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Finishing well (Joshua 24 v29-33) Page 6 Lord, teach us to pray Page 8 Spreading biblical
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Finishing well (Joshua 24 v29-33) Page 6 Lord, teach us to pray Page 8 Spreading biblical
Finishing well (Joshua 24 v29-33)
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Lord, teach us to pray
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Spreading biblical truth in Africa
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SEXUAL PURITY
(1 Thessalonians 4v3-8)
(Page 4)
NOV-DEC
2015
£1.50

Philippians 1 v 9-11

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Theme verses

Philippians 1:9-11

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CONTENTS

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3

First word

 

0

4

Sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4v3-8)

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6

Finishing well ( Joshua 24v29-33 )

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8

Lord,

teach

us

to pray

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9

Spreading biblical truth in Africa

1

1

From the churches

 

1

3

Praise & Prayer

 

1

4

Book reviews

 

1

6

Best of the blogs

FIRST WORD

I am sure that you will have seen on the news the recent scandal involving a certain German car manufacturer. It is thought that around 11 million vehicles worldwide have been built with so-called “defeat devices” fitted. These devices contain software which is able to detect when the car’s emissions are being tested, and then ‘cheat’ the tests, making the cars appear to be more environmentally friendly than they really are. The cars behave well when they are being monitored, but the rest of the time they behave far worse!

B ecause of the inherent self-righteousness and pride of the fallen human heart, we are each born with

an inbuilt “defeat device” like this. When we know we are being watched by others we put on a show of good behaviour, but behind closed doors when no one is watching, the reality can be very different.

Nowhere is this more the case than in the realm of religious behaviour. In Matthew 6v1, Jesus says to his followers, “Beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for

then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus then applies this principle to three different areas: our giving, our praying and our fasting. In each case, we are presented with the temptation of doing these things hypocritically, only to be seen by others and receive their applause. Our inbuilt “defeat device” kicks in and puts on a show of counterfeit righteousness which masks a heart that is far from God.

Whilst this hypocritical show of righteousness may fool those around us, it can never fool the God who tests our hearts. If the reward we seek in our giving, praying, fasting and so forth is the cheap praise of our fellow men, we may well get that reward, but that is all we will get!

Instead, Jesus urges us to seek the far greater reward that the Father gives, by doing these things in secret in order to please him, rather than putting on a show to impress others. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Editor’s Note:

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SEXUAL PURITY

(1 Thessalonians 4v3-8)

C onsider the following statistics, which can be found on the ‘Covenant Eyes’ website, a Christian website which provides

accountability for internet usage:

The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years

old, on average. 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a

sext (a sexual image sent via a text message). 1 in every 5 searches on a mobile device is for pornography.

24% of smartphone owners admit to having pornographic material on their mobile handset.

Make no mistake, in the culture in which we live today there is a tidal wave of sexualisation. Sadly, all too often Christians themselves are caught up in it; it is reported that 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women admit that they watch pornography at least once a month. If Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4v3-8 are relevant to the new believers in Thessalonica, they are perhaps even more relevant to us today. Look at verse 3:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” The word for sexual immorality is a comprehensive one. It means any kind of sexual activity outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage. So it covers pornography, fornication, adultery and homosexuality, and anything else which transgresses the marriage boundaries that God has given us, within which his good gift of sex is to be enjoyed. As we all know through our own experience, the call to sexual holiness and purity is a difficult one, both for those who are single and for those who are married. The world we live in today

is making that battle much harder than it was before. But in these verses, Paul gives us four reasons why, when it comes to the issue of sex and sexuality, that as Christians we should not simply wave the white flag and align ourselves with the world’s standards, but instead we should respond to the Lord’s call and seek to please him in how we conduct our sexuality.

a) God’s transforming grace

Look at verses 4 and 5. Paul says, “…that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;” Paul is saying is that when it comes to the issue of sexual self- control, there ought to be a discernible difference between those who are Christians, and those who are not. If someone is not a Christian then they are still a slave to sin, the bible says. They are “not able not to sin”, to use the language of Augustine. Sin has far too much control over their heart for them to beat it, even if they wanted to. Sin is their master. For the Christian, that is not the case. Of course, we are still susceptible to temptation, and we still do sin every day, but that domineering power of sin over us has been broken through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It IS possible for us not to sin. With every temptation that comes our way, the Lord gives us the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it. And his Spirit is at work within us, changing us, transforming us, setting us free from our former slavery to sin, and bringing forth his fruit in our lives, a part of which is self-control. How can you fight off sexual temptation and stay pure if you’re a Christian? Because Jesus has set you free from that former slavery to sin, and because of God’s transforming grace you are able to control your body in holiness and honour.

b) God’s people

J.B. Priestley’s famous play “An Inspector Calls” tells the story of a police inspector who interrupts a family dinner party taking place at the home of a rich businessman. He tells the family that an impoverished young woman has just committed suicide. Initially, the family are unsympathetic, but as the inspector questions them one by one it transpires that the selfish actions of each member of the family had an impact on this young woman, which led to her taking her own life. The message of the play is that our selfishness has consequences in the lives of others, even when we don’t realise it. In the first half of verse 6, Paul is applying that principle to sexual matters. He continues, “…that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter.” What Paul is getting at here is that sexual sin, though it may be performed in private, never stays private. Sexual sin always affects other people in one way or another. That’s true even when you use pornography, because those depicted are almost invariably the victims of abuse of one kind or another. The use of pornography perpetuates and facilitates their abuse. But as well as that, all other kinds of sexual sin are sins against other people too. At the very least sexual sin involves using other people as an object for selfish gain. Beyond that, fornication is a sin against the future spouses of those involved. Adultery is a sin against the current spouse or spouses of those involved, as is the use of pornography. Today, over half of all divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites. Paul says, see “that no one transgress and wrong his brother in

this matter.” Understand that sexual sin is not simply a private matter; it is a sin against other people, even those who are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

c) God’s judgment

Paul continues, “…because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” If the first half of verse 6 describes the horizontal consequences of sexual sin (the way that sexual sin is a sin against other people), then the second half of verse six describes the vertical consequences of sexual sin (the way that sexual sin is seen by God). Quite simply, the Lord hates it. Paul solemnly warns the Thessalonians, as he did so when he was with them, that the Lord is an avenger in all these things. He pours out his judgment on sexual sin. Some of that judgment is experienced now, in the present, because God gives people over to their sin. Do you know, one of the most frightening things that God can do to you is simply to give you what you want? Our sinful hearts want sexual gratification on our terms, free from God’s safeguards. And the worst thing that can happen is that God allows that desire of your heart to be fulfilled, and he gives you over to what you want. He allows you to see the consequences of your sin. Not just the guilt and the shame and the feeling of emptiness it leaves you with, but the other consequences as well. Sexual sin destroys your marriage, and it damages the upbringing of your children, and if you contract a sexually transmitted disease, then it will damage and destroy your body as well. Your sin will find you out. Those are just the consequences now, never mind the consequences of sexual sin in eternity, which are far worse. I’m sure that by now you will all have heard of the notorious American website, Ashley Madison, which exists to facilitate adulterous relationships. The tagline for that website is, “Life is short; have an affair.” As someone has commented, the bible’s response to that is, “eternity is very, very long; remain faithful.” Stay pure because of God’s judgment against sexual sin, which is experienced both now to some degree, and then ultimately in eternity.

d) God’s call

Verses 7 and 8: “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” Earlier on in this chapter, in verse 2, Paul has told the Thessalonians of the “instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus”. The word for ‘instructions’ is a military word; it refers to the commands given to soldiers by their superiors, which they must obey. It is a word with the ring of authority about it, and here Paul invests it even with divine authority. The call to holiness is from the Lord. There is no legitimate alternative to obedience. In verses 7 and 8 Paul reiterates that point. He says that whoever disregards this call to holiness, particularly in the realm of sexual ethics, disregards not man, but God. In other words, you need to understand that if you are ignoring the bible’s teaching on sexual ethics, then you are not dismissing simply a man-made approach to sex, but actually you are disregarding the Creator himself. Stay sexually pure for the simple reason that the call to holiness is God’s call. These verses show us how high God’s standards are when it

comes to sexual morality. The standard is total abstinence from any form of sexual immorality, for all of those reasons Paul has mentioned. It is a million miles from what our culture accepts as the norm. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that so often our view of sex and sexuality is influenced by the world. The battle to stay sexually pure is difficult, and it always has been, but because of where the culture is at, it is getting more difficult. As we close, let me end with a couple of applications.

A word to those who are struggling with sexual temptation

The encouragement for you is that you’re not on your own in this. Left to your own devices, you would stand no chance at all against sexual temptation. But look at what Paul says there at the end of verse 8. What has God done? He has given his Holy Spirit to you. If you are a Christian then God’s own Spirit dwells within you, and he does his work there, in your heart. He brings forth in your heart his fruit, a part of which is the self-control that we need in order to stay pure. He does his ongoing work of sanctification, shaping your heart and changing your desires, so that your desire for Christ eclipses your desire for sin. If you’re struggling against sexual temptation, and you’re finding the battle hard, don’t be despondent. There is power to change. God is with you even in the midst of the battle, by his Spirit, to strengthen you and to equip you as you continue with his strength to battle against temptation.

A word to those who have fallen to sexual temptation

(Of course, that means all of us, to one degree or another.) In these verses we have seen how high God’s standards are when it comes to sexual morality. The standard is absolute purity. None of us has lived up to that standard. Some of us have struggled and fallen short. Others of us have not even struggled, and at times we have just gone along with the world’s approach to sex. It is very likely that some of those reading these pages are currently in a fallen state sexually, and have capitulated to sexual temptation. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, the apostle Paul gives a list of the kind of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God. That list includes the sexually immoral, and adulterers, and those who practise homosexuality. Quite clearly, capitulating to sexual sin disqualifies you from the Kingdom of Heaven. But then Paul says this, in verse 11:

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The wonderful news is that in Christ there is grace to save sexual sinners! Let me ask you in the privacy of your own heart, have you fallen into sexual sin, in the past or in the present? Have you engaged in sexual immorality? Are you tempted by an affair? Are you visiting pornographic websites? Come to Christ. Come back to Christ. In him there is grace to save, and power to change.

God is with you even in the midst of the battle, by his Spirit, to strengthen you and to equip you as you continue with his strength to battle against temptation.

FINISHING WELL

(Joshua 24v29-33)

T hese verses draw to a close this wonderful book of Joshua. There are lots of exciting stories in the book: lots of victories

to rejoice in, numerous examples of faith and obedience for us to emulate, and a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness to his people and his promises.

But then we get to this little epilogue with which the book closes. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a slightly underwhelming and anticlimactic way to end the book. Primarily, this epilogue is a description of a number of deaths and burials. We are tempted to skim read this paragraph, to skip over it quickly, and get to all the juicy bits in the book of Judges as fast as we can. Instead, let us notice four things which this paragraph shows us; four things that should be ringing in our ears as we close the pages of the book of Joshua.

people will fail; all will come to pass. Christian person, as you follow this God it may at times feel like the road you are on is bumpy and twisting. At times, it may feel like God is never going to come good on his promises. This final paragraph of the book of Joshua is there to remind you, once again, that despite everything, God keeps his promises. These verses show us the faithfulness of God.

1) The faithfulness of God 2) God’s purposes are not yet complete
1) The faithfulness of God
2) God’s purposes are not yet complete

It’s frustrating and annoying when people go back on their word and fail to keep their promises, isn’t it? But what the book of Joshua reminds us is that our God is not like that. He is a God who makes promises, and he is a God who keeps his promises. We don’t need to worry about him going back on his word and breaking his promises, because he who promised is faithful. About 600 years before these events of Joshua 24, God had spoken to a man called Abraham, in Genesis chapter 12. He plucked him out of a background of pagan worship beyond the River Euphrates. He promised that he would make his family into a great nation, and that he would be their God. He then took Abraham to the land of Canaan, and he made another promise to him there, saying to him, “To your offspring I will give this land.” If you know the story of the bible then you will know that God did not fulfil that promise immediately. To start with, the family of Abraham only grew very slowly. Even when they did begin to grow more rapidly into a great nation, they were then in slavery in Egypt. Even when God had rescued them from that slavery in Egypt, they then ended up spending forty years in the wilderness, because of their unbelief. It was a decidedly bumpy and twisting road from Genesis 12 to Joshua 24. At times, it felt like God was never going to come good on his promises. Yet here we are in Joshua 24. Three funerals are being recorded here, but the point is, where are these funerals taking place? What is the final resting place for these men of God who walked in faith and obedience before him? They all end up buried in the land that God had promised to his people. It is one last reminder in the book of Joshua that God is faithful to what he has promised. Over and above everything else, that is the message that the book of Joshua impresses upon you time and time again. God is faithful to every last word of all of his promises. It was true for the people of God back then, and it’s true for us as God’s people today. Every promise that he has made to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ we can trust in, 100%, because he who promised is faithful. Not one word of all of those good promises that the Lord has made to his

I wonder if you’ve ever watched a film or read a book which ends with an anti-climax. As you approach the last page or the final scene the anticipation grows, with the prospect of all the loose ends being tied up. But then the credits roll, and you are left feeling somewhat dissatisfied; you are left with unanswered questions, and things have not been finally resolved. In some ways the ending to the book of Joshua is a bit like that. The book tells us so many wonderful stories of victories and triumphs for the people of God. And then we get to the final page, and what happens? Everybody dies! Yes, they are in the land, but they are dead in the land. In that sense, the final paragraph is a little bit of an anti- climax, and it leaves us feeling dissatisfied. However, that is part of the point of this closing section. It is meant to leave you dissatisfied, because it is reminding us that God’s purposes are not yet complete. Consider the three funerals that are recorded here:

The first one is Joshua’s funeral. Joshua was of course the leader for God’s people in that period of history. He was called by God to lead the people of God into their promised inheritance. And yet where is Joshua now? He is dead and he is buried in the ground. It leaves us longing for a better Joshua. A Joshua who can be the leader of the people of God forever and ever, and whose leadership will not be curtailed by death. The second funeral is Joseph’s funeral. Joseph was a saviour of God’s people. Though evil men did their worst to him, God intended it for good so that many lives would be saved. But where is Joseph now? He is dead and he is buried in the ground. It leaves us longing for a better Saviour; a saviour who, even when men do their very worst to him, would not be held by the grave, and who would save God’s people to the uttermost. The third funeral is Eleazar’s. Eleazar was the high priest. He served at the tabernacle, offering sacrifices before God for the sins of the

people. In the New Testament, the letter to the Hebrews tells us about the inbuilt weaknesses of that old order of priests. The weaknesses were that the sacrifices they offered never truly dealt with the problem of sin, so they had to keep on offering repeated sacrifices. Also, the priests kept dying, so they had to keep on replacing them. The Old Testament sacrificial system was like a conveyor belt of countless sacrifices and countless priests. The funeral of Eleazar is a reminder of that. It leaves you longing for a better priest; a Great High Priest who can be a priest forever, and who can offer one, final, effective, once and for all sacrifice for sin. Do you see why the book of Joshua ends with an anti- climax? Do you see why it is dissatisfying? It’s because the purposes of God are not yet complete. The people of God in those days were looking ahead, in faith, looking for a better Joshua to lead them into their eternal inheritance, and a better saviour to save them to the uttermost, and a better priest who would offer a better sacrifice, to bring them to God. The purposes of God are not yet complete in Joshua 24 simply because Jesus had not yet arrived. But when he did, he fulfilled all of those longings. All of these things were resolved by the first coming of Jesus. There is another way in which this closing paragraph shows us that God’s purposes are not yet complete, because it reminds us that death still has the human race in its claws. Throughout the book of Joshua, we have seen that God has given his people victory over numerous different enemies, but there is one enemy that they have not been able to lay a finger on, and that is death itself. At the end of the book, everybody dies. The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. We know that it will be destroyed in the end, because Jesus has already been raised from the dead, conquering death itself on behalf of all of his people, so that the grave cannot hold onto his people any more than it was able to hold onto him. At Christ’s return, Joshua and Joseph and Eleazar, and every other believer from history who has ever died, will be raised from the dead, clothed in immortality. That problem of death will be resolved by the second coming of Jesus. You see, this final paragraph is in some ways a dissatisfying anti- climax, because it is showing us that the purposes of God are not yet complete. But every unfulfilled longing in these verses is answered by either the first or the second coming of Jesus.

3) How to stay faithful as God’s people

Verse 31 tells us that God’s people, the people of Israel, continued to walk before the Lord in faith and obedience right up until the time of Joshua’s death. After that, they continued to be faithful to God during the lifetime of all the other elders who outlived Joshua, but who had seen for themselves all of God’s faithfulness through the events recorded in the book of Joshua. The question is, what will happen when this generation who saw all of these things dies out? Will God’s people remain faithful to him then? In Judges 2v10, we read this:

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” The next generation forgot about all the faithfulness of God that the

previous generation had witnessed. Repeatedly, they turned away from God and rebelled against him. It’s a stark warning to the church. It tells us that when we allow the grand story of God’s faithfulness to his people to be forgotten, then we are already on the way to turning away from God in the way that we live. This final paragraph of the book of Joshua shows us how to stay faithful as God’s people. It shows us that if we want to be faithful to God in the long haul ourselves, and if we want the next generation to remain faithful to God as well, then what we need to do is to keep reminding ourselves and keep reminding them of the story of how God has been faithful to his people, and has kept his promises to them through the Lord Jesus. It is through the ordinary means of grace (Word, sacraments and prayer) that God keeps this story front and centre in the minds of his people.

4) How to die as God’s people

Verse 32 tells us that the people of Israel took the bones of Joseph, which they had brought with them all the way from Egypt, and they buried them at Shechem. In order to understand the full significance of this event, we need to turn back to the words of Genesis 50v24-26:

“And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.” What was on the heart and mind of Joseph as he died? He died believing in the promises of God, with all his hopes set in the fulfilment of them. He is on his death bed, surrounded by his family, the people of God, and, as it were, he has a map of the Middle East open in front of him and he is pointing to the land of Canaan, the land promised by God to his people, and Joseph is saying, “Even after I am dead, that’s where I’m going. That’s where I am going to end up; in the place where the promises of God are fulfilled.” It’s a glorious picture of how to die as God’s people, isn’t it? To die believing in the promises of God, with all your hope set in the fulfilment of them. Except in your case, you won’t simply have a map of the Middle East open in front of you on your death bed. Instead, you will have the bible open in front of you, at Revelation chapter 21, which speaks of the New Jerusalem. And you will be pointing at those words, saying to those gathered round, “Even after I am dead, that’s where I’m going. That’s where I am going to end up; in the place where all the promises of God are ultimately fulfilled.”

Christian person, I hope that you never have to die. I hope that the Saviour returns before then in order to destroy the last enemy before

you have to face it. But if you do die, die like this. Die believing in the promises of God, with all your hope set in the fulfilment of them.

Every promise that he has made to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ we can trust in,100%, because he who promised is faithful.

LORD, TEACH US TO

PRAY

O ne time whilst I was visiting a cathedral a loud speaker came on

and the words of the Lord’s Prayer were recited. But people carried on walking around, engaging in conversation, doing whatever they were doing before – nothing seemed more removed from truly praying to God. I want us to consider that great request that was made to the Lord Jesus. ‘Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples”.’ Luke 11:1. What can we say about this request? This disciple may have been speaking for them all but he saw the need for prayer. Perhaps having seen Christ praying, having that example set before him, had stirred him up to see the need for prayer. There are a number of occasions where the gospels record the Lord as praying. His disciples had spent time with Him, they saw this often. And if their Lord was much in prayer then how much did His disciples need to be? Example can be very powerful, and none more so than the example of Christ Himself. But not only did the disciple see the need to pray, but also saw the need to be taught to pray. We soon realise that prayer is not easy – it’s vital, it’s necessary, it’s a great privilege that God has given us – but it can be difficult; sometimes it can feel as though the heavens are like brass. We can be weary

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like the disciples asleep in the garden of Gethsemane. We can pray out of habit but we wonder if we’re really praying at all. So we need to think more about what we’re doing when we pray. Do we ever ask the question how should we pray? What things ought we to pray for? How can we pray to God in a way that pleases Him? This is a good request to have – Lord teach us

to pray. Prayer is a vital means of grace. We depend upon God, we need to pray, but just how are we to make the most of it? What are we

of the scope of these petitions. Of all of Scripture this may be one part that many of us know by heart. But let us not neglect it through over familiarity; there is so much here. Going back to

the Lord’s Prayer will help us to have a sense of priority and purpose in prayer, and give a breadth to our prayer life. It will help us to remember those things to

pray for that we mustn’t forget. And if we pray

according to His will we can be sure that He hears us (1 John 5:14). How are we to use the Lord’s Prayer ourselves? Historically the words

Going back to the Lord’s Prayer will help us to have a sense of priority and purpose in prayer, and give a breadth to our prayer life.

to pray for? This must be our request too then – Lord teach us to pray. And the Lord does teach us, He helps us to pray by the Holy Spirit ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness’ (Rom 8:26) but He also instructs us through His word. The Lord is gracious enough to teach us if we’re ready to listen. The whole Bible teaches us about prayer; it teaches us about who God is to begin with, His glory, His might, and how we can be reconciled to God, both of which are essential to true prayer. And the Bible gives us many exhortations to pray, and many examples of prayer. But the Lord answers this disciple’s question with what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. And this is particularly important because here we find a more definitive and comprehensive summary of prayer than anywhere else in Scripture. On two separate occasions the Lord taught this to His disciples. In Matthew 6 He says ‘in this manner, therefore, pray’ and in Luke 11 ‘when you pray say’. It wasn’t His own personal prayer, the Lord didn’t need to ask forgiveness of sins, but this was the example, the pattern He teaches His disciples. We notice how comprehensive it is. This isn’t a prayer just for certain occasions; many prayers in the Bible are

very specific but this prayer is always appropriate. Notice the order, how it begins with God, the first three petitions have to do with God and His glory, and then the second three have to do with our needs, both physical and spiritual. The petitions are very full, very broad – and we’re able to see how those petitions apply in many different situations. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Larger Catechism even more so, demonstrate something

of the Lord’s Prayer have been used as part of worship – as we see from the early Church, from the Reformers and the Westminster Directory of Public Worship. Augustine stated this prayer would be said by ‘the whole Church till the end of the world’.

But we may fear this becomes the sort of mechanical formality that I described at the beginning. Prayer should never be thoughtless or mechanical. But we can helpfully use these words in prayer if we do so in a right way. But aside from actually using the

Lord’s Prayer as a prayer we can use its structure and content to help us in our own prayer life. Although it’s a corporate

prayer ‘Our Father

...’

in the context of

Matthew 6 Jesus was also speaking about personal prayer. Wouldn’t it help our own prayer lives if we regularly went back to what the Lord teaches here and turned it into our own prayers? Lord teach us to pray.

LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY O ne time whilst I was visiting a cathedral a loud

Marcus Hobson has been minister of the Finaghy EPC congregation since May 2014, having previously served as an assistant in Durham Presbyterian Church. He is married to Alison, and they have one son, Edward.

SPREADING BIBLICAL TRUTH

IN AFRICA

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This was God’s diagnosis of his people’s need in Old Testament times and it was the lament taken up by an African church leader, Rev Dr Pandang Yamsat when he quoted this verse at the 2006 opening of Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) HQ and Warehouse in Jos, Nigeria. To Dr Yamsat and many other church leaders, ACTS represents a bright hope that ignorance can be dispelled by the publishing and distribution of Bible-based literature. This is also our hope and prayer and daily struggle through the ministry of ACTS.

SPREADING BIBLICAL TRUTH IN AFRICA “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This

prosperity gospel. They discovered this false teaching through American literature flooding into Africa. They are now propagating it across Nigeria and the whole continent of Africa through literature and other media.

Such false teaching is having a destructive effect on the lives of many individuals, churches, communities and nations. It leaves people in darkness and in bondage to their own selfish desires. There is no repentance and no discipleship. The churches may be full now, but how long will this last? The hungry sheep look up and are not fed. Instead those who experience suffering are accused of lack of faith. Many young people have given up on what they see as a corrupt church. Many have never heard the good news of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone.

SPREADING BIBLICAL TRUTH IN AFRICA “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This

Good books can tackle false teaching

What is the cure? Jesus said, “The truth will set you

free” (John 8:32). Sound teaching is desperately needed and this is what Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS) is providing. We have books that directly address various forms of false teaching including the prosperity gospel. It is even better that several of them are written by Africans. With God’s help we can feed hungry minds with his truth. We have an open door into hundreds of seminaries and Bible colleges through our well-stocked bookshops as well as our mobile bookshop. Through low-priced book sets and Study Bibles, ACTS is reaching many denominations through their annual conferences of serving pastors. Readers are leaders. And what they read they will also preach.

In the absence of sound teaching of the Word of God, false teaching will flourish. In the seminaries of Africa there are books and lecturers (I have encountered them) presenting a liberal pluralist theology that denies fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith such as the bodily resurrection and miracles of Christ and the uniqueness of Christ as the only way of salvation. The Western liberal establishment (in church and state) is determined to push the African churches (and their nations) along the road of approving abortion and same- sex marriage. Generally African leaders (including church leaders) resist these pressures but for how long? Unless they are equipped to answer the critics, they may be persuaded to yield, especially if they see it as being in their economic interest to do so.

Meanwhile, five out of the ten richest pastors in the world today are Nigerians, with Pastor David Oyedepo of Winners Chapel in Lagos coming top of the list. Not surprisingly they have many imitators. Several have their own aircraft. One has recently proposed building his own airport. They openly describe themselves as preachers of the

By building good relationships with evangelical and reformed publishers ACTS is able to provide and distribute good books at bargain prices. Usually the discounts are generous, and sometimes the books are donated free. With the support of Crossway and The Gospel Coalition, ACTS has the opportunity to distribute thousands of ESV Global Study Bibles in Nigeria and Kenya. We have twelve bookshops in Nigeria and are still expanding, though it is not easy to get these branches to break-even point. We also have a strategic shop in Nairobi which is reaching out to more than one hundred Bible colleges across Kenya and beyond.

ACTS has over 50 workers in Nigeria. Pamela Gaiya (a member of Omagh

SPREADING BIBLICAL TRUTH IN AFRICA “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). This

EPC) is part of our Management team in Jos and uses her administrative gifts to serve both ACTS and Mission Africa. With her warm personality, Pamela gets on well with all the ACTS staff and supports the General Manager, Rev Luka Vandi. The GM (as we usually call him) was my student and we have worked together since the earliest days of ACTS. He is a pastor of the Church of the Brethren denomination in Nigeria. This church (known as EYN) has been on the front line facing devastating Boko Haram attacks in north-east Nigeria. Many lives have been lost and about 250 pastors have lost their homes and their libraries. ACTS is helping them to replace their libraries.

EPC) is part of our Management team in Jos and uses her administrative gifts to serve

Sound books are vital for a growing church

Good books are vital tools for the training of African pastors and African missionaries (to reach the millions still unreached). Good books equip African lecturers and teachers with classroom textbooks (hence our name). Good books including sound commentaries and Study Bibles are helping African pastors with their preaching and teaching. The devil does not like this work and he makes sure that there are obstacles to the progress of the work. We need prayer for ACTS property, projects and people.

Pray for ACTS people:

Sid Garland, Pamela Gaiya, Luka Vandi and all ACTS staff, editors, writers, partners; and for those God is calling to join them. ACTS need people who love the Lord, love people, love books and have ability in business administration, marketing, design, editing, etc.

What can we do?

EPC) is part of our Management team in Jos and uses her administrative gifts to serve

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). ACTS is part of the knowledge industry. And we are recruiting. We are grateful for all individuals and local churches who already support us but we need more people who will catch the vision, get behind us in prayer and perhaps join us in the work until the day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Our missionary God is searching for workers: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). Is God calling you to Nigeria (maybe Lagos)? Is God calling you to Kenya? Are you willing to answer like Isaiah? “Here am I. Send me!”

Pray for ACTS property: HQ Warehouse (protection), the branch shops, our vehicles, and especially the need for a warehouse and distribution depot in Lagos. (On this latter issue, we still need guidance and funds in order to provide a strategic base in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest city for ACTS and for our partners in literature ministry, Revival Movement Association).

Pray for ACTS projects:

the Hausa translation of the Africa Bible Commentary (and funds still needed to get this into print), African Writers Retreat Centre (Phase 1 is currently in construction), the book set projects, the publishing of new titles for printing in India, the development of digital resources (e-books, theological resources) and online retailing through our website and social media.

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EPC) is part of our Management team in Jos and uses her administrative gifts to serve
EPC) is part of our Management team in Jos and uses her administrative gifts to serve

Rev. Dr Sid Garland, a minister of the EPC, serves with Mission Africa (formerly Qua Iboe Mission). After nine years in our Finaghy congregation, he and his wife Jean (and their three children) went to Samuel Bill Theological College in 1987 before transferring to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria. Since returning to Belfast in 2010, Sid has continued as Executive Director of Africa Christian Textbooks (ACTS), regularly visiting both Nigeria and Kenya. He is happy to add you to his mailing list for regular updates on the work:

sid.garland@missionafrica.org.uk

OBITUARY - Mr Tommy Quail (Finaghy)

It is with deep sadness that the Finaghy Congregation records the passing of their long serving and highly esteemed elder Tommy Quail on 6 August 2015.

In his 25 years as a member of Session, Tommy provided strong leadership across the full range of the congregation’s activities and contributed also as a member of Presbytery to the greater good of the whole Evangelical Presbyterian Church. His commitment to, and passion for, the work was noteworthy in whatever capacity he served. His faithfulness and diligence in his long service as Treasurer in the congregation is particularly praiseworthy.

Tommy had a marked enthusiasm for evangelical outreach and, although beset by increasing ill health and infirmity in later years, his love for the Lord continued to shine. His warm hearted prayers, practical approach and sincere interest in the Lord’s work will live long in the memory, as will our regard for him.

We mourn his passing but rejoice that he has gone to his reward and received the “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We commend Tommy’s wife Sally, and sons Martin and Ivan to your prayers.

FROM THE CHURCHES

OBITUARY - Mr Tommy Quail (Finaghy) It is with deep sadness that the Finaghy Congregation records

The ladies of Groomsport Evangelical Presbyterian Church were pleased to welcome about 80 ladies to their special meeting on Thursday 3 September when Miss Maud Kells gave her testimony. Maud explained how an invitation to attend a Christian meeting from a fellow student nurse led to her becoming a Christian. She later experienced her call to the mission field while attending a memorial service for missionaries who had been shot dead during the 1964 Simba rebellion. Maud felt challenged that more workers were needed to replace them, even though missionaries had been evacuated from the Congo because of the highly dangerous situation and she was advised to think of somewhere else. By the time Maud had completed further medical and language studies the Congo was again open to missionary opportunities. Maud has served with WEC International in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1968. She has used her skills not only as a nurse and midwife, for Pharmacy and Maternity work, but also as supervisor for building projects, even learning how to make bricks from anthills! She has taught in Bible School and over the years she has had the joy of seeing many people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. In recent years Maud has been based in the small town of Mulita in North-East Congo, spending half of the year there (October to April) and the other half back home in Cookstown. At an age when most people would be happily settled in retirement Maud is still working hard. Recent projects include organising the making of school uniforms for more than 360 primary school pupils and laying the foundations for a new school nursery.

In December 2014 Maud learned that she was to be honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s New Year honours list for dedicating her life to serving the people of the Congo. However Maud was to experience what she considers to be a greater honour, to suffer for Christ’s and the Gospel’s sake. On 4 January 2015 she was shot and seriously wounded by bandits at her home in the Congo, an experience which made her all the more conscious of God’s peace and the knowledge that He is in complete control. While convalescing in Northern Ireland Maud has undertaken many speaking engagements to share her story so that God might have all the glory.

Groomsport EPC

FROM THE CHURCHES

FINAGHY BIBLE CLUB

Here in Finaghy we had our Holiday Bible Club over four evenings in the last week of August. We had an encouraging week with around 20 children each night. We were very glad to have Julie Fenton of CEF come and do the teaching over the week. Then a number of us from the church helped with singing, craft, memory verses, games and all the practical work involved. The Bible club and afternoon Sunday School are part of our outreach to the Finaghy area. The children at present are from outside the church but live locally.

Over the years the children’s work has built up contact with a number of families in the community. It was particularly encouraging this year to see some new faces and to see the children listening well to God’s word. On the last night we invited parents in for a short time and it was good to see their support and appreciation of the week. We value prayer for our Sunday School, a few new members have come since the Bible club. Numbers go up and down each week but we’re very thankful to have this opportunity to share the gospel.

KNOCK OPENING

The sun shone as members and friends from all parts of the province gathered for the official opening of Knock EPC new church building on Saturday afternoon, 12 September. Hearts were encouraged as Rev Robert Johnston gave a brief narrative of Knock church, beginning with meetings in a home in 1927 before moving to the existing site where the first building was erected for the sum of £1131 in 1928. He spoke of God’s goodness over the following 87 years up to the present day, and presentations were made to Mr Sam Thompson (architect) and Mr Andrew Wishart (contractor) in appreciation of their helpfulness in bringing the new building to fruition. All who had contributed financially and in other ways were thanked and Robert prayed that the building, though only bricks and mortar, would always be a place where people heard God’s word, believed it, loved it and obeyed it. Psalm 145 was a fitting opening praise. Rev Andy Hambleton then read and preached from the last five verses of the book of Joshua, leaving us with a picture of the dying Joseph, his finger pointing at a map of the Promised Land, saying, “That’s where I’m going.” As God’s people, we die believing the promises of God, our fingers pointing at Revelation chapter 21, knowing that that is where we are going. After this glorious thought, the service closed with the singing of “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah”. The Knock ladies had provided a generous afternoon tea and many stayed to enjoy conversation with acquaintances new and old.

FROM THE CHURCHES FINAGHY BIBLE CLUB Here in Finaghy we had our Holiday Bible Club over
The Paranoid Parent- and how not to be one was the title of the first talk
The Paranoid Parent- and how not to be one was the
title of the first talk given by Ann Benton at the ladies’
day conference on Saturday 19 September. But this was
much more than a “How to
...”
programme for bringing
up children. Ann challenged her listeners to notice how
the concept of parenting has changed over the decades
so that believing parents are now swimming against
the tide, and showed how a secular world view has
contributed to the current crisis in parenting. Against
this background, Ann presented the Bible’s view of
parents and children, concluding with her six practical
and Bible-based “top tips”.
The lunch break provided opportunity to chat about
what had been heard, visit the bookstall and enjoy the
refreshments provided. It’s always nice for ladies when
someone else makes the lunch.
Ann’s second talk on Juggling the Generations was
aimed particularly at those who find themselves looking
after their parents while still bringing up children, but
had a much wider application for anyone with ongoing
responsibility to care for family. Ann spoke from
experience, acknowledging the demands and difficulties
of being like the “ham in the middle of the sandwich”, but
lifted her hearers’ eyes beyond the problems to see the
bigger picture of God’s kingdom and to view all tasks as
“the road to something beautiful and glorious”. To fear
the Lord, she said, was the best advice, along with all that
flowed from such an attitude.
Practical counsel was offered on “managing your load”
and “keeping your sanity”.
Common sense, humour and an absolute belief in the
relevance and authority of scripture marked all that Ann
said. Many of those present spoke of the benefit of the
day and left feeling challenged and inspired. Thanks
must go to the Stranmillis ladies for organising the event
and providing the food. Please contact Pat Gibson on 028
92692623 or pggibson@hotmail.co.uk for recordings of
Ann’s talks, available at a cost of £2.

Thank God for our Sunday schools and for each teacher and Sunday school superintendent.

Pray that every lesson will be useful in drawing children to Christ and building them up in their faith.

Pray for Finaghy’s Sunday school, that the children will come regularly and local families will be touched with the Gospel.

Thank God for the gift of children and pray that parents will seek to bring their children up in the fear of the Lord.

Pray especially for new parents, for those whose children are ill or have special needs and for all who carry heavy responsibility of caring for others.

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Praise God for His faithfulness over the years of EPC worship and witness in Knock and ask Him to bless the current Knock congregation with His presence each Lord’s Day.

Pray that good literature will be used by God to equip pastors in Nigeria to feed His people and protect them from false teaching. Use the information in Sidney’s article to pray for ACTS property, projects and people.

Praise God for His good hand upon Maud Kells through the trauma of shooting and recovery and pray that He will strengthen her as she returns to the Congo.

Thank God for the many opportunities Maud has had to speak of her Saviour and pray that we will all be encouraged to dedicate our lives in service to Him.

BOOK REVIEWS

Title: Dig Deeper into the Gospels Authors: Andrew Sach & Tim Hiorns Publisher: IVP Published: 2015 Pages: 233 pages RRP: £9-99 Our Price: £7.99

Praise God for His faithfulness over the years of EPC worship and witness in Knock and

The authors of this book, both members of the ministry team at St Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, want to encourage people to study the Bible. They suggest that this may require some effort - hence the reference to ‘digging’ in the title - but provide a toolkit to help. The tools include - thinking specifically about the structure, vocabulary, tone and feel of the passage; reflecting on the genre, context, and author’s purpose in writing. We must also use the ‘so what?’ tool to consider the implications of Scripture for our lives. Sach and Hiorns point out that ‘obedience leads to clarity’. These ‘tools’ have been described in an earlier book, Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach, also published by IVP, and expanded upon in Dig Even Deeper, where they were applied to the study of Exodus. In this volume the authors take us through the gospel of Mark as a worked example. It encourages study of the gospel text with thought and reflection and so could be used for group study or personal devotions. I used this book for daily readings over a month and found it extremely rewarding, gaining some valuable new insights. The style is friendly and conversational, with cultural references from Columbo to Blackadder, but don’t let that fool you: Sach and Hiorns are careful to keep referring their readers back to Scripture ‘written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit’ rather than focusing on their book written by ‘a couple of blokes in East London’. I would gladly recommend.

Michael Trimble

Title: J. Gresham Machen Author: Sean Michael Lucas Publisher: Evangelical Press Published: 2015 Pages: 130 pages RRP: £6-99 Our Price: £5-25

Praise God for His faithfulness over the years of EPC worship and witness in Knock and

Dubbed at his death ‘Doctor Fundamentalis’, J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) was one of the most significant defenders of

evangelical Christianity in the early twentieth century. Raised in American Presbyterianism, he wrestled deeply with the challenge of Protestant Modernism and provided some of the most significant responses to it, particularly his classic book, ‘Christianity and Liberalism’. He pointed the way forward toward a Christianity that was both intellectually rigorous and spiritually satisfying, one that was rooted in a trustworthy Bible and in a confessional tradition which in turn produced a genuine faith in Christ. As a result, Machen continues to provide lessons today for those who desire to be valiant for truth in the midst of a hostile world. This book is the latest in the ‘Bitesize Biographies’ series and, as one would expect of a book of 130 pages, doesn’t add much to previous biographies by the likes of Stonehouse and Nichols. However, in keeping with the rest of the series, it does give the reader a brief introduction to the life and thought of a giant figure in the history of Presbyterianism. It is an enjoyable read and one I heartily recommend.

Title: The Life You Never Expected Author: Andrew & Rachel Wilson Publisher: IVP Published: 2015 Pages: 160 pages. RRP: £8-99 Our Price: £6-75

evangelical Christianity in the early twentieth century. Raised in American Presbyterianism, he wrestled deeply with the

Sometimes you end up living the life you never expected. When Andrew and Rachel found out that one, and then both, of their children had severe autism, their world was turned on its head. In this book, Andrew and Rachel Wilson honestly and openly share their experience of parenting autistic children, while also giving some good practical and biblical advice about surviving and thriving, when something we take for granted doesn’t go according to plan. The book tells the story of how they have been forced to rely on God through their difficult, but by no means unique, circumstances. With clarity and biblical insight, they share their experience of grief and worship, struggle and hope. As well as reflecting on the specific challenges of raising children with special needs, they speak to broader questions as well: the problem of suffering, building a marriage under pressure, fighting for joy and trusting in the goodness of God. This is primarily a book for parents of special needs children, but is also helpful for friends and family of those with special needs, as well as those who would like to know more about

the challenges facing such families in order to be able to offer help from a more informed position. The authors have done the church quite a service in writing this helpful and timely book.

Title: Faith of our Father: Exposition of Gen 12-25 Author: Dale Ralph Davis Publisher: Christian Focus Published: 2015 Pages: 166 pages RRP: £8-99 Our Price: £5-99

evangelical Christianity in the early twentieth century. Raised in American Presbyterianism, he wrestled deeply with the

Dale Ralph Davis has written sufficiently that one can speak of ‘vintage Davis’. While there are numerous commentaries on

Abraham each with their own style and merit, Davis has the advantage of getting to the heart of the text in an engaging style without losing anything of the text itself. Over 166 pages and

  • 17 chapters, the life of Abraham is portrayed. From the very

outset we are directed to what the passage actually says without recourse to theological gymnastics. The chapter titles are in themselves impressive; for example - God so loved the world he called Abraham; God keeps hold of losers; faith faces the facts of life, etc.

Taking Chapter 11 as an example (What Sodom does to you - Gen 19) it is gratifying that Davis unapologetically tells us firstly of the danger of covenant drifting. The drift began in chapter

  • 13 but it takes 6 chapters before it becomes obvious. Secondly

there is no glossing over the obvious immorality that existed in Sodom. Davis does an excellent job in a single paragraph demonstrating why alternative ideas don’t fit. Another bonus is that Davis knows his Hebrew without flaunting it. It just comes across as natural. Finally, he helpfully ends with the chapter on the rôle of intercessory prayer. Given the range of quotations and illustrations it is apparent that he has read widely from the whole corpus of literature. Overall a highly recommended volume and an excellent addition to the believer’s stock of books. Given the bargain price that the Evangelical Bookshop are selling it at (£5.99) best to buy at least two and share the blessing around.

Rev. E. T. Kirkland

1515

Best of the Blogs

A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and encourage you in your walk with God and his people…

There is no better life (Tim Challies)

www.challies.com/articles/there-is-no-better-life

Serve the King of Babylon and live (Mark Johnston)

www.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/column/resident-aliens/

serve-the-king-of-babylon-and-live

“However tempting it may for the church to despair for the future – at least in its earthly form – the future is no less secure than when Nebuchadnezzar took the Old Testament church into captivity. We may well be entering a season during which the church will feel marginalised and oppressed; but the very regimes, with their moral majorities, that are treating the church in this way will have their day.”

“The old catechism says it well: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. You and I exist for God’s glory. In fact, all things exist for God’s glory. We get that. But how? How do we glorify God? I want to list 4 simple ways that you can glorify God today and every day.”

Reformed Snobbery (Mark Johnston)

www.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/column/resident-aliens/

reformed-snobbery

“How we wear our theology says a lot about how well we have grasped it and to what extent it has grasped us. Paul puts his finger on it in what he says to the Romans about the
www.monergism.com/blog/introduction-gospel-covenant- life-transforming power of God’s truth. He says, ‘But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves to sin, you have become obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed’ (Romans 6.17). He is saying, quite literally, that God’s truth, when it is properly grasped, reshapes our lives from the inside out.”

An Introduction to the Gospel: A Covenant Theology Primer

theology-primer

“There are two operative principles in the Bible: 1) “Do this and live”, and 2) “Trust in the Mediator to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.” The first principle is often called “the covenant of works” and the second “the covenant of grace”. The second is possible because the mediator fulfilled the first. John Calvin once said, ”The person who wants to be justified by works must do more than produce just a few good deeds. He must bring with him perfect obedience to the Law. And those who have outstripped all others and have progressed the most in the Law of the Lord are still very far from this perfect obedience.”

When I don’t feel forgiven (Ian Hamilton)

www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/when-i-dont-feel-forgiven/

“Nothing and no one can snatch a Christian, even the weakest Christian, from the strong hands of our omnipotent heavenly Father (John 10:29–30). But this glorious truth does not mean that our Christian lives cannot be disturbed, even deeply disturbed by the world, the flesh, and the devil. One of the most disturbing experiences a believer can face is losing the felt sense of God’s forgiveness. This desolating experience
www.ligonier.org/blog/4-principles-exercise-christian- has touched the lives of many Christians throughout the ages.”

4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty (Sinclair Ferguson)

liberty/

I was making my way out of our church building some time after the morning service had ended, and was surprised to find a small group of people still engaged in vigorous conversation. One of them turned and said to me, “Can Christians eat black pudding?” Although (as far as I am aware) no theological dictionary contains an entry under B for “The Black Pudding Controversy,” this unusual discussion raised some most basic hermeneutical and theological issues: How is the Old Testament related to the New? How is the Law of Moses related to the gospel of Jesus Christ? How should a Christian exercise freedom in Christ?”