists financed with oil money.
Just before we left Nigeria, we had an
election. There was great fear about
what would happen.
We bought enough groceries to last
months in case of fighting and riots!
But there were no problems. This was a
wonderful answer to PRAYER, but what
was most wonderful was something
that has not happened before in the
history of Nigeria: the incumbent
President called the winning President
to congratulate him. This takes a lot of
courage in the Nigeria context and was
a big testimony. It shows how someone
who loves the Lord can respond to
defeat. Also, the vice-President is a
good Christian and we pray that his
influence will affect the President.
Pamela, what are some of the things
you have struggled with during this
last term of service?
Pamela: When we first married, we
lived happily in Musas house, until
trouble came a little bit too close and
we had to move into a temporary
house. We thought and prayed about
what to do and made plans to buy a
house. Then, at the last minute, the

plans were all scattered. It was a really


low time. We had thought we were
doing what God had planned for us,
following His guiding hand and now
we didnt know what to do. Then a
dear brother in the Lord came with this
verse: Romans 8:28. It was as if that
weight which was weighing us down
somehow lifted. We had assurance that,
even in our struggles, whenever we feel
times are tough, we know that all things
work together for good for those who
love the Lord. We can now say that if
we had bought that house, things could
have worked out in a real mess.
A fortnight later, we bought land and
built the house we now live in.
When we moved house we moved to
a local Hausa speaking church. For the
first few weeks I really concentrated,
but my Hausa isnt so good and as
time went on the intensity of listening
lessened and I began to daydream
instead. That wasnt right - I was
there to worship God. So now I take
my English study Bible which really
helps me pick up a few points from the
preaching. Then the Reverend gives me
a 10 minute translation at the end and
thats usually a real nugget of gold and
feeds my soul. Still the devil knocks at
my door and says, Do you really want
to go to church for just 10 minutes at
the end? But I say, God, give me the
grace to go faithfully every week and to
mix with my brothers and sisters.
They are lovely people and so happy
that we are there.

We had assurance that, even in our struggles, whenever we feel


times are tough, we know that all things work together for good
for those who love the Lord.
11

FROM THE CHURCHES


2015 Summer Camps
Junior Camp (age 8-11) 4-11 July
Dunluce High School, Bushmills Leader: Heather Watson
Inters Camp (age 11-15) 3-10 July
Moyallon Centre, Portadown Leader: Shaun Gaston
Senior Camp (age 15+)
11-17 July Shepherds Lodge Mountain Centre, Newcastle Leader: Robert Johnston
Booking forms available on the church website: www.epcni.org.uk or from your YPA leader.

Holiday Bible Clubs


The next few weeks will see the start of planning for summer outreach events in our congregations.
Here are dates for the various Holiday Bible Clubs happening in July and August. Lets support and pray for
one another in these efforts to contact children and their families with the Gospel.
Hope Fellowship 5-Day Club (afternoons)
Youth Residential

27-31 July
12-14 August

Knock Holiday Bible Club (afternoons)


Teenage Outreach Events (evenings)

3-7 August

Groomsport HBC (afternoons)


Ballyclare, Crumlin,
HBC (evenings)

17-21 August
17-21 August

Finaghy

HBC (evenings)

24-27 August

Crosscollyer St

HBC (evenings)

24-28 August

Richhill, Stranmillis

HBC (evenings)

17-21 August

Sunday School Project 2014/2015

Topics: John Knox and Amy Carmichael.


Thanks to all Sunday school teachers and ministers who taught the lessons, the children who submitted
projects and the team who read and judged them. Much work has gone in and entries were of a high standard.

Prize-winners
Pre-school & P1
1st Sophie Johnston (Knock) and Lucy McCain (Stranmillis)
2nd Joseph & Moses Underwood (Stranmillis)
3rd Katie Graham (Stranmillis)
P2-P3
1st Joshua Graham (Stranmillis)
2nd Luke Johnston (Knock)
3rd Jed Dunlop (Stranmillis)
P4-P7
1st Murray Birnie (Stranmillis)
2nd Lauren Wright (Stranmillis)
3rd Emma Watson (Ballyclare)
Secondary school
1st Paulena Birnie (Stranmillis)
2nd Calvin Birnie (Stranmillis)
3rd Julie Rainey (Crumlin)
Congratulations to these and all the participants.
12

Ladies Conference
Stranmillis Ladies Fellowship is hosting a one day
Conference for Ladies on Saturday 19th September
in Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
They have invited Ann Benton (conference speaker
and author of several books on family issues) to
speak on two topics:
The Paranoid Parent (and how not to be one)
& Juggling the generations (how not to get lost in
the middle)
The conference will commence at 11:00 am and a
light lunch will be served between sessions.
We would love to see you there.
More details to follow.

Thank God for the time of


edification and fellowship at the
Presbytery Day Conference.
Pray for Presbytery, that they will

Knock
The Knock congregation worshipped for the first
time in their new church building on Easter Sunday,
with their evening service at the new, earlier time of
6:30pm. A full report of the building project and the
planned opening will appear in the next issue.

guide the church with wisdom and


unity and for Robert Johnston, that
he will know Gods enabling as he
takes up his role as Moderator.
Praise God for the work of Camps
over many years. Thank Him for
every person who will lead, cook
or help in any way this year and for
each child who will be there.
Pray that every leader will spend
much time in the Lords presence
before camp and that teams will
know strength and guidance in the
final preparations.
Pray, too, for Holiday Bible Club
planning meetings and for the help
of Gods Spirit for all who are
preparing talks.

13

BOOK REVIEWS
Title: The Plausibility Problem
Author: Ed Shaw
Publisher: IVP
Published: 2015
Pages: 174
RRP: 8-99 Our Price: 6-75
The terms of our current secular (and for some, sacred) discourse is on
and around homosexuality, the Christian and the issue of same-sex
relationships. It is into this particular fray that Ed Shaw enters with

Praise God for answered prayer in


Nigeria during the Ebola threat and
in the general election, and for some
success against Boko Haram.

Pray for the protection of Christians
in Nigeria and for Boko Haram to be
restrained. Pray that God will direct
the rule of the new President so that
peace and righteousness will prevail
and the gospel will prosper.
Praise God for His good and perfect
plans for family life as the bedrock of
society.

a new angle on the issue. The particular paradigm through which he


addresses the matter is the plausibility of the claim that remaining
celibate is the only godly way to live for those who experience samegender sexual attraction. Shaw asks, simply, does this work? Is this
reasonable, especially in todays social climate? Indeed, he asks, is it
really on for the church to ask individuals to turn their backs on sexual
expression and fulfilment and embrace lifelong singleness? Doesnt an
unattainable goal seem implausible? He is seeking to enable Christians
to be faithful and godly and for churches to be attuned to pastor those
who struggle, wisely and sensitively. Shaw speaks from personal
experience, himself knowing same-gender attraction. An ordained
Anglican who leads a new church plant in Bristol, he is involved with
several others (such as Vaughan Roberts) in the Living Out website
ministry and this book contains a raft of commendations from highly
respected evangelical leaders.
The book opens with two case studies in which a Christian late-teenager
and a thirty-year old woman are challenged to bring their same-gender
attraction under the Lordship of Christ yet struggle to do so. Of course,
society suggests, why ask them to and the reasonable question for
the Church is, Shaw implies, do we need to place them under such a

Pray for parents in our congregations


and for all who care for family
members.
Pray that the Ladies conference will
be helpful and God-glorifying and
that all our family relationships will be
a good witness to those outside the
church.

burden? He then moves, in chapter two, into his own personal struggles
and difficulties. He makes clear that compromise is not an option, but the
churches really must do better as they provide the right kind of pastoral
support. The following nine chapters outline several fallacies into which
the church has bought, such as the closed language that is used. Gay
and sinner are unhelpful (though he certainly doesnt disown the
latter); rather, he commends the church to highlight the Christians core
identity as being in Christ, solely. He also suggests that the burden on
those who experience same-gender attraction to take up the cross in
this particular area, will more readily do so when challenged by others
(with whatever proclivity or in whatever area) who exemplify this. For
this reviewer, this particular challenge was especially poignant. Pastors
and elders must hear this loudly, so that we do not create a hierarchy of

Praise God for the witness of

sacrifice - some people may avoid crucifying certain areas of their lives.

Groomsport EPC.

Ed Shaw handles the Biblical material in appendices, and rather deftly

Pray that there would be much fruit

gives cogent and faithful exegesis. This is not the go-to book for

from the anniversary services held on


the weekend of the 29th-31st May

in-depth analysis of the Bibles teaching - there is excellent material


to complement these appendices available elsewhere - yet, it is
satisfactory for the purposes of the book. Rather, his approach is the
application of the traditional teaching - the pastoral appropriation - and
for that this book is successful and ought to be read. This reviewer felt
that were the same-sex focus to be removed and some other sinful
attitude or issue substituted, then the books main thesis - that of
plausibility - equally would have worked.

14

Some readers might find Shaws critique too strident in places, but

the next. In Northern Ireland, the older generations are familiar with

weak in others. For example, there may be too much detail given by

the life story of one of our most significant missionaries. However,

way of the nature of his own temptations. Or his evaluation that the

younger generations would do well to familiarise themselves with

church has placed too much store on the family as being the basic

Amy Carmichael, beginning with this short and accessible book. It is a

unit over and against and to the detriment of singleness, ought to be

joy to read and will be enjoyed by those with an interest in Christian

tempered somewhat. God uses godly family life to nurture disciples -

biography, those in (or considering) missionary service and those who

perhaps, Shaw has overreached himself. He is critical of the attitude,

have benefited from the pen of Iain Murrays previous books. I heartily

heterosexuality equals godliness and condemns counselling which

recommended this book to all.

seeks to enable a reduction in same-sex desire. This requires more


work in its analysis.

Colin Campbell

Having said this, this book is excellent, accessible, earthed and


worthy. Shaw has served Christs people by what he has written and
by what he exemplifies. I commend this book.
Trevor Johnston

Title: Amy Carmichael Beauty for Ashes


Author: Iain H. Murray
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Published: 2015
Pages: 168
RRP: 6-50 Our Price: 4-99
Iain Murray begins his biography of Amy Carmichael in Millisle and
Belfast, but unlike some biographies of Amy Carmichael, doesnt get
too preoccupied with the early part of her life. The action is quickly
transferred to her stay in England from where she sailed on 11th
October 1895, never to return.
Murray then tells how Amy unexpectedly came to her lifes calling at
Dohnavur before highlighting many of the difficulties and blessings
she came to know there, particularly in the 1930s and 1940s. It is
always exciting to read about how she rescued the girls from the
temples and the relationship she cultivated with them afterwards.
We can rejoice with Amy that so many of them came to saving faith
in Christ and how so many stayed or returned to continue the work

Answering
the Sceptics

at Dohnavur.

35 September 2015 | Belfast

Murray also goes into some detail on the stand taken by Amy at a
time when the mission field had been compromised by liberalism.
She stood firmly for Biblical inerrancy risking isolation. This is
relevant for todays missionaries who are also under pressure to
compromise, particularly in Muslim contexts. She refused such
compromise and, although this presented her with many problems,
she was to know tremendous blessing at Dohnavur.
Murray comments that Amy Carmichaels books have been
somewhat neglected by the church. Her writing was born out of
the compulsion to communicate words of fire. She sought to write
books that were worthwhile and wrote 35 in total, many of them
selling tens of thousands of copies. Edges of His Ways was printed
four times and by 1964 had sold 42,952 copies! However, despite
their popularity in the middle part of the twentieth century, interest
in her books has certainly waned in recent years. Murray believes
this to be to the detriment of the church.
Perhaps the authors greatest success here is to introduce a

Ken
Ham

Dr Andrew
Snelling

Dr Danny
Faulkner

Steve
Ham

Dr Robert
Beckett

Prof Andy
McIntosh

Belfast, Northern Ireland, 3-5 Sept. 2015


Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle,
837-869 Shore Road, Belfast, Co. Antrim BT15 4HS
Further information and ticketing: UKMEGA.ORG | 0116 2708400

pioneering missionary of the last century to the readership of

15

Best of the Blogs


In this new feature we point you to a selection of recent
blogs, articles, interviews and videos from around the web,
highlighting some areas of current discussion in the Reformed
and evangelical world. Just type the web address into your
browser, click Go, and have your mind renewed as you think
through some important truths of Gods word
What does the bible really teach about homosexuality? (Kevin
De Young)
(www.crossway.org/blog/2015/04/what-does-the-biblereally-teach-about-homosexuality/)
The debate concerning same-sex marriage is clearly a key
battle ground for the church today. Kevin De Youngs recent
book, What does the bible really teach about homosexuality?,
will no doubt be a helpful resource to those grappling with
that very question. Follow the link above, and you can find
a video lecture given by De Young on the topic of the bibles
teaching regarding homosexuality, as well as information
about the book.
The Two Truths (Tim Challies)
(www.challies.com/articles/the-two-truths)
Not unrelated to the same-sex marriage debate is how
society at large views the legitimacy of religious beliefs. In
this helpful little overview of Nancy Pearceys book Total
Truth, Tim Challies shows how Western society seeks to
exclude religious beliefs from the public square by relegating
them to a merely private choice. In Pearceys own words, We
have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm limited
to things like worship and personal morality, over against a
secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and
the rest of the public arena.
Does Calvinism discourage evangelism? (Nathan Busenitz)
(www.thecripplegate.com/does-calvinism-discourageevangelism/)
Youll be pleased to know that the answer to this question
is a resounding No! This blog is in response to views
held by some in the Southern Baptist Convention, but it is
encouraging for Evangelical Presbyterians to read as well!
Nathan Busenitz helpfully shows from both Scripture and
church history that Calvinistic beliefs do not deter, but rather
stimulate our evangelism: Whether we look to Scripture
or church history, we quickly learn that a belief in Gods
sovereign election properly understood is no deterrent
to a passionate witness. In reality, it has the opposite effect.

16

A brief defence of infant baptism. (Kevin De Young)


(www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/
kevindeyoung/2015/03/12/a-brief-defense-of-infantbaptism/)
Another one here from Kevin De Young. For those wanting
to get to grips with why we baptise the children of believers,
this is a really informative blog. De Young outlines the main
arguments from Scripture for baptising infants, before
pointing us in the direction of some further reading.

Why is a central prayer gathering in a church so important?


(Paul Levy)
(www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/why-is-a-centralprayer-gather.php)
Those of us at the recent Presbytery Day Conference enjoyed
and benefitted from the ministry of Paul Levy (IPC Ealing).
For those hungry for more of his Welsh wisdom, here is a
great little piece from Reformation21 where Paul gives us
9 reasons why it is important to prioritise meeting with the
church family to pray together.

Pleasing God in our worship (Robert Godfrey)


(www.the-highway.com/worship_Godfrey.html)
This is a longer read, but it is well worth the time and effort.
Dr Robert Godfrey delves into the contemporary worship
wars, demonstrating and defending from the Scriptures the
so called regulative principle of worship, before applying
these principles to the corporate worship of Gods people.